Tag Archive | saxon history

Saxony and Roland: Part 2 of Ancestor search

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

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

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

Pfeiffer Family history and connection to Saxony Anhalt

Saxony Anhalt history and the appearance of Roland throughout that area

History and Legends of Roland

Roland in Saxony Anhalt area

History of Saxony Anhalt in relation to Old Saxony

Charlamagne and the Saxon Wars

 

 

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

Pfeiffer Family history and connection to Saxony Anhalt

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

 

william_and_susanna_pfeiffer

William and Susanna Pfeiffer wedding photo

William and Susana Pfeiffer older years

William and Susanna Pfeiffer in later years

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

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

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

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

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

ernst pfieffer

Ernst Pfeiffer

henrietta borchart Pfeiffer

henrietta borchart Pfeiffer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ss ohio2

SS Ohio

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

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

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

pfeiffers Harry William and anna

Anna, William and Harry Pfeiffer in later years

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

William Pfeiffer vaccination document

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

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

 

Saxony Anhalt history and the appearance of Roland throughout that area

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

History and Legends of Roland

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

Roland's story yes here comes roland yet again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

chroniques of Roland

chroniques of Roland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Roland and his Palidans

Roland and his Paladins

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

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

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

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

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

Roland in Saxony Anhalt area

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

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

 

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

Roland_auf_dem_Marktplatz_in_Bremen__IMG_6882WI

Statue of Roland erected in city of Bremen 1404

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

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

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

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

 

History of Saxony Anhalt in relation to Old Saxony

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

Calbe_(Saale)_in_SLK calbe and magdeburg Germany

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

 

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

old saxony

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Charlamagne and the Saxon Wars

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

Charlamagne's Saxony map-oldsaxon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Otto I in Magdeburg

Otto I in Magdeburg

Magdeburg Klasztor

Magdeburg Klasztor

Magdeburg vista

Magdeburg vista

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

 

 

 

Last Kingdom update!

Last Kingdom official artwork

For all of the fans and followers of Bernard Cornwell’s Warrior Chronicles series, our long wait is almost over! Last Kingdom now has an official air date- Saturday Oct. 10, 10/9c. Coincidently, this air date very closely coincides with the release of the next book in the series. That book, Warriors of the Storm has an official release date of Oct. 8. I did mention previously that I thought this book release date might be tied into the airing of the show.

Warriors of the Storm by bernard cornwell

I know I have posted the upcoming book preview before, but I am posting it again just to refresh our memory!

The new novel in Bernard Cornwell’s number one bestselling series The Warrior Chronicles, on the making of England and the fate of his great hero, Uhtred of Bebbanburg.

A fragile peace governs the kingdoms of Wessex, East Anglia, under the rule of the late King Alfred’s son, King Edward, and Mercia, under his daughter Aethelflaed.

Uhtred, her formidable champion and greatest warrior, controls the northern parts from the strongly fortified city of Chester. But no one can prepare them for the storm that is about to descend…

The Northmen, allied to the Irish, come in force under the cover of night, up the Mersey, perhaps to attack Chester, perhaps to rage and pillage through Mercia, perhaps to take the troubled kingdom of Northumbria. They are led by the terrifying Viking warrior, Ragnall Iverson, a fierce fighter and ruthless leader.

He and his army are formidable enough but worse still, his brother is married to Uhtred’s daughter. With his passionate determination, Uhtred will stop at nothing to take back his corner of Northumbria and secure the future of Bebbanburg. But for Aethelflaed and the Mercians, doubt must arise to where his loyalty lies.

In the struggle between family and loyalty, between oaths given and political demands, there is no easy solution. And the clash between the Vikings and the Saxons will resound across the land.

Here is the official show information as posted on BBC America.

The Last Kingdom premieres Saturday, October 10 at 10/9c. The Last Kingdom is a contemporary story of redemption, vengeance and self-discovery set against the birth of England.

This historical drama comes from BBC America, BBC Two and the Golden Globe® and Emmy® award-winning producers of Downton Abbey, Carnival Films. The series is an adaptation of Bernard Cornwell’s best-selling series of books “The Saxon Stories”, by BAFTA nominated and RTS award-winning writer Stephen Butchard.

Alexander Dreymon (American Horror Story, Blood Ransom) heads up the cast, which also includes Rutger Hauer (True Blood, Blade Runner), David Dawson (Ripper Street, Road to Coronation Street), Emily Cox (The Silent Mountain, Circle of Life), Matthew Macfadyen (Anna Karenina, MI-5), and Ian Hart (Boardwalk Empire, The Bridge.

9th century AD; many of the separate kingdoms of what we now know as England have fallen to the invading Vikings, only the great Kingdom of Wessex stands defiant under its visionary King Alfred the Great (Dawson). It is the last kingdom.

Against this turbulent backdrop lives Uhtred (Dreymon). Born the son of a Saxon nobleman, he is orphaned by the Vikings and then kidnapped and raised as one of their own. Forced to choose between the country of his birth and the people of his upbringing, his loyalties are ever tested. What is he — Saxon or Viking? On a quest to claim his birthright, Uhtred must tread a dangerous path between both sides if he is to play his part in the birth of a new nation and, ultimately, recapture his ancestral lands.

The Last Kingdom is a show of heroic deeds and epic battles but with a thematic depth that embraces politics, religion, warfare, courage, love, loyalty and our universal search for identity. Combining real historical figures and events with fictional characters, it is the story of how a people combined their strength under one of the most iconic kings of history in order to reclaim their land for themselves and build a place they call home.

Last kingdom promo2

You can read my pervious update on the show in this earlier post:  https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2015/05/25/temporary-cure-for-viking-withdrawals-last-kingdom-update/

If you are a regular viewer of this blog, you will be aware that I am a devoted and loyal fan of Bernard Cornwell and his Warrior Chronicles series.  This in no way takes away from my loyalty or passion for Michael Hirst’s version of the Vikings saga. I am looking forward to seeing how the two stories play out in comparison to each other! Michael Hirst gives us a version that tells the overall story of the Vikings Saga beginning with Ragnar Lothbrok and the earliest arrival of Vikings in England. His emphasis so far has been more from the Viking perspective and his focus has been on Ragnar’s adventures, conquests and defeats. Hirst is moving the story into the next generation this next season, while also telling the story of Rollo’s quest for fame in Normandy. Bernard Cornwell’s version tells the story from a slightly different perspective, that of a young Saxon English boy, Uhtred of Bebbanburg who is captured and raised by the Northmen. His life and his story is one of torn loyalties as he has to make choices and compromises in order to stay alive and achieve his one goal of reclaiming his birthright, Bebbanburg Castle. Cornwell explores the history of that somewhat later time frame that Hirst is moving into with his Vikings Saga. The Last Kingdom will show us young Alfred’s struggle to hold on to his own birthright, Wessex, and his fight to unite the Saxon kingdoms in battle against the Northmens’ conquest for territory.  In reading Cornwell’s series, and watching it play out on screen, you will see some of the same historical characters that you have been introduced to in the Vikings Saga. You should eventually see Ivar and Ubba now fully grown older men, along with a young Alfred inheriting the crown of Wessex. Cornwell’s version plays with the historical timeline and events a bit as well, but not so much possibly, as Hirst has done in telling his version of the story. 

I firmly believe that those of you are loyal to Hirst’s version of the Vikings saga should not look at this new show as competition, but should welcome the opportunity to see yet another version this fascinating history come on the scene! What the production of this new show proves is that there is a growing interest and fan base for all of these historical fiction based shows. The more interest there is in the entire genre, the greater the chances are that the interest will influence networks and promoters to continue such shows and invest more funding into them. There has been some speculation and rumor that the Vikings on History channel only got their 20 episodes for the coming season because they may not return for a following season. I would prefer to think that, as Hirst has commented, the higher powers in control have taken heed of the growing interest and fan base, are realizing the potential benefit of giving fans what they are asking for- more and not less of the show! Vikings viewers should welcome these other shows and their competition as it shows those higher powers controlling the money and production that people want to see this sort of show. It also raises the level of the playing field, the production and quality of what is being offered… Perhaps this is one reason we will get 20 episodes in the next season. It’s just a thought to keep in mind when you debate on whether to give Last Kingdom a chance to prove itself!

 

Saxons, Romans, and Arthur

Previous post about Saxon history: https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2015/06/23/from-odin-and-woden-to-anglo-saxons-in-britain/

king-arthur-tapestry King-Arthur-power-rule King-Arthur-2004-king-arthur-875455_1254_940

 

Before we head back to the Viking era, I just want to add some last added thoughts on the earlier realm of the Saxons, the Romans, and that ever elusive yet legendary man called Arthur who united the Britons in defending their world against those heathens the Saxons. The legend of this man is so tied to this time that one can not help but think of him when thinking about the era of the Saxons invading a crumbling and divided Britain. We have already looked at much of the history and seen what may have actually taken place with the Saxon arrival in Britain but those legends of Arthur are so steeped in that history and in peoples’ minds that we need to take one more look at him and those legends.

As I mentioned, I’ve already discussed much of this in earlier posts so this is just more of an update to all of that previous information! You can read a much earlier post on theories of Romans and King Arthur here:  https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2014/06/24/from-the-creator-ancient-history-connects-the-norse-with-romans-and-king-arthur/

In my previous post about Saxon history, I mentioned movies and books that strip some of that myth and magic from the legends and attempt to give a slightly more historically accurate basis for the stories. I do say slightly more accurate because it is all of course, historical fiction! There are few if any remaining documentations of what actually took place during that time. The only truly accurate account of what happened would be ones from people on both sides who were actually there to witness that history taking place. As far as I know, no one has come across such eye witness accounts! What we have left are scattered remnants, bits and pieces of that history from early sagas and story tellers who were paid-much as current day story tellers- to create a glowing story of that bloody and dark part of history. Every story teller added to and changed the events to please the audience they were telling the story to.  Down trodden and beaten warriors wanted tales of glory, victories and battles. Ladies of the realms wanted romance, a knight in shining armor, a love story, the church wanted tales that would make them look good and the pagans look bad… and, so thus, the Bards wove the legends of Arthur and his Britons into all of those things, just as they do today!

We all know those stories, those fantasies of Arthur the legend. My search has been for more of what might have been the real stories behind the legends. I have stated before, that in every legend or myth, there are grains of truth, you just need to search for them.  When I read or watch historical fiction, I look for those small grains of truth.  I am like anyone else, I love a good story, but being one who is passionate about history, I do prefer those stories to some grain of truth or at least some sort of accuracy when dealing with historical events.  For that reason, I try to stick with authors that I trust, one who have put some significant research into the history that they are writing about. I have no qualm with them playing with timelines as needed in order to weave their story, I also have no problem with them weaving the events into their own story line- that is all to be expected in creating a good story. What I look for within or behind each story is an author’s reasoning and their ability to blend what might have happened to what actually did happen.

The legends of Arthur are so filled with myth, magic and fantasy that is difficult to separate that from the events that actually took place, the events that were the basis for the myths. In order to find some balance between those fantasies and the limited actual history, I have turned to some of those authors that I trust and looked at their stories of what might happened, could have happened. These two authors have given different versions of Arthur and the events surrounding his life, his rise to glory and his attempt to hold on to it.

I did mention the first author and his representation of Arthur in my previous post. I will refresh your memory here and highly recommend that you read his version. Bernard Cornwell gives us his version of Arthur in his Warlord series.

I found this book trailer for Winter King and the Warlord series and had to laugh when it included various clips from our Vikings and the King Arthur movie!

winter_king_uk-179x307

Uther, the High King, has died, leaving the infant Mordred as his only heir. His uncle, the loyal and gifted warlord Arthur, now rules as caretaker for a country which has fallen into chaos – threats emerge from within the British kingdoms while vicious Saxon armies stand ready to invade, As he struggles to unite Britain and hold back the enemy at the gates, Arthur is embroiled in a doomed romance with beautiful Guinevere. Will the old-world magic of Merlin be enough to turn the tide of war in his favour?

enemy of god Arthur book 2 by bernard cornwell

The balance of King Arthur’s unified kingdom is threatened by Merlin’s quest for the last of Britain’s 13 Treasures; by the conflict between the ancient religion and the new Christianity; and by Britain’s war with the Saxons. A master storyteller continues his retelling of the Arthurian legend.

Excalibur arthur book 3 by bernard cornwell

In The Winter King and Enemy of God Bernard Cornwell demonstrated his astonishing ability to make the oft-told legend of King Arthur fresh and new for our time. Now, in this riveting final volume of The Warlord Chronicles, Cornwell tells the unforgettable tale of Arthur’s final struggles against the Saxons and his last attempts to triumph over a ruined marriage and ravaged dreams.   This is the tale not only of a broken love remade, but also of forces both earthly and unearthly that threaten everything Arthur stands for. Peopled by princesses and bards, by warriors and magicians, Excalibur is the story of love, war, loyalty, and betrayal-the work of a magnificent storyteller at the height of his powers.

Bernard Cornwell does include some of the mythology of the legend with his inclusion of Merlin and others such as Nimue (Vivianne). He addresses the conflicts going on between the new religion of Christianity with the dying Pagan beliefs and how this as much as anything else worked to tear the kingdoms apart when they needed to be united against the Saxons.  While he includes that mythology, he also addresses the divisions of the kingdoms, the Roman influences that remained, the betrayals that took place as rulers attempted to hold on to their kingdoms by any means possible- including siding at times with the Saxons and attempting to pit the Saxons against each other. Cornwell looks at all of these things that were most likely actually occurring during that time. He gives us a more realistic picture of those legendary characters, flaws included! My personal favorite deviation from said legends is his portrayal of Lancelot as a vain and traitorous man whose main ambition was to be a King in order to enjoy the materialistic benefits it would bring him. Lancelot had excellent PR men, which he found within the church, and used them to extoll his “saintly” virtues.  The portrayal of Arthur as a man so focused on his role as protector and seeing only the good in people combines that legendary honor status of Arthur while showing the flaws of such belief. He refuses to see clearly what is going on around him, what treachery and deception other people that he trusts as loyal are capable of, that he makes serious mistakes in judgement and nearly defeats his purpose of uniting the kingdoms as a result.  I have not yet read the third book but am looking forward to seeing the conclusion to this version of Arthur and his history.

 

 a more basic and realistic representation. As she herself warns, you will find no magic or fantasy realm here. There is no mention of Merlin, Lancelot, or even Tristan and his beloved Isolde here. Helen Hollick admits freely that she is not an academic historian but she did do a great deal of research into the events of this time period to put together this version of who Arthur may have been, how he might have risen to his power and what might have happened as a result. For those of you looking for a glorious knight in shining armor full of honor and true goodness, this is probably not the book for you… This Arthur is full of flaws!  If you are looking for a romantic love story of Arthur and his true love, Guinevere, then this is probably not quite the right story for you either. Above all else, this Arthur is a warrior with high ambitions. He has a vision of being King as his Father was and he will do almost anything to achieve that goal. He does love his Gwenhwyfar but that love comes second or third to his first ambitions. He is definitely not a saint, he has a lust for all women- which he often acts on and then must suffer the consequences of those actions.  Some of those consequences include a number of jealous and spurned women as well as various offspring along the way.  Some readers have commented and complained that this series portrays women in such bad light as evil, manipulative types… What I get from this series so far is Helen Hollick showing that women could be just as malicious, devious and manipulative as men when it came to terms of them fighting for  power or wealth and status. They were not above using what ever means available to them to ensure they got what they felt they deserved, needed or desired.  This is a much a story of women’s wars against each other as it is about the battles or wars of men for a country or kingdom. The story of Arthur’s battles at time almost comes secondary to the power wars of these early women!

 

The kingmaking Helen hollick

As Uthr Pendragon battles to overthrow the tyrant Vortigern tragedy strikes. There is only one man who can lead Britain from the chaos of darkness into a new age of glory. Protected since birth, he is revealed as the new Pendragon.

The Pendragon Banner 2 by helen hollick

Who was the man
… who became the legend
… we know as
KING ARTHUR?

Pendragon’s Banner is the second book in Helen Hollick’s exciting King Arthur trilogy, covering 459-465 A.D. This is not a fairy tale or fantasy. There is no Merlin, no sword in the stone, and no Lancelot. This is the most accurate Arthurian legend ever written, based on historical evidence and meticulous research.

At age twenty-four, King Arthur has the kingdom he fought so hard for and a new young family. But keeping the throne of Britain—and keeping his wife and three sons safe—proves far from easy. Two enemies in particular threaten everything that is dear to him: Winifred, Arthur’s vindictive first wife, and Morgause, priestess of the Mother and malevolent Queen of the North. Both have royal ambitions of their own.

In this story of harsh battles, secret treasonous plots, and the life-threatening politics of early Britain’s dark ages, author Helen Hollick boldly reintroduces King Arthur as you’ve never seen him before.

PRAISE FOR PENDRAGON’S BANNER:

“Hollick’s interpretation is bold, affecting and well worth fighting to defend.”
Publishers Weekly

“Weaves together fact, legend, and inspired imagination to create a world so real we can breathe the smoke of its fires and revel in the Romano- British lust for life, love and honour.”
Historical Novel Review

“Camelot as it really was… a very talented writer.”
Sharon Kay Penman, bestselling author of Devil’s Brood

PRAISE FOR THE KINGMAKING:

“Hollick juggles a cast of characters and a bloody, tangled plot with great skill.”
Publishers Weekly

“If only all historical fiction could be this good.”
Historical Novels Review

“Stripped of its medieval trappings, the story of Arthur’s rise loses none of its legendary power… this [is a] well-researched, skillfully constructed trilogy opener.”
Library Journal

Shadow of the king by helen hollick

Arthur Pendragon is dead! His widow, Gwenhwyfar, faces overthrow by the powerful council headed by Arthur’s uncle, and a power struggle with his ex-wife Winifred. But, unknown to her, events in France and Germany mean that a far mightier battle is ahead.

 

I have only just started the second book in Helen Hollick’s series so I can not give a full review of all of them together but I can say that I am as equally impressed with Helen Hollick’s version as with Bernard Cornwell’s! The two authors give different representations and reasonings but both present a rather realistic portrayal of the events surrounding the legends. I have to say for now that I am slightly more in favor of Hollick’s version only because she has chosen to leave out the magic of Merlin in her telling of the story. I appreciate that Cornwell found a way to incorporate the myths and magic into his version but kind of wish that he hadn’t put so much focus on Merlin and his seemingly magical qualities. I understand his reasoning in wanting to include this mythology in some way but I think it takes a little away from the rest of the more realistic story he is presenting. He could have presented Merlin as the highly respected Druid that he might have been and even alluded to what ever mythology or magic that may have been associated with that belief system, much as he did with the other beliefs such as Mythros and Isis, and left it at that without involving his supposed mystical and magical qualities quite so much. I did also appreciate his portrayal of Tristan and Isolde in their doomed love affair with no myth or magic involved in it, just a sad story of two lovers who met a bad end.

What initially drew me to Hollick’s version of the legend was that in reading previews and summaries of her series, I was interested in the fact that she chose to include the stories of Hengist and Horsa, and Briton King Voltigern. Hollick’s version of the legend places Arthur in the middle of these events and gives us a version that weaves Arthur’s ambitions and actions into this historical event. It then allows for a telling that coincides with some historical theories that the later Saxon King Cerdic was probably of part Briton descent. I did address this history in the previous post on Saxon history so her weaving of the legend in this way made some sense to me.  Hollick’s version of Arthur places him in the earliest part of the Saxon arrival while Cornwell’s version put Arthur at a later time with Cerdic and another Saxon King Aelle fighting against each other for land and power.

Both Hollick and Cornwell make some reference and admissions as to how it is in some ways a situation that the Britons themselves created. In Hollick’s story, Arthur admits that were he in the same position of those Saxons such as Hengist being deceived and betrayed on land that was promised, he might have reacted in much the same way. This Arthur also concedes that Hengist had a right to promised lands and he honors that particular right, allowing him to retain those lands. Hollick’s  Arthur makes mention of the futile wish for peace between all and realizes that the Saxons are not going to disappear from their land.

 Both authors also both make excellent reference to the earlier Roman domination and remaining influences such as the architecture left behind. In Cornwell’s version, Arthur and his Guinever reside in one of those remaining villas, though the villas all are suffering from disrepair and neglect due to the fact that there are so few skilled artisans left to make any repairs. There is also much reference made to the beliefs of both Britons and Saxons not wanting to live in such stone buildings filled with spirits and ghosts of unknown nature. Another unfortunate side affect of the ongoing wars is that everyone was so focused on battles and surviving that they had little time, wealth or manpower left to devote to the upkeep of such places. 

My personal thought and suggestion is that you read both versions for a better understanding of  who Arthur might have been and those events that had a part in creating the legend and myth that he became!

 

If you are still craving the fantasy and the myth of Arthur, never fear… there is yet another version of that legend coming. Knights of the Roundtable, a feature film version of the story is currently in production with a scheduled release date in 2016. It is being directed by Guy Ritchie, written by Joby Harold and stars at this time include Katie McGrath, Charlie Hunnam, and Jude Law. It was recently announced too that David Beckham will make an appearance. For full details on the cast, see here:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3496992/fullcredits?ref_=tt_cl_sm#cast

The young Arthur runs the back passages of Londonium with his crew, not knowing his royal lineage until he grabs Excalibur. Instantly confronted by the sword’s influence, Arthur is forced to make up his mind. He joins the rebellion and a shadowy young woman named Guinevere, he must learn to understand the magic weapon, deal with his demons and unite the people to defeat the dictator Vortigern, the man who murdered his parents and stole his crown to become king.

Some production photos have been released:

'Knights of the Roundtable: King Arthur' filming in Wales Featuring: Atmosphere Where: Conwy, United Kingdom When: 14 Apr 2015 Credit: WENN.com

‘Knights of the Roundtable: King Arthur’ filming in Wales
Featuring: Atmosphere
Where: Conwy, United Kingdom
When: 14 Apr 2015
Credit: WENN.com

'Knights of the Roundtable: King Arthur' filming in Wales Featuring: Jude Law Where: Conwy, United Kingdom When: 14 Apr 2015 Credit: WENN.com

‘Knights of the Roundtable: King Arthur’ filming in Wales
Featuring: Jude Law
Where: Conwy, United Kingdom
When: 14 Apr 2015
Credit: WENN.com

'Knights of the Roundtable: King Arthur' filming in Wales Featuring: Guy Ritchie Where: Conwy, United Kingdom When: 14 Apr 2015 Credit: WENN.com

‘Knights of the Roundtable: King Arthur’ filming in Wales
Featuring: Guy Ritchie
Where: Conwy, United Kingdom
When: 14 Apr 2015
Credit: WENN.com

'Knights of the Roundtable: King Arthur' filming in Wales Featuring: Atmosphere Where: Conwy, United Kingdom When: 14 Apr 2015 Credit: WENN.com

‘Knights of the Roundtable: King Arthur’ filming in Wales
Featuring: Atmosphere
Where: Conwy, United Kingdom
When: 14 Apr 2015
Credit: WENN.com

'Knights of the Roundtable: King Arthur' filming in Wales Featuring: Jude Law Where: Conwy, United Kingdom When: 14 Apr 2015 Credit: WENN.com

‘Knights of the Roundtable: King Arthur’ filming in Wales
Featuring: Jude Law
Where: Conwy, United Kingdom
When: 14 Apr 2015
Credit: WENN.com

'Knights of the Roundtable: King Arthur' filming in Wales Featuring: Jude Law, Eric Bana, Poppy Delavingne Where: Conwy, United Kingdom When: 14 Apr 2015 Credit: WENN.com

‘Knights of the Roundtable: King Arthur’ filming in Wales
Featuring: Jude Law, Eric Bana, Poppy Delavingne
Where: Conwy, United Kingdom
When: 14 Apr 2015
Credit: WENN.com

Filming 'The Knights of the Round Table:King Arthur'  in Wales Featuring: Guy Ritchie Where: Conwy, United Kingdom When: 14 Apr 2015 Credit: WENN.com

Filming ‘The Knights of the Round Table:King Arthur’ in Wales
Featuring: Guy Ritchie
Where: Conwy, United Kingdom
When: 14 Apr 2015
Credit: WENN.com

In January 2014, Warner Bros set Guy Ritchie to direct a new multi-film version of the King Arthur legend. The first film titled Knights of the Roundtable: King Arthur,  with Lionel Wigram as producer and Joby Harold as screenwriter,  is the first installment of a planned six films series, and is scheduled for a July 22, 2016 release.  Idris Elba was in talks to play a Merlin-esque figure who trains and mentors Arthur. When Elba did not sign on to the film, the director continued to look for an actor to play the role.Charlie Hunnam, Ritchie’s choice for the role, will play King Arthur.  Elizabeth Olsen was in talks for the female lead.  However, on September 18, it was Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey who was added to the cast of to play Guinevere.  On November 14, Jude Law was in talks to play the lead villain role in the film.  On February 11, 2015, Eric Bana was added to the cast to play Uther, the father of King Arthur.  Mikael Persbrandt joined the film on March 6, 2015 to play a villainous role.   Filming in Windsor Great Park was underway in February 2015, then later in North Wales from March 2, 2015.  Later on March 10, 2015, Ritchie tweeted a photo and confirmed the first day of shooting  In April 2015, filming took place in Snowdonia, where locations used were Tryfan, Nant Gwynant near Beddgelert and Capel Curig.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knights_of_the_Roundtable:_King_Arthur

From what little plot or story information that is yet available, all I can surmise is that this will be more myth and fantasy than any real historical basis other than mention of said King Vortigern playing some part in it. That is fine too, we all enjoy some fantasy in our life along with the more real stories! It looks interesting so far!

 

 

 

 

From Odin and Woden to Anglo-Saxons in Britain

wodin and his followers

woden and his followers

 

 

saxon right to rule2

In my previous article on kings and dynasties, I stated that I would look at each group separately in more depth.  In order to better understand the Anglo-Saxon rule in England, we need to have some history on who the Angles, the Saxons and Jutes were, and how they came to England in the first place.  This article is a brief look at that history.

You can view the previous article here: https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2015/05/15/i-am-king-really-why-and-how/

I am King

Before we get into the rulers and their divine right to rule, we need to look briefly at the history of the kingdoms, the people and how they came to be in Britain. We will look at the Angles, the Saxons, and yes even the Jutes who seem to get overlooked and forgotten in the discussions of early Britain, I am also going to include a segment on one other group that gets mixed in with the rest but does have it’s own separate identity… that would be a group of Geats from the area of Sweden who made their contribution via the Wulfinga tribe who would settle in part of Britain.  I am including this group for two reasons. They did play an important part in the history of  Britain, and one of our past rulers was presumably a part of this group. The unfortunate Jarl Borg  belonged  to a distinctive Norse tribe known as the Gautar, a people referred to in English works such as Beowulf and Widsith as the ‘Geats’, and related to the Germanic Goth tribes which invaded the western Roman Empire. The Gautar have since been assimilated by the Swedes in the Medieval period.  Jarl Borg, as a powerful Geatish lord of near-kingly powers, may have been a member of the royal clan of the Wulfings (descendents of the wolf) who traditionally ruled over the Gautar of Ostergotland.

Sam Newton and others (including Rupert Bruce-Mitford), have proposed that the East Anglian Wuffing dynasty was derived from the Wulfings, and it was at their court that Beowulf was first composed.  

The Wuffingas, Uffingas or Wuffings were the ruling dynasty of East Anglia, the long-lived Anglo-Saxon kingdom which today includes the English counties of Norfolk and Suffolk. The Wuffingas took their name from Wuffa, an early East Anglian king. Nothing is known of the members of the dynasty before Rædwald, who ruled from about 599 to circa 624. The Viking invasions of the ninth century destroyed the monasteries in East Anglia where many documents relating to the rule of the Wuffingas would have been kept.

The last of the Wuffingas kings was Ælfwald, who died in 749 and who was succeeded by kings whose lineage is unknown.  The kingdom of East Anglia was settled by peoples from northern Europe during the 5th and 6th centuries. Historical sources relating to the genealogy of the East Anglian kings include the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and Bede‘s Ecclesiastical History, both compiled many years after the kingdom was formed, as well as lists produced by medieval historians, such as the 12th century Textus Roffensis, who may have had access to other sources that are now lost. Several of the Wuffingas kings are included in a pedigree of Ælfwald, contained in the Anglian collection that dates from the 9th century. In the pedigree, Ælfwald is claimed to descend from the god Wōden.

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

jarl borg caressing his wife's skull

jarl borg caressing his wife’s skull

jarl borg planning revenge

jarl borg planning revenge

In my previous article about Horik and Ragnar, I did touch on the beginnings of the Angles and Saxons in Britain with their migration from their homelands as the Danish or Dani began to take over those areas.  This migration  included Jutes and Geats from the southern area of what is now Sweden. Keep in mind that this migration took place centuries prior to the Viking arrivals in late 700s and 800s. These earliest migrations began as the Romans were fighting to maintain control of this outpost known as Britannia. Another important fact to remember for our purposes here is that we are not looking at the areas of Wales, Cornwall, Scotland or Ireland in this discussion.

Little is really known about the Jutes, their migration to Britain or their eventual demise in that land. They most likely joined with their neighbors, the Angles and Saxons in the relocation to Britain when the Danes and Franks became more powerful and took over the home lands.  It is possible that the Jutes are a related people to the Geats and a Gothic people as it is mentioned in the Gutasaga that some inhabitants of Gotland left for mainland Europe. Large grave sites were found at Willenberg, Prussia (now Wielbark, Poland). The finds were attributed to the ancient Gutones, who may speculatively belinked to the much later Goths.

They settled in smaller  southern areas of England,  kent and Isle of  Whight.  If you look at this map of Anglo-Saxon England, you can see that Kent is fairly close to east Anglia where the Geats (Wulfings) settled. If the two groups were related or connected to each other, it would stand to reason that they re-settle in some close proximity.

The Jutes were a smaller group than the others and they seem to have rather quickly been assimilated into those larger groups, losing most of their previous individual history or identity. While it is commonplace to detect their influences in Kent (for example, the practice of partible inheritance known as gavelkind), the Jutes in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight vanished, probably assimilated to the surrounding Saxons, leaving only the slightest of traces.  The culture of the Jutes of Kent shows more signs of Roman, Frankish, and Christian influence than that of the Angles or Saxons. Funerary evidence indicates that the pagan practice of cremation ceased relatively early and jewellery recovered from graves has affinities with Rhenish styles from the Continent, perhaps suggesting close commercial connections with Francia. It is possible that being such a small group that they were more quickly assimilated into the Christian beliefs and culture as well. Some early historians speculated that they were victims of Ethnic cleansing by the West Saxons but later theories suggest that it was more a case of them assimilating themselves into the larger groups. What ever the reason, they disappeared as a group early on and played no role in the later settlements of  England by the Anglo-Saxons.

East-Anglia-11

 

 

Angles-Saxons-Jutes-&-Frisians during roman occupation of Britannia   map

Angles-Saxons-Jutes-&-Frisians during roman occupation of Britannia map

For our discussion, we are only going to focus on those areas that the Jutes, Angles and Saxons would conquer and settle in.  The following is an early map of  the home lands that the Jutes, Saxons and Angles occupied prior to the Danes took them over.

Angles_saxons_jutes in northland  map

Angles_saxons_jutes in northland map

This map gives a breakdown of where they originally settled in Roman era Brittania.

Anglo_saxon_jute breakdown in Britain map

Anglo_saxon_jute breakdown in Britain map

By the early 600s, this is what the kingdoms and settlements were beginning to look like with this, Angles and Saxons controlling much of the area and Jutes holding on to a few small portions. The native Britons were relegated to the areas of Whales and Scotland at that time. This is a precursor to the four main kingdoms that would remain and become vital power players in the future. By the  800s it would become Wessex, Mercia and Northumbria, with East Anglia remaining a small separate entity.

Angles,_Saxons,_Jutes_in_Britain_year_600  map

Angles,_Saxons,_Jutes_in_Britain_year_600 map

This is what the land looked like by late 700s, early 800s in the time of Ecbert.

Egbert_of_Wessex_map

Egbert_of_Wessex_map

 

 

The Romans left Britannia in the early 400s as the Angles, Saxons and Jutes began their migration to the area.  They left behind their buildings, their roadways, some of their culture and they left behind  their religion as well. By the time the Romans left Brittania, they were Christians. Some of their citizens and their priests would have chosen to stay in this land that they now considered home. As they became assimilated into the new cultures taking over the land, they would most likely have begun the process of  slowly merging and weaving together the two separate belief systems into a form of Christianity that those North people would understand and accept. By the 800s when the second wave of Northmen arrived, these earlier invaders and settlers had become  fully immersed in the Christian belief system with their previous Nordic beliefs long forgotten, set aside or kept secret. There would have been remaining sects and pockets of those who followed the old ways but this would have been in the more isolated, rural areas and even then, they would have kept it at a low profile so as not to draw attention or recrimination from the Church, which was becoming so much more powerful and controlling.

 

First we should look at the original migration of the Saxons, Angles and Jutes from their homeland to the areas that they each ultimately settled in Britain. They all came from the same general area, probably spoke the same language and most importantly, held the same beliefs. All of these early tribes followed Odin or Woden and they took their belief system with them to Brittania. The only difference in the belief system is that the Angles, Saxons and Jutes in Britain  followed this God as Woden while those who remained in the homeland used the word Odin..  Woden would eventually play an important part in determining the rulers of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms.

gods of our saxon gods 1.sun god 2. moon god 3.god tiw 4. woden

gods of our saxon gods 1.sun god 2. moon god 3.god tiw 4. woden

The ancestor of the South Saxon kings, Woden was born at the beginning of time, his parents being the giant, Bor, and the giantess, Bestia, who came from chaos.

Woden was the Father God, the god of battle and death, the god of inspiration and wit, and, far from least, he was the god of learning. Woden was also the psychopomp of slain warriors, taking them back to Valhalla, his hall of the brave. Valhalla was situated in a joyous land called Gladheim, where Woden also had another hall with twelve thrones upon which were seated his councillors.

Woden was the great chief of the Aesir, a race of war gods who lived in Asgarth, the world of divinities. The god-chief had two ravens, Hugin (Thought) and Munin (Memory), who told him all that had happened in Milgard, the world of mortals.

Woden was in wedlock with Frigg, the goddess of fertility, conjugal love and motherhood.

Their eldest son, Balder, was the favourite of all the other gods and known for his matchless beauty and sweetness of character. He was the god of plants and good forces. He lived in a hall called Breithablik with his wife, the daughter of the god Nepr, and her name was Nanna. Forseti, their son, was the god of justice, peace and truth. He had a throne in his hall. This residence was called Glitnir, a palace which was embellished with silver and gold.

Balder was killed unintentionally by his blind brother, the god Hoder, with a bough of mistletoe, having been misled by the malicious Loki, the god of mischief, destruction and fire.

Woden and Frigg had another son who was killed in combat at the battle of Ragnasok. His name was Hermod. Since he had no children and nor did Hoder, presumably Aelle and Mealla (if they were royal) would have claimed descent from Woden through his grandson, Forseti. Woden also had a natural son called Vithar, by his concubine Grithir, who was a giantess.

Norway_Fjords woden

According to Norwegian myth the mountain caves in this land of fjords are peopled by supernatural giants called trolls, although they sometimes appear as dwarfs. Tradition also says that they read the Old Testament. Perhaps trolls derive their ancestry from a distant memory of neanderthals, as might the giants who are said to have existed in the chaos before the birth of Woden.

The traditional view has always been presented that the Anglo-Saxons made a great invasion of the land, destroyed everything in their path and took it over completely, wiping out all of the previous inhabitants or causing them to flee to the wilds and desolation of the west and northern portions. We have been told that, much like the second wave of Vikings, they were marauding, murderous heathenish Barbarians. This traditional view is slanted and biased in favor of the Romans, and the Christians who were able to write down their versions of what happened during that era. As with any history, there are two sides to every event and the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Were there great battles, burnings, pillaging and death? Yes, of course there were- on all sides.  If you were a villager or farmer of that time, you may not have even been sure quite who was destroying your life. You might have imagined that it was that group of Barbarians, those Saxons that your overlord mentioned… but you may not have been aware of what your overlord had previously done to incur that wrath? You may not even have completely understood all of the groups waging war against each other, or that those Saxons were aiding some neighboring kingdom that your ruler had caused to create an enemy of. If you survived to tell of the battle, your recollection would be only of what you experienced first hand, or what your ruler told you was the cause. You would have known little or nothing about any underlying reasons and you most likely have not cared because in your small world, you would have gone on with your struggle for life in those bleak and uncertain times.

 

The Romans had been in control of the area for 350 years by the time they decided to leave. What happened in Britannia should hold the Romans as much or even more accountable and responsible than the Anglo-Saxons. They left the territory in a vulnerable state, having already destroyed and weakened the native Britons’ ability to rule or govern for themselves. What followed was chaos that left the remaining residents fighting amongst themselves for control of the area. As I’ve already mentioned, some Romans chose to remain as they now considered themselves more Briton than Roman.  Many of them held bitterness and resentment of the Roman Empire for what happened. One other thing to consider is that many  of those who remained may also have been soldiers who had been conscripted into the Roman army from all parts of the Empire, probably including those places of the Saxons, Angles and Jutes.  Just because one was attached to the Roman Empire it did not necessarily mean they were Roman or even a Roman citizen.  When the Roman Empire began to fall, many one time citizens or allies would probably have returned their allegiance to what ever home land they were from originally or the land they were residing in when the fall came. Those Romans that remained became Romo-Britons, and retained their previous elite statuses and lands for some time. They became part of the Briton elite rulers who were trying to re-build and re-establish kingdoms within the country.  Rome made Britain a melting pot of cultures before the Saxons ever thought of arriving.

If you search through the histories to find that in between middle ground, you will find that the Saxons were not unknown to the Roman Empire or the Britons, nor were they necessarily the barbarians they were depicted as other than for the fact they were one of the many groups rebelling against the Roman Empire at the time. The Saxons were at one time part of that Empire, having been brought into it by the Foederati or treaty system that the Romans used to increase their armies. foederati and its usage and meaning was extended by the Roman practice of subsidizing entire barbarian tribes — which included the Franks, Vandals, Alans and, best known, the Visigoths — in exchange for providing warriors to fight in the Roman armies. Alaric began his career leading a band of Gothic foederati.

Saxons were mentioned as early as 350 by the Romans who were already dealing with Saxon defiance to their rule. It was during that time that Rome created a military district called the Litus Saxonicum (“Saxon Coast”) on both sides of the English Channel.  The Saxons were fighting ongoing battles against the Franks who were Roman allies.  It is possible that Saxon settlement of Great Britain began only in response to expanding Frankish control of the Channel coast.  An important clue to why the Saxons might have felt some justification in their continuing settlement of Britain is that before the end of Roman rule in Britannia, many Saxons and other folk had been permitted to settle in these areas as farmers. The Romans opened the door for them to move in…. perhaps because they were already thinking of  pulling out of the area and did not really care so much about who moved in next. The Romans may have thought that if the Saxon groups moved into Britain, they would be less of a threat on the rest of the continent.  For the retreating Romans, it may have been a case of “Fine, you want a place of your own…Here take this place and Good Luck with that!”

 

After the Romans retreated from Britannia, some of the remaining powers continued to use the Roman system and still maintained some connection to Rome even though The Roman Empire had made it clear that those who remained in this place would be on their own and should not expect assistance from Rome. At some point they did appeal to Rome for assistance in fighting the Picts and Scoti, and this is possibly how the Saxons entered the picture on a larger scale. They were not marauding invaders, they were invited into the country by both the Romans and the later rulers of Britain!

This early documentation by Gildas in the 6th century is interesting because while he does refer to the Saxons as enemies, he admits that they were invited- hired to help, and he gives a clue as to what the middle ground may have been.

In Gildas‘s work of the sixth century, De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae, a religious tract on the state of Britain, the Saxons were enemies originally from overseas, who brought well-deserved judgement upon the local kings or ‘tyrants’.

  1. After an appeal to Aëtius the Britons were gripped by famine while suffering attacks from the Picts and Scoti; some fought back successfully, leading to a period of peace.
  2. Peace led to luxuria and self-indulgence.
  3. A renewed attack was threatened by the Picts and Scoti, and this led to a council, where it was proposed and agreed that land in the east would be given to the Saxons on the basis of a treaty, a foedus, by which the Saxons would defend the Britons in exchange for food supplies. This type of arrangement was unexceptional in a Late Roman context; Franks had been settled as foederati on imperial territory in northern Gaul (Toxandria) in the 4th century, and the Visigoths were settled in Gallia Aquitania early in the 5th century.
  4. The Saxon foederati first complained that their monthly supplies were inadequate. Then they threatened to break the treaty, which they did, spreading the onslaught from “sea to sea”.
  5. This war, which Higham called the “War of the Saxon Federates”, ended some 20–30 years later shortly after the siege at Montis Badonici, and some 40 years before Gildas was born.
  6. There was a peace with the Saxons who returned to their eastern home, which Gildas called a lugubre divortium barbarorum – a grievous divorce with the barbarians. The “divorce settlement”, Higham in particular argued  was a better treaty and the ability to get tribute from the people in the east, under the leadership of the person Gildas called pater diabolus or Father-devil.

What this excerpt tells us is the Britons hired the Saxons, promised them  payment and supplies and then were unable or unwilling to carry through on the treaty. Other early writings mention that the Saxons were also promised land to settle and the Britons reneged on that as well. What ensued was a lengthy period of wars and battles between the Britons and the Saxons.

Gildas described the corruption of the elite: “Britain has kings but they are tyrants; she has judges but they are wicked”. This passage provides a glimpse into the world of Gildas, he continued: “they plunder and terrorise the innocent, they defend and protect the guilty and thieving, they have many wives, whores and adulteresses, swear false oaths, tell lies, reward thieves, sit with murderous men, despise the humble, their commanders are ‘enemies of God'”; the list is long. Interesting oath breaking and the absence of just judgements for ordinary people was mentioned a number of times. British leadership, everywhere, was immoral and the cause of the “ruin of Britain”.

Hengist and Horsa:

HegestAndHorsa hengist and horsa

The earliest accounts of the Saxon arrival are stories or legends regarding two Saxon brothers, Hengist and Horsa.  Bear in mind that these accounts were not written down until centuries later.  Both Anglo-Saxon chronicles and Norse Sagas give versions or accounts of the men.  Hengist and Horsa are figures of Anglo-Saxon history, which records the two as the Germanic brothers who led the Angle, Saxon, Frisian, and Jutish armies that conquered the first territories of Britain in the 5th century. Tradition lists Hengist (through his son, whose name varies by source) as the founder of the Kingdom of Kent. As with most of the stories, theirs was colored by the Christian Monks recording history of the time. What you need to do is strip all of that coloring away down the most basic part of the account. 

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle entry for the year 449 records that Hengest and Horsa were invited to Britain by Vortigern to assist his forces in fighting the Picts. Hengist and Horsa arrived at a place called Ipwinesfleet, and went on to defeat the Picts wherever they fought them. Hengist and Horsa sent word to the Angles describing “the worthlessness of the Britons, and the richness of the land” and asked for assistance. Their request was granted and support arrived. Afterward, more people arrived in Britain from “the three powers of Germany; the Old Saxons, the Angles, and the Jutes”. The Old Saxons populated the areas of the kingdoms of Essex, Sussex and Wessex. The Jutes populated the area of Kent, the Isle of Wight and an area of the adjacent mainland that would later be part of Wessex. The East Angles, Middle Angles, Mercians and “all those north of Humber” arrived from the region of Anglia (a peninsula in Southern Schleswig, Northern Germany) “which has ever since remained waste between the Jutes and Saxons”. These forces were led by the brothers Hengist and Horsa, sons of Wihtgils, son of Witta, son of Wecta, son of Woden.

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

The Historia Brittonum records that, during the reign of Vortigern in Britain, three vessels that had been exiled from Germania arrived in Britain, commanded by Hengist and Horsa. The Historia Brittonum details that Geta was said to be the son of a god, yet “not of the omnipotent God and our Lord Jesus Christ,” but rather “the offspring of one of their idols, and whom, blinded by some demon, they worshipped according to the custom of the heathen.” In 447 AD, Vortigern received Hengist and Horsa “as friends” and gave to the brothers the Isle of Thanet.

After the Saxons had lived on Thanet for “some time” Vortigern promised them supplies of clothing and other provisions on condition that the Saxons assist him in fighting the enemies of his country. The Saxons increased in number and the Britons were unable to keep their agreement. The Britons told the Saxons that the Saxons’ numbers had increased, that they no longer needed Saxon assistance and that the Saxons should go home as the Britons could no longer support them.

Vortigern allowed Hengist to send for more of Hengist’s countrymen to come over to Britain and fight for Vortigern. Messengers were sent to “Scythia“, where “a number” of warriors were selected, and, with sixteen ships, the messengers returned. With the men came Hengist’s beautiful daughter. Hengist prepared a feast, inviting Vortigern, Vortigern’s officers, and Ceretic, his translator. Prior to the feast, Hengist enjoined his daughter to serve the guests plenty of wine and ale so that they would get very intoxicated. The plan succeeded. “At the instigation of the Devil”, Vortigern fell in love with Hengist’s daughter and promised Hengist whatever he liked in exchange for her betrothal. Hengist, having previously “consulted with the Elders who attended him of the Angle race,” demanded Kent. Without the knowledge of the then-ruler of Kent, Vortigern agreed.

This account by the Historia Brittonum is somewhat contradictory at best… If Vortigern wanted them out of the country, why would he have then allowed them to send for additional forces? What is does do though, along with other accounts is set a basis for the British Kings reneging on their promises to those Saxons they needed help from. Hengist most likely knew full well of this breech and responded in kind with his own betrayals.  The British Kingdoms were not just fighting the Picts and Scoti, they were fighting each other and would go to such lengths as using Saxon mercenaries to win their battles. What eventually happened was that the Anglo-Saxons fought to retain lands they had been given, as well as developing allegiances with some of those British Kingdoms.

 

I am providing this history of the Anglo-Saxon immigration to Britain because I feel it is important to see them in that middle ground of a history that has often portrayed them as the scourge of Britain. It is difficult to piece together what might have happened but many historians today have searched for that middle ground, that in between, those few grains of possible truth sifted out from the extremes.  There a number of theories on how and why the Anglo-Saxons may have become the dominant culture in Britain where by the 8th century, they were viewed as the locals and native Britons were viewed as outsiders or foriegners.  The name Welsh originated as an exonym given to its speakers by the Anglo-Saxons, meaning “foreign speech” (see Walha). The native term for the language is Cymraeg and Cymru for “Wales”.

Most agree now that they did not come in all in one invading force and wipe out the previous culture. It began as a small migration and settlement of them in places where they had been given land. The Roman Britons did not disappear, nor did the native Britons.  A  last battle took place between the original Saxon mercenaries and the Britons- a battle which the Saxons felt justified in fighting because of broken treaties.  the Saxons lost this last battle but were not defeated, decimated or thrown out of the country. A compromise seemed to have been reached and lands were divided up between the British elite rulers and the Saxons. 

Historian Nick Higham is convinced that the success of the Anglo-Saxon elite in gaining an early compromise shortly after the Battle of Badon is a key to the success of the culture. This produced a political ascendancy across the south and east of Britain, which in turn required some structure to be successful.  After this time there began the process of cultures merging together to form one new one.  The Bretwalda concept is taken as evidence for a presence of a number of early Anglo-Saxon elite families and a clear unitary oversight. Whether the majority of these leaders were early settlers, descendant from settlers, or especially after the exploration stage they were Roman-British leaders who adopted Anglo-Saxon culture is unclear. The balance of opinion is that most were migrants, although it shouldn’t be assumed they were all “Germanic”. There is agreement: that these were small in number and proportion, yet large enough in power and influence to ensure “Anglo-Saxon” acculturation in the lowlands of Britain.  Most historians believe these elites were those named by Bede, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and others, although there is discussion regarding their floruit dates. Importantly, whatever their origin or when they flourished, they established their claim to lordship through their links to extended kin ties. As Helen Peake jokingly points out “they all just happened to be related back to Woden”.

For a more in depth and detailed look at the Anglo-Saxon migration and theories of why they were so successful, you can start your search here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anglo-Saxon_settlement_of_Britain

Throughout history, the reputation of those earliest Saxons has been colored by the Christian accounts of them as heathens and barbarians that destroyed a land and culture… what is interesting and important to remember is that those same Christians were  in the process of completely wiping out that culture and belief system that they were blaming the Saxons for.  The Christians had already cleared the land of much of it’s previous beliefs by decimating and eliminating the old religious leaders- the Druids and driving out the followers who still clung to those beliefs. Those early Christian leaders were as much responsible for the terror and dark ages that would follow as the Saxons were.

The early Christians shaped our history by shaping our tales, our legends and myths of that time. They were responsible for such tales as the brave and virtuous King Arthur, his valiant knights of the round table who fought evil, injustice and the barbarians in effort to save England, to unite it against all of those evil and demonic forces. We all know those legends and myths that portray the Christian brotherhood in glory and present the Saxons as some of those evil invaders…  And, somewhere even in those tales there are probably small grains of truth as to possible figures of who Arthur might have been or represented, of battles that probably did actually take place. There are a number of King Arthur theories relating to the history of Britain during those dark ages. If you are interested, I have a previous article for you to read:

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

I would also suggest that you read Bernard Cornwell’s series on King Arthur. He strips away much of the myth and legend, and tells a tale more of the history and the battles that ensued after Rome left. He still leaves the Saxons in a rather bad light but he does not paint such a perfect picture of Arthur or the Britons either, so it kind of evens out the story a bit. It is an interesting perspective on the legend and does take into account the long lasting Roman influences left behind!

 

winter_king_uk-179x307

‘Once upon a time, in a land that was called Britain, these things happened . . . . and I was there, and this is how it was.’ The Winter King , like the rest of the trilogy, is narrated by Derfel (which is pronounced Dervel), one of Arthur’s warriors. This first book tells how after the death of Uther, High King of Britain, the country falls into chaos. Uther’s heir is a child, Mordred, and Arthur, his uncle, is named one of the boy’s guardians. Arthur has to fight other British kingdoms and the dreadful “Sais” – the Saxons – who are invading Britain. Arthur is supposed to marry Ceinwyn, a princess of Powys, but falls disastrously in love with Guinevere – ‘There have been many more beautiful women, and thousands who were better, but since the world was weaned I doubt there have been many so unforgettable as Guinevere . . . and it would have been better, Merlin always said, had she been drowned at birth.’

 To read an interview  with the Camelot Project, click on this link:  http://d.lib.rochester.edu/camelot/text/thompson-interview-cornwell

For another perspective on the story of Arthur and the Roman involvement, you could also watch one of my favorite movies…

Movie_poster_king_arthur

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_Arthur_(film)

King Arthur is a 2004 action adventure film directed by Antoine Fuqua and written by David Franzoni. It stars Clive Owen as the title character, Ioan Gruffudd as Lancelot, and Keira Knightley as Guinevere.  The film is unusual in reinterpreting Arthur as a Roman officer rather than a medieval knight. Despite these departures from the source material, the Welsh Mabinogion, the producers of the film attempted to market it as a more historically accurate version of the Arthurian legends, supposedly inspired by new archaeological findings. The film was shot in England, Ireland, and Wales.  It gives a somewhat more historical perspective as well, but does still put the Saxons in the role as sole villains. I watched it recently while researching this history and found myself more seriously bothered by this representation than before! I am still searching for some sort of story that portrays the Saxons in a slightly more positive or at least more balanced light?

In the above movie, the Saxons are represented by their leader Cerdic and his son Cinric… They are of course the vicious torturing villains that we have come to expect Saxons to be. Of interesting note for Vikings fans, Cerdic is played by Stellan Skarsgard- father of Gustav Skarsgard who does such an incredible job portraying Floki!

stellan skarsgard cerdic4

In history, Cerdic was Cerdic was allegedly the first King of Anglo-Saxon Wessex from 519 to 534, cited by the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle as the founder of the Kingdom of Wessex and ancestor of all its subsequent kings… which of course would feasibly include Ecbert. I say feasibly because there was some dispute as to whether Ecbert was actually a d descendant.

The most interesting and curious thing about Cerdic’s history is that while his supposed royal pedigree traced him back to Woden, just as all of the other rulers’ did, it seems to have been added later. Historians think that at some point there was forged and alliance between him and  Bernicia, and he conveniently borrowed the earlier pedigree of Bernicia, tacking it on to his own. The reason for this was to perhaps give himself more of a royal/divine lineage than he might have originally had.  There is currently a thought that he was actually  was a native Briton, and that his dynasty became Anglicised over time.   This suggests that ethnicity was possibly not as important in the establishment of rulership within the proto-states of Post-Roman Britain as has been traditionally thought. Cerdic’s father, Elesa, has been identified by some scholars with the Romano-Briton Elasius, the “chief of the region”, met by Germanus of Auxerre. 

J.N.L. Myres noted that when Cerdic and Cynric first appear in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle in s.a. 495 they are described as ealdormen, which at that point in time was a fairly junior rank.   Myres believed that,

It is thus possible … to think of Cerdic as the head of a partly British noble family with extensive territorial interests at the western end of the Litus Saxonicum. As such he may well have been entrusted in the last days of Roman, or sub-Roman authority with its defence. He would then be what in later Anglo-Saxon terminology could be described as an ealdorman. …

Some would disagree with Myres, as Cerdic is reported to have landed in Hampshire. Some also would say that the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle proves that Cerdic was indeed a Saxon, however it does not prove that he had no Celtic blood.  Some scholars believe it likely that his mother was a British Celt who left for the Continent, or perhaps a Continental Celt. Geoffrey Ashe postulates he may be a son of Riothamus.

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

Despite the conflictin history surrounding his origins, Descent from Cerdic became a necessary criterion for later kings of Wessex, and Egbert of Wessex, progenitor of the English royal house and subsequent rulers of England and Britain, claimed him as an ancestor.  As I mentioned, Egbert’s claim was dubious and is thought  by some to have been fabricated during his early reign  or his bid for that right to give him more legitimacy in his claim. Whether fabricated or not, it was accepted and he was allowed to trace his right back to Cerdic and to Woden….

cerdic is not happy

 

What ever the reasons or theories behind the Anglo-Saxons in Britain,  one thing is certain and evident. As a group, they succeeded where Rome and even the Britons themselves  failed. They entered into a land that even the Roman Empire had failed to conquer and succeeded for the most, so well that in the future they would be looked at as the locals and the native Britons would be considered the outsiders. They succeeded so well in fact that in the future, when the second wave of Northmen arrived on their shores, they looked at them as foreign Heathenish Barbarians.  By the time the Vikings arrived in the late 700s and into the 800s, the Anglo-Saxons had become a completely different culture and society that bore little or no resemblance what so ever to the past they had left behind.  But, had they truly left the past behind them, forgotten who they were originally?

 the Norse Sagas regarding Ragnar Lodbrok give reason to believe that perhaps these Saxons, Angles and Jutes had not completely forgotten their past or their heritage. Some versions of the sagas include passages that comment on how Ragnar’s Father, Sigurd Hring once counted a part of England as part of his realm. Another saga source also mentions that Ragnar Lodbrok went to the place in Angleland of which his forefathers owned.  This would tie in with the fact that the Angles who had originated in lands around Denmark had already migrated to parts of Britain as early as the 5th century. He visited this Angleland and was initially welcomed into their court of royalty. Then he was lured into visiting King Aelle in Northumbria and was murdered by him. I have addressed this connection in my previous article about Horik and Ragnar.

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2015/05/27/horik-and-ragnar-part-of-the-oldest-monarchy-in-europe/

The Angles were thought to be allies at one time with the early Danes who took over their land and were a partial cause for them migrating to Britain. The Saxons were in a similar situation at the time of their migration to Britain. As the Danes became stronger and more powerful, they began to overtake those lands and cultures near to them- mainly the Angles and Saxons, but they also took over much of Juteland as well causing these three cultures to migrate to that land which held more opportunity for them. It does stand to reason that these people would continue to hold some grudge or resentment of those who were initially responsible for their relocation in the first place. They may have assimilated into some new culture, but they would probably have their own old oral  histories of a past that included tales of this distant ancestral land that had been taken over by those others… some of those oral histories are included in poems and heroic stories such as Beowulf, Wulf and Eadwacer and Judith.  Another such early work is that of Widsith  from the Exeter book. The Widsith is an old poem that surveys the people  kings, and heroes of Europe in the Heroic Age of Northern Europe.

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

 

I hope that I have not bored you or overwhelmed you too much with the history of these earliest Saxons. As I keep mentioning, it is important to know some of their history and see both sides of it considering the fact that they did integrate so fully and deeply into the culture that it became their own. As they settled into this new culture and land, they forged those alliances with the remaining British Rulers, became rulers of their own kingdoms and quite quickly took on the Christian religion once they realized the power behind that force. That is not to say that the Christian missionaries had any easy time of converting the Anglo-Saxons. What the Church did in order to accomplish this feat would leave long lingering misgivings and resentments from other Christian Kingdoms and dynasties. The Church had an extremely difficult time converting these Heathens, and resorted to the practice of diluting their religion into terms that the Pagan Saxons would accept. They set about comparing their Christ God to Woden, to telling their testaments and stories in relation to Woden and even went so far as to accept and approve of those earliest Saxon Rulers having divine right to rule on the basis of their genealogy connecting them back to being sons of Woden!  Eventually all of the Anglo-Saxon Rulers of those early Kingdoms of Britain would prove their right by tracing their lineage back to Woden and the Church put it’s stamp of approval on this, in fact in some ways encouraged it. There had to be some way of proving right to rule other than just by might in order to maintain some stability and not descend into the chaos once again. In the future, other loyal and Royal Christian dynasties would decry this as giving in to those Pagans, view it as watering down the religion and hold little regard for these so called  new Christian Royals.

Before we look at what the Kingdoms became and looked like in the time of our Anglo-Saxon Rulers such as Ecbert, Aelle, and yes even Kweni, I want to suggest an interesting documentary about the early Saxons and how their religion evolved. 

This is a preview clip of the documentary called From Runes to Ruins by by Thomas Rowsell, Jamie Roper and Anthony Leigh. It is all about Anglo-Saxon paganism. 

About the director

 
While studying my Master’s degree in medieval history, I was fascinated by the same mythology and legends that had inspired J.R.R. Tolkien to write The Lord of the Rings. Delving through old leather books and countless journals, trying to discover more about the forgotten religion of the Anglo-Saxon pagans, I couldn’t help noticing some familiar place names. It seemed that all the places from my youth were in some way connected to the history of the Anglo-Saxon heathens; whether it be the village of Thursley, named after Thor, which was near to my childhood home, or the ancient pagan barrows I used to camp on as a teen. I realised that through the landscape I had a personal relationship with the pre-Christian inhabitants of England and wondered how many other people had developed this strange fascination. Initially I had never intended to present From Runes to Ruins, but after the production house I was working with dropped the project, I no longer had the funds necessary to pay for a famous presenter. Financial constraints necessitated my stepping in to the presenting role, but this allowed me to put a personal slant on the documentary, using the pagan landscape of my own past to communicate the culture of a far more distant one. I hope that From Runes to Ruins sparks a new interest in the pagan religion of our Anglo-Saxon ancestors and also encourages people to look at the land itself as a beautiful, spiritual inheritance which brings us closer to nature, our ancestors and each other.
You can rent the entire video here:  http://fromrunestoruins.vhx.tv/
It is well worth  the 3.99 rental fee!
Now you know way too much about the early history of Angles, Saxons and Jutes in Britain… far more than you probably wanted to know! I do hope that it has given you some different perspective of the Anglo-Saxons, their reasons for moving to this land along with their justification for staying and fighting for it. Perhaps the next time you read a book or watch a movie about them, you will have some second thought about how they are portrayed.  In future articles, we will look at each of the four Kingdoms that remained during the later Vikings saga- Wessex, Mercia, Northumbria and East Anglia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

 

 

Vikings, Warrior’s Fate: It’s so much more than just a bath!

Before we deal with the darker sides of the Warrior’s Fate, namely battle and it’s aftermath… I think we need a few moments of amusement, entertainment and ohhh yes, let’s do spend some time in that Roman tub with Ecbert, Lagertha, Athelstan… and a rather reluctant Judith. Let’s also catch a glimpse of  Athelstan’s well hidden finer assets…

I do want to warn and advise ahead of time that this post contains some partial nudity, minor sexual contact and explicitness. The clips are from a scene that was deleted for American viewers. I give credit to George-blagden.net for providing the deleted scene so all of us can enjoy it!  You can view the scene here:  http://george-blagden.net/post/112924714611.  I have pulled the stills out of it for our purposes and enjoyment!

In our previous discussion, we talked of  Ecbert, his games of strategy and his pawns in this power game. I did mention that Lagertha could be a possible pawn, but one that he would be loathe to give up or sacrifice. I do not think Lagertha is so much of a pawn in his overall game of power but that remains to be seen? Lagertha is a strong independent woman with her own vision, her own desires and her own agenda. I think that she is probably fully aware and understanding of this game between them. This is a more personal and private game for both of them. I think that Lagertha knows very well what benefits or advantages an affair with Ecbert can provide for her and her settlement.  Ecbert desires her, but knows that this liason is not one that will necessarily give him advantage in the overall bigger picture. I could be wrong, but for now I think this is a case of Ecbert and Lagertha indulging themselves in a mutually satisfying and benefitial situation for both of them!  Lagertha deserves some pleasure and if  Ecbert can provide that, then I say, Go for it Lagertha!

Ecbert has already admitted that he is infatuated and rather besotted with Lagertha. Lagertha is flattered by his attentions and appreciative of his various gifts. These two understand each other, they are both intelligent and curious people and they enjoy the company of each other. I think perhaps that Lagertha sees the side of Ecbert that reminds her of Ragnar as he used to be?

With Lagertha, Ecbert can let his guard down a little, show his more likeable side. He wants her, he is fairly open about this desire and is not attempting to hide it. Why should he hide it… sometimes, it’s good to be King!  He pays another visit with another gift.

ecbert pays another visit and brings another gift

ecbert pays another visit and brings another gift

Lagertha  smugly showed him that she is quite adept in his language.

a smug lagertha shows her language skill Yes I know more now than I already knew

a smug lagertha shows her language skill Yes I know more now than I already knew

So you speak our language.   Of course I do you foolish man!

So you speak our language. Of course I do you foolish man!

A conversation and explanation of his gift of the plow turns to one of sexual innuendo, which both he and Lagertha understand!

I've brought you something a new plow that goes deeper than others

There is yet another invitation to his villa, which Lagertha happily agrees to!

By this visit, both Ecbert and Lagertha have a good idea of where this “friendship” is going? Lagertha is an intelligent woman, she know exactly where Ecbert’s thoughts and desires are going. She is a willing participant in this affair.  Ecbert takes his group of Lagertha, Athelstan and Judith on a tour of his most favorite and treasured space in his home. Now, both Judith and Athelstan know of this room, so this tour was set up specifically for Lagertha’s benefit. Why he chose to include Athelstan and Judith in this tour and the eventual enjoyment of his tub is a little puzzling. It’s almost as though he was testing them both on something? Athelstan is nonchalant and acts as though it makes no difference to him. Judith is uncomfortable with all of it but does go along with the invitation. This goes against all of Judith’s well engrained principles and values but she participates…

Lagertha is awestruck by the place and ever curious about those Romans who built this place.

ecbert's roman bath

ecbert’s roman bath

lagertha is awestruck

lagertha is awestruck

let us talk about the romans

There is some discussion about those Roman Gods and how they were like Lagertha’s Gods… to which she insisted, No they were not!

No she is not like my gods my gods are alive

No she is not like my gods my gods are alive

my gods are as real as you and me

my gods are as real as you and me

She was intrigued and excited about the bath while Judith gave a hesitant description of how the Romans used the baths.

Judith explains the Roman bath is this really a bath it's so big

Ecbert issues his invitation to join him in the bath… Judith is understandably uncomfortable with this suggestion. The underlying question is why does she agree to this in the first place? Has Ecbert put her up to it… has someone else? Why did she not just make excuse and remove herself from this activity? Was it her curiosity and her underlying fascination with Athelstan that moved her to be brave enough to consider this? Was it Lagertha’s more easy acceptance and joy of life that spurred Judith in some way to find enough courage to attempt indulging in this shameful activity? What ever the reason, Judith did manage to get herself in the tub with everyone, though it became obvious that she was not enjoying herself!

judith gulps at ecbert's suggestion for them to join him

judith gulps at ecbert’s suggestion for them to join him

so, with slaves/servants in attendance and trying not to watch, the group enjoyed a soak in the Roman tub. Lagertha and Ecbert settled in together quickly and had no inhibitions or reservations about public displays of affection!

lagertha and ecbert are getting quite relaxed with each other

lagertha and ecbert are getting quite relaxed with each other

After a few drinks, a relaxed conversation about the old Roman city of Paris…Such a beautiful place as you have never seen before!

Such a city Paris is

Such a city Paris is

go on tell me more about this paris

go on tell me more about this paris

Lagertha is ever the curious one about other cultures and ideas. She wants to know more about this city, Paris… Ecbert and Athelstan fill her in on the wonders of this place. She mentions how she would love to see it and asks how far it is? Hmmmm is this a plan of Ecbert’s… she will be so curious and glowing about this land, will tell Ragnar all about it and perhaps Ragnar will be so curious too, that he will head off to Paris and be out of Ecbert’s hair for a while? Not Ecbert has anything against Ragnar yet, but I am sure he is always thinking of the future? It’s just not wise to keep a man as equally powerful and motivated around for too long… he may get ideas of seeking more power here and surely Ecbert would prefer him to look elsewhere for that power and riches.

Judith is trying to relax and enjoy this experience… the one enjoyable part of it is that Athelstan is here. She cautiously sneaks a glimpse over at him and her returns the look…

a quick sneak peek over at Athelstan

a quick sneak peek over at Athelstan

athelstan returns the sneak peek

athelstan returns the sneak peek

Then as if on cue, Athelstan goes into his own wonderous description of Paris…

Athelstan describes paris

Athelstan describes paris

Judith’s mind wanders to some other thoughts during this discussion… perhaps she’s more interested in the here and now, and what the rest of Athelstan looks like? Maybe she is enjoying for a few moments the experience of being a bit of voyeur in glimpsing what Lagertha and Ecbert are indulging in?

Paris  who cares about Paris!

Paris who cares about Paris!

ohhh is this water getting warm it's so warm in here I have to leave I can't do this

The moment does not last however, and Judith quickly snaps back to reality when Athelstan moves closer to her…

Ummm too close too close

Ummm too close too close

judith's thought omg maybe if I drink enough this will be easier!

judith’s thought omg maybe if I drink enough this will be easier!

the booze isn't helping well maybe just another sip

the booze isn’t helping well maybe just another sip

What is it  This is wrong this is just so wrong

What is it This is wrong this is just so wrong

thoughts in judith's head  no no no euwwwww I can't watch this

thoughts in judith’s head no no no euwwwww I can’t watch this

Ohhh ummm this is sooo wrong

Ohhh ummm this is sooo wrong

Ultimately, Judith’s good Christian upbringing over rides any enjoyment she might have found in this activity and she hastily flees… Athelstan may have tried to catch a glimpse of her escaping the tube, but she was just too quick! Her shame and embarrassment kicked in and she threw a towel around herself faster than I’ve ever seen anyone move!

a quick stare at Judith getting out of the tub judith makes her escape

Judith fled the scene but Athelstan attempted to remain for a bit longer… even though it must have been extremely uncomfortable to be put in this third wheel situation again?

lagertha's thought... ummm no this isn't wrong in fact I think it's going pretty well

lagertha’s thought… ummm no this isn’t wrong in fact I think it’s going pretty well

Ecbert watches Judith leave and I am quite sure his thoughts were, “It’s about time! I didn’t think she would even get in, let alone stay?” “That’s it Judith, now run along and be sure to take Athelstan with you”

ecbert's thought it's about time I didn't think she would even get in let alone stay now be sure to take athelstan with you

ecbert’s thought it’s about time I didn’t think she would even get in let alone stay now be sure to take athelstan with you

A few well placed nods and some ignoring of his presence… Athelstan gets the hint that this has become a very private party and unless he wants to show that he has truly become a pagan, or he wants lessons, he should probably leave now?

Uhhh Athelstan it's time for you to leave as well unless you want lessons?

Uhhh Athelstan it’s time for you to leave as well unless you want lessons?

Athelstan makes a much calmer and casual escape… which I am sure that everyone, namely those slaves in the background, enjoyed! Too bad Judith left first, she missed her chance to get a good view of Athelstan!

Athelstan's not quite so shy as the lady judith athelstan's bum

Ahhhh poor Judith… the entire experience proved too much for her and Athelstan found her crying in the hall. Judith is young and trying so hard to fit in, to be the good wife, the good Christian.  It might have been easier for her if she had some good role model to guide her in this place? Many other young women in her position would have had some older Noblewoman to watch over her and help her learn the ropes of being such a Noble wife? I can not say Queen… because someone else in the real history of this time had ruined that option? (That would be the real life counterpart of Kwentirith… Queen Edburh made such a mess of things by “accidently” poisoning her husband that no woman was allowed to be called Queen after her!) Ohhh and hmmmmm? There does seem to be mention of some poisoning in the next chapter?

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

Anyway, back to Judith’s plight right now… she does not have one to look to for advice. Ecbert has no wife, and the only other Noble or Royal woman around is in fact Kwentirith. Judith may be young and naïve but she is smart enough to know that Kwentirith is not one that she should look to as a role model!  So, Judith must find her own way in this maze of powerful men who control her life. She is having a difficult time of it.  Athelstan’s arrival and his outlook on religion are making it even more difficult for her. This whole new world of Pagan culture and beliefs is causing her to wonder and to doubt her own beliefs. Of course it could also be that she is just an overly tired new Mother with a slight case of post partum depression… What ever the case, I believe she was truly suffering from deep remorse and guilt over her sinful and shameful lust filled thoughts this night.

I'm sorry.   What for I'm the one that's a prude...

I’m sorry. What for I’m the one that’s a prude…

Athelstan did his best to comfort her in her distress but it didn’t really help much! God bless him for trying though…

judith admits her tiredness of trying to be good Judith the daughter Judith the wife Judith the pawn

Meanwhile, Lagertha with her Pagan beliefs and her better understanding of the world… and men, suffered no such pangs of guilt or remorse. No, Lagertha, free woman and embodiment of the Goddess that  Ecbert seems to see her as, took full pleasure and equal enjoyment this night!

lagertha enjoys the ride

lagertha enjoys the ride

it's good to be a free woman!

it’s good to be a free woman!

finally a bath and some mutual satisfaction

finally a bath and some mutual satisfaction

Lagertha, the Free Woman, the Pagan Goddes come to life, is nobody’s pawn!

Lagertha the free woman the pagan goddes nobody's pawn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vikings: On to Wessex, season premiere review part 2 of 3

Ok… I had originally planned to do this in two parts, but it has turned into three? So, here is part two- our arrival in Wessex and the feast that changed our entire plan for this voyage!

Part one: https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2015/02/22/vikings-a-long-awaited-voyage-part-one-of-season-3-premiere-review/

 

Our ships set sail and we were bound for Wessex.  Some might wonder, “Just where exactly is Wessex?”  Many of our voyagers were confused about that as well.  I would oft hear asked questions asked regarding this. Were we going to Angle Land or were we going to Wessex? People would scratch their heads over this puzzle so often that I sat down with Athelstan and we tried to explain as best we could how Wessex was a part of Angle land but still it’s own kingdom with Ecbert as it’s ruler. We would be settling on land that was given by Ecbert within his kingdom so that should mean that once settled there, we would fall under Ecbert’s rule.

640px-England_Great_Army_map_svg NewMap871

Wessex was one of four main kingdoms of that Angle land. There was Wessex, Mercia, East Anglia, and North Umbria. North Umbria was where our men went that first time they came to Angle land and landed at Lindesfarne.  That kingdom was far to the north of  Wessex. Now we would be going to the southern part of Angle land.

History of Wessex

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

Kings and Queens of Wessex, Timeline of Wessex  http://www.historic-uk.com/HistoryUK/HistoryofEngland/Kings-Queens-of-Wessex/

 

As we made our voyage, I had my own questions for Athelstan about Wessex and some places that I was sure would be near to us.  As many grew suspicious and wondered why I would know about this land, I made explanation of having traveled for a time with my brother on his trading missions. Most people were so  excited about their own journey that they took me at my word and did not concern themselves further with my history.  I had with me some other small maps which I shared with Athelstan and asked him of the locations which I was interested in.

StonehengeMap wessexmap1_21

Athelstan had traveled during his time as a monk, so I was sure he might have knowledge of Stonehenge? It would be within our kingdom and I might be able to travel there if need be… I wanted to assure myself that should I need to return to the present day, I would know of locations near to me.  Tis always best to keep these facts in mind when traveling!

The other place that I was interested in and much curious about, for historical purposes only, was one Wilton Abbey located at Wiltshire or Wilton. My excitement in coming to this land was the fact that we were traveling to which was the beginnings of such important history for England. This place, Wessex, and Ecbert’s descendants would be key to the future of the country. I could hardly contain myself, I wanted to see all of it and pondered on how I might accomplish such a thing? But, that was thought for some other time, right now I must stick to the most important things, like getting through this journey!

For the present time, I would content myself with the few bits of information that I could easily glean from conversation with Athelstan. I asked him about Wilton Abbey, and yes of course he knew of it. He did give me a puzzled look when I spoke of it and asked me how I would know of it? I had to tell him quietly that he was not the only one torn by the differences in beliefs. I shared with him that once upon a time in my earliest life I had been taught of his religion and his beliefs. Those beliefs were and are still a guide post for me in my spiritual life but I have come to accept that there are many ways and paths to God. We let it go at that and he continued his knowledge of Wilton.  Wilton Abbey was a Benedictine convent in Wiltshire, England, three miles from Salisbury on the site now occupied by Wilton House. A first foundation was made as a college of secular priests by Wulfstan, Ealdorman of Wiltshire, about 773, but after his death (802) was changed into a convent for twelve nuns by his widow, Saint Alburga, sister of Egbert of Wessex.  He stated that as far as he knew, it was a small convent of not much significance. He wondered why I should be so interested in it? Well, I could hardly tell him the truth, which was that it would become very important and significant in the future. And, that future would begin with Ecbert’s son, Aethelwulf.  So, I made mention that I had heard of it from a merhant’s daughter on a trip to Angle land with my brother Gunnar when I was young. I told him that I had a small amount of silver set aside that I should like to contribute to them. That portion was the truth. Though I am not Catholic, nor much of any religion for that matter, I do hold to some remnants of belief and faith. For some reason, I felt a need to see Wilton and make my own small offering to their future. Truth be told, I was also thinking ahead as well to other options I might need to make use of in the future should anything go wrong. 

Rollo and I had once made jest of the idea of me retiring to a convent… Well, the fact was that it was an option that I must consider and plan ahead for if  I should ever need a place of safety or sanctuary? Many Christian women used the convent as their option for escape or safety and not just as a place of holy worship to God. It was in general, one place you could seek sanctuary in and could not be removed from. As a safe haven, Wilton was my best option. It was within Wessex, and it was protected by King Ecbert himself. As far as my goodwill donation to them, that would open their doors to me… I had another amount of silver safely set aside to pay for my admittance to their cloistered life. You see, it was not free to become a nun or have their protection. No, it was in all reality, quite expensive- that is how they made their profits, by charging a high price to become one of them.  One must pay a goodly amount, the amount equal to a Bride’s dowery to be accepted into their convents. It would also help to have a skill that they regarded in high esteem… of those skills I had a few important ones. I could read, write and I could sew! Ohhh, it was not just plain sewing which they looked for, anyone could do that reasonably. They looked for ones who could do fine needle work with intricate detail. That talent I did have. I learned it from Grandmother when I was very young and somehow, I knew it would be valuable to me one day? 

Women in these times had little control over their lives. Some women truly did have a calling and a devotion to serving their God, some were sent to convents as punishment or as a way for their families to rid themselves of an unwanted wife or unmarriageable daughter. There were some women who were offered to the church much as a son would be offered to the priesthood- this had little to do with whether they had a true calling to God. And, yet other women chose it for themselves as that retreat, retirement or sanctuary which I spoke of earlier. It often did not have as much to do with God’s calling as with the fact that they might fare better here than on the outside in times of great strife or trouble.

wilton_6_full

Wilton Abbey as it looks today

In it’s future, Kings would be educated there, Queens would protect and preside there and it would be in the middle of battles between Saxons and Danes, then Saxons and Normans.

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

Life of a medieval nun

http://www.lordsandladies.org/daily-life-nun-middle-ages.htm

Medieval Convent

http://www.medieval-life-and-times.info/medieval-religion/medieval-convent.htm

You may wonder why I am spending so much time on this subject of God’s houses and God’s callings? Well, I want you to understand more fully how important the church and the religion was to people of this time. People like Athelstan, and Aethelwulf, and his wife Judith.  The Christian church was not just about a belief system, it was far more than that. It was the political power structure of the time. Your King or ruler in most instances controlled your life but the church controlled his life! The real king or ruler of all at this time in Christian held strongholds was the church and it’s leader, the Pope. If you wanted real power and control, you would find it difficult to achieve without the backing of these religious powerbrokers. And, for the lower common people, the church was often their survival, their salvation? In times of strife, a good church, good priests, would look after the hungry and the needy thereby endearing the people to them and creating such a devout devotion to the church.  Times were difficult for those common people and for nobles as well. They needed something to believe in, to hold faith in and the Catholic Church provided this in spades! In return, the church was rewarded with enormous wealth and even more power over their followers. Everything in the church system had a price attached to it and you would willingly pay such price for the promise of  great reward in the after life or to avoid the wrath of an angry God or earthly church!

Alright enough of my thoughts on religion… one other thing concerns me about this land we are being promised? Yes, King Ecbert has offered and promised us land to settle within his kingdom, that is all well and fine. I think I have touched upon this dilemma previously but I feel need to make mention of it again because it does concern me. No one has asked my opinion in this matter, why should they? But, I will speak of it here. This agreement puts us in somewhat of a Catch22 situation, or between a rock and a hard place. We shall accept King Ecbert’s offer of land to farm in peace, and that shall put us as subjects of King Ecbert rather than Ragnar. For, I am quite certain that in order to receive this land we shall have to swear oath, fealty and allegiances to King Ecbert? That should be only right as we will live in his kingdom under his protection. If we should not agree to this, he would be well within his rights to deny us the land, evict us from it… and then where would that leave us all? You see my worries and concerns, my reasons for looking into my own personal options for survival? In these coming battles between the Norse, the Danes and the Saxons, most of the kingdoms will eventually fall to the Norse and the Danes. Wessex will be the last kingdom, last stronghold and eventually, the victors for Wessex… that will put their feelings and attitudes about Danes living in their midst into a very negative light.  I came willingly on this voyage but that does not mean that I am without doubts, worries or great fears for our future, because I know how much of it ends and it does not favor us well!

 

I will say no more about the situation for now. I will just tell of our arrival in this land of Wessex.

arriving in wessex

Ohhh before I tell of our arrival and our first days there, there is one other situation that I would share with you? I spoke of everyone else’s reasons for coming on this voyage but did not mention of Bjorn and his new wife, Porrun? Of course Bjorn would join his family on this adventure and thus bring along his wife. He was not exactly happy with all of it though. Porrun was determined to prove herself free and able to choose in all ways now that she was no longer a slave. That is understandable. The choices she insisted upon making though caused much aggrevation and frustration for everyone in the family. She was insistant on making this voyage not just as Bjorn’s wife, but as a shield maiden and warrior.  Now, we all would not have taken exception to this choice had something else not been rather apparent and had she not been quite so forceful and down right moody in her decisions and her attitude at the time?

Not a happy family trip

The sea voyage was not such a pleasant one for those of us who had to share the confines of the boat that carried Bjorn and Porrun!

some of us have to bring our troubles with us

ragnar is none too happy about porunn joining them

ragnar is none too happy about porunn joining them

 

There was much speculation over her moods and of other issues, which we will not mention so as not to put a shield maiden in any bad light… All I will add is that she did not sail well during this trip and we quickly surmised why?

what if you are with child already  I would not just lose you but my child as well

what if you are with child already I would not just lose you but my child as well

I would also lose my child

I would also lose my child

I am not sure you should come with us

I am not sure you should come with us

Porunn was with child and yet she insisted upon choosing to be a warrior and shield maiden, would go so far as to put their unborn child’s life at risk by going into a battle that it was not necessary for her participate in. Bjorn was torn but could not dissuade her from this decision. He made comment to Lagertha that Porrun was stubborn just like someone else he knew? The difference in these two situations was that Lagertha set aside her warrior ways for Motherhood and Porrun does not seem to understand this yet. This stubbornness would put both her and Bjorn in a difficult position later.

For now, let us go back to our arrival and meeting of King Ecbert? There was some uneasiness when Ragnar had to answer Ecbert’s question of where King Horik was?

What happened to King horik  He uhhh met with an unfortunate accident

What happened to King horik He uhhh met with an unfortunate accident

The look on Ecbert’s face showed that he did not believe Ragnar’s explanation of some unfortunate accident, but he did not pursue the matter and let it slide for the time being…

now really do you expect me to believe that  well we'll just pretend I do

Then we are truly equals now.

Then we are truly equals now.

He welcomed us graciously though his son Aethelwulf chose instead to sit in the background with his infant son, holding on to him as if to protect the child from all of us heathens!

aethelwulf watching the arrival

There was a great feast and celebration in our honor? At least that is what we first assumed it to be… it turned into a discussion of our land grant and a change in the agreement. The meeting seemed to go from bad to worse and Ragnar just chalked it up to the way his luck was running at this time. He was much irritated by all of it but there was not much he could do. It all started when he casually asked what had become of the men who had stayed to help Princess Kwentirith in her fight to win Mercia. The looks on Ecbert’s and Kwentirith’s faces told us that this was not going to bode well for us?

ecbert's great hall

ecbert’s great hall

ohhh I can tell I am not going like this story

ohhh I can tell I am not going like this story

Ragnar’s simple question was answered evasively by Kwentirith who made excuse the battle does not go well in Mercia, but surely with our help now, it can finally be won?

what-has-happened-to-our-people-fighting-for-mercia-unfortunately-the-fight-does-not-go-well.

what has happened to our people fighting for mercia? unfortunately the fight does not go well.

Yes, the evening just went downhill from there when we realized that we had been in some ways set up? King Ecbert held the land grant over Ragnar’s head and insisted that in order to receive it now, some of our men must help fight this battle…

At first Ragnar argued that this was not the original agreement, nor was it our fight… it got him nowhere and he realized that to continue arguing the point was futile. He did at first tell Ecbert that this was not the agreement…

that was not part of our agreement

that was not part of our agreement

Ecbert’s response to that was to explain that his people were not all happy with this arrangement?

 

I've given you land but here is the truth as God as my witness  my people are not happy with my decision.

I’ve given you land but here is the truth as God as my witness my people are not happy with my decision.

Ragnar knew what was coming… He just groaned, covered his face and swore to himself!

Awwww Jeees here it comes  I will honor our treaty but in return some of you must fight for princess kwentirith

Awwww Jeees here it comes I will honor our treaty but in return some of you must fight for princess kwentirith

There was no point in arguing, so Ragnar made his own agreement to the terms but warned that he could not speak for the others?

in good faith and in hope to settle this I will do it but the others must decide for themselves

in good faith and in hope to settle this I will do it but the others must decide for themselves

He explained the situation to the others and they each made their choice to join Ragnar in the fight…

of course why am I not surprised there will be a fight and you will volunteer us

of course why am I not surprised there will be a fight and you will volunteer us

I want nothing more than to fight and raid

I want nothing more than to fight and raid

There would be some argument over Porunn’s decision but wisely it was not brought up at this time!

porrun will not be left out  I will fight too

porrun will not be left out I will fight too

Floki added his agreement somewhat grudgingly and none too optimistically? His answer was, “I will be like a fly and follow the dead meat.”

Yes I will fight  the fly always follows the dead meat

Before Lagertha could voice her thoughts on the matter, there was a surprising addition to the volunteers? It came from Aethelwulf. Aethelwulf and Judith had been quiet throughout all of this, though Judith did seem to be watching our priest, Athelstan quite closely…

aethelwulf volunteers to fight along side these pagans

aethelwulf volunteers to fight along side these pagans

aethelwulf and judith listen and watch the meeting

Finally, Lagertha voiced her thoughts on the matter

we came here to farm not fight a quarrel that is not ours

we came here to farm not fight a quarrel that is not ours

She does finally add her agreement….

Lagertha adds her agreement

Lagertha adds her agreement

But, Ecbert had a few other ideas as well…

ecbert makes his move   In order to establish your farms someone should lead your people here

ecbert makes his move In order to establish your farms someone should lead your people here

ragnar is suspicious now   ahhhh yes, here it comes

Ecbert goes on with his suggestion of someone to lead the settlers, one who knows of farming and is respected by the people… all the while eying Lagertha? Athelstan steps in and explains that Ecbert thinks she should remain as this leader? Ragnar is highly suspicious now. But, Lagertha eventually agrees to this new arrangement.

Ragnar looks at athelstan and thinks  And you're going along with this?

Ragnar looks at athelstan and thinks And you’re going along with this?

 

Yep, this is just gonna get worse, I can tell already

Yep, this is just gonna get worse, I can tell already

kwentirith's thought  you don't fool me or anyone else I know what you're up to

kwentirith’s thought you don’t fool me or anyone else I know what you’re up to

Having played his game so well, Ecbert had one final move…

and you also must stay athelstan we need you  I need you

and you also must stay athelstan we need you I need you

There was a short discussion between Ragnar and Athelstan over this but Ragnar stated that he trusted Athelstan and that he should stay? I can only think that Ragnar chose for Athelstan to remain and keep some sort of protective watch over Lagertha who would now be in close contact with this King who was none too discreet in his interest of her!

well that was easy enough let's drink now then we can all have sex before I kill them all!

well that was easy enough let’s drink now then we can all have sex before I kill them all!

The evening turned out as none of us expected or wished for, save maybe Torstein and Bjorn who really did want to fight! The rest of us finally retired for the night but Ecbert called Athelstan for a last meeting… It was a quiet meeting between two friends. Ecbert was truly glad to have his friend Athelstan close to him again and could not help but remind Athelstan of his God’s calling?

Athelstan is torn between two gods and two friends is there a middle ground

Athelstan is torn between two gods and two friends is there a middle ground

you left this behind  Go on take it

you left this behind Go on take it

he hears the call Athelstan's true god is calling whether he wants to listen or not

Athelstan must leave because

To be continued!