I have questions about the consequences of the Norman Conquest

This book arrived yesterday from Pen & Sword, and I’m getting really into it. Henry II was a massive twat-bag. However, it’s the many mentions of his mother, Empress Maud/Mathilde that has me thinking. Maud was named for her mother, Edith/Mathilde, the daughter of the King of Scots, and the neice or great-neices of Edward the Confessor, making her an actual legitimate heir to the throne of Wessex and thus England.

Henry I had to buy England from his brother Robert of Normandy after William Rufus was ‘accidentally’ shot while out hunting. Robert didn’t want England anyway but he needed the cash so he gave up his claim as eldest son of William the Bastard to his younger brother. Legitimate claims being something even that theiving lot liked, he married a woman with an actual claim, and also linked his family to the Royal House of Scotland.

Henry wasn’t doing anything new. In the years immediately following the Conquest, English noble women were forced into marriages with Norman knights so that they could claim their lands. Some of the women were forced to marry a succession of men, usually brothers, after each died, in order to keep the land in the men’s families.

Some of those women were dragged from nunneries by force, and forced into marriages against their will.

Forced marriage went against the teachings of the Catholic Church and would have, under ordinary circumstances made the marriage illegal and any claims to land of inheritance null and void. It was not ordinary times.

[Meanwhile, Gytha of Wessex organised the defence of the West Country and tried, once pushed back, to organise an invasion force. Her male relatives in Denmark and Norway were all for it, except it was too much like hard work.]

The women could have just murdered the Normans in their sleep.

Stabby, Stabby while he’s sleeping.

Why didn’t they?

I’m pretty certain, given the Papal reaction to the invasion, that had a woman said, “I was dragged from a nunnery and forced into a marriage I didn’t consent to, against holy law.” even the most belligerent priest would have said, “Good point, here have a tiny penance for killing your rapist. Half a hail Mary and a full our father should just about do it. And that’s because you kicked him in the balls after.”

I wonder about the children of those marriages. Did they realise they were the product of rapes? Did they know their mother was probably forced to marry their father? That their mother might have hated their father? Did they care? How many resented the situation? How many became ‘their father’s sons’?

Reading about Empress Maud, Eleanor of Aquitaine, her daughters, it’s clear women were brood mares for dynastic marriages and clever alliances. Even the well educated and intelligent woman couldn’t escape. Eleanor of Aquitaine married twice. The first marriage was arranged, the second was her choice. Neither were a success. Louis of France was a monk in a King’s crown and Henry of Normandy and England was a bully who planned to steal her lands and lock her in a nunnery as soon as she reached menopause. In return, Eleanor mocked Louis and tolerated Henry for her own purposes.

Not really surprising that the middle ages was an utter mess when you have this lot for exemplars of behaviour. ‘It’s fine because the king does it’ is not a good argument.

If the wealthiest, most well-educated women could be kidnapped, bought and sold, what happened to the ones who had a couple of manors inheritance from their dad or brother killed defending England? If even a nunnery can’t protect them? If the antagonism and violence we saw between princes were the example, what does that say about the behaviour of the first Anglo-Norman children? Does it have any baring on the later violence of ‘The Anarchy’, the civil war between Maud and Stephen after Henry I’s death. The people who killed their neighbours then were the children and grandchildren of the Conquest. Were they acting on impulses imbibed from traumatised mothers or parents?

How did this one event go on to affect the psyches and thus actions of later generations? How long did the affects last?

Generally, English history is written about personalities and times, of social movements and changes in culture. We get the names of kings, tales of plagues and glory, but that’s not even half the story. I’ve yet to read anything about the psychological effects of living in the period or being the product of forced marriage. I know there probably isn’t an awful lot of written records left from the time, and even less that could be mined for this sort of information, but it does make me wonder how many of those people who set out on the early crusades were exorcising the ghosts of their traumatised mothers or expiating the sins of their fathers, as well as their own

Exoplanets, moon moons and the scientists of Lincolnshire

A few years ago, when I was looking around the University of Lincoln for my MA course, the guide, a 2nd year undergraduate, said he hadn’t known Isaac Newton was from Lincolnshire until he’d come to the University. I think he was from Nottinghamshire. Sir Isaac isn’t our only famous scientist however.

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St.George’s Day? I prefer Shakespeare’s Birthday.

And it comes round once again, the day every English bigot loves, an excuse to wave flags and be openly racist. Although, to be fair to them, they’re usually openly racist anyway. I’m certain there are some people who ardently celebrate St. George’s Day who aren’t bigots, but they’re drowned out by the noisy, ignorant ones. Continue reading “St.George’s Day? I prefer Shakespeare’s Birthday.”

14th December 2015 general rambling

Evening all, how are you all? I have a cold, I also have Netflix now. That will become relevant later.

 

Writing Update

I’m working on my novel again, or trying to write every day. The dogs don’t like it, my knee is for their heads to rest on and my hands are for stroking them, according to the Hell Hounds, not for tapping away at my laptop trying to get a novel finished this year. I’m still studying my writing course, but I haven’t been well so I haven’t been working on the current assignment for a few months. The assignment is to write a piece for a travel magazine and to outline another on the same subject from a different angle. I haven’t travelled much so I’ll have to write something about Lincolnshire.

From http://ukga.org/images/maps/Lincoln.jpg
From http://ukga.org/images/maps/Lincoln.jpg

 

‘Netflix’ and other televisual things

Now I have ‘Netflix’ I can watch a few things that I like or wanted to see. I’ve been working on my ‘A Christmas Carol’ watching mission – how many versions of ‘A Christmas Carol’ can I see in December; I’ve managed two so far. I started watching ‘Jessica Jones’ and a few episodes of ‘Grimm’. I’ve also started watching ‘From Dusk ’til Dawn’, the series. I saw the film that the series is based on years ago, and while the story was good, the character played by Quentin Tarantino squicked me out with his sick rape fantasies. I thought the character of Richie Gecko was going to be the same in the series. Luckily, Zane Holt’s ‘Richie’ is a lot less vile (I honestly think that has to do with the actor rather than the character), and the longer format of a series rather than a film allows for better character and plot development. I’ve just finished watching series one, and am moving on to series two this evening.

I’ve been watching ‘The Last Kingdom’, the BBC series based on Bernard Cornwall’s Uhtred of Bebbanberg books. I really enjoyed it, and luckily so did my dad, so I had someone to discuss it with yesterday now that we’ve both seen all eight episodes. We’ve both read the first half dozen books too. I’ve tried to find my copy of ‘The Last Kingdom’ so that I can compare the books with the series, but I can’t find it. It has to be around somewhere but I still haven’t got all my books shelved and organised after moving more than 15 months ago. I still need at least one more set of book shelves; when I get them I’ll be able to arrange my books by author and series the way I want to. As it is I’m wracking my brains trying to remember the plot and characters. I like Brida much better in the series than in the books, as far as I remember, and Alfred is still as sanctimonious as ever. I really can’t stand Odda the Younger, but then I couldn’t stand him in the books either. If I remember correctly he was the same age as Uhtred in the books, and a large man. Seeing him played by a younger, smaller man who looks barely out of his teens grated slightly. It was nice to see him finally die though, the little scum bag traitor. I don’t like Asser either, but then I didn’t like him in the books either. Leofric was also one of my favourite characters in the series. Uhtred is a really good character and I think Alexander Dreymon is a really good actor.

From http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/profiles/3kHCJqslLy0wDsBMg57lWMZ/uhtred
From http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/profiles/3kHCJqslLy0wDsBMg57lWMZ/uhtred

The series is based on books, which mix history and fiction, and the series does the same thing. The distinctive styles of English and Danish dress and hairstyles, the tattoos and make-up, are deliberate constructs designed to separate the two visually. It’s something I noticed in ‘Vikings’ as well. There’s a distinct preference for the Danes in both series; they get all the best storylines, character (Brida vs. Mildreth), clothes and make up. Both also suggest the English didn’t know how to fight until some Dane came along and taught them too. Clearly neither production team know anything about early Anglo-Saxon history. Shields, contrary to ‘The Last Kingdom’ were circular, wooden and covered in leather, sometimes with decorative fittings. They were fairly successful in warfare if the available sources are to be believed. I do wish television and films would stop messing with history; if you’re going to make a film set in a specific period at least get the details right.

If they make a second series I hope they don’t screw up Æthelflæd, Alfred’s daughter, known as Lady of the Mercians (seriously, look her up, she’s cool. The Danes were going to surrender to her, but she died in the early tenth century just a few weeks two soon). Bernard Cornwall admitted in his books that he made the character of her husband, Athelred of Mercia, in to a much nastier character than he was in reality (again if the sources can be trusted).

Mental Health

It has been a funny month so far. I haven’t been great, to be honest. My brain has been more than a little bit scrambled. When someone says they’ll do something for me then backs out it makes me feel worthless and unwanted, like I’m a massive inconvenience to everyone. Rationally, I know that isn’t the case, but my brain isn’t being rational at that point. It took a few days to get over and I’ve had the odd off day since, but I’m not too bad at the minute. I keep getting tired and need to go to bed really early. But if I go to bed too soon I end up waking up at stupid o’clock in the morning. At which point I get up, wander round the house for a while, maybe do some cleaning then go back to bed and sleep until mid-morning. It’s really messing with my reading/writing/sewing schedule.

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Gothic Imagination

 

There are times when I wish trains were cheaper, and now might be one of them. There’s an exhibition on at the British Library called

Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination

that I really would like to see. I might have to take a trip down to London on one of my ‘four-off’s in November or December. I wonder whether I can go there and back in a day without completely exhausting myself? And I’d need to find fairly cheap train tickets, but still, it might be possible.

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Hretha’s Drumbeats

Rattling drumbeats calling out

Howling trumpets soaring

Hretha’s army is on the march

Seek refuge while you can

Or, it started pouring down with rain just before I finished work this afternoon and I got soaked.

This, by the way, is my inadequate introduction to my post. Forgive the truly poor poetry. It was inspired by the weather this afternoon. My brain bounced from ‘the weather is awful’ to

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Recovering from a day out in Leeds

I’m visiting a friend in Yorkshire for a few days and yesterday we spent the day in Leeds. It was very tiring and interesting. I have had a headache since waiting for the bus to come back to the village I’m staying in.

Leeds has quite a lot of shops, there is something for every taste. And as the train and bus stations are fairly close to the city centre quite easily accessible. There are also maps and decent sign-posting for the easily lost and confused.

Continue reading “Recovering from a day out in Leeds”

A brief look at Midsummer traditions in northern Europe

It’s midsummer weekend, the time of year when it finally starts to look a bit like summer is putting in an appearance and I get next to no sleep. Midsummer is not celebrated now in England but it was once, and it occurred to me that it would be interesting to see whether other countries have traditions. I know that in Finland, at least, midsummer weekend is a public holiday. I know this because one of my friends is Finnish and she complains about the excessive drinking.

After doing a tiny amount of research I’ve found it is or was a fairly common festival in northern Europe; in some countries, especially Scandinavia, it is the most important holiday after Christmas and New Year. A common feature of these celebrations is their association with St John the Baptist and bonfires.

The bonfires are older than the St. John connection by all accounts. There are 4th century references to the Aquitainian custom of rolling a fire wheel down a hill, there are 13th century references to bonfires and fires wheels on Midsummer Eve in England, as well as references from the later centuries to bonfire traditions, and contemporary Scandinavian practice. The significance of the bonfires has been given as a blessing, a means of purifying livestock and people. The best I’ve read, from the middle ages, is that it’s a great way to scare off dragons.

The only connection to Saint John is that his saint’s day, 24th June, is coincidentally at the same approximate time as the midsummer solstice. It has been suggested, repeatedly, that this is a deliberate association made by the Christian authorities during the conversion period in order to convince people to convert from their own religions to Christianity. I happen to think there is a grain of truth in this suggestion. Since John the Baptist was supposed to have been born six months before Jesus, and the birth of Jesus had been decided on as the 25th December, ergo John the Baptist must have been born 24th June. In addition there was an order given by Rome that temples should be reconsecrated as churches and feast days re-dedicated from ‘devils’ to the honour of the Christian god.

This subject is going to need much more research than I have time for this evening, so after this incredibly brief look at the Midsummer traditions of northern Europe, I’m going to get back to my books. Mountains of books to read and review. Maybe I’ll have a proper essay written for next midsummer.

Bye,

Rose

I’ve got quite a few books to review

I found my way to a website called http://www.everythingbooksandauthors.com/ this morning, and on their ‘Special Offers & Freebies’ page there were a few books that I thought looked interesting. I’m going to read them all and review them.

I love having the Kindle for PC app. I have so many books on it, most of them free.

Bye

Rose