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Kentish Longtails

The inhabitants of Strood in Kent were once nicknamed Kentish Longtails. Though this could relate to the belief in medieval mainland Europe that the English had tails, there is a folk tale relating a curse placed on the people of Strood by Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury.

It is said that whilst Thomas Becket (Born 1118 – Died 29 December 1170) was riding through Strood, a town that supported King Henry II against the Archbishop, he was waylaid by the inhabitants and an argument ensued. Robert de Broc, or a nephew of his cut off the tail of Thomas Becket's horse. The story goes on to say that the result of this insult was a curse put on the people of Strood and de Broc, by Thomas Becket, that all their descendants would be born with tails.

There is an historical account which mentions Robert de Broc, the cutting off of a horses tail and subsequent excommunication by Becket. According to William Fitz Stephen (William Fitzstephen) (Died 1191) – Becket's household clerk. 'On Christmas eve he read the lesson from the gospel, "the book of the generation", and celebrated the midnight mass. Before high mass on Christmas day, which he also celebrated, he preached a splendid sermon to the people, taking for his subject a text on which he was wont to ponder, namely, "on earth peace to men of good will". When he made mention of the holy fathers of the church of Canterbury who were therein confessors, he said that they already had one archbishop who was a martyr, St Alphege, and it was possible that they would shortly have another. And because of the shameful injury inflicted on the horse of a certain poor peasant of his, a servant of the church of Canterbury, by cutting off its tail, he bound Robert de Broc with a sentence of excommunication. He had previously threatened him through messengers, while inviting him to make reparation. But Robert, being contumacious, had returned answer by a certain knight, David of Romney, that if the archbishop excommunicated him he would act like an excommunicate. Also, those who had violently taken possession of his two churches of Harrow and Throwley and had refused to admit his officers, he involved in the same sentence.'

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Ian Topham
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Re: Kentish Longtails

Andrew Marvel (Born 1621 – Died 1678) - 'The Loyal Scot'

“But who considers right will find, indeed,
’Tis Holy Island parts us, not the Tweed.
Nothing but clergy could us two seclude,
No Scotch was ever like a bishop’s feud.
All Litanys in this have wanted faith,
There’s no—Deliver us from a Bishop’s wrath.
Never shall Calvin pardon’d be for sales,
Never for Burnet’s sake, the Lauderdales;
For Becket’s sake, Kent always shall have tails.”

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Ian Topham
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Re: Kentish Longtails

THE WORKS OF Mr Thomas Brown Serious and Comical Prose and Verse (1730)

Advice to the Kentish Long Tails by theWife Men of Gotham In Answer to their late sawcy Petition to the Parliament 1701

WE the long beads of Gotham o er our merry cups meeting
To the long tails of Kent, by these presents sent greeting
Whereas we re inform'd that your Maidstone grand jury
A most monstrous petition has penn'd in a fury
We are strangely surpriz d at the news we'll assure ye
Unless both our reading and memory fails
Old Kent has been fam'd not for heads but for tails
Not to make on your intellects any reflection
The senate needs none of the Kentish direction
To prevent foreign insults and home insurrection
Without your intruding and sage interposing
And thrusting where no body calls you your nose in
Our Commons will steer the great boat of themselves
And save it from dashing on rocks or on shelves
They'll provide for our tars and settle the nation
Then let each private man be content in his station
We therefore advise you to lead sober lives
To look after your orchards and comfort your wive
To gibbets and gallows your owlers advance
That that's the sure way to mortisy France
For Monfieur our nation will always be gulling
While you take such care to supply him with woollen
And if your allegiance to Caesar's so great
All smuggling and stealing of customs defeat
Or else all your loyalty's nought but a cheat
Above all let each Long Tail his talent employ
On his spouse's soft anvil to get such a boy
As will equal in vigour the fam d William Joy
Then in peace you may eat both your boild and your roast
And the French will be damn'd e'er they land on your coast

Signed by the Mayor Aldermen and the Common Council all the Inhabitants both Men Women and Children that could make their marks at the Quarter Sessions bddenat Gotham in Co rnitatu Eslex the 1 2th of May 1701



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