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Who was the first bastard slip to grab hold of the crown of all England….?

simple-blue-question-mark-icon-9

Bearing in mind that I am  NOT a historian, here is a little teaser to pass the time. We all know the texts from the Bible about bastard slips not taking root, and the sins of the fathers being visited on subsequent generations. Right, so what happens if we apply that literally to the throne of England? Just how far back do we have to go to find the first illegitimate person to sit on the throne of all England?

Charlemagne_and_Pope_Adrian_I

Pope Adrian I and Charlemagne

In 786, Pope Adrian I announced that a king could not be begotten in adultery or incest, and if he wasn’t either of those but illegitimate anyway, he still couldn’t have the throne of any kingdom. Should this decree be my quest’s starting point? There were different kingdoms within England, but they were Christian, and if the Pope decreed, then he ought to have been abided by. Right?

Egbert of Wessex - Ruler of England

Egbert of Wessex – Ruler of England

The first king to be known as the Ruler of England was Egbert III of Wessex, 827-839, but the one to be truly the King of all England was, apparently, Aethelstan, August 924 – 27th October 939.

wessexaethelstan

Athelstan

Harold I - Harefoot

Harold I – Harefoot

There is an interesting timeline of our early kings at http://www.historic-uk.com/HistoryUK/KingsQueensofBritain/ and if I follow it, the first mention of an illegitimate king (after the all-important 786 date) is Harold I, 1035–1040, known as Harefoot. The English line of kings had been ousted by the Danes, led by Sweyn Forkbeard. Sweyn’s son Canute had succeeded him, and Harold Harefoot was Canute’s baseborn offspring.  

Tut, tut, Harold Harefoot. You broke the Bible’s rules, because on Canute’s death you sneaked the throne from behind the back of your legitimate half-brother, Harthacanute, who was abroad at the time. BUT—big but—Harthacanute took the throne back, had the by-then-dead Harold dug up, beheaded, and chopped into bits to be thrown in the Thames. There’s nothing like making absolutely sure someone ain’t gonna come back!

Harthacanute

Harthacanute

So, illegitimate Harold Harefoot was a mere blip. But he had been crowned king, which was one in the eye for Pope Adrian. We have to ignore the fact that coronation vows and anointing make a man a king regardless. We’re talking the Bible’s texts mentioned at the beginning of this article. And because we’re talking the Bible, if Harold I had sons, legitimately born or not, they could not have succeeded. So any line that might have descended from him would be illegitimate, to the whatever generation.

Next the throne zipped back to the English line. Harthacanute had been the Danish-line son of Canute by Emma of Normandy. Emma had been married before, to English-line Aethelred the Unready, by whom her eldest son was Edward. The Danes had pushed Edward aside, but now his half-brother Harthacanute declared him to be his heir.

Emma of Normandy

Emma of Normandy

Aethelred the Unready

Aethelred the Unready

Edward, who became known to posterity as  St Edward the Confessor, became king and was married, but died childless. Dang! Another crisis.

Edward the Confessor's death

Death of Edward the Confessor

After the Confessor, the throne went to someone who was elected by the Witan, Harold Godwinson, who was, of course, the King Harold who was defeated at Hastings in 1066.

Harold - Bayeux

Harold Godwinson

And who conquered him? Why, someone known as William the Conqueror, and also as William the Bastard! Oops! We have to stop right there, because the Bible says that anyone, anyone, who descended from William would be forbidden to ascend the throne.

William of Normandy

William of Normandy – the Bastard

Which brings me to the next question. Let’s imagine Hastings went the other way, and William escaped back to Normandy, or died in battle or was captured and executed. Who should have been king after Harold Godwinson? Well, he was famously connected with Edith Swan Neck, who was judged by the Church to be merely his mistress because they only married according to Danish law. So their six children were all barred. It was Edith Swan Neck who was said to have identified Harold’s mutilated body after Hastings, recognising it by a mark only she knew.

Edith Swan Nack identifies Harold after Hastings

Edith Swan Neck recognises Harold’s mutilated body by a mark only she knows.

But in January 1066 (presumably because he needed an undeniably legitimate heir) Harold had married another Edith, the widow of the Welsh prince Gruffydd ap Llewelyn. In church this time. One wonders if Edith Swan Neck really was the only one who knew his body that intimately. Perhaps this second Edith had spotted the mark too! Anyway, by Edith II he had two sons, another Harold and Ulf, who might have been twins, given that their father died at Hastings in the September.

Both boys survived into adulthood, and in all likelihood sired offspring of their own. Mind you, the legitimacy of said offspring remains unknown. They too could have hooked up with unacceptable partners like Edith Swan Neck! Or become monks, been gay, or not interested in anything. It’s all annoyingly shrouded in mystery.

So, is it at this point that the true line of the Kings of England disappears into the mist?

You’ll no doubt be pleased to know I don’t intend to investigate further, but it does make me wonder just who might be on the throne now if those texts from the Bible had been followed to the letter. The history of England would have been so different as to be unrecognisable. No Plantagenets. No House of York! No House of Lancaster. And forget the Tudors. The who? Never ‘eard of ‘em. Also no Stuarts, Commonwealth, Hanoverians or Windsors…

Of course, my reasoning above is almost certainly dodgy, as I do not doubt someone out there knows and will say. But in the meantime, might there be a busy, diligent soul somewhere (someone who only dreams in Latin!) delving into ancient records and manuscripts, trying to trace the heirs of Harold and Ulf…? How interesting if that diligent person were to discover the real present-day King (or Queen) of England.

Hmm. Would anyone dare announce such a thing? After all, William the Bastard’s White Tower still stands, and those Tudor-garbed Beefeaters still rattle lots of ominously big keys.  All I know is that I’m certainly not the rightful Queen of England – so don’t come knocking on my door in the middle of the night to haul me off to Tower Green.Imperial-State-Crown

 

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Blacksmiths for Gods and Heroes: Tracing the Magical Blacksmith through Myth

Giaconda's Blog

thahgd2gku Hephaestus from an Attic red Kylix vase decoration.

Who Were the Legendary Smiths?:

The figure of the often deformed or maimed blacksmith who forges remarkable weaponry and armour for gods or heroes is a re-occurring archetype in myth across many cultures.

We have Hephaestus in Greek myth who becomes Vulcan in Latin literature and may have travelled with trade routes and language to other cultures or, indeed have been absorbed from other cultures into the Classical pantheon. Both are regularly depicted in art carrying the tools of their trade – the blacksmith’s hammer and tongs.

dia41_h600px.jpg Vulcan – God of fire and volcanoes as well as smith of the gods

Comparative parallels exist in the Ugarit craftsman and magician -god Kothar-wa-Khasis, who is identified from afar by his distinctive walk—possibly suggesting that he limped, and the Egyptian God, Ptah, described as a naked and deformed dwarf by Herodotus. He is…

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The Battle of Stamford Bridge?

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No, NOT this Stamford Bridge, but two hundred miles further north, somewhere by the River Derwent in the East Riding. So please try to avoid any more football references, except for the violent Norwegian game plan, the travel plans of the teams (sorry, armies) and the fixture congestion being contributory factors to the Anglo-Saxon defeat some three weeks later.

So here is a well-sourced, serious, specialist post

Jorvik – Reconstructing the Viking Age

Giaconda's Blog

Jorvik 2

The Viking settlement at Jorvik, modern day York, is the largest excavated Viking site in England. Jorvik was an important trading centre due to its river links along the Ouse to the Humber estuary and North Sea and also an important political centre, the largest of the of the six fortified Viking boroughs along with Leicester, Nottingham, Lincoln, Derby and Stamford under the Danelaw.

Jorvik made use of the old Roman city walls and defensive structures left behind when the legions withdrew from Eboracum to defend Rome. It is thought that in this post-Roman, Anglian period the settlement was abandoned but Anglo-Saxon migrants resettled the area in the mid C6th AD. In 627 AD an Anglo-Saxon king, Edwin of Northumbrian, and his ‘people’ were baptised in the first Minster. It became the capital of the Deira kingdom and then of Northumbria and an important religious and commercial centre during the Anglo-Saxon period…

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Bloody Kings: The Plantagenets for Dummies

Giaconda's Blog

Dim is making a documentary for tv. He has a vision – ‘It’s going to be a mash-up, GOTs meets Merlin with a bit of Simon Schama pacing thrown in to showcase my amazing range of jackets! I want to bring all that old history stuff up to date and make it sexy for the kids, in’nt.’

Cindy is Dim’s research assistant, she once played a cadaver on Casulty which is how she got into the business but studied History at Uni so she really knows her stuff. She did that bit about the Corn Laws and her special module was on the History of Spam through the Ages. She’s going to be checking out all the ‘accuracy’ bits that Dim doesn’t want to think about because they really screw up the sex and violence.

Dim: ‘Right, we’ve got three episodes and we need to cover loads of stuff and…

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Beowulf and Sutton Hoo -Sources for a lost world

Giaconda's Blog

“After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.” ~ Philip Pullman

I was recently asked to visit my daughter’s class and talk to them about archaeology and what we can find out about past cultures from the physical remains that are left behind. The class is also reading Beowulf as part of their topic on the Anglo-Saxons and Vikings in Britain which will run for the whole term.

I immediately plunged into further research on Beowulf and two archaeological sites which I hope will be useful; namely the ship burial at Sutton Hoo and the Coppergate dig in York which uncovered part of Viking Jorvik, the largest excavated Viking settlement in the British Isles.

I picked these because the culture of Beowulf would appear to be closely tied to the archaeological site of Sutton Hoo with references made in the poem to artefacts…

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An interesting comparison

We have posted before about the lives of noblewomen and how they were almost never executed before the “Tudor” era began – including how King Lear, featuring the death of Cordelia, reflected this changed reality.

Here is as near as we can manage to a counter-example from 1003, after the St. Brice’s Day Massacre of the Danes, to 1535, before Anne Boleyn’s end: Maud de Braose, who died from starvation in captivity – a form of passive violence that seemed also to be the fate of Richard II:
http://historytheinterestingbits.com/2015/03/20/maud-de-braose-kings-enemy-victim/

Thankyou to Sharon Bennett Connolly.

The other Cathedral in Leicester …

… is likely to have stood on the site of St. Nicholas’ Church, a mere quarter of a mile from St. Martin’s, which has succeeded it. As a Cathedral, it dated from about the seventh century, serving during the reigns of many of Richard III’s ancestors, but was abandoned by c.875 because of the Viking invasion. Thankfully, the building itself survives near the Jewry Wall.

https://www.google.com/maps/place/St+Nicholas+Church/@52.635001,-1.140574,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x487760e0bda297e3:0x64caee630ffa0b17?hl=en_uk

Source: Kirby, D. P. The Saxon Bishops of Leicester from University of Leicester retrieved 18 May 2013

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