This weekend the Sealed Knot is coming to Monmouth. This is one of the events to commemorate the 400th Anniversary of the foundation of Monmouth School. The founder of the Sealed Knot was an Old Monmothian called Peter Young.
He was a quite remarkable character who was at school here in Monmouth. From Monmouth he went to Oxford University to read History, where the failure of the examiners to set any questions on his favourite area – the English Civil War – meant he left with a Third Class degree. What he lacked in terms of academic laurels he more than made up with charisma, ingenuity and superb leadership qualities. In 1940 he was a founder member of three Commando and took part in several very dangerous but successful raids on enemy forces from the Norwegian islands to North Africa, becoming a pioneer of this novel form of warfare. He was very highly decorated (DSO and Military Cross with two bars), hugely popular with his soldiers and was apparently the equal-fastest promoted British soldier of WWII (Second Lieutenant to Brigadier in five years – also achieved by a certain Enoch Powell). He had some dangerously modern ideas about leadership and education. This is from his biography: “He was at Monmouth School 1928-33 where he, in his own words, ‘came under the influence of a first class headmaster, CF Scott, who had very marked powers of command – real bite but was also a man of culture who stimulated my interest in, for example, Elizabethan theatre.’”
The Sealed Knot, which he set up in 1967 when teaching at Sandhurst, is the fore-runner of all historical re-enactment societies and it currently has 6,000 members and a global reputation. It takes its name from a Royalist secret society that was dedicated to fighting on after the Civil War was lost.
This weekend the Sealed Knot is re-creating the days of the Civil War in a plague-ridden Monmouth with local grandee, the Marquis of Worcester, demanding the return of “his” town, the admittedly staunchly-royalist Monmouth, from the control of the Parliamentarians under Colonel Massey. Negotiations between the two sides will take place in the Shire Hall on Saturday afternoon, but it is expected that these will be unsuccessful and that a battle will take place on Monmouth School playing fields from 3pm on Sunday. Prior to the battle on Sunday, from noon onwards, there will be artillery and pike demonstrations and living history displays. This is a free event and the public are welcome.
James Harrison, Head of History at Monmouth School