Archives

A woman’s worth is in her… hands and her mind

As we read and view history now, there is much emphasis, attention and focus on the battles, the conquests and wars. We watch the historical docudramas and fantasies play out in books, movies and the small screen, and we make much of those warriors and their great or not so great feats. We give great attention, admiration and acclaim to those women throughout history who were involved in the battles- real or imagined. We are generally presented with an image of women of great beauty, tremendous courage or spirit, or we get a portrayal that puts the woman as down trodden, abused and of worthless status.  Women are seldom depicted, portrayed or given attention/acclaim for the other  status or contributions which the majority of them back them actually held or made. 

Anglo Saxon women stitch their way into history

Aelle and judith

 

We typically assume that a woman’s worth or value was set in stone. We have this impression that it was tied to the status she was born into, to her physical attributes, and to her ability to breed. In some ways, yes it was tied to those things, but there were other ways that she could be deemed of great value or asset to her family, her household, her village or her kingdom. These abilities would not necessarily bring her great fame or recognition in future generations but they would ensure that she survived and more important for us in those future generations, her family survived to create a next generation that probably benefited from her untold, unknown contributions. 

I am not going to downplay the fact that a woman’s life was difficult in the past, no matter what rank or status she was. Then again, a man’s life was  no less difficult during those times. Nobody had a truly easy time of it back then.  What I want to talk about today though, is the thought or idea that there were ways for a woman to achieve some status, some value and some degree of upward mobility in those early medieval or dark ages. Ways that were not dependent upon her family status or wealth, her appearance, her fighting ability/ spirit or her breeding capacity… because realistically, looks faded quickly in those times and they would have faded in some direct proportion to her success at breeding! In order to make it through those times and create a next generation, every survivor whether man, woman or child had to have some fighting spirit to a certain extent so that asset that we deem so noble and great now would have been viewed  in a context of  the woman’s value being based not on her fighting spirit or ability but just on the fact that she was not weak of body or mind. Her breeding ability would not be apparent at first appraisal or trade negotiation but would be more based on her family history of breeding and on her health. 

rollo and gisla

Of course for the wealthy noble families, a woman’s worth was directly based on her family’s wealth, bloodlines and connections to power bases. Her appearance had little to do with her value and neither did her fighting spirit other than she should have enough spirit in her to fight to survive and to keep her household intact and alive in event of a siege when her spouse was off fighting elsewhere. Every woman should have that attribute.

What I am looking at are those other attributes, abilities, talents or  that a woman could use to her advantage whether she be high ranking nobility, a mid level family member of some noble household, low born serf, or even a slave child. No, I am not going to touch on that one “profession” or “skill” that women have used to their advantage probably since the beginning of time!  I will leave that for some other discussion. There were any number of other ways and skills that a female could use to her benefit and advantage throughout time. Most of those abilities were learned skills that also involved some innate or gifted by God talent. These skills, as I’ve already mentioned, would not give them great fame or recognition other than in their personal sphere of influence. They were however, most often extremely necessary skills that would ensure the survival of the entire community in which they lived. These women possessed skills in areas that we give little thought or credit to now. They were the midwives, the healers, the cooks, the dairy maids, the spinners and weavers of cloth, and the needle workers.  Every woman was expected to have some fundamental knowledge and ability of these skills, even those most noble and Royal women. These were skills essential to keeping a household or community alive and then of thriving and prospering.   A woman who was talented or gifted in any of these skills was deemed of some high status or value to her community and as such was rewarded well for her skills so that she would remain within that community. These women were often well known through out their local areas and regions. Their skills were prized and their families, their Lords or owners and those above them would usually make effort to ensure that the women were well compensated or cared for, well treated, healthy and loyal to their benefactors. Much as a man might be prized or valued for his fighting abilities, his horsemanship, his metal working, woodworking or seamanship, these women were looked at as valued commodities. Their value was tied to their skill or their ability in a certain area that had nothing to do with Noble lineage, appearance or breeding capacity.  Yet, while the men with certain skills could go on to make names and recognition for themselves, be rewarded with monetary wealth, land grants or positions that would eventually bring them to Noble status, the women were largely forgotten and became just a backdrop for the fabric and tapestry of history that they helped to create.  They might become wives of those men, they might gain entry to some Noble status by being a part of a much coveted inner circle of women but for the most part their names, their lives and their contributions are long forgotten and generally passed off as unimportant in the great events of history. We will never know who they were, but we can see remnants and reminders of those unknown women, those untold stories even today as we view some of what they created and left as their communal identity.

siggy tries to help Lagertha

The women that I want to give credit to and shed some light on are those women who so often receive little or no attention acclaim for their contributions. These are those women who, so early in history, picked up a needle and thread, and began to not just clothe the rest of us but to leave a piece of themselves and their story in everything they sewed. These are the women we give no thought to, that are relegated to the backdrop of history. These women and their creations in that hidden, protected and shrouded space of a women’s bower  solar, or even the confines of a nunnery  are considered or deemed of little interest or importance in a story. Their creations, their accomplishments and their life’s work are portrayed as insignificant, mundane, and of no real consequence or value… after all it was just women’s work? It was often just women’s work, skill and efforts that kept an injured bleeding man alive after an accident or a battle. Caring for the wounded was part of a woman’s work and quite often, a woman who had great skill with a needle would be called upon to stitch up wounds as well. 

medieval women sewing 3

I want to look a bit at those unknown women, the history of their skill or art and give you a perspective on how such a talent might have allowed even the lowest born or captured slave girl an opportunity to rise above her circumstances. I am not going to delve into the entire history of sewing or stitching here. I want to put into some perspective or relation to the early medieval history of the Viking era and forward from that.  The reason I put it in relation to the Viking era is that the type of stitching that the Anglo-Saxon women became so recognized and renowned for is their embroidery skills that may have had origins in early Danish needle work. I put it in relation to slave girls because many of the girls who were taken and sold into slavery by early Viking raiders were children of farmsteads and villages of many various places. They were not necessarily the poorest, untrained or unskilled lowest forms of humanity that we would imagine or picture them as. Girl children were generally taught the basics of stitchery from their earliest years and would have carried that knowledge or skill with them where ever they went in the future. Many children were sold as household slaves to families that could afford that luxury and not all of them were sorely abused but actually valued as some sort of asset by the household.  Slaves were a costly investment, a valuable asset, and it would make little sense to abuse them and completely destroy their value.  Even in the early Saxon times of England, slavery was a somewhat common circumstance. 

Take for example, young Uhtred and his friend Brida… they were initially slave children but became part of the family…

Uhtred with his medallion

Brida, however, was not a girl who showed much interest or talent in stitchery!

brida's humor

Rather than seeing the often worst case scenario of a slave child (I am in no way advocating or promoting slavery in any way!) Try to see the possibility or scenario in which a child sold or captured into a slave situation is not quite so misused or abused but becomes in some way, a part of that household- granted a lowest member but still, a valuable working asset to it… Imagine a girl child who has some rudimentary knowledge or skill and displays some interest and talent in that said skill.  The art of stitchery was not one which everyone had skill, talent or patience for. It also took a great deal of time and many hands involved to create any finished product. A child who displayed any skill or talent for it would immediately rise in value to the person or family they were attached to. Any small girl slave who showed such talent would probably be looked on favorably, treated well and further trained in this art. In this way, depending on her skill and talent, she might eventually be rewarded for her services and her loyalty to the household. This young girl who started as slave in the household or community might feasibly be rewarded with her freedom and become a valued member of the larger community. She had a God given gift or talent that she used to her benefit and advantage, improving her circumstances. Perhaps she then married a skilled member of the community whose ability or skill was also valued. Her needle skills would have moved her to a status that allowed or enabled her to be worthy of such a man within that society and as such a valued couple, their children would be of better circumstance or status. They train their children in their skills and the children also inherit their talents, which makes them even more valuable in this system of society… and within a few generations, any slave status is for the most part forgotten other than in some dark family history or in some reference to lowly beginnings leading to good fortunes. Future generations might use these beginnings in order to make themselves look better to those might have some cause to rebel against them or resent their present status. It might be used also as a reminder to family members not to forget their own more humble beginnings when relating to the serfs, peasants or slaves now under them.

judith trying to remain calm

I mentioned earlier the connection between the Anglo-Saxon needle work and art and that of Scandinavia. The history of needle work goes back to the earliest beginnings of time and every culture or society had knowledge and skill of it. From those earliest beginnings of just sewing a seam together to create a functional piece of clothing became an art form that even those earliest of people used to decorate and embellish their clothing. The basics of those hand sewn stitches have remained unchanged to this day.  The art of embroidery has been found worldwide and several early examples have been found. Works in China have been dated to the Warring States period (5th-3rd century BC).  In a garment from Migration period Sweden, roughly 300–700 AD, the edges of bands of trimming are reinforced with running stitch, back stitch, stem stitch, tailor’s buttonhole stitch, and whipstitching, but it is uncertain whether this work simply reinforced the seams or should be interpreted as decorative embroidery.   It is during the mid 9th century with the intermixing of Scandinavian or Viking culture and the Anglo-Saxon culture that we see the beginnings of the needle work art that the Anglo-Saxons would become so recognized for.  The Anglo-Saxons may have had already begun this process and progress in the artwork but it after the arrival of the Scandinavians that we see tangible evidence of their work. It was probably during these times too that the variations in stitching from Scandinavia, Francia and other places all began to merge together in the sewing rooms of once more isolated English kingdoms. It was during this time period that the women of Anglo-Saxon England- the ones who did the majority of  any sewing back in this time- began to be more exposed to so many other variations of patterns, materials, textiles and threads of other far off places and cultures. The Vikings brought with them all of those other varied exposures to the world and when they began to settle in Anglo-Saxon, so did all of those cultural experiences. 

I am going to focus on the needle art of embroidery here, which is what the Anglo-Saxons became most renowned for.Normally we tend to think of embroidery as smaller stitched designs on clothing, pillows, towels. We don’t envision this work on a large wall hanging scale. When we think of large scale designs and stitching we think of tapestries.  There is a difference between the tapestry art and the hand sewn needle work known as embroidery. The term tapestry generally refers to weaving on a loom and is most often thought of in terms of heavier wall hangings or rugs. The tapestry did not reach a level of high point, widespread availability or use in Europe until about the 13th century. Prior to this, the wall hangings would have been the hand stitched embroidered creations that women would work together on as a group, often requiring years to complete. 

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

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

During these dark  daunting early centuries that were filled with fear, bloodshed, battle, death and destruction all around them, women would take solace or possibly find some sort of peace in one activity that allowed them to escape for a time into a realm of another place… one where they could create their own world. In a world so controlled and dominated by men, this activity became one of the few things that they could have complete control over.  The women took a necessary, mundane chore of sewing and turned it into a creative art form that we remain in awe of to this day.  When we look at examples left of their work today, we seldom think of the process that went into their creations back then. We seldom give thought to the conditions they worked in to create these pieces of art that often they considered as just an adornment or embellishment to add some color or variety to their otherwise plain and similar garments. 

judith and her cross 2

judith's cross to bear

judith’s cross to bear

This type of hand stitching required a great deal of skill as well as keen eyesight, fine motor abilities, hand to eye coordination, extreme patience along with such abilities as being able to differentiate between colors and patterns. In addition to these skills, there must be one involved who was talented and skilled at drawing out a pattern with a piece of charcoal on to a piece of material because that is where the entire process began. Before a woman or group of them could begin the stitching process, the background material had to be prepared for them. In our current day, we can easily find almost any pattern and transfer it to a background. In their day, the transfer process was just as involved and detailed as the sewing process.  It required a finely skilled and talented artist to draw out the idea with the charcoal which was then sewn over and expanded upon by the sewers.

If the woman in charge of the project, or whose idea the project was could not draw, and most of them could not- just as most of can not now- she would have to find someone who could put her idea or concept on cloth for her. This would take some of the control out of her hands and put her at a slight disadvantage but she could generally regain artistic control once the initial pattern or design was set for her. If it was a small project such embellishing a personal gown or a tunic, she could and would most likely work on it alone. If were something larger, say a wall hanging, bed covering or draperies, it would probably be worked on by a group of women. Often these larger projects would be a group involvement from beginning to end. The women would decide together what image or design they wanted to create, they would all be included in overseeing the drawing of the design and they would stitch it as a group effort… much like in future generations women would work on a quilt together. These group projects might be designed for a wall of a great hall that they were all familiar with as visitors or residents. It could be a done as a special gift from the group of women in honor of a Wedding, or some other celebration or commemoration, or in many cases it might be created as a gift or donation to the Church.  Of the few remaining pieces of work, the majority are church finery or vestments. 

There was another crucial requirement and note of importance as well… the cost involved in the materials.  The materials, threads and needles were dearly expensive back then. Great caution and care were taken to ensure that none of these items would be wasted, misused or otherwise damaged by one who was not proven to be capable, experienced or talented in this skill.  Most any woman, be she lowly peasant serf woman, warrior shieldmaiden, or common farm wife could sew a basic seam together, manage to mend a rip or tear, or even place a few simple decorative stitches upon a garment but few women had the time,  the skill or creative talent to do much more than that.

vikings_gallery_1_3-P lagertha vikings_gallery_1_5-P lagertha and daughter gyda and lagertha

Imagine for a few moments, one of your favorite small screen shieldmaidens, Lagertha of Vikings Saga… Look at her and her family. When she was a young farm wife and Mother, she managed to adequately clothe them all but realistically she did not have time to  spend on decorating their garments lavishly, nor did she probably have the creative skill necessary or the keen interest in it. She accomplished the basics and that was about it.

katheryn-winnick-stars-as-shield-maiden-lagertha-in-history-channels-vikings

lagertha caught in middle of father and son

lagertha caught in middle of father and son

lagertha and her shieldmaidens

In more recent years, she has spent most of her time in warrior mode but she does show that she appreciates the finery of much more intricately and well detailed sewing. Somewhere in Hedeby, in England or in Francia, there have been women involved in the hand stitching of her dresses. Those women have most probably been well compensated in some way for their efforts. If they did not receive some benefit or reward for this time consuming work, they most likely would not continue to do it. You will never know anything about these women but when you see their work, you will appreciate it and remark upon it’s quality and fineness. What is important for you to keep in mind when you look around you in the various settings of the time is that every single piece of clothing, every wall hanging, table cover, blanket or drapery hanging was sewn by hand!

silence as judith tries to find courage to tell aethelwulf her condition

silence as judith tries to find courage to tell aethelwulf her condition

in wessex judith has given birth to a son

 Another example would be the Lady Judith and the ladies of her small court… Judith may have some skill, talent and inclination towards this activity but it is highly doubtful that she has time to devote towards this effort, what with other responsibilities she might have. What Judith would do is have this group of ladies in her service devote time to these endeavors.  In choosing her ladies, she would of course first have to choose women of high rank and noble status but should she come across a young girl or woman with exceptional skill but not status, she could always find ways to fit such a talented one into her circle- even if it is on the edge of it and all of the household members know that the woman is there only for her skills. For the woman to be included in any way would be a step up for her, one that if she has any common sense or reasoning at all, she will understand the benefits and advantages of.  This young woman may have begun her life in the village and found ways to display her innate talent in the decoration of her own clothes, those of her family. Seeing her talent, neighbors and others in the village might have bartered or traded with her to adorn their garments as well… her skills would eventually come to the notice of those of importance and thus she would gain the entry or footing within or around the nobility for herself and her family. Will she ever reach far enough up to attain some form of noble status? Probably not, but she will have raised her family to another level up,  achieved some added level of comfort and security for them so she has proven her worth and value just by that accomplishment. 

ragnar's christian conversion is marched through the streets of paris for all to see and celebrate

my lady judith you have been found guilty of adultery

During the 800s  the Church was becoming a much more powerful force to be reckoned within England,  people were becoming increasingly devout and the Church would take advantage of this religious devotion. Noblewomen would begin to concentrate much of their creative talents in the needle work art to show their religious devotion to the Church. The women would spend vast amounts of time and energy on creating master pieces of hand stitched artwork for the adornment of the Church, and it’s priests. These gifts were not just donations to show the family’s devotion.  It is during this time that the quality and skills of these devout Anglo-Saxon women began to be recognized throughout the Church’s broad sphere of influence. The Church and Priests praised these works, appreciated them and set a great deal of worth or value on them. The families- the women were well aware of the value and would use the gifts as bargaining tools to garner favor with the Priests. A donation of such a finely worked altar cloth, wall hanging or even clothing item to the Priest or Bishop could go a long way in being pardoned or forgiven for some transgression or in a favor/request being approved. 

A great many women during this time also sought solace and sanctuary within the Church’s cloistered walls. As the wars and battles took over their lands and their lives, many women found refuge in the cloistered and protected walls of the Nunneries and Convents. Some of course were sent there as punishments by husbands or families.

 i-am-a-bride-of-christ-i-can-not-show-my-face-to-any-man-i-am-not-any-man-i-am-king-ecbert


i-am-a-bride-of-christ-i-can-not-show-my-face-to-any-man-i-am-not-any-man-i-am-king-ecbert

Other young girls were given to the Church by their families as a show of the family’s devotion or patronage of the Church.  And, yet other young girls and women sought out the sanctuary willingly for varying reasons ranging from true devotion and commitment to having no where else to go.  If one had no where else to go, the Church was usually willing to take them in, provide for them and hopefully train them for a life devoted to God’s calling.  Many of these young women were taught the needle work skills and if they showed talent for it, they would continue their training in the art. The most talented of these women would go on to spend their lives devoted not so much to the Church but more in some devotion to their craft, their art.  These women benefited from the seclusion of the Church sanctuary that allowed and enabled them to completely focus on their creativity without having to concern themselves with outside distractions such as husbands or breeding a new generation. They were still faced with the battles that would often end up taking place within their confines, the destruction and decimation that took place all around them, but in many ways they were safer and better off within the holy walls than they would have been outside of them.  

You might ask or wonder how the women who resided within the cloistered walls of a nunnery, devoted their lives to God and to their art form would be considered of value or worth to their family’s future. Granted, these women would not have been responsible for creating a next generation but often times they were directly responsible for a next generation benefiting from their efforts or contributions. Within these holy walls, these women were often looked upon with great favor and praise from those in higher levels of power such as Bishops and Cardinals. Their talents were highly valued and they often rose in status or position of their own type of power within the constraints of the convent. As a result of their talents and  creations, their order or Nunnery would rise in acclaim and fame… the women may not have needed or desired any material wealth or gain, but they might find themselves in positions to ask for some boon or favor for family outside those walls. These women were not above or beyond bartering, bargaining and negotiating for rewards that might help their families… in fact they were often quite good at it. In some ways it was expected of them by their families- it was part of the reason for giving a child to God. This child was often given to the Church with some expectation that the child would rise in status there and become the family’s inside connection to the Church’s power base. During the early medieval times, the women of the Nunneries were a power base that was extremely important and influential. 

During the dangerous centuries, the consecrated life became identified more exclusively with monasticism. Nuns and monks clustered in large houses organized according to a variety of rules that emphasized discipline and routine. The day was divided into segments for sleeping, eating together, performing manual labor, and always, chanting the office in a perennial outpouring of praise to God. Women responded in great numbers to the attraction of this life. They planted new communities on the frontiers of the Christian world, contributing to the process of converting barbarian tribes.

Queens and noble women who inherited great wealth, and could, according to the laws of the Germanic peoples, deploy that wealth as they saw fit, established houses for as many as two hundred women. Managing land and legally presiding over the inhabitants, these great abbesses were intrinsic components of the new feudal ruling class. They sent troops to war, held court, and enjoyed all the rights of noble men. Each monastery stood autonomous (though increasingly these became standardized under the Benedictine Rule). From the sixth through the tenth centuries, abbesses generally came from local ruling families, and they educated young women and helped to preserve the intellectual heritage of the ancient world. The original literary work of some of these nuns survives, most notably the histories, poetry, and drama of Hroswitha, a tenth-century Saxon nun whose learning may even have extended to some knowledge of Greek.

http://www.ctlibrary.com/ch/1991/issue30/3019.html

 

Sewing for a household or a community was time consuming chore that required a number of women and hands to complete the task. Those who owned large landholdings were responsible for a great many people under them. Part of this responsibility including feeding and clothing all of those workers that were part of the extended household or holding. A responsible Lord would provide sets of basic clothing for his underlings at least once a year. The way one’s workers looked directly reflected on the Lord… a poorly clothed or fed worker showed a lacking on the part of the Lord. If you were to visit a holding where the workers were dirty, poorly dressed and fed, and thus unhappy, you would take notice of that and remember it… If you were of equal or higher standing, you might not be inclined to visit this holding again and you might also be somewhat less than favorable in your dealings with this land holder. If one of these poor workers were for some reason leave this holding (could you blame them?) and end up seeking service at your holding, you might take them in and use them to your advantage- in finding out more about what is going on at that place. 

 

Because the chore of sewing was such a major effort and undertaking, entire rooms or floor of a residence might be set aside for it’s purpose. This space may have been in close proximity to the Lady’s personal chambers or even connected to it. It did need to be a space of good lighting though and as much as possible would have been situated with windows to help with the lighting.

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

1400660855p23crypt-c-jigsawdesign-publishingandpetersmith medieval sewing room

A kind of hierarchy also developed within this domain of women. Less skilled or capable women would be assigned more menial tasks as cutting and sewing basic garments for the underlings- although at times, every woman would participate in this task in order to get it done in time to hand out the garments. Women with a bit more skill were allowed involvement in sewing for higher ranking family members and such… and finally the most  skilled and talented women would form the most highly prized and coveted inner group that did the fine stitching under the direct supervision of the Lady or Matron of the holding. Even if such a woman was not so talented in this area, she was still in charge and although she did not have talent, she would have a keen eye for the finished product and it’s quality. She might appoint one of her ladies that were more talented in the art to be her supervisor in this area.  We have already discussed how a young girl or woman might gain entry to this rather hidden space. Once she gained her entry based on her talent and hand skills, she must also be intelligent enough to maneuver her way through this hierarchy of women. She would not be well accepted, and she would find resentments against her from some of these women. This inner circle was a highly coveted place to be because it put them in close proximity and ear of the Lady. They could use this position to influence the Lady and possibly her husband. If they could gain much favor with the Lady, they could reap added benefits for their own families. No matter how talented a young woman was, she would not go far or succeed in this space if she did not have some wits about her!  This inner sewing sanctuary was far more than just women sewing- it was about women vying for their own power and it probably would have been just as dangerous in that secluded sanctuary as it was out on the battle field. At least on the battle field, the fighting was out in the open and you could determine your enemies… in this women’s battle field, the enemies could be well hidden and disguised as your friend- a friend who might be willing to stab you in the back if it meant favor or advantage for her over you. Make no mistake, a woman intent on power can be far more of a threat than a man with a sword!

We have looked at the history, the importance, the Church’s involvement in this art form and I hope that I have shown how a woman’s innate God gifted talent for this handiwork or craft of stitchery could be considered as her worth or value. I think that I have shown too, that besides her talent or skill, she must also have a keen intelligent and creative  mind in order to use this skill or talent to her advantage and benefit. Without the fortitude to think ahead, think on her feet, use the common sense and reasoning that God also gave her, this woman’s talent means little or nothing. It would take the talent and the keen mind working together for a woman to use this gift as her value, her worth and move her family upwards to some better position in life. 

I have also mentioned the fact that while these women will ever remain unknown and most of their accomplishment are long destroyed and forgotten about, there are still remnants and reminders of their creative talents with us today. These unknown women were the creators of such historically important works as this… 

This piece of embroidered stitching is one of the most important remnants left to us. It is the Bayeux Tapestry which details the events of William the Conqueror and the battle of Hasting. 

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

bayeux tapestry bayeux tapestry2 bayeux tapestry7

There is a great deal of mystery and controversy over it’s origins and creation but there is a general consensus that it was made in England and created in the Anglo-Saxon tradition. Some theories and trains of thought propose that is was commissioned by Bishop Odo.

Scholarly analysis in the 20th century concluded it was probably commissioned by William’s half-brother, Bishop Odo, who, after the Conquest, became Earl of Kent and, when William was absent in Normandy, regent of England.

The reasons for the Odo commission theory include: 1) three of the bishop’s followers mentioned in the Domesday Book appear on the tapestry; 2) it was found in Bayeux Cathedral, built by Odo; and 3) it may have been commissioned at the same time as the cathedral’s construction in the 1070s, possibly completed by 1077 in time for display on the cathedral’s dedication.

Assuming Odo commissioned the tapestry, it was probably designed and constructed in England by Anglo-Saxon artists (Odo’s main power base being by then in Kent); the Latin text contains hints of Anglo-Saxon; other embroideries originate from England at this time; and the vegetable dyes can be found in cloth traditionally woven there. Howard B. Clarke has proposed that the designer of the tapestry was Scolland, the abbot of St Augustine’s Abbey in Canterbury, because of his previous position as head of the scriptorium at Mont Saint-Michel (famed for its illumination), his travels to Trajan’s Column, and his connections to Wadard and Vital, two individuals identified in the tapestry. The actual physical work of stitching was most likely undertaken by female seamsters. Anglo-Saxon needlework of the more detailed type known as Opus Anglicanum was famous across Europe. It was perhaps commissioned for display in the hall of his palace and then bequeathed to the cathedral he built, following the pattern of the documented but lost hanging of Byrhtnoth.

Another thought or speculation is that King Edward’s wife Edith of Wessex had some involvement in it’s creation. After the events at Hastings, Edith was the sole remaining senior member of the Godwin family to survive the Norman conquest on English soil, the sons of Harold having fled to Ireland. She remained alive until 1075 and lived in seclusion but was paid all due respect by William. She died at Winchester on 18 December 1075.  Matthew Parisrecords a tradition that her death brought an end to an illness from which she had been suffering at some length. She was buried together with her husband in Westminster Abbey and her funeral was arranged by William. The northern author of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Manuscript D, reports:

Edith the Lady died seven nights before Christmas in Winchester, she was King Edward’s wife, and the king had her brought to Westminster with great honour and laid her near King Edward, her lord.

Edith was brought up at Wilton Abbey. She was an educated woman who spoke several languages, skills she probably acquired at Wilton. She remained attached to it, and in later years rebuilt its church.  Her niece, Gunhild of Wessex, would also be educated at Wilton.

The Vita Edwardi emphasised her piety. She helped Giso, the Bishop of Wells, secure the endowments of his see, and gave lands to Abingdon Abbey, but the monks of Evesham alleged that she had the relics of many monasteries brought to Gloucester so that she could select the best for herself. When Gervin, abbot of Saint-Riquier, who was visiting the English court, rejected her kiss of greeting, she took offence. Edward reproved her, and she accepted the rebuff, even going on to urge English churchmen not to kiss women, although they did not object to the custom.

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

Some of the mysteries surrounding the tapestry would point to the idea or thought that Edith could have had some connection to it’s creation. First of all, Edith maintained close connections to the Church and it’s power base throughout her life. She was well known as a pious and devout woman loyal to the Church and it’s leaders. She probably did have some connection or knowing of Bishop Odo and perhaps this creation was a sort of co-sponsored project.  Harold is shown as brave and his soldiers are not belittled. Throughout, William is described as “dux” (duke) whereas Harold, also called dux up to his coronation, is subsequently called “rex” (king). The fact that the narrative extensively covers Harold’s activities in Normandy (in 1064) indicates that the intention was to show a strong relationship between that expedition and the Norman Conquest starting two years later. It is for this reason that the tapestry is generally seen by modern scholars as an apologia for the Norman Conquest. Certainly no one was going to come out and renounce William’s actions, not even the Church was willing to do that. But, this project or creation could have been seen or meant in an underlying way to make some appeasement for the events.

Edith would have maintained some strong connections and influences with the various convents and may have been responsible for setting up and arranging for the stitchery do be done at certain selected ones. This would have been looked at as a great favor and honor to a convent selected to do such work.  Only convents with the most skilled and talented sewers would have been selected for this honor. 

The artistic context of the work could also lead back to Edith. Edith was a child of some Danish heritage and would have most likely learned some Danish variations of stitchery during her youth. Many of the Convents made use of these variations as well, showing the Danish influences in Anglo-Saxon sewing.  Tapestry fragments have been found in Scandinavia dating from the ninth century and it is thought that Norman and Anglo-Saxon embroidery developed from this sort of work. Examples are to be found in the grave goods of the Oseberg ship and the Överhogdal tapestries.

A monastic text from Ely, the Liber Eliensis, mentions a woven narrative wall-hanging commemorating the deeds of Byrhtnoth, killed in 991. Wall-hangings were common by the tenth century with English and Norman texts particularly commending the skill of Anglo-Saxon seamstresses. Mural paintings imitating draperies still exist in France and Italy and there are twelfth century mentions of other wall-hangings in Normandy and France. A poem by Baldric of Dol might even be describing the Bayeux Tapestry itself.  Therefore, the Bayeux Tapestry was not unique at the time it was created—rather it is remarkable for being the sole surviving example of Middle Ages’ narrative needlework.

On a final note to this discussion, I just want to leave you with some examples of what these Anglo-Saxon women locked away in their bowers and their nunneries were responsible for eventually creating.  Opus Anglicanum or English work is fine needlework of Medieval England done for ecclesiastical or secular use on clothing, hangings or other textiles, often using gold and silver threads on rich velvet or linen grounds. Such English embroidery was in great demand across Europe, particularly from the late 12th to mid-14th centuries and was a luxury product often used for diplomatic gifts. Their beginning of the art form in the 800s culminated in the more famous stitched master pieces of later years.

Some earliest remains of Anglo-Saxon needle work during 8th and 9th centuries

Anglo -Saxon Embroidery - A Fragment of the Maaseik

Anglo -Saxon Embroidery – A Fragment of the Maaseik

cuthburt_maniple_c909

cuthburt_maniple_c909

An example of Viking era needle work in 10th century. The original clothing items were found in the Mammen graves.

The so called Mammen finds date from the late 10th Century. The main find was the grave of what appears to be a high ranking man. He was dressed in several layers of woollen fabric (2/1 twill), most of which was decorated in some way.

The fragments contained several motifs worked in stem stitch. It is impossible to tell the original colours of the fabrics and the threads used to embroider them, as they are all now a dark brown colour (altered by elements in the soil in which they were found). However, it is possible that they were once brightly coloured.

mammen_full_outfit Viking example of Viking stitchery in 10th century

mammen_full_outfit Viking example of Viking stitchery in 10th century

http://medieval.webcon.net.au/extant_mammen.html

 

opus anglicanum

opus anglicanum

anglo-saxon examples of needle work

anglo-saxon examples of needle work

This example shows the use of beadwork within the needle art 

medieval stitchery with beadwork

This is an example of the needle work art as it progressed into the later 13th and 14th centuries.

Butlerbowden_cope later example of opus anglicum about 1330

Butlerbowden_cope later example of opus anglicum about 1330

Finally, this is an example of the size of some of the creations and present day efforts to maintain and repair the works as much as possible without interfering with the original design.

Alice-Cole-Conserving-a-Cope

Alice-Cole-Conserving-a-Cope

After reading all of this, I only hope that you come to have a better appreciation and understanding of the idea that a Woman’s worth and value could indeed be in her hands and her mind!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tracing my past back to Rollo!

In my previous post, I shared my personal timeline going back to Uhtred the Bold, Bamburgh Castle and early Northumbria. Within that lineage, I found one Judith of Lens who married Waltheof of Northumbria and gave me that link back to the history of Northumbria. What is important and special about Judith of Lens is that she also takes me back to Rollo of Normandy! Many of us  know Rollo for his current claim to fame in the Vikings Saga. If you follow this blog, you are well aware that I have always had a certain affinity or fondness for Rollo. Of course, it does help that Clive Standen does such a fine job of portraying him and probably makes him much more appealing to watch than the real Rollo would have been.  As I’ve watched the series unfold, I have become much more interested in the character and true history of Rollo than that of Ragnar. That is not because of Clive’s portrayal of the character although that does not hurt, but because of the actual history and the importance of Rollo and Normandy.  If you look at the history of the Vikings and compare the events or accomplishments of Ragnar and Rollo, it is clear that as far as Viking history and events go, Rollo of Normandy had a far more important and long lasting impact than Ragnar Lodbrok.  Ragnar is more of a myth or legend and his claims to fame have come more from the actions of his sons than any of his own accomplishments. When you look at his sons, even their claims to fame were relatively short lived and can not really be documented much deeper than their individual involvements in the Great Heathen Wars that constituted one portion of the Viking era in England.  Rollo of Normandy though, left a dynasty and legacy of many future generations that is verifiable and documented. 

 

Season 4 of the Vikings Saga will soon be upon us and we will see how Michael Hirst’s version of the Viking era plays out. While we should all be in agreement that this show is more historical fantasy than actual history, Mr. Hirst has made numerous assurances and promises that he will present Rollo’s story more according to actual historical events than fantasy. Perhaps this is due to the fact that Rollo’s life and accomplishments are more historically sound than the events of Ragnar’s or even Ecbert’s…

By including Rollo in this family story as a brother of Ragnar, I think in a way that Hirst  painted or wrote his way into a corner with Rollo’s story. Now, he must find a way to get Rollo out of that corner, separate him from the confines of Ragnar’s story and from the events that will take place in England. So far, he has made a start at this separation by creating the rivalry and possible betrayal of Ragnar on the part of Rollo.  He has set up a scenario whereby it will be possible to set Rollo’s story up as separate from Ragnar and his family.  If you look at the truer history of Rollo, there is little actual documentation of his Danish or Norse family ties so it would seem that for what ever reason, Rollo did indeed separate himself from any of those family ties.  That is not to say that he separated himself from his Viking heritage, traditions or beliefs because throughout his life he seemed to hold on to many of those traditions and beliefs.  What we glimpse in previews of season 4 is Rollo realizing that he must choose between family and personal destiny. 

Rollo must follow his own destiny even if it means a betrayal of his brother Ragnar. I know that this story arc has in a way turned into an us against them, team Ragnar vs team Rollo following or feeling but in reality, this confrontation and closing has to take place for the story to move on.  Perhaps Rollo does have to betray Ragnar in order to achieve his own goals, his own success in life. If he has to betray Ragnar, so be it… Ragnar will be dead before Rollo anyway.  As for the future that the preview shows us, my bigger concern is for Bjorn- it appears as though power may be corrupting him and going to his head bit?  

Now, back to Rollo… he seems to be adjusting to the Frankish customs and life rather well if you ask me!

12494942_10156478820890249_6442139554579576026_n

credit to @teamStanden for the photos of Rollo!

rollo season4

I am digressing and getting a bit side tracked here because my main intent for this post is to share more about the real Rollo and my personal connection to him, ancient and distant as it may be! So, let us return to the original focus of this discussion- which is my path back to Rollo through Judith of Lens.  Let’s play a quick game of six degrees of separation… How are these people connected to each other?

Rollo and Uhtred

I have spent the past few weeks trying to sort through the tangled webs and branches of my tree and figure out this connection. There were some extremely tangled branches due that pesky habit they had back then of marrying relatives, casting off wives, disowning each other or legitimizing children of concubines and mistresses, and that does not include the habit of listing heirs or offspring by their land titles or such instead of a common surname! Anyway, I have now untangled enough to trace a lineage back through Judith of Lens to Rollo.

For those of you unfamiliar with Judith of Lens, you can read her story in this previous article.

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2015/10/19/my-ancestor-path-to-normandy-northumbria-and-even-a-uthred-the-bold/

You can also read more about her and Waltheof of Northumbria in a book by Elizabeth Chadwick called the Winter Mantle. The book is historical fiction- I definitely would not call it historical romance unless of course you consider a husband who commits treason and gets beheaded for it, and a wife who turns bitter and resentful a romance? Elizabeth Chadwick provides excellent historical details and events while creating two stories that cover the time and lives of Judith of Lens, Waltheof of Northumbria, their daughter Maude of Huntington and her husband Simon De Senlis. She also includes some a not so likable or pleasant portrayal of  Judith’s Mother Adelaide of Normandy who was a sister to William the Conqueror.  It is more of an epic lifetime saga than a romance and my only minor disappointment was in the fact that she ended the story before Simon’s death and Maude’s marriage to King David of Scotland! I will admit that had she included that portion, the book would have gone beyond the bounds of epic and been far too long for most people to keep going with the story. I am probably one of few who would endure the added length in order to read the rest of Maude’s story unfold! 

the winter mantle2

Judith of Lens

Judith of Lens

Maude of Huntington

Maude of Huntington

Adelaide of Normandy

Adelaide of Normandy

Waltheof of Northumbria

Waltheof of Northumbria

After picking through all of the threads of my lineage, here is my connection back to Rollo through Judith of Lens.

Relationship to me

Robert I Rollo The Viking Rolf the Ganger Prince of Norway & Saint De Normandie Count of Rouen Ragnvaldsson (846 – 931)
34th great-grandfather
William I Longsword of Normandy 2nd Duke of Normandy (893 – 942)
son of Robert I Rollo The Viking Rolf the Ganger Prince of Norway & Saint De Normandie Count of Rouen Ragnvaldsson
Richard (The Fearless) of Normandy I (933 – 996)
son of William I Longsword of Normandy 2nd Duke of Normandy
Richard (The Good) Normandy II (963 – 1026)
son of Richard (The Fearless) of Normandy I
Robert I of Normandy (1000 – 1035)
son of Richard (The Good) Normandy II
Adelaide Normandy (1027 – 1090)
daughter of Robert I of Normandy
Judith of Lens (1054 – 1086)
daughter of Adelaide Normandy
Simon II Earl of Huntington De St Liz (1090 – 1153)
son of Maud Matilda Queen Consort of the Scots, Countess of Huntingdon and Northumbria
Simon III de Senlis (1138 – 1184)
son of Simon II Earl of Huntington De St Liz
Simon de Senlis (1181 – 1250)
son of Sir Simon IV Huntingdon DeSaintElizabeth DeSenlis St Liz*
William DeSaintElizabeth DeSenlis (1246 – 1286)
son of Simon De Saint Elizabeth de Senlis
Sir William St . Elizabeth Senlis (1274 – 1313)
son of William DeSaintElizabeth DeSenlis
Lady Alice De St Elizabeth (1300 – 1374)
daughter of Sir William St . Elizabeth Senlis
Richard Woodville De Wydeville (1385 – 1441)
son of Isabel “Lady of Swanbourne” de Lyons Godard
Joan Maud Wydville (1410 – 1462)
daughter of Richard Woodville De Wydeville
William Hathaway (1470 – )
son of Sir William XIII, Keeper of the Forest Dene, Hathaway
Robert Hathaway (1500 – 1545)
son of William Hathaway
Joan Hathaway (1536 – 1584)
daughter of Robert Hathaway
William Workman (1568 – 1628)
son of Joan Hathaway
John Workman (1590 – 1640)
son of William Workman
John William Workman (1600 – 1647)
son of John Workman
Dirck Jans Woertman (1630 – 1694)
son of John William Workman
Jan Derick Woertman (1665 – 1712)
son of Dirck Jans Woertman
Abraham Woertman Workman (1709 – 1736)
son of Jan Derick Woertman
William P Workman (1746 – 1836)
son of Abraham Woertman Workman
Amos Workman (1764 – 1844)
son of William P Workman
William Workman (1819 – 1906)
son of Isaac A. Workman
Charles W. Workman (1862 – 1956)
son of William Workman
Ward Harlan Workman (1924 – 1994)
son of Clarence Bertrand Workman
Judith Ann Workman
You are the daughter of Ward Harlan Workman
 So, Judith of Lens connects me to both Uhtred of Northumbria and Last Kingdom fame, and Rollo of history and Vikings Saga fame! In my previous post, I shared some of the history I learned about Northumbria. Now, I will share  more of the history surrounding Rollo and his dynasty. If you browse through my archives, you will find that I have already shared much of his history so I am not going to repeat all of it again. I am just going to add some of the history I’ve found about the family- the real family, not Mr. Hirst’s version of it, or the numerous variations and versions presented by Norse Sagas.  Because I am attempting to stick to the more factual details and documented evidence while tracing my ancestors, I am not going any further back than Rollo because there is just no concise or conclusive proof of anything beyond Rollo’s existence. One could include the information from Norse Sagas and such but that information is varying depending on which Saga one goes by. It’s difficult enough trying to piece together the sketchy documents there are for this far back let alone try to sift through numerous oral renditions written down centuries after the events. I have not included any of those possibilities in my family tree and will not include them here. Yes, I do know there are a great many stories and legends that take Rollo’s ancestry further back but at this point there is just not enough evidence to say conclusively exactly who his family really was. Historians can not even agree whether he was of Norse descent or Danish. Some documents list his origins as Danish and others list it as Norse. The only thing certain is that he was a Scandinavian Viking raider who managed to cut a good deal with a Frankish King for some coastal land which later became Normandy!
We know little or nothing factual about Rollo’s earlier life before Normandy but in reading through information on his son and grandson, we find that he did have a loyal group of Vikings that stood with him, supported him and went on to look after his interests/family after his death in 931. 
the warriors staying behind with rollo for the winter
When Rollo’s son William took over rule in 927, many of the men loyal to Rollo would eventually rebel against his son.  Rollo’s son William proved to be a bit of a disappointment to most.
William_longsword_statue_in_falaise
 It appears that he faced a rebellion early in his reign, from Normans who felt he had become too Gallicised. Subsequent years are obscure. In 939 William became involved in a war with Arnulf I of Flanders, which soon became intertwined with the other conflicts troubling the reign of Louis IV. He was killed by followers of Arnulf while at a meeting to settle their conflict in abt 940.  After having made rather a mess of his reign and the land of Normandy, his death also left the future uncertain because his heir was a young child at the time.  The age of Richard was not his only obstacle to his inheritance.  He was also the son of William I and a mistress and so was illegitimate. There were many who tried to take advantage of this for their own gain.
assassination of William Longsword

assassination of William Longsword

Richard was born to William I Longsword, princeps (chieftain or ruler) of Normandy, and Sprota. His mother was a Breton concubine captured in war and bound to William by a more danico marriage.  He was also the grandson of the famous Rollo. Richard was about 10 years old when his father was killed on 17 December 942.  William was told of the birth of a son after the battle with Riouf and other Viking rebels, but his existence was kept secret until a few years later when William Longsword first met his son Richard. After kissing the boy and declaring him his heir, William sent Richard to be raised in Bayeux. After William was killed, Sprota became the wife of Esperleng, a wealthy miller; Rodulf or Ralf  of Ivry was their son and Richard’s half-brother. 
Sproata, concubine of William I of Normandy

Sproata, concubine of William I of Normandy

It is with young Richard that we find the men who had been loyal to Rollo stepping up to save the boy and the future of Normandy. With the death of Richard’s father in 942, King Louis IV of France seized the lands of the Duchy of Normandy. The king installed the boy Richard in his father’s office, and placed him in the custody of the count of Ponthieu.  He then split up the Duchy, giving its lands in lower Normandy to Hugh the Great. The King used the excuse that he was seeing to the young nobleman’s education, but at the same time was giving some of Richard’s lands in Lower Normandy to Hugh the Great, Count of Paris.    Louis IV thereafter kept Richard in solitary confinement at Lâon, but the youth escaped from imprisonment with assistance of Osmond de Centville, Bernard de Senlis (who had been a companion of Rollo of Normandy), Ivo de Bellèsme, and Bernard the Dane  (ancestor to the families of Harcourt and Beaumont).  According to legend, Richard refused to eat while in captivity.  Because he appeared ill, the guard on him was relaxed. Osmond de Centville secretly entered Laon and smuggled Richard out of his confinement, reportedly by hiding him in a truss of hay. They then took refuge with Bernard of Senlis. In 1854 Charlotte Yonge retold the story of Richard in a series of stories called “The Little Duke.”  These stories, in turn, inspired Mark Twain’s book, “The Prince and the Pauper.”

Richard the fearless

Richard the fearless

Besides these men, another Viking is often mentioned in relation to Richard.  By 944 Louis IV’s soldiers had invaded Normandy again, and had seized control of Rouen, while Hugh the Great, Count of France invaded Lower Normandy around Bayeux. The alliance between Louis and Hugh, always historically unstable, broke down, when Bernard the Dane suggested to Louis that Hugh was getting more than his share of Normandy land. Hugh, in response to the King’s hostility, joined an alliance of Normans loyal to Richard and Danish Vikings under Harold (Harald) of Bayeux or of The Bassin.  This alliance ultimately defeated King Louis.  Harald continued to be of assistance to Richard and Normandy.    According to Flodoard, King Louis was invited to a meeting with this Harold in order to discuss peace terms.  Louis arrived with only a few men; Harold killed most of his men and Louis fled to Rouen where other Northmen, previously thought to be friendly to Louis, captured him.  He was only released to Hugh the Great when Louis gave his son Charles as a hostage at Rouen.  Although Louis was eventually given his freedom, the new alliance of Hugh of France and Richard of Normandy was now the new power in the region.

In 946, Richard agreed to “commend” himself to Hugh, the Count of Paris. At the age of 14, Richard allied himself with the Norman and Viking leaders in France, drove king Louis IV’s army out of Rouen, and successfully took back Normandy from him by 947.  Richard with the backing, the council and advice from those much older Viking Warriors took control and it might be said that he was the one most responsible for turning his Grandfather’s dream into a solid reality, a Kingdom to be reckoned with and if not liked, at least respected and possibly feared by other countries.   By 966 he was using the title “Marquis des Normands.” He never used the title Duke of Normandy, though some historians have retroactively assigned it to him. Richer of Rheims refers to him as “dux pyratorum” or “leader of the pirates”. In no sense did he mean “dux” as an official title.  Richard was also given the nickname of “Sans Peur” or The Fearless.  

Throughout Richard’s reign, there was continued connection and involvement with Viking factions which would suggest that while his Grand father Rollo may have severed personal family ties, he did not severe his connection to the Vikings.  In 961 a Viking band arrived in the Seine Valley and conducted raids towards the Brittany border and around Chartres.  It is possible these Vikings had the tacit support of Richard because the raids provoked hostility between Richard and an alliance of King Lothair and Theobald, Count of Chartres and Blois. Theobald attacked the Norman cities of Évereux and Roeun, and the Normans, in return, attacked Dunois and burned Chartres.  This conflict raged for four years. It is reported that Harold the Dane again came to the aid of Richard in 962.  Unless the medieval historians confused this war with the one of 945, this may be the same Harold who resided in the vicinity of Bayeux when William Longsword died. 

Eventually Richard did swear allegiance to Louis’ successor Lothar [Lothaire] in 965 at Gisors and the King acknowledged Richard’s rule over the Bessin, the Contetin and the Avranchin regions of Normandy. Richard promised to rebuild and restore the monastery of Mont. St. Michael, which he acquired in the agreement.    Other than these early conflicts, Richard’s long reign was relatively peaceful. After 965, Viking raids in the area ceased. Richard quarreled with King Æthelred (Ethelred) II of England.  At the time the Danes had invaded England and taken control over much of the eastern part of country.  Apparently the Normans had been purchasing a lot of the loot. In 991 Richard agreed to a non-aggression pact with King Æthelred, probably to keep either side from sheltering Viking marauders.

Gunnora wife of Richard the fearless

Gunnora wife of Richard the fearless

Gunnora

Gunnora

 Further evidence of the continued connection to the Danes is Richard’s relationship and eventual marriage to his concubine or mistress, Gunnora who was said to be of a noble family of Danes.  It is known that Richard had more than one mistress and one of these, Gunnora, he eventually married some time before 989.  Richard and Gunnora had eight children. She is sometimes called “Gunnora of Crépon” because she had a brother named “Herfast (Artfast) de Crépon” and nephew named “Osborn de Crépon.”  The term de Crépon was never attached to Gunnora’s name during her lifetime and, though Crépon is a town in Lower Normandy near Bayeux, there is no direct evidence that this was a location in which she ever lived.

Richard’s formal marriage to Gunnora was certainly carried out in order to legitimize their children, especially his eldest son and heir Richard II and his second son Robert who Richard had appointed as the Archbishop of Reoun.
All we know about Gunnora is that she was from a “noble family of Danes”, and so her family was probably one of the many Nordic settlers or their descendants that lived in Normandy.  According to Legend the young Richard was hunting in the forests of Normandy when he met and was attracted to a young lady named Sainsfrida (Senfrie), the daughter of a forester of Arques. Sainsfrida was, however, married and so sent her sister Gunnora to Richard.   The chronicles do not give the name of her parents.  Since their eldest son Richard II was born about 953, their relationship must have begun some time before this date.  In spite of conjecture in many family trees, there is absolutely no evidence that she was the daughter of Harold Bluetooth, King of Denmark.  She was referred to as Gunnora Harldsdottir but it is likely that she may have been the daughter of the previously mentioned Harald the Dane who, contrary to some popular assumption is not the same Harald as Harald Bluetooth. 
In looking at the differences between the failures of William and the successes of his son Richard, we probably need to look at them in relation to Rollo. By the time he was awarded Normandy, Rollo was a hardened professional warrior who was used to fighting for what he wanted. He most likely had not lived any easy life, nor had anything handed to him. When he finally achieved his goal of  wealth and land, he still had to work to hold on to it. He was a Viking and for the most part lived by Viking traditions and customs. One example of those customs was his “wife” Poppa of Bayeux.  The generally accepted theory is that Poppa was the daughter of Berenger II of Nuestria and was taken captive by Rollo during an attack on Bayeux in about 885. She was Rollo’s concubine or wife “more danico” in Norse/Danish tradition. She was not a slave and was most likely of high nobility.
statue of Poppa

statue of Poppa

Poppa of Bayeux

Poppa of Bayeux

 A more danico marriage meant “in the Danish manner” or “by Norse customary law“. It designates a type of traditional marriage practiced in northern Europe during the Middle Ages. It is possible, therefore, that marriage more danico was neither informal marriage nor even legitimized abduction, but simply secular marriage contracted in accordance with Germanic law, rather than ecclesiastical marriage.  More danico permitted polygyny (serial or simultaneous), but is not synonymous with it. The “putting away” of a more danico wife could apparently be done at the mere wish of the husband; the rights of the wife are unclear. Often the putting away was done with the intention of marrying a still higher-ranking woman more christiano; but since there are numerous instances of the husband returning to themore danico wife, it is possible that the relationship had merely been deactivated or kept in the background. The union could also be fully dissolved, so that the wife was free to marry another man. Her consent in the matter may or may not have been required; again, the consensual aspect is unknown.  By tradition and customary law, the children of such a relationship were in no way considered of lesser rank or disadvantaged with respect to inheritance. Many sons more danico went on to become dukes or kings by succession or conquest.
By accepting baptism and vassalage under a Christian prince under Charles the Simple after the Treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte in 911, Rollo had placed the Vikings of Normandy on the inevitable path of Christianization; but they clung to some old customs. 
 

 Norman chronicler William of Jumieges uses the term explicitly to refer to two relationships:

  • Rollo, founder of the Norman dynasty, had taken captive at Bayeux, Poppa, daughter of a count, Berengar. Dudo of Saint-Quentin relates that they had been joined in marriage (“connubium”), William of Jumieges describing that Rollo had joined himself to her by more danico. She was mother of his son William Longsword. It is related that he put Poppa aside to marry Gisela, daughter of Charles the Simple, and that when Gisela died, he returned to Poppa. However, the absence of any record of this royal princess or her marriage in Frankish sources suggests the entire supposed marriage to Gisela may be apocryphal.
  • William Longsword in his turn, had a son and heir by a woman whose name is given as Sprota. William of Jumieges reports that Longsword was bound to her pursuant to the mos danicus (“danico more iuncta”).  The chronicler Flodoard refers to her simply as Longsword’s ‘Breton concubine’ (“concubina britanna”).  William would formally marry Luitgarde of Vermandois, daughter of Heribert II, count of Vermandois. [Dudo iii, 32 (p. 70)], who following William’s death remarried to Thibaut, count of Blois. Sprota, who was mother of Longsword’s heir, Richard I, Duke of Normandy, is said to have been forced to become concubine of Esperleng, the rich owner of several mills, by whom she became mother of Rodulf of Ivry, although it is unclear if this occurred at the time of William’s marriage to Luitgarde, or at his death.
  • Richard I carried on the tradition of more danico with Gunnora. She was his wife more danico or concubine as early as sometime in 950s even though he entered into a Christian marriage with Emma daughter of Hugh the Great, Count of Paris.  She was born about 943 and died after 19 Mar 968. After her death he eventually married Gunnora in the Christian manner to ensure legitimacy of their many children after the church began taking a stricter approach and view on the more danico marriages. 

While many may perceive the relationship between Rollo and Poppa as that of her being a captive slave or just a mistress, in reality it was more likely a relationship and marriage of importance in terms of alliances and politics of the time. Being of some high status herself, Poppa would probably have taken this relationship seriously and expected to be treated with the respect due her rank and status. When she gave birth to son William in 893, she provided the much needed heir to the dynasty and would have sealed an alliance between Normandy and Bayeux. William was the heir apparent most likely would have been treated with high regard and esteem… given advantages and a much easier life than Rollo had.  There is reference to Rollo being well attached to his son and at one point he sent William to Bayeux to learn more of the Norse ways of Northmen residing within Bayeux.  From most accounts though, William was far more interested in becoming more Frankish and as a result his own people rebelled against him. It seems that this may have been a case of  William possibly being over indulged, given too much advantage and not having had to truly work for his title… not such an uncommon occurence for many heirs or children of a parent who has worked to achieve wealth and standing.  William was born in 893 while Rollo was working towards his greatness. This meant that Rollo was absent during most of William’s youth so his upbringing was most likely left predominantly to Poppa who was of Noble birth and would have raised William within that context of privilage and esteem. Rollo ruled until 927, which put William well into adulthood with little chance of ruling… it probably seemed to him that Rollo was going to live forever! This situation left William as a well privelaged adult with not a whole lot to do besides enjoy his Father’s wealth. When Rollo turned over the rule to his son in 927, he may have had concerns but probably felt that his son was capable of ruling and continuing along the path he had set. He also had few other choices… William was his only son and at the time, he was the legitimate heir.  Had Rollo chosen someone else to rule, there would have been rebellion from some faction.

Rollo died in 931 and William quickly began to make changes and rebelling against his Father’s policies. He set about building up his allegiances and alliances to the French Kings which caused the Norman Nobles to dissent. In 935, he went so far as to marry his younger sister Gerloc to  William, Count of Poitou with the approval of Hugh the Great. At the same time he At the same time Longsword married Luitgarde,  daughter of Count Herbert II of Vermandois whose dowry gave him the lands of Longueville, Coudres and Illiers l’Eveque.  In addition to supporting King Raoul, he was now a loyal ally of his father-in-law, Herbert II, both of whom his father Rollo had opposed. 

At the time of his arranged marriage to Luitgarde, William had a wife more danica, Sprota as well as his son and heir, Richard. This new marriage left Sprota and Richard in a difficult situation.  He did provide for her and Richard during this period as there was reference to her living in her own household at Bayeux under his protection but she was now looked on as a cast off concubine rather than a wife. Richard was left to endure the being the subject of ridicule, the French King Louis “abused the boy with bitter insults”, calling him “the son of a whore who had seduced another woman’s husband.” 

William’s actions during this time led to his ultimate downfall and death which in turn led to his young son Richard having to fight against all odds to reclaim his title and regain control of Normandy. So, essentially Richard was in much the same position as his Grandfather Rollo had been, fighting and working to achieve his worth and his fame.  After regaining control of Normandy in about 960, Richard spent the remainder of his lengthy reign focused on Normandy itself, and participated less in Frankish politics and its petty wars. In lieu of building up the Norman Empire by expansion, he stabilized the realm and reunited the Normans, forging the reclaimed Duchy of his father and grandfather into West Francia’s most cohesive and formidable principality. Rather than outright war, Richard  used marriage to build strong alliances. His marriage to Emma of Paris connected him directly to the House of Capet. His second wife, Gunnora, from a rival Viking group in the Cotentin, formed an alliance to that group, while her sisters formed the core group that were to provide loyal followers to him and his successors.  His daughters forged valuable marriage alliances with powerful neighboring counts as well as to the king of England.  He also strengthened ties to the church presumably understanding how important the church alliances were. Richard also built on his relationship with the church, restoring their lands and ensuring the great monasteries flourished in Normandy. His further reign was marked by an extended period of peace and tranquility.

While William may not have been successful in his reign or achievements, his son Richard more than made up for his inadequacies. Also, William’s decision to marry his sister into the house of Poitou and Aquitaine would prove to be one of his better decisions. 

gerloc Adeila of normandy

Gerloc (or Geirlaug), baptised in Rouen as Adela (or Adèle) in 912, was the daughter of Rollo, first duke of Normandy, and his wife, Poppa. She was the sister of Duke William Longsword.  In 935, she married William Towhead, the future count of Poitou and duke of Aquitaine. They had two children together before she died on 14 October 962:

Through her son William IV of Aquitaine, she would be ancestor to Dukes of Aquitaine and to Eleanor of Aquitaine. Her daughter Adelaide would go on to become a Queen of France. 

Dukes of Aquetaine

Dukes of Aquetaine

Adbelahide or Adele or Adelaide of Aquitaine (or Adelaide of Poitiers) (c. 945 or 952 – 1004) was the daughter of William III, Duke of Aquitaine andAdele of Normandy, daughter of Rollo of Normandy.  Her father used her as security for a truce with Hugh Capet, whom she married in 969.  In 987, after the death of Louis V, the last Carolingian king ofFrance, Hugh was elected the new king with Adelaide as queen. They were proclaimed at Senlis and blessed at Noyon. They were the founders of the Capetian dynasty of France.

Picture Name Father Birth Marriage Became queen Ceased to be queen spouse
Adelaide of Aquitaine.jpg Adelaide of Aquitaine William III, Duke of Aquitaine c. 945 970 3 July 987 1004 Hugh
Susanna of Italy.jpg Rozala of Italy Berengar II of Italy c. 937 988 996 7 February 1003 Robert II
Berthe de Bourgogne.jpg Bertha of Burgundy Conrad of Burgundy c. 952 996 1035?
Konstancie Arles.jpg Constance of Arles William I, Count of Provence 986 1003 25 July 1034
Of Frisia Matilda.jpg Matilda of Frisia Liudolf, Margrave of Frisia c. 1024 1034 1044 Henry I
Anne Kiev.jpg Anne of Kiev Yaroslav I, Grand Prince of Kiev c. 1024 19 May 1051 1075
Bertha of holland.jpg Bertha of Holland Floris I, Count of Holland c. 1055 1072 1094 Philip I
Bertrade-montfort2.jpg Bertrade de Montfort Simon I de Montfort c. 1070 15 May 1092 1117
Adelaidesavojska.jpg Adélaide de Maurienne Humbert II, Count of Savoy 1092 3 August 1115 18 November 1154 Louis VI
Illus-050-1-.jpg Eleanor of Aquitaine William X, Duke of Aquitaine 1122 22 July 1137 1137 21 March 1152
annulment
1 April 1204

The list of the Capetian dynasty is actually much longer. This above list is just a partial list of Queen Consorts for the Dynasty which continued until the death of Charles the IV in 1328.  The dynasty had a crucial role in the formation of the French state. Initially obeyed only in their own demesne, the Île-de-France, the Capetian kings slowly, but steadily, increased their power and influence until it grew to cover the entirety of their realm. For a detailed narration on the growth of French royal power, see Crown lands of France.

As you’re wading through all of this you may be wondering where Gisela of France is, and why she is not mentioned anywhere in this information?  Well, Gisela is not here because there simply is not enough verifiable evidence to back up her existence let alone her marriage to Rollo.   

Gisela of France, also called Gisella or Giséle (fl. 911), was traditionally a French princess and the consort of Rollo, duke of Normandy. Gisela had no children.  According to tradition, Rollo was betrothed to Gisela, daughter to the king of West Francia, Charles the Simple, after his conversion to Christianity upon his ascension as ruler of Normandy in 911. The marriage and the existence of Gisela are not confirmed. This excerpt from a book called Dictionary of Heroes gives an account of the supposed legend pertaining to Rollo and Gisela and also reaffirms the lack of any proof or evidence to back up the story.  If she did exist and did marry Rollo, she died childless and he maintained his previous relationship with Poppa, the Mother of his children.  So, for the purposes of lineage and ancestry or descendants of Rollo she would be inconsequential. Also, the accounts taken from the treaty of Saint Clair Epte only state that Rollo offered to marry her as a goodwill gesture. Since there is no definitive proof or documentation of any such actual marriage taking place, perhaps Rollo or Charles decided that the baptism would suffice and there was no need to carry things to such extreme as the marriage between the Viking and a Princess of France!

Rollo and Gisela from dictionary of heroes

There is a Gisela listed as a daughter of Charles the Simple and his first wife Frederuna, daughter of Dietrich, Count in the Hamaland. Together they had six daughters:

  • Ermentrude
  • Frederuna
  • Adelaide
  • Gisela, wife of Rollo (existence doubtful)
  • Rotrude
  • Hildegarde

There is always the possibility that having six daughters, Charles may have been willing to part with one of them in order to achieve some sort of peace but it does seem rather doubtful that a Carolingian King would allow for such an arrangement with one of their princesses that were so highly valued and esteemed. My one thought on this is that the daughter must really have annoyed and irritated him- obviously she would not have been a favored daughter for him to so willingly have traded her to a heathen Viking warrior. Hmmm come to think of it, perhaps it did happen and perhaps Hirst has given us a somewhat more accurate portrayal of history than we give him credit for?

gisla is still a young girl wanting her own way

gisla he disgusts me he makes me want to vomit charles with a rather unhappy Gisla at the mass rollo and gisla

If Mr Hirst goes for more historical accuracy with Rollo’s story, perhaps this will be a short lived marriage… Gisla will meet some sort of untimely or unfortunate demise and a woman named Poppa will show up. It’s hard to say where Mr. Hirst will take any of the story but at least now you know truer details of Rollo’s dynasty and legacy that includes so many generations of famous descendants as well as ordinary peons like myself.

And, at least now I know why I feel so compelled to remain loyal to Rollo despite his many faults, flaws and errors in judgement! 

 

 

 

 

My Ancestor path to Normandy, Northumbria and even a Uthred the Bold!

Many of you who follow this blog know that besides following the fictional history, I am also following my personal path through history. I have been doing this family history for many years and often the path just seems to plod along towards a dead end path. I remind myself the search, the journey of discovery is more important and gratifying than the end destination and then go on to explore some other branch of the family.  I’ve already shared some of that journey with you here… you may remember our past trip to Pennsylvania where we found Mary Polly Owen who led us back to Wales- eventually, we will get back to that particular path. You might also recall our more recent trip to Germany’s history with my Mother’s Meyer and Pfeiffer ancestors. 

Mary Polly Owen’s story is here:

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2015/08/10/family-history-because-our-lives-are-stories-waiting-to-be-told/

German ancestry and history:

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

 

Lately, I have been trying to fill in gaps and add to my Father’s ancestry.  My Father’s path has already been well traced back to the Netherlands and to England so I really was not expecting much more than that. My main intent this time around was to fill in some of those gaps and just sort of refresh myself on some basic information. I was not expecting to veer from our rather mundane and ordinary but still interesting history. I did not foresee any twists or turns in the already fairly well set path of Protestants and Puritans leaving England, traveling to Holland and then embarking on their journies to America. I knew before hand that at some point in the 1500s, my Workman ancestor left England for Holland on this journey.  I decided to take one last look at that earliest Workman ancestor just to remind myself of where he was in England before making that fateful decision. That was when fate intervened and I discovered a new and as yet untraveled path.

My earliest Workman ancestor was a man named Nicholas Workman who lived in Kings Stanley, Gloucestershire, England. We know little about him other than that he was born in 1500, died in 1543. He was married to a woman named Julyann Gyllian and at his death, left a will mentioning his wife and children.

Gloucestershire_map

Gloucestershire_map

Although nothing is known about Nicholas Workman, some history of Kings Stanley, Gloucestershire states that it was an important wool manufacturing center and a large number of Flemish families immigrated to the area in the early 1300s. We might assume that possibly Nicholas was a merchant or man of some moderate wealth, and in some good standing with the Catholic Church during that time.

It is with Nicholas’s son Humphrey that our somewhat average and ordinary path through history takes a turn. I mentioned that Nicholas may have been a man of some standing or wealth because his son, Humphrey was able to make what would seem to be a fairly good marriage. Humphrey Workman married a young woman by the name of Joan Hathaway, and that is where our trip through history takes a turn for the more interesting!

Joan Hathaway was my 12th Great Grandmother and we can follow her history back on a path through England, Normandy, Scotland, Northumbria and eventually to a history that involves the family of Uhtred the Bold!  Joan was born to Robert Hathaway and wife, Catherine in 1536. She was married to Humphrey in about 1546- yes, she was extremely young at the time but we need to give or take a few years either way as far at dates. And, there may have been some reason she was married off so young. Her Father Robert Hathaway died in 1545 and she was the youngest child with a number of older brothers who may have decided to marry her off quickly after the Father’s death.  What ever the reason for it, she was married to Humphrey Workman and began the connection between Workman and Hathaway lines.

There is little information about Joan’s parents. Her Father was Robert Hathaway, born 1500 at Gloucestershire and died in 1545 at same location. His wife is listed only as Catherine.  I can only assume that during this period of time, the family was living a fairly quiet but comfortable life. They were most likely modestly well off and possibly within the edges of nobility but not at the center… which, realistically is usually a good place to be! They may also have been trying to keep a somewhat low profile so as not to involve themselves or draw attention to their family in light of some earlier events in the family history. We need to go back a few generations  to discover some of  those events…

If we look at Robert Hathaway’s family history, it takes us back to one William XII Hathaway who married a woman named Joan Maud Wydville. This William was born in 1390 at Monmouth Castle in Gloucestershire.  Little is documented or known about him but we do know a slight bit more about wife Joan. Joan Maud Wydville was born in 1410 at Grafton Regis, Northamptonshire. She was the daughter of Richard Woodville/DeWydville. If we’re keeping track here, Joan was my 16th great grandmother… so her Father, Richard Woodville would have been my 18th grandfather.  Yes, this part of the more infamous Woodville family involved in the War of the Roses! Richard was executed in 1441 during the War of the Roses for his participation and involvement in the events. This Richard is not the one married to Jaquetta of Luxembourg, but more likely a close relative… this is a portion of the cursed ancestry that has been muddied so much that it’s difficult to wade through it!

 

Our Hathaway line comes to and end during these years at  but we can follow Joan’s path back further through some of her Woodville connections and others. I know you’re all thinking, Enough of this- get to the good stuff already! I will do that now- I just wanted to give you some sort of path to follow with me.

We can follow Joan Maud Wydville’s path back through the Wydvilles and Lyons families to a family by the name and title of  De St. Elizabeth or St. Liz. The St. Elizabeth family line takes us all the way back to France, Normandy, Scotland and Northumbria during and before William the Conqueror. What is interesting is that we always seemed to be that one step away from the actual Royal lines… maybe that’s how we survived, We were seldom in the direct line of fire… other than those years of the Woodville’s involvement in that War of the Roses.  With that all being said, we can look at the stories and history of this St. Elizabeth family that takes us back to France and Normandy, as well as England and Scotland.

Our St. Elizabeth family line goes back to William the Conqueror by way of his  sister, Adelaide (Alix/Alixia) who was a daughter of Robert “The Devil” of Normandy. Adelaide was married three times. From her marriage to Ranulf “The Rich” De Bayeaux Meschines Senlis she had a son, Simon I, 2nd Earl Huntingdon Northampton De Senlis aka De St. Liz who began the St. Elizabeth line which I eventually descended from. For Vikings saga fans, Yes this means that having William, Adelaide and Robert as my ancestors also means that I can claim Rollo as an ancestor!

Adelaide Alixia Adelaide of Burgundy (999)

Adelaide was born around 1030 to Robert and mistress or concubine, Herleva of Falaise. There is some debate over whether Herleva was the Mother of all the children or if the other children including Adelaide might have been from some other concubine or mistress. Robert was never married to any of the Mothers.

Adelaide’s first marriage to Enguerrand II, Count of Ponthieu potentially gave then Duke William a powerful ally in upper Normandy.  But at the Council of Reims in 1049, when the marriage of Duke William with Matilda of Flanders was prohibited based on consanguinity, so were those of Eustace II, Count of Boulogne and Enguerrand of Ponthieu, who was already married to Adelaide.  Adelaide’s marriage was apparently annulled c.1049/50 and another marriage was arranged for her, this time to Lambert II, Count of Lens, younger son of Eustace I, Count of Boulogne forming a new marital alliance between Normandy and Boulogne. Lambert was killed in 1054 at Lille, aiding Baldwin V, Count of Flanders against Emperor Henry III. Now widowed, Adelaide resided at Aumale, probably part of her dower from her first husband, Engurerand, or part of a settlement after the capture of Guy of Ponthieu, her brother-in-law.  As a dowager Adelaide began a semi-religious retirement and became involved with the church at Auchy presenting them with a number of gifts.  In 1060 she was called upon again to form another marital alliance, this time to a younger man Odo, Count of Champagne.  Odo seems to have been somewhat of a disappointment as he appears on only one of the Conqueror’s charters and received no land in England; his wife being a tenant-in-chief in her own right.

In 1082 King William and Queen Matilda gave to the abbey of the Holy Trinity in Caen the town of Le Homme in the Cotentin with a provision to the Countess of Albamarla (Aumale), his sister, for a life tenancy.  In 1086, as Comitissa de Albatnarla,  as she was listed in the Domesday Book, was shown as having numerous holdings in both Suffolk and Essex, one of the very few Norman noblewomen to have held lands in England at Domesday as a tenant-in-chief.  She was also given the lordship of Holderness which was held after her death by her 3rd husband, Odo, the by then disinherited Count of Champagne; the lordship then passed to their son, Stephen. Adelaide died before 1090.

 While Simon St. Elizabeth is the direct ancestor, I was more interested in the story of one of Adelaide’s other children.  For all of those waiting impatiently for this to get interesting, this is the story that takes us to Northumbria and to an involvement with Uhtrect the Bold.

Before we begin this story, I just need to add a few  thoughts on this line of events. These thoughts have to do with my personal beliefs in fate, destiny, and how our ancestors remain a guiding force in our lives whether we realize it or not. I believe that our past is part of our present and future. We are all here because of those past ancestors and in some ways, I do believe in some sort of collective shared consciousness or set of memories that we carry with us. Whether it be in the form of past lives, or of those ancestors guiding us, pointing us by signs or subtle (ok, sometimes not so subtle) messages, I believe there is some greater connection between us here and those forgotten voices of the past. When I am researching parts of my family history, I often feel like I am being led or guided by someone who wants their life, their story shared for some reason. I have learned over the years to follow those small sometimes faint clues and signs in my search.  I firmly believe that my family history is such an important part of who I am, of what part of my purpose in this life is. I read a book a long time ago that talked about listening to your soul, finding your soul purpose in life. In that book, it was mentioned that some of us are here as record keepers, story tellers. It made profound sense to me at the time and I completely understood then that this is part of my soul’s purpose or role here.

Now, when I am working on our family history, I make it a point to listen and look for those smaller sometimes insignificant details down to even something like a name. Sometimes name throughout our family history are so important that they keep repeating themselves as if to give us a clear signal that we are part of this group’s history. Our ancestors felt a need to mark themselves as connected that they passed those names down through the centuries like markers or bread crumbs for later generations to follow. My Mother’s family was one such family, using Susanna, Catherine, Elizabeth and Margaret to mark each generation…until My Mother’s generation broke the chain and decided to go the more popular route with names. My Father’s Workman ancestors did much the same with Amos, Abraham, Isaac, William and David marking their generations…until once again, my Father’s generation broke that chain as well.  Names are important, they have some meaning or importance (or they should!) in marking us, in connecting us and in beginning our own story.  When I was born, my parents broke the chain but did not do it with a necessarily popular trendy name. They named me Judith, which of course did get shortened to the more popular trend of Judy. I hated the name as a child, would have much preferred the short version of just Judy. Over the years, I have grown comfortable with the more traditional version of Judith.  I asked my Mother once why she chose Judith… her answer was she didn’t really know but it just felt right to her.  I now feel that way as well, it just feels right to me. It is part of me and I often feel like it has been with me for more than just this life. 

When I look through my vast family history, I very rarely ever come across the name Judith. It is just not a common name that runs through any of our history, recent or otherwise. I was surprised when it showed up in my recent search, of course, I was intrigued and curious about this Judith and her story. Once I read her story, I was immediately drawn into it and it spoke to me on a number of levels besides just the history involved.

Here is the story of Judith of Lens and her involvement in events of Northumbria. I hope you find it as interesting as I did.

judith of lens

Judith of Lens van Boulogne was the daughter of Adelaide of Normandy and her husband, Lambert II Count of Lens. She was the niece of William the Conqueror and was born in 1054 before her uncle’s conquest of England. William conquered England in 1066 and thereafter rewarded those who supported him with lands and marriages which would them loyal to him.  Much of the time, his female relatives were used and traded as those rewards. Judith was no exception, being his niece, she would have been looked at as a valuable commodity during this time. The timing of her birth in relation to his rise in power put her as prime marriage material.

In the year 1070 at about the age of 15, she was married to the new Earl of Northumbria who had submitted and sworn loyalty to William after the battle of Hastings.  Waltheof was the second son of Siward, Earl of Northumbria. His mother was Aelfflaed, daughter of Ealdred, Earl of Bernicia, son of Uhtred, Earl of Northumbria. In 1054, Waltheof’s brother, Osbearn, who was much older than he, was killed in battle, making Waltheof his father’s heir. Siward himself died in 1055, and Waltheof being far too young to succeed as Earl of Northumbria, King Edward appointed Tostig Godwinson to the earldom. He was said to be devout and charitable and was probably educated for a monastic life. In fact around 1065 he became an earl, governing Northamptonshire and Huntingdonshire. Following the Battle of Hastings he submitted to William and was allowed to keep his pre-Conquest title and possessions. He remained at William’s court until 1068 where he may have been initially introduced to Judith.  William should probably have kept him at his court longer. In 1069, Waltheof returned to his home in Northumbria and joined Edgar the Aetheling along with the Danes in an attack on York.  He would again make a fresh submission to William after the departure of the invaders in 1070. He was restored to his earldom, and went on to marry William’s niece, Judith of Lens. In 1072, he was appointed Earl of Northampton.

 

durham castle begun by waltheof

Durham Castle which was begun by Waltheof

waltheof of northumbria

illustration of Waltheof bowing to William

In 1072, William expelled Gospatric from the earldom of Northumbria. Gospatric was Waltheof’s cousin and had taken part in the attack on York with him, but like Waltheof, had been pardoned by William. Gospatric fled into exile and William appointed Waltheof as the new earl.  Waltheof had many enemies in the north. Amongst them were members of a family who had killed Waltheof’s maternal great-grandfather, Uchtred the Bold, and his grandfather Ealdred. This was part of a long-running blood feud. In 1074, Waltheof moved against the family by sending his retainers to ambush them, succeeding in killing the two eldest of four brothers.

northumberland-coastal-path-map Northumbria-in-802

I am including this prior history of Uhtred the Bold because I know there will Last Kingdom fans interested in it! Hmmmm, if  you look at Waltheof’s family history, you see that he is a descendent of Uhtred the Bold… and since part of my line goes back to Waltheof and Judith’s daughter Maud with her marriage to Simon St. Liz and their children, hey I guess that means I could count Uhtred as one of those ancient ancestors as well? No wonder I like him so much!

                 Uchtred or Uhtred, called the Bold, (d. 1016) was the ealdorman of all Northumbria from 1006 to 1016, when he was assassinated. He was the son of Waltheof I,         ealdorman of Bamburgh, whose ancient family had ruled from the castle of Bamburgh on the Northumbrian coast.  In 995, according to Symeon of Durham, when the remains of St Cuthbert were transferred from Chester-le-Street to Durham, Uhtred helped the monks clear the site of the new cathedral. The new cathedral was founded by Bishop Aldhun, and Uhtred married Aldhun’s daughter, Ecgfrida, probably at about this time. From his marriage he received several estates that had belonged to the church.

In 1006 Malcolm II of Scotland invaded Northumbria and besieged the newly founded episcopal city of Durham. At that time the Danes were raiding southern England and King Ethelred was unable to send help to the Northumbrians. Ealdorman Waltheof was too old to fight and remained in his castle at Bamburgh. Ealdorman Ælfhelm of York also took no action. Uhtred, acting for his father, called together an army from Bernicia and Yorkshire and led it against the Scots. The result was a decisive victory for Uhtred. Local women washed the severed heads of the Scots, receiving a payment of a cow for each, and the heads were fixed on stakes to Durham’s walls. Uhtred was rewarded by King Ethelred II with the ealdormanry of Bamburgh even though his father was still alive. In the mean time, Ethelred had had Ealdorman Ælfhelm of York murdered, and he allowed Uhtred to succeed Ælfhelm as ealdorman of York, thus uniting northern and southern Northumbria under the house of Bamburgh. It seems likely that Ethelred did not trust the Scandinavian population of southern Northumbria and wanted an Anglo-Saxon in power there.

After receiving these honours Uhtred dismissed his wife, Ecgfrida, and married Sige, daughter of Styr, son of Ulf. Styr was a rich citizen of York. It appears that Uhtred was trying to make political allies amongst the Danes in Deira. Through Sige, Uhtred had two children, Eadulf, later Eadulf III, and Gospatric. This Gospatric’s grandson was the infamous Eadwulf Rus who murdered Bishop Walcher.  In 1013 King Sweyn of Denmark invaded England, sailing up the Humber and Trent to the town of Gainsborough. Uhtred submitted to him there, as did all of the Danes in the north. In the winter of 1013 Ethelred was forced into exile in Normandy. After London had finally submitted to him, Sweyn was accepted as king by Christmas 1013. However he only reigned for five weeks, for he died at, or near, Gainsborough on 2 February 1014. At Sweyn’s death, Ethelred was able to return from exile and resume his reign. Uhtred, along with many others, transferred his allegiance back to Ethelred, on his return. Uhtred also married Ethelred’s daughter Ælfgifu about this time.

In 1016 Uhtred campaigned with Ethelred’s son Edmund Ironside in Cheshire and the surrounding shires. While Uhtred was away from his lands, Sweyn’s son, Cnut, invaded Yorkshire. Cnut’s forces were too strong for Uhtred to fight, and so Uhtred did homage to him as King of England. Uhtred was summoned to a meeting with Cnut, and on the way there, he and forty of his men were murdered by Thurbrand the Hold, with assistance from Uhtred’s own servant, Wighill and with the connivance of Cnut. Uhtred was succeeded in Bernicia by his brother Eadwulf Cudel. Cnut made the Norwegian, Eric of Hlathir, ealdorman (“earl” in Scandinavian terms) in southern Northumbria.

The killing of Uhtred by Thurbrand the Hold started a blood feud that lasted for many years. Uhtred’s son Ealdred subsequently avenged his father by killing Thurbrand, but Ealdred in turn was killed by Thurbrand’s son, Carl. Eadred’s vengeance had to wait until the 1070s, when Waltheof, Eadred’s grandson had his soldiers kill most of Carl’s sons and grandsons. This is an example of the notorious Northumbrian blood feuds that were common at this time.   Uhtred’s dynasty continued to reign in Bernicia through Ealdred, Earl of Bamburgh (killed 1038) his son from his marriage to Ecgfrida, and Eadulf (killed 1041) his son from his marriage to Sige, and briefly Eadulf’s son Osulf held the earldom of northern Northumbria 1067 until he too was killed. Uhtred’s marriage to Ælfgifu produced a daughter, Ealdgyth, who married Maldred, brother of Duncan I of Scotland and who gave birth to a son, Gospatric, who was Earl of Northumbria from 1068 to 1072.

judith of lens2

William most probably assumed that the marriage of Waltheof to Judith would keep him loyal in the future… unfortunately, this was not the case.  In 1075 Waltheof joined the Revolt of the Earls against William. His motives for taking part in the revolt are unclear, as is the depth of his involvement. However he repented, confessing his guilt first to Archbishop Lanfranc and then in person to William, who was at the time in Normandy. He returned to England with William but was arrested, brought twice before the king’s court and sentenced to death.  He spent almost a year in confinement before being beheaded on May 31, 1076 at St. Giles’s Hill, near Winchester. He was said to have spent the months of his captivity in prayer and fasting. Many people believed in his innocence and were surprised when the execution was carried out. His body was initially thrown in a ditch, but was later retrieved and was buried in the chapter house of Croyland Abbey.

Judith herself had no part in her husband’s revolt, in fact it was she who betrayed Waltheof to William. It could have been a case of Judith knowing full well her Uncle’s power and not wanting to incur any death sentence for herself or her children.  Had William found any evidence of her own involvement in any such act, she most likely have met the same end as her husband. It could be said that perhaps she was just blindly and devoutly loyal to her uncle but her next actions would prove that she was not quite so blindly loyal and that she would stand up for herself if need be and not be used as a continuing pawn by William.  William should have realized early on that Waltheof would not remain loyal to him. He had already proven he could not be trusted more than once. What this did was put Judith in the middle of a potential disaster from the beginning. She was placed in the marriage with the intent of keeping the man loyal, and yes even possibly the intent for her to keep any eye on him or spy for William. She was 15 at the time and expected to carry out this role for her Uncle. It had to have been a difficult situation to say the least for this girl. William was not above using her as his means of controlling both her and the Northumbrians.

 

After Waltheof’s execution, William did attempt to use her again… he betrothed her to  Simon I of St. Liz, 1st Earl of Northampton. Judith refused to marry Simon and she fled the country to avoid William’s anger. William then temporarily confiscated all of Judith’s English estates. Simon, later, married, as his second wife, Judith’s daughter, Maud, as her first husband. Yes, Simon would be the Simon of my St. Elizabeth or St. Liz ancestors.  So, it does all connect back to me again anyway through those many intersecting threads of lineage and breeding among the Nobles! I do need to add here that there was a great deal of marrying within those supposed boundaries and degrees of separation that were set by the Church in order to specifically avoid the whole issue of inter marrying within bloodlines so the lines often got crossed and it is often difficult to sort those family lines out!

 

Judith did eventually return to England where she founded  Elstow Abbey in Bedfordshire around 1078. She also founded churches at Kempston and Hitchin. In the Domesday book written after 1085, she is listed as having holdings of her own. 

Countess Judith holds POTONE herself. It answers for 10 hides. Land for 12 ploughs. In lordship 3½ hides; 3 ploughs there. 18 villagers and 2 Freemen with 8 ploughs; a ninth possible. 13 smallholders and 3 slaves. 1 mill, 5s; meadow for 12 ploughs; pasture for the village livestock. In total, value £12; when acquired 100s; before 1066 £13. King Edward held this manor; it was Earl Tosti’s. There were 4 Freemen who had 1 hide and 1 virgate; they could grant to whom they would.

In (Cockayne) HATLEY Countess Judith holds 3 hides and 2½ virgates as one manor. Land for 6½ ploughs. In lordship 1 hide and ½ virgate; 2 ploughs there. 8 villagers with 4½ ploughs; woodland, 4 pigs. Value £6 5s; when acquired 100s; before 1066 £6. Earl Tosti held this manor. It lies in Potton, the Countess’ own manor. A Freeman had 1 virgate; he could grant and sell, and withdraw to another lord.

Judith died some time after 1086 and no other marriages are documented for her. So, what she did was survive William’s years of control and ravaging of England even if it meant that she had to betray her husband in order to manage that for herself and her children. She went on to win her own personal battle against him and set her own terms for the remainder of her life. She turned down a marriage demand… I am quite sure that it was not just a suggestion or request on William’s part, and then had to suffer the consequence of seeing her daughter married to that same man. I am also reasonably certain that she most likely had no choice or say in that matter either but her daughter did go on to eventually become a Queen of Scotland.

Judith’s daughter, Maud Countess of Huntingdon was born in 1074 and married Simon St. Liz in about 1090. Her first husband died some time after 1111 and Maud next married David, the brother-in-law of Henry I of England, in 1113.  Through the marriage, David gained control over his wife’s vast estates in England, in addition to his own lands in Cumbria and Strathclyde.  They had four children (two sons and two daughters):

  1. Malcolm (born in 1113 or later, died young)
  2. Henry (c.1114 – 1152)
  3. Claricia (died unmarried)
  4. Hodierna (died young and unmarried)

In 1124, David became King of Scots. Maud’s two sons by different fathers, Simon and Henry, would later vie for the Earldom of Huntingdon. She died in 1130 or 1131 and was buried at Scone Abbey in Perthshire, but she appears in a charter of dubious origin dated 1147.

As one last note on this… my ancestors were as usual on the sidelines of this royalty! My ancestors were from Maud’s first marriage to Simon St. Liz, thereby missing out on the Royal lineage but still managing to gain some benefit from the association… Our ancestral motto should read something like “Keep your head low, Survive and reap the rewards!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Breaking Royal News: It’s a Princess for the House of Wessex!

Ok, this breaking news has little or nothing to do with Our Vikings or Saxons… or does it?

I normally do not post such current events or news here but since it is a Royal birth, I feel that some announcement and congrats to the new family are in order!

Woooooo! Baby officially has a name now! Welcome to the world of Royalty, Charlotte Elizabeth Diana!

town crier announces royal birth

Kate Middleton delivered a princess.

Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, delivered a healthy, 8 pound, 3 ounce baby girl at 8:34am UK time today, 2 1/2 hours after going into labor Saturday morning, Kensington Palace announced.

Her name has not yet been revealed. Bookmakers set the odds most favorably for Alice, Charlotte, Victoria or Elizabeth.

Both mother and daughter were doing well, the palace confirmed, and all members of the royal family have been informed. Her husband, William, the Duke of Cambridge, was present throughout labor and delivery.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/ceciliarodriguez/2015/05/02/kate-middleton-gives-birth-to-a-baby-girl-the-new-royal-princess/

 

Why, you ask is this news worthy for our Viking and Saxon ancestors? Well, for that answer you need to look at this child’s ancestry through her Great Grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II of England. Queen Elizabeth’s blood line lineage links her all the way back to the 7th century House of Wessex, which of course would include Our own King Ecbert and his son, Aethelwulf.

Through Elizabeth, this little girl and her older brother also have links to the history of Denmark and Norway.  As a great-great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria,  Elzabeth is related to the heads of most other reigning and non-reigning European royal houses. Through her great-grandmother Queen Alexandra, she is descended from the Danish royal House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg, a line of the North German house of Oldenburg. (Other members of the House of Glücksburg include Elizabeth’s husband, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, as well as Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, King Harald V of Norway, Queen Sofía of Spain and former King Constantine II of Greece—each of whom is also descended from Queen Victoria; one of her many cousins is King Juan Carlos I of Spain, also a great-great-grandson of Victoria.) Likewise, Elizabeth is descended from John William Friso, Prince of Orange, and his wife, Princess Marie Louise of Hesse-Kassel, who are the most recent common ancestors to all reigning European monarchs.

And, last but certainly not least, this baby girl is the newest addition to the family and legacy of our Rollo, or Robert I of Normandy! So, I guess we could congratulate both Ecbert and Rollo on this new member of the family!

 

family dinner in wessex  Ecbert's somewhat rude and condescending comments  A toast to my son

as judith faces her torture ecbert finally steps in

as judith faces her torture ecbert finally steps in

Rollo salud by aftermath crew

Rollo salud by aftermath crew

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

Portrait of Rollo’s destiny. Credit to Ines Jagger of Vikings Aftermath group and to lindamarieanson of deviant art.

what will the future hold for rollo

This decendency chart show Queen Elizabeth’s line back to William the Conqueror or William I of England.  As we already know, William is a direct descendent of our Rollo!

Monarch Relation to Elizabeth II Note on Closest Relationship
William I of England 22nd Great-Grandfather
William II of England 21st Great-Granduncle
Henry I of England 21st Great-Grandfather
Stephen of England 20th Great-Grandfather
Matilda of England 20th Great-Grandmother
Henry II of England 19th Great-Grandfather
Richard I of England 18th Great-Granduncle
John of England 18th Great-Grandfather
Henry III of England 19th Great-Grandfather
Edward I of England 18th Great-Grandfather
Edward II of England 18th Great-Grandfather
Edward III of England 17th Great-Grandfather 6th Great-Grandfather of James I (through Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley)
Richard II of England 16th Great-Granduncle
Henry IV of England 17th Great-Grandfather 16th Great-Grandfather of Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon through Humphrey of Gloucester
Henry V of England 16th Great-Granduncle Son of Henry IV
Henry VI of England ½-14th Great-Granduncle Half-brother of Edmund Tudor, the father of Henry VII
Edward IV of England 14th Great-Grandfather Father of Elizabeth of York, the wife of Henry VII and shares all his descendents
Edward V of England 13th Great-Granduncle Son of Edward IV
Richard III of England 14th Great-Granduncle Brother of Edward IV
Henry VII of England 13th Great-Grandfather 2nd Great-Grandfather of James I
Henry VIII of England 12th Great-Granduncle Son of Henry VII
Edward VI of England 1st Cousin, 12 times Removed Grandson of John Seymour, the 11th Great-Grandfather of Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon
Jane of England 10th Great-Grandaunt Sister of Catherine, the 9th Great-Grandmother of Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon
Mary I of England 1st Cousin 13 times Removed Granddaughter of Henry VII
Elizabeth I of England 1st Cousin 13 times Removed Granddaughter of Henry VII
James I of England 9th Great-Grandfather Great-Grandfather of George I
Charles I of England 8th Great-Granduncle Son of James I
Charles II of England 1st Cousin 9 times Removed Grandson of James I
James II of England 1st Cousin 9 times Removed Grandson of James I
William III of England 1st Cousin 9 times Removed Grandson of Frederick Henry, Prince of Orange, the 7th Great-Grandfather of Mary of Teck
Mary II of England 2nd Cousin 8 times Removed Great-Granddaughter of James I
Anne of Great Britain 2nd Cousin 8 times Removed Great-Granddaughter of James I
George I of Great Britain 6th Great-Grandfather
George II of Great Britain 5th Great-Grandfather Grandfather of George III
George III of the United Kingdom 3rd Great-Grandfather Great-Grandfather of Mary of Teck
George IV of the United Kingdom 2nd Great-Granduncle Son of George III
William IV of the United Kingdom 2nd Great-Granduncle Son of George III
Victoria of the United Kingdom 2nd Great-Grandmother
Edward VII of the United Kingdom Great-Grandfather
George V of the United Kingdom Grandfather
Edward VIII of the United Kingdom Uncle Son of George V
George VI of the United Kingdom Father
Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom

A quick background on William I or William the Conqueror in his relationship to our Rollo. 

Norsemen first began raiding in what became Normandy in the late 8th century. Permanent Scandinavian settlement occurred before 911, when Rollo, one of the Viking leaders, and King Charles the Simple of France reached an agreement surrendering the county of Rouen to Rollo. The lands around Rouen became the core of the later duchy of Normandy.Normandy may have been used as a base when Scandinavian attacks on England were renewed at the end of the 10th century, which would have worsened relations between England and Normandy.  In an effort to improve matters, King Æthelred the Unready took Emma of Normandy, sister of Duke Richard II, as his second wife in 1002.

Danish raids on England continued, and Æthelred sought help from Richard, taking refuge in Normandy in 1013 when King Swein I of Denmark drove Æthelred and his family from England. Swein’s death in 1014 allowed Æthelred to return home, but Swein’s son Cnut contested Æthelred’s return. Æthelred died unexpectedly in 1016, and Cnut became king of England. Æthelred and Emma’s two sons, Edward and Alfred, went into exile in Normandy while their mother, Emma, became Cnut’s second wife.

After Cnut’s death in 1035 the English throne fell to Harold Harefoot, his son by his first wife, while Harthacnut, his son by Emma, became king in Denmark. England remained unstable. Alfred returned to England in 1036 to visit his mother and perhaps to challenge Harold as king. One story implicates Earl Godwin of Wessex in Alfred’s subsequent death, but others blame Harold. Emma went into exile in Flanders until Harthacnut became king following Harold’s death in 1040, and his half-brother Edward followed Harthacnut to England; Edward was proclaimed king after Harthacnut’s death in June 1042.

Rollo is the great-great-great-grandfather of William the Conqueror. Through William, he is an ancestor of the present-day British royal family, as well as an ancestor of all current European monarchs and a great many claimants to abolished European thrones. A genetic investigation into the remains of Rollo’s grandson Richard I and great-grandson Richard II has been announced, with the intention of discerning the origins of the famous Viking warrior.

There! You now have the reasons that the birth of this baby girl, as yet un-named, is of interest to all of our Viking and Saxon ancestor relatives!

Now, one last history lesson regarding how and why this little girl is now 4th in line to the British throne and not just some average baby, which she and the rest of her family could easily ended up being!  It has to do with another rather unstable period in the history of the British Monarchy… they have had quite a few of those times!

 The late 17th century wasn’t exactly a stable time in England. King James II had created some major disgruntlement by converting to Catholicism—the King of England is the head of the (Protestant) Church of England, so that was a problem—and ended up fleeing the country. His daughter, Mary II, and her husband, William of Orange (William III), were Protestant, and ended up being given the throne by Parliament.

Around that time, as that side of James II’s family took the throne—rather than the Catholic children produced by his second marriage—Parliament passed a bill that was an attempt to settle who would inherit the throne, in order to avoid future revolutions and wars, which had tended to happen whenever that question didn’t have a clear answer.

Except the people to whom the law applied didn’t exactly cooperate by producing heirs. By 1700, Mary was dead and William was sick. Mary’s sister Anne, who was next in line as the oldest Protestant child of James II, had no more surviving children.

So Parliament made another law, the Act of Settlement of 1701, that said that the heirs of James I’s granddaughter, Sophia of Hanover, would be the heirs to the throne. When Queen Anne died in 1714, Sophia’s son became King George I. George I’s great-great-great-granddaughter was Queen Victoria, whose great-great-granddaughter is the current Queen Elizabeth.

Sophia of Hanover

Sophia of Hanover

But were it not for that 1701 act, the Catholic children of James II might have made a claim to the throne—at least, that’s what the people who wrote the act worried—and the new baby would have been just a random, extremely distant cousin of the actual royals.

But the Act of Settlement isn’t the only law that affects the young princess’ place in line. Until recently, she could have been bumped down if she ever had a younger brother. In 2011, the Act of Settlement was tweaked before Prince George’s birth, to ensure succession would not be affected by gender or by marriage to a Catholic. (Previously, daughters came to the throne only when there were no sons available.)

Even so, the monarch is still prohibited from being Catholic him or herself—something that has drawn criticism from those who wanted the reforms to go even further.

http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/other/why-the-new-royal-baby-is-4th-in-line-for-the-throne/ar-BBj4g3X?li=BBiROMX&ocid=AARDHP

So, From all of the Viking, Norman and Saxon ancestors, Congratulations to the Royal Family of England on this the birth of your girl child! May she be healthy, happy and live a long and prosperous life!

 

 

 

Viking adventure: Last thoughts before I embark!

 

 

 

 

Previous related post: https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2014/12/27/reflections-wishes-and-suggestions-for-the-new-year/

I am so excited, nervous, and just a little overwhelmed with all of the preparations for this trip! There are still a few final details to get worked out with the travel arrangements and a bit of last minute research, but Mrs. Graham assures me that we are almost ready for my departure. While she and her staff are seeing to the final travel details, I am trying to cram in as much history and varied information as possible and go over notes on what Mrs. Graham and her associates want me to pay most attention to as far as documentation?  They want me to keep a close eye on a man named Rollo? It seems they are concerned about his behaviors and are wondering if he truly is destined for greatness? They also want more information on Ragnar Lodbrok and his sons… there is so much controversy on all of them that it would be helpful to sort out the myths from fact.

mrs graham and tea leaves2

Ahhhh Mrs. Graham, I am so grateful to her for this opportunity! I only hope I make it back to see her again, and don’t end up regretting taking her up on this offer, or cursing her name and existence at some point in the future during this experience! Let’s pray that her tea leaf readings are not just a bunch of fanciful imagination!

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/category/mrs-graham-of-outlander/

tea leaf reading2

 

Before I leave on my adventure, I do have a few last thoughts and research notes I would like to share.

First of all, my thoughts on how one chooses to look at history and learn it? There is much debate and criticism over the methods used to learn history… Many historians and intellectuals look down on the history information provided in fiction as in books, movies and television. I keep seeing the comments on how inaccurate all of this information is and how it does more harm than good to be presented in such formats. These academics insist that if one wants the truest picture of history, then they need only concern themselves with non-fictional accounts and documents. Every time a historical novel or show arrives on the scene it is picked apart and criticized for all of it’s inaccuracies, frowned upon as a misleading or misrepresentation of what actually happened.  Yes, I do agree in some part with those observations. There are any number of books and shows that so blatantly disregard the facts and misrepresent the events and as a result, can not be considered as any form of historical representation at all. I have read and viewed more than my share of those, and do not bother to comment on them or share them here!

My disagreement with such academics and historians is in terms of  what is accurate, what is the truth? There is a much common phrase that, History is written by and colored by the victors. For that reason, the so called documentation and accurate evidence cited is often written in terms of what the victorious side wanted portrayed. With the more ancient past, much of the time, the losing sides were so decimated as not to even leave behind any trace as to what their side of the story or event might have been. So, by all rights, even the most supposedly accurate accounts of an historical event are colored by the writer’s viewpoint and perspective at that time.

My other personal thought on the subject is that any book or show that sparks an interest finding out more about history is well worth the reading or the viewing! I hear so often from so many people that they don’t like history, it’s sooo boring and does not interest them at all? I usually ask them what they do like to read or watch, and then explain to them that everything from sci-fi, fantasy, horror or  suspense and  mystery… what ever genre they have mentioned, has already been written about throughout history. When put that way, it sparks their curiosity in history. An example of this is the horror genre. Now, I am not a fan of this genre by any means but a recent conversation with a group of young people who are fans led to my suggestion that if they want some short horror stories, they should perhaps try reading the original Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales!

http://www.nationalgeographic.com/grimm/index2.html

Another example of generating interest in history; I recently watched an old movie with a young co-worker.  The movie was Gypsy http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gypsy_(musical), it was an entertaining musical about the life of Gypsy Rose Lee. My young co-worker enjoyed the movie and was surprised when I mentioned that it was about a real woman. She then asked me for more information so she could find out more.  It doesn’t sound like much, but it spurred her interest in a past time period- and sometimes, that is all it takes!  My only slight concern on this particular occasion is the thought of not hoping that my young co-worker is not considering a change of careers now? Ahhhh well, I guess if she chooses this path, at least she will be an entertainer with some class!

Gypsy_Rose_Lee_NYWTS_1 Gypsy-Rose-Lee-photo

 

When history is presented in a way that people can relate to, it becomes more real, more personal and so much more interesting and valuable to them! If one begins their journey and education through history because of a so called frivolous book or silly show, what does it really matter as long as they are motivated to pick up a book, to search for  knowledge in any way that keeps them interested and wanting to learn more? Eventually their path will take them to the more truthful and accurate facts such as they exist.

 

Now back to our Vikings related research!

As I mentioned, I am finishing up some of the last minute research regarding the general time period. In a previous post, I mentioned a few book suggestions for additional information and insight into the importance of this time period and some of the historical figures related to it.  One book is of particular importance even though it deals with a much later time frame?

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.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/9223563-i-am-the-chosen-king?ac=1

I finished the book and have nothing but praise for Helen Hollick’s representation of all the characters involved in this historically important event! She gave an excellent portrayal of all the people, and presented them on a well even playing field. What she does for this event in history is provide us with a sense and feeling of their emotions, she gives us a well thought out picture of who they were and why they made the choices they did. Even though I knew perfectly well how it was going to end, she held my interest and my concern for all of them until the very end. She gave a detailed, but not overly bogged down and boring account of that final battle between the two men who would be King at Hastings. In those final pages and moments, she gave us some much appreciated and welcome thoughts on how each of the men might have felt at the end, knowing the importance of the outcome and what their fates would be if they lost the battle. She made me care about both men, see the event and the history from each of their perspectives.  The book  gave me insight into each of their possible personalities, their character traits and caused me to think more on how each of their past histories brought them to this point in time!

The reason I feel this book and these two men are so important to our journey to an earlier time is due to who and where they each came from. If you trace each of their ancestries, you will see the irony and the twist of fate or what ever you want to call it that led these two men to face each other in a final battle for the future of England.

Harold Godwinson, the chosen King of England

harold godwinnson

Harold Godwinson

Harold II (or Harold Godwinson) (Old English: Harold Godƿinson; c. 1022 – 14 October 1066), was the last Anglo-Saxon King of England.  Harold reigned from 6 January 1066  until his death at the Battle of Hastings on 14 October, fighting the Norman invaders led by William the Conqueror during the Norman conquest of England. His death marked the end of Anglo-Saxon rule over England.

Harold was a powerful earl and member of a prominent Anglo-Saxon family with ties to King Cnut. Upon the death of Edward the Confessor in January 1066, the Witenagemot convened and chose Harold to succeed; he was crowned in Westminster Abbey. In late September he successfully repulsed an invasion by rival claimant Harald Hardrada of Norway, before marching his army back south to meet William the Conqueror at Hastings some two weeks later.

On the surface, it may not seem that Harold had any real tie or connection to that earlier time of the Vikings, the one which we will be soon visiting. If you look closer into his family’s history however, you will find them closely tied to those Vikings and their eventual dynasty.

This is a quick, abbreviated history of Harold’s family and their ties to the history of Denmark. I do not want to overwhelm you or bog you down with excessive details on this. I do want to point out that if you are interested in how this matters, you should pay most attention to his Mother’s lineage and connections. His Mother, Gytha Thorkelsdottir was the one who brought the historical tie and passed it down to her son.

Harold was a son of Godwin, the powerful Earl of Wessex, and Gytha Thorkelsdóttir, sister-in-law of King Cnut the Great of England and Denmark. Gytha’s brother was Ulf Jarl, who was married to Cnut’s sister Estrith. This made Ulf the son-in-law of King Sweyn Forkbeard,  and the father of King Sweyn II of Denmark. Godwin was the son of Wulfnoth, probably a thegn and a native of Sussex.Godwin remained an earl throughout Cnut’s reign, one of only two earls to survive to the end of Cnut’s reign. On Cnut’s death, Godwin originally supported Harthacnut instead of Cnut’s initial successor Harold Harefoot, but managed to switch sides in 1037, although not without becoming involved in the murder of Alfred Aetheling, half brother of Harthacnut and younger brother of the later King Edward the Confessor.  When Harold Harefoot died, Harthacnut became king and Godwin’s power was imperiled by his earlier involvement in Alfred’s murder, but an oath and large gift secured the new king’s favour for Godwin.   Harthacnut’s death in 1042 likely involved Godwin in a role as kingmaker, helping to secure the English throne for Edward the Confessor. In 1045, Godwin was at the height of his power, when his daughter Edith was married to the king.

To make a very long history and story short, Gytha brought with her to Saxon England, the connection and loyalties to the Danish dynasty of Cnut and his father, Sweyn Forkbeard… why is this so important, you might ask? Well, because Sweyn Forkbeard’s lineage traces back to one important  member of  Ragnar Lodbrok’s founding family!

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

Sweyn_Forkbeard Swen_Widlobrody_ubt

 

If you trace Sweyn Forkbeard’s lineage back, you will find him to be a descendant of one Harthacnut of Denmark… Harthacnut or Cnut I (Danish: Hardeknud) (born c. 880) was a legendary King of Denmark. Adam of Bremen makes him son of an otherwise unknown king Sweyn, while the saga Ragnarssona þáttr makes him son of the semi-mythic viking chieftain Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye, himself one of the sons of the legendary Ragnar Lodbrok!

Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye, as we will eventually come to find out is the son of Ragnar Lodbrok and second  wife, Aslaug.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sigurd_Snake-in-the-Eye

sigurd snake in the eye

ragnar and aslaug1 ragnar and aslaug4 VIKINGS2_09-final

Aslaug in Norse mythology

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

Aslaug and her father the king painting of Aslaug the legend

 

So, while Harold may not be a direct descendent of Ragnar Lodbrok by blood and he may be looked on as a Saxon King… the last Saxon King for that matter, his family history and his character has it’s roots bound deep in this Viking dynasty. In fact, after his death, his Mother Gytha eventually returned to Scandinavia, taking with her one of Harold’s daughters.

William the Conqueror

The other key player and claimant for the throne of England in 1066 was of course, William the Conqueror. William I (Old Norman: Williame I; c. 1028[ – 9 September 1087), usually known as William the Conqueror and sometimes William the Bastard,  was the first Norman King of England, reigning from 1066 until his death in 1087. The descendant of Viking raiders, he had been Duke of Normandy since 1035 under the style William II. After a long struggle to establish his power, by 1060 his hold on Normandy was secure, and he launched the Norman conquest of England in 1066. The rest of his life was marked by struggles to consolidate his hold over England and his continental lands and by difficulties with his eldest son.

William the Conqueror AKA William I

William the Conqueror AKA William I

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

William’s lineage traces him back to one other person of note in Viking history… Rollo (c. 846 – c. 932), baptised Robert and so sometimes numbered Robert I to distinguish him from his descendants, was a Norse Viking who was founder and first ruler of the Viking principality which soon became known as Normandy. His descendants were the Dukes of Normandy, and following the Norman conquest of England in 1066, kings of England; he is the 33rd-great-grandfather of Elizabeth II.

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

Rollo_statue_in_falaise

*****Warning**** I do need to clarify and be very clear here on one point… for the purposes of our upcoming Viking Adventure and travel back in time, it is as yet uncertain whether the “Rollo” we will be observing is indeed the same person as this most famous one of history? We can only speculate or guess on this right now! It has been leaked that members of the Lodbrok family will travel to France and encounter a few people who would make this guess a plausible one….

                            Vikings Season 3 spoiler and preview: Charles Emperor of France and daughter, Gisela will make their appearance. Canadian actor Lothaire Bluteau will portray Emperor Charles of France and French actress Morgane Polanski (daughter of Roman Polanski) will be Princess Gisla, the Emperor’s daughter and his main advisor.

Lothaire Bluteau

Lothaire Bluteau

Morgane Polanski

Morgane Polanski

The appearance of these two characters does much to link the Lodbrok dynasty’s Rollo to the historical Rollo.  According to accurate history, Rollo is traditionally referenced to as marrying Gisela, the daughter of Charles III of France.

Rollo with Gisela and Charles of France

Rollo with Gisela and Charles of France

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

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

 

Now that you are thoroughly overwhelmed with history and confused even more, let’s go back to the original topic of William the Conqueror! I’m sure you’re thinking to yourself, “Yes, Please do get to the point of this already, we’re tired of the extra history lessons!”

 

Ok, the whole point of this history lesson and it’s comparisons to the Vikings legacy is that while Saxon England assumed it was being conquered by Normandy, in a sense it was actually being conquered once again by a Viking descendent that in many ways, still fought and thought like a Viking Warrior.

Rollo’s words can just as easily be attributed to how William the Conqueror felt and acted.

Rollo-vikings-tv-series-34231469-1000-561

Rollo-vikings-tv-series-

In a last thought on Helen Hollick’s portrayal of Harold Godwinson and William, her presentation of the two men could also very well represent the two founding characters of the Lodbrok legacy. After many generations of violence and battles for England, Harold Godwinson comes across as one similar to Ragnar Lodbrok in his beliefs, his reasonings, and his actions. He is caught in the middle of a for the most part, an un-winnable situation but tries to put the future of his country and his people as a whole above his personal wishes. In another ironic symbolism or reversal of it… Harold sets aside his long time love and handfasted wife in order to marry within the church and possibly provide a legitimate heir to the throne. Ragnar Lodbrok sets aside his long time love and wife (though, to his credit, he does offer to keep her as wife? She soundly refuses to share!) in preference for a wife who can bear him more sons. 

Then there is William, who is a bastard son and must fight for everything he feels is his. He is determined to win at all costs, willing to do what ever he has to in order to achieve his goals. He is volatile, uneducated in a scholarly sense but he is a Warrior and thinks like one in all instances. His goal is not so much one for the long range future of his people, but more of a personal vendetta. He is angry with Harold, whom he considered a friend- an ally… he feels betrayed by Harold and acts on it. In Helen’s representation of him, he also acts on it as part of a one time promise he made to his wife- that he would make her a Queen… and so he will, no matter what the cost to others. It is not until the end when he faces his final battle with one that he realizes is an equal on all levels, that he thinks about the possible consequences, about the future for all, not just for himself. Her portrayal of William, his character and his flaws closely parallels that of  Ragnar’s brother Rollo. Rollo, who acts before thinking much of the time, who questions and resents, who battles with himself so constantly.  It often seems impossible that this struggling and often failing Rollo could be the forefather, the founder of such a dynasty as Normandy? Yet, we see that same struggle for worthiness in William I as he battles for what he thinks is his by right.

In the final battle at Hastings, it was an evenly matched battle that by all accounts, Harold should have been able to win? But, by a twist of fate or luck, William won the battle for England. This event resembles much of what happens with Rollo’s life in the Vikings Saga. He  makes grevious errors in judgement, is  at the point of failing miserably but is always the warrior in the end. He is usually on the brink of following the wrong path but for some reason or twist of fate, he succeeds- often surprising himself!

portrait of Rollo in history

portrait of Rollo in history

Old ways of yule

 

I know this has been a rather lengthy, involved and more in depth look at some of the history that will take place after the Vikings initially invade England but I think it’s important to know the legacy that the Vikings such as Ragnar Lodbrok and his brother leave for us in the future!

And, yes, while many will scoff at the Vikings Saga as it is presented on the history channel, throw up their hands in disgust and cries of  “That’s not what really happened”,  I applaud Michael Hirst’s representation of history. He has worked hard to incorporate as much actual history as possible into the show and as a result, the show and the subject of Viking and Saxon era history has reached millions of viewers. Many of those viewers develop a deeper interest in the history of the time period,  go on to do their own research into it and come away with more knowledge and understanding of the past. Is that such a bad thing?

Historical accuracy

Some critics have pointed out historical inaccuracies in the series’ depiction of Viking society. Lars Walker, in the magazine The American Spectator, criticized its portrayal of Viking Age government (in the person of Earl Haraldson) as autocratic rather than essentially democratic.  Joel Robert Thompson criticized the show’s depiction of the Norse peoples’ supposed ignorance of the existence of Britain and Ireland, and the use of the death penalty instead of outlawry (skoggangr) as a punishment for heinous crimes.

Monty Dobson, a historian at Central Michigan University, criticised the show’s depictions of Viking Age clothing, but went on to state that fictional shows like Vikings could still be a useful teaching tool.   The Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten reported that the series incorrectly depicted the temple at Uppsala as a stave church in the mountains, whereas the historical temple was situated on flat land and stave churches were a hallmark of later Christian architecture in Scandinavia.   The temple as depicted in the show does have similarities with the reconstructions of the Uppåkra hof on the other hand. The show also portrays a crucifixion of a prominent character instigated by a Christian bishop near Wessex, apparently as a standard punishment for apostasy – however, Emperor Constantine outlawed crucifixion in the 4th century  and no crucifixions were documented to have taken place in Europe thereafter.

Other errors include the presence of window glasses, XVI-XVIIth century helmets used by King Ecbert´s soldiers, the mention of “Russia” as the land the Vikings aim to plunder in the first episode, although the episode takes place in 793 A.D. and Russia would not exist until 860 A.D. (as the Kievan Rus’), as well as the scenery where Ragnar Lodbrok lives, which shows great mountains although there are no mountains in Denmark. One could assume Ragnar lives in Norway because of the presence of fjords and that Uppsala can be reached by land while Horik arrives always by sea. However, Lagertha seems to be able to ride from Hedeby to Kattegat without crossing a sea which would be impossible at the time.

Regarding the historical accuracy of the show, showrunner Michael Hirst comments that “I especially had to take liberties with ‘Vikings’ because no one knows for sure what happened in the Dark Ages” and that “we want people to watch it. A historical account of the Vikings would reach hundreds, occasionally thousands, of people. Here we’ve got to reach millions.”  When Katheryn Winnick was asked why she licked the seer’s hand she answered “It wasn’t originally in the script and we just wanted to come up with something unique and different”.

 

As I pointed out in the beginning of this discussion, my personal thought is that whether it is a book or a show, if it sparks one’s interest in learning more about history then it is well worth the time spent on it! To disregard a particular genre or format, as being just fiction and not authentic or accurate causes those who would look down on it or negate it’s value to miss the whole point that history has to be made interesting and relative to those learning from it. If you can not get people to read it, view it or listen to it, then it’s accuracies really make no difference anyway.  In sharing history and it’s lessons, one needs to make it interesting enough for the audience to want more of it! Such is the case for Vikings, which will embark upon it’s third season this winter. People are interested in the show, and as a result, are more interested in the real history presented in it!

So with that thought in mind, I will end this long winded discussion and be off to finish my last minute preparations for heading into the past with the Vikings.

If you missed my previous discussions regarding travel plans, you can catch up on it here:

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2014/12/23/crag-na-dun-time-tours-update/

I will be traveling to Lindholm Hoje near Aalborg Denmark

With the assistance of Mrs. Graham and her Time travel associates, I will be attempting to go through some stones in this area to the past and then travel to Kattegat where I will find the founding family of Ragnar Lodbrok!

Upon my arrival there, I will then proceed to document events of their lives from their humble beginnings as farmers and sometime raiders to their eventual rise to power and rulers of the Viking era!

vikings_gallery8_3-P