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Archive for the category “culture”

London’s first playhouse rediscovered….?

Picture from the link below

Well, it just goes to show that although the past may now be buried far underground, now and then it still comes to light to thrill us all. Now it seems they’ve discovered the site of the Red Lion, “the earliest known attempt to build a playhouse in the Tudor era, a precursor to the famed Globe Theatre”.

“….Around 1567, a man named John Brayne built an Elizabethan playhouse called the Red Lion just outside the city of London to accommodate the growing number of traveling theatrical troupes. Its exact location has proven elusive to archaeologists—there were many streets and pubs named the Red Lion (or Lyon) over the ensuing centuries—but a team from University College London (UCL) believes it has found the original site at an excavation in Whitechapel….”

Now read on …

Richard III and the dirty Tudors….?

 

“…8…Richard III and dirty Tudors
“…Rotting vegetation, dung heaps and overflowing cesspits were just some of the unpleasant daily realities faced by ordinary people in 16th-century England. Here, Pamela Hartshorne discusses the challenges Tudors faced when trying to keep their cities clean and hygienic. Also in this episode, Chris Skidmore tells us how his research presents a different picture of the controversial 15th-century king Richard III.
..”

Well, if the quoted passage above is of interest to any of you and you fancy seeing the other eight in the list, go to this History Extra article

 

Who was old Hick Heavyhead then….?

 

We all know that our royals have had nicknames – Longshanks, Rufus, Crouchback, Good Queen Bess, Prinny and, of course, Tricky Dicky. But HICK HEAVYHEAD????? 😲

And who was it? Richard II. Apparently because he was opposed to war when his barons wanted to swarm over to France and kick seven shades out of the place. Oh, well, I guess Hick Heavyhead meant something truly awful and insulting back in the 14th century….

PS: I found the above reference in an excellent book called Names for Boys & Girls by Charles Johnson and Linwood Sleigh. It was published in 1962, and gives a lot of information about the history of names, and when they came into use etc. It’s a bit dated for today’s babies, but as a writer, I wouldn’t be without it, and have already had to buy a replacement because the first one fell apart! Recommended.

Chaucer was a “hot” young man in tighter than tight tights….?

 

As the author of this Guardian review points out, when we think of Chaucer, we visualise a rather chubby, light-hearted, witty, somewhat cheeky middle-aged man as portrayed in the few portaits we have of him, such as the one above.

Well, it would seem that as a younger man he was indeed cheeky! And not in the conversational context! When he was a page in the household of Elizabeth de Burgh, we’re told he wore a paltok and “….long leggings, or tights. Contemporary sources say they emphasised the genitals, as they were laced up very tightly over the penis and bottom, so you could see everything….” Good heavens! And to make matters worse, a paltok was “….a kind of extremely short tunic ‘which failed to conceal their arses or their private parts’….”

And this is Chaucer, over whose works many a schoolchild, university student, historian and general enthusiast has laboured for centuries? The Father of English Literature? Will I ever ‘see’ him in the same light again? His characters, yes, but not the great man himself!

This biography, new in 2019, promises to be well worth the reading. I certainly will be!

available at Amazon

 

A useful glossary of medieval terms….

When looking for peculiar—or sometimes even general—medieval terms, they can be quite flummoxing, so when I stumbled upon the Glossary at this site I was delighted. And so I’m sharing it with you. I hope it’s useful to you all.

And if you visit the Netserf homepage the Netserf homepage you’ll find that they have quite a comprehensive list of topics to visit.

Postscript: Since this post was written, something seems to have happened at the netserf.org link. I haven’t been able to log on to it. With luck it’s just me and everyone else can see the full website.

A list of names for medieval horses….

There have been posts about medieval horses before, including some about how these animals were named, but the image above shows another list of such names. I have a book on my shelf that I haven’t dipped into for….um, longer than I care to remember! It’s called Chivalry by Léon Gauthier and was first published in 1959, translated into English in 1965.

Among the appendices is one about horses and how they got their names. Some names are factual, some from literature, many are splendid, a selection merely descriptive of colour…and others, well, poor old Rack-of-Bones!

Herne was Richard III’s huntsman….?

from the Royal Collection Trust, Samuel Ireland (1744-1800)
The original oak was blown down in the 19th century and replaced by one donated by
Queen Victoria

Herne and his oak tree seem to have been associated with Windsor Castle Great Park for a very long time. The Sun “….Meanwhile, in the grounds of Windsor Great Park, it has been said you can sometimes spot the ghost of Herne, who was a huntsman for Richard III….”

Really? Methinks the newspaper is mistaken, because Herne goes back a lot farther than Richard III.

Herne the Hunter by Andrew Howat, 1976

Mind you, if you go to ancient pages , it’s only about a century earlier. “….Is there a true story behind the legend of Herne the Hunter? There are several versions of an old tale revealing the faith of Herne, who was a huntsman employed by King Richard II….”

Others will assert that Herne goes no further back than Shakespeare, but then again, maybe he’s the antlered god of the Celts, Cernunnos.

Cernunnos on Gundestrup Cauldron

Whatever the truth, I don’t think Herne was one of Richard III’s huntsman. Although he may have made an appearance to that ill-omened king, of course.

To be Bl(o)unt …

Most people are aware that James Blunt’s real surname is Blount. This is an influential name in late mediaeval, “Tudor” and Stuart times. Bessie Blount was another mistress of Henry VIII and bore him Henry Duke of Richmond, who married Lady Mary Howard but died without issue, to be buried at Framlingham. Walter Blount, who lived through the mid-fifteenth century, was made Baron Mountjoy, although his male line became extinct in 1679. There were also two families of Baronets, although both of them are extinct, the second as recently as 2004. James Blunt, a former Captain himself, comes from a military family, with an 1855-born great-great-grandfather who died of dysentery during the Boer War, a great-grandfather and a great-great-uncle who fell during the Great War and a cousin who died in an air accident in 1940.

The latest common ancestor of the two major mediaeval branches was Sir John Blount of Sodington, who died in c.1358 and whose principal male line (marked by his grandsons Sir John and Sir Thomas) and  leads to one of the baronetcies (Blount of Sodington). By tracing his agnatic descent, but ignoring the three titles which must be culs de sac, is it possible to connect him with the modern line?

It isn’t actually possible to do so with a single reliable cyber-source such as Genealogics as Sir John’s untitled descendants appear to expire in 1821, or 1825 for an American-based branch. However, there are other options to explore as Leo van der Pas would err towards omitting people. We have James’ ancestors back to c.1580 but they don’t connect just yet, although this Telegraph article, in two parts, helps. It describes a lineage back to Viking settlers from the tenth century – fighters, of course.

“Braveheart” at Falkirk – a great spectacle?

The Battle of Falkirk was fought on 22 July 1298. The English army, co-commanded by the Earl of Norfolk, defeated the Scots, led by Sir William Wallace, who resigned as Guardian of the Realm shortly afterwards. This setback for Wallace, following victory at Stirling Bridge the previous year, where Sir Andrew Moray was mortally wounded, formed a significant scene in the film Braveheart. Mel Gibson, as Wallace, was accompanied by a few thousand troops in tartan and woad but at least two of them wore glasses.

Now Murrey and Blue have dealt with historical anachronisms before – showing that “Friar Tuck” could not have rebelled during Richard I’s reign because there were no friars in England until 25 years after Richard’s death. Similarly, Victoria was British-born and raised, just like her father and grandfather, and would not have spoken with a German accent.

So what of the evidence here?

i) Roger Bacon, incidentally a friar, wrote about using lenses in 1262 but that doesn’t refer to an actual pair of glasses with frames.
ii) In spring 1306, Giordano da Pisa, yet another friar, preached that “”It is not yet twenty years since there was found the art of making eyeglasses, which make for good vision… And it is so short a time that this new art, never before extant, was discovered. … I saw the one who first discovered and practiced it, and I talked to him”.

So 1286, a mere dozen years before the Battle of Falkirk was the earliest that a pair was constructed.

Would we have liked Chaucer to narrate audio books of his works….?

 

frontispiece to Troilus and Creseyde

There is an increasing appetite these days for audio versions of books. Whether just sitting at home, driving your car, or even out in the garden, listening to a famous actor reading to you, or even the author, is a great pleasure that sometimes beats reading the book for yourself.

Which makes me reconsider the medieval period, especially 14th-century England, when Richard II’s court enjoyed being read to by the likes of Geoffrey Chaucer. We all know the famous illustration above. The usual remarks about the scene are that (a) most of the court probably couldn’t read, or (b) it was just a passing fashion, a chance to be seen where it mattered. Besides, back then no one read silently, they did so aloud. Except in some parts of the Church, I think.

But was it really the done thing to sit around listening to someone reading out loud? Chaucer was probably a brilliant narrator, especially of his own work, and must have been very entertaining indeed. Just like listening to an audio book today, except that you actually saw him in the flesh as well, complete with his nods, winks, knowing smiles and crafty glances. What’s not to like about sitting around giving him your full attention?

I know I’d be among those sitting on the grass looking at and listening to the master!

Geoffrey Chaucer

 

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