University Challenge

OK, in hommage to the Oxford-Cambridge boat race, which sets sail shortly, here’s a quick story.

Not all the students of these esteemed ancient universities had blotless copy books. Indeed the relationship between students and the locals has always been fractious.

Oxford brags

Take Oxford. The uni was founded in 1167. But locals didn’t take too warmly on the influx of slacking students, who loftily blagged their way into the best places.

So just a few decades later, in 1209, the townfolk turned on them following the death of a local woman. And many students were forced to scarper.

Until then, students had enjoyed legal protection as they could only be tried by the Church under Canon Law.

Oxford appealed to King John, who backed them and decreed that students could be executed under civil law and the locals jumped at the opportunity.

On 6 December 1209, two students were strung up and hanged for the murder.

Amid the animosity, the university’s endeavours were halted and many of the students fearfully fled to the safety of Cambridge. And from there, the city’s own university was spawned. Indeed, in 2009 Cambridge celebrated its 800th anniversary.

A few years later students were begrudgingly welcomed back to Oxford, not least because the local merchants missed the much-needed income.

Of course, other notables to be executed include:

Thomas CranmerOxford
The Oxford martyrs: Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, (left) plus Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley.

Cambridge
Oliver Cromwell who’s head was laid to rest eventually in Cambridge in 1960.

And who can forget former Cambridge student Laurence Saunders who was roasted for his anti-Catholic outbursts.

26 March

Of course we’ve cheated. The execution detailed above took place on 6 December 1209. If you’re interest in those who actually popped their clogs today, then check out this unsavoury trio who died in 1796

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One Response to “University Challenge”

  1. This is a dark and compelling blog. You should add some Byzantines and Romans–those characters knew how to twist the law into a terrible net for their enemies (and, if things went against them, they could die with great elan)..

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