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Today’s ancestry and history lesson sponsored by the Gaunt family!

Ok, today’s ancestry and history lesson has nothing to do with the Viking era or the early Anglo-Saxons. No, today we are going to move forward a few centuries to some equally interesting family members. I have to admit that finding these ancestors has made me more appreciative of my more boring, average and mundane life! This week’s ancestry research has connected me to some families that I am not really sure I necessarily want to be descended from? I am beginning to realize why so many of my ancestors tried to stay on the edge of Royal and Nobility politics, why their fortunes may have took a down turn eventually and why they might have jumped at the chance to head for the wilds of America first chance they got!  I have found myself caught up in the web of Nobility and Royalty of the 1300s- a web of scheming, plotting and feuding families that would equal to anything earlier generations could have thought of!  After trying to sort through some of it, I will no longer complain about sifting through generation after generation of plain ordinary families who left little trace of their history.  

This family history update is brought to you by the Gaunt family… John of Gaunt and his rather illustrious family that includes some royalty, some nobility, some rather famous friends, plus assorted wives, and a  professional mistress who made good. 

blanche of lancaster and katherine swynford

I am not going to share the entire book that it would require to document events of this family. I just want to share the beginning of this family saga that will eventually drag us through the War of the Roses with ancestors on both sides of the long drawn out battle for the crown and the power of the English monarchy. A family saga that will come to include the Gaunt descendants, the Beaufort, Nevilles and the Percy families.

John of Gaunt is my 17x great grandfather by way of his daughter Joan Beaufort with Mistress turned wife, Katherine Swynford.

joan beaufort

Many people who have some interest in medieval history may be familiar with Katherine Swynford, one of the more famous or infamous mistresses who made good and managed to retire comfortably to wifedom… You may not realize that she was also a pre-cursor to the now somewhat familiar and infamous idea of the not so trusted Nanny idea.  She is also some proof that occasionally the role or career of long term mistress does pay off if one is willing to stick it out and ignore the bad press and scandal associated with the career. 

Let’s look at John of Gaunt first… he was no stranger to bad press and rumors himself! John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster, (6 March 1340 – 3 February 1399) was a member of the House of Plantagenet, the third surviving son of KingEdward III of England and Philippa of Hainault. He was called “John of Gaunt” because he was born in Ghent, then rendered in English as Gaunt. When he became unpopular later in life, scurrilous rumours and lampoons circulated that he was actually the son of a Ghent butcher, perhaps because Edward III was not present at the birth. This story always drove him to fury. 

As a younger brother of Edward, Prince of Wales (Edward, the Black Prince), John exercised great influence over the English throne during the minority of Edward’s son, who became King Richard II, and the ensuing periods of political strife. Due to some generous land grants, John was one of the richest men in his era. He made an abortive attempt to enforce a claim to the Crown of Castile that came courtesy of his second wife Constance, who was an heir to the Castillian Kingdom, and for a time styled himself as such. So, let’s just say that John was a pretty catch even if he wasn’t in line for a crown! John of Gaunt’s legitimate male heirs, the Lancasters, include Kings Henry IV, Henry V, and Henry VI. His other legitimate descendants include his daughtersQueen Philippa of Portugal and Elizabeth, Duchess of Exeter (by his first wife Blanche of Lancaster), and Queen Catherine of Castile (by his second wifeConstance of Castile). John fathered five children outside marriage, one early in life by a lady-in-waiting to his mother, and four by Katherine Swynford, Gaunt’s long-term mistress and third wife.

john.gaunt.4

John was the fourth son of King Edward III of England. His first wife, Blanche of Lancaster, was also his third cousin, both as great-great-grandchildren of King Henry III. They married in 1359 at Reading Abbey as a part of the efforts of Edward III to arrange matches for his sons with wealthy heiresses. Upon the death of his father-in-law, the 1st Duke of Lancaster, in 1361, John received half his lands, the title “Earl of Lancaster”, and distinction as the greatest landowner in the north of England as heir of the Palatinate of Lancaster. He also became the 14th Baron of Halton and 11th Lord of Bowland. John inherited the rest of the Lancaster property when Blanche’s sister Maud, Countess of Leicester (married to William V, Count of Hainaut), died without issue on 10 April 1362.

John received the title “Duke of Lancaster” from his father on 13 November 1362. By then well established, he owned at least thirty castles and estates across England and France and maintained a household comparable in scale and organisation to that of a monarch. He owned land in almost every county in England, a patrimony that produced a net income of between £8,000 and £10,000 a year.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_of_Gaunt

Since we are looking more at his personal life here, I am not going to go into great detail about his professional life as in his politics, or his battle accomplishments-or lack of them. Despite any other faults or errors he may have made, he was loyal to his King. When Edward III died in 1377 and John’s ten-year-old nephew succeeded as Richard II of England, John’s influence strengthened. However, mistrust remained, and some suspected him of wanting to seize the throne himself. John took pains to ensure that he never became associated with the opposition to Richard’s kingship.

blanche of lancaster

As I mentioned, we are looking more at his personal life here- his marriages, and affairs of the heart so to speak.  On 19 May 1359 at Reading Abbey, John married his third cousin, Blanche of Lancaster, daughter of Henry of Grosmont, 1st Duke of Lancaster. The wealth she brought to the marriage was the foundation of John’s fortune. Blanche died on 12 September 1368 at Tutbury Castle, while her husband was overseas. Their son Henry Bolingbroke became Henry IV of England, after the duchy of Lancaster was taken by Richard II upon John’s death while Henry was in exile. Their daughter Philippa became Queen of Portugal by marrying King John I of Portugal in 1387. All subsequent kings of Portugal were thus descended from John of Gaunt.

marriage_of_blanche_of_lancster_and_john_of_gaunt_1359

Jean Froissart described Blanche (following her death) as “jone et jolie” (“young and pretty”). Geoffrey Chaucer described “White” (the central figure in hisBook of the Duchess, believed to have been inspired by Blanche: see below) in such terms as “rody, fresh, and lyvely hewed”, her neck as “whyt, smothe, streght, and flat”, and her throat as “a round tour of yvoire”: she was “bothe fair and bright”, and Nature’s “cheef patron [pattern] of beautee”. Of course she was young and probably pretty… she was born in  March 1345, although the year 1347 has also been suggested. So, given that birth date she was all of 13 or 14 at the time! 

Gaunt and Blanche’s marriage is widely believed to have been happy, although there is little solid evidence for this. The assumption seems to be based on the fact that Gaunt chose to be buried with Blanche, despite his two subsequent marriages, and on the themes of love, devotion and grief expressed in Chaucer’s poem (see below) – a rather circular argument, as it is partly on the basis of these themes that the couple’s relationship is identified as the inspiration for the poem. Blanche and Gaunt had seven children, three of whom survived infancy.

Tomb_of_John_of_Gaunt_and_Blanche_of_Lancaster

Tomb_of_John_of_Gaunt_and_Blanche_of_Lancaster

Blanche died at Tutbury Castle, Staffordshire, on 12 September 1368 while her husband was overseas.  She was 23 years of age at the time of her death, although Froissart reported that she died aged about 22. It is believed that she may have died after contracting the Black Death which was rife in Europe at that time. Her funeral at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London was preceded by a magnificent cortege attended by most of the upper nobility and clergy. John of Gaunt held annual commemorations of her death for the rest of his life and established a joint chantry foundation on his own death. 

It may have been for one of the anniversary commemorations of Blanche’s death that Geoffrey Chaucer, then a young squire and mostly unknown writer of court poetry, was commissioned to write what became The Book of the Duchess in her honour. Though Chaucer’s intentions can never be defined with absolute certainty, many believe that at least one of the aims of the poem was to make John of Gaunt see that his grief for his late wife had become excessive, and to prompt him to try to overcome it.

In 1374, six years after her death, John of Gaunt commissioned a double tomb for himself and Blanche from the mason Henry Yevele. The magnificent monument in the choir of St Paul’s was completed by Yevele in 1380, with the assistance of Thomas Wrek, having cost a total of £592. Gaunt himself died in 1399, and was laid to rest beside Blanche. The two effigies were notable for having their right hands joined. An adjacent chantry chapel was added between 1399 and 1403.

While John probably did love Blanche, and possibly grieved excessively for her, I have to think that he was not grieving too excessively for her… we have only to look at the appearance of Katherine Swynford in his household to give some proof of this. That is aside from the fact that he also married again in 1371 to Constance of Castile. 

Katherine was the daughter of Paon de Roet, a herald, and later knight, who was “probably christened as Gilles”. She had two sisters, Philippa and Isabel (also called Elizabeth) de Roet, and a brother, Walter. Isabel later became Canoness of the convent of St. Waudru’s, Mons, c. 1366. Katherine is generally held to have been his youngest child. However, Alison Weir argues that Philippa was the junior and that both were children of a second marriage. Katherine’s sister Philippa, a lady of Queen Philippa’s household, married the poet Geoffrey Chaucer

In about 1366, at St Clement Danes Church, Westminster, Katherine, aged sixteen or seventeen, contracted an advantageous marriage with “Hugh” Ottes Swynford, a Knight from the manor of Kettlethorpe in Lincolnshire, the son of Thomas Swynford by his marriage to Nicole Druel. She had the following children by him: Blanche (born 1 May 1367), Thomas (21 September 1368 – 1432), and possibly Margaret Swynford (born about 1369), later recorded as a nun of the prestigious Barking Abbey nominated by command of King Richard II.

Katherine became attached to the household of John of Gaunt as governess to his daughters Philippa of Lancaster and Elizabeth of Lancaster. The ailing duchess Blanche had Katherine’s daughter Blanche (her namesake) placed within her own daughters’ chambers and afforded the same luxuries as her daughters; additionally, John of Gaunt stood as godfather to the child.

Some time after Blanche’s death in 1368 and the birth of their first son in 1373, Katherine and John of Gaunt entered into a love affair that would produce four children for the couple, born out of wedlock but legitimized upon their parents’ eventual marriage; the adulterous relationship endured until 1381 when it was truncated out of political necessity and ruined Katherine’s reputation. On 13 January 1396, two years after the death of the Duke’s second wife, Infanta Constance of Castile, Katherine and John of Gaunt married in Lincoln Cathedral. Records of their marriage kept in the Tower and elsewhere list: ‘John of Ghaunt, Duke of Lancaster, married Katharine daughter of Guyon King of Armes in the time of K. Edward the 3, and Geffrey Chaucer her sister’.

On John of Gaunt’s death, Katherine became known as dowager Duchess of Lancaster. She outlived him by four years, dying on 10 May 1403, in her early fifties.

Coat of arms of Katherine Swynford as Duchess of Lancaster, after her marriage to John of Gaunt : three gold Catherine wheels (“roet” means “little wheel” in Old French) on a red field. The wheel emblem shows Katherine’s devotion to her patron saint, Catherine of Alexandria, also known as Saint Catherine of the Wheel,although there was once extant a copy of her seal’s impression, ca. 1377, showing her arms of three Catherine wheels of gold on a field Gules, a molet in fess point empaling the arms of Swynford (Birch’s Catalogue of Seals.
Children of Katherine and John of Gaunt:

The descendants of Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt are significant in English and Scottish history. Their four children had been given the surname “Beaufort” and with the approval of King Richard II and the Pope were legitimated as adults by their parents’ marriage in 1396. Despite this, the Beauforts were barred from inheriting the throne of England by a clause in the legitimation act inserted by their half-brother, Henry IV, although modern scholarship disputes the authority of a monarch to alter an existing parliamentary statute on his own authority, without the further approval of Parliament. This provision was later revoked by Edward VI, placing Katherine’s descendants (including himself) back within the legitimate line of inheritance; the Tudor dynasty was directly descended from John and Katherine’s eldest child, John Beaufort, great-grandfather of Henry VII, who based his claim to the throne on his mother’s descent from John of Gaunt, a son of Edward III. John Beaufort also had a daughter named Joan Beaufort, who married James I of Scotland and thus was an ancestress of the House of Stuart.  John and Katherine’s daughter, Joan Beaufort, was grandmother of the English kings Edward IV and Richard III, the latter of whom Henry Tudor (thus becoming by conquest Henry VII) defeated at the Battle of Bosworth Field; Henry’s claim was strengthened by marrying Elizabeth of York, eldest daughter of Edward IV. It was also through Joan Beaufort, Countess of Westmoreland that the sixth queen of Henry VIII, Catherine Parr, descended.  John of Gaunt’s son — Katherine’s stepson Henry of Bolingbroke — became Henry IV after deposing Richard II (who was imprisoned and died in Pontefract Castle, where Katherine’s son, Thomas Swynford, was constable and is said to have starved Richard to death for his step-brother). John of Gaunt’s daughter by his first marriage to Blanche of Lancaster, Philippa of Lancaster, was great-great-grandmother to Catherine of Aragon, first wife of Henry VIII and mother of Mary I of England. John of Gaunt’s child by his second wife Constance, Catherine (or Catalina), was great-grandmother of Catherine of Aragon as well.

We could just leave the story here and conclude that in this instance, the mistress wins… but does she win by default and longevity or is she truly the love of his life who waited patiently on the side lines until he could marry her? Was Blanche the one he truly loved as Chaucer would suggest in some of his works, and Katherine won by the fact that she survived and stuck it out for that ultimate final pay out of marriage and legitimacy for their children. At the time of their marriage in 1396, all of the children were adults and were legitimized by the Pope- which while they were already set upon high standing positions- would greatly benefit the rest of their futures. 

To put his relationships with both women in some perspective and reasoning, we can probably look at John’s character, his ideals and his friendship with one other person of importance, Geoffrey Chaucer.

One account and description of his appearance and character gives some clues to his mindset. 

John was dark-haired, with piercing eyes and a narrow, angular face. He was almost two metres tall (as his suit of armour at the Tower of London, “the Giant”, bears out). He was a superb judge of character, which attributed for his political finesse. And he was also an extremely proficient political negotiator. He did not enjoy battle, so was generally not successful in the field.

He had very strict ideas about chivalry, which he also expected from his knights. The pastimes he enjoyed were gaming (dice and chess) and hunting. He loved splendour but not pomp, was richer than the King (to quote R. Gablé: “as rich as a heathen caliph”), which was probably why he was in charge of the exchequer during Richard II’s reign. Those who disliked him would probably not have believed it, but he was a strongly loyal person. His far-sightedness and political expertise were held in great esteem abroad; but in England his true character was not appreciated, particularly by the people and the Church. It was one reason why he became very unhappy in later years, in spite of the fact that he was able to conceal his feelings in this (and many other respects). According to Candace Robb, he enjoyed a laugh but was quick to hold a grudge.

Blanche was the perfect lady. She was blonde, with an angelic appearance and had had an excellent upbringing. John loved and, above all, admired her greatly. He never really recovered from her death, although they could be said to have been companions rather than lovers. In an arranged marriage, one could probably consider a relationship of this kind a happy one.

Constanza was dark-haired and small. John evidently married her in a fit of euphoria (the throne of Castile) and under his father’s instructions. He was quick to see that he and Constanza would never see eye to eye, as they differed too greatly. She had a penchant for the Church, was fairly prude and, to John’s mind, too austere.

Katherine was a redhead and tall. She was, so to speak, the sunshine of his life. His mood brightened whenever she entered the room. When she was near him, or merely at the thought of her, his “troubled lot” became half as bad. Lists still exist of the many gifts he gave her (wine, money, estates etc.), which were intended to make her life easier and in consideration of what she had done for him. The fact that he could not marry her and love her officially troubled him greatly. In his view, their marriage was all too short. 

To put his relationships with both women in some perspective and reasoning, we can probably look at John’s character, his ideals and his friendship with one other person of importance, Geoffrey Chaucer. I have not made reference to John’s relationship or marriage to second wife Constance or Constanza because I think in all probability it was not any love, or lust match at all. It was an arranged marriage for political and economical reasons and did not play any part in his romantic notions or feelings for dead Blanche or living Katherine. It probably was more of a hindrance as he grew older and wanted to legitimize his relationship with Katherine for her benefit and for the benefit of their children. 

John believed in the idea of chivalry, honor and most probably that ideal of romantic courtly love. His marriage to Blanche was arranged but obviously there was some attraction and care for each other. After all, apparently she spent much of the short lived marriage pregnant. They were married for ten years and she bore seven children although only three survived. Their marriage was cut short by her untimely death at the fairly young age of 22. Added to the tragedy of her death was the fact that she died while he was away. Being the chivalrous man that he was and also given that he held some ideal or notion of that romantic love, he most likely would have indulged or dwelt on that idea of eternal love ever after.  As often happens with the death of someone close, the relationship takes on a more positive or glowing light than it may have actually been in reality. While they might have been relatively happy or at least not entirely miserable together, he may have put more outward mourning and grief over her death because of some feelings of guilt in not being there for her. Thus in death, she became that epitome, that idol of romantic love that the living could not compete with. Having went through a similar experience myself, I completely understand the adage that you can not compete with a dead lover.  No matter how he felt about Katherine, there would probably always have been a shadow or presence of  “perfection” Blanche

This could be what Chaucer was referencing and referring to when he suggested to John that he was over doing the grief stricken husband role and it was time to move on. He had already moved on partially but he needed to finally put closure to it all and give everyone a chance to go on as well. 

Geoffrey Chaucer was a life long friend of John Gaunt and most probably influenced him a great deal.  

Geoffrey_Chaucer_(17th_century portrait

Geoffrey Chaucer ( c. 1343 – 25 October 1400), known as the Father of English literature, is widely considered the greatest English poet of theMiddle Ages and was the first poet to be buried in Poets’ Corner of Westminster Abbey.

While he achieved fame during his lifetime as an author, philosopher, and astronomer, composing a scientific treatise on the astrolabe for his ten-year-old son Lewis, Chaucer also maintained an active career in the civil service as a bureaucrat, courtier and diplomat. Among his many works, which include The Book of the Duchess, the House of Fame, the Legend of Good Women and Troilus and Criseyde. He is best known today for The Canterbury Tales. Chaucer was a crucial figure in developing the legitimacy of the vernacular, Middle English, at a time when the dominant literary languages in England were French and Latin.

Chaucer was a close friend of and served under the patronage of John of Gaunt, the wealthy Duke of Lancaster (and father of the future King of England). Near the end of their lives Lancaster and Chaucer became brothers-in-law. Chaucer married Philippa (Pan) de Roet in 1366, and Lancaster took his mistress of nearly 30 years, Katherine Swynford (de Roet), who was Philippa Chaucer’s sister, as his third wife in 1396. Although Philippa died c.1387, the men were bound as brothers and Lancaster’s children by Katherine—John, Henry, Thomas and Joan Beaufort—were Chaucer’s nephews and niece.

Chaucer_Duchess blanche of lancaster

Chaucer_Duchess blanche of lancaster

Chaucer’s Book of the Duchess, also known as the Deeth of Blaunche the Duchesse, was written in commemoration of Blanche of Lancaster, John of Gaunt’s first wife. The poem refers to John and Blanche in allegory as the narrator relates the tale of “A long castel with walles white/Be Seynt Johan, on a ryche hil” (1318–1319) who is mourning grievously after the death of his love, “And goode faire White she het/That was my lady name ryght” (948–949). The phrase “long castel” is a reference to Lancaster (also called “Loncastel” and “Longcastell”), “walles white” is thought to likely be an oblique reference to Blanche, “Seynt Johan” was John of Gaunt’s name-saint, and “ryche hil” is a reference to Richmond; these thinly veiled references reveal the identity of the grieving black knight of the poem as John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster and Earl of Richmond. “White” is the English translation of the French word “blanche”, implying that the white lady was Blanche of Lancaster.

Believed to have been written in the 1390s, Chaucer’s short poem Fortune, is also inferred to directly reference Lancaster. “Chaucer as narrator” openly defies Fortune, proclaiming he has learned who his enemies are through her tyranny and deceit, and declares “my suffisaunce” (15) and that “over himself hath the maystrye” (14). Fortune, in turn, does not understand Chaucer’s harsh words to her for she believes she has been kind to him, claims that he does not know what she has in store for him in the future, but most importantly, “And eek thou hast thy beste frend alyve” (32, 40, 48). Chaucer retorts that “My frend maystow nat reven, blind goddesse” (50) and orders her to take away those who merely pretend to be his friends. Fortune turns her attention to three princes whom she implores to relieve Chaucer of his pain and “Preyeth his beste frend of his noblesse/That to som beter estat he may atteyne” (78–79). The three princes are believed to represent the dukes of Lancaster, York, andGloucester, and a portion of line 76, “as three of you or tweyne,” to refer to the ordinance of 1390 which specified that no royal gift could be authorised without the consent of at least two of the three dukes.  Most conspicuous in this short poem is the number of references to Chaucer’s “beste frend”. Fortune states three times in her response to the plaintiff, “And also, you still have your best friend alive” (32, 40, 48); she also references his “beste frend” in the envoy when appealing to his “noblesse” to help Chaucer to a higher estate. A fifth reference is made by “Chaucer as narrator” who rails atFortune that she shall not take his friend from him. While the envoy playfully hints to Lancaster that Chaucer would certainly appreciate a boost to his status or income, the poem Fortune distinctively shows his deep appreciation and affection for John of Gaunt.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geoffrey_Chaucer

 

On a final note, there are a few books related to Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt that you might find interesting. I have not read them as yet, but am suggesting them because I trust the author! I do plan to read more about her now. 

mistress of the monarchy by alison weir

Acclaimed author Alison Weir brings to life the extraordinary tale of Katherine Swynford, a royal mistress who became one of the most crucial figures in the history of Great Britain. Born in the mid-fourteenth century, Katherine de Roët was only twelve when she married Hugh Swynford, an impoverished knight. But her story had truly begun two years earlier, when she was appointed governess to the household of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster and fourth son of King Edward III. Widowed at twenty-one, Katherine became John’s mistress and then, after many twists of fortune, his bride in a scandalous marriage. Mistress of the Monarchy reveals a woman ahead of her time—making her own choices, flouting convention, and taking control of her own destiny. Indeed, without Katherine Swynford, the course of English history, perhaps even the world, would have been very different.

history of royal marriages and the monarchy by alison wier

George III is alleged to have married secretly, on 17th April, 1759, a Quakeress called Hannah Lightfoot, daughter of a Wapping shoemaker, who is said to have borne him three children. Documents relating to the alleged marriage, bearing the Prince’s signature, were impounded and examined in 1866 by the Attorney General. Learned opinion at the time leaned to the view that these documents were genuine. They were then placed in the Royal Archives at Windsor; in 1910, permission was refused a would-be author who asked to see them. If George III did make such a marriage when he was Prince of Wales, before the passing of the Royal Marriages Act in 1772, then his subsequent marriage to Queen Charlotte was bigamous, and every monarch of Britain since has been a usurper, the rightful heirs of George III being his children by Hannah Lightfoot, if they ever existed.’ From Britain’s Royal Families

Britain’s Royal Families is a unique reference book. It provides, for the first time in one volume, complete genealogical details of all members of the royal houses of England, Scotland and Great Britain – from 800AD to the present. Here is the vital biographical information relating not only to each monarch, but also to every member of their immediate family, from parents to grandchildren. Drawing on countless authorities, both ancient and modern, Alison Weir explores the royal family tree in unprecedented depth and provides a comprehensive guide to the heritage of today’s royal family.

 

 

 

 

BBC Last Kingdom: So far, So Excellent!

Hopefully by now, many people have already seen the first few episodes of BBC’s The Last Kingdom series. If you have not seen it yet, please go find it and watch!  I did an initial review after the first episode premiered a few weeks ago and promised to give added thoughts after more people had a chance to view it. We are now up to episode 3 here in the states so I am going to give my thoughts on it up through that episode. Please be advised and warned that I will be including spoilers in this review! There is also some comparison and reference to the book series by Bernard Cornwell.

First of all before we go any further, I want to address the continuing comparisons to Game of Thrones. This is not GOT, this is not fantasy and should not be compared as such. This show is historical fiction/drama but by no means should it be considered and some sort of fantasy genre. Nor is it all about graphic sex for ratings. This is a dirty, grim, and often harsh look at history and life during the time of Alfred’s reign and the Great Heathen armies conquest of England. I have read some reviews in which the viewers complained that it felt dated and low budget as compared to some other shows. I completely disagree in that regard. As I mentioned, what it is, is a more realistic presentation showing the conditions that many- most people lived in during that time.

Are there some historical inaccuracies, of course there are- nothing is perfect and I don’t expect 100% historical authenticity or accuracy… if I did, I would refrain from television or fiction at all and read only text books about the events- and even then, I would never get exact because even text books make mistakes. I am far more interested in the story that is being told here and that story is keeping me interested and waiting for each new episode. If you have read the books, yes there are deviations and changes so I suppose that if you are book purist, this may cause you some frustration, annoyance or irritation. I appreciate the changes that have been made to make this story work in the compacted visual version that the creators are limited to. As far as I can see, the story is still falling into place and following a similar path as the books did, just getting there in a slightly different manner.

In my previous initial review, I did go over the highlights of episode 1. I am not going to repeat that here, you can read my previous review here:

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2015/10/12/uhtred-of-bebbanburg-has-arrived/

 

For those who have read the books, the first episode followed closely along the lines of the book. It included many of the important events and highlights of the book. Please keep in mind that this initial season is only 8 episodes and is trying to compact the events of two books into these 8 episodes. I do say initial season because from what I have read, if this season is successful, there are already plans for additional seasons! Obviously there is no way they can include every event that each reader might deem important in the filming of the show. While I do wish that we could have seen more of Uhtred’s early years with Ragnar and his family, I understand completely why they chose to present it the way they did. As an introduction to Uhtred’s adult life, the initial episode worked the way it was supposed to. It gave us that introduction to him, his life and the events that would shape his future. We saw the child Uhtred, heir to Bebbenburg, watch the Danes arrive. We watched with Uhtred, the battle between the Danes and the Northumbrians that destroyed Northumbria as a Saxon Kingdom and killed Uhtred’s Father. We were provided with the details of Uhtred’s Uncle’s treachery and deception to take Bebbenburg from Uhtred. Then we also saw Uhtred’s capture by the Danes along with his remaining childhood spent living with them, becoming for the most part a Dane himself.  That first episode provided us with the conspiracies and treasons between the Danes. It included the treachery of a family against Uhtred and his Danish family that will last long into the future. Events such as the actions of young Sven against Thyra, Ragnar’s retaliation, then the later hall burning and kidnapping of Thyra by Kjartin and Sven as well as their blaming of Uhtred for the event; those events are by far the most important parts of the initial story that will continue to haunt Uhtred and shape his path throughout the future.

With episode 2, book readers will see a change in the storyline and of course some may be critical of these changes. I have to say that I am not one of those critical people. I was highly impressed with the episode and the additional history/background it provided. In episode 2, Uhtred and Brida fled Northumbria and headed for the supposedly safer kingdom of Wessex and the one person whom Uhtred thought might be able to help achieve his goal of reclaiming his birthright of Bebbenburg. Uhtred’s one goal in life right now is claiming his rightful title and his lands from his traitorous Uncle.  Uhtred is young, brash and rash in his actions and thoughts, but he does clearly understand one thing… even were the Danes not against him at the moment because of their belief that he turned on his Danish family, they would not allow him to be the clear owner and ruler of Bebbenburg. The Danes might eventually help him to gain it, but it would forever be for their own purpose. They made that quite clear with their installation of Echbert, “King of Nothing”. They might allow someone to rule or hold a title, but they would be the ones in control of that person. Uhtred pins his hopes on the leaders of Wessex being willing or able to help him.

Ecghbert the ridiculous puppet king for Danish masters

In episode 2, we see Uhtred and Brida coming into their own beliefs and ideas as young adults on their perilous adventure to what they hope is some safety. We see them enjoying life but we also see both of them beginning to question the world around them and take steps towards the beliefs that will shape all of their future life decisions. Uhtred insists that their safety lies with Wessex for the time being but Brida is not so sure. The one thing they are sure about is that they are not safe with the Danes until they can find some way of proving their innocence in the murder of Ragnar and their family. They have lost everything except the wealth of Ragnar’s hoard and Uhtred is realistic when he tells Brida that they have no other option but Wessex for the time being… whether Brida likes it or not, they can no longer be Dane- they must be Saxons.

brida we are no longer danes

brida we are no longer danes

During their journey to Wessex, Uhtred purchases what will become his lifelong companion, possibly more important to him than anything else even Bebbenburg. Uhtred’s sword, Serpent Breath is born and is hungry for blood. Uhtred quickly begins to feed his sword’s thirst for blood as he and Brida are besieged and attacked Danes and Saxons both who are hunting for him.

I've given her some beauty but she is a tool first

I’ve given her some beauty but she is a tool first

Introducing Uhtred's best friend Serpent Breath

Introducing Uhtred’s best friend Serpent Breath

 

What Uhtred discovers in Wessex is that Alfred, brother to King Athelred, already knows well of Uhtred and the events of Northumbria. As Alfred later tells Uhtred, “I have ears and eyes everywhere in every Kingdom.”  Uhtred also discovers his childhood tutor and protector, Father Beocca is in Wessex as Alfred’s close advisor and priest. Father Beocca will forever be Uhtred’s friend, advisor, and in many ways, a Father figure for Uhtred whether he wants to adimit it or not. Beocca will eventually often become Uhtred’s inner voice of conscience and reason much as he is for Alfred. We see the beginning of this long relationship between the three men as Beocca introduces Uhtred to Alfred, makes attempts to defend Uhtred and makes no bones about reprimanding Uhtred for his misguided thinking. Beocca possibly knows Uhtred better than Uhtred knows himself and he stands firm in his belief in Uhtred despite Alfred’s doubts, misgivings and rightful mistrust of this adult man who as he puts it, is no longer a child but a man- a man who is selfish “soul-less” and without principle or solid belief. In many ways, Alfred’s current initial assumptions about Uhtred are correct whether we want to admit this of our hero or not.

Aethered and Alfred in last kingdom

I have eyes and ears everywhere in every part of Engleland

I have eyes and ears everywhere in every part of Engleland

Beocca saves Uhtred's ass

Beocca saves Uhtred’s ass

Beocca vouches for Uhtred and leads him to Alfred instead of the king.

Beocca vouches for Uhtred and leads him to Alfred instead of the king.

I look at you I see a Dane Uhtred of nowhere who cares about nothing but himself

I look at you I see a Dane Uhtred of nowhere who cares about nothing but himself

Father Beocca:I know this boy I know his soul Alfreds reply: Father Beocca he has no soul

Father Beocca:I know this boy I know his soul Alfreds reply: Father Beocca he has no soul

 

Uhtred is young, stubborn and strong willed. His thoughts are basic and primary during this time. He is guided by his lust for life, his need for revenge and his desire for what he believes is his rightful title and land. Uhtred must often be reminded of the bigger picture, of the realities and common sense reasonings by Brida, Beocca and by Alfred.  We do see the beginnings of that inner character, that inner man that he will become- the one that Beocca sees.

It is our destiny to hump

finding a way to pass the time

finding a way to pass the time

Brida to Uhtred: I am thinking you have a turd for a brain

Brida to Uhtred: I am thinking you have a turd for a brain

Brida's sound advice Uhtred you need to forget about Bebbanburg

Brida’s sound advice Uhtred you need to forget about Bebbanburg

Father Beocca believes you are an advantage but I believe you are here soley for yourself

Father Beocca believes you are an advantage but I believe you are here soley for yourself

Only by saving Wessex can we have a Northumbria or even a Bebbanburg

Only by saving Wessex can we have a Northumbria or even a Bebbanburg. Alfreds explanation begins to sink in to Uhtred

I mentioned earlier that the show takes a slightly different historical path than the books beginning in episode 2. While it takes a slightly different path, it works well toward taking us to the same events and ideas of the books.

Uhtred's first sight of Roman building skills

Uhtred’s first sight of Roman building skills

One of the most interesting smaller details that people should pay close attention to is Uhtred’s initial reaction to the buildings of Alfred’s domain. It is in this short scene that we see a glimpse of what will be Uhtred’s life long fascination, appreciation and love of building- and all things of that ancient Roman past that is deteriorating around them. This is actually very important because it sets up Uhtred’s view that the world is falling into the darkness and chaos of the Dane belief in Ragnarok.  Throughout Uhtred’s life he will look at the Roman wonders and ruins around him, see the loss of that greatness and compare it to the desolation and chaos of his time. He will see it as that comparison to Ragnarok, the end of time. This deep seated belief in the Old Gods, in the coming of Ragnarok, and in fate or destiny will remain with Uhtred throughout his life even as he makes the decisions to fight for the Saxons, the Christian Nailed God.

Ragnarök  was the doom of the gods and men, and heralded the destruction of the Nine Worlds. Nothing will escape the coming destruction, whether you live in heaven and on earth. The war will be wage between the goods and the evils. The goods were the Aesir, led by Odin, ruler of the gods. The evils, were the giants and monsters, led by Loki.  Yet the strangest things about Ragnarök was that the gods already knew what was going to happen through the prophecy: who will be killed and by whom, who would survive, what happen to those in the other world and so forth. Despite, knowing their fates, the gods will still defiantly face their destiny, as brave as any hero in a saga. The Norse gods knew what was to come, and knew they could not do anything to prevent prophecy coming to pass.

 

Episode 2 introduces us to the leaders and followers of Wessex, to their personal conflicts and to their flaws. We see Athelred as a King trying to hold on to his kingdom and we see the problem he faces with a son that he deems as unqualified and unfit to inherit the rule of Wessex in this most dire time. In history, Athelred did have two sons who should have been next in line to rule but a decision was made to place his adult brother Alfred on the throne instead. It is generally assumed that the decision was made because the boys were too young to rule and as an adult already proven in battle, Alfred would be the better choice to rule in such difficult times. We are introduced to Althelred’s son who does not show much capability to rule… Athelred’s doubts about him are apparent when he makes the comment, “I can not believe he is my son… if his Mother were not dead already, I would have her killed for adultery”

a drunken Athelwold

a drunken Athelwold

I do not think he is mine if his mother were dead already I might have her killed for adultery

I do not think he is mine if his mother were dead already I might have her killed for adultery

I ask that you become a man and quickly

I ask that you become a man and quickly

 

 

We see that Alfred has doubts about his own ability to rule because of his personal failures and sins. Alfred is tempted by sins of the flesh and Father Beocca advises him that this temptation is a sign, a test from God and he must put temptation in his midst so that he can ever be reminded of it and resist it… as a result, his temptation of the flesh is made a part of his household servants and we will eventually see that Alfred does not fare well in resisting it. Alfred’s foretelling and prophetic comment regarding his brother and kingship is, “Pray God that my brother does not die soon, for what kind of King would I be, sinner that I am!” 

temptation of the flesh

We also see Aflred’s other weakness, his very real physical weakness- the ailment and illness that will follow him throughout his life.

Join us for breakfast, I dare you!

Join us for breakfast, I dare you!

it is broth not gruel you should be thanking god for it's goodness!

it is broth not gruel you should be thanking god for it’s goodness!

But, aside from his temptations and his physical weakness, we are introduced to Alfred’s mind, his thought process and his unwavering belief in an idea of One united Kingdom of England. Alfred is intelligent, well studied in strategies of war, cunning and ruthless if he needs to be in order to survive this onslaught from the Danes. Uhtred is advised again and again not to underestimate Alfred. Brida wisely tells Uhtred not to trust him and Beocca warns him against thinking he can outsmart or outthink Alfred. Uhtred is stubborn and refuses to listen to either of them…

 

What we also see in episode 2 is the Dane side of events. We are given a better feeling and understanding of Ubba and of Guthrum, the two major leaders of the Dane army at this time. The massacre of King Edmund of East Anglia was presented in a gruesome segment that tells the story of that massacre and gives some insight to the mindset and thoughts of Guthrum and of Ubba. It is also the defining moment where Uhtred and Brida realize how impossible is for them to try to prove their innocence to the Danes. Ubba is the leader of the Danes and his mind is set against them, to him they are traitors of the worst sort. 

 

Ubba's sorcerer, Storri

Ubba’s sorcerer, Storri

It is during this segment though that we see Ubba’s one weakness.. his complete and unquestioning devotion and belief in his sorcerer, Storrie. Ubba will base all of his decisions on what his sorcerer tells him. If you watch the segment closely, you will also see the beginnings of some inner questions or doubts in Guthrum’s mind. It seems that Guthrum is merely amusing himself and others with his questions to Edmund about religion and this so called true God, but could be looked at as some foretelling of a  distant future in which Guthrum did indeed accept Christianity, at least on the surface. What it does foretell is a different mindset and thinking between these two leaders- one which will become more apparent as you see their differences take shape in episode 3.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guthrum

guthrum: tell me about this god are you not afraid

guthrum: tell me about this god are you not afraid

guthrum: I've heard mention of this heaven

guthrum: I’ve heard mention of this heaven

Guthrum I would say your God has left you hanging

In history, Edmund of East Anglia was was king of East Anglia from about 855 until his death in 869.  In 869, the Great Heathen Army advanced on East Anglia and killed Edmund. He may have been slain by the Danes in battle, but by tradition he met his death at an unidentified place known as Haegelisdun, after he refused the Danes’ demand that he renounce Christ: the Danes beat him, shot him with arrows and then beheaded him, on the orders of Ivar the Boneless and his brother Ubba. According to one legend, his head was then thrown into the forest, but was found safe by searchers after following the cries of a wolf that was calling, “Hic, Hic, Hic” – “Here, Here, Here”. Commentators have noted how Edmund’s death bears resemblance to the fate suffered by St Sebastian, St Denis and St Mary of Egypt.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edmund_the_Martyr

Edmund is still alive to face his fate

Edmund is still alive to face his fate

Edmund I've changed my mind I will make no demands

Edmund I’ve changed my mind I will make no demands

Let us try let us see if this god is all powerful if he will save you

Let us try let us see if this god is all powerful if he will save you

 

Uhtred’s and Brida’s escape from Ubba and Gutrum is managed only by their taking of Ubba’s sorcerer, Storri as hostage. Ubba is so fearful of losing his sorcerer that he allows Uhtred to leave but with a last warning that, “One day I will kill you”. 

Now let us see if Our Odin will protect you from the arrows

While on the surface, Brida’s treatment of Storri the sorcerer is humorous and shows her own warrior side, it also shows her deeper future path as a seer in her own right. It gives us an insight to her own personal beliefs that are in some ways, far stronger than Uhtred’s. This side of Brida had not really been addressed until this event where she mentions that he cursed her and she was simply stopping the curse. She does not mention what the curse was so she is beginning to keep her own counsel, her own secrets from Uhtred- which will also come into importance in episode 3.

Storri has learned the hard way do not mess with brida

Storri has learned the hard way do not mess with brida

There's a branch up his ass... which is why he's naked

There’s a branch up his ass… which is why he’s naked

He cursed me it was necessary to block the curse

He cursed me it was necessary to block the curse

 

It is towards the end of episode 2 that we see how serious Alfred is about his convictions and about his mistrust or doubts of Uhtred. We also see Uhtred begin to understand the warnings of both Brida and Father Beocca. Uhtred mistakenly believes that he can easily gain Alfred’s trust by going against all of those warnings, by going behind Alfred’s back to gain his own information on the Danes. He assumes that Alfred and the others will accept him, his words and predictions and that he will be rewarded for his actions. Alfred is not swayed by this action which he very realistically points out to Uhtred could very easily be just another trap by the Danes. How do they know for certain that Uhtred is not working for the Danes and that this is a ploy to send them all to defeat and death? Alfred is determined to keep Uhtred and Brida contained until the outcome of this battle is certain. If the Saxons are being set up and will meet their demise at this battle, then so shall Uhtred meet his own end as will Brida. Alfred is nobody’s fool and Uhtred would be wise to keep this in mind should he survive!

The Pagans need to feel the power of God

The Pagans need to feel the power of God

Uhtred goes behind Alfred back to spy on the Danes and finds his own evidence

Uhtred goes behind Alfred back to spy on the Danes and finds his own evidence

Alfred doesn't trust Uhtred2 if the Saxons lose this battle so does Uhtred2

Alfred chose to teach Pagan Uhtred a lesson in humility and show him that he is not in charge or in control of dealings with Alfred. Alfred then headed into the battle with his own plan but probably the ideas and thoughts of Uhtred as well.

Alfred thinking on his own plan and possibly remembering uhtred's advice

Alfred thinking on his own plan and possibly remembering uhtred’s advice

The battle that Alfred and his brother were headed to was one at a place that Alfred referred to as Asec’s hill… this corresponds to ‘Æscesdūn’ or Ashdown which is generally thought to be an ancient name for the whole of the Berkshire Downs. It is not known exactly where the two armies met, though it was around a lone thorn tree. Thorn Down at Compton, near East Ilsley — meaning Place of Conflict — is therefore a popular contender. Modern investigation suggests a site on the Ridgeway between Aldworth and the Astons.

In late 870, King Ethelred led the army of Wessex against the Danes in their stronghold at Reading. The attack failed, and the Anglo-Saxons were forced to retreat while the Danes pursued. The Danish armies caught up with the Anglo-Saxons on the field of Ashdown, located somewhere near the border of Oxfordshire and Berkshire (the precise location is unknown). It was January 8, 871. The weather was cold and damp, and the Berkshire Downs were soaked and boggy. King Ethelred divided his army in two, positioning the halves on either side of a ridgeway. Ethelred commanded one side, Alfred the other. As the Danes approached, they also split their army.

Alfred watched as the Danes drew nearer, waiting for the order to charge. However, his brother Ethelred had decided that he must pray before the battle and refused to advance until his prayer service was complete. Seeing that the Danish movement would cost him the advantage of high ground, Alfred decided to attack without help from his brother. The Anglo-Saxons’ charged on the Danes on their side of the ridgeway. Although nothing specific is known about the fighting, it is likely that both sides employed shieldwalls from which to push and batter against each other. Eventually the Danes broke and fled across the downs.

Only later did Ethelred launch his own troops into the attack. After more heavy fighting, his side was also victorious.

The West Saxons had a slight advantage in numbers (around 800 to 1,000 men), but the Danes held the high ground. The battle, little more than a great clash of shield walls, resulted in a victory for Alfred. The battle, however, was not decisive. This was a pyrrhic victory, for a great many lives were lost on each side and the Danes were subsequently able to win several battles after receiving reinforcements. Nevertheless, the hard fighting may have made the Danes more cautious in their raids into Wessex, preferring easier targets.

Historically, Athelred would actually die sometime later after the battle of Marton.  The Battle of Marton or Meretum took place on 22 March 871 at a place recorded as Marton, perhaps in Wiltshire or Dorset, after Æthelred of Wessex, forced (along with his brother Alfred) into flight following their costly victory against an army of Danish invaders at the Battle of Ashdown, had retreated to Basing (in Hampshire), where he was again defeated by the forces of Ivar the Boneless.

It was the last of eight battles known to be fought by Æthelred against the Danes that year, and the defeated King is reported to have died on 15 April 871. Whether he died in battle, or as a result of wounds suffered in battle is unclear. The site of the battle is unknown. Suggestions include the borders of the London Borough of Merton, Merton in Oxfordshire, Marden in Wiltshire or Martin in Dorset. The more westerly locations tend to be favoured because King Ethelred was buried in Wimborne Minster in Dorset shortly afterwards.

 

There are just a few last relationships to the book that I want to bring up right now. The first is Leofic because the character is introduced in episode 2 and will play an important part in Uhtred’s life in the future.  In episode 2, we meet Leofric who, though he is introduced in a different way than the book format, still will become a friend to Uhtred. In episode 2, we see him as one of the warriors/guards of Wessex and he does not hold Uhtred in much high regard. We will see the friendship develop more in episode 3.

meeting of Leofric and Uhtred

meeting of Leofric and Uhtred

Leofric still wants a piece of Uhtred

We also meet Odda the elder and his son, Odda the younger, who both will be important to events in future episodes. Odda the elder is  a well trusted and honorable landholder in Wessex, much as in the books.

I do not think he is mine if his mother were dead already I might have her killed for adultery

I do not think he is mine if his mother were dead already I might have her killed for adultery

Odda the younger… not so much, just as in the books as well! Their interactions and relationships with Uhtred will most likely play out in a similar fashion as the books. You should pay attention to them because I believe they will both important in the storyline being mapped and planned as the show continues.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today in history, a final battle for England

949 years ago today, there was a final battle for England. In a way, it was a three way battle for the country. The battle leading up to this one involved Harald Hardrada, King of Norway and Denmark at the time who felt he had a valid and rightful claim. Without Harald Hardrada’s involvement, Harald Godwinsson King of England at the time might have actually been better prepared and able to win against William of Normandy at the battle of Hastings.

the-battle-of-hastings-granger

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harald_Hardrada

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Hastings

I am not going to go into a detailed discussion of the events but I do want to share a few books and such that I have read about the people involved in this history and these events.

Helen Hollick has two excellent books about the prior events leading up to the battle and the final outcome.

The Forever Queen:  This book is a great depiction and detail of  Emma of Normandy, whom little is known about but who is so important in history. It is the first of two books on Emma and her offspring, with the second book being, I am the Chosen King.

What kind of woman becomes the wife of two kings, and the mother of two more?

Saxon England, 1002. Not only is Æthelred a failure as King, but his young bride, Emma of Normandy, soon discovers he is even worse as a husband. When the Danish Vikings, led by Swein Forkbeard and his son, Cnut, cause a maelstrom of chaos, Emma, as Queen, must take control if the Kingdom-and her crown-are to be salvaged. Smarter than history remembers, and stronger than the foreign invaders who threaten England’s shores, Emma risks everything on a gamble that could either fulfill her ambitions and dreams or destroy her completely.

Emma, the Queen of Saxon England, comes to life through the exquisite writing of Helen Hollick, who shows in this epic tale how one of the most compelling and vivid heroines in English history stood tall through a turbulent fifty-year reign of proud determination, tragic despair, and triumph over treachery.

The Forever Queen (The Saxon Series, #1)

I was quite impressed with all of this book. I appreciate that it was not so much a gushy over done, made up romance novel but more of a historical docu-drama of her life. Helen Hollick took the limited details surrounding this somewhat forgotten queen that we hear so little about and wove those details into an excellent story!

It is not a feel good, happily ever after love story by any means. If you are looking for that, you will be quite disappointed. What you will find is a story about the grim and gritty realities of a woman’s life in those early medieval times. Just because a woman was of noble blood and ended up with a crown- more than one, it did not mean her life was any easier. In fact, in so many ways it was even more difficult.

Emma was married first to Æthelred who failed as both a King and a husband, but Emma did do her duty in providing him with not one, but two legitimate heirs. That should have given her some security in those times but unfortunately luck was not with her… or maybe it was? The kingdom is overtaken by Cnut who claims her along with the kingdom. She finally finds love with him only to have him die leaving the kingdom in another battle of who should rule.

The story of her life was well documented in this book with more than enough factual information woven into the story to give what I felt it was an excellent representation of the constant hurdles she endured throughout her life that colored and shaped how she viewed her role and her destiny as well as that of her sons.

I am the Chosen King

In this beautifully crafted tale, Harold Godwinesson, the last Saxon King of England, is a respected, quick-witted man both vulnerable and strong, honorable and loving-and yet, in the end, only human. After the political turmoil and battles leading up to 1066, we all know William the Conquerer takes England. But Helen Hollick will have readers at the edge of their seats, hoping that just this once, for Harold, the story will have a different ending.

I was  just as impressed with it as I was with the first book! What is interesting for me now is the comparison between this work and the information I previously read in Carol McGrath’s books about the same people. Where as Carol’s books deal more with Edith’s and her daughter’s lives and their possible perspectives of the time and events, this work goes into more depth concerning all of the key figures of the time. By reading all of them, I think you could gain a better insight and picture of  what was happening and how those involved might have come to the choices they made.

http://www.helenhollick.net/index.html

Carol Mcgrath  has a series about the women involved in these events. The Handfasted wife  and the Swan daughter by Carol McGrath.

the handfasted wife by Carol McGrath The Swan daughter by Carol McGrath

These two books are about history during the time of William the Conqueror. They are well written historical biography types more than romances.

The first one, Handfasted wife tells the story  of the Norman Conquest from the perspective of Edith (Elditha) Swanneck, Harold’s common-law wife. She is set aside for a political marriage when Harold becomes king in 1066. Determined to protect her children’s destinies and control her economic future, she is taken to William’s camp when her estate is sacked on the eve of the Battle of Hastings. She later identifies Harold’s body on the battlefield and her youngest son becomes a Norman hostage. Elditha avoids an arranged marriage with a Breton knight by which her son might or might not be given into his care. She makes her own choice and sets out through strife-torn England to seek help from her sons in Dublin. However, events again overtake her. Harold’s mother, Gytha, holds up in her city of Exeter with other aristocratic women, including Elditha’s eldest daughter. The girl is at risk, drawing Elditha back to Exeter and resistance. Initially supported by Exeter’s burghers the women withstand William’s siege. However, after three horrific weeks they negotiate exile and the removal of their treasure. Elditha takes sanctuary in a convent where eventually she is reunited with her hostage son. This is an adventure story of love, loss, survival and reconciliation.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harold_Godwinson

1024px-Bayeux_Tapestry_scene23_Harold_sacramentum_fecit_Willelmo_duci

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edith_the_Fair

Edith_discovering_the_body_of_Harold

 

The second book is about Edith and Harold’s daughter, Gunnhild.  The Swan Daughter is a true 11th C tale of elopement and a love triangle by best-selling author of The Handfasted Wife, Carol McGrath. A marriage made in Heaven or Hell.  It is 1075 and Dowager Queen Edith has died. Gunnhild longs to leave Wilton Abbey but is her suitor Breton knight Count Alan of Richmond interested in her inheritance as the daughter of King Harold and Edith Swan-Neck or does he love her for herself? And is her own love for Count Alain an enduring love or has she made a mistake? 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Rufus

Alan_Rufus

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gunhild_of_Wessex

Carol has recently published a third book in the series- I have it on my list to read!

The-Betrothed-Sister

The Betrothed Sister
(Book three in The Daughters of Hastings Trilogy)

 

xile, Danger and Revenge

 

1068 and exile for the royal women of Exeter. Thea is betrothed to Prince Vladimir of Kiev. She carries revenge in her heart for the Normans who killed her father and the Rus court is threatened from within and without. Can Thea find peace in her heart and understanding from her prince?

http://www.carolcmcgrath.co.uk/books.html

 

Finally, a third author gives her version of the events and the people. Patricia Bracewell has two books available so far of a planned trilogy. She gives a slightly different perspective but the stories are just as compelling as Helen’s or Carol’s versions!

shadow of the crown

England, A.D. 1002

In a world lit by fire and ruled by the sword, a fifteen-year-old girl kneels to receive an English crown – an act that will echo down the ages. Within that circlet of gold the ambitions of four powerful men are about to collide, for this young queen is the key to all that they desire. To a calculating Norman duke she is a blood tie to the wealthiest monarchy in Europe. To a haunted English king she is a guarantee of allies against a fierce and brutal enemy. To Denmark’s Viking ruler she is a prize worth ten times her weight in silver. To a young ætheling of England she is a temptation to forbidden passion. Her name is Emma…and she will change the course of history.

price-of-blood-sm

England, A.D. 1006

England is under siege. Famine and death stalk the land, ambitious royal sons chafe against a father’s implacable rule, and across the Danish Sea a fierce enemy is poised to strike. A desperate, feckless king sits upon England’s throne, railing against a pitiless God and fearing Almighty vengeance for an ancient sin. His young queen, Emma, fears for the life of her infant son, for she has wed into a royal line that does not balk at murder to win a crown. Determined to protect her child from any who would harm him, the queen forges alliances with men of power, unaware that in a far corner of the kingdom there is treachery afoot. When England is ravaged by wave after wave of Viking armies, when loyalties are strained to the breaking point and no one is safe from the sword, the queen faces a final, terrible dilemma, and at stake is the one thing that she holds most dear.

In these first two books of the series, Patricia has done an amazing job of sweeping us into Emma’s world. She has given us a view of that world with it’s desperation, conspiracies and treacheries from a young girl’s perspective as she tries to weave her way through all the traps, snares and entanglements that become her life. I am looking forward to book 3 to read Patricia’s version of the outcome for Emma and the others who make up her world.

http://www.patriciabracewell.com/

 

None of these books should be labeled or put into a Historical Romance genre or category. All three of these authors have put an enormous amount of time, effort and research into telling these stories from a historical point of view and reference. What they have done is well beyond any simple story of romance. They have all taken the people involved in these historical events and breathed life into them. They have all approached it from different perspectives and made these people come alive, made you care about them and better understand the situations that they were placed in during this time of chaos and turbulence. They deserve much credit, praise and appreciation for telling this story and these events in a way that we might not always think to look at it!

 

 

Saxony and Roland: Part 2 of Ancestor search

This is part two of my search for ancestors in Pre-Germany Prussia. If you read part one, you will know that my search led me to the city of Trier where one family line resided before making the trip to America in 1845. You can read that story here:

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2015/08/26/search-for-ancestors-led-to-prussia-saxony-and-to-roland-part-1/

Because this has turned into another very lengthy and involved journey, I have once again broke it into sections with subheadings for your ease and convenience. Should you be pressed for time and not have a few hours to devote to this book, you can scroll down through the centered headings for the topics that most interest you!

Pfeiffer Family history and connection to Saxony Anhalt

Saxony Anhalt history and the appearance of Roland throughout that area

History and Legends of Roland

Roland in Saxony Anhalt area

History of Saxony Anhalt in relation to Old Saxony

Charlamagne and the Saxon Wars

 

 

I mentioned in the previous discussion that we would have to visit another area of the country to find the other half of the story of my roots in Germany.  This is the story of that other half and their roots in Saxony Anhalt, Germany.  First, I will give what we know of the family and their migration from Germany to St. Louis Missouri and eventually St. Mathias township, Minnesota. In the second half of this article, we will look at the history of Saxony Anhalt and the mystery of legendary Roland’s connection to the area.

Pfeiffer Family history and connection to Saxony Anhalt

On September 11, 1868, Catherine Mayer Mueller gave birth to daughter Susanna Mueller in Owatonna, Minnesota. She was the oldest daughter of Catherine and John Henry. On November 19,  1891 she married Wilhelm Frederick Pfeiffer in St. Mathias township.

 

william_and_susanna_pfeiffer

William and Susanna Pfeiffer wedding photo

William and Susana Pfeiffer older years

William and Susanna Pfeiffer in later years

When I started the search, I knew only slightly more about the Pfeiffer family than I did about the Mayers! My luck with the Pfeiffer side came in that they were a much smaller family and seemed to keep a closer connection to each other at least in the beginning. Sadly as time went on, their ties to the past faded and disappeared too. This could be due to the fact they were a small family and didn’t have as many relatives to pass the heritage on to. It could also be due to some serious family problems that came along later and in some ways split the family apart. Those problems are not really a part of this discussion so I will save them for some other time.  For this discussion, I will do as I did with the Mayer family and just share their basic history while trying to trace them back to their homeland in Germany.

Wilhelm Frederick Pfeiffer was one of three children born to Ernst and Henrietta (Borchert) Pfeiffer. When I first started my research on the family, I found the same general birth place of Prussia listed. Luckily for me, I also had a few documents and hand written accounts that would help me once I finally managed to get some of them translated! Because this was a small family, there weren’t quite so many relatives to pass things down to and after many years of distance between families, we have come together and shared what little we have. So, before anything else, I just want to say Thank you to all of the Pfeiffer relatives who have worked so hard to piece together our history!

After the translations of documents and some further searching, I have a somewhat better picture of the Pfeiffer family and where they came from.

Ernst Pfeiffer was born in March of 1831, most likely in or near Calbe, Saxony Anhalt Germany. His wife Henrietta was born in 1830, probably in that same area. They were married in 1862 in the area of Baden.  As far was we know, they had three children: Wilhelm, Anna and Harry. We know much about Wilhelm or William as he later went by, and Anna but we know next to nothing about brother Harry. Harry is our missing link right now and I would love to find him! But, for now Let us look at what we do know about the others and their immigration from that place called Saxony Anhalt.

The Pfeiffer family made their move much later than the Mayers who left during the revolts of the 1840s. We will look at their possible reasons a bit later when we look closer at that area of Saxony Anhalt.  Ernst, Henrietta and two of the children left Germany in October of 1881 on a ship named Ohio, bound for Baltimore with a plan to go on to St. Louis Missouri.

ernst pfieffer

Ernst Pfeiffer

henrietta borchart Pfeiffer

henrietta borchart Pfeiffer

We are extremely fortunate to have a copy of a letter that Ernst wrote to his sister about the trip! It is one of the documents that we had for years but had to have translated for us as it was originally in German. It is only a portion of the letter and leaves us with the question of what happened to the rest of it. It also leaves the thought of it being written to his sister… Who was his sister, was she also in America, and how did his family once again have possession of it? Was it a letter he wrote but never got a chance to finish or send?

Saying Goodbye and wishing Bon Voyage, for the 23rd at 6 am we went to the railroad station. At 7:30 our train left for Bremerhafen. On our arrival, everything was overcrowded because everyone wanted to be first. Not even the police was able to help the ones that were trying to board. first came the passengers already booked, then the relatives and friends of the departing passengers.

Leaving Bremerhafen was exciting and also frightening hours started. Dear sister, there we saw the mighty ships lined up next to each other, also our ship, the Ohio, the one that we started our horrible voyage across the ocean, nobody had expected.  A large gangway was attatched to the ship. You should have seen the excitement going on, when we had to pass through the police line. The crying of the relatives who had accompanied the departing passenters up to that point was heartbreaking. Dear sister, it was not quite as hard on us, since we already done our crying saying good byes earlier.

But seeing the rough water and the turbulence in the sky, I got a scary feeling that tried to tell me, a horrible journey lay ahead. But kept my cool, not frighten my wife, yet it proofed to be right. Getting aboard our sleeping area were assigned to us. Each family got their own. Since our friend Mueller traveled with us, he was able to stay with us dear sister. We were stacked up like sardines 2 feet wide by 3 feet high and 6 feet long one place right next to each other.

At 2 o clock our ship left the harbor going into the river Weser. We kept moving till dark. Arriving at the dangerous point where the river Weser flows into the North Sea, we dropped anchor. We were all ordered to the upper deck. The captain knew that the sea sickness was going to start now.I remained always on the upper deck and watched the ship bounce around. My wife and Anna stayed with me and I held on to them. You should have seen how everybody started throwing up! My wife, Anna, and everyone else on board got sea sick. Myself, Wilhelm and our travel companion, Mueller were not affected, because we had brought a bottle along and just kept drinking. If someone had known, or the ship would have turned back, they gladly would have said goodbye to their money, but it was too late.  Travelling through the North Sea, the suffering began dear sister. You would not believe when I say waves as high as houses. Our ship had a 700 hp engine.

All the time we had to hold on in order not to get thrown over board.Dear sister you have probably seen pictures of a ship bouncing from side to side. We were thrown up as high as 40 or 50 feet. By storm and rain we continued our journey until December 5th. The following day we will never forget in all our lives. Despite the rain, the next morning all sails swere set and our joy was great because we were on the move again. But, during the day the winds changed and the sails had to be taken down. It got pitch dark, and the officer on the Captain’s announced a dangerous storm and ordered everyone below deck. All of the Mothers and Anna went below but the two of us could not make it since we were standing too far from the entrance leading down. Dear sister, suddenly the water was above my head, and I lost my breath. Being so close to death, I wished I was with my wife and children to die at their side but could not get there. With two other guys we had to hold on for a long time before we were able to see our ship again, because it had gone down. finely the storm seized and our ship was brough up. We were still hanging on but did not know our whereabouts.

Then the ship’s carpenter came up on deck to lock everything up. He found us and took us below, we were totally exhausted. There the “Oh Heavens” the screaming of the women and the water had reached the room where we were staying. 
This is all that we have of the letter so we do not know what happened later, or who the letter was written to or sent to originally? 

We do have records of the family’s voyage from Bremerhaven to Baltimore on the ship, SS OHIO. Ernst, Henrietta, Wilhelm and Anna Pfeiffer show up in the ships arrival documents. Ernst lists on that record the city of St. Louis in the portion asking for country claiming allegiance. If you look at that category closely, you will see that many people listed what seemed to be their destination cities there so there was probably some language confusion for them as to what that category was referring to. We do know that the family traveled directly from Baltimore to St. Louis Missouri so St. Louis was their planned destination from the beginning of the trip.

ss ohio2

SS Ohio

You can find much more information about the ship, SS Ohio here:

http://markprokosch.com/ss-ohio/

All of our family stories and photos state that Ernst and Henrietta had three children; Wilhelm, Harry and Anna. We have so far found no documentation or records for Harry though. He did not travel with them so perhaps he was already in St. Louis and they were going to join him there. We also need to consider the idea that Harry may have been his nickname and this is why we have not been able to find him yet. Poor Harry is a missing link in this family history even though they seem to have been close to him and visited him over the years. He is shown in family photos that label him as brother Harry. The following photo is one that lists the siblings on the back of it.

pfeiffers Harry William and anna

Anna, William and Harry Pfeiffer in later years

We do have one other mystery photo in our collection that could possibly be a clue to brother Harry or his family. This photo is one from our box of treasures that we have never have been able to accurately identify.  The year was 1911 and obviously, the family was visiting Spokane Washington at the time. The interesting connection to Spokane is that a later point, Anna Pfeiffer’s son Claude would relocate to Spokane so possibly there was some family connection there. That is all still an ongoing part of the search for this family.

Spokane, Washington Names on back of card Gustav William Pfeiffer, Marie and Ellen Pfeiffer, Harry William and Robert Pfeiffer.

Spokane, Washington
Names on back of card Gustav William Pfeiffer, Marie and Ellen Pfeiffer, Harry William and Robert Pfeiffer.

Our current discussion is about their past regarding Germany so I am just going to leave this mystery where it is for now… If anyone reading this thinks this family looks or sounds at all familiar, by all means please let me know!  Now, back to our topic of the family’s links to Germany!

We have some family biographies that gives us rather vague clues to their life in Prussia. Thanks to an excellent program from during the depression era many families gave histories to biographers who would visit homes and record those stories as part of a WPA sponsored project.

The WPA was The Works Progress Administration (renamed in 1939 as the Work Projects Administration; WPA) was the largest and most ambitious American New Deal agency, employing millions of unemployed people (mostly unskilled men) to carry out public works projects,including the construction of public buildings and roads. In a much smaller but more famous project, the Federal Project Number One, the WPA employed musicians, artists, writers, actors and directors in large arts, drama, media, and literacy projects.

 At its peak in 1938, it provided paid jobs for three million unemployed men and women, as well as youth in a separate division, the National Youth Administration. Headed by Harry Hopkins, the WPA provided jobs and income to the unemployed during the Great Depression in the United States. Between 1935 and 1943, the WPA provided almost eight million jobs. Full employment, which was reached in 1942 and emerged as a long-term national goal around 1944, was not the WPA’s goal. It tried to provide one paid job for all families in which the breadwinner suffered long-term unemployment.  Robert D. Leighninger asserts that “The stated goal of public building programs was to end the depression or, at least, alleviate its worst effects. Millions of people needed subsistence incomes. Work relief was preferred over public assistance (the dole) because it maintained self-respect, reinforced the work ethic, and kept skills sharp.

The WPA was a national program that operated its own projects in cooperation with state and local governments, which provided 10–30% of the costs. Usually the local sponsor provided land and often trucks and supplies, with the WPA responsible for wages (and for the salaries of supervisors, who were not on relief). WPA sometimes took over state and local relief programs that had originated in the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC) or Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) programs.

The family histories were part of the Federal Writer’s project directed by Henry Alsberg and employed 6,686 writers at its peak in 1936.  By January 1939, more than 275 major books and booklets had been published by the FWP.   Most famously, the FWP created the American Guide Series, which produced thorough guidebooks for every state that include descriptions of towns, waterways, historic sites, oral histories, photographs, and artwork.  An association or group that put up the cost of publication sponsored each book, the cost was anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000. In almost all cases, the book sales were able to reimburse their sponsors. Additionally, another important part of this project was to record oral histories to create archives such as the Slave Narratives and collections of folklore. These writers also participated in research and editorial services to other government agencies.

These histories are an invaluable source of information for anyone researching their family history as they often give a first or second hand account of your family’s rich history. Many people have no idea that these accounts are even available. If you go to almost any historical society, they will be able to help you locate these lost stories within their archives.  When I began my search, I had no clue that such stories existed and remained stored away within the dusty files of the historical societies. If you know where your family was living during those depression year, I would highly suggest you visit one of the nearby historical societies and do a search of your family names there! You may be happily surprised at the stories your relatives told to those traveling biographers! Consider this information as my Family History tip. One additional note on these stories- you will probably not see them widely available on genealogy sites any time soon as they are not records which would be at all easy to transfer to digital format. These are handwritten/typed transcriptions of sometimes lengthy stories generally contained in individual files for each person of family interviewed.

I was fortunate in that many of my relatives were happy to share their stories. Anna Pfeiffer Shannon and Susanna Pfeiffer Driver both shared stories of the Pfeiffer family in Germany along with their own stories.  One word of warning in regards to these transcribed stories- they often contain misspellings of names or locations because just as with census records, the interviewer just wrote what they thought they heard. An example of this is the fact that Anna Pfeiffer stated in her story that they came from “Table”  Prussia. I can not tell you how long I searched for the village of Table in vain, only to realize much later that the village was Calbe!

Besides the handwritten letter from Ernst Pfeiffer written in German, we had one other very important document that held the key to the family’s origins. We had an official certificate for Wilhelm Pfeiffer but it was also all in German so of course we had no idea what it was for many years. A few years ago, we were able to have it translated and discovered that it was a certificate of vaccination which included Wilhelm’s place of birth!

William Pfeiffer vaccination document

vaccination certificate for Wilhelm Pfeifer, born in Calbe, district Magdeburg June 30, 1863, son of Ernst Pfeifer, “Ziegler” (“Ziegelmeister”) in Calbe.

This document was translated to the following information: vaccination certificate for Wilhelm Pfeifer, born in Calbe, district Magdeburg June 30, 1863, son of Ernst Pfeifer, “Ziegler” (“Ziegelmeister”) in Calbe.   My search for Calbe in the Magdeburg district has led to Saxony Anhalt province and it’s history. Much as in the case of my Meyer ancestors, I can currently find out little about the specific family history but I can provide a history of the area the family lived in!

 

Saxony Anhalt history and the appearance of Roland throughout that area

I decided to find out more about this village of Calbe and the Magdeburg district in hopes that it might at least give me a better picture of the place Ernst Pfeiffer and his family came from and perhaps some general idea why they too may have chose to immigrate at the time they did. As with the Meyer family, I do not know a great deal about their family or financial circumstances during that time. Ernst was a bricklayer or tiler according to his occupation status. His daughter in law, Susanna mentioned that in Germany he had worked on fruit farms. Daughter Anna mentioned that she and her family had been or were German Lutherans.  That is about all we know of the family life in Prussia or Germany.

As I said, I began my search in the village of Calbe and quickly found a fascinating history of the area that includes the legendary Roland! My initial search for Calbe Germany immediately rewarded me with the interesting and rather odd mention that one of their village’s historical monuments is a statue of Roland.   Calbe is a town in the district of Salzlandkreis, in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany.

It is situated on the Saale River, approx. 12 kilometers (7.5 mi) north of Bernburg, and 25 kilometers (16 mi) southeast of Magdeburg. It is known as Calbe an der Saale, to distinguish it from the smaller town of Kalbe on the Milde in the same state. Pop. (1905) 12,281.  It is a railway junction, and among its industries are wool-weaving and the manufacture of cloth, paper, stoves, sugar and bricks. Cucumbers and onions are cultivated, and soft coal is mined in the neighborhood.

The town has a statue of Roland outside its city hall. Roland is a symbol who represents many small and medium sized towns in Saxony-Anhalt, symbolising free trade and prosperity. The town also has a very old church, and a tower known as the “Hexenturm” (“Witchtower”), in which the townspeople imprisoned accused witches and tortured them in the Middle Ages.

calbe and magdeburg Germany Calbe_(Saale)_in_SLK calbe statue of roland3 calbe germany calbe2

This very brief description of the village and it’s history caused me to be even more curious about this area. First of all of course, it is in the province of Saxony Anhalt… and I am always interested in knowing more about the history of anyplace related to the history of Saxony. Second, naturally I was sucked in by this area’s connection and loyalty to that legend of Roland. The Witch Tower held no added curiosity for me- they are in any number of medieval villages throughout Europe! My most nagging question was, “What is Roland doing in these villages, when and why did he show up there as such a revered and important symbol for them?” For that, I needed to do more research on the entire area and on the legend of Roland to see where the connection might come in.

 

History and Legends of Roland

For the many fans and followers of  Michael Hirst’s Vikings Saga as well as anyone interested in medieval history or history of Charlamagne, the character of Roland is  somewhat familiar. In the Vikings Saga, we have a rather mysterious Roland as a Frankish soldier of high standing- Count Odo’s first in command. As yet, we know very little about him other than that he maintains an important status within the court and household of Charles. He is a well trusted member of their regime and that is about all I can tell you so far. His character is played by Huw Parmenter and he will be returning in season 4 so hopefully his story and history will be better explained.  At this point is mere speculation on what route Hirst has taken with this character- whether he has created him based on some type of historical reference or symbolism, or whether he just liked the name and this is a totally fictional creation. Many who are familiar with the legends of Roland and his connections to Charlamagne and the Frankish Empire are of the thought that this character would be some symbolic representation or nod to the more famous Roland.  To the best of my knowledge, Hirst has not commented on this character interpretation yet.  The introduction of his character with his high standing in the Frankish court leads me to personally think, or at least hope- that there is some odd connection. Hirst has made so many references to Charlamagne and his dynasty that it seems reasonable to me that he would include some reference to Roland. He has already played so much with timelines that it is not unreasonable or implausible that he would consider bringing Roland into the picture even though his original history involved that timeline of Charlamagne. One might compare it to King Ecbert, who’s true history also falls into the timeline of Charlamagne.  If Hirst easily maneuvered Egbert up the timeline, why would he have any reservations about doing the same for Roland.  What ever the case, we now have a rather mysterious and illusive Roland as second in command of the Frankish army and most of us want to know more about him, and or his possible real history.

Roland's story yes here comes roland yet again

roland, a man to keep an eye on in the future

roland, a man to keep an eye on in the future

odo and roland visit the camp to find out why they have not left yet and.... here comes roland once again

In history, Roland was ) was a Frankish military leader under Charlemagne who became one of the principal figures in the literary cycle known as the Matter of France. The historical Roland was military governor of the Breton March, responsible for defending Francia‘s frontier against the Bretons. His only historical attestation is in Einhard‘s Vita Karoli Magni, which notes he was part of the Frankish rearguard killed by rebellious Basques in Iberia at the Battle of Roncevaux Pass.

The only historical mention of the actual Roland is in the Vita Karoli Magni by Charlemagne‘s courtier and biographer Einhard. Einhard refers to him as Hruodlandus Brittannici limitis praefectus (“Roland, prefect of the borders of Brittany”), indicating he presided over the Breton March, Francia‘s border territory against the Bretons.  The passage, which appears in Chapter 9, mentions that Hroudlandus (a Latinization of the Frankish Hruodland) was among those killed in the battle:

While he was vigorously pursuing the Saxon war, almost without a break, and after he had placed garrisons at selected points along the border, [Charles] marched into Spain [in 778] with as large a force as he could mount. His army passed through the Pyrenees and [Charles] received the surrender of all the towns and fortified places he encountered. He was returning [to Francia] with his army safe and intact, but high in the Pyrenees on that return trip he briefly experienced the Basques. That place is so thoroughly covered with thick forest that it is the perfect spot for an ambush. [Charles’s] army was forced by the narrow terrain to proceed in a long line and [it was at that spot], high on the mountain, that the Basques set their ambush. […] The Basques had the advantage in this skirmish because of the lightness of their weapons and the nature of the terrain, whereas the Franks were disadvantaged by the heaviness of their arms and the unevenness of the land. Eggihard, the overseer of the king’s table, Anselm, the count of the palace, and Roland, the lord of the Breton March, along with many others died in that skirmish. But this deed could not be avenged at that time, because the enemy had so dispersed after the attack that there was no indication as to where they could be found.

Roland was evidently the first official appointed to direct Frankish policy in Breton affairs, as local Franks under the Merovingian dynasty had not previously pursued any specific relationship with the Bretons. Their frontier castle districts such as Vitré, Ille-et-Vilaine, south of Mont Saint-Michel, are now divided between Normandy and Brittany. The distinctive culture of this region preserves the present-day Gallo language and legends of local heroes such as Roland. Roland’s successor in Brittania Nova was Guy of Nantes, who like Roland, was unable to exert Frankish expansion over Brittany and merely sustained a Breton presence in the Carolingian Empire.

According to legend, Roland was laid to rest in the basilica at Blaye, near Bordeaux, on the site of the citadel.

If you look at Roland in this very limited extent of his actual historical contributions to Charlamagne and the Frankish Empire, it’s rather difficult to explain or reason how he came to be such a legendary figure of such acclaim. He would  be so romanticized and revered that tales of his supposed feats would be told and sung about in the eventually conquered land of Saxony and even in Norse legends.  Put in terms of actual historical accounts, Roland was not necessarily all that important- he was most likely one of many Frankish military leader involved in the various battles and conquests of  Charlamagne’s empire. He was a part of the wars against Saxony but died before victory over Saxony was ever achieved so he really had no significant contribution in that area. As far as his role in controlling the Bretons, he was not successful there either. And, quite obviously, his march into Spain against the Basques ended badly as well.   One would have to reasonably question how this soldier went from such seemingly mediocracy to the level of praised and esteemed Folk hero?  The answer to that could be blamed on one very creative Poet/Story teller in the 11th century!

The Song of Roland  is an epic poem based on the Battle of Roncevaux in 778, during the reign of Charlemagne. It is the oldest surviving major work of French literature and exists in various manuscript versions, which testify to its enormous and enduring popularity in the 12th to 14th centuries.  The date of composition is put in the period between 1040 and 1115: an early version beginning around 1040 with additions and alterations made up until about 1115. The final text has about 4,000 lines of poetry. The epic poem is the first  and with The Poem of the Cid one of the most outstanding examples of the chanson de geste, a literary form that flourished between the 11th and 15th centuries and celebrated legendary deeds. 

The earliest known source for Roland’s rise to fame and glory are attributed to a poet named Turold, between approximately 1040 and 1115, and most of the alterations were performed by about 1098. Some favor an earlier dating, because it allows one to say that the poem was inspired by the Castilian campaigns of the 1030s, and that the poem went on to be a major influence in the First Crusade. Those who prefer a later dating do so on grounds of what they interpret as brief references made in the poem to events of the First Crusade. One of the main reasons for the poem’s initial popularity was most probably it’s references to Charlamagne fighting off the Muslims in Spain. Possibly Turold’s intention or premise for telling the story was based on that from the beginning. His work would have been looked on by those who paid him as an excellent motivator in the upcoming Crusades that began around the same time. What better story to encourage people to join in the march of Christians to defeat the Infidels and Heathens of the most holy of lands. They had already for the most part done away with the Heathen influence in Europe. And, by this time even the Heathens of the Northern areas- those Saxons, Danes and Norse had all been converted so the next step was to conquer those Eastern lands. While the laypeople saw it as their sworn duty and purpose to defend Christianity and spread God’s word to the world, in reality the Church saw it as good business that brought more wealth, power and control to the Church leaders. In a sense, war and crusades were good business for the church and they made the most of the opportunities such events presented. So, Turold was most likely well rewarded for his story of Charlamagne and Roland fighting to bring Christianity to those infidel Muslims in Spain.

The tale of Roland’s death is retold in the eleventh-century poem The Song of Roland, where he is equipped with the olifant (a signalling horn) and an unbreakable sword, enchanted by various Christian relics, named Durendal. The Song contains a highly romanticized and embellished account of the Battle of Roncevaux Pass and Roland’s death, setting the tone for later fantastical depiction of Charlemagne’s court.

chroniques of Roland

chroniques of Roland

The plot of this earliest known tale of  Roland and his epic march into Spain is as follows:

Charlemagne‘s army is fighting the Muslims in Spain. They have been there for seven years, and the last city standing is Saragossa, held by the Muslim king Marsilla. Threatened by the might of Charlemagne’s army of Franks, Marsilla seeks advice and his wise man, Blancandrin, councils him to conciliate the Emperor, offering to surrender and giving hostages. Accordingly, Marsilla sends out messengers to Charlemagne, promising treasure and Marsilla’s conversion to Christianity if the Franks will go back to France.

Charlemagne and his men, tired of fighting, accept his peace offer and select a messenger to Marsilla’s court. Protagonist Roland nominates his stepfather Ganelon as messenger. Ganelon, who fears to be murdered by the enemy and accuses Roland of intending this, takes revenge by informing the Saracens of a way to ambush the rear guard of Charlemagne’s army, led by Roland, as the Franks re-enter Spain through the mountain passes.

As Ganelon predicted, Roland leads the rear guard, with the wise and moderate Oliver and the fierce Archbishop Turpin. The Muslims ambush them at Roncesvalles, and the Christians are overwhelmed. Oliver asks Roland to blow his olifant to call for help from the Frankish army; but Roland proudly refuses to do so.

The Franks fight well, but are outnumbered, until almost all Roland’s men are dead and he knows that Charlemagne’s army can no longer save them. Despite this, he blows his olifant to summon revenge, until his temples burst and he dies a martyr’s death. Angels take his soul to Paradise.

When Charlemagne and his men reach the battlefield, they find the dead bodies of Roland’s men, who have been utterly annihilated, and pursue the Muslims into the river Ebro, where they drown. Meanwhile, Baligant, the powerful emir of Babylon, has arrived in Spain to help Marsilla, and his army encounters that of Charlemagne at Roncesvalles, where the Christians are burying and mourning their dead. Both sides fight valiantly – when Charlemagne kills Baligant, the Muslim army scatters and flees, and the Franks conquer Saragossa. With Marsilla’s wife Bramimonde, Charlemagne and his men ride back to Aix, their capital in France.

The Franks discover Ganelon’s betrayal and keep him in chains until his trial, where Ganelon argues that his action was legitimate revenge, not treason. While the council of barons assembled to decide the traitor’s fate is initially swayed by this claim, one man, Thierry, argues that, because Roland was serving Charlemagne when Ganelon delivered his revenge on him, Ganelon’s action constitutes a betrayal.  Ganelon’s friend Pinabel challenges Thierry to trial by combat, in which, by divine intervention, Thierry kills Pinabel. The Franks are convinced by this of Ganelon’s villainy; thus, he is torn apart by having four galloping horses tied one to each limb, and thirty of his relatives are hanged.

As a result of Turold’s highly imaginative telling of  Charlamagne’s battles in Spain, Roland became a grand hero of epic and monumental proportions. The story was so well liked that it was constantly repeated and added to over the centuries. By the 14th century Roland had battled a Saracen giant named Ferracutus who is only vulnerable at his navel (the story was later adapted in the anonymous Franco-Venetian epic L’Entrée d’Espagne (c.1320) and in the 14th-century Italian epic La Spagna (attributed to the Florentine Sostegno di Zanobi and likely composed between 1350–1360).  Other accounts expanded on Roland’s life-  His friendship with Olivier and his engagement with Olivier’s sister Aude are told in Girart de Vienne by Bertrand de Bar-sur-Aube. Roland’s youth and the acquisition of his horse Veillantif and sword are described in Aspremont. Roland also appears in Quatre Fils Aymon where he is contrasted with Renaud de Montauban against whom he occasionally fights.

In various legends of Roland, he takes on a persona similar to Arthur and his knights of the roundtable. In Roland’s version, the Knights are rather represented by or referred to as his Paladins.  All Carolingian paladin stories feature paladins named Roland and Oliver; other recurring characters are Archbishop Turpin, Ogier the Dane, Huon of Bordeaux, Fierabras, Renaud de Montauban and Ganelon. Tales of the paladins once rivaled the stories of King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table in popularity.

Roland and his Palidans

Roland and his Paladins

Roland and his Paladins appear in the The Karlamagnús saga (“saga of Charlemagne“),  a late 13th century Norse prose compilation and adaptation, made for Haakon V of Norway, of the Old French chansons de geste of the Matter of France dealing with Charlemagne and his paladins. In some cases, the Karlamagnús saga remains the only source for otherwise-lost Old French epic.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karlamagn%C3%BAs_saga

The following is a beautiful rendition of the Norwegian ballad of Roland with lyrics included.

So, now we know that Roland achieved his epic fame and glory not because of any actual accomplished feats in his lifetime, but more because a gifted story teller turned him into that legendary hero a few centuries later. During the years in which he lived and those even some years after his death, Roland was just another Frankish soldier involved in wars against the Saxons and any number of other groups or territories that Charlamagne felt were in need of Christianizing and conquering, probably including such Heathens as the Vikings!

As the various lands were conquered over the next centuries, the legends of Roland also made their way into those places and took on slightly different meanings and symbolisms for the people of each area. An example would be how he came to be viewed in areas of Catalonia. In Catalonia Roland (or Rotllà, as it is rendered in Catalan) became a legendary giant. Numerous places in Catalonia (both North and South) have a name related to Rotllà. In step with the trace left by the character in the whole Pyrenean area, Basque Errolan turns up in numerous legends and place-names associated with a mighty giant, usually a heathen, capable of launching huge stones. The Basque word erraldoi (giant) stems from Errol(d)an, as pointed by the linguist Koldo Mitxelena.

Roland in Saxony Anhalt area

These differences in the legend may play a part in how he came to be represented and symbolized in the Saxony Anhalt area of what is now Germany.  The history of his monuments in the area refer to him being a representation and symbol of independence. In Germany, Roland gradually became a symbol of the independence of the growing cities from the local nobility. In the late Middle Ages many cities featured defiant statues of Roland in their marketplaces. The Roland in Wedel was erected in 1450 as symbol of market justice, and the Roland statue in front of Bremen City Hall (1404) has been listed together with the city hall itself on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites since 2004.

Normally one would question why this legendary crusader and soldier of Charlamagne would be any way connected with a fight against Nobility. If you look at the legend in the context of it being a basis and a variant of Arthur and his noble knights fighting for justice and honor for all though, it makes much more sense why the medieval residents of this area might have taken him on as their own personal defender of their cause.  By the time his legends made their appearance in their area, the people had long previously been already conquered by Charlamagne and the Frankish Empire and well Christianized, as was Charlamagne’s ulterior intent. During those medieval years when the legends of Roland showed up, they were mired deep within the feudal systems and overlords controlling them. These people would have had no clue that Roland had originally been one of the “bad guy” conquering armies of their people. No, these people were looking for a Knight in Shining Armor, like Arthur of legend, to believe in. They found that supposed Knight or Paladin in Roland!

 

Statues of Roland can be found throughout  northern and eastern Germany, where they are often placed on the market square or in front of the city hall. Examples are also known from Central Europe, Croatia and Latvia, and there are copies in Brazil and the United States.  Statues of the mythological Roland, who enjoyed the status as a popular hero, were erected in cities during the Middle Ages as an emblem of the freedom and city rights of a town. In Germany, such a town is sometimes known as a Roland town (German: Rolandstadt). Roland statues are known mainly from cities that used Saxon Law which is interesting considering the fact that we’ve already established the fact that historically he was involved in the conquering of Saxons and old Saxony. And, in order to better reinforce  the idea of Charlamagne and his conquerors being the heroes, a later Holy Roman Emperor would go even further in encouraging the legend of Roland.  The first Roland statues began to appear in the 12th century, placed outside churches. During the 14th and 15th centuries, Roland statues became more common. Especially during the reign of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV, such statues became more common, a fact that may be explained by the emperor’s ambition to portray himself as the heir to Charlemagne‘s reign.  The earliest Roland statues were made of wood, while later examples are more often made of stone.

Roland_auf_dem_Marktplatz_in_Bremen__IMG_6882WI

Statue of Roland erected in city of Bremen 1404

The statues and the symbolism are also connected to medieval feudal laws that at times seem to contradict each other and become quite complex in explanations as well as understanding. I will attempt some additional clarification but please don’t be too concerned or worried if you end up even more confused by all of it… at least then I will not feel like I am the only one who doesn’t quite understand all of it!

The statues of Roland were generally designed to show Roland as protector of the city his legendary sword (known in chivalric legend as Durendal) is unsheathed, and his shield is emblazoned with the two-headed Imperial eagle.  It was usually placed as to confront the main church as a representation of city rights opposed to the territorial claims of the prince-archbishop. The earliest known statue was the one in Bremen and was built as a symbol of civil liberty and freedom. According to legend, Bremen will remain free and independent for as long as Roland stands watch over the city. For this reason, it is alleged that a second Roland statue is kept hidden in the town hall’s underground vaults, which can be quickly installed as a substitute, should the original fall.

The principle of civil liberty and freedom are based on the German phrase of Stadtluft macht frei nach Jahr und Tag (“city air makes you free after a year and a day”).  It describes a principle of law in the Middle Ages. The period of a year and a day was a conventional period widely employed in Europe to represent a significant amount of time. From the 11th century onwards, liberated serfs and other members of the Third Estate founded settlements alongside the old Roman or Germanic. It was customary law that a city resident was free after one year and one day. After this he could no longer be reclaimed by his employer and thus became bound to the city. Serfs could flee the feudal lands and gain freedom in this way, making cities a territory outside the feudal system to a certain extent. This created the conditions for the revolts such as the Münster Rebellion.  With the Statutum in favorem principum (“Statute in Favor of the Princes”), this regulation of customary law was officially abolished for the Holy Roman Empire in 1231/32. According to the statute, cities under royal jurisdiction were forbidden to protect serfs originally owned by the regional princes or their vassals. The statute is an example of power devolving from Imperial authority to that of territorial magnates during the drawn-out contest between the Hohenstaufen emperors and the Papacy.

Adding to the confusion over Roland’s symbolism and representation are the conflicting ideals or beliefs in regards to Charlamagne and the church as opposed to the ideal of  Roland representing the civil rights.

 

History of Saxony Anhalt in relation to Old Saxony

Now  we know the history and legend of Roland along with some reasons he may have become such a symbol for certain areas of medieval Germany that include Saxony Anhalt and the village of Calbe. What we need to do next is look briefly at the history of  Calbe, Magdeburg, and Saxony Anhalt in relation to what was once called Old Saxony. My reason for doing this is to better understand the histories of these areas and how they connect to the original land of Saxony.  There is a great deal of confusion surrounding the numerous variations of “Saxony” Over the centuries until rather recently, there have been areas, territories and Duches with labels of Upper Saxony, Lower Saxony, Saxony Anhalt, Saxony, and Old Saxony. This proves a bit of a nightmare in terms of knowing where a town or village is as compared to where it might have been at some other earlier point in Germany’s, Prussia’s or Saxony’s long history!  With the appearance of Roland in some areas, I was interested in seeing the medieval or even earlier histories of Calbe and it’s surrounding cities.

Calbe_(Saale)_in_SLK calbe and magdeburg Germany

Calbe’s history dates back to at least the 10th century when the original Church of St. Stephani was built there. Their former Monastery Gottesgnaden dates back to the 11th century and their representation as Free City protection by Roland originated in the 1380s. This early appearance of Roland would signify that their monument to him is for earlier reason and meaning based on the Free city ideal rather than a later public relations model by Charles.

 

Calbe is located near Magdeburg. If we look at Magdeburg’s history we get a much better picture of the area and it’s connection to Charlamagne and the Saxon Wars. The city of Magdeburg or Magadoburg was founded by Charlamagne in the year 805. The meaning of the name was from Old High German magado for big, mighty and burga for fortress. If you look at early maps, you will see that Magdeburg was shown as being a part of “Old Saxony”. This is crucial in determining just what part of those many areas labeled Saxony the city was in as far as placing it within the realm of original Saxon held lands. It is also important when trying to figure out Charlamagne’s conquests of the Saxons!

old saxony

Old Saxony is the original homeland of the Saxons in the northwest corner of modern Germany and roughly corresponds today to the modern German state of Lower Saxony, the eastern half of North Rhine-Westphalia and western Saxony-Anhalt.  It included the entire territory between the lower Elbe and Saale rivers almost to the Rhine. Between the mouths of the Elbe and the Weser it bordered the North Sea. The only parts of the territory which lay across the Elbe were the counties of Holstein and Ditmarsch. The tribal lands were roughly divided into four kindred groups: the Angrians, along the right bank of the Weser; the Westphalians, along the Ems and the Lippe; the Eastphalians, on the left bank of the Weser; and the Nordalbingians, in modern Holstein. But not even with these four tribal groups was the term of tribal division reached. For the Saxon “nation” was really a loose collection of clans of kindred stock. For example, the Nordalbingians alone were divided into lesser groups: Holsteiners, Sturmarii, Bardi, and the men of Ditmarsch.

Old Saxony is the place from which most of the raids and later colonisations of Britain were mounted. The region was called “Old Saxony” by the later descendants of Anglo-Saxon migrants to Britain, their new colonies in Wessex and elsewhere were the “New Saxony” or Seaxna. In Germany the Saxon lands were known simply as “Saxony” (Modern German:Sachsen) and only later came to be called Lower Saxony, to differentiate those original Saxon tribal territories from what became the Kingdom of Saxony or Upper Saxony in territories far to the south-east of the original Saxon homeland. The Anglo-Saxon writer Bede claimed in his work Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum (731) that Old Saxony was the area between the Elbe, the Weser and the Eider in the north and north west of modern Germany and was a territory beyond the borders of the Roman Empire.

Magdeburg is located on the Elbe River so the area would have been part of Bede referred to as Old Saxony.  Ptolemy‘s Geographia, written in the 2nd century, is sometimes considered to contain the first mentioning of the Saxons. Some copies of this text mention a tribe called Saxones in the area to the north of the lower River Elbe, thought to derive from the word Sax or stone knife.[5] However, other copies call the same tribe Axones, and it is considered likely that it is a misspelling of the tribe that Tacitus in his Germania called Aviones. These earliest known tribal Saxons inhabited “Northern Albingia“, a region bordering the northern bank of the mouth of River Elbe in what is now Western Holstein. As land became scarce, the Saxon population began to expand southward where it absorbed indigenous populations such as Cherusci, Chamavi and Chatti, also remaining portions of Langobardi (Lombards) and Suebi. This broader domain is called “Old Saxony”. The Chauci, according to Tacitus, also lived in the general area later known as Old Saxony and were highly respected among Germanic tribes. He describes them as peaceful, calm, and levelheaded. At some point they may have merged with, or were perhaps synonymous to, the Saxons.

For the most part, the Saxon lands were a broad plain, save on the south, where it rose into hills and the low mountainous country of the Harz and Hesse. This low divide was all that separated the country of the Saxons from their ancient enemies and ultimate conquerors, the Franks. The lack of clear physical definition along this border, from time immemorial, had been the cause of incessant tribal conflict between them. Saxons as inhabitants of present-day Northern Germany are mentioned in 555, when Theudebald, the Frankish king, died and the Saxons used this opportunity for war. The Saxons were defeated by Chlothar I, Theudebald’s successor. Some of their Frankish successors fought against the Saxons, others were allied with them; Chlothar II won a decisive victory against the Saxons.

In 690, two priests called Ewald the Black and Ewald the Fair set out from Northumbria to convert the Old Saxons to Christianity. It is recorded that at this time Old Saxony was divided into the ancient dioceses of Münster, Osnabrück, and Paderborn. However, by 695 the pagan Saxons had become extremely hostile to the Christian priests and missionaries in their midst and began to realize that their aim was to convert their over-lord and destroy their temples and religion. Ewald the Fair was quickly murdered, but Ewald the Black they subjected to torture, and he was torn limb from limb. Afterwards the two bodies were cast into the Rhine. This is understood to have happened on 3 October 695 at a place called Aplerbeck, near Dortmund, where a chapel still stands. The two Ewalds are now celebrated in Westphalia as saints.   Their reluctance to accept the new Christian religion and propensity to mount destructive raids on their neighbours would eventually bring them into direct conflict with Charlemagne, the powerful king of the Franks and later emperor. After a bloody and highly attritious thirty-year campaign between 772–804 the Old Saxons led by Widukind were eventually subdued by Charlemagne and ultimately forced to convert to Christianity.

The primitive bonds of kindred and clan were particularly strong among the Saxons, and in spite of many divisions the Saxons were an unusually homogeneous nation living as late as the 8th century as the early Germans described by Tacitus in Germania had lived. The long warfare with the Franks largely reduced but did not wholly obliterate their distinct cultural identity.

 

Charlamagne and the Saxon Wars

By the time Charlamagne decided to put an end to Saxon paganism and raiding of Frankish territories, the Saxon lands consisted of  4 regions,   Nearest to Austrasia was Westphalia and furthest away was Eastphalia. In between these two kingdoms was that of Engria and north of these three, at the base of the Jutland peninsula, was Nordalbingia. The Magdeburg area was in the Eastphalia region.

Charlamagne's Saxony map-oldsaxon

It took him almost 30 years but Charlamagne did succeed at conquering the Saxons completely. He began his campaigns in 772 and it was not until 804 that the last rebellious tribesmen were finally crushed. In all, eighteen battles were fought in what is now northwestern Germany. They resulted in the incorporation of Saxony into the Frankish realm and their conversion from Germanic paganism to Germanic Christianity.

Despite repeated setbacks, the Saxons resisted steadfastly, returning to raid Charlemagne’s domains as soon as he turned his attention elsewhere. Their main leader, Widukind, was a resilient and resourceful opponent and accepted a peace offering from Charlemagne in a perilous situation, not losing his face and preventing Charlemagne from continuing a bothersome war. This agreement saved the Saxons’ leaders’ exceptional rights in their homeland. Widukind (ahd Waldkind, “Child of forest”) was baptized in 785 and buried in the only German church without a spire.

It was a long bloody and drawn out war that Charlamagne might have won sooner had he not left so often to take care of other battles. After his initial attack in 772-74, he negotiated with some of the Saxon Nobles, took hostages and left to attend to to his war against the Lombards in northern Italy; but Saxon free peasants, led by Widukind, continued to resist and raided Frankish lands in the Rhine region. Armed confrontations continued unabated for years.

In 775 Charlamagne returned to march successfully  through Westphalia and Eastphalia. By the end of this campaign he assumed that all of Saxony except for the North was in his control and left again for Italy. In 776, the Saxons were already rebelling and destroying his fortresses. He returned in time to put down the rebellion but Saxon Leader Widukind conveniently escaped to Denmark.  In 777, Charlamagne convened a meeting at Paderborn supposedly to  integrate Saxony fully into the Frankish kingdom. Many Saxons were baptized. The main purpose was more to force the Saxons into Christianity.  Charlemagne issued a number of decrees designed to break Saxon resistance and to inflict capital punishment on anyone observing heathen practices or disrespecting the king’s peace. His severe and uncompromising position, which earned him the title “butcher of Saxons”, caused his close adviser Alcuin of York, later abbot of Saint Martin’s Abbey at Tours, to urge leniency, as God‘s word should be spread not by the sword but by persuasion; but the wars continued.

By 778 he left once again, this time to take care of those matters in Spain with the assistance of  Roland….we all know how that campaign turned out! He probably should have just remained in Saxony and focused on defeating them once and for all. Instead, he let the war drag on for years before he achieved success beginning in 785 when Widukind finally admitted defeat, offered to have himself baptized and swore fealty to Charlamagne.

The city of Magdaburg that Charlamagne founded was part of the Eastphalia region and was built in 805 after one of the few later attempts at rebellion by the Saxons. As it was built on the River Elbe, it was most probably designed to put off any future strikes the Saxons might attempt using that waterway that went all the way up to then North Sea.  Magdaburg became an important city during the next centuries.  In 929 the city would be given to Alfred the Great’s grand daughter, Edith upon her marriage to Otto I Holy Roman Emperor. The city was her Morgengabe or Dower gift. Edith loved the town and often lived there; at her death she was buried in the crypt of the Benedictine abbey of Saint Maurice, later rebuilt as the cathedral. In 937, Magdeburg was the seat of a royal assembly. Otto I repeatedly visited Magdeburg and was also buried in the cathedral. He granted the abbey the right to income from various tithes and to corvée labour from the surrounding countryside.

In 1035 Magdeburg received a patent giving the city the right to hold trade exhibitions and conventions, which form the basis of the later family of city laws known as the Magdeburg rights. These laws were adopted and modified throughout Central and Eastern Europe. Visitors from many countries began to trade with Magdeburg.

In the 13th century, Magdeburg became a member of the Hanseatic League. With more than 20,000 inhabitants Magdeburg was one of the largest cities in the Holy Roman Empire. The town had an active maritime commerce on the west (towards Flanders), with the countries of the North Sea, and maintained traffic and communication with the interior (for example Brunswick). The citizens constantly struggled against the archbishop, becoming nearly independent from him by the end of the 15th century.

In about Easter 1497, the then twelve-year-old Martin Luther attended school in Magdeburg, where he was exposed to the teachings of the Brethren of the Common Life. In 1524, he was called to Magdeburg, where he preached and caused the city’s defection from Catholicism. The Protestant Reformation had quickly found adherents in the city, where Luther had been a schoolboy. Emperor Charles V repeatedly outlawed the unruly town, which had joined the Alliance of Torgau and the Schmalkaldic League. Because it had not accepted the Augsburg Interim (1548), the city, by the emperor’s commands, was besieged (1550–1551) by Maurice, Elector of Saxony, but it retained its independence. The rule of the archbishop was replaced by that of various administrators belonging to Protestant dynasties. In the following years Magdeburg gained a reputation as a stronghold of Protestantism and became the first major city to publish the writings of Luther. In Magdeburg, Matthias Flacius and his companions wrote their anti-Catholic pamphlets and the Magdeburg Centuries, in which they argued that the Roman Catholic Church had become the kingdom of the Antichrist.

In 1631, during the Thirty Years’ War, imperial troops under Johann Tserclaes, Count of Tilly, stormed the city and committed a massacre, killing about 20,000 inhabitants and burning the town in the sack of Magdeburg. The city had withstood a first siege in 1629 by Albrecht von Wallenstein. After the war, a population of only 4000 remained. According to the Peace of Westphalia (1648), Magdeburg was assigned to Brandenburg-Prussia after the death of the current administrator, August of Saxe-Weissenfels, as the semi-autonomous Duchy of Magdeburg; this occurred in 1680.

 

Otto I in Magdeburg

Otto I in Magdeburg

Magdeburg Klasztor

Magdeburg Klasztor

Magdeburg vista

Magdeburg vista

So, after this extremely long involved look at my ancestors, their homeland of Calbe Saxony Anhalt Germany, the history of Roland, Charlamagne and the Saxon Wars; what have I learned other than that I’m still somewhat confused and exhausted by all of it? Well, I have learned a great deal more about my roots in Calbe and it turns out that yes, I probably do have truly Saxon roots! We’ve discovered that those legends about Roland were just that… in reality he was not all that famous or even such a great hero but merely a rather unlucky soldier who some later story teller turned into a hero for the cause of a different war. I am kind of disappointed on that one, I was really hoping that something in his life other than just his untimely death would have warranted the legends… But, perhaps once again, some story teller as in Michael Hirst will add to his fanciful and completely fabricated accomplishments! We also now know more than we probably wanted to know about Charlamagne and his Saxon Wars. Never the less, I hope you managed to stay with the journey and enjoyed it!

 

 

 

From Treveri to Trier, From Celts to Vikings!

In my previous family history post, I took you on a very brief tour of Trier’s history. I originally planned to leave it at that but I was so intrigued with it’s long history that I decided to find out more. I am going to share it here in a more in depth post because the story of Trier is so interesting and I don’t think it gets the credit it deserves when people think about great cities of history! I also think that Vikings fans may be interested in one of the visits that a group of Northmen paid to the city in 881. We will look at that visit and it’s result later.  Before you begin reading, I will warn and advise you that this has become a lengthy post! It is a more detailed and extensive history than some of you might like but it is also is not nearly as long and in depth as it could have been! I have tried to edit as much as possible but given the massive history surrounding Trier, I find myself thinking it unfair to leave out certain parts or deem some portion unimportant. If you simply can not bring yourself to read through all of it, I have broken it up into sections with subtitles which you can scroll down through in search of what might interest you the most.  I really do hope you will take the time to read the entire article though.

Index of Subsections:

Pre-history and Celtic origins

Early Roman Connections: From  Treveri  tribes to Roman citizens

Romans take over and Imperialism sets in

The Constantine Connection

Constantine’s little personal problem…his wife Fausta

Saint Helena’s connection

Trier after Rome’s demise: From Augusta Treverorum to Treves

The Vikings pay their visit to Trier!

 

 

Pre-history and Celtic origins

First let’s look at the rich history of this city that was at one time thought of as one of the most important cities of the Roman and then the Frankish Empire. The following Roman era map shows Trier by it’s Roman name of Augusta Treverorum and lists it as a Roman city. In red, you will find the Celtic tribe of Treveri in that area.

800px-Germania_70_svg

The Celtic Treveri tribe inhabited the lower valley of the Moselle from around 150 BCE, if not earlier,  until their eventual absorption into the Franks. Their domain lay within the southern fringes of the Silva Arduenna (Ardennes Forest), a part of the vast Silva Carbonaria, in what are now Luxembourg, southeastern Belgium and western Germany;  its centre was the city of Trier (Augusta Treverorum), to which the Treveri give their name. Celtic in language, according to Tacitus they claimed Germanic descent. 

Although they quickly adapted to  Roman material culture,  the Treveri had a tenuous  relationship with Roman power. Their leader Indutiomarus led them in revolt against Julius Caesar during the Gallic Wars;  much later, they played a key role in the Gaulish revolt during the Year of the Four Emperors.  On the other hand, the Treveri supplied the Roman army with some of its most famous cavalry,  and the city of Augusta Treverorum was home for a time to the family of Germanicus, including the future emperor Gaius (Caligula).  During the Crisis of the Third Century, the territory of the Treveri was overrun by Germanic Alamanni and Franks and later formed part of the Gallic Empire.

Modern reconstruction of Treveran dwellings near Altbburg

Modern reconstruction of Treveran dwellings near Altburg

The name Treveri   has been interpreted as referring to a “flowing river” or to “crossing the river”. Rudolf Thurneysen proposes to interpret it as a Celtic trē-uer-o, followed by Xavier Delamarre with the element trē < *trei ‘through’, ‘across’ (cf. Latin trans) and uer-o ‘to cross a river’, so the name Treveri could mean ‘the ferrymen’, because these people helped to cross the Mosel river. They had a special goddess of the ford called Ritona and a temple dedicated to Uorioni Deo. treuer- can be compared with the Old Irish treóir ‘guiding, passage through a ford’, ‘place to cross a river’. The word uer- / uar- can be related to an indo-European word meaning ‘stream’, ‘river’ (Sanskrit vār, Old Norse vari ‘water’), that can be found in many river-names, especially in France : Var, Vire, Vière or in place-names like Louviers or Verviers. The city of Trier (French: Trèves) derives its name from the later Latin locative in Trēverīs for earlier Augusta Treverorum.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treveri

The Treveri tribe was described by early Romans as the most renowned of the Belgae tribes who were referred to as being part of the Gauls.

Map_Gallia_Tribes_Towns

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belgae

According to the Roman consul Aulus Hirtius in the 1st century BCE, the Treveri differed little from Germanic peoples in their manner of life and savage behaviour.  The Treveri boasted of their Germanic origin, according to Tacitus, in order to distance themselves from “Gallic laziness” (inertia Gallorum). But Tacitus does not include them with the Vangiones, Triboci or Nemetes as “tribes unquestionably German”.  The presence of hall villas of the same type as found in indisputably Germanic territory in northern Germany, alongside Celtic types of villas, corroborates the idea that they had both Celtic and Germanic affinities.  The Germanic element among the Treveri probably arrived there in the 3rd or 2nd century BCE.   Strabo says that their Nervian and Tribocan neighbours were Germanic peoples who by that point had settled on the left bank of the Rhine, while the Treveri are implied to be Gaulish.

Jerome states that as of the 4th century their language was similar to that of the Celts of Asia Minor (the Galatians). Jerome probably had first-hand knowledge of these Celtic languages, as he had visited both Augusta Treverorum and Galatia.  Very few personal names among the Treveri are of Germanic origin; instead, they are generally Celtic or Latin. Certain distinctively Treveran names are apparently none of the three and may represent a pre-Celtic stratum, according to Wightman (she gives Ibliomarus, Cletussto and Argaippo as examples).

Before Ceasar’s invasion, the central city of the Treveri was at a place named  Titelberg.  Titelberg  is the site of a large Celtic settlement or oppidum in the extreme south west of Luxembourg. In the 1st century BC, this thriving community was probably the capital of the Treveri people. The site thus provides telling evidence of urban civilization in what is now Luxembourg long before the Roman conquest.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Titelberg

800px-Titelberg_01 800px-Titelberg003 800px-Titelberg018

 

Early Roman Connections: From  Treveri  tribes to Roman citizens

 The Treveri had a strong cavalry and infantry, and during the Gallic Wars would provide Julius Caesar with his best cavalry. Under their leader Cingetorix, the Treveri served as Roman auxiliaries. However, their loyalties began to change in 54 BCE under the influence of Cingetorix’ rival Indutiomarus. According to Caesar, Indutiomarus instigated the revolt of the Eburones under Ambiorix that year and led the Treveri in joining the revolt and enticing Germanic tribes to attack the Romans. The Romans under Titus Labienus killed Indutiomarus and then put down the Treveran revolt; afterwards, Indutiomarus’ relatives crossed the Rhine to settle among the Germanic tribes.  The Treveri remained neutral during the revolt of Vercingetorix, and were attacked again by Labienus after it. On the whole, the Treveri were more successful than most Gallic tribes in cooperating with the Romans. They probably emerged from the Gallic Wars with the status of a free civitas exempt from tribute.

In 30 BCE, a revolt of the Treveri was suppressed by Marcus Nonius Gallus, and the Titelberg was occupied by a garrison of the Roman army. Agrippa and Augustus undertook the organization of Roman administration in Gaul, laying out an extensive series of roads beginning with Agrippa’s governorship of Gaul in 39 BCE, and imposing a census in 27 BCE for purposes of taxation. The Romans built a new road from Trier to Reims via Mamer, to the north, and Arlon, thus by-passing by 25 kilometres the Titelberg and the older Celtic route, and the capital was displaced to Augusta Treverorum (Trier) with no signs of conflict. The vicinity of Trier had been inhabited by isolated farms and hamlets before the Romans, but there had been no urban settlement here.

Following the reorganisation of the Roman provinces in Germany in 16 BCE, Augustus decided that the Treveri should become part of the province of Belgica. At an unknown date, the capital of Belgica was moved from Reims to Augusta Treverorum. A significant layer of the Treveran élite seems to have been granted Roman citizenship under Caesar and/or Augustus, by whom they were given the nomenJulius.

During the reigns of Augustus, Tiberius and Claudius, and particularly when Drusus and Germanicus were active in Gaul, Augusta Treverorum rose to considerable importance as a base and supply centre for campaigns in Germany. The city was endowed with an amphitheatre, baths, and other amenities,  and for a while Germanicus’ family lived in the city.  Pliny the Elder reports that Germanicus’ son, the future emperor Gaius (Caligula), was born “among the Treveri, at the village of Ambiatinus, above Koblenz“, but Suetonius notes that this birthplace was disputed by other sources.

Towards the end of the first century ad, the Treveran elite noblemen made the mistake of joining in a revolt against Rome. The revolt was quickly put down  and more than a hundred rebel Treveran noblemen fled across the Rhine to join their Germanic allies; in the assessment of Jeannot Metzler, this event marks the end of aristocratic Treveran cavalry service in the Roman army, the rise of the local bourgeoisie, and the beginnings of “a second thrust of Romanization”.  Camille Jullian attributes to this rebellion the promotion of Reims, capital of the perennially loyal Remi, at the expense of the Treveri.  By the 2nd and 3rd centuries, representatives of the old élite bearing the nomen Julius had practically disappeared, and a new élite arose to take their place; these would have originated mainly from the indigenous middle class, according to Wightman. This would have been a Roman way of eliminating feelings of loyalty or heritage to the ancient Treveri tribe and replacing it with loyalty to Rome.   The Treveri tribes also suffered from their proximity to  the Rhine frontier during the Crisis of the Third Century. Frankish and Alamannic invasions during the 250s led to significant destruction, particularly in rural areas; given the failure of the Roman military to defend effectively against Germanic invasion, country dwellers improvised their own fortifications, often using the stones from tombs and mausoleums.  While these smaller rural concentrations of Treveri were being decimated by that Germanic invasion, the city of Augusta Treverorum was becoming an urban centre of the first importance, overtaking even Lugdunum (Lyon). During the Crisis of the Third Century, the city served as the capital of the Gallic Empire under the emperors Tetricus I and II from 271 to 274. The Treveri suffered further devastation from the Alamanni in 275, following which, according to Jeannot Metzler, “The great majority of agricultural domains lay waste and would never be rebuilt”. It is unclear whether Augusta Treverorum itself fell victim to the Alamannic invasion.  Other  historical sources state that the city was destroyed during that time and that Emperor Diocletian recognized the urgency of maintaining an imperial presence in the Gauls, and established first Maximian, then Constantius Chlorus as caesars at Trier; from 293 to 395, Trier was one of the residences of the Western Roman Emperor in Late Antiquity. It’s position required the monumental settings that betokened imperial government.

 Romans take over and Imperialism sets in

My personal thought on these events is to wonder if Rome’s failure to protect those outlying Treveri was actually part of some plan to better eliminate those more distant and possibly less loyal groups. In a way, these events led to a more complete demise of the original Treveri tribes and people who would look at themselves as Treveri first and Roman citizen second.  As for the city of Augusta Treverorum falling victim to the invasions,  it seems to have recovered quickly. Those residents that survived the attack would from that point on  be Roman and Christian in their loyalties and beliefs.  From 285 to 395, Augusta Treverorum was one of the residences of the western Roman Emperor, including Maximian, Constantine the Great, Constantius II, Valentinian I, Magnus Maximus, and Theodosius I;  from 318 to 407, it served as the seat of the praetorian prefecture of Gaul. By the mid-4th century, the city was counted in a Roman manuscript as one of the four capitals of the world, alongside Rome, Alexandria, and Constantinople.   New defensive structures, including fortresses at Neumagen, Bitburg and Arlon, were constructed to defend against Germanic invasion. After a Vandal invasion in 406, however, the imperial residence was moved to Mediolanum (Milan) while the praetorian guard was withdrawn to Arelate (Arles).

 

A mint was immediately established by Constantius, which came to be the principal mint of the Roman West.  A new stadium was added to the amphitheater, to stage chariot races. Under the rule of Constantine the Great (306–337), the city was rebuilt and buildings such as the Palastaula (known today as the Constantine Basilica) and the Imperial Baths (Kaiserthermen), the largest surviving Roman baths outside Rome, were begun under Constantius and completed c 314 constructed.  by his son Constantine, who left Trier in the hands of his son Crispus. In 326, sections of the imperial family’s private residential palaces were extended and converted to a large double basilica, the remains of which are still partly recognisable in the area of the Trier Cathedral (Trierer Dom) and the church “Liebfrauenkirche“.  A demolished imperial palace has left shattered sections of painted ceiling, which scholars believe once belonged to Constantine’s young wife, Fausta, whom he later put to death.

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Basilica of Constantine

Basilica of Constantine

Trier Rekonstruktion_der_Palastaula

Trier Rekonstruktion_der_Palastaula

trier basilica

trier basilica

03-23 Trier Cathedral Ceiling

Trier Cathedral ceiling

03-23 Trier Cathedral Interior

Trier Cathedral Interior

The Constantine Connection

From Constantine’s time in Trier onward, the city was the seat of the Gallic prefecture (the Praefectus Praetorio Galliarium), one of the two highest authorities in the Western Roman Empire, which governed the western Roman provinces from Morocco to Britain. Constantine’s son Constantius II resided here from 328 to 340. Roman Trier was the birthplace of Saint Ambrose ca. 340, who later became the Bishop of Milan and was eventually named a Doctor of the Roman Catholic Church long after his death in 397. It became a city of great importance and occasionally, great scandal- as in the events surrounding it’s Royal household.  I am not going to go into Constantine’s early life or his climb to the level of Emperor… this is long enough as it is!

Constantine’s share of the Empire consisted of Britain, Gaul, and Spain. He therefore commanded one of the largest Roman armies, stationed along the important Rhine frontier. After his promotion to emperor, Constantine remained in Britain, driving back the tribes of the Picts and secured his control in the northwestern dioceses. He completed the reconstruction of military bases begun under his father’s rule, and ordered the repair of the region’s roadways.  He soon left for Augusta Treverorum (Trier) in Gaul, the Tetrarchic capital of the northwestern Roman Empire.  The Franks, after learning of Constantine’s acclamation, invaded Gaul across the lower Rhine over the winter of 306–307 AD.  Constantine drove them back beyond the Rhine and captured two of their kings, Ascaric and Merogaisus. The kings and their soldiers were fed to the beasts of Trier’s amphitheater in the adventus (arrival) celebrations that followed.

2661-Trier-Roman-Amphitheatre-26
old roman baths in trier

Public baths (thermae) were built in Trier by Constantine. More than 100 metres (328 ft) wide by 200 metres (656 ft) long, and capable of serving several thousands at a time, the baths were built to rival those of Rome.   Constantine began a major expansion of Trier. He strengthened the circuit wall around the city with military towers and fortified gates, and began building a palace complex in the northeastern part of the city. To the south of his palace, he ordered the construction of a large formal audience hall, and a massive imperial bathhouse. Constantine sponsored many building projects across Gaul during his tenure as emperor of the West, especially in Augustodunum (Autun) and Arelate (Arles).  According to Lactantius, Constantine followed his father in following a tolerant policy towards Christianity. Although not yet a Christian, he probably judged it a more sensible policy than open persecution,  and a way to distinguish himself from the “great persecutor”, Galerius. Constantine decreed a formal end to persecution, and returned to Christians all they had lost during the persecutions.

Because Constantine was still largely untried and had a hint of illegitimacy about him, he relied on his father’s reputation in his early propaganda: the earliest panegyrics to Constantine give as much coverage to his father’s deeds as to those of Constantine himself.  Constantine’s military skill and building projects soon gave the panegyrist the opportunity to comment favorably on the similarities between father and son, and Eusebius remarked that Constantine was a “renewal, as it were, in his own person, of his father’s life and reign”. Constantinian coinage, sculpture and oratory also shows a new tendency for disdain towards the “barbarians” beyond the frontiers. After Constantine’s victory over the Alemanni, he minted a coin issue depicting weeping and begging Alemannic tribesmen—”The Alemanni conquered”—beneath the phrase “Romans’ rejoicing”. There was little sympathy for these enemies. As his panegyrist declared: “It is a stupid clemency that spares the conquered foe!”

Constantine’s little personal problem…his wife Fausta

Let’s set aside the rest of Constantine’s achievements and accomplishments and look at his personal life a bit. His personal residence became the city of Augusta Treverorum so naturally much of his personal life took place there. In the year 303 he married his first wife, Minervina and had one son, Crispus by her. In 307, he set her aside as part of a treaty or alliance with  Roman Emperor Maximianus and agreed to marry Maximianus’s daughter, Fausta.   In 310 Maximian died as a consequence of an assassination plot against Constantine. Maximian decided to involve his daughter Fausta, but she revealed the plot to her husband, and the assassination was disrupted. Maximian died, by suicide or by assassination, in July of that same year.

sculpture/bust of Fausta

sculpture/bust of Fausta

Empress Fausta was held in high esteem by Constantine, and proof of his favour was that in 323 she was proclaimed Augusta; previously she held the title of Nobilissima Femina. However three years later Fausta was put to death by Constantine, following the execution of Crispus, his eldest son by Minervina, in 326. The two deaths have been inter-related in various ways; in one, Fausta is set jealously against Crispus, as in the anonymous Epitome de Caesaribus, or conversely her adultery, perhaps with the stepson who was close to her in age, is suggested. Fausta was executed by suffocation in an over-heated bath, a mode of assassination not otherwise attested in the Roman world. David Woods offers the connection of overheated bathing with contemporaneous techniques of abortion,  a suggestion that implies an unwanted, adulterous pregnancy according to Constantine’s biographer Paul Stephenson.

The Emperor ordered the damnatio memoriae of his wife with the result that no contemporary source records details of her fate: “Eusebius, ever the sycophant, mentions neither Crispus nor Fausta in his Life of Constantine, and even wrote Crispus out of the final version of his Ecclesiastical History (HE X.9.4)”, Constantine’s biographer Paul Stephenson observes.   Significantly, her sons, once in power, never revoked this order.  Her sons became Roman Emperors: Constantine II, reigned 337 – 340, Constantius II reigned 337 – 361, and Constans reigned 337 – 350. She also bore three daughters Constantina, Helena and Fausta. Of these, Constantina married her cousins, firstly Hannibalianus and secondly Constantius Gallus, and Helena married Emperor Julian.

 

The reason for this act remains unclear and historians have long debated Constantine’s motivation. Zosimus in the 5th century and Joannes Zonaras in the 12th century both reported that Fausta, stepmother of Crispus, was extremely jealous of him. She was reportedly afraid that Constantine would put aside the sons she bore him. So, in order to get rid of Crispus, Fausta set him up. She reportedly told the young Caesar that she was in love with him and suggested an illegitimate love affair. Crispus denied the immoral wishes of Fausta and left the palace in a state of a shock. Then Fausta said to Constantine that Crispus had no respect for his father, since the Caesar was in love with his father’s own wife. She reported to Constantine that she dismissed him after his attempt to rape her. Constantine believed her and, true to his strong personality and short temper, executed his beloved son. A few months later, Constantine reportedly found out the whole truth and then killed Fausta.

This version of events has become the most widely accepted, since all other reports are even less satisfactory. That Fausta and Crispus would have together  plotted treason against Constantine is rejected by most historians, as they would have nothing to gain considering their positions as favourites of Constantine. In any case, such a case would not have been tried by a local court as Crispus’ case clearly was. Another view suggests that Constantine killed Crispus because as a supposedly illegitimate son, he would cause a crisis in the order of succession to the throne. However, Constantine had kept him at his side for twenty years without any such decision. Constantine also had the authority to appoint his younger, legitimate sons as his heirs. Some reports claimed that Constantine was envious of the success of his son and afraid of him. This seems improbable, given that Constantine had twenty years of experience as emperor while Crispus was still a young Caesar. Similarly, there seems to be no evidence that Crispus had any ambitions to harm or displace his father. So while the story of Zosimus and Zonaras seems the most believable one, there are also problems relating to their version of events. Constantine’s reaction suggests that he suspected Crispus of a crime so terrible that death was not enough. Crispus, his wife Helena and their son, also suffered damnatio memoriae, meaning their names were never mentioned again and deleted from all official documents and monuments. The eventual fate of Helena and her son is a mystery. Constantine did not restore his son’s innocence and name, as he probably would have on learning of his son’s innocence. Perhaps Constantine’s pride, or shame at having executed his son, prevented him from publicly admitting having made a mistake.

It is beyond doubt that there was a connection between the deaths of Crispus and Fausta. Such agreement among different sources connecting two deaths is extremely rare in itself. A number of modern historians have suggested that Crispus and Fausta really did have an affair. When Constantine found out, his reaction was to have both of them killed. What delayed the death of Fausta may have been a pregnancy. Since the years of birth for the two known daughters of Constantine and Fausta remain unknown, one of their births may have delayed their mother’s execution.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fausta

 Constantine eventually removed himself from the city of  Augusta Treverorum  in later years and spent his later years in Constantinople, which he considered his capital and permanent residence. He died there in 337.  Constantine had known death would soon come. Within the Church of the Holy Apostles, Constantine had secretly prepared a final resting-place for himself.  It came sooner than he had expected. Soon after the Feast of Easter 337, Constantine fell seriously ill.   He left Constantinople for the hot baths near his mother’s city of Helenopolis (Altinova), on the southern shores of the Gulf of İzmit. There, in a church his mother built in honor of Lucian the Apostle, he prayed, and there he realized that he was dying. Seeking purification, he became a catechumen, and attempted a return to Constantinople, making it only as far as a suburb of Nicomedia.  He summoned the bishops, and told them of his hope to be baptized in the River Jordan, where Christ was written to have been baptized. He requested the baptism right away, promising to live a more Christian life should he live through his illness. The bishops, Eusebius records, “performed the sacred ceremonies according to custom”.  He chose the Arianizing bishop Eusebius of Nicomedia, bishop of the city where he lay dying, as his baptizer.   In postponing his baptism, he followed one custom at the time which postponed baptism until after infancy.  It has been thought that Constantine put off baptism as long as he did so as to be absolved from as much of his sin as possible. Constantine died soon after at a suburban villa called Achyron, on the last day of the fifty-day festival of Pentecost directly following Pascha (or Easter), on 22 May 337.

Saint Helena’s connection

After Constanine’s death, the city of  Augusta Treverorum  once more became a royal or imperial residence. Constantine’s son Constantius II resided here from 328 to 340. Roman Trier was the birthplace of Saint Ambrose ca. 340, who later became the Bishop of Milan and was eventually named a Doctor of the Roman Catholic Church long after his death in 397.  From 367, under Valentinian I, Trier once more became an imperial residence (lasting until the death of Theodosius I in 395) and remained the largest city north of the Alps. It was for a few years (383 – 388) the capital of Magnus Maximus, who ruled most of the western Empire.   Besides Constantine’s heirs and successors retaining close ties to the city of Trier, one other person of his family did as well. That would be his Mother, Helena! No discussion of Rome’s connection and tie to Trier would be complete without a mention of Helena and her gifts to the city.  Apparently, she was  so fond of the city that in later years, her head would return to reside there?

CaputSHelenae_0578a

Helena’s head relic in the crypt of Trier cathedral

Saint Helena ( c. 250 – c. 330) was the consort of the Roman emperorConstantius Chlorus and the mother of the emperor Constantine the Great. She is an important figure in the history of Christianity and the world due to her major influence on her son and her own contributions in placing Christianity at the heart of Western Civilization. She is traditionally credited with a pilgrimage to Syria Palaestina, during which she is claimed to have discovered the True Cross

Lucas_Cranach_the_Elder_-_Saint_Helena_with_the_Cross_-_Google_Art_Project

Helena’s birthplace is not known with certainty. The 6th-century historian Procopius is the earliest authority for the statement that Helena was a native of Drepanum, in the province of Bithynia in Asia Minor. Her son Constantine renamed the city “Helenopolis” after her death around 330, which supports the belief that the city was her birthplace.  The Byzantinist Cyril Mango has argued that Helenopolis was refounded to strengthen the communication network around his new capital in Constantinople, and was renamed simply to honor Helena, not to mark her birthplace.  There was also a Helenopolis in Palestine  and a Helenopolis in Lydia.  These cities, and the province of Helenopontus in the Diocese of Pontus, were probably both named after Constantine’s mother.  G. K. Chesterton in his book ‘A Short History of England’ writes that she was considered a Briton by the British, a tradition noted by Geoffrey of Monmouth, whose 12th century Historia Regum Britanniae reports that Helena was a daughter of the British King Coel.

The bishop and historian Eusebius of Caesarea states that she was about 80 on her return from Palestine.  Since that journey has been dated to 326–28, Helena was probably born in 248 or 250. Little is known of her early life.  Fourth-century sources, following Eutropius‘ “Breviarium,” record that she came from a low background. Saint Ambrose was the first to call her a stabularia, a term translated as “stable-maid” or “inn-keeper”. He makes this fact a virtue, calling Helena a bona stabularia, a “good stable-maid”.   Other sources, especially those written after Constantine’s proclamation as emperor, gloss over or ignore her background.   There is great debate over her actual marital status with Constantine’s father, Constantius.  Some would assert that she was his legitimate wife, others assume that she was most likely his concubine or common law wife. What ever the case, she gave birth to the future emperor Constantine I on 27 February around 272.  At the time, she was in Naissus (Niš, Serbia).   In order to obtain a wife more consonant with his rising status, Constantius divorced Helena some time before 289, when he married Theodora, Maximian’s daughter under his command. (The narrative sources date the marriage to 293, but the Latin panegyric of 289 refers to the couple as already married).  Helena and her son were dispatched to the court of Diocletian at Nicomedia, where Constantine grew to be a member of the inner circle. Helena never remarried and lived for a time in obscurity, though close to her only son, who had a deep regard and affection for her.

Constantine was proclaimed Augustus of the Roman Empire in 306 by Constantius’ troops after the latter had died, and following his elevation his mother was brought back to the public life in 312, returning to the imperial court. She appears in the Eagle Cameo portraying Constantine’s family, probably commemorating the birth of Constantine’s son Constantine II in the summer of 316.  She received the title of Augusta in 325 and died around 330 with her son at her side. She was buried in the Mausoleum of Helena, outside Rome on the Via Labicana. Her sarcophagus is on display in the Pio-Clementine Vatican Museum, although the connection is often questioned, next to her is the sarcophagus of her granddaughter Saint Constantina (Saint Constance). Her skull is displayed in the Cathedral of Trier, in Germany.

Helena's sarcophagus in the Museo Pio-Clementino, Vatican Museum, Rome

Helena’s sarcophagus in the Museo Pio-Clementino, Vatican Museum, Rome

Constantine appointed his mother Helena as Augusta Imperatrix, and gave her unlimited access to the imperial treasury in order to locate the relics of Judeo-Christian tradition. In 326-28 Helena undertook a trip to the Holy Places in Palestine. According to Eusebius of Caesarea she was responsible for the construction or beautification of two churches, the Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem, and the Church on the Mount of Olives, sites of Christ’s birth and ascension, respectively. Local founding legend attributes to Helena’s orders the construction of a church in Egypt to identify the Burning Bush of Sinai. The chapel at Saint Catherine’s Monastery—often referred to as the Chapel of Saint Helen—is dated to the year AD 330.   Helena left Jerusalem and the eastern provinces in 327 to return to Rome, bringing with her large parts of the True Cross and other relics, which were then stored in her palace’s private chapel, where they can be still seen today. Her palace was later converted into the Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem. This has been maintained by Cistercian monks in the monastery which has been attached to the church for centuries.   According to one tradition, Helena acquired the Holy Tunic on her trip to Jerusalem and sent it to Trier.

Early British and Anglo-Saxon history claimed that Helena was Briton.  In Great Britain, later legend, mentioned by Henry of Huntingdon but made popular by Geoffrey of Monmouth, claimed that Helena was a daughter of the King of Britain, Cole of Colchester, who allied with Constantius to avoid more war between the Britons and Rome.  Geoffrey further states that she was brought up in the manner of a queen, as she had no brothers to inherit the throne of Britain. The source for this may have been Sozomen’s Historia Ecclesiastica, which however does not claim Helena was British but only that her son Constantine picked up his Christianity there.  Constantine was with his father when he died in York, but neither had spent much time in Britain.

The statement made by English chroniclers of the Middle Ages, according to which Helena was supposed to have been the daughter of a British prince, is entirely without historical foundation. It may arise from the similarly-named Welsh princess Saint Elen (alleged to have married Magnus Maximus and to have borne a son named Constantine) or from the misinterpretation of a term used in the fourth chapter of the panegyric on Constantine’s marriage with Fausta. The description of Constantine honoring Britain oriendo (lit. “from the outset”, “from the beginning”) may have been taken as an allusion to his birth (“from his beginning”) although it was actually discussing the beginning of his reign.

 

Before we leave the “blessed” St. Helena and her contributions to Trier, I have some last blasphemous thoughts on the woman… First of all, there are a few theories and speculations that she may have been involved or partially responsible for the death of daughter in law, Fausta.  It has been said by some that it Helena who suggested the means of death for Fausta. From all accounts, Constantine was quite close, possibly overly attached to his Mother and would have listened to her advice. Add to Fausta’s immoral actions, the fact that she may have lied about Crispus and thereby been responsible for his fate. Prior to this event, there had never been any hint of ill feelings, disloyalty or mistrust between Constantine and Crispus. From all accounts, he seemed to be a much beloved and trusted son, and most likely- grandson. All I am suggesting is that the most saintly Helena may not have been so saintly in some of her own actions and feelings! That supposed Saintliness of this woman brings me to my last thought on her and Constantine. Interestingly and conveniently, it is also around this time that Helena is sent off on her tour of Christian lands.

Constantine and his Mother were, for much of their lives, pagans who did not discover or convert to Christianity until their later years.  Constantine was one who, for the most part used the religion to his benefit or advantage. In his earlier years he promoted tolerance towards them mainly in order to keep the peace in his lands. That persecution business was a bloody, messy and expensive affair- best to avoid it if at possible. When it came to the point where Christianity was becoming quite popular and hard to control, he decided to take matters into his own hands… he chose to embrace it and thereby gain some control over it.  One evidence of his using it to his own advantage and not necessarily being quite so firm in his inner beliefs was his refusal to be baptized until the end of his life.   In postponing his baptism, he followed one custom at the time which postponed baptism until after infancy.  It has been thought that Constantine put off baptism as long as he did so as to be absolved from as much of his sin as possible. In this way, what ever he had done prior to his baptism and acceptance of the one true God could not be used or held against him- either by God or by the earthly Christian Church!  He spent many of his years as ruler trying to convince the Christians that he was on their side in order to gain control of the situation and the church. Constantine was an ultimate power broker and would have used any means within his personal arsenal, including his family… which his previous actions in dealing with wife and son proved.

 

Imagine if you will, this scenario… Constantine as Augustus of Rome is dealing with this whole Christianity situation and has to come up with some plan to really seal the deal in convincing the world of his sincerity. His Mother, Helena is residing at the family home with not a whole lot to do… She’s a highly devoted Mother- possibly overly devoted as Constantine is her only child. Besides all of his headaches of running the empire, he has a much younger wife and family to contend with as well. Helena is most likely not one to just sit idle, content or peaceful in her retirement years. She may be bored, and possibly a bit of an interfering Mother in law? Helena meddles in the family affairs one too many times and the result is disaster for the entire family- especially daughter in law Fausta and grandson Crispus. Shortly after all of this mess, Helena sent off on an extended vacation of sorts. Now, this whole sordid affair would have not put the family in such a good light with the Christians whom Constantine was trying to impress. He needs to make some serious amends and do something of such a great and grand level that the Christians are going to forget all about his messy little family scandal.

What he does is actually quite genius in terms of Public Relations repair.  Constantine appointed his mother Helena as Augusta Imperatrix, and gave her unlimited access to the imperial treasury in order to locate the relics of Judeo-Christian tradition. In 326-28 Helena undertook a trip to the Holy Places in Palestine. According to Eusebius of Caesarea she was responsible for the construction or beautification of two churches, the Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem, and the Church on the Mount of Olives, sites of Christ’s birth and ascension, respectively. Local founding legend attributes to Helena’s orders the construction of a church in Egypt to identify the Burning Bush of Sinai. The chapel at Saint Catherine’s Monastery—often referred to as the Chapel of Saint Helen—is dated to the year AD 330.  His act of sending his Mother off on this extended vacation/shopping trip was beyond successful in a variety of ways.  First, it got Helena out of his hair for awhile so he could focus on immediate damage control. It showed and promoted the idea that Helena was a pious Christian woman and that if  there was any doubt about her involvement in the scandal, she was willing to do pilgrimage to atone for her possible sins. Everyone completely forgot about that mess with Fausta and Crispus when Helena returned home a few years later laden with truly spectacular gifts for the Church.  Those gifts included everything from parts of the “True Cross”, pieces of Jesus’ tunic, to nails of crucifixion, earth from the holy land and rope that held Jesus to the cross.  Helena’s public relations tour proved even more successful than Constantine could ever have imagined or hoped for. Her gifts are viewed by some scholars as the introduction of idol worship and the beginnings of the mass marketing scheme of Relics! All of Constantine’s and Helena’s past indiscretions were quickly swept under the rug as the Church began to realize just how much wealth these gifts could bring if promoted in the right way.

Trier after Rome’s demise: From Augusta Treverorum to Treves

Unfortunately all good things eventually come to an end and Trier’s end could easily have come with the demise of the Roman Empire at the end of the fifth century. Roman Trier had been subjected to attacks by Germanic tribes from 350 onwards, but these had been repulsed by Emperor Julian. After the invasions of 407 the Romans were able to reestablish the Rhine frontier and hold northern Gaul tenuously until the end of the 450s, when control was finally lost to the Franks and local military commanders who claimed to represent central Roman authority. During this period Trier was captured by the Franks (possibly in 413 and 421), as well as by the Huns under Attila in 451. The city became definitively part of Frankish territory  in 475. It is important to note here too that upon the city becoming a Frankish one, the name would have changed from Augusta Treverorum to Treves- the French or Frankish name for the city.  As a result of the conflicts of this period, Trier’s population decreased from an estimated 80,000 in the 4th century to 5,000 at the beginning of the 6th century. This change of rulers and decrease in population did not reduce Trier’s importance or value and it did not bring about the end of Trier.

map with Treves marked

By the end of the 5th century, Trier was under Frankish rule, first controlled by the Merovingian dynasty, then by the Carolingians  As a result of the Treaty of Verdun in 843, by which the grandsons of Charlemagne divided his empire into three parts, Trier was incorporated into the Kingdom of Lorraine (Lotharingia). After the death of Lothair II, ruler of Lorraine, Trier in 870 became part of the East Frankish Empire, later called Germany, under Henry .  Because of it’s connection to Helena and the early church, Trier was a valued and important Christian city for the devoutly Christian empires over the next centuries.  When Constantine promoted tolerance and allowed for Christianity’s acceptance, he in some ways laid the foundation for Trier’s survival and revival in the later Frankish empire years.  The Frankish empires would eventually found a great many more  abbeys and monasteries within the city. And, the Frankish would add to the relics kept there as well.  Benedictine abbey St. Matthias in the south of Trier. Here, the first three bishops of Trier, Eucharius, Valerius and Maternus are buried alongside the apostle Saint Matthias.  This is the only tomb of an apostle to be located in Europe north of the Alps, thus making Trier together with Rome in Italy (burial place of St. Peter the apostle) and Santiago de Compostela in Spain (tomb of St. James) one of three major places of pilgrimage in Europe.   By early in the 10th century, Trier would become somewhat of a Papal city in that it was under the direct control and guardianship of  the Archbishops. In 902,  The Archbishop of Trier was, as chancellor of Burgundy, one of the seven Electors of the Holy Roman Empire, a right which originated before the 12th century, and continued until the French Revolution. From the 10th century and throughout the Middle Ages, Trier made several attempts to achieve autonomy from the Archbishopric of Trier, but was ultimately unsuccessful. In 1212, the city received a charter from Emperor Otto IV, which was confirmed by Conrad IV. In 1309, however, it was forced to once again recognise the authority of the Archbishop, who was at that time the imposing Baldwin of Luxembourg, son of the Count of Luxemburg.   The Church deemed Trier as a highly valued commodity and would go to great lengths to keep it under their jurisdiction and control.

The Vikings pay their visit to Trier!

881 vikings set sights on Treves

Of course, we now already know of Trier’s importance and value to the church due to it’s connections to Constantine and Helena, but what might cause the Church to take such steps as to putting the city under it’s direct control, authority and protection? Ahhhh for that, you would have to know the events taking place during the years leading up to that control, those years that spelled disaster for so many cities. Those years would of course be the years of Viking raids, which so many of you are most interested in. I do want to take a moment here to note my appreciation for those of you have stuck through all of this extensive ancient history just to get to the part about the Vikings!

During the mid 800s, the Danes and Northmen offered Frankish residents some reprieve from raids as they were busy in their attempts to conquer England.  Around 880, Alfred the Great was successful in brokering a treaty with Guthrum and peace was temporarily achieved in England. This event sent many of the Danes back across the sea to areas of Frankish domain. Where previously, they were content with quick grab and go ship raids, this time they returned as landsoldiers and were equipped with horses.   Flanders took heavy blows  (Gent, Terwaan, Atrecht, Kamerijk).  Louis III  defeated the Vikings in 881  near Saucourt at the river Somme. This battle was described in the Song of Ludwig (Ludwigslied). According to the Fulda Annals Louis’ army killed 9.000 Danes. Consequence of this was that the Vikings returned to Flanders and Dutch Limburg. From Asselt (north of Roermond) they raided towns in Germany (Cologne, Bonn) and Limburg (Liége, Tongeren). In their attack on  Trier they were resisted by the bishops Wala and Bertulf of Trier and by count Adelhard of Metz.  Following the Trier example other cities began to defend themselves effectively. While Trier did survive  the attack in 881, much of the city (including most of the churches and abbeys) was destroyed. Because Trier’s Bishops were so instrumental in the city’s resistance and defense, they were probably looked on with much favor by the Pope and by one  Carolingian Emperor who may be familiar to us as Vikings fans and followers. That would be Charles the Fat, not be confused with Charles the Bald or Charles the Simple… all of whom in combination probably make up the character of Charles in Hirst’s version of Viking history!

Charles the Fat (13 June 839 – 13 January 888), also known as Charles III, was the Carolingian Emperor from 881 to 888. The youngest son of Louis the German and Hemma, Charles was a great-grandson of Charlemagne and was the last Carolingian to rule over a united empire.  Over his lifetime, Charles became ruler of the various kingdoms of Charlemagne’s former Empire. Granted lordship over Alamannia in 876 following the division of East Francia, he succeeded to the Italian throne upon the abdication of his older brother Carloman of Bavaria who had been incapacitated by a stroke. Crowned Emperor in 881 by Pope John VIII, his succession to the territories of his brother Louis the Younger (Saxony and Bavaria) the following year reunited East Francia. Upon the death of his cousin Carloman II in 884, he inherited all of West Francia, reuniting the entire Carolingian Empire.  Usually considered lethargic and inept – he is known to have had repeated illnesses and is believed to have suffered from epilepsy – he twice purchased peace with Viking raiders, including at the famous siege of Paris in 885. Nevertheless, contemporary opinion of him was not nearly so negative as modern historiographical opinion. Purchasing peace back then was a fairly common and acceptable means of dealing with the Vikings and avoiding all out war with them.

The 885 siege of Paris referred to here would have been the siege that involved Rollo in history along with the leader of the attack, a man named Sigfred. According to historical accounts, In 885, a huge fleet led by Sigfred sailed up the Seine, for the first time in years, and besieged Paris. Sigfred demanded a bribe again, but this time Charles refused. He was in Italy at the time and Odo, Count of Paris, sneaked some men through enemy lines to seek his aid. Charles sent Henry of Saxony to Paris. In 886, as disease began to spread through Paris, Odo himself went to Charles to seek support. Charles brought a large army and encircled the army of Rollo and set up a camp at Montmartre. However, Charles had no intention of fighting. He sent the attackers up the Seine to ravage Burgundy, which was in revolt. When the Vikings withdrew from France next spring, he gave them 700 pounds of promised silver. Charles’ prestige in France was greatly diminished.  What is important in this above account is the mention that Sigfred demands a bribe again. This would suggest or imply that Charles was already familiar with Sigfred and had dealt with him previously.  It is that previous involvement that leads us  back to the lowlands and Trier.

We need to go to back to the Viking attacks of 881 which included the attack on Trier in order to find that previous connection to Sigfred and perhaps even Rollo as well if Rollo was traveling with Sigfred’s raiding parties for any length of time. Reminder here- this is the Rollo of history, not Hirst’s version of Rollo!

In the early 880s, the remnants of the Great Heathen Army, defeated by Alfred the Great at the Battle of Ethandun in 878, began to settle in the Low Countries.  Charles held an assembly at Worms with the purpose of dealing with the Vikings. The army of the whole of East Francia was assembled in the summer under Arnulf, Duke of Carinthia, and Henry, Count of Saxony. The chief Viking camp was besieged at Asselt. Not long after Charles opened negotiations with the Viking chiefs, Godfrey and Sigfred. Godfrey accepted Christian baptism and agreed to become Charles’s vassal. He was married to Gisela, daughter of Lothair II. Sigfred was bribed off. Despite the insinuations of some modern chroniclers, no contemporary account criticises Charle’s actions during this campaign.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_the_Fat

Godfried choose to stay. He became a vassal of the emperor and, after being baptized, married Gisela, daughter of Lothar II, the first king of Lorraine. Siegfried was paid off with 2.000 punds silver and gold and took off to the north with 200 ships. The emperor Charles felt threatened by Godfried and his (Godfried’s) brother in law Hugo (who was Gisela’s brother). In June 885 Godfried was invited for talks in Spijk, near Lobith. This turned out to be a conspiracy and Godfried was murdered. Hugo was made blind and transferred for the rest of his life to the monastery of Prüm. Here the monk Regino wrote the story of his downfall.

http://www.viking.no/e/netherland/index.html

In looking at these two events, we can now see the connection between Sigfred and Charles. We can also see a reason why Sigfred may have chosen to attack Paris in 885… possibly partially for revenge on what had happened to his partner, Godfried, and perhaps with the assumption that Charles would again pay him off to leave. In that assumption, Sigfred was partially correct- it just took longer than expected.  The attack began in November of 885 and dragged on until around May of 886. Both sides suffered great losses- more from illness than actual fighting. Morale was low on both sides.   Sigfred decided to cut his losses. He asked for 60 lbs of silver and left the siege in April. Rollo and his men remained and continued the battle through the summer when Charles finally returned, not to fight but to encourage Rollo and his army to move on to Burgundy which was in revolt at the time and would provide much easier conquest. When Rollo finally decided to leave France the next spring, Charles paid him 700 lbs of silver which he had promised the earlier summer. I would assume or guess that Charles just needed additional time to come up with the payment so he sent Rollo off to greener pastures while he set about collecting the money to get rid of him.  It was shortly after these events that Charles and the Carolingian dynasty began to fall apart! Odo would eventually get his chance at ruling (it would not last long!) Another Charles would take the throne, and Rollo would return for another more successful campaign… as far as we know, Sigfred retired somewhere to enjoy his shares of plunder and riches.

Trier survives and prospers under protection of the Church whether they want to or not!

 

Braun&Hogenberg_Trier_1572

Braun&Hogenberg_Trier_1572

Trier cathedral

Trier Cathedral

 

 

Trier survived the Viking attacks and the fall of the Carolingian Dynasty as well by remaining attached to the church and the Holy Roman Empire though it made numerous attempts to disentangle itself and gain independent autonomy. In retrospect looking back at all of the turmoil of the medieval years, they were probably better off being under that protection of the Church and Papal authorities. It allowed the city to prosper well into the middle ages and beyond.  In 1309, Archbishop Baldwin of Luxemburg was given control of the city and although he was extremely young at the time, only 22, he was the most important Archbishop and Prince-Elector of Trier in the Middle Ages. He was the brother of the German King and Emperor Henry VII and his grandnephew Charles would later become German King and Emperor as Charles IV. He used his family connections to add considerable territories to the Electorate of Trier and is also known to have built many castles in the region. When he died in 1354, Trier was a prospering city.

The city would remain prosperous and under  control of the church and Holy Roman Empire until the 1600s when the  Thirty Years’ War (1618–1648),set in motion more than two centuries of warfare for Trier as well as other parts of what is now Germany. From that point on, Trier would find itself besieged and battled over. During the thirty years war it was occupied several times by French troops. They besieged and occupied Trier in 1632, 1645, 1673 (the French Army stayed until 1675 and destroyed all churches, abbeys and settlements in front of the city walls for military reasons; the city itself was heavily fortified).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Trier

I hope that you’ve enjoyed the visit to ancient Trier and learned something more about it’s many connections to history!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TimeSlips: looking back and forward!

 

Timeslips cover

We’ve reached another huge milestone and once again it’s time to take a few moments to thank everyone who visits and travels through history with me! A few of you have been here since the beginning with me and I want you to know how much I appreciate your continued following through all of the paths we’ve taken in exploring history. Some of you arrived here via the Sims, where this all started, some made the journey through those mysterious Outlander Stones, and yet others have sailed in with the Vikings!  No matter how you have found us, many of you have chosen to stay on the journey.  I can not tell you how much it means to me, how much I appreciate your visits, your comments, questions, and your involvement in this site. I bid you all a gracious and heartfelt welcome and hope that you will continue to enjoy exploring the past with me!  As I mentioned, we have reached a personal milestone for me- 100,000 views! If you have been with me from the earliest beginnings, you will understand why this is such an amazing accomplishment for me.

I began this blog as a way to share my little fantasy world of the Sims 3, my builds, my characters and my stories within that context. One thing has been here since that initial beginning and that has been a life long love of history! I used that Sims platform to begin sharing my love of history, story telling and the weaving of those passions together. I am forever grateful to the Sims 3 for providing me with a basis to begin this journey!  If you look back in my archives, you will find the creations, the ideas and the stories that have led us to where we are today- in the middle of the Viking era with historical figures such as Ragnar, Rollo, King Ecbert, King Charles of France and others who will arrive in our future.

When I began building the castles and homes of history, I did it with the thought and premise that every building has a history filled with people, events and stories never told. I went on the idea that perhaps if one had such ability, they might be able to feel the vibrations, hear the sounds of that past and see the stories unfold in some way. Much of my early writing was a combination of building or renovation progress and the stories that came to life with that progress. I based it much on the way you might see it if you were renovating a historical building in real life. Each time you strip away a layer of paint or dust, you find a new layer, a new story of the past.

As I’ve mentioned, it all began with Sims 3, with castles, with royals, with history and fantasy woven together. Those creations, characters and stories were a huge part of  our beginnings here . While I have progressed from them, I have not forgotten them and I am proud of them. That early work enabled me to set a foundation for this blog that I have tried to keep in mind even today as I use other platforms such books and television to hopefully inspire and encourage you on your own explorations of history. My intent has always been to present history in a way that is interesting and captures your attention. I have always tried, from the beginning to present historical facts in a way that you might be curious enough to go off on your own search of history. In the past, I used the Sims 3 platform to weave together a long and ongoing look at history with a huge dose of fantasy… the Sims allowed me to explore that venue, that realm of vampires, fairies, witches and time travel and use them in telling the stories of the past. As I used that method, I always tried to incorporate actual events, facts and real life mysteries where ever possible along the way. Those early stories, while often fanciful did lead us through history from the present to the past and back again. Yes, I have taken a break from them, but as any writer can attest to, sometimes you need to step back, take a long break, and perhaps re-evaluate your work. The story remains in the background waiting for that time when you can return, re-focused with a clearer idea of where to go. That is where my story is… always in the back of my mind, always in my heart, waiting for that time when I can return to it and give it the proper attention and focus that it deserves!

In a way, my deviation and time away from the story is actually a way of doing more research into the past while keeping my original story and those characters that are now like a part of my family in mind. In some ways, the paths are always connected whether  or not you are ever aware of it. My mind continues to research, to piece together events and people together in relation to my beloved story of the past, the present and the future!

For those of you who have arrived later in the journey and have not searched this space for other bits of information, I can only suggest and hope that you take some time during your visits here to explore those other times, places and stories that are stored here! My archives have become a rather vast vault of time and history spanning from the earliest Roman history in Britain, to that now ever present Viking era that involves so much more than just the Vikings, it veers from tales and history of King Arthur to the mysteries of the princes of the tower. Our journey through time brought us to the world of Outlander, where we became lost in the Standing Stones and spent much time in the 1700s of Scotland and early America, and because of that trip, we found ourselves immersed in the world of the Vikings and early Saxon history! As a result, we are now on a journey through the early medieval period that includes those Vikings, Saxons, and everyone else in between that the Vikings influenced from the Frankish Empire to the creation of Normandy and the eventual battle for a united Kingdom of Britain, as well as future travels to Iceland, Ireland, Scotland, and possibly even on to earliest explorations of North America.

So, how do my early stories of history still remain connected to this present path we are on?  Well, for that you need to take a look at some of those early stories and where my characters have been in the past. First of all, you may need a short summary of how their stories actually began with a fantasy called Royals Castle and a young woman named Eleanor Deguille… my first blog entries covered the beginnings of her story and her life. She began at Royals Castle, traveled through time to various points in history, arrived in the present and then travelled back again. Throughout her story, she met a number of historical figures, viewed some important events and, her story introduced us to some other important characters who had their own stories to tell.

Lady Eleanor DeGuille through time and history, from a lonely child pawn of Royals to an uncertain romance, timeless friendship to a Mother's spirit within her guiding her journey and her destiny.

Lady Eleanor DeGuille through time and history, from a lonely child pawn of Royals to an uncertain romance, timeless friendship to a Mother’s spirit within her guiding her journey and her destiny.

Eleanor’s story was the start of this blog! If you are interested, you can read those earliest beginnings here:

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2013/07/19/eleanors-journal-entries/

For another look at Eleanor and how her life is woven together within the threads of history and legends, you can read this story about the legends of Avalon, Melusine the Water Goddes and my interpretation of that legend as it shows up through history with people such as Henry VIII and his ancestors making claims to being descended from Arthur and even Melusine! Melusine is a legend or tale that has it’s origins in early France, mainly Poitou, the low countries, and Normandy! She was often referred to as the  fairy of Normandy, or Bretagne. Connecting Eleanor to this legend gave her a more solid connection to the history of France.

Avalon cover1

Arthur and Vivianne

Arthur and Vivianne

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/melusinas-story-a-royals-link-to-avalon/

Eleanor Deguille’s mysterious life eventually connected her to the beginnings of tales of Britain, Romans  and a man named Arthur… that is was where her life, her time travel and her story began. While her story and the rest of it is steeped in the fantasy of those Vampires, Witches, Fairies and time travel, it is woven together with those real events of history. Eleanor’s story took her from that early beginning in the fairy tale realm of British history to the 1400s and 1500s of France, England and Scotland. In those earliest beginnings we met a man named Eric North. Eric’s story is just as important as Eleanor’s and it is a connecting point for that earliest time in Britain’s history. Eric’s story begins in the present day, and then goes on to tell the story of the earliest migrations of the Norse to areas of Northern Britannia as it was known then by the Romans who inhabited the isle. Eric began his life in one of the far off North places and made a journey by sea as a young child with his family to a place now known as the Isle of Skye on the coast of Scotland. He spent his youth growing up in that place which would eventually become Dunvegan Castle.  I used this place and this Castle as the setting for Eric’s birthplace and ancestral home because of it’s rich ties to early Viking history as well as it’s stories of such mythical things as the Fairie Flag. It’s location also lent itself well to making it plausible as a place that some of those earliest travelers might have made their way to. I have always attempted to make those  connections where ever possible when weaving together the fantasy and the history.

You can read part of Eric’s story here:

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2014/06/20/eleanors-journal72-erics-memories-a-time-before-vampyres-and-a-life-of-contradictions/

Eric in the Castle Eric's final farewell to loved ones

While Eric’s character and story are that of the fantasy realm, his story does make the connections from that earliest migration of the Norse, their settling in this new unknown place and their eventual plausible meetings with the Romans who were attempting to advance from the southern portions of Britannia into the northern portions which were already inhabited by groups such these ancient Norse and Picts…  Eric’s story tells of the rich history  those northern regions now known as Scotland. His story presents the earliest known legends and theories that go back as far as Egyptian migrations to that area!

You can find more of the ancient history of  the Romans and the Norse migration here:

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2014/06/24/from-the-creator-ancient-history-connects-the-norse-with-romans-and-king-arthur/

This early post explains some of the theories and thoughts on possible Egyptian migration to Ireland and Scotland!

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2014/07/20/from-the-creator-historical-information/

As to why I chose the Isle of Skye for the setting, you can read that here:

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2014/06/02/from-the-creator-some-historical-background/

If you go back and read some of these early posts, I think you will see how Eric came to play such an important part in my story, how he sort of took over the story with his life and his story and why he remains such an important connection for me on my path through history which has landed me in this time of the Vikings and kept me here for so long!

 

All of those early stories of history have led us to where we are right now, exploring the real history of all of those people that Michael Hirst and other creators/authors introduce us to! One such important person is Rollo, who we have seen claw his way out of the shadows and darkness of his early life to put himself on the path to his own fame and dynasty.

 

Portrait of Rollo's destiny. Credit to Ines Jagger of Vikings Aftermath group and to lindamarieanson of deviant art. 600px-Cronological_tree_william_I_svg

William the Conqueror AKA William I

Recently, I began reading a book about our Viking, Rollo’s descendant, William the Conqueror and was rather surprised to find a mention of the Fairie Flag in it. The Fairie Flag is one of those relics of Dunvegan Castle that I originally found so intriguing when researching a past for my character,  Eric.

Dunvegan cup, Fairie Flag and rory mors horn

Dunvegan cup, Fairie Flag and rory mors horn

fairy_flag_2

http://fairyroom.com/2013/01/fairy-flag-of-dunvegen/

More information on the history of Scotland, Clans, Dunvegan Castle and the Fairy Flag can be found in this early post:

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2014/06/21/from-the-creator-some-history-of-clans-in-scotland/

Now, as I mentioned, the book I was reading was about William the Conqueror and Normandy so I was immediately puzzled and curious about this  reference to the Fairy Flag. The book is  The Lion and the Rose: William Rising by Hilary Rhodes. It is the first book in a series about William, his history and his conquest of England. Yes, it is historical fiction, but it is extremely well researched and I think it presents a great picture of the man and his path to the Crown of England. The author presents and provides some excellent resources and references as well as weaving together an interesting story!

http://www.amazon.com/Lion-Rose-Book-One-William-ebook/dp/B00L4K5GKE/ref=sr_1_3?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1433189138&sr=1-3&keywords=the+lion+and+the+rose

Fairie flag and Robert of Normandy

In the beginning of the book, William’s Father, Robert the Magnificent or Robert the Devil, travels to the Byzantine Empire where he meets the Empress Zoe, who shares a foreshadowing, a prophecy of his future with him. That prophecy is a bit of a puzzle for readers to decipher throughout the book or books. I found it interesting, intriguing and of course I had to go in search of answers!  The prophecy states: The fighting man and the wyvern and the fairie flag, all will come, and all will give battle, but it is the lion that reaches for the roots. I can not see the end of that. I can not see if it will be enough. The deepest roots can be ripped free. And there is a great ripping to come, aye.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_I,_Duke_of_Normandy

In attempting to make sense of this puzzle, there is one other piece of information that shows up on the same page and is an important clue. This bit of information ultimately gives us the answer to the puzzle of the Fairie Flag and links the entire story and history of Dunvegan Castle to that of the Vikings. That clue is found in the mention of one Harald Sigurdsson… otherwise known  as Harald Hardrada!

Harald_Hardrada_window_in_Kirkwall_Cathedral_geograph_2068881

Harald Sigurdsson (Old Norse: Haraldr Sigurðarson; c. 1015 – 25 September 1066), given the epithet Hardrada (harðráði, roughly translated as “stern counsel” or “hard ruler”) in the sagas, was King of Norway (as Harald III) from 1046 to 1066. In addition, he unsuccessfully claimed the Danish throne until 1064 and the English throne in 1066. Prior to becoming king, Harald had spent around fifteen years in exile as a mercenary and military commander in Kievan Rus’ and in the Byzantine Empire.

When he was fifteen years old, in 1030, Harald fought in the Battle of Stiklestad together with his half-brother Olaf Haraldsson (later Saint Olaf). Olaf sought to reclaim the Norwegian throne, which he had lost to the Danish king Cnut the Great two years prior. In the battle, Olaf and Harald were defeated by forces loyal to Cnut, and Harald was forced in exile to Kievan Rus’ (the sagas’ Garðaríki). He thereafter spent some time in the army of Grand Prince Yaroslav the Wise, eventually obtaining rank as a captain, until he moved on to Constantinople with his companions around 1034. In Constantinople, he soon rose to become the commander of the Byzantine Varangian Guard, and saw action on the Mediterranean Sea, in Asia Minor, Sicily, possibly in the Holy Land, Bulgaria and in Constantinople itself, where he became involved in the imperial dynastic disputes. Harald amassed considerable wealth during his time in the Byzantine Empire, which he shipped to Yaroslav in Kievan Rus’ for safekeeping. He finally left the Byzantines in 1042, and arrived back in Kievan Rus’ in order to prepare his campaign of reclaiming the Norwegian throne. Possibly to Harald’s knowledge, in his absence the Norwegian throne had been restored from the Danes to Olaf’s illegitimate son Magnus the Good.

In 1046, Harald joined forces with Magnus’s rival in Denmark (Magnus had also become king of Denmark), the pretender Sweyn Estridsson, and started raiding the Danish coast. Magnus, unwilling to fight his uncle, agreed to share the kingship with Harald, since Harald in turn would share his wealth with him. The co-rule ended abruptly the next year as Magnus died, and Harald thus became the sole ruler of Norway. Domestically, Harald crushed all local and regional opposition, and outlined the territorial unification of Norway under a national governance. Harald’s reign was probably one of relative peace and stability, and he instituted a viable coin economy and foreign trade. Probably seeking to restore Cnut’s “North Sea Empire“, Harald also claimed the Danish throne, and spent nearly every year until 1064 raiding the Danish coast and fighting his former ally, Sweyn. Although the campaigns were successful, he was never able to conquer Denmark. Not long after renouncing his claim to Denmark, the former Earl of Northumbria, Tostig Godwinson, brother of the newly chosen English king Harold Godwinson, pledged his allegiance to Harald and invited him to claim the English throne. Harald went along and entered Northern England in September 1066, raided the coast and defeated English regional forces in the Battle of Fulford near York. Although initially successful, Harald was defeated and killed in an attack by Harold Godwinson’s forces in the Battle of Stamford Bridge.

Modern historians have often considered Harald’s death at Stamford Bridge, which brought an end to his invasion, as the end of the Viking Age. Harald is also commonly held to have been the last great Viking king, or even the last great Viking.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harald_Hardrada

 

Harald Hardrada could be considered as the fighting man of the prophecy, but what connection would that have in relation to the other parts, such as the Fairie Flag of Dunvegan Castle?  What does the Fairie Flag or Dunvegan have to do with this at all? Well, for that, you need to know the history of Dunvegan Castle, and the theories on the origins of the Fairie flag!

dunvegan8

Dunvegan Castle

dunvegan3

Dunvegan Castle2

 

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2014/06/09/from-the-creator-history-of-dunvegan-castle/

Although three individual Chiefs in the last seven generations have been comprehensively ruined by the apocalyptic difficulties caused by the unrelenting hostility from centralised government towards the Clan system practised behind the Highland line, they have remained faithful to the Rock. Dunvegan Castle is said to be the oldest inhabited castle in Northern Scotland, having been occupied by the Chiefs of MacLeod continuously, for over seven centuries and still today remaining the Ancestral home of the present chief, Hugh MacLeod of MacLeod, the 30th of the line, and his family.

Geneologies trace the origins of the McClures and the MacLeods to a thirteenth century fellow named Leod (1200-1283), the son of Olaf the Black, King of the Isle of Man, who in turn was the descendent of the eleventh century Norse King Harald Hardrada. Leod married Lady Macarailt, an heiress to Dunvegan, the birth of their two sons (Tormond and Torquil) marking the entry of the MacLeods into Dunvegan and the pages of history. Very simply, “Mac” is a Gaelic word meaning “son of” with Tormond fathering the MacLeods of Harris, and Torquil begetting the MacLeods of Lewis. (Incidentally, the McClure’s are the descendents of Tormond.)

 As to the theories on the Fairie Flag…  Legends, however fantastic or far-fetched they may appear to be, are rarely without some trace of historical fact. When a relic survives to tell its own story, that at least is one fact it is impossible to ignore. The precious Fairy Flag of Dunvegan, the most treasured possession of the Clan, is just such a relic …The traditional tales about its origin, some of them very old indeed, have two themes – Fairies and Crusaders. Fairy stories are difficult to relate to fact; they often occur as a substitute for forgotten truth. The connection with the Crusades can, however, be linked to the only definite information available as to the origin of the Fairy Flag – the fabric, thought once to have been dyed yellow, is silk from the Middle East (Syria or Rhodes); experts have dated it between the 4th and 7th centuries A.D., in other words, at least 400 years before the First Crusade. So was it the robe of an early christian saint? Or the war banner of Harold Hardrada, King of Norway, killed in 1066, or did it emerge mysteriously from some grassy knoll in Skye? The Legends are all we have to guide us to the answer.

So, there is our connection between Harald Hardrada, the Fairie Flag and Dunvegan Castle! Harald’s connection to the prophecy and to William the Conqueror is that he was one of the fighting men attempting to lay claim to the crown of England at the same time as William. He felt he also had a valid claim and chose to fight Harald Godwinsson for it. It is sometimes thought that his battle with Harald brought about the end of the Viking age, and the end of Harald’s rule of England as well. Harald Godwinsson and his forces defeated Harald Hardrata at the  Battle of Stamford Bridge but did not have time to recover fully before having to turn around and face William and his army at Hastings. The forces were well evenly matched and the battle was close. It is thought that had Godwinsson’s army been better rested and recovered from the previous battle with Hardrada, they would probably have been victorious in the battle of Hastings.

There is one  bit of information on Harald Hardrada that should be of interest to all of us who are waiting for the next raiding season of the Vikings Saga to arrive…

Harald Hardrada was a descendant and a member of the Fairhair/Finehair dynasty of Norway. A member of that dynasty is rumored to be arriving on our Viking shores soon! One Harald Finehair and brother, Halfdan the Black will be showing up as rivals and threats to Ragnar.

peter franzen4

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2015/05/06/vikings-season-4-coming-soon-to-a-village-near-you/

Harald Fairhair (Old Norse: Haraldr Hárfagri, Norwegian: Harald Hårfagre; c. 850 – c. 932) was remembered by medieval historians as the first King of Norway. According to traditions current in Norway and Iceland in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, he reigned from c. 872 to 930. Most of his life remains uncertain, since the extant accounts of his life in the sagas were set down in writing around three centuries after his lifetime. A few remnants of skaldic praise poems attributed to contemporary court poets exist which seem to refer to Harald’s victories against opponents in Norway. The information supplied in these poems is inconsistent with the tales in the sagas in which they are transmitted, and the sagas themselves often disagree on the details of his background and biography.  Two of his sons, Eric Bloodaxe and Haakon the Good, succeeded Harald to become kings after his death.

Harald_Hardrada_saga_ancestry

A last bit of interesting information on Harald Hardrada…. it seems that there has been some effort and attempt being made to make a bio-pic movie about his life. I just recently came across a few articles regarding the possibility of Leonardo DeCaprio producing and starring in such a movie. The articles are a bit dated though and I have heard nothing else about such a project. I am curious about it  and wonder if it is still going forward…. With all of interest now in Viking history, I would think it might do well!

http://www.slashfilm.com/leonardo-dicaprio-producing-and-could-star-in-viking-film-king-harald/

 

This battle for the crown of England was  much a case of family disputes and feuds over who had right or claim to that crown. Harald Hardrada had a claim based on his link to the previous ruler, Harthacanut of Denmark and England but realistically he had a very weak claim at best. Harald Godwinsson had no real claim either, the only with any true justifiable blood claim to the crown was indeed William the Conqueror, who was at least a blood relative- even though distant- of King Edward. So, in this sense, William would end up digging deep into the family roots and toppling all to claim the crown. The only other person with a better and legitimate blood claim was unfortunately a young boy with no hope of winning any battle for the crown.

The one other part of the prophecy that we have not mentioned yet is the wyvern.

A wyvern (/ˈwvərn/ WEYE-vərn), sometimes spelled wivern, is a legendary winged creature with a dragon‘s head and wings; a reptilian body; two legs; and a barbed tail.

The wyvern in its various forms is important to heraldry, frequently appearing as a mascot of schools and athletic teams (chiefly in the United States and United Kingdom). It is a popular creature in European and British literature, video games, and modern fantasy. The wyvern is often (but not always) associated with cold weather and ice, and it will sometimes possess a venomous bite or have the ability to breathe fire. The wyvern is a frequent charge in English heraldry and vexillology, also occasionally appearing as a supporter or crest.

In regards to it’s mention in the prophecy, a wyvern is used as symbol in one very  important place.  The Wyvarn is depicted as the symbol of Wessex, the home of Ecbert and his descendents including Alfred the Great and on to Edward the Confessor who left the future rule of England in such dispute and question that his witan/council even went so far as to search for a long exiled and hidden heir residing in Hungary!

After the Danish conquest of England in 1016, Canute had the sons of Edward’s half brother Edmund Ironside, Edward said to be only a few months old, and his brother, Edmund, sent to the Swedish court of Olof Skötkonun  (who was either Canute’s half-brother or stepbrother), supposedly with instructions to have the children murdered. Instead, the two boys were secretly sent either to Kiev, where Olof’s daughter Ingigerd was the Queen, or to Poland, where Canute’s uncle Bolesław I Chrobry was duke.  Later Edward made his way to Hungary, probably in the retinue of Ingigerd’s son-in-law, András in 1046, whom he supported in his successful bid for the Hungarian throne. Many years later when it became apparent that King Edward and his wife Edyth were not going to produce and heir, a search for any missing heirs ensued and Edward the exile was found in Hungary.

On hearing the news of his being alive, Edward the Confessor recalled him to England in 1056 and made him his heir. Edward offered the last chance of an undisputed succession within the Saxon royal house. News of Edward’s existence came at a time when the old Anglo-Saxon Monarchy, restored after a long period of Danish domination, was heading for catastrophe. The Confessor, personally devout but politically weak and without children, was unable to make an effective stand against the steady advance of the powerful and ambitious sons of Godwin, Earl of Wessex. From across the Channel William, Duke of Normandy, also had an eye on the succession. Edward the Exile appeared at just the right time. Approved by both king and by the Witan, the Council of the Realm, he offered a way out of the impasse, a counter both to the Godwinsons and to William, and one with a legitimacy that could not be readily challenged.

Edward, who had been in the custody of Henry III, the Holy Roman Emperor, finally came back to England at the end of August 1057. But he died within two days of his arrival. The exact cause of Edward’s death remains unclear, but he had many powerful enemies, and there is a strong possibility that he was murdered, although by whom is not known with any certainty. It is known, though, that his access to the king was blocked soon after his arrival in England for some unexplained reason, at a time when the Godwinsons, in the person of Harold, were once again in the ascendant. This turn of events left the throne of England to be disputed by Earl Harold and Duke William, ultimately leading to the Norman Conquest of England.  Edward the exile did leave an heir, a young boy- Edgar the Aetheling who was immediately made heir apparent or Atheling. When Edward died, the boy, a young teen at the time was too young to successfully wage a fight for the crown or win any war that was certain to follow. The council feared being taken over again by outsiders waiting for a chance to claim England so they chose instead to elect Harald Godwinsson to the rule. Edgar eventually found asylum in Scotland with Malcom III, who had married Edgar’s sister Margaret.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edgar_the_%C3%86theling

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_the_Confessor

Wessex is often symbolised by a wyvern or dragon.

Both Henry of Huntingdon and Matthew of Westminster talk of a golden dragon being raised at the Battle of Burford in AD 752 by the West Saxons. The Bayeux Tapestry depicts a fallen golden dragon, as well as a red/golden/white dragon at the death of King Harold II, who was previously Earl of Wessex. However, dragon standards were in fairly wide use in Europe at the time, being derived from the ensign of the Roman cohort, and there is no evidence that it identified Wessex.

 

800px-Flag_of_Wessex_svg

Wyvern on early flag of Wessex

 

Why is any of this important in relation to where we’re at now in history with the Viking age?  It is extremely important because the Vikings of our Vikings saga as presented by Michael Hirst, and hopefully soon the onscreen version of Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon Chronicles, will soon move on to the next years, the next era of the Viking history that includes so much more than just the story of Ragnar Lodbrok and his adventures. We will soon be traveling to the time when Ragnar’s sons and so many others make their own marks and contributions to history. We will see the beginning of Rollo’s great dynasty in Normandy take shape, we will see Ecbert’s grandson, Alfred the Great will take his place in history. The battles for land and claims to kingdoms will begin in earnest and we will witness all of it. As we do, I will continue to help weave the history and the stories together, and perhaps one of these days, I will even find time and inspiration to return to some of my original stories.  I hope that all of you will remain on the journey with me and enjoy all of it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vikings: Where do we go from here?

Ahhh I have spent some time trying to recover from the past months and while I am now finally clean, well fed, warm and dry, I believe  my mind is still suffering from the aftershocks and affects of  that difficult time across the river in our Viking camp when so many lives were lost and other lives were unraveling before one’s very eyes. We all know well now exactly what happened out there when Ragnar Lothbrok decided that so many lives were expendable so that his plan to conquer Paris would be the successful one… When he chose to rule with his emotions and not his head- just the opposite of what he advised his son, Bjorn to do in the future.

Can you do that Bjorn  can you lead with your head and set your heart aside

People can make excuses and try to justify Ragnar’s actions all they want to… many try to excuse him by saying that he is sick and perhaps not thinking so clearly as he otherwise might be, others justify it in that he is King and he has just done what needed doing to ensure that this campaign was successful after all of the failure we endured. Yes, I will admit, he is very sick and could still possibly die from his injuries. He brought his injuries upon himself though,  when he as King, allowed his warriors to attempt a siege led by Floki, knowing full well that it would fail and cause Floki such self shame. Ragnar knew from Athelstan that this city was impregnable, and so must be conquered by some other means. He knew this when he allowed Rollo and Lagertha to make another attempt and fail yet again. And, then after those failures, he chose to rub all of their faces in their defeat and say, Now we will do it my way because I am Ragnar Lothbrok, I am King.  I believe he had this plan in his head from the beginning, that is why he prayed early on to Athelstan and asked him to forgive what he was about to do. 

Well, Ragnar Lothbrok, King… You have achieved your greatness, your fame and your reputation.  You have won your great victory and conquered Paris just the way the Seer prophesied. “Not the Living, but the Dead will conquer Paris” I suppose I should congratulate you on this accomplishment, but all I can think of is the other part of that prophecy. “and it will not bode well for you Ragnar Lothbrok!”  My thoughts are of how much it has cost you to achieve this feat, and whether it will be worth it for you in your end.  I believe that when it comes your time to meet the Gods, all of the Gods- yes, even the Christ God- you will face some judgement for your actions.   I also believe that you will have to answer to your beloved Athelstan, one whom you used and mistreated just as much as others who have cared about you.  You will pay your price for these events Ragnar Lothbrok, for there is always a price to pay for great reward and favor of the Gods. 

I also see that the bear will be crowned by a princess which does not bode too well for you King Ragnar!

I also see that the bear will be crowned by a princess which does not bode too well for you King Ragnar!

ragnar seeks advice and recieves a criptic answer that does not bode well for his future

ragnar seeks advice and recieves a criptic answer that does not bode well for his future

ragnar crawls out of his coffin ragnar eyes the bishop who told him he would go to hell

ragnar at least I know I will be reunited with Athelstan

Athelstan and the Gods will await your arrival and your judgement based upon your choices, Ragnar Lothbrok… Perhaps you have finally fallen out of favor with them all? What you have forgotten is that while yes, we all are free to make choice, there are always consequences to those choices- even for one once so favored as you, Ragnar.

Athelstan appears

Gods wait not for batte but for choice

But, I think you are perhaps beginning to realize this…

ragnar watches rollo from the boat

There is an old saying that the wheel of fate turns for all of us. Sometimes we are up and other times we are at the bottom… I believe that your turn at the top is now finished, Ragnar and you must ride the wheel on the downward turn. Perhaps the Norns, the spinners of fate will catch you before you fall, perhaps not? You have made the choices that brought you to this point.  Personally, I began to doubt  you when you dallied with Princess Kwentirith beyond what was called for as allies and presumed to chide Lagertha for her dalliance with Ecbert.

up with the skirts   no it's not what you think1 A loss for words  what do you say after you've let someone piss on you1

Yes as did you Ragnar so shut your face2

I lost my faith and trust in you when I found out about how you killed that innocent survivor of the massacre in Wessex so that no one else would know of that event and blame you, judge you, or spoil your plans for Paris. You were willing to do this and yet you hold blame against Floki for killing Athelstan- whom he deemed a serious threat to you, your people and your beliefs. In reality, Ragnar, you bear responsibility in the death of your friend Athelstan as well as Floki.  Yes, Floki killed him but if you had not been so insistent on having your way and winning in the competition for friendship over Ecbert, Athelstan would have remained in Wessex and I do believe he would have been safer there under Ecbert’s protection! You placed him in the middle of danger when you knew how your people felt about him and about Christians.  And, now one day, ironically, your sons will fight to the death against Athelstan’s son Alfred and some of them will lose their lives in that battle! Ecbert tried to tell Athelstan his future lie in Wessex, but he was too swayed by your begging of him to stay with you. Had you such true regard and concern for him as you profess, you would have set aside your desires and advised him to remain in Wessex. Now, do you feel some guilt in his death or do you just blame Floki for all of it.

ecbert is disappointed with athelstan's decision

ecbert is disappointed with athelstan’s decision

ragnar kills the survivor and sends him to his family and the gods.

ragnar kills the survivor and sends him to his family and the gods.

ragnar comes to the rescue

ragnar to floki  You killed Athelstan

In a sense, you used Athelstan just you have used and taken for granted all of the others who have cared for you. You have assumed that they will forgive you, that they will remain faithful and loyal to you no matter what… You used them, set them aside, caused them to doubt themselves, and when it was convenient or needful, you take them back and “forgive” them for whatever grievances they have supposedly done against you.  If you feel they can be of some use to you in the future, you lead them along, allow them to feel worthy of your “forgiving spirit”.  From Lagertha, who loved you, still loves you yet… who’s only fault was that she could not bear you another son, to Rollo your brother who you have taken for granted and treated as less than you until he finally believed it himself.  Aslaug, you used to give you more sons and then disregard, and we know how you have treated floki- your oldest and loyal friend. Even  traitors whom you should have killed outright, you have held on to for some questionable useful purpose that lies only within your mind and no one else’s…yes, Erlandeur, who you should have put to death along with his Father, you have allowed him to live and to become a part of your group… why is that? Why did you not just put him out of his miserable existence when you should have and been done with it!

ragnar to erlandeur I had no choice as a result of other people's actions

ragnar to erlandeur I had no choice as a result of other people’s actions

All of your choices and your using of these people who called you friend, family, ruler, came to a head in this recent deception of yours. The only two people that you seemed not to have showed your anger,your distrust, and your resentment of were your son, Bjorn and one other person? I watched this person with some interest and now wonder why it is that you did not lash out at him, and why he remained so calm throughout this all? This is one person that I would have assumed that you would find some fault with just for the fact you hold grudges and resentments as well as some jealousy over who your ex-wife, Lagertha chooses to dally with… even though as she has reminded you, you really have no right to pass judgement on her considering your own past behaviors with Aslaug. I find it odd that while you seem to know everything that goes on behind your back and obviously have spies everywhere, you have chosen not to question Kalf or hint at any suspect of his secret doings with Erlandeur, nor have you given any show of disapproval on him desiring your ex-wife. No, you save that show of displeasure just for Lagertha as if it is only her fault… You openly welcomed Kalf into the group because you were in need of his ships and his men, so do you go so far as to throw Lagertha into the deal just in order to receive what you want from Kalf? What else is going on perhaps, between you and Kalf that you are keeping a secret… another game of treachery and deception such as was played with Erlandeur’s Father, King Horick? Is there something else that you want or need from Kalf besides his ships and his men?  I only ask because at this point, I have become as distrustful as you, Ragnar Lothbrok!

Despite my knowledge of Kalf’s previous plan for deceit and revenge upon you and your entire family, I can not seem to help myself from liking the man. Since embarking on this raid with us, he has shown himself to be a fine, courageous warrior and has remained calm in the face of everything that has happened. When you were raging at everyone, he stayed steady and unfazed by your tirade. His points made during the discussions have had merit and he has really said nothing against you, but only brought up facts that all would agree upon. Your baptism struck a nerve with all of your people and he is right that they would never follow a Christian King at this point in time. It was Erlandeur who responded with the suggestion that someone needs to kill you. Kalf was only stating the easiest and most convenient way of you no longer being ruler… no bloodshed or death, they would just choose another King, that would make things easier for everyone.

Kalf says his own last minute prayer to the gods

Kalf is realistic in his appraisal of the situation  They have probably run out of food

Kalf is realistic in his appraisal of the situation They have probably run out of food

Kalf tries to remain unphased and calm through Ragnar's tirade

Kalf tries to remain unphased and calm through Ragnar’s tirade

 

Kalf: no christian king will ever rule our world  it's unthinkable it goes against all of our gods

Kalf: no christian king will ever rule our world it’s unthinkable it goes against all of our gods

 

Later after your method of attack was successful and the warriors all walked past you on their way into the city, there were telling looks from them and from you as to their feelings and yours about your deceptive plan. They were much as would be expected, except when it came to Kalf.

ragnar and rollo floki and ragnar

The most painful look came from Lagertha, and from Bjorn, who is once more caught in the middle of your differences. I believe this is a final betrayal and act of mistrust on your part, Ragnar for her. Even though she still loves you, I do not think she will be able to forgive this act from you.

lagertha and bjorn

The look from Kalf was not of surprise or shock, nor was it of betrayal on your part. It seemed to be one more almost of acceptance or some possible prior knowledge? It was as though he expected you to have pulled off something of this sort… and there was no look of revenge or anything else in your eyes either?

kalf entering the city kalf does not look all that surprised at this turn of events ragnar and kalf

Later when the group met to discuss your deception and decide what to do, Kalf also remained calm. I could be very wrong but it felt like Kalf knew something of this plan when Lagertha was yelling at Bjorn about having kept this secret. It could of course, also have been his concern for Lagertha’s feelings and her future reactions to this event that caused his look because as I have said before, I believe he truly cares about Lagertha. He would understand how all of this will hurt her.

kalf's look when lagertha is yelling at bjorn about having kept this secret

kalf’s look when lagertha is yelling at bjorn about having kept this secret

kalf remains silent and somewhat calm throughout this discussion

kalf remains silent and somewhat calm throughout this discussion

as bjorn speaks of leaving a presence in paris kalf turns to look back at erlandeur and at rollo

as bjorn speaks of leaving a presence in paris kalf turns to look back at erlandeur and at rollo

What ever personal agenda or plan that Kalf and Ragnar may be holding together must wait to be seen.  My only hope right now is that it does not hurt Lagertha… because you, Ragnar have done more than enough to hurt her.  She needs no more pain from you! One thing I find telling is that I think you know how this will affect her. When she passed you going into the city, you could not look at her. Surely you know, you understand that this was the ultimate betrayal in her mind. If you held any thought of maintaining some level of relationship with her, I fear this final act has cost you that possibility. That you did not trust her with this secret, then you allowed her to pour out her  deepest emotions for you while thinking you had died… No, I do not think she will forget or forgive this action on your part. My one other fear is that if Kalf  was somehow a party to any of this and kept it from her, he will not be forgiven either. I hope too that she does not hold resentment towards Bjorn for having only done what you requested, demanded of him- not as Father, but as King.

a grieving lagertha waits for bjorn's announcement

a grieving lagertha waits for bjorn’s announcement

and yet I think the wind of odin will rescue you carry you to vallhalla where we will rejoice we will drink and be merry and love again

and yet I think the wind of odin will rescue you carry you to vallhalla where we will rejoice we will drink and be merry and love again

there we shall meet again to fight and drink and love one another once more

there we shall meet again to fight and drink and love one another once more

 

a grim look from lagertha does not bode well for her feelings about this

a grim look from lagertha does not bode well for her feelings about this

back at camp people are pissed  Lagertha puts it bluntly why did you not tell us earlier did you not trust any of us

back at camp people are pissed Lagertha puts it bluntly why did you not tell us earlier did you not trust any of us

bjorn's response to all of them  I did what my father asked the way he wanted me to do it

bjorn’s response to all of them I did what my father asked the way he wanted me to do it

 

Bjorn's comment to all of them: He is still King.

Bjorn’s comment to all of them: He is still King.

Bjorn is not to fault in any of this. He has simply did what he was told by his King, whether he agreed with it or not, because as he put it, Ragnar is still King. Bjorn is a good man, fair and honorable… I wonder how much tension or strain this act will put on him. Did you think of that, Ragnar? No, I am sure you did not because your thoughts have been for yourself, your fame, your reputation, your own personal desires. You admitted to Ecbert that you were corrupt, I just did not realize how corrupt you had become until these recent events.

our people are over joyed with the treasure

Your cunning and clever ruse to capture the city worked just as you planned… but, you could have save untold grief, and lives had you chosen to trust us and lead us in this plan to begin with rather than use all of us, prove to all of us how incompetent we were and how much greater you are. And, you did this last act purely to prove to us that you are smarter, better, greater than the rest of us. To prove that you could indeed conquer the city, and what has it gained you? Has it gained you our respect, our continued loyalty to you, our continued trust in you? No, it has not… if anything, you have created an even wider and deeper wedge between yourself and your people with this action. Are we so grateful for the added wealth you have brought us that we will overlook our misgivings and our distrust of you? On the surface, momentarily, the great wealth will only appease us for a short time. After that, our thoughts will turn to how many loved ones we lost in this raid… our thoughts will also turn to the lingering underlying doubts of your true sincerity and belief in the Gods and the old ways. That baptism and your placing Athelstan above your family and your people will always hover in the thoughts of all those who were here to witness all of this.

In his way, floki has been right in his words that you have betrayed him, betrayed your family, your people- those you are supposed to lead with a clear head, and you have betrayed the Gods as well as your friend Athelstan.  When Lagertha, Rollo and Floki put forth their truest feelings of you and then saw you alive, they knew that you will one day use those words against them just as you did turn on them with your angry tirade earlier.

That is exactly what you have already done with Floki. In your bitter resentment and anger at him for killing Athelstan, you set him up, used him as a scapegoat and now will not rest until you have seen him completely shamed and punished. Well, I have news for you Ragnar, it not your decision, your choice or your right to punish Floki for his actions. You think that you can usurp the power and the judgement of the Gods in such matters. It is up to the Gods to choose Floki’s fate or punishment for any wrongdoing on his part- it is not for you to decide on your own. Does that remind you of anything?

floki expresses his own pain at the news floki's confession or non admittance of guilt but it made no difference you thought oh it's just floki No need to bother about floki  he's just a fool floki volunteers to stay... why because he does not want to get on a boat for a long trip home with ragnar floki has a hard time believing what he is seeing ragnar's knowing look at floki  just wait floki until I am recovered from this ragnar  floki come here

You would do well to remember what you so bluntly told that Bishop when he vowed you would not see Athelstan because you would be in Hell…”That is not your decision to make!” Of course then you took care of that with yet another personal revenge killing. You could have just taken your hostages and left, but no, you had to extract that bit of personal grudge and revenge in killing the man in the middle of all the citizens of Paris… So, much for your thinking with your head and not your heart and your emotions. There was really no need for that killing and in doing it you just showed the Christians of Paris what vicious and cruel barbarians we could be. If it was your intent to completely destroy any positive thoughts they might have about us as a people, you certainly succeeded with that act! Thank you so much Ragnar Lothbrok for reinforcing their fears and hatred of us. In one move, you managed to destroy any of the teachings and lessons that your valued friend Athelstan had tried so hard to help you understand. In your rage against the man who told you that you would not meet Athelstan again, you basically slaughtered him in cold blood- probably thereby ensuring that if and when you meet Athelstan again, there will be a consequence, a high price to pay for that deliberate, unnecessary killing.

ragnar to the bishop that is not your decision to make ragnar eyes the bishop who told him he would go to hell

I am not sure what you expected of Rollo.. did you think he would react differently to the news of your supposed death than he did? Did you for some reason think that he would be remorseful and guilt filled in his last words to you? Did you assume that he would grieve and mourn your loss, and beg you final forgiveness of him for any wrongs he might have committed against you in the past? I think that you were not all that surprised with his reaction to your “death” unless of course, you viewed him as you view Floki, you assumed that he had learned his lesson and would be forever in your shadow, remaining loyal to you after his previous attempts to break away and out of your shadow. Did you think that you had managed to quell his deep resentments and your hold over him would remain even after your death? Well, if you believed that, then you were probably taken back at his reaction and his words to you. Rollo made no apologies, he was honest and forthright in his last thoughts towards you, whether you wanted to hear them or not… and when he saw you alive, he still held no guilt or apology in his look towards you. His look was more of disgust and resignation at your latest act!

Rollo speaks of how the Gods protected him from the christian magic but won't protect Ragnar because of Athelstan.

Rollo speaks of how the Gods protected him from the christian magic but won’t protect Ragnar because of Athelstan.

floki talks to Rollo of Ragnar's betrayal and how it is Athelstan's fault

floki talks to Rollo of Ragnar’s betrayal and how it is Athelstan’s fault

rollo is saddened at the news

rollo is saddened at the news

rollo's last honest words  I've always resented you  the gods have always seemed to favor you

rollo’s last honest words I’ve always resented you the gods have always seemed to favor you

it's just funny that the gods took you first I always thought they favored you but I guess we both were mistaken.

it’s just funny that the gods took you first I always thought they favored you but I guess we both were mistaken.

I am sorry you're dead but we all must die eventually

I am sorry you’re dead but we all must die eventually

rollo is not especially happy to see his brother alive

 

ragnar's look at rollo just you wait too brother we shall have words about this later

ragnar’s look at rollo just you wait too brother we shall have words about this later

After the siege when the discussion came of what to do next, you were still too ill to make any decisions so it was left up to Bjorn to lead, with his head and not his heart. When the talk turned of needing a group to remain as they would return in the spring to raid once more, I am sure that Floki volunteered because he did not want to endure a lengthy boat ride with you, Ragnar… could anyone blame him for that?  But, Rollo stepped in and volunteered instead. At first, Bjorn questioned why Rollo should have any reason either for staying, but he let the subject drop and agreed with Rollo’s decision. Bjorn made that decision in what he thought were the best interests of the group. Should you want to hold it against him later, and I am sure it will come up… please let me remind you right now ahead of time, there was no malice or misintent in that decision. Bjorn was doing what he thought was right at the time. Realistically, there was no one else he could trust to carry this out. He did not know Kalf well enough to trust him with such endeavor and there was the matter of Kalf’s strange friendship with Erlandeur- that alone was enough cause for some lack of trust!  He knew that Floki was not capable of such a mission, and at this point he probably lacked some trust that even Lagertha would carry it through and not do something out of spite in her anger right now towards Ragnar.  Besides that fact, it must be someone who the French would take seriously as threat and respect in some way. Rollo fit that requirement.

floki volunteers to stay... why because he does not want to get on a boat for a long trip home with ragnar

floki volunteers to stay… why because he does not want to get on a boat for a long trip home with ragnar

rollo stops floki's offer

rollo says no you have no reason to stay here floki  bjorn looks on puzzled.

rollo says no you have no reason to stay here floki bjorn looks on puzzled.

bjorn: and what reason do you have uncle?

bjorn: and what reason do you have uncle?

rollo does not give a reason but bjorn decides that rollo will stay

Later there was great celebration of our victory but Rollo did not participate in it. He stood apart and spent much time in deep thought… I know that he was thinking of the Seer’s earier prophecy to him about Paris. Rollo believes in the seer, in the fates and in the Gods. He accepts that the Norns, those spinners of fate shape and weave our destinies and we must follow where they lead us. Thankfully, he has come to understand that we do have choice about how we conduct ourselves on that journey! He has already become a much different man than Ragnar gives him credit for. Months ago, he would have been passed out under a table or fighting some drunken grudge matched brawl.

or well  rollo  he's still having some difficulties

The mention of Ragnar sends Rollo into a rage

The mention of Ragnar sends Rollo into a rage

siggy bluntly revives a drunken rollo

But, this night he was serious and putting his thoughts towards an uncertain future. The Seer was certainly on his mind as he thought about those words “The Princess will marry the Bear and you will be there to witness it.  If you knew what the Gods have in store for you, you would dance naked on the beach in joy”

rollo stands apart during the party he watches paris and thinks of the Seer's words to him the seer's voice in rollo's head  You would go down now and dance naked on the beach in joy

Rollo watching Paris and hearing the Seer's voice of If you could see what the gods have in store

Rollo watching Paris and hearing the Seer’s voice of If you could see what the gods have in store

Did he perhaps think that night too, of that young woman on the tower wall that he could not get out of his head? At the time, I could give him no explanation for I knew not of her either.  That meeting would come later and we would then more clearly understand the Seer’s prophecy!

gisla keeps watching rollo  who is this warrior

Within a few days after that celebration, the decision was announced that Rollo and a group of Warriors would remain here on the banks of Paris for the winter while the rest of the group would travel back to Kattegat. I can not say for sure the feelings of all of those who were leaving that day… I am not sure exactly what their sentiments towards Ragnar were, I think they were most of the opinion that he would not even survive the trip home as sick as he still was. And, I believe that many were probably hoping that should be the case…he is still their King, but that does not mean that they are necessarily all loyal to him any longer. Many have mumbled and uttered their doubts about his rule so it would not surprise me to hear in the future of some revolt against him.  My personal thought on the matter is this. If it was not your intention or desire to be Earl or King, and it was the fault of everyone else, then perhaps you should do your people and yourself a favor and service by stepping down from this role that you so insist that you never wanted in the first place! Your son Bjorn is proving himself more than capable and worthy of such leadership. Give up this rule to Bjorn and let him lead. People would back him and follow him more willingly than they will continue to follow you now.

Rollo and his group of Warriors stood watching as the ships headed out, leaving all of them to a new future and destiny…

Rollo  and his warriors stay behind as the ships depart.

Rollo and his warriors stay behind as the ships depart.

Rollo watching the ships leave him in france

During the next few months, we remained in that camp waiting and not looking forward to spending a winter in this dreadful place. It was cold, damp, dirty and rather disgusting! It was only ever meant to be a temporary camp for the duration of the raid and now with the smaller group of us here- mostly warrior men, and only just a few of us women who remained, we were face with the unenviable task of trying to make this camp habitable for the duration of the winter. The men were and are loyal to Rollo- that is why they chose to stay- but they were  frustrated with this down time and they were becoming increasingly bored and thus irritable and unpredictable. I followed well Rollo’s instructions to stay well away from the men for my own safety!

the viking camp preparing for a long battle

viking celebration mass

During this time, Rollo spent much of his time training his men, and learning as much as he could from Sinric. Sinric was a great help to all of  us with his knowledge of the Franks and the language. Yes, he is a strange man but I have become quite fond of him. He has taught us all a great deal about this culture and how to fit into it in some way. Rollo is determined that the Seer is right and his destiny lies here in Paris. When I question him about Ragnar, he simply replies that he must do what is right for him now. The one thing that pleases me most… he seems quite happy here without interference or judgements from Ragnar every time he turns around. He is in charge here, his men follow him willingly and all seem quite loyal to him.

Of course, the Frankish citizens of Paris were concerned about our continuing presence… We were unaware of it at the time but there seemed to be much disagreement within the upper ranks there on what to do about us. The other puzzle would and will be in the future is who is this man, Roland? What part, what role does he play in our future here? He seems to hold a rather high and well trusted position in their group. We often encounter him on visits to the camp from their soldiers and with Count Odo. He also seems quite close to Gisla…

Roland, Gisla and odo watching the camp  gisla wonders why they are still here

Roland, Gisla and odo watching the camp gisla wonders why they are still here

roland,  a man to keep an eye on in the future

roland, a man to keep an eye on in the future

and here again we have a long pause on Roland and.... here comes roland once again

yes here comes roland yet again

Now, as to the disagreements within their court… they are naturally concerned about any future raiding we might be planning for the Spring but were unsure as to what to do about this event. Much of the unrest and disagreement was between Charles and his daughter Gisla. At the beginning, he was thrilled with his supposed victory over us and made reference that his Grandfather Charlamagne would be so proud of him now!  The Princess Gisla was quite open in her annoyance and irritation with her weak willed Father…

gisla is not buying her fathers insistance that they will be better prepared next time

gisla is not buying her fathers insistance that they will be better prepared next time

gisla starting to annoy Dad  her comment about charlamagne rejoicing  are you sure about that

gisla starting to annoy Dad her comment about charlamagne rejoicing are you sure about that?

Ohhh now charles claims grand reference to his grandfather charlamagne

Ohhh now charles claims grand reference to his grandfather charlamagne

gisla's look  I may be foolish and stupid but you're a pathetic weakling

gisla’s look I may be foolish and stupid but you’re a pathetic weakling

From all accounts that I have now heard, Charles was becoming much annoyed with his daughter’s behavior. He did have other serious matters to attend to besides her complaints and criticisms.

gisla starting to annoy Dad  her comment about charlamagne rejoicing  are you sure about that charles with a rather unhappy Gisla at the mass

Yep, that little dig is going to cost you gisla

Yep, that little dig is going to cost you gisla

 

Gisla was also having some altercations and disagreements with Count Odo at the time… he was insisting on holding her to a marriage agreement and she was having none of it!

Odo approaches Gisla about that marriage proposal

Odo approaches Gisla about that marriage proposal

gisla's response to odo this is neither the time nor place for this discussion

At some later point, Charles had a family dinner discussion with his daughter where he first brought up the subject of what to about the Vikings. He explained that they could not endure another such raid and must find a way to come to some terms with us. The discussion quickly turned sour when Gisla made disparaging remarks about any such idea and how much more it would cost them.

gisla asks a rational question so what are we to do  charles waves the servants away before he answers gisla's sarcasm is starting to grate on charles again  surely one of your brothers will come to our aid gisla listens as charles goes on about how his brothers hate him and do not care if he fails charles they will return again that is why rollo has remained

There was a lengthy discussion, debate and disagreement before Charles finally came forth with his plan of  action. His plan was to offer this man, Rollo a vast amount of wealth, land and Gisla’s hand in marriage in return for an agreement to protect the city of Paris from future raids. Needless to say, Gisla was less than happy about this idea and Charles had to remind her that besides being her Father, he was her King and Emperor. “I am your King, your Emperor and you will do as I say!

charles ooops then I guess I will have to recall our our offer charles I must offer your hand in marriage

charles  yes I am your father but I am also your king!

charles yes I am your father but I am also your king!

gisla this is count odo's doing  because I refused to marry him he wants have me thrown to the dogs

gisla this is count odo’s doing because I refused to marry him he wants have me thrown to the dogs

gisla you have already made them an offer without even consulting me

I am your father your king and your emporer and you will do as I say in this

I am your father your king and your emporer and you will do as I say in this

It was around this same time that the Frankish emissaries sent the proposed agreement to Rollo. Sinric acted as translator in explaining this agreement to Rollo.

you will be given great wealth and lands plus the hand of the princess in marriage  Rollo what must I do in return  defend paris against your brother

you will be given great wealth and lands plus the hand of the princess in marriage Rollo: what must I do in return? defend paris against your brother

Now, Please do not assume or accuse Rollo of taking this matter lightly, for he did not! You, Ragnar Lothbrok, and others may look at this as yet another betrayal from Rollo, but considering all of the things you have done to others lately, you have no right accuse or blame Rollo in this. Rollo has never waivered in his belief in the Gods, or the fates that lead one’s destiny. He has had to weigh this offer over in his head, debate on it with his men and choose which path was best for them to follow as a group. If you think this such an easy decision, you are wrong. But, as I have said, Rollo firmly believes that the Seer was now correct in his prophecy.  Rollo has made this choice, and his men have followed him. He did not go to that meeting with Charles and Gisla on his own. He went surrounded by his men, his group of warriors that would stand to reap the benefits and bounty of this agreement along with Rollo!  Why do they choose to follow him on this path? Because, I think, like many of the others in their Viking group, they have become disenchanted with Ragnar’s rule, they do not trust Ragnar any longer, and they see the advantage of this path. Rollo will share his land and wealth with them and if this alliance goes as proposed by Charles, Rollo and this group of Warriors will become the founding Noblemen of a new land, a new Kingdom called Normandy… Land of Northmen.

the warriors staying behind with rollo for the winter

As I have said, this is if all goes well and as set out in this agreement. Their first meeting did not go quite as well as would have been thought. Rollo and his men were dressed in their finest for this initial meeting, having been assisted as always by our Sinric. Sinric accompanied the group to act as mediator and translator.

rollo and his warriors take a look at their new way of life

 

rollo looks around the room and thinks Ohhh Hell yeah I can deal with this

Charles is cordial and welcoming to the group while Gisla and Odo look on silently…

charles welcomes rollo

I was not allowed into the hall to attend this meeting but was able to peer in from the doorway along with so many other curious onlookers. My first thought of Gisla was, “What on earth is she wearing on her head!” It looked like a modern day lampshade to me but I guess, we’re in Paris now- where they are already fashion forward and trend setters. At first, too, she looked rather regal in her bearing and appearance, but that quickly changed.

charles introduces gisla she is not going to go into this meekly or quietly

charles introduces gisla she is not going to go into this meekly or quietly

I was watching her and it was obvious that this young woman was not at all happy. Suddenly she jumped up from her throne and the tantrum began! Whoa… ummmm this was not exactly what we expected? I guess we all sort of assumed that this young woman would be a willing participant in this arrangement, that’s what we get for assuming anything!

What ensued was a long winded tirade and rant from her in which she called Rollo every sort of vile name and vowed that she would never do such thing as give up her virginity and her virtue to such scum and heathen barbarian as him…

Here she is Rollo here's your new bride

Well, here she is Rollo, your new bride to be!

It was indeed a full blown temper tantrum and hissy fit if ever I’ve seen one. Charles was uncomfortable and embarrassed by it, and it just went on and on…

charles has a look of concern over his daughter's rant

Rollo and his men were not sure what was going on at first…and she was rattling on so fast that it was difficult for any of us not fluent in the language to make out everything she was spitting out at him.

Rollo is listening intently.  So Rollo how much french have you learned yet?

Rollo is listening intently. So Rollo how much french have you learned yet?

rollo's look to sinric   she doesn't like does she?

rollo’s look to sinric she doesn’t like does she?

Charles next thought during her rant if you blow this I'm giving you to Odo

During her rant, Rollo did manage to pick out a few words… Rollo is used to young women even of her age already having had some experience with sex… They are after all, much more open minded about sexual activity.

rollo is she saying what I think she's saying

Rollo: wait I know that word... virgin... ahhhh Gods above No what she's a virgin?

Rollo: wait I know that word… virgin… ahhhh Gods above No what she’s a virgin?

Sinric's thought ummm I don't think I should translate this...

Charles  Oh my God someone shut her up charles  Ohhh please god don't let him get mad at me and say no... I hope he didn't understand any of that

As I did mention, she just kept going on with her speech…

gisla he disgusts me he makes me want to vomit

Thank the Gods, Rollo finally had enough and called a halt to her tantrum with one look…

rollo Hmmmm so are you finished now is that all you can come up with  I've been called worse

rollo Hmmmm so are you finished now is that all you can come up with I’ve been called worse…

One look, one smile and a simple Hello in French! That was the end of her rant, and the end of the public meeting.

 

rollo's thought Haaaaaa I understood every word I think you owe me even more money and land for taking her off your hands...

rollo’s thought Haaaaaa I understood every word I think you owe me even more money and land for taking her off your hands…

As of right now, the negotiations on this treaty are still being worked out. It’s all about those finer little details such as the asking of more land and wealth considering the recent antics and behaviors of one Princess Gisla. After her public display, Rollo is in a much better position to demand more wealth in this deal… word will quickly spread around France of her behaviors and it might be difficult now for Charles to get another offer for her even if she is a Princess… If she does not change her behaviors, Odo may well be the only other willing taker for her. 

As for me, Rollo has insisted that they show me courtesy and treat me as a Noble guest… I will do my best to keep my eyes and ears open here at court for any information that might prove useful to the group. He has chided me for my ongoing outbursts of continuing anger at Ragnar though and advised me to let it go for now. It is not for me to concern myself with this situation of which we can do nothing about anyway. He does assure me that he is taking it all into serious thought and will deal with when the time comes. Until such a time does come, I should enjoy myself here and learn as much as possible about the land and these people so that I may be of use in helping the others to adjust to this their new home and life.

I contain my outbursts to the privacy of my chamber and I can not help but occasionally cry tears of anger and frustration over all of these past events that have led us here. I have found great comfort though in enjoying the luxuries of this place…such as maids to attend me. And, I will never get enough of the glorious hot baths and having my hair washed and done up by these excellent maids, though I do admit to feeling somewhat guilty for them having to haul those buckets of hot water and fill this tub for me on a such a regular basis. I do my best to treat all of them well with great kindness and reward so I seem to have become a favorite for them. Now, my only problem is that Count Odo seems to have taken great interest in me as well…Ummmm no Thank you sir, I do appreciate your flattery but, I have heard those whispered rumors as to your particular tastes and I can not say that I am on  the same page or wave length as you regarding such activities…

As long as I am going to spending some time here though, I would not mind knowing more about this mysterious Roland…. He seems friendly enough, and he is one of the better looking men I’ve met here so far? It also helps that he is not a Priest… I swear this place is over run with men of God, and from what I have seen and heard, they are not nearly so Godly as they would have one believe! Just one more look at the mystery man at court!

yes here comes roland yet again odo and roland visit the camp to find out why they have not left yet and here again we have a long pause on Roland

Ahhhh and one last thought before I go…. besides everything else, I have taken Rollo’s suggestion and done a bit of shopping here in Paris!  Of course, in order to shop for new garments, one must have them hand made, custom designed and sewn for you. But, it is such a rare treat to not have to sew it myself and to say, if even just smirking to myself, “Ohhh do you like it? I got it on my last trip to Paris!”  I will be making a trip to England in the near future to check on my friend Judith… Perhaps I will bring her some of these styles! Here are but a few samples of what is popular right now.

medieval dress2 medieval-pourpoint-dress Middle Ages Costumes 10th century dress

And, a few varieties of head dress… Judith would much appreciate these, I think considering her recent event involving the loss of her ear!

10th century headwear