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The Last Kingdom episode 3

One King dies, another King rises… Armies march and Uhtred must choose

 In episode 3, we spent much of the time in Wessex seeing the fallout from the unseen battle that resulted in the death of one King and rise of another, Alfred. Althelred is mortally wounded in the battle and dies shortly afterwards.  Alfred is filled with doubts about his own abilities but is certain of one thing… he can surely hold the Kingdom together better than the incapable and drunken young man who insists that he is the true heir to the crown. Besides dealing with Athelred’s death, his impending kingship and the surly drunken Athelwold, he must also determine what to do with Uhtred and the rather surly outspoken Brida.

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a drunken Athelwold

a drunken Athelwold

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Uhtred and Brida await news of the battle’s outcome from a jail cell. Father Beocca brings them good news but Brida does not see it that way. In her mind, the best news would be of a loss and Alfred’s death.  Beocca assures Uhtred that they will be released soon, but Brida can not hold her frustration and anger in screaming, “We are Danes!”  probably not the wisest comment considering their current circumstances… 

brida can not and will not hold her tongue Brida thinks good news would be Alfred is dead Brida makes it clear we are Danes

Once they are finally released, Uhtred impatiently insists on a meeting with Alfred to discuss the battle win and his reward… Alfred calmly explains that he has a few other things on his mind right now like the death of his brother and his own impending kingship. Alfred is a little pre-occupied right now to have to deal with Uhtred. That will have to come later.

 

Episode 3 dealt with the fallout from the battle that took Athelred’s life and left Alfred and his nephew, Athelwold at some odds over who should rule the Kingdom. There is never really any question about that debate, other than what might be in Athelwold’s rather foggy and often inebriated mind. Athelwold does have one half hearted supporter, however and that young man’s actions should not be discounted or blown off… he will show his deviousness and untrustworthiness in the future. That young man is Odda the Younger and he is not quite so fuddled or incompetent as Athewold.  I only mention him here and now because in the beginning of episode we see a conversation between him and Athelwold that gives a huge clue as to how Odda the Younger’s mind works… when he encourages Athelwold in his ploy and suggests how  Athelwold should claim his Father’s backing of him no matter what Alfred or the Witan might say differently.

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Some people have made comments and voiced some concerns about the lack of battle scenes thus far. Episodes 3 and 4 do not include major battles, blood or gore. These two episodes deal more with setting up the future plot lines and twists that will become important in the future. They serve to give us a better look and understanding of the characters and of the underlying conspiracies that will run through the story. I think this is just as important to the story as attempting to include some major battle scene in every episode. First of all, the show is running on an extremely tight time and money budget for this first season- those massive battle scenes are expensive and time consuming to pull off in a believable, authentic manner or representation. I personally would prefer that rather than include battle, blood and gore in every episode just for effect, they save the battle scenes and provide them in a way that will truly be epic, standout and memorable to viewers. Yes, they could have shown the battle that killed Athelred in episode 3 but then they would have had to eliminate some of the other just as important but not so in your face violent scenes and segments. The results of the battle are important for everyone concerned there.  That aftermath needed to be addressed in the way it was because it sets up the future for all of them, Saxons and Danes alike.

Thanks in part to Uhtred’s advice, the Saxons did win the battle. Uhtred assumed that Alfred would be so grateful for that help that he would just automatically reward him and not question his reasons or motives at all. Alfred was not so gullible as to believe anything or anyone at face value… well, other than his priests. What you should be realizing even this early in the story is that Uhtred is not necessarily the stereotypical hero type. Uhtred messes up, a lot. He may be the main and central character that the story revolves around, he may be the “good guy” warrior of the battle but that does not mean that he always wins or that he conquers all. Right now, Uhtred has many lessons to learn in life. He will learn most of those lessons the hard way- as in “if at first you fail, then try again”  The person who ends up teaching Uhtred many of those difficult life lessons is Alfred the King. 

Are you offering your sword or selling your sword

On the subject of Alfred the King, we need to understand something very important about his role in the story and in general, I think. Alfred does express his own failings, his own doubts on being a successful King but he does not express these feelings to the public. Alfred is very clear about his goal, his dream for a united England. He also understands his role as leader of his people and knows full well that the worst thing he could do in his situation is show any sign of weakness or vulnerability to his subjects or to the Danes. It’s obvious to anyone who sees him that he is not a strong warrior who can go out and conquer battles/enemies physically. That leaves him with one other option… he must win with mind games, with words and out thinking his opponents. Alfred knows that his kingdom is in a precarious situation and that he will have to make difficult decisions which many of his subjects will not approve of or agree on.  As King, it is Alfred’s responsibility to lead his people and win this war that is beginning around them.  Alfred will inevitably often do things which may not endear him to everyone… he definitely is not the most likeable or jovial, fun loving kind of King. His court is certainly not one high on the A-list of parties or events. It will never be that kind of place even when there is peace in the land! Whether you like him or not is not really his ultimate concern or worry. He has far more important matters to be concerned with than whether he is well liked by all. Of course, he would like to be known as a fair and just ruler to his subjects but he needs his subjects, all of them- and that includes stubborn Uhtred- to trust him, to know that he is strong in mind and convictions, that he can not be taken advantage of or manipulated by factions who would seek to use him for their own benefits. Ohhh and yes of course, he does want to be liked by that one temptation of the flesh that he keeps near to him because of Father Beocca’s suggestion.   One might assume that Alfred’s likeability issues are due to the religious influences engrained in him and while that does play a huge part in his actions, I think it comes down more to the fact that he needs to win a war and make those often unpopular decisions that come along with any crisis. I think even without the religious influence, Alfred would have still been a serious minded individual who needed to be seen as a strong and firm leader.  Alfred’s idea of a good time is more along the lines of a philosophical discussion, a rousing taefl game of strategy or an evening of riddling… and then possibly a game of temptation involving earlier mentioned temptation of the flesh.

taefl game board

The term tafl  is the original name of the game. However, Hnefatafl became the preferred term for the game in Scandinavia by the end of the Viking Age, to distinguish it from other board games, such as Skáktafl (chess), Kvatrutafl (Tables) and Halatafl (Fox games), as these became known. The specific name Hnefatafl possibly arose as meaning “board game of the fist”, from hnefi (“fist”) + tafl, where “fist” referred to the central king-piece. The precise etymology is disputed, but hnefi certainly referred to the king-piece, and several sources refer to Hnefatafl as “King’s table”. In Anglo-Saxon England, the term tæfl also referred to many board games. It is not known if the Anglo-Saxons had a specific name for the game or if they generically referred to it as “tæfl” in the way that modern people might refer to “cards”.  Having spent time in Francia, Alfred may also have had some experience with early games of chess.

Riddling

One of the most popular games was riddling. A warrior was not considered to be up to much unless his word skill was as good as his weapon skills. Riddling was a good way of demonstrating this skill and many of the riddles of the time are full of double meanings which suggest two answers, one innocent, the other more ‘raunchy’. These riddles could be anything from a one to a hundred lines long and sought to describe everyday objects in an unusual way. Part of the skill of riddling was to be able to construct the riddle using the correct ‘poetic’ conventions. Obviously, as well as the correct construction, it was important to make sure that the description given was not too obscure. Here are some actual Saxon riddles. Alfred of course would have preferred the more innocent and correct poetic contexts and conventions!

  1. I’m by nature solitary,
    scarred by spear
    and wounded by sword, weary of battle.
    I frequently see the face of war, and fight
    hateful enemies; yet I hold no hope
    of help being brought to me in the battle,
    before I’m eventually done to death.
    In the stronghold of the city sharp-edged swords,
    skillfully forged in the flame by smiths
    bite deeply into me. I can but await
    a more fearsome encounter; it is not for me
    to discover in the city any of those doctors
    who heal grievous wounds with roots and herbs.
    The scars from sword wounds gape wider and wider
    death blows are dealt me by day and by night.
  2. I’m told a certain object grows
    in the corner, rises and expands, throws up
    a crust. A proud wife carried off
    that boneless wonder, the daughter of a king
    covered that swollen thing with a cloth.
  3. Wob’s my name if you work it out;
    I’m a fair creature fashioned for battle
    When I bend and shoot my deadly shaft
    from my stomach, I desire only to send
    that poison as far away as possible.
    When my lord, who devised this torment for me,
    releases my limbs, I become longer
    and, bent upon slaughter, spit out
    that deadly poison I swallowed before.
    No man’s parted easily from the object
    I describe; if he’s struck by what flies
    from my stomach, he pays for its poison
    with his strength – speedy atonement for his life
    I’ll serve no master when unstrung, only when
    I’m cunningly nocked. Now guess my name.
  4. On the way a miracle: water become bone.
  5. Favoured by men, I am found far and wide,
    taken from woods and the heights of the town,
    From high and from low. during each day
    bees brought me through the bright sky
    skillfully home to a shelter. Soon after that
    I was taken by men and bathed in a tub.
    Now I blind them and chasten them, and cast
    a young man at once to the ground,
    and sometimes an old one too.
    He who struggles against my strength,
    he who dares grapple with me, discovers immediately
    that he will hit the hard floor with his back
    if he persists with such stupidity.
    Deprived of his strength and strangely loquacious,
    he’s a fool, who rules neither his mind
    nor his hands nor his feet.
    Now ask me, my friends,
    who knocks young men stupid,
    and as his slave binds them
    in broad waking daylight?
    Yes ask me my name.
  6. On earth there’s a warrior of curious origin.
    He’s created, gleaming, by two dumb creatures
    for the benefit of men. Foe bears him against foe
    to inflict harm. Women often fetter him,
    strong as he is. If maidens and men
    care for him with due consideration
    and feed him frequently, he’ll faithfully obey them
    and serve them well. Men succour him for the warmth
    he offers in return; but this warrior will savage
    anyone who permits him to become too proud.
  7. The dank earth, wondrously cold,
    first delivered me from her womb.
    I know in my mind I wasn’t made
    from wool, skillfully fashioned with skeins.
    Neither warp nor weft wind about me,
    no thread thrums for me in the thrashing loom,
    nor does a shuttle rattle for me,
    nor does the weaver’s rod bang and beat me.
    Silkworms didn’t spin with their strange craft for me,
    those strange creatures that embroider cloth of gold.
    Yet men will affirm all over this earth
    that I am an excellent garment.
    O wise man, weigh your words
    well, and say what this object is.
  8. A woman, young and lovely, often locked me
    in a chest; she took me out at times,
    lifted me with fair hands and gave me
    to her loyal lord, fulfilling his desire.
    Then he stuck his head well inside me,
    pushed it upwards into the smallest part.
    It was my fate, adorned as I was, to be filled
    with something rough if that person who possessed me
    was virile enough. Now guess what I mean.
  9. A strange thing hangs by man’s hip,
    hidden by a garment. It has a hole
    in its head. It is stiff and strong
    and its firm bearing reaps a reward.
    When the retainer hitches his clothing
    high above his knee, he wants the head
    of that hanging thing to find the old hole
    that it, outstretched, has often filled before.
  10. I saw a creature: his stomach stuck out behind him,
    enormously swollen. A stalwart servant
    waited upon him. What filled his stomach
    had travelled from afar, and flew through his eye.
    He does not always die in giving life
    to others, but new strength revives
    in the pit of his stomach: he breathes again.
    He fathers a son; he’s his own father also.

ANSWERS:

  • Shield
  • Dough/Bread
  • Bow
  • Ice
  • Mead
  • Fire
  • Mail shirt
  • Helmet
  • Key
  • Bellows

Temptation of the flesh…

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So, we can rather safely assume that the majority of Alfred’s warriors would prefer to find their own entertainment and amusements elsewhere,  anywhere else but in Alfred or his wife Eilswith’s company for any evening. Let’s face it, as for Eilswith, even Alfred may have preferred to be anywhere else but in her company.  But, Alfred was a dutiful husband and really, he was not one to be outwardly cruel to his lawfully wedded wife who was devoted and loyal to him. He needs her on his side and in his bed at least occasionally… he does need heirs after all!  Even though Eilswith is about appealing as a mud fence and if possible, even more pious than Alfred, and has a sharp vicious tongue, she can do one thing well as it should become apparent… she can produce fine healthy babies! Historically, Eilswith’s alliance is of importance because she is from a Noble line of Mercia and the long range goal of Wessex rulers is to keep Mercia under their control. Her ability to provide heirs is also of importance. If you are familiar with the history of Alfred’s family- as in his siblings- he was one of six children and out of those six children, the only ones to produce any heirs were him and his brother Athelred. This is part of the reason there was little argument over who would rule. There was no one else left to lay claim to the crown but Alfred and two young nephews, who historically were assumed too young to rule. In episode 3, we begin to see just how unsuitable nephew Athelwold is for any leadership role let alone King. We also begin to see though that he is not going to go away quietly or give up on his claim, especially when he is encouraged by ones such as Odda the younger.  At times his speaking without thinking comes very close to treason. Leofrich bluntly reminds him of that. Uhtred is of the ongoing opinion that Alfred should have had him killed immediately and been done with any possibility of rebellion or attempt for the crown by Athelwold. Alfred reasons that, “If I killed him then it would make it appear as though he did have some legitimate claim.”    Ironically, of course, there are probably a number of Alfred’s supporters who have the same continuing thoughts about Uhtred. He is a vile, hated and untrustworthy Pagan that Alfred should have just killed and been done with him.

TLK_103_1 odda the older and Odda the elder from farfarawayTLK_103_20

 

So, as you can see, no matter how distasteful the thought of Eilswith is, Alfred must make attempt to keep her belly full of babies and her Mercian supporters on his side.

ailswyth Aelswith Father forgive me... go away I might not get another chance at this for a while I am your loving loyal wife

As I mentioned, episode 3 provides us with a better understanding of what is going on within the Kingdom of Wessex, from Alfred’s doubts and temptations, his inner circle of supporters and possible traitors, to his personal relationships, all of which will play their part in the decisions he makes in the future. This is a vulnerable and fragile kingdom verging on chaos and that is exactly what the Danes are hoping for and expecting in their plans for dealing with Alfred. Alfred must use what ever advantages he can come up with and that includes Uhtred, even though Alfred doesn’t trust him any further than he could throw him… which is obviously not very far.  Alfred needs Uhtred but he needs Uhtred loyal to him and he knows that Uhtred is loyal to no one but himself right now. Alfred must find a way, any way to keep Uhtred under control and he needs to do something else important… He needs to show Uhtred that he is the one in control, not Uhtred. This is extremely important in the context of Alfred’s overall rule because if Uhtred is able to best him, to outwit and out maneuver him then he will have lost control of not just Uhtred but others as well who are most likely watching the situation closely. In some ways, this battle of wills between Alfred and Uhtred is a battle that Alfred can not afford to lose. He has to prove himself to his warriors, his subjects, the Witan that put him on the throne, and most importantly, the Danes who are at the doorstep of his Kingdom waiting for him to fail.

The Witenaġemot (“meeting of wise men”), also known as the Witan (more properly the title of its members) was a political institution in Anglo-Saxon England which operated from before the 7th century until the 11th century. The witenagemots did not represent the political will of all England: before the unification of England in the 10th century, separate witenagemots were convened by the Kings of Essex, Kent, Mercia, Northumbria, Sussex and Wessex. The Witenagemot was an assembly of the ruling class whose primary function was to advise the king and whose membership was composed of the most important noblemen in England, both ecclesiastic and secular. The institution is thought to represent an aristocratic development of the ancient Germanic general assemblies, or folkmoots. In England, by the 7th century, these ancient folkmoots had developed into convocations of the land’s most powerful and important people, including ealdormen, thegns, and senior clergy, to discuss matters of both national and local importance.  The influence of the king, or at least of kingship, on the constitution of the assembly seems to have been immense. But on the other hand he (the king) was elected by the witan .. He could not depose the prelates or ealdormen, who held their office for life, nor indeed the hereditary thanes. .. At any rate, the king had to get on with the highest statesmen appointed by his predecessor, though possibly disliked by him, until death made a post vacant that he could fill with a relation or a favourite, not, however, without having a certain regard to the wishes of the aristocracy. In addition to having a role in the ‘election’ of English Kings, it is often held that the witenagemots had the power to depose an unpopular king. However, there are only two occasions when this probably happened, in 757 and 774 with the depositions of kings Sigeberht of Wessex and Alhred of Northumbria.

Uhtred is young, cocky, and rebellious. In Alfred’s thoughts he is like an unruly, untamed hound who must be kept on a very tight leash and taught to obey his master… or at least listen and recognize that he has a master otherwise he will be the most dangerous of all animals, a lone wolf. I don’t believe it is ever Alfred’s intent to completely tame Uhtred or break him… what good would that prove. I believe that Alfred knows the power and force that Uhtred will become and he wants to make sure that power is on his side, not the side of the Danes. He needs to teach Uhtred a lesson or two, or three or more as the case will be but I do not believe it is now or ever will be his intent to completely destroy Uhtred. What he needs to do is use any means possible maintain some semblance of control over this volatile weapon he has in Uhtred. Uhtred needs to learn that he does not have that upper hand with Alfred.  Alfred knows exactly how Uhtred thinks right now and calls him on it with his comment on Uhtred’s service to him. He asks Uhtred, “Are your offering me your sword, or are you selling me your sword?”

Are you offering your sword or selling your sword

In Uhtred’s mind right now, what matter should it make to Alfred as long as Alfred gets his service and he gets rewarded… He needs to recognize the difference and fully understand that difference between the loyalty of offering one’s sword and the selling and or trading of one’s sword to the highest bidder.  Uhtred does begin to understand this as we see him grow up emotionally in episode 3.

Uhtred and Brida both begin to grow more into their adult beliefs during episode 3 and as a result, they also begin to grow apart. Uhtred is learning to find a place, a purpose or at least a comfort level with the Saxons- well some of them anyway. He finds friendship and acceptance among the warriors that Alfred sets him to training in the fighting ways of the Danes. Uhtred, in his friendship with Leofric, quickly learns that liking Alfred is not a requirement of his service because many of the fighting men feel the same way about Alfred as he does.  Brida, on the other hand is learning that she will never fit in with these Saxon women, nor does she want to. They both attempt to hold on to their relationship but it seems as though they both have some realization that they are changing in some very fundamental ways. While Uhtred learns to adapt and more fully understand what Alfred’s vision of the future means to him and to his chances of reclaiming his birthright, Brida becomes more determined and set against the Saxons.  The turning point in their paths comes with Brida’s vision seeking and the loss of their child. With that loss, it seems as though they very quickly and harshly must grow up and accept their individual paths. 

Uhtred finds a friend, Leofrich

Uhtred finds a friend, Leofrich

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Brida knows one thing, she does not want to be a Saxon woman

Brida knows one thing, she does not want to be a Saxon woman

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Ragnar the younger has arrived to help the Danes in their fight and it is at their meeting with him that we see Uhtred’s better understanding and belief in the loyalty and honor of offering one’s oath or sword. We see the difference between Uhtred’s and Brida’s beliefs come to light as Brida tells him to break his word to Alfred, it means nothing. When Uhtred explains though to Ragnar that he gave his word, his oath, Ragnar understands and accepts it. Brida will join Ragnar and return to the Danes where her vision showed her she would go without Uhtred. Uhtred will remain with the Saxons for the time being because he has learned that oaths are honor. It will be his belief throughout his life, good or bad, he will feel honor bound by oaths he will make.

ragnar and brida

While Wessex was dealing with the fallout from that battle, so were the Danes as well. We saw argument and discord among them as their two leaders began to have differences of opinion.  Ubba questioned Guthrum on his action of going into battle without him and he questioned Guthrum’s ability to lead or win battles.

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They headed towards a negotiation with Alfred that they assumed would be easy to win. They assumed Alfred to be weak, spineless and willing to turn over his Kingdom to them. Alfred stood his ground and maintained control of the negotiations. He offered peace with the Danes and explained the importance of the written word that would be a part of history. Those written words would show that Alfred acted in good faith, that Alfred offered peace. Alfred would offer gold, silver and grain but not land, and not the head of Uhtred- which Ubba wanted. Alfred then began to play his mind games with Ubba telling him, “If you wish to occupy Wessex then go ahead, do it. How many Fortresses have you taken to date?”  This infuriated Ubba and he lost control of his emotions while Guthrum for the most part remained more restrained and calm during the meeting. If you pay close attention, you will see Guthrum thinking about what Alfred is saying rather than reacting violently to the words. Alfred ends the meeting reminding them that what will be written and remembered was that Alfred offered terms, Alfred offered payments and Alfred sought peace above all else.

TLK_103_33 uhtred and alfred

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The meeting ends and the Danes leave but everyone knows full well that this but a temporary and extremely fragile peace. Brida has chosen her path with Ragnar and the Danes. Uhtred will follow his own destiny or path that is with the Saxons for now because of his oath of service to Alfred, and also now too because Alfred has saved his life… When the Danes demanded Uhtred’s head as part of the agreement, Alfred refused. He could have easily turned Uhtred over to the Danes at that point, but Uhtred is far more valuable to Alfred alive than he is as a dead trade of peace. It was after that meeting that Alfred made it clear that he never had intent or thought of trading Uhtred’s life. It was also then that he made the offer to Uhtred of one year of service to him. “One year of service, oath and loyalty to me… And, in return you shall have your own reward Uhtred of Bebbanburg”

uhtred via farfar away

Uhtred believes Alfred, puts his trust in him and his vision for the future, and gives him that oath. One year does not seem such a long time. In the beginning, Uhtred was as optimistic as the rest of Wessex that they could fight the Danes and win… In reality, a year can be a very long time and fate will change all. This is merely a lull before the storm that would be known as the Great Heathen invasion and would last for generations beyond Alfred’s reign.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BBC Last Kingdom: So far, So Excellent!

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Ecghbert the ridiculous puppet king for Danish masters

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

brida we are no longer danes

brida we are no longer danes

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

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

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

Introducing Uhtred's best friend Serpent Breath

Introducing Uhtred’s best friend Serpent Breath

 

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

Aethered and Alfred in last kingdom

I have eyes and ears everywhere in every part of Engleland

I have eyes and ears everywhere in every part of Engleland

Beocca saves Uhtred's ass

Beocca saves Uhtred’s ass

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

It is our destiny to hump

finding a way to pass the time

finding a way to pass the time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Uhtred's first sight of Roman building skills

Uhtred’s first sight of Roman building skills

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

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

 

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

a drunken Athelwold

a drunken Athelwold

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

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

I ask that you become a man and quickly

I ask that you become a man and quickly

 

 

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

temptation of the flesh

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

Join us for breakfast, I dare you!

Join us for breakfast, I dare you!

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

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

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

 

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

 

Ubba's sorcerer, Storri

Ubba’s sorcerer, Storri

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

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

guthrum: tell me about this god are you not afraid

guthrum: tell me about this god are you not afraid

guthrum: I've heard mention of this heaven

guthrum: I’ve heard mention of this heaven

Guthrum I would say your God has left you hanging

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

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

Edmund is still alive to face his fate

Edmund is still alive to face his fate

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Storri has learned the hard way do not mess with brida

Storri has learned the hard way do not mess with brida

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

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

He cursed me it was necessary to block the curse

He cursed me it was necessary to block the curse

 

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

The Pagans need to feel the power of God

The Pagans need to feel the power of God

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

meeting of Leofric and Uhtred

meeting of Leofric and Uhtred

Leofric still wants a piece of Uhtred

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

 

 

Catching up with Wessex… and Judith

I have recently realized that with all of the events going in France at the end of our last raiding season, I failed to catch up on Wessex, and with Judith’s situation. I do apologize for that, but in my defense, things were and are still a bit messy to say the least in Paris right now! The events of Wessex were not of  high importance to those of us remaining in France with Rollo.  Now that things have calmed down somewhat and we are playing a waiting game whilst trying to establish ourselves here with the Franks, I can take some time to share what is taking place in Wessex and ponder what the future might hold for my friend Judith.

Judith the daughter Judith the wife Judith the pawn

You can read much of Judith’s story so far here:

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/viking-saga-judiths-story/

Judith’s admission of adultery with the Priest Athelstan, and the resulting birth of her son Alfred, has put her in a very precarious position. Ecbert was able to save her and the child by citing it as a miracle, and convincing his son Aethelwulf  that it was just that, a sign from God that this was a blessed event and this is a holy child. Now, we all understand that Aethelwulf is a devoutly religious man but surely he would not be so completely gullible as to not have his own personal doubts and resentments remaining about this whole sordid affair.   Ecbert has managed to save Judith and the precious little Alfred, save face with the church, and avoid some tearing apart of their family reputation but rumors will continue to abound about Aethelwulf  being a cuckhold to Judith’s adulterous affair. This will most likely always haunt Aethelwulf in some ways and no matter how hard he might try to forgive, I think it will always remain there in the back of his mind and his heart… causing him even more inner turmoil in his attempts to be closer to God.  For Judith, the events have placed her even more in the middle of this underlying battle between Father and son. And, make no mistake, there is a underlying battle brewing between Aethelwulf and Ecbert.

Ecbert gives a clear clue that in his mind, realistically anyone is dispensable or disposable if they interfere with his plans… including family.

I don't have any friends it's better that way.

I don’t have any friends it’s better that way.

Aethelwulf comes to realization that his Father's plan included his death...

Aethelwulf comes to realization that his Father’s plan included his death…

We have seen so many times in the past that Ecbert is indeed corrupt… ruthless and manipulative, willing to go to any lengths in order to maintain his control of Wessex and achieve his goal of becoming King or Bretwalda of all the Kingdoms. His plan is to conquer Mercia, then move on to Northumbria… with those two kingdoms taken, it would be an easy undertaking to then take East Anglia- which no one so far has made any mention of in this particular story. We’ve seen Ecbert use his son to accomplish some of these goals and as we see with the last event in Mercia, he is willing to sacrifice his son towards this end. Ecbert sees  Aethelwulf as weak and easily manipulated into doing his dirty work for him in the name and reason of religious right. The best example of this was when Ecbert convinced Aethelwulf to go forth and take care of that situation in the Viking village. For Ecbert, it had little to do with religious right or beliefs but more to do with realizing he might have made a mistake with allowing that settlement in the first place. But, in refection, he did need those men to help him beat down Mercia. If it took promising and placating them with a settlement then he was more than willing to play that card at the time. The one thought or question remains in the disasterous outcome of the village. Would Ecbert have went to the same lengths had Lagertha and or Athelstan remained? Ecbert is one who needs to be in control of every situation at all times, much like Ragnar… Ecbert and Ragnar both made serious errors in judgement with this whole situation. I believe they both under estimated the outcomes and each other even though they both know how corrupt each other is.  Would Ecbert resorted to such slaughter if he did not feel some rage and resentment at both Lagertha and Athelstan leaving him? And, ultimately, Ragnar must accept his own responsibility and guilt in leaving the settlement unguarded, unprotected in the first place. He under estimated just how far Ecbert might go in dealing with this mess, in fixing any possible mistake he felt he made or extracting a personal revenge on Ragnar.

 

Ecbert practices his own strange religion

Ecbert practices his own strange religion

Ecbert has maybe embibed in some of those shrooms and now rambles on considering himself a philosopher

Ecbert has maybe embibed in some of those shrooms and now rambles on considering himself a philosopher

Ecbert is somewhat of puzzle as far as his religion is concerned. He does  not seem to be  a particularly devout Christian but he does know full well that he needs the church on his side in order to achieve his goals.  At times he seems more interested in what ever  beliefs those ancients Romans that he is so fond of, held? Yet in contrast to his lesser faith and his affinity for more ancient practices, he seems to firmly believe that his grandson Alfred is a special holy child? He believes that there was truly something special about his friend Athelstan and that what ever that was, has been passed on to this child.

ecbert promised judith that he will do everything in his power to keep her and her baby safe

ecbert promised judith that he will do everything in his power to keep her and her baby safe

his name is Alfred He shall be great

What ever Ecbert may personally believe in, he knows full well that his own goals can not be achieved with out the backing of the Christian Church. The church was unhappy with this pagan settlement so rather than deal with it himself, he sent Aethelwulf to do it. He knew that as a religious zealot, Aethelwulf would look at this as an act of God’s punishment on sinners such as those Pagans. Aethelwulf looked at that assignment as a bond of trust from Ecbert. Being as religious as he is, Aethelwulf feels he must ever be loyal to his anointed King and Father. Aethelwulf is continuously torn between his religious beliefs and the harsh realities of his life and feelings of failure with his Father. He wants to honor God and his faith, but he also wants to prove to Ecbert that he is worthy and capable of ruling an empire such as Ecbert envisions.  He has the same sort of inner conflicts with Judith. I think that he is torn in his wanting to believe that this is a sign from God, that his faith tells him to forgive… yet he can not help but see her betrayal every time he looks at her son, Alfred.

aethelwulf: This is naught to do with you Father this is between me and my slut of a wife!

aethelwulf: This is naught to do with you Father this is between me and my slut of a wife!

aethelwulf: It just reminds me of my wife's whoring ways and how she has not suffered enough for her sins.

aethelwulf: It just reminds me of my wife’s whoring ways and how she has not suffered enough for her sins.

 

We see signs of  Aethelwulf’s struggle with accepting this forgiveness and this son as he makes habit of throwing Judith’s adultery and betrayal in her face until Ecbert intervenes on her behalf. What we see unfolding is Judith’s misery and her difficult plight in this household where she and her son have been saved but to what real purpose? Because of her admission and her mark of adultery, she is seen as somewhat of a pariah by Aethelwulf and most likely many others in the household. Ecbert has saved her and Alfred, but realistically, that does little to improve her circumstances in the beginning. Judith is alive but still living in fear, waiting for a next move against her or her son. She must tread even more cautiously and carefully now in order to assure the safety of her son should anything happen to her. In some ways, her predicament is even more perilous now than it was before. Now, every move she makes, she must consider the fate and future of both of her sons.

ecbert showers affection on alfred and wonders about athelstan

ecbert showers affection on alfred and wonders about athelstan

From the time of Alfred’s birth, Ecbert is completely besotted and devoted to the child to the point of ignoring his older grandson who by all rights no matter what, should be the heir as the oldest son. By all rights, this older son and his future heirs should inherit the throne and even without question as to Alfred’s parentage, he should be looked on as merely the spare. Ecbert, it seems though, has other plans which he secretly shares with Judith… he sees Alfred as blessed and it is his intent to see Alfred as ruler. This information would not bode well for Aethelwulf or his son by Judith.  We know that Ecbert would easily go so far as to sacrifice his son, but would he just as easily go to that length in sacrificing this other grandson? At some point, this thought will have to play heavily on Judith’s mind and heart. How can she manage some way to keep both of her sons safe?  This would be a predominant thought for any Mother put in such a situation. Judith’s ongoing thoughts must certainly be not so much of her own happiness but for the lives and the future of her children.  On a historical side note here, Michael Hirst has made comments as to following more closely to history, Alfred’s path to the throne. He is on his way to taking this closer path, I think, with Ecbert’s obsessive belief that Alfred is special and should rule. In history, someone did think this and paved the child’s way to the throne with a special dispensation and affirmation from the Pope.  The reason behind this special affirmation remains somewhat of a mystery yet today!

Alfred was born in the village of Wanating, now Wantage, Oxfordshire. He was the youngest son of King Æthelwulf of Wessex, by his first wife, Osburh.  In 853, at the age of four, Alfred is said to have been sent to Rome where, according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle,  he was confirmed by Pope Leo IV who “anointed him as king”. Victorian writers later interpreted this as an anticipatory coronation in preparation for his ultimate succession to the throne of Wessex. However, his succession could not have been foreseen at the time, as Alfred had three living elder brothers. A letter of Leo IV shows that Alfred was made a “consul“; a misinterpretation of this investiture, deliberate or accidental, could explain later confusion.  It may also be based on Alfred’s later having accompanied his father on a pilgrimage to Rome where he spent some time at the court of Charles the Bald, King of the Franks, around 854–855.

On their return from Rome in 856, Æthelwulf was deposed by his son Æthelbald. With civil war looming, the magnates of the realm met in council to hammer out a compromise. Æthelbald would retain the western shires (i.e., traditional Wessex), and Æthelwulf would rule in the east. When King Æthelwulf died in 858, Wessex was ruled by three of Alfred’s brothers in succession, Æthelbald, Æthelberht and Æthelred.

Bishop Asser tells the story of how as a child Alfred won a prize of a volume of poetry in Saxon, offered by his mother to the first of her children able to memorize it.  Legend also has it that the young Alfred spent time in Ireland seeking healing. Alfred was troubled by health problems throughout his life. It is thought that he may have suffered from Crohn’s disease. Statues of Alfred in Winchester and Wantage portray him as a great warrior. Evidence suggests he was not physically strong, and though not lacking in courage, he was noted more for his intellect than a warlike character.

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

 

ecbert: what are Judith's feelings towards her father

ecbert: what are Judith’s feelings towards her father

ecbert insinuates a fate for northumbria in front of judith

ecbert insinuates a fate for northumbria in front of Judith

 Judith is beginning to walk a fearful and cautious path within the household, enduring Aethelwulf’s taunts and wondering about an uncertain future for her sons. Ecbert ever the manipulative one, takes advantage of her fears and uses them in his tactic to control everyone. In his ploy to gain even more control of Judith than he already has, he uses Aethelwulf and even her Father- he questions her loyalty and wonders aloud just where those loyalties might be.

 

ecbert starts out with friendly conversation wanting to know how his grandsons are. He then is more specific in his inquiry of wanting to know how Alfred is.

ecbert starts out with friendly conversation wanting to know how his grandsons are. He then is more specific in his inquiry of wanting to know how Alfred is.

Judith reassures him that Both sons are well

 Ecbert calls Judith to a private meeting to discuss the future and what it might hold for little Alfred should she not have protection against Aethelwulf in the future. He makes much of warning Judith of the dangers facing her and Alfred if they are not protected in some way from Aethelwulf’s  vengeance. Ecbert vows his protection but of course there must be some return or recompense for such protection. Judith is not ignorant nor as naïve as she once might have been, she knows exactly what Ecbert is suggesting as her recompense for this protection. Ecbert also suggests that he will keep both her sons safe in  recompense for any such unsaid agreement between them.

ecbert promised judith that he will do everything in his power to keep her and her baby safe

ecbert promised judith that he will do everything in his power to keep her and her baby safe

ecbert: I have promised you faithfully that I will protect you and your sons especially Alfred

ecbert: I have promised you faithfully that I will protect you and your sons especially Alfred

judith knows where he's headed with this recompense

judith knows where he’s headed with this recompense

Judith understands both the spoken and the unspoken threat

Judith understands both the spoken and the unspoken threat

ecbert I freely offer my protection but of course there must be some recompense.

ecbert I freely offer my protection but of course there must be some recompense.

 

ecbert: I want you to be my mistress

ecbert: I want you to be my mistress

She  understands just how powerful and controlling Ecbert is and knows how far he would be willing to go to get what he wants. Ecbert proposes that in return for her sharing his bed, he will assure her safety and that of her son, Alfred.  She knows what Ecbert is capable of and she also had a good idea of what Aethelwulf is capable of as well. In his attempt to seal this bargain, Ecbert even goes far as to bring Athelstan into the conversation.

ecbert still uses athelstan as his hold over judith

ecbert still uses athelstan as his hold over Judith

judith is sucked into this game by the memory of athelstan

judith is sucked into this game by the memory of Athelstan

So, Judith becomes a pawn yet again, truly caught between Father and son in a situation that could bring danger to either or both of her sons. For Judith, this is not a matter of what is religiously moral, ethical or right in God’s eyes. In her mind, I think she has already gone beyond that with her adultery and with the church’s treatment of her for that sin. No, for Judith now, this becomes an act or an attempt to guarantee the safety of at least one of her children. If she makes this choice to become Ecbert’s mistress, she is hoping to save Alfred’s life and assure some future for him… but in doing so, there must still be some thought of what will become of her older son because of Ecbert’s insistence of Alfred being the holy one, the one who shall rule. By ensuring Alfred’s safety, is she then condemning her older son to just as much danger and uncertain fate from Ecbert in the future? As I have mentioned, and as Judith put it… she is not ignorant. This thought has to be playing in her heart and tearing her apart as she goes ahead with her decision to share Ecbert’s bed.  Some part of her also has to be thinking of Ecbert’s penchant for duplicity in all matters. She has to be thinking of this trait and wondering how far she should trust him. Some part of her must be wondering when he will decide that she is of no use to him or his plans and then what would her fate be?  Even if she has these doubts and does not trust him, in all reality, she has little choice in this matter and she knows it. She knows that Ecbert has spun his web around her and her children quite tightly and she must accept that once again, she is a pawn in his game.

judith realizes that once more she is a pawn.

judith realizes that once more she is a pawn.

judith is called to Ecbert's chambers

judith is called to Ecbert’s chambers

Judith accepts her fate and meets Ecbert in his private chamber

As she enters into this arrangement and his bed, she reminds him of the terms of this agreement… that Alfred will be safe.

judith let's just refresh ourselves on the terms of this arrangement Then you will protect Alfred

judith let’s just refresh ourselves on the terms of this arrangement Then you will protect Alfred

Ecbert has calculated this plan well, or so he assumes. He sends Aethelwulf on what should be a sacrificial fool’s errand to ensure Kwenitrith’s loyalty and remind her of her puppet status… probably fully expecting Aethelwulf to be killed in the mission thereby leaving Judith free for his continued dalliance and for  baby Alfred to be named the heir because of his special holy status.  This sacrificial death at Kweni’s hands would also ensure a new war against Mercia in retaliation for Aethelwulf’s death, one which Ecbert would no doubt expect to easily win and be backed by the church’s power behind him.

Aethelwulf comes to realization that his Father's plan included his death...

Aethelwulf comes to realization that his Father’s plan included his death…

Yep Dad has done it again

At this sudden realization, Aethelwulf can do nothing but laugh and warn Kweni of what should befall her with his pre-planned death.

Haaaa finally one up on you kweni we've destroyed his settlement

He is quite calm when he explains the situation to Kwentirith and informs her there is no longer any settlement to bargain for.

 Aethelwulf  however, realizes just how far Ecbert is willing to go and how little he really matters to Ecbert’s plans for the future. Aethelwulf survives the trip to Mercia and in his own way warns Kwentirith of  how precarious her own situation is. When he returns home, he makes some insinuation and innuendo towards Ecbert that he understands how the trip was intended to play out. It is also during that dinner when Aethelwulf and Judith begin to understand more of this ultimate power game of Ecbert’s. This last family dinner gives some insight as to what the future might hold for Aethelwulf and for Judith. For Aethelfulf, there is the realization of just how devious and treacherous his Father really is along with an inner questioning of his ongoing loyalty to this Father who would so easily see him dead.

ecbert watches aethelwulf and judith and has to wonder how this is going to play out

ecbert watches aethelwulf and judith and has to wonder how this is going to play out

At the beginning of the meal, there is some of the usual resentment and insults from Aethelwulf but Judith refuses to be cowed this time and responds in a way that causes Aethelwulf to quiet and possibly rethink his actions in light of his current situation with his Father.

judith treads carefully through this dinner with father son husband and now lover

judith treads carefully through this dinner with father son husband and now lover

judith admits her flaws I am not so much of a hippocrate that I could condemn you.

judith admits her flaws I am not so much of a hippocrate that I could condemn you.

ecbert tries to make light of it isn't that just like Kwentirith

Ecbert tries to make light of Aethelwulf’s comments and description of what took place

judith's realization of just how evil and ruthless Ecbert is

When Aethelwulf makes mention of sacrifices, questionable outcomes of the event and divided loyalties, Judith realizes just how far Ecbert is willing to go in his schemes…

After Judith speaks up for herself, there seems to be some unsaid truce between her and Aethelwulf through the rest of the dinner. They both appear more focused on Ecbert’s responses and behavior in light of Aethelwulf’s comments. Aethelwulf for his part seems intent on some inner thoughts of trying to be more God or at least Jesus like in acceptance and forgiving attitudes… At one point a look comes across Judith’s face as if to think, “Well, Fuck! He’s trying to forgive me… I slept with that Ass for nothing!”

judith's sudden thought well fuck he's forgiving me then I slept with that ass for nothing

judith’s sudden thought well fuck he’s forgiving me then I slept with that ass for nothing

There is also a fleeting attempt towards forgiveness on his part towards Judith.  For Judith, there is a revelation that she could in some way hold a bit of her own power or control in this game… as she watches this interaction between Father and son, as she sees some small glimmer of forgiveness or at least acceptance from Aethelwulf, she begins to have thoughts of how she might weigh this all to her own advantage? The last we see of Judith is her with a look of  her own calculation and pondering of how she may not be as powerless as she thought she was.

great hall of Wessex

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

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

 Judith watches and listens to this interaction between Father and son escalate into a final rather condescending toast by Ecbert towards Aethelwulf. In the end, Judith has a look of her own possibilities for the future… as though she suddenly realizes that she is not without her own power in this game.

Judith is scoping out this situation now between Ecbert and Aethelwulf

There is one very important thing that Judith must keep in mind and make assurances that there will be no doubts of in her future…. Judith has proven herself to be quite a proficient and fertile breeder. She has already had one instance of adultery leading to an unplanned and untimely pregnancy given the fact that Aethelwulf had been away in battle and she had not had sex with him for quite some time before she entered into the risky affair with Athelstan.  Should such another occurance take place, I am quite sure there would be no acceptance or forgiveness forthcoming from either Aethwulf or the church! This affair with Ecbert has taken another turn of risk and danger for her. How could she begin to explain to Aethelwulf that she was sleeping with his Father this time? Although Ecbert probably did not bargain on Aethelwulf returning, he had returned and now Ecbert has another possible sticky situation do deal with…. I believe it would be in both his and Judith’s best interests for Aethelwulf to be placated and for him to be encouraged to see to his husbandly duties. Judith needs to do whatever possible to be in Aethelwulf’s good graces and in his bed very soon!

 

This brings us to a glimpse of the future where Judith seems to have found some of that power?

judith holds her own in this game of power

 

Looking towards that future, she has obviously survived and also managed to keep both of her sons alive! Job well done Judith!  These two adorable boys play Judith’s sons Athelred and Alfred in the next season so we do know that she has succeeded in keeping them both alive so far.

 

Athelred and Alfred Judith's son in season 4 vikings

Athelred and Alfred Judith’s son in season 4 Vikings

Of course, what we do not know yet, is what she has had to do to ensure the safety of both boys? That all remains to be told in the next season.  We do know from previews that Aethelwulf and Ecbert are both still alive so Ecbert has not yet succeeded in killing his son off. Perhaps Aethelwulf has succeeded in finding some of his own power in the future. What could any power grabbing for Aethelwulf mean for Ecbert in the future?

ecbert

As we look toward the future of Wessex and Judith, there is one last thought I want to present. This is my own personal thought, a sort of What if Scenario…. In upcoming previews of next season, we see an arrest and rather brutal torture of Floki.  Now, we should all understand how these images are spliced together in such a way to provoke us, to lead us to often wrong conclusions and keep us guessing or assuming as to what takes place. What we can be positive about is that Floki is arrested by Bjorn for the murder of Athelstan, that he is chained for a time in the village and rebuked by Ragnar for his disloyalty.

Bjorn announces: I order the arrest of Floki

Bjorn announces: I order the arrest of Floki

Bjorn: I order the arrest of Floki

Bjorn: I order the arrest of Floki

Floki's punishment begins.

Floki’s punishment begins.

ragnar to athelstan you betrayed my trust

ragnar to Floki, you betrayed my trust

you betrayed my love of you

you betrayed my love of you

At some point later, we also see Floki’s gruesome torture…

floki suffers an even worse punishment

Of course, we see this all together and make the assumption that this is Ragnar’s direct doing. Many have made the comment and consideration that while this could be a show of Ragnar’s deep bitterness, his increasing thoughts of personal revenge and ultimately a show of his control and force over his subjects. Many have commented that such an act would serve to alienate the villagers and some of his warriors as well, who already have serious doubts and concerns about his  religious beliefs. Many of the villagers would have sided with Floki and would see this act as more of Ragnar’s disloyalty to their Gods. It certainly would not endear him to most of the villagers and all it would set up is an even stronger resentment against him along with more serious thoughts of revolt and replacing him as their King. 

What Ragnar really needs to do upon his return home is salvage his reputation with the more mistrusting subject. This act is not going to accomplish anything but create more doubt, rule by fear alone and villagers or warriors becoming even more disloyal to him and possibly slipping away in the middle of the night to other sides. When one attempts to rule by fear alone, this is a common occurrence. You can not watch every single person 24 hours a day, he should be well aware of this since it was what many of them did under Harald’s and then Horik’s rule. Another thing he needs to do is get back to England. In order to do that he is going to need some help from these villagers. So, other than stringing Floki up himself what might his options be?

He has arrested Floki for his disloyalty in killing Athelstan but to kill him himself is going to make him look really bad. An alternate option would be to use the unknown fate of those massacred villagers to his favor in another devious plot or scheme. He does not have to tell the villagers anything of their fate but he could imply that they would be in grave danger if the fate of Athelstan is discovered. And he could of course imply that rumors travel, there are missionaries in their country and short of killing every single missionary- which would start an even bigger war, word will get back to England. So, what might he do to alleviate such a war and keep their settlers safe? If he were still as truly devious and manipulative as we saw him last, he would propose that they bring Floki to England to appease the English as a sort of peace offering… Now, the villagers would still be upset with the idea but if it were laid out as either Floki or their relative lives, they might grudgingly go along with proposal.  To give Ragnar some credit, though I’m not really sure deserves it… he may not even be planning to actually sacrifice Floki but just put the fear of the Gods into him?  He needs a way into England behind a ruse or scheme in order to find out for sure what actually happened and who ultimately was responsible. Of course he probably knows it was Ecbert, but you can’t just go knock on his Castle door and accuse him outright. No, you need a scheme to get yourself in the door. So, he uses Floki as his scheme, his scapegoat, his peace offering. He pretends to know nothing of the massacre, Ecbert claims innocence of it and would offer up Aethelwulf as his own scapegoat. Ecbert wants to get rid of Aethelwulf anyway, and what better way than to say, trade him for Floki? Because, in reality, who else would want personal revenge or vengeance on Floki besides Ragnar? 

a game of what if2

So, in my personal pondering of a possible outcome or alternate storyline… What if Ragnar brings Floki to Ecbert and this is Ecbert’s  personal revenge rather than Ragnar’s?  What if Aethelwulf in his attempt to save his own life, spills all he knows of Ecbert’s plans and of Kweni’s secret? Could this be the cause of the looks of puzzlement and fear on Ragnar and Kweni?

Kweni is back but looking a bit rattled

Kweni is back but looking a bit rattled

it's not often we see fear on Ragnar's face

it’s not often we see fear on Ragnar’s face

What is the fate of this baby? Who ends up with him and why does he become so important?

Let me present my son Prince Magnus

And why would Aethelwulf ever think of going against his Father… besides possibly trying to save his own life of course. Could he be racked with some inner guilt about the slaughter of those innocent settlers in his ongoing battle between his own wicked ways and that which his God tells him is wrong? We do see a glimpse of Aethelwulf’s thoughts on ruling…

I have feelings of duty I try to do what is right for my kingdom and for god

I have feelings of duty I try to do what is right for my kingdom and for god

Is this a glimpse of a changing and evolving Aethelwulf? Could this be a path of Hirst’s back towards some actual history, such as that path with Alfred? In history, other than a few early skirmishes The Vikings did not pose a major threat during his reign. In 853 he married his daughter Æthelswith to King Burgred of Mercia, and in the same year he joined a Mercian expedition to Wales to restore the traditional Mercian hegemony. In 855 Æthelwulf went on pilgrimage to Rome. In preparation he gave a “decimation”, donating a tenth of his personal property to his subjects; he appointed his eldest surviving son Æthelbald to act as King of Wessex in his absence, and next son Æthelberht to rule Kent and the south-east. He spent a year in Rome, and on his way back he married Judith, the twelve or thirteen year old daughter of the West Frankish King Charles the Bald. When Æthelwulf returned to England, Æthelbald refused to surrender the West Saxon throne, and Æthelwulf agreed to divide the kingdom, taking the east and leaving the west in his son’s hands. On Æthelwulf’s death in 858 he left Wessex to Æthelbald and Kent to Æthelberht, but Æthelbald’s death only two years later led to the re-unification of the kingdom.    In the twentieth century Æthelwulf’s reputation among historians was low, and he was seen as pious and impractical, but historians in the twenty-first century regard him as one of the most successful West Saxon kings, who laid the foundations for the success of his son, Alfred the Great.

If you look at Aethelwulf’s actual history, you might be reminded of an early conversation that might have been deemed unimportant at the time but could serve as some clue to possibilities in the future. Aethelwulf and Rollo once had a limited conversation about friendship. Floki was disgusted by the whole idea and Rollo gave a clue to his deeper thoughts that may also come up in the future as Rollo begins his relationship with the Frankish.

rollo understands the need for friends and alliances in this new world

Aethelwulf and Rollo have a stilted brief conversation about differences but friends or allies. They were both just trying placate each other at the time but I think both of them understood some of the underlying idea and concept.

rollo watches floki leave and tries to figure his friend out

Rollo tries to explain this concept of friends/allies to Floki but Floki dismisses and walks away in disgust

rollo comes to better understanding of Ragnar's thoughts

Rollo has a conversation with Ragnar and comes to better understand Ragnar’s thoughts on religion, acceptance and the bigger world… this is of course when Ragnar’s thoughts were more rational.

In history, Aethelwulf maintained good relations with other Kingdoms such as Mercia and with Wales. He was on good terms with the Frankish Carolingian dynasty and seems to have based his kingship on their system. “Æthelwulf ran a Carolingian-style family firm of plural realms, held together by his own authority as father-king, and by the consent of distinct élites.”His ealdormen enjoyed a high status, and sometimes attested charters above the king’s son.  His reign is the first for which there is evidence of royal priests, and Malmesbury Abbey regarded him as an important benefactor, who is said to have been the donor of a shrine for the relics of Saint Aldhelm. In ninth-century Mercia and Kent, royal charters were produced by religious houses, each with its own style, but in Wessex there was a single royal diplomatic tradition, probably by a single agency acting for the king. This may have originated in Egbert’s reign, and it becomes clear in the 840s, when Æthelwulf had a Frankish secretary called Felix.  

In 853 a Viking army defeated and killed ealdermen Ealhhere of Kent and Huda of Surrey at Thanet, and in 855 Danish Vikings for the first time stayed over the winter on Sheppey, before carrying on their pillaging of eastern England .  However, during Æthelwulf’s reign Viking attacks were contained and did not present a major threat.

Æthelwulf’s reputation among historians was low in the twentieth century. In 1935 R. H. Hodgkin attributed his pilgrimage to Rome to “the unpractical piety which had led him to desert his kingdom at a time of great danger”, and described his marriage to Judith as “the folly of a man senile before his time”.  To Frank Stenton in the 1960s he was “a religious and unambitious man, for whom engagement in war and politics was an unwelcome consequence of rank”.   One dissenter was Finberg, who in 1964 described him as “a king whose valour in war and princely munificence recalled the figures of the heroic age”, but in 1979 Michael Enright said: “More than anything else he appears to have been an impractical religious enthusiast.” Early medieval writers, especially Asser, emphasise his religiosity, and his preference for consensus seen in the concessions made to avert a civil war on his return from Rome.   In Joanna Story’s view “his legacy has been clouded by accusations of excessive piety which (to modern sensibilities at least) has seemed at odds with the demands of early medieval kingship”.

In the twenty-first century he is seen very differently by historians. Æthelwulf is not listed in the index of Peter Hunter Blair‘s An Introduction to Anglo-Saxon England, first published in 1956, but in a new introduction to the 2003 edition Keynes listed him among people “who have not always been accorded the attention they might be thought to deserve … for it was he, more than any other, who secured the political fortune of his people in the ninth century, and who opened up channels of communication which led through Frankish realms and across the Alps to Rome”.  According to Joanna Story: “Æthelwulf acquired and cultivated a reputation both in Francia and Rome which is unparalleled in the sources since the height of Offa’s and Coenwulf’s power at the turn of the ninth century”.

Nelson describes him as “one of the great underrated among Anglo-Saxons”, and complains that she was only allowed 2,500 words for him in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, compared with 15,000 for Edward II and 35,000 for Elizabeth I.  She says:

Æthelwulf’s reign has been relatively under-appreciated in modern scholarship. Yet he laid the foundations for Alfred’s success. To the perennial problems of husbanding the kingdom’s resources, containing conflicts within the royal family, and managing relations with neighbouring kingdoms, Æthelwulf found new as well as traditional answers. He consolidated old Wessex, and extended his reach over what is now Devon and Cornwall. He ruled Kent, working with the grain of its political community. He borrowed ideological props from Mercians and Franks alike, and went to Rome, not to die there, like his predecessor Ine, … but to return, as Charlemagne had, with enhanced prestige. Æthelwulf coped more effectively with Scandinavian attacks than did most contemporary rulers.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%86thelwulf

In light of these more recent and contemporary views on Aethelwulf’s life and his guidance of  Alfred toward the throne despite the claims of older brothers and even his nephews by brother Athelred, it will be interesting to see how Hirst approaches the future of Aethelwulf, Ecbert and Judith. He makes much mention of his versions of history going in round about ways to connect in some way to actual history. And, as I’ve mentioned already, if you watch closely, you can see glimpses of change and evolution in Aethelwulf and Judith’s relationship. There is one fact that does come close to Hirst’s storyline regarding Judith’s future with Aethelwulf and any children she might potentially bear him.

Although in history, Judith was his second wife and bore him no children, there is some hint of something special regarding her and her relationship to him? Most wives at that time were not anointed Queens, they were just the King’s wife. Judith was however recognized as an anointed Queen.  Part of this was due to her status as Carolingian Princess, but what ever the reason, Hirst’s manipulation of history or the actual accounting of it, it made Judith’s status special.  The anointing of Judith as “a charismatic sanctification which enhanced her status, blessed her womb and conferred additional throne-worthiness on her male offspring.”   Æthelwulf insisted that Judith should sit beside him on the throne until the end of his life, and according to Asser this was “without any disagreement or dissatisfaction on the part of his nobles”. 

The rest of Judith’s real Carolingian status relates to Gisla as well. Gisla was a daughter, a princess of that Carolingian dynasty. Carolingian princesses rarely married and were usually sent to nunneries, and it was almost unknown for them to marry foreigners so Gisla should consider herself lucky for her marriage to Rollo considering her other options of Odo or a nunnery! So, Wipe that pout off from your face, dry your Damnable tears and Thank your God for your one chance at a possible happy marriage! Quit complaining, you could be Judith’s shoes…. or even Torvi’s with a wretched wife abusing little weasel named Erlandeur!  There are other women out there in far worse circumstances than you!

a tearful gisla

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last Kingdom, Time travel in Scotland, plus Hail to Arthur Pendragon and Helen Hollick!

A quick update this morning to share some of the most recent preview pics released for The Last Kingdom! I know that many of us are anxiously awaiting the arrival of Uthred to our small screens. Thankfully BBC is finally letting us see some of the previews of it! 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.

Last Kingdom previews

Last Kingdom previews

Last Kingdom preview probably Ravyn, father of Ragnar.

Last Kingdom preview probably Ravyn, father of Ragnar.

Last Kingdom preview

Last Kingdom preview young Uhtred and Brida?

 

Last Kingdom preview- OMG It's Ubba!!!

Last Kingdom preview- Ubba

from vikings to last kingdom

Last Kingdom preview possibly Brida

Last Kingdom preview possibly Brida

For more info on the series and the cast list so far, you can read my previous article:

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2015/05/25/temporary-cure-for-viking-withdrawals-last-kingdom-update/

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2015/07/21/last-kingdom-update/

The official website has been updated, You need to go check it out now!

http://www.bbcamerica.com/the-last-kingdom/

 

For fans of Outlander and other assorted time travel stories, I  want to share and suggest another series. I’ve mentioned it before and reviewed it on my books and reviews page but just wanted to give it a quick blurb here as a reminder or refresher for those looking for books to fill the time travel and Scotland craving. Laura Vosika has a great time travel series that combines her musical background with time travel and early Scottish history. I’ve enjoyed the Bluebells trilogy so far and I think a lot of others will enjoy it as well! Her series is a mix of past and present, some alternative “what if” theories, some great history along with mysteries and suspense! It deals with the history of Scotland during the 1300s.

Blue Bells of Scotland

The Minstrel Boy is now available on Kindle!

The Trilogy Begins….

Blue Bells of ScotlandShawn Kleiner has it all: money, fame, a skyrocketing career as an international musical phenomenon, his beautiful girlfriend Amy, and all the women he wants– until the night Amy has enough and leaves him  stranded in a Scottish castle tower.He wakes up to find himself mistaken for Niall Campbell, medieval Highland warrior.  Soon after, he is sent shimmying down a wind-torn castle wall into a dangerous cross country trek with Niall’s tempting, but knife-wielding fiancee.  They are pursued by English soldiers and a Scottish traitor who want Niall dead.Thrown forward in time, Niall learns history’s horrifying account of his own death, and of the Scots’ slaughter at Bannockburn.  Undaunted, he navigates the roiled waters of Shawn’s life– pregnant girlfriend, amorous fans, enemies, and gambling debts— seeking a way to leap back across time to save his people, especially his beloved Allene.  His growing fondness for Shawn’s life brings him face to face with his own weakness and teaches him the true meaning of faith.Blue Bells of Scotland is both a historical adventure and a tale of redemption that will be remembered long after the last page has been turned.

http://www.bluebellstrilogy.com/

You can find my reviews for the series on my books and reviews page. Laura Vosika is currently working on the next book in the series, called Westering Home. She is in Scotland right now doing some additional research and if you check out her facebook page, she is posting some fantastic photos of her trip and her research!

https://www.facebook.com/laura.vosika.author/timeline

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/books-and-reviews/

 

One last update! While we’re on the subject of books… In a previous article, https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2015/06/30/saxons-romans-and-arthur/  I mentioned a series on Arthur by Helen Hollick. At the time, I had just started reading it, was only through book one and didn’t give a complete review of it. The series is called the Pendragon’s  Banner and in it, Helen gives a more realistic presentation of the legend of Arthur.  There are three books in the series that takes us from Arthur’s early childhood to his death. I have now finished reading all three books and can honestly say that I am just as impressed with the ending as I was with the beginning of it! In the series, Helen presents her  version of  many of the different stories connected with the legend. The only parts she omitted in her version were Lancelot and Merlin. She omitted these characters for a good reason! Helen chose to focus on the fragments of history and legend that made a more historical connection to events during that time period. Rather than present the mythology and symbolism of Merlin and magic or Lancelot and knights on white horses, she instead had us follow Arthur on a  journey to Gaul, to parts of ancient France where the Romans were fighting a losing battle against the Franks at the time.

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

There in a place called Avignon, he face betrayal and failure, along with inner demons to haunt him and cause him to not want to return to his home in Britain.  While Helen insists that she is no historian, I was thoroughly impressed with  her attention to historical details and those tiny fragments of documented evidence. As the series went on, I found myself immersed in those small details and spent considerable time switching from the story google those little references. Now, for some that might not be considered a plus to the story telling, but for me, it was an awesome adventure into both the story and the actual historical theories about that time period!

When I chose her series, it was for the references to actual history and she did not let me down. Her way of weaving much of that history together made a great deal of sense to me. I especially like the turn she took in weaving Cerdic the Saxon into the story. That was the part I was most interested in from the beginning anyway! Historically, Cerdic’s genealogy and lineage were sketchy and there are theories that he may have been connected to the Romano Britons in some way… Helen went with that theory and it worked!

I highly suggest you read the series, and coincidentally, if you go to Helen’s web page, you will find the trilogy as this month’s feature!

Quote of the Month 

‘Arthur said, “Happy endings are only for lovers in Harpers’ tales.” ‘
from The Kingmaking

The kingmaking Helen hollick The Pendragon Banner 2 by helen hollickShadow of the king by helen hollick

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

In Helen’s journal, she has proclaimed August as Arthurian month and is offering a give away prize! So, all hail Arthur and Helen!!!

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

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some miscellaneous news and updates!

Ok, first of all, there seems to be a huge renewed interest in Frank Randall of Outlander fame! I want to say Thank You to everyone who has visited recently while searching for information on him and on Diana’s thoughts on his character! I just want to let you all know that I do have a three part series on him that includes his history through all of the books and the novella that he is in!  The page that everyone is so interested in right now is a copy of Diana’s reasons and her explanation of  her creation of Frank Randall. The articles I’ve written are my personal opinions, thoughts and observations on his character! I hope that while you’re here you take some time to read this series as well as Diana’s words.

Frank haunted by Jack

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2014/10/11/outlander-on-the-matter-of-frank-randall-part-one/

You may notice that I have not kept up with continuing reviews and commentaries for the second half the season. I do have a few reasons for this. First of all, there are already so many excellent fan sites for the show that I do not feel a need to add to it.  While I enjoy the show and appreciate all that the show brings to us, my first fascination and loyalty is to the books, to the world and the characters that Diana has so vividly created and set into my mind. I appreciate the show and what Ron Moore had done with it in order to capture the essence of the story and bring it to life.  I understand the reasons for changes in the story completely and I can easily enjoy the show as something different than the books. In fact, I look forward to next season and seeing what those differences might be! As I already mentioned, my fascination is with the books and the story that Diana has given us, and I feel that I have covered much of  that wealth of information already. As we get closer to season two, I will probably return to a few articles that I did not get to earlier. I am completely sucked in by the mystery and the history of Master Raymond, who will be showing up next season! I absolutely can not wait to see this part of the story play out and I will be working on an article devoted to him at some point down the road.  My other reason for not continuing with an ongoing commentary and review is that of time constraints… If you look at my blog now, you will see that I am deeply involved in much earlier history- namely Viking and medieval history! I believe that I have found a little niche for myself within this early history, where my heart is so much closer to anyway.

I do owe a profound amount of gratitude to Diana Gabaldon and her Outlander Saga, as well as all of the followers and fans of her work. What she did was inspire me to express myself, to create and to take myself seriously. What all of you followers and fans have done is to encourage and support me in this endeavor. For that, I am forever grateful to all of you as you have given me that encouragement to branch out and explore all of the history that I am so passionate about!  Hopefully, all of you Outlander fans will continue to stop by and find bits of historical information that you didn’t realize you might be interested in! If you search through my archives, you will find a wealth of information on the history of Scotland, going back so much further than what Outlander touches on right now. The history of Scotland stretches all the way back through the Vikings times to pre-history with such places as Skara Brae where Master Raymond may have his earliest beginnings at!

 

Now on to other news… For all of you fans and followers of Bernard Cornwell’s Warrior Chronicles and Uhtred of Bebbanburg, I know you have been waiting impatiently for the next book. At one time it was not scheduled for release until some time in 2016, but never fear, your wait will soon be over! It is now scheduled for release on October 8, 2015! My amazon listing states you can pre-order now and get it on October 8.

Warriors of the Storm by bernard cornwell

October 8, 2015

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.

That bit of news has made my week! I am so impatient to see Uhtred again… I also find this release date gift interesting and wonder if it has to do with promotion of the upcoming Last Kingdom series for BBC that is currently in production? Hopefully we will hear more news on that soon!

Last kingdom promo2

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2015/05/25/temporary-cure-for-viking-withdrawals-last-kingdom-update/

While you’re waiting for Uhtred’s return, you might want to check out some of Bernard’s other works? Because I am so steeped in Viking and Saxon history right now, I decided to go all the way back in time… all the way back to when the Saxons first arrived in a place called Britannia by the Romans. I have been researching that time period for an upcoming article on Saxon Rulers and how they came to claim their right to rule. So, in keeping with that research I am giving Mr. Cornwell a chance to present me with his version of events during that time. His series on King Arthur strips away the magic and the myth to tell a story much closer to what might have happened… though, I have to state ahead of time that my current research has shown me a different side to the Saxon migration. I will address that in my future article on their history! For now, I am going to enjoy Bernard Cornwell’s version of King Arthur!

Winter King by Bernard Cornwell

April 15, 1997

It takes a remarkable writer to make an old story as fresh and compelling as the first time we heard it. With The Winter King, the first volume of his magnificent Warlord Chronicles, Bernard Cornwell finally turns to the story he was born to write: the mythic saga of King Arthur.
The tale begins in Dark Age Britain, a land where Arthur has been banished and Merlin has disappeared, where a child-king sits unprotected on the throne, where religion vies with magic for the souls of the people. It is to this desperate land that Arthur returns, a man at once utterly human and truly heroic: a man of honor, loyalty, and amazing valor; a man who loves Guinevere more passionately than he should; a man whose life is at once tragic and triumphant.
As Arthur fights to keep a flicker of civilization alive in a barbaric world, Bernard Cornwell makes a familiar tale into a legend all over again.

 

Now, just one last bit of update, news and appreciation…. This blog did not start with my voyage into Outlander land, it began as a place to share my stories and my creations for Sims 3! That has gotten set aside for quite some time but I do still get a number of views and visits from simmers. I need to say Thank You to all them for their initial support and encouragement as I began this venture of blogging and writing. Just recently I had a comment and question about one of my historical Castle projects, Dunvegan Castle. I put a great deal of time, energy, research and creative process into the project but it has sat tucked away in my Sims 3 game library for quite some time, only half finished. Because Dunvegan Castle is so interesting – one of my favorite Castles in Scotland,  and it has ties all the way back to the Viking era or possibly earlier, I am going to find some time to go back, revisit it and hopefully finish it!

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/?s=history+of+dunvegan+castle

Photos of Dunvegan Castle

Dunvegan Castle on the Isle of Skye

Dunvegan Castle on the Isle of Skye

dunvegan castle

A few photos of my work on a representation of Dunvegan Castle. These were beginning photos of the work- I have taken some creative license in the representation and have had to fight constantly with limits of the building constraints in the game but I think I have captured the essence of it.

Arial view of front of lot overview of front with windows, towers and turrets Screenshot-2 (3) view of back side entrances

 

Ohhhh and for you Outlander fans, when last I visited my inhabitants of Dunvegan Castle, they were in the 1700s and had received a rather curious invitation to a small, secret wedding…

Dunvegan recieves a wedding invitationwedding-invitation1

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2014/09/20/dunvegan-castle-recieves-an-odd-correspondance-and-invitation/

Alright, that is it for my updates and my news of the day… Be off with you now, Enjoy your visit to my realm!

 

 

I am King! Really, why and how?

I am King

All of the above men are or were Kings in our Vikings saga, the exception being young Erlandeur…his chance at King being thwarted by Ragnar Lothbrok! I have included Harald Finehair in the portrait as he will be arriving next season as King of Norway.  What I hope to do with this series of articles is shed some light on the hows, the whys of Kingship, and give some brief historical insight on each of these men and their claim to Kingship.  I will also look at a recent discovery of a Leadership gene, right to rule and divine destiny and how these concepts relate to these men becoming King. *Note* This is part one of a series that will look at each of these Kings and their claims or right to rule!

First, before anything else, we need to explore the concept of King, or monarchy in general.

A monarchy is a form of government in which sovereignty is  one or several individual(s) reigning until death or abdication. They are called the monarchs.  Forms of monarchy differ widely based on the method of selection of the monarch, and any predetermined limits on the length of their tenure. When the monarch has no or few legal restraints in state and political matters, it is called an absolute monarchy. Cases in which the monarch’s discretion is formally limited (most common today) are called constitutional monarchies. In hereditary monarchies, the office is passed through inheritance within a family group, whereas elective monarchies use some system of voting. Each of these has variations: in some elected monarchies only those of certain pedigrees are eligible, whereas many hereditary monarchies impose requirements regarding the religion, age, gender, mental capacity, and other factors. Occasionally this might create a situation of rival claimants whose legitimacy is subject to effective election.

Tribal kingship is often connected to sacred functions, so that the king acts as a priest, or is considered of Divine ancestry. The sacred function of kingship was transformed into the notion of “Divine right of kings” in the Christian Middle Ages.  In Germanic antiquity, kingship was primarily a sacral function, and the king was elected from among eligible members of royal families by the thing.

Monarchies are associated with  hereditary rule, in which monarchs rule for life and pass the responsibilities and power of the position to their child or another member of their family when they die. Most monarchs, both historically and in the modern day, have been born and brought up within a royal family, the center of the royal household and court. Growing up in a royal family,  future monarchs are often trained for the responsibilities of expected future rule.

 Different systems of succession have been used, such as proximity of blood, primogeniture, and agnatic seniority (Salic law). While most monarchs have been male, many female monarchs also have reigned in history; the term queen regnant refers to a ruling monarch, while a queen consort refers to the wife of a reigning king. The principal advantage of hereditary monarchy is the immediate continuity of leadership (as seen in the classic phrase “The King is dead. Long live the King!“).

 

Monarchy, especially absolute monarchy, sometimes is linked to religious aspects; many monarchs once claimed the right to rule by the will of a deity (Divine Right of Kings, Mandate of Heaven), a special connection to a deity (sacred king). Many European monarchs have been styled Fidei defensor (Defender of the Faith); some hold official positions relating to the state religion or established church.

  In a hereditary monarchy, the position of monarch is inherited according to a statutory or customary order of succession, usually within one royal family tracing its origin through a historical dynasty or bloodline. This usually means that the heir to the throne is known well in advance of becoming monarch to ensure a smooth succession.

Primogeniture, in which the eldest child of the monarch is first in line to become monarch, is the most common system in hereditary monarchy. The order of succession is usually affected by rules on gender. Historically “agnatic primogeniture” or “patrilineal primogeniture” was favoured, that is inheritance according to seniority of birth among the sons of a monarch or head of family, with sons and their male issue inheriting before brothers and their issue, and male-line males inheriting before females of the male line. 

Before primogeniture was enshrined in European law and tradition, kings would often secure the succession by having their successor (usually their eldest son) crowned during their own lifetime, so for a time there would be two kings in coregency – a senior king and a junior king. Examples include Henry the Young King of England and the early Direct Capetians in France. In Saxon history, King Ecbert did similar with his son Aethelwulf. We will delve into that later.

aethelwulf and ecbert

 Sometimes, however, primogeniture can operate through the female line. In some systems a female may rule as monarch only when the male line dating back to a common ancestor is exhausted.  This is how Kwentirith has managed to achieve her current rule of Mercia…

Just a hint here Kwentirith when everyone throws empty cups at you you may have a few friend problems!

Just a hint here Kwentirith when everyone throws empty cups at you you may have a few friend problems!

In the case of the absence of children, the next most senior member of the collateral line (for example, a younger sibling of the previous monarch) becomes monarch. In complex cases, this can mean that there are closer blood relatives to the deceased monarch than the next in line according to primogeniture. This has often led, especially in Europe in the Middle Ages, to conflict between the principle of primogeniture and the principle of proximity of blood.

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

For our purposes in this discussion, we are going to deal mainly with the Hereditary Monarchy, because for the most part all of the Kings in our saga have achieved their crown via that sucession. Even Ragnar Lodbrok as we will see in tracing his limited history, probably did have a sort of blood link to the crown of Denmark. The only one that there is some doubt or question of will be King Aelle of Northumbria. We just do not know enough about him to make any detailed or accurate assumption as to his right or claim to that Kingdom.

Before looking at each man’s history and personal claim to Kingship, we should also look at some other more general theories and concepts regarding Kingship and it’s history. This will help to better understand each particular man’s role in this career choice…

Right to Rule and Divine right of Kings

The divine right of kings or divine right  asserts that a monarch is subject to no earthly authority, deriving the right to rule directly from the will of God. The king is thus not subject to the will of his people, the aristocracy, or any other estate of the realm, including the Church. According to this doctrine, only God can judge an unjust king. The doctrine implies that any attempt to depose the king or to restrict his powers runs contrary to the will of God and may constitute a sacrilegious act. It is often expressed in the phrase “by the Grace of God,” attached to the titles of a reigning monarch.

While this concept would seem on the surface only to apply to European Kings of later centuries, the basis for the principle goes much further back and ties into the idea or concept that Kings were descended from God, or Gods… That they had a direct connection to that higher power and therefore had a right or claim to rule because of that connection. Denmark had a history for following this principle of right to rule dating as far back as to a point when it was inhabited by the Angles, who then eventually migrated to Britain and brought the concept with them.

The Dacians settled in a region that includes modern Denmark and the northwest region of Germany.  The Dacians named this region Dacia, in honor of their homeland.  In Dacia, the Dacians displaced the native peoples.  Undoubtedly, some level of integration happened between the Thracians, Dacians, and native populations.  Dr. David Faux offers a compelling argument that while the Dacians clearly displaced the Celtic Cimbrians, the Angles are likely to have partially integrated with them.

Right to Rule

Claimants to power in Angle were from a ruling family, with preference given to the eldest male most closely related to the prior ruler.  This tradition reduced the likelihood of conflict during times of transition and served to concentrate wealth and power.  This tradition continued in Russia, Scotland, Flanders, Normandy, post-conquest England and other regions controlled by the Angles, likewise serving to enable the formation of powerful governments and military capabilities.  Conflicts were reduced to situations where the lack of an immediate male heir led to contested claims by paternal cousins.

The origin of this behavior is perhaps based on the very ancient notion that the royal family descends from the gods.  Perhaps this concept was borrowed by the Dacians and Thracians from the Romans.  The family of Julias Caesar (gens Julia), for example, claimed to descend by Venus through Aeneas.  The original royal family of Norway were said to be descended from Odin.  Frey was the main god of kingship among the Swedes and the royal family (the Ynglings) were believed to have descended from him.

http://romanianhistoryandculture.webs.com/daciansindenmark.htm

The remote origins of the theory are rooted in the medieval idea that God had bestowed earthly power on the king, just as God had given spiritual power and authority to the church, centering on the pope. The immediate author of the theory was Jean Bodin,  who based it on the interpretation of Roman law.  This principle and theory would and did directly apply to King Charles and King Ecbert- who used the church to back his claim to power. King Aelle who deemed himself a Christian would have used such theory to some extent to validate his Kingship, though I think he achieved his crown by might and then would have tried to justify it in some way.  As to the Scandinavian Kings, we would assume that this principle would not have applied… but, when we look closer at their histories, we will see that while they may not have used the Christ God to justify their claims, they did claim connections to their own Gods to back up their rule once they established it.  For the Danes, they were long linked to the Frankish Empire and even back to Roman cultures so those ancient concepts would have made way into their own culture even if they did not ascribe to Christianity per say. As far back as the Romans were using links to the Gods to justify their claims to rule. Julius Caesar claimed connection to Venus.

The theory went back to those earliest Christians who advocated allegiance to Caesar even though he was a Pagan ruler.

  1. The New Testament, in which the first pope, St. Peter, commands that all Christians shall honour the Roman Emperor (1 Peter 2:13–17), even though, at that time, he was still a pagan emperor. Likewise, Jesus Christ proclaims in the Gospel of Matthew that one should “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s”; that is at first, literally, the payment of taxes as binding those who use the imperial currency (See Matthew 22:15–22). Jesus told Pontius Pilate that his authority as Roman governor of Judaea came from heaven according to John 19:10–11.
  2. The endorsement by the popes and the church of the line of emperors beginning with the Emperors Constantine and Theodosius, later the Eastern Roman emperors, and finally the Western Roman emperor, Charlemagne and his successors, the Catholic Holy Roman Emperors.

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

The basic theory and premise of such divine right goes all the way back to Egypt with the Pharaohs linking themselves to the Gods. The future Christian interpretation of it just set down a different set of rules to follow. This principle and concept ties in well with the practice of hereditary monarchy and succession according to bloodline. Once one has established rule of a Kingdom, it is always wise to have some other means besides just might to back up one’s claim! This principle ensures that your hard fought for Kingdom will remain in the family for future generations and it also gives you an added cushion of authority in the eyes of your subjects who might think twice about rebelling against you if they believe you have some connection to the Gods!  It’s fine to achieve a Kingship and Kingdom by force, but eventually people will tire of fighting on your behalf and you will need some other means to control and lead them into your way of thinking. What better means of control than convincing them that you have supreme right from the Gods above to rule them!

I know, I know, you’re getting bored with all of this and want to get to the more interesting stuff… I just have one last theory to bring up before we get to our Viking era Kings. This theory is a recent development and discovery related to genetics.  Now you’re probably groaning to self- yes, you are, I can hear you! You’re thinking, What the Hell does current genetic research have to do with any of this! Well, please stick with me and let me explain!

In the past few years, there has been a vast amount of research done on genetics, DNA and how it might relate to us in various ways. Some of it has to do with genealogy and the ability now to better trace our ancestry, and of course that would include tracing Royal lineages- should some Royal ever require some need of proof that they are indeed part of Royal bloodline- or for those who just want to be able to say, Hey I am descended from Ragnar, Rollo, or others of historic fame. That in itself is quite interesting and I do plan to participate in that endeavor sometime soon.

If you are so inclined and interested, you can get more information about that research on these sites:

AncestryDNA project at Ancestry.com

http://dna.ancestry.com/

TribeCode DNA Ancestry testing

http://www.tribecode.com/

Although that genetic progress is interesting, it is not what we are most interested in with regards to this discussion. The discovery that pertains more to us is that of a specific gene called the Leadership gene!  A GENE has been uncovered that may help to create born leaders, or possibly trace the pattern in past leaders.

The leadership gene, known as rs4950, is an inherited DNA sequence associated with people taking charge.Scientists accept that leadership skills are also learned. But the gene may provide the vital push needed to make someone into a manager rather than a minion.  Researchers found the gene after analysing DNA samples from around 4000 individuals and matching them to information about jobs and relationships. Workplace supervisory roles were used as a measurement of leadership behavior.  The study showed that a quarter of the observed variation in leadership traits between individuals could be explained by genetics.

Lead scientist Jan-Emmanuel De Neve, from University College London, said: ‘‘We have identified a genotype, called rs4950, which appears to be associated with the passing of leadership ability down through generations.   ‘‘The conventional wisdom – that leadership is a skill – remains largely true, but we show it is also, in part, a genetic trait.’’

Some of the greatest leaders in recent history include Martin Luther King, Mohandas Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Sir Winston Churchill.  Leaders do not necessarily have to be heroic or good though. Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin and Genghis Khan were also great leaders in their own way.

The new research suggests at least the possibility that some of these historic figures were blessed with the leadership gene. Despite the importance of the gene, acquiring a leadership position still mostly depends on developing the necessary skills, say the researchers.

http://www.smh.com.au/technology/sci-tech/leadership-is-in-the-gene-say-scientists-20130115-2cs7c.html

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130115111553.htm

Now if I have completely confused you as to the relevance of this genetic discovery to our topic of Kings and their claims of divine right, let me try to put some perspective on it.  The Royal dynasties now and in the past are based on some principle that their bloodline enables or allows them to rule. Granted, their claim is that it comes from God, the Gods, that divine connection or link. They knew nothing about genetics or DNA, they attributed their ability to a higher power. But, given the discovery of this gene, it would be fascinating to find this gene in some of those ancient rulers! Perhaps it was not God who destined or determined their fate or ability, but it may have been something in their bloodline from the beginning that allowed for the earliest of these rulers to be leaders and then pass that predisposition down to their offspring and future rulers! The research does conclude that this gene does not completely determine one’s ability or success but merely predisposes them toward that. It also states that having such gene does not equate to heroics or good, it could also enable a person with worst of intentions or morals to succeed in leading people in their direction.

As a genetic trait, it might be responsible for that certain charisma, charm or bearing that a person  innately presents which would allow for people to follow them- good or bad! It may come across as an overall appearance, a self confidence, an air natural inborn Royalness such as some of our Kings and their offspring display.  It could also be some inborn ability convince or sway people to your side, to your beliefs… some people are natural born salesmen! Ragnar certainly has it.

ragnar2

And, he has passed it down to his son Bjorn who is not King yet, but will be one day.

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

If Ragnar is gifted with such a gene then in our saga, his brother Rollo would probably carry the gene as well. Rollo does not achieve Kingship in history nor probably in our version of it, but he comes close in founding his own dynasty of Normandy. And, great Monarchs will descend from his line in history so we could probably assume that Rollo did indeed have this gene!

what will the future hold for rolloPortrait of Rollo's destiny. Credit to Ines Jagger of Vikings Aftermath group and to lindamarieanson of deviant art.

Whether we like him or not, Ecbert does have this innate trait, this ability to charm and control…

Vikings-Ecbert-King-of-Wessex-played-by-Linus-Roache1ecbert has been disobeyed

King Horik most likely  had the gene bit it  is one of those cases where he used none of it for good!

horik sends rollo to jarl borg while he stays at kattegathorik and wife Gunhild who was once a great sheild maiden herself

Does King Aelle have it? I would say, possibly but as in Horik’s case, it’s not been a case of any good coming from it? The only reason that I suspect he might possibly carry the gene is for the fact that daughter Judith appears to have it and presents a better side of it! This is of course in our fictional version of the history. Later we will attempt to look at Aelle in the context of actual history and what his claim or justification may have been. As I have mentioned previously, I suspect that he may have come by his rule and his Kingdom more by might than by any true right, but he may have had the gene, which would have enable him to sway people to his line of thinking…

King-Aelle1Aelle and judith

Now for the moment, that leaves us with new comer Harald Finehair of Norway… we know next to nothing about him and can only gauge any thought or assumption on a limited vision of his outward appearance? But, from that appearance, I would say that yes he probably does have this gene.

peter franzen4

I am going to include one other person of interest in this list because while he does not have royal blood as far as we know at this time, he does display this trait and characteristic. That would be Kalf!

Kalf tries to remain unphased and calm through Ragnar's tiradeKalf says his own last minute prayer to the gods

And, if one bases the succession of their reign on such bloodline or ability, there may always come a point where a successor has not inherited such gene from his parent. That would leave your dynasty with a weak, ineffective leader such as our Frankish King Charles! In the case of Charles, any of the Charles that he may be representing in our version of history, we also need to take into account one other thing that may have affected their genes. With the principle and practice of hereditary monarchy comes a somewhat disturbing side affect. In order to keep your Royal bloodline continuing, your descendants must marry within a severely limited group of others who would presumably share this royal blood. This practice results in a great deal of inbreeding with close relatives. The early Christian church realized this and did put forth a number of rules regarding who one could marry. This might have been looked at as some sort of extreme Papal control and Bureaucracy but in reality, it was their means of dealing with the affects of  such close inbreeding that led to much hereditary illnesses, instabilities and insanities being passed down through generations or ruling families.

charles I must prove myself better than my brothers and these Northmen have provided just the event

Charles and other members of his Frankish dynasty were thought to be afflicted by various forms of such instability. So, while Charles may or may not have inherited the leadership gene, (my personal thought is that he probably did not!) he most likely did inherit some of the other instabilities of his family.

As long as we’re looking at Charles, let us quickly look at his daughter, Gisla… who may or may not be a real person. In our fictional account, she is quite young but she does seem to have moments where she displays such a leadership gene.

charles leaves but the people still rejoice around the real hero of the day gisla

gisla raises the banner and reminds the men of what they fight for

gisla raises the banner and reminds the men of what they fight for

Since we have brought up the realities of inbreeding and instability, there is one other person to look at in relation to the leadership gene and to claims of right to rule. That person would of course be the Princess Kwentirith in our saga, who is said to be a daughter of Offa and who is now Queen of Mercia. Kwentirith is based loosely on some real women of that time period who did have some claim to rule. It was very rare that a woman would be allowed to rule but there were some early instances of it in Saxon history. It would have been due to the early practice of following the blood line and a woman being the last and only direct relative left to take over. That was the case of Kwentirith when her brother so conveniently died.  We will deal with the history of Mercia and their rule later. For now let us just look at Kwentirith in respect to whether she might have the leadership gene and whether she also carries some inherited family instability! At her best, Kwentirith can present a charming and engaging personality and a regal bearing.  She may have the gene which would allow her to put forth an initial image and presence that people would pay some attention to. Unfortunately, she also displays such an irratic and volatile range of instability that people quickly realize her instability! Is this instability inherited or due merely to her childhood environment? My thought is that it is probably a bit of both. She refers to the behaviors of her Father and her uncle, as well as brothers so I would think that some of the insanity is inherited, probably from a long line of inbreeding before the family might have converted and followed rules of the church!

Kwenthrith1

the return of kwentrith

the return of kwentrith

kwentirith enjoys the snack and Rollo thinks to enjoy his own snackKwentirith unleashing her savagery on Uncle britwulf's head

I have given you some basic overall theories and reasons on the hows and whys of Kingship in general, and how they relate to our Royalty in the Vikings saga.  In my next posts, I will deal with each King separately. Because all of these people have some real life historical basis, I will look at them in that historical context rather than the fictional one. Where ever possible, I will attempt to explore the fictional relationship as it might relate to the real one. The only people who do not seem to have any real life basis as yet would be Kalf, and Aelle’s daughter Judith. But, seeing as they are not yet rulers in any way, we will not look into their histories as it relates in this way!  Also, I have already dealt with both of them in previous posts so we will leave it at that for the time being!

You can find my thoughts on Kalf in the previous post about Hedeby:

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2015/05/13/vikings-lagertha-kalf-and-why-is-hedeby-so-important/

Judith’s story is detailed here:

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/viking-saga-judiths-story/

Based on the historical fact that Horik’s and Ragnar’s claims are both tied to the Crown and history of Denmark, I will look at them together in relation to that history. In looking at that history, it may also lead us to exploring Aelle’s limited history in Northumbria… mainly because when we look closer at the history of the Danes and the Angles who resided in that country prior to the Danes taking over, we will see the migration of them to places in Britain such as Northumbria, York, and East Anglia. I will also look at where the ruling line went after Ragnar in history because historically he did not rule for very long and his sons did not take his place in succession. Because of that, we will look at who did come afterwards, and what happened to his sons in history. This will include a look at Sweden where Bjorn Ironside eventually become a King.

We will look at Ecbert’s path to his rule and his claim in relation to Saxon history and in relation to the church because they backed his initial claim to his throne. That Church connection will also be a connection to the rule of Charles. We will also see in this history, the claim of one woman who bears some similarity to our Kwentirith.

We will look at Harald Finehair and his connection or claim to the rule of Norway in a separate discussion because while we all tend to look at the Vikings and Scandinavia as one inclusive entity, they were very separate kingdoms much further back than the Viking age! As they all migrated to Britain during various time periods, they located themselves in different localities and did not identify themselves under that one umbrella of “Viking” They did not even particularly like each other and would not have chosen to band together or associate with each other unless it was for such purpose of defeating a common enemy such as the Saxon English!

I hope that you will join me and enjoy the upcoming journey as we explore the rights and claims to Kingship!

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

This article includes Horik, Ragnar, as well as Ragnar’s sons Bjorn, Ivar and Sigurd!

Horik and Ragnar their paths to ruling a dynasty

Ecbert’s claim to Wessex:

The beginnings of Egbert's power plots

The beginnings of Egbert’s power plots

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2015/09/14/from-charlamagne-to-egbert-and-wessex/