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Today’s ancestry and history lesson sponsored by the Gaunt family!

Ok, today’s ancestry and history lesson has nothing to do with the Viking era or the early Anglo-Saxons. No, today we are going to move forward a few centuries to some equally interesting family members. I have to admit that finding these ancestors has made me more appreciative of my more boring, average and mundane life! This week’s ancestry research has connected me to some families that I am not really sure I necessarily want to be descended from? I am beginning to realize why so many of my ancestors tried to stay on the edge of Royal and Nobility politics, why their fortunes may have took a down turn eventually and why they might have jumped at the chance to head for the wilds of America first chance they got!  I have found myself caught up in the web of Nobility and Royalty of the 1300s- a web of scheming, plotting and feuding families that would equal to anything earlier generations could have thought of!  After trying to sort through some of it, I will no longer complain about sifting through generation after generation of plain ordinary families who left little trace of their history.  

This family history update is brought to you by the Gaunt family… John of Gaunt and his rather illustrious family that includes some royalty, some nobility, some rather famous friends, plus assorted wives, and a  professional mistress who made good. 

blanche of lancaster and katherine swynford

I am not going to share the entire book that it would require to document events of this family. I just want to share the beginning of this family saga that will eventually drag us through the War of the Roses with ancestors on both sides of the long drawn out battle for the crown and the power of the English monarchy. A family saga that will come to include the Gaunt descendants, the Beaufort, Nevilles and the Percy families.

John of Gaunt is my 17x great grandfather by way of his daughter Joan Beaufort with Mistress turned wife, Katherine Swynford.

joan beaufort

Many people who have some interest in medieval history may be familiar with Katherine Swynford, one of the more famous or infamous mistresses who made good and managed to retire comfortably to wifedom… You may not realize that she was also a pre-cursor to the now somewhat familiar and infamous idea of the not so trusted Nanny idea.  She is also some proof that occasionally the role or career of long term mistress does pay off if one is willing to stick it out and ignore the bad press and scandal associated with the career. 

Let’s look at John of Gaunt first… he was no stranger to bad press and rumors himself! John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster, (6 March 1340 – 3 February 1399) was a member of the House of Plantagenet, the third surviving son of KingEdward III of England and Philippa of Hainault. He was called “John of Gaunt” because he was born in Ghent, then rendered in English as Gaunt. When he became unpopular later in life, scurrilous rumours and lampoons circulated that he was actually the son of a Ghent butcher, perhaps because Edward III was not present at the birth. This story always drove him to fury. 

As a younger brother of Edward, Prince of Wales (Edward, the Black Prince), John exercised great influence over the English throne during the minority of Edward’s son, who became King Richard II, and the ensuing periods of political strife. Due to some generous land grants, John was one of the richest men in his era. He made an abortive attempt to enforce a claim to the Crown of Castile that came courtesy of his second wife Constance, who was an heir to the Castillian Kingdom, and for a time styled himself as such. So, let’s just say that John was a pretty catch even if he wasn’t in line for a crown! John of Gaunt’s legitimate male heirs, the Lancasters, include Kings Henry IV, Henry V, and Henry VI. His other legitimate descendants include his daughtersQueen Philippa of Portugal and Elizabeth, Duchess of Exeter (by his first wife Blanche of Lancaster), and Queen Catherine of Castile (by his second wifeConstance of Castile). John fathered five children outside marriage, one early in life by a lady-in-waiting to his mother, and four by Katherine Swynford, Gaunt’s long-term mistress and third wife.

john.gaunt.4

John was the fourth son of King Edward III of England. His first wife, Blanche of Lancaster, was also his third cousin, both as great-great-grandchildren of King Henry III. They married in 1359 at Reading Abbey as a part of the efforts of Edward III to arrange matches for his sons with wealthy heiresses. Upon the death of his father-in-law, the 1st Duke of Lancaster, in 1361, John received half his lands, the title “Earl of Lancaster”, and distinction as the greatest landowner in the north of England as heir of the Palatinate of Lancaster. He also became the 14th Baron of Halton and 11th Lord of Bowland. John inherited the rest of the Lancaster property when Blanche’s sister Maud, Countess of Leicester (married to William V, Count of Hainaut), died without issue on 10 April 1362.

John received the title “Duke of Lancaster” from his father on 13 November 1362. By then well established, he owned at least thirty castles and estates across England and France and maintained a household comparable in scale and organisation to that of a monarch. He owned land in almost every county in England, a patrimony that produced a net income of between £8,000 and £10,000 a year.

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

Since we are looking more at his personal life here, I am not going to go into great detail about his professional life as in his politics, or his battle accomplishments-or lack of them. Despite any other faults or errors he may have made, he was loyal to his King. When Edward III died in 1377 and John’s ten-year-old nephew succeeded as Richard II of England, John’s influence strengthened. However, mistrust remained, and some suspected him of wanting to seize the throne himself. John took pains to ensure that he never became associated with the opposition to Richard’s kingship.

blanche of lancaster

As I mentioned, we are looking more at his personal life here- his marriages, and affairs of the heart so to speak.  On 19 May 1359 at Reading Abbey, John married his third cousin, Blanche of Lancaster, daughter of Henry of Grosmont, 1st Duke of Lancaster. The wealth she brought to the marriage was the foundation of John’s fortune. Blanche died on 12 September 1368 at Tutbury Castle, while her husband was overseas. Their son Henry Bolingbroke became Henry IV of England, after the duchy of Lancaster was taken by Richard II upon John’s death while Henry was in exile. Their daughter Philippa became Queen of Portugal by marrying King John I of Portugal in 1387. All subsequent kings of Portugal were thus descended from John of Gaunt.

marriage_of_blanche_of_lancster_and_john_of_gaunt_1359

Jean Froissart described Blanche (following her death) as “jone et jolie” (“young and pretty”). Geoffrey Chaucer described “White” (the central figure in hisBook of the Duchess, believed to have been inspired by Blanche: see below) in such terms as “rody, fresh, and lyvely hewed”, her neck as “whyt, smothe, streght, and flat”, and her throat as “a round tour of yvoire”: she was “bothe fair and bright”, and Nature’s “cheef patron [pattern] of beautee”. Of course she was young and probably pretty… she was born in  March 1345, although the year 1347 has also been suggested. So, given that birth date she was all of 13 or 14 at the time! 

Gaunt and Blanche’s marriage is widely believed to have been happy, although there is little solid evidence for this. The assumption seems to be based on the fact that Gaunt chose to be buried with Blanche, despite his two subsequent marriages, and on the themes of love, devotion and grief expressed in Chaucer’s poem (see below) – a rather circular argument, as it is partly on the basis of these themes that the couple’s relationship is identified as the inspiration for the poem. Blanche and Gaunt had seven children, three of whom survived infancy.

Tomb_of_John_of_Gaunt_and_Blanche_of_Lancaster

Tomb_of_John_of_Gaunt_and_Blanche_of_Lancaster

Blanche died at Tutbury Castle, Staffordshire, on 12 September 1368 while her husband was overseas.  She was 23 years of age at the time of her death, although Froissart reported that she died aged about 22. It is believed that she may have died after contracting the Black Death which was rife in Europe at that time. Her funeral at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London was preceded by a magnificent cortege attended by most of the upper nobility and clergy. John of Gaunt held annual commemorations of her death for the rest of his life and established a joint chantry foundation on his own death. 

It may have been for one of the anniversary commemorations of Blanche’s death that Geoffrey Chaucer, then a young squire and mostly unknown writer of court poetry, was commissioned to write what became The Book of the Duchess in her honour. Though Chaucer’s intentions can never be defined with absolute certainty, many believe that at least one of the aims of the poem was to make John of Gaunt see that his grief for his late wife had become excessive, and to prompt him to try to overcome it.

In 1374, six years after her death, John of Gaunt commissioned a double tomb for himself and Blanche from the mason Henry Yevele. The magnificent monument in the choir of St Paul’s was completed by Yevele in 1380, with the assistance of Thomas Wrek, having cost a total of £592. Gaunt himself died in 1399, and was laid to rest beside Blanche. The two effigies were notable for having their right hands joined. An adjacent chantry chapel was added between 1399 and 1403.

While John probably did love Blanche, and possibly grieved excessively for her, I have to think that he was not grieving too excessively for her… we have only to look at the appearance of Katherine Swynford in his household to give some proof of this. That is aside from the fact that he also married again in 1371 to Constance of Castile. 

Katherine was the daughter of Paon de Roet, a herald, and later knight, who was “probably christened as Gilles”. She had two sisters, Philippa and Isabel (also called Elizabeth) de Roet, and a brother, Walter. Isabel later became Canoness of the convent of St. Waudru’s, Mons, c. 1366. Katherine is generally held to have been his youngest child. However, Alison Weir argues that Philippa was the junior and that both were children of a second marriage. Katherine’s sister Philippa, a lady of Queen Philippa’s household, married the poet Geoffrey Chaucer

In about 1366, at St Clement Danes Church, Westminster, Katherine, aged sixteen or seventeen, contracted an advantageous marriage with “Hugh” Ottes Swynford, a Knight from the manor of Kettlethorpe in Lincolnshire, the son of Thomas Swynford by his marriage to Nicole Druel. She had the following children by him: Blanche (born 1 May 1367), Thomas (21 September 1368 – 1432), and possibly Margaret Swynford (born about 1369), later recorded as a nun of the prestigious Barking Abbey nominated by command of King Richard II.

Katherine became attached to the household of John of Gaunt as governess to his daughters Philippa of Lancaster and Elizabeth of Lancaster. The ailing duchess Blanche had Katherine’s daughter Blanche (her namesake) placed within her own daughters’ chambers and afforded the same luxuries as her daughters; additionally, John of Gaunt stood as godfather to the child.

Some time after Blanche’s death in 1368 and the birth of their first son in 1373, Katherine and John of Gaunt entered into a love affair that would produce four children for the couple, born out of wedlock but legitimized upon their parents’ eventual marriage; the adulterous relationship endured until 1381 when it was truncated out of political necessity and ruined Katherine’s reputation. On 13 January 1396, two years after the death of the Duke’s second wife, Infanta Constance of Castile, Katherine and John of Gaunt married in Lincoln Cathedral. Records of their marriage kept in the Tower and elsewhere list: ‘John of Ghaunt, Duke of Lancaster, married Katharine daughter of Guyon King of Armes in the time of K. Edward the 3, and Geffrey Chaucer her sister’.

On John of Gaunt’s death, Katherine became known as dowager Duchess of Lancaster. She outlived him by four years, dying on 10 May 1403, in her early fifties.

Coat of arms of Katherine Swynford as Duchess of Lancaster, after her marriage to John of Gaunt : three gold Catherine wheels (“roet” means “little wheel” in Old French) on a red field. The wheel emblem shows Katherine’s devotion to her patron saint, Catherine of Alexandria, also known as Saint Catherine of the Wheel,although there was once extant a copy of her seal’s impression, ca. 1377, showing her arms of three Catherine wheels of gold on a field Gules, a molet in fess point empaling the arms of Swynford (Birch’s Catalogue of Seals.
Children of Katherine and John of Gaunt:

The descendants of Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt are significant in English and Scottish history. Their four children had been given the surname “Beaufort” and with the approval of King Richard II and the Pope were legitimated as adults by their parents’ marriage in 1396. Despite this, the Beauforts were barred from inheriting the throne of England by a clause in the legitimation act inserted by their half-brother, Henry IV, although modern scholarship disputes the authority of a monarch to alter an existing parliamentary statute on his own authority, without the further approval of Parliament. This provision was later revoked by Edward VI, placing Katherine’s descendants (including himself) back within the legitimate line of inheritance; the Tudor dynasty was directly descended from John and Katherine’s eldest child, John Beaufort, great-grandfather of Henry VII, who based his claim to the throne on his mother’s descent from John of Gaunt, a son of Edward III. John Beaufort also had a daughter named Joan Beaufort, who married James I of Scotland and thus was an ancestress of the House of Stuart.  John and Katherine’s daughter, Joan Beaufort, was grandmother of the English kings Edward IV and Richard III, the latter of whom Henry Tudor (thus becoming by conquest Henry VII) defeated at the Battle of Bosworth Field; Henry’s claim was strengthened by marrying Elizabeth of York, eldest daughter of Edward IV. It was also through Joan Beaufort, Countess of Westmoreland that the sixth queen of Henry VIII, Catherine Parr, descended.  John of Gaunt’s son — Katherine’s stepson Henry of Bolingbroke — became Henry IV after deposing Richard II (who was imprisoned and died in Pontefract Castle, where Katherine’s son, Thomas Swynford, was constable and is said to have starved Richard to death for his step-brother). John of Gaunt’s daughter by his first marriage to Blanche of Lancaster, Philippa of Lancaster, was great-great-grandmother to Catherine of Aragon, first wife of Henry VIII and mother of Mary I of England. John of Gaunt’s child by his second wife Constance, Catherine (or Catalina), was great-grandmother of Catherine of Aragon as well.

We could just leave the story here and conclude that in this instance, the mistress wins… but does she win by default and longevity or is she truly the love of his life who waited patiently on the side lines until he could marry her? Was Blanche the one he truly loved as Chaucer would suggest in some of his works, and Katherine won by the fact that she survived and stuck it out for that ultimate final pay out of marriage and legitimacy for their children. At the time of their marriage in 1396, all of the children were adults and were legitimized by the Pope- which while they were already set upon high standing positions- would greatly benefit the rest of their futures. 

To put his relationships with both women in some perspective and reasoning, we can probably look at John’s character, his ideals and his friendship with one other person of importance, Geoffrey Chaucer.

One account and description of his appearance and character gives some clues to his mindset. 

John was dark-haired, with piercing eyes and a narrow, angular face. He was almost two metres tall (as his suit of armour at the Tower of London, “the Giant”, bears out). He was a superb judge of character, which attributed for his political finesse. And he was also an extremely proficient political negotiator. He did not enjoy battle, so was generally not successful in the field.

He had very strict ideas about chivalry, which he also expected from his knights. The pastimes he enjoyed were gaming (dice and chess) and hunting. He loved splendour but not pomp, was richer than the King (to quote R. Gablé: “as rich as a heathen caliph”), which was probably why he was in charge of the exchequer during Richard II’s reign. Those who disliked him would probably not have believed it, but he was a strongly loyal person. His far-sightedness and political expertise were held in great esteem abroad; but in England his true character was not appreciated, particularly by the people and the Church. It was one reason why he became very unhappy in later years, in spite of the fact that he was able to conceal his feelings in this (and many other respects). According to Candace Robb, he enjoyed a laugh but was quick to hold a grudge.

Blanche was the perfect lady. She was blonde, with an angelic appearance and had had an excellent upbringing. John loved and, above all, admired her greatly. He never really recovered from her death, although they could be said to have been companions rather than lovers. In an arranged marriage, one could probably consider a relationship of this kind a happy one.

Constanza was dark-haired and small. John evidently married her in a fit of euphoria (the throne of Castile) and under his father’s instructions. He was quick to see that he and Constanza would never see eye to eye, as they differed too greatly. She had a penchant for the Church, was fairly prude and, to John’s mind, too austere.

Katherine was a redhead and tall. She was, so to speak, the sunshine of his life. His mood brightened whenever she entered the room. When she was near him, or merely at the thought of her, his “troubled lot” became half as bad. Lists still exist of the many gifts he gave her (wine, money, estates etc.), which were intended to make her life easier and in consideration of what she had done for him. The fact that he could not marry her and love her officially troubled him greatly. In his view, their marriage was all too short. 

To put his relationships with both women in some perspective and reasoning, we can probably look at John’s character, his ideals and his friendship with one other person of importance, Geoffrey Chaucer. I have not made reference to John’s relationship or marriage to second wife Constance or Constanza because I think in all probability it was not any love, or lust match at all. It was an arranged marriage for political and economical reasons and did not play any part in his romantic notions or feelings for dead Blanche or living Katherine. It probably was more of a hindrance as he grew older and wanted to legitimize his relationship with Katherine for her benefit and for the benefit of their children. 

John believed in the idea of chivalry, honor and most probably that ideal of romantic courtly love. His marriage to Blanche was arranged but obviously there was some attraction and care for each other. After all, apparently she spent much of the short lived marriage pregnant. They were married for ten years and she bore seven children although only three survived. Their marriage was cut short by her untimely death at the fairly young age of 22. Added to the tragedy of her death was the fact that she died while he was away. Being the chivalrous man that he was and also given that he held some ideal or notion of that romantic love, he most likely would have indulged or dwelt on that idea of eternal love ever after.  As often happens with the death of someone close, the relationship takes on a more positive or glowing light than it may have actually been in reality. While they might have been relatively happy or at least not entirely miserable together, he may have put more outward mourning and grief over her death because of some feelings of guilt in not being there for her. Thus in death, she became that epitome, that idol of romantic love that the living could not compete with. Having went through a similar experience myself, I completely understand the adage that you can not compete with a dead lover.  No matter how he felt about Katherine, there would probably always have been a shadow or presence of  “perfection” Blanche

This could be what Chaucer was referencing and referring to when he suggested to John that he was over doing the grief stricken husband role and it was time to move on. He had already moved on partially but he needed to finally put closure to it all and give everyone a chance to go on as well. 

Geoffrey Chaucer was a life long friend of John Gaunt and most probably influenced him a great deal.  

Geoffrey_Chaucer_(17th_century portrait

Geoffrey Chaucer ( c. 1343 – 25 October 1400), known as the Father of English literature, is widely considered the greatest English poet of theMiddle Ages and was the first poet to be buried in Poets’ Corner of Westminster Abbey.

While he achieved fame during his lifetime as an author, philosopher, and astronomer, composing a scientific treatise on the astrolabe for his ten-year-old son Lewis, Chaucer also maintained an active career in the civil service as a bureaucrat, courtier and diplomat. Among his many works, which include The Book of the Duchess, the House of Fame, the Legend of Good Women and Troilus and Criseyde. He is best known today for The Canterbury Tales. Chaucer was a crucial figure in developing the legitimacy of the vernacular, Middle English, at a time when the dominant literary languages in England were French and Latin.

Chaucer was a close friend of and served under the patronage of John of Gaunt, the wealthy Duke of Lancaster (and father of the future King of England). Near the end of their lives Lancaster and Chaucer became brothers-in-law. Chaucer married Philippa (Pan) de Roet in 1366, and Lancaster took his mistress of nearly 30 years, Katherine Swynford (de Roet), who was Philippa Chaucer’s sister, as his third wife in 1396. Although Philippa died c.1387, the men were bound as brothers and Lancaster’s children by Katherine—John, Henry, Thomas and Joan Beaufort—were Chaucer’s nephews and niece.

Chaucer_Duchess blanche of lancaster

Chaucer_Duchess blanche of lancaster

Chaucer’s Book of the Duchess, also known as the Deeth of Blaunche the Duchesse, was written in commemoration of Blanche of Lancaster, John of Gaunt’s first wife. The poem refers to John and Blanche in allegory as the narrator relates the tale of “A long castel with walles white/Be Seynt Johan, on a ryche hil” (1318–1319) who is mourning grievously after the death of his love, “And goode faire White she het/That was my lady name ryght” (948–949). The phrase “long castel” is a reference to Lancaster (also called “Loncastel” and “Longcastell”), “walles white” is thought to likely be an oblique reference to Blanche, “Seynt Johan” was John of Gaunt’s name-saint, and “ryche hil” is a reference to Richmond; these thinly veiled references reveal the identity of the grieving black knight of the poem as John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster and Earl of Richmond. “White” is the English translation of the French word “blanche”, implying that the white lady was Blanche of Lancaster.

Believed to have been written in the 1390s, Chaucer’s short poem Fortune, is also inferred to directly reference Lancaster. “Chaucer as narrator” openly defies Fortune, proclaiming he has learned who his enemies are through her tyranny and deceit, and declares “my suffisaunce” (15) and that “over himself hath the maystrye” (14). Fortune, in turn, does not understand Chaucer’s harsh words to her for she believes she has been kind to him, claims that he does not know what she has in store for him in the future, but most importantly, “And eek thou hast thy beste frend alyve” (32, 40, 48). Chaucer retorts that “My frend maystow nat reven, blind goddesse” (50) and orders her to take away those who merely pretend to be his friends. Fortune turns her attention to three princes whom she implores to relieve Chaucer of his pain and “Preyeth his beste frend of his noblesse/That to som beter estat he may atteyne” (78–79). The three princes are believed to represent the dukes of Lancaster, York, andGloucester, and a portion of line 76, “as three of you or tweyne,” to refer to the ordinance of 1390 which specified that no royal gift could be authorised without the consent of at least two of the three dukes.  Most conspicuous in this short poem is the number of references to Chaucer’s “beste frend”. Fortune states three times in her response to the plaintiff, “And also, you still have your best friend alive” (32, 40, 48); she also references his “beste frend” in the envoy when appealing to his “noblesse” to help Chaucer to a higher estate. A fifth reference is made by “Chaucer as narrator” who rails atFortune that she shall not take his friend from him. While the envoy playfully hints to Lancaster that Chaucer would certainly appreciate a boost to his status or income, the poem Fortune distinctively shows his deep appreciation and affection for John of Gaunt.

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

 

On a final note, there are a few books related to Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt that you might find interesting. I have not read them as yet, but am suggesting them because I trust the author! I do plan to read more about her now. 

mistress of the monarchy by alison weir

Acclaimed author Alison Weir brings to life the extraordinary tale of Katherine Swynford, a royal mistress who became one of the most crucial figures in the history of Great Britain. Born in the mid-fourteenth century, Katherine de Roët was only twelve when she married Hugh Swynford, an impoverished knight. But her story had truly begun two years earlier, when she was appointed governess to the household of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster and fourth son of King Edward III. Widowed at twenty-one, Katherine became John’s mistress and then, after many twists of fortune, his bride in a scandalous marriage. Mistress of the Monarchy reveals a woman ahead of her time—making her own choices, flouting convention, and taking control of her own destiny. Indeed, without Katherine Swynford, the course of English history, perhaps even the world, would have been very different.

history of royal marriages and the monarchy by alison wier

George III is alleged to have married secretly, on 17th April, 1759, a Quakeress called Hannah Lightfoot, daughter of a Wapping shoemaker, who is said to have borne him three children. Documents relating to the alleged marriage, bearing the Prince’s signature, were impounded and examined in 1866 by the Attorney General. Learned opinion at the time leaned to the view that these documents were genuine. They were then placed in the Royal Archives at Windsor; in 1910, permission was refused a would-be author who asked to see them. If George III did make such a marriage when he was Prince of Wales, before the passing of the Royal Marriages Act in 1772, then his subsequent marriage to Queen Charlotte was bigamous, and every monarch of Britain since has been a usurper, the rightful heirs of George III being his children by Hannah Lightfoot, if they ever existed.’ From Britain’s Royal Families

Britain’s Royal Families is a unique reference book. It provides, for the first time in one volume, complete genealogical details of all members of the royal houses of England, Scotland and Great Britain – from 800AD to the present. Here is the vital biographical information relating not only to each monarch, but also to every member of their immediate family, from parents to grandchildren. Drawing on countless authorities, both ancient and modern, Alison Weir explores the royal family tree in unprecedented depth and provides a comprehensive guide to the heritage of today’s royal family.

 

 

 

 

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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!

 

 

 

 

Vikings: In defense of my friend Siggy!

 

 

 

A new dawn, a new voyage and adventure draws near now and our past is just that. As we head to this unknown future, we must try to put the past behind us and begin anew? As many of us know, that is much easier said than done? The past will forever follow us, haunt us and even be our guide at times, no matter how hard we try to forget and forgive, to say it does not matter? We carry those memories with us deep inside our minds and our hearts and they shape our destinies whether we would admit it or not… In the past years, there have been many hurts, many betrayals, mistakes and misgivings on all our parts which we must tell ourselves to set aside for a new beginning, a fresh start, and for some of us- a final revenge upon past misdeeds. We know not what tomorrow will bring or what path our fates will lead us upon. We can only hope for the best, pray that our Gods are on our side and choose wisely.  We can listen to the Seers, the prophecies, the Volvas and perhaps rely upon them to tell us what the future might hold for us. In the end though, it is us who decide our own destinies, for although the Norns, the spinners of fate, or as Christians believe-God sets our course on life, we are free to choose our path, our way. As some Christians believe, God has given us free will and it is up to us each moment, each day to make the right decisions.

Most of my Norse friends believe that the Norns set us upon our path, our destiny and determine our fate in life? They are with us from the moment of our birth, spinning, weaving and often twisting the threads of our life and as such they determine the outcome of our life.

800px-Norns_(1832)_from_Die_Helden_und_Götter_des_Nordens,_oder_Das_Buch_der_sagen Norns three women spinners of destiny

Norns are female beings who rule the destiny of gods and men, twining the thread of life. They set up the laws and decided on the lives of the children of men. Their names were Urðr (that which became or happened) related with Wyrd, weird (fate), Verðandi (that which is happening)  and Skuld (that which should become, debt, guilt).

In younger legendary sagas, the Norns appear to have been synonymous with witches (Völvas), and they arrive at the birth of the hero to shape his destiny. It seems that originally all of them were Disir, ghosts or deities associated with destruction and destiny. The notion that they were three, their distinction and association with the past, present and future may be due to a late influence from Greek and Roman mythology.

The Valkyries (choosers of the slain), were originally daemons of death. They were female figures who decided who will die in battle, and brought their chosen to the afterlife hall of the slain. They were also related with spinning, and one of them was named Skuld (debt, guilt).  They may be related to Keres, the daemons of death in Greek mythology, who accompanied the dead to the entrance of Hades. In the scene of Kerostasie Keres are the “lots of death”, and in some cases Ker (destruction) has the same meaning, with Moira interpreted as “destiny of death” (moira thanatoio :μοίρα θανάτοιο) .

The Germanic Matres and Matrones, female deities almost entirely in a group of three, have been proposed as connected to the Norns and the Valkyries.

Two men on horseback meet three women. All are in Elizabethan dress.

Macbeth and Banquo meeting the three weird sisters in a woodcut from Holinshed’s Chronicles.

In Anglo-Saxon culture Wyrd (Weird) is a concept corresponding to fate or personal destiny (literally: what befalls one). Its Norse cognate is Urðr, and both names are deriven from the PIE root wert, “to turn, wind”, related with “spindle, distaff”.  In Old English literature Wyrd goes ever as she shall, and remains wholly inevitable.

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

For many, the belief that the Norns have already determined our fate or our path and we can not change it is equal to the Christian Monks and church saying that what ever happens to us is God’s will. It is a fatalistic view and one that does not take into account or approve of our thinking for ourselves, for our questioning our circumstances or our station in life… It is a thought that the Gods, or God has willed my life to be this way and I should not attempt to change it. It is a concept or thought that they have chosen us to either suffer or glory for some reason that we should not question.

I myself have seen far too much suffering and pain over the past years to believe fully that it is the choice of  Gods, or God! I think that this is often a way for men of power to somehow attempt to absolve themselves of personal responsibility or guilt in such events! 

What ever the future holds for us, I will face it knowing and believing that we can steer our course on the voyage of life, make decisions on our own that will guide us through troubled waters… and that we must take responsibility for our each our own decisions and actions. I will go through this life forever more questioning and doubting why the Gods, or God causes us to suffer but I will still hold on to faith that, for everything there is a reason? I will hold faith that in the end, there are fair, just and honorable people with compassion in their hearts whether they be Christians, Northmen, or any other believer. There must be a way for the hatred, the bitterness and the battles of power hungry men to come to some peaceful conclusion. I will also hold faith that someday, the lot, the value and the life of women will see a change for the better. I did see some change in the future, but in many ways, it was becoming as treacherous and difficult as it is now?

 

As I wait for the next voyage that is so soon upon us now, I have not time to write of everything which happened in our past that leads us to our next moves. I have time only for a few last thoughts of those things that left me with the most heart ache, the most concern and the most puzzlement as to what will happen next?

first of all, I must address the rumors and the accusations upon my good friend, Siggy. She has made some grave mistakes and bad decisions… have not we all at one time or another? But, I will stand for  her and deny the claim that she is not a Whore! Siggy is not a Whore… now, that Princess Kwentirith of Mercia- she has most certainly earned and warrented the title of Whore? But, Siggy’s actions of late do not constitute the label of Whore. In my definition and estimation, a Whore is one who is not choosy about their partners, who has few scruples about their actions and does not have care or concern about said actions or activities. Siggy’s situation and her resulting actions were done for only one reason in her mind, and it was not as many think, just for benefit of herself!

I have stated previously, many times, that Siggy’s situation was precarious to say the least? She was in fear for her life and that of her daughter, Thyri at first, and you must understand that all women were in some ways dependent on men for their survival. Very few women were of such high state or power that they could completely make their way in life, rule themselves or make their own choices without the backing of men. Siggy knew this, all women knew this! Siggy lost her place in life and society when Earl Haraldson died and had to find her own way. In the beginning she was able to navigate the tides of change and could accept those changes with help from Lagertha, along with some thoughtful guidance from Athelstan.  She also had some thought, some assurance and protection from Rollo in that beginning. Rollo, who then had faith and belief that he would be an equal to his brother, Ragnar, offered her protection and the opportunity to regain her station in life as his wife.

After Haraldson’s death, Athelstan helped Siggy make her peace and make a new beginning in Lagertha’s household. This was by no means an easy thing to do for Siggy, but she did it. Siggy is a woman of pride and she had to swallow all of it in going to Lagertha. She begged forgiveness for her husband’s actions and she offered herself as servant to Lagertha’s houselhold.  Lagertha showed her compassion and her true judge of character in accepting Siggy into the household, not as a servant- but in the end as a true and valued friend. It was a friendship that would last, would survive through everything.

Athelstan paves the way for Siggy and Lagertha

Athelstan paves the way for Siggy and Lagertha

siggy begs forgiveness and charity from lagertha

siggy begs forgiveness and charity from lagertha

Siggy is doubtful but hopeful with his words

Siggy is doubtful but hopeful with his words

puzzled and untrusting looks at Siggy's offer to serve

puzzled and untrusting looks at Siggy’s offer to serve

Lagertha is uncomfortable with the offer as well

Lagertha is uncomfortable with the offer as well

Siggy and Lagertha formed their bond of friendship and Siggy became a source of great strength and comfort to Lagertha in the worst of times. These two women knew the meaning of friendship, and understood well the importance of women sticking together, supporting each other no matter what each one’s circumstances. It was during this time when the men were off in England that they faced together, one of the most difficult battles that women will ever face… the battle, the fight that men will never quite understand no matter how hard they might try? Men fight their battles and their wars on the field, most often against their enemies. Women fight their greatest battles, and so often lose at them, in attempting to give birth to one they already love and cherish. Their struggle, their fight often ends in the loss of that one they fight so hard to save? And, if they do not lose them in child birth, they lose so many children early in life that often their hearts close against the pain of such loss. They will often become distant and detached, appearing cold hearted towards their children, preparing themselves against another painful  loss. Siggy knew well of these feelings, having lost her two sons and almost losing her daughter Thyri, not to death, but to the inevitability of  marriage.

What began with fears about Ragnar’s safety across the sea brought hopes and dreams of their own future and then turned to something much more tragic.

A long time ago the seer prophecied that your father would have many sons that is how I know it's a boy

A long time ago the seer prophecied that your father would have many sons that is how I know it’s a boy

at home some mother daughter bonding time

at home some mother daughter bonding time

While Ragnar was in England thinking of great treasure and of revenge… Lagertha was at home in Kattegat fighting a losing battle for the life of their son.

Women would oft stand a better chance on the battle field than in the birthing bed

Women would oft stand a better chance on the battle field than in the birthing bed

death and tragedy strike at home

death and tragedy strike at home

the loss of their son

the loss of their son

the hardest fight to lose is one for the life of your child

the hardest fight to lose is one for the life of your child

 

siggy tries to comfort lagertha

siggy tries to comfort lagertha

So, while Ragnar was glorying over his victory in England, he failed to realize that in every reward from the Gods, there is a price to pay?

 

staring at his hard won treasure Ragnar little realizes what he has lost in return for it waving goodbye to Aelle

He returned home to greeted with the sadness that his much precious and prized next son had been lost. After that, there was much doubt in his heart that Lagertha would bear him more healthy sons and he eventually looked at the appearance of a young Aslaug as the Gods’ answers to his doubts? It was while he was off on a journey to aid King Horik that he was faced with the temptation of Aslaug and could not resist that temptation? It was also during this time while he was enjoying himself that the greatest of tragedies beset our village of Kattegat and everyone in it.

I do wonder at times if Siggy does not carry guilt and some kind of unbearable remorse that she can never quite forgive herself for in light of what occurred? It was certainly not her fault in any way, but I know that any one of us in the same situation would feel the same thoughts and wonder if we have caused such death in some way, and if we are then unworthy of forgiving ourselves… No one has ever set blame upon her for it, but in these situations, no one needs blame us- we blame ourselves for eternity and carry some form of unsaid guilt within our hearts forever. It began when she returned from a visit to a cousin who had just lost a child to sudden illness. We thought nothing of it at the time, such things happen all too often in this life.

After Ragnar and the men left on their journey, Lagertha was filled with fear and doubts which she could not shake from her thoughts. Much of it, I am sure had to do with the loss of her baby and her mourning that loss.

a somber family at home  Gyda worries over Lagertha You haven't eaten in three days

a somber family at home Gyda worries over Lagertha You haven’t eaten in three days

She was overcome with some undefinable fear that she felt hovering around her, like shadows in the corners, she called it?

I have fears  it's sometimes better not to know if fears will come true

I have fears it’s sometimes better not to know if fears will come true

Some of that fear had to do with Ragnar and her conclusion was, “Ragnar is in danger from himself!”

lagertha thinks Ragnar is in danger from himself

lagertha thinks Ragnar is in danger from himself

 

Later, Siggy returned home from her visit to relatives and complained of not feeling well? At first we thought she was just overly tired from her journey, but she quickly became very sick!

Siggy  tells of her cousin's son who died suddenly of a sweating sickness

Siggy tells of her cousin’s son who died suddenly of a sweating sickness

siggy complains of not feeling well

siggy complains of not feeling well

siggy becomes very ill

siggy becomes very ill

Suddenly, our entire village succumbed to the deadly illness. Everyone one us suffered and so many died that we could not keep up with caring for the sick and burying the dead? We suffered the loss of young and old alike, and in the end we lost our loved ones. Sweet innocent young Gyda was taken and so was the much loved Thyri.

the dead and dying in Kattegat

the dead and dying in Kattegat

the sickness strikes all and lagertha tries to care for them the great hall filled with sickness sweet young gyda falls ill I am going to die I know I am gyda asks for Athelstan but he is too weak to come to her athelstan is stricken athelstan comforts thyri he is too late  gyda has passed on as wellthyri has passed on horrified and grief stricken siggy holds her daughter

With Thyri’s death, Siggy felt that she had now lost everything? It would have been so easy for her to give up completely right then… as she had nothing left to live for in her mind. Lagertha had lost a baby, and now Gyda, but she did still have Bjorn and a husband left. She had reason left to fight but Siggy did not have that. Lagertha summoned her faith and called upon the Gods to help us. In the end, I do think that the only thing which save the few of us left alive and put an end to the sickness was the fact that custom and beliefs required us to burn the dead and their belongings along with them!

lagertha makes an offering to the gods in hope of stopping the sickness burning the dead

The only remaining comfort and solace for Siggy and Lagertha came in the knowledge that their daughters would travel together to the other side? And, in some way, I think that may have even strengthened the bond between them in this life, that thought that Gyda and Thyri would ever be together waiting on the other side and watching over them.

gyda's death2

gyda’s death

Our village and our people were decimated and nearly destroyed by this plague but there was little time to mourn the loss before even more chaos and destruction hit us. Ragnar and his men returned only to tell of Rollo’s betrayal and of a new battle for King Horik against Jarl Borg. Rollo was so filled with doubts about his own self worth and about Ragnar’s treatment of him that he chose to side with Jarl Borg in this war. The saddest part in all of it was the fact as Lagertha put it, it was not any war of our concern until Ragnar chose to involve us in it! For the life of me, I still do not quite understand all of the reasonings and motives behind all of it? It started as a land dispute between King Horik and Jarl Borg. Ragnar offered his services to King Horik in negotiating some form of agreement or settlement of the dispute. For all practical purposes, Jarl Borg was most probably in the right in his refusal to settle the matter! But, as it is done and over now, that is of little consequence and will not heal the hurts caused or bring back the dead.  After a deadly and vicious battle in which Rollo lost all reason, gave in to bloodlust, killed those who had once been friends and very nearly killed Floki, the battle was ended when Rollo regained some semblance of sanity and admitted that he could not kill his own brother. For all of this death and carnage, the battle did not even result in a victory for either side! They set their differences aside and decided that it would be far better choice to join forces and raid England together than to kill each other! The only one who really lost in this matter was Rollo.

The group returned home with Rollo as prisoner, now disgraced and dishonored, waiting for death. Rollo was really the only person, the only thing that had kept Siggy going on after the death of Thyri. When they brought him back, she did not desert him or give up on him even though he had given up on himself!

rollo in chains

rollo in chains

Siggy did not give up on Rollo even though he kept telling her to leave him be and let him accept his fate.

siggy comes to offer some comfort

siggy comes to offer some comfort

Eventually there was a judgement and the Lawgiver made the judgement to spare Rollo’s life but that did little to ease his mind or his heart? Rollo had lost all faith in himself and deemed himself unworthy of care or concern. He said it would have been better if he had died than to now live in such disgrace and dishonor.  The one person to pull him through this deepest inner battle was Siggy! She refuse to give up on him and forced him to face his demons. Now, at this time, Rollo was at such rock bottom that one could not really say that Siggy was doing this for any benefit to herself. Because, really what use or benefit was a drunken, has been warrior to anyone? Rollo did not have useful connections or grand wealth that would benefit her in the long run… he had nothing and he bluntly told her of this many times! Why would anyone choose to align themselves with him during this time other than out of true care and deep feelings for such a person?

At his lowest point, she had to revive him from having passed out in a snowbank! She most likely saved his life that night and did he care or thank her for it? No, he did not! He wanted to wallow in his self pity and destruction but she would not let him.

siggy bluntly revives a drunken rollo

it will be a long hard climb back up for Rollo

He finally sobered up and decided that he would leave Kattegat. He thought to sneak out of the village without even telling her of his leaving but she caught him and finally lost her temper with him!  She bares her heart to him and tells him, “I have lost everything, my sons, my husband, my daughter, my own worth, I will not lose you as well!”

I have lost everything my sons my husband my daughter I will not lose you as well

I have lost everything my sons my husband my daughter I will not lose you as well

Determined to reach him, she uses the force of the Gods on him, “The Gods have offered you a second chance at life and you would throw it away!”

the gods have offered you a second chance at life and you would throw it away

the gods have offered you a second chance at life and you would throw it away

siggy forces rollo to face himself

siggy forces rollo to face himself

Her final push to his limits is to hand him a seering hot knife and tell him to go and speak to Ragnar or else just end his life right now and be done with it once and for all!

 

go and speak with your brother or take this blade and kill yourself right now

go and speak with your brother or take this blade and kill yourself right now!

 

rollo takes the blade

rollo takes the blade

He could not do it, proving that there was still some spark of hope within his soul. Siggy saved his life and his soul on that night! She did not do it for her own gain, for any great rewards, she did it because she cared so deeply for him!

Rollo did go to Ragnar begging for forgiveness and some second chance at life with his brother. Ragnar was loathe to trust him again but did accept him once more as brother. He refused to allow Rollo to raid with them though… which in the long run was probably a good thing because Rollo eventually saved Ragnar’s family from the revenge of Jarl Borg!

Why should I forgive you or ever trust you again?

Why should I forgive you or ever trust you again?

begging for second chance with Ragnar

begging for second chance with Ragnar

Rollo was relegated to remaining at home while the others planned another raid to England. It was previously decided and agreed upon that King Horik, Ragnar, and Jarl Borg would raid together? But, King Horik changed his mind at the last minute and decided that he did want to include Jarl Borg in the raid. This decision would have disasterous consequences for all later on? King Horik was a devious and manipulative man who would use any means to ensure he got what he wanted?

I will not go into all of the details of his manipulations but it was during this time that Siggy began her own desperate attempts to fight for Rollo’s causes. She entered into the most dangerous of games at this time, taking great risks to herself and her own self worth. After having lived with Earl Haraldson, Siggy was well versed in the ways of dangerous political and power games that men will play and she entered into this world with the only assets she had available, her body… Yes, some would say that this makes her a whore, a prostitute and an ultimate betrayer of Rollo. But, in reality, this was much the way of the world back then, and is even now though we are loathe to admit it! The difference between Siggy’s motives and actions, and those of one such as that Princess Kwentirith is that Siggy did feel guilt, remorse, even disgust with herself at times. And, she did what she did for one sole purpose, Rollo! Siggy entered into a dangerous game, one which she could not back out of in the middle of it. It was one of those situations that you put yourself in, knowing full well the possible consequences and one that you know you must follow through on even when it turns far uglier than you ever imagine?

siggy tries her hand swaying horik

siggy tries her hand swaying horik

 

Siggy was not above using her body if need be to survive.

Siggy was not above using her body if need be to survive.

 

It was also during this time that Aslaug made her appearance in Kattegat and forever changed many lives… and not in a good way! This was a mess of Ragnar’s own making but the rest of us had to suffer it’s consequences! I have no love for Aslaug, and neither does Siggy. The woman was basically good for one thing- making sons for Ragnar. He fell for her wiles and temptations, and in the end lost Lagertha and his son Bjorn because of it. Lagertha chose to leave rather than be degraded and humiliated by Ragnar’s lust for this woman. I do not blame her in the least, but it was heartbreaking to see her go and be left with the haughty and useless Aslaug as leader of the household! We made attempts to get along with her… what other choice did we have?

From the moment of her arrival, she flaunted her pregnant self in front of Lagertha and assumed such an air of superiority over everyone that it was difficult to feel any fondness for this woman!

aslaug arrives

aslaug arrives

Siggy’s heart was with her friend Lagertha and she tried to console her in this matter but knew that Lagertha would not content herself with staying in this situation.

siggy tries to help Lagertha

Siggy tried to help Lagertha through the mess but knew that Lagertha would not stay in such a situation

Lagertha made her choice to leave and our hearts broke for her! It was a wretched and tear filled goodbye between friends.

lagertha prepares to leave friends they have become and friends they will remain a heartfelt goodbye between friends

Lagertha’s parting words for her husband were filled with contempt and disgust, “You insult and humiliate me, I have no choice but to leave!”

you insult and humiliate me I have no choice but to leave

you insult and humiliate me I have no choice but to leave

Bjorn chose to leave with his Mother… so Ragnar had traded one loving wife and son for another younger one who might produce more sons for him?

leaving ragnar is it possible to replace one son with another

And then what did he do? Why, he immediately left her with us to deal with as he went off to raid England again! He also left Rollo behind…

rollo watches the others leave

rollo watches the others leave

Aslaug did make half hearted attmepts at friendship with Siggy and Siggy forced herself to put up with the woman. No one was fooled and all knew that it was a friendship in name only!

aslaug attempts friendship with siggy siggy's response yes women must stick together more

aslaug attempts friendship with siggy siggy’s response yes women must stick together more

let's not fool each other you were once where I am now and perhaps you would like to be here once more

let’s not fool each other you were once where I am now and perhaps you would like to be here once more

As I mentioned, it was fortunate that Rollo did stay behind because it only his skills and his thinking that saved us when Jarl Borg chose to seek revenge upon Ragnar. He attacked the village and took it over while Ragnar was in England raiding with King Horik. and we were relegated to surviving up in the hills with the wining and useless  Aslaug and her sons. It was truly one of the worst times of my life, having to listen to her constantly!

To make a very long story shorter, Jarl Borg maintained control of Kattegat for a great length of time but we all managed to survive and eventually the village was taken back. Some years had passed and then to our great relief and pleasure, Lagertha returned to us for a time with Bjorn. He was now grown, a fine young man he was too! He and Lagertha returned to help fight for Kattegat and they did stay for a time. Lagertha eventually said she must leave and go back to her husband… a different sort of mess that we were unaware of at the time. But, she left Bjorn with us. He wanted to stay with his Father now.

There was still much intrigue and political maneuvering during this time and Siggy still played her dangerous game. She was greatly troubled though by her circumstances and her feelings. At one point, she visited the Seer and admitted her bitterness and resentments over the way her life had turned out. She wants to know if the Gods will ever smile upon her again.

siggy visits the seer are you unhappy do you think the gods have cheated you

siggy visits the seer are you unhappy do you think the gods have cheated you

i-want-my-old-position-back-i-am-bitter-i-am-angry-everything-i-had-everything-has-been-taken-from-me.

i-want-my-old-position-back-i-am-bitter-i-am-angry-everything-i-had-everything-has-been-taken-from-me.

I want to know will the gods ever smile on me again

I want to know will the gods ever smile on me again

The Seer’s answer to her is that the Gods always smile upon brave women like the sirens whom men desire and yet fear so much?

The gods always smile on brave women  like the sirens who men desire and yet fear

The gods always smile on brave women like the sirens who men desire and yet fear

Siggy took his words as some indication that she should continue to follow the path she had chosen no matter how dangerous, treacherous and disgusting it would become. At a meeting of the men after their return from another disasterous trip to England, Rollo and Siggy listen closely to King Horik’s plans for revenge and to his plans of once more joining forces with Jarl Borg? Rollo is suddenly in a much higher and more valued position…

it should be you rollo you know him better than anyone

it should be you rollo you know him better than anyone

siggy and rollo listen closely to horik's plan of revenge on king ecbert

siggy and rollo listen closely to horik’s plan of revenge on king ecbert

At what cost was this to Siggy though? Siggy had firmly entrenched herself in these games of politics and could not back out evenly when the cost became higher than she could stomach. She was visited by Horik and his son and at first thought it was a simple meeting, one which would just assure Horik of her willingness to help him in his cause and ensure some better circumstance for Rollo. She did not imagine what far more devious, deceptive and degrading game he played? She assumed that he would not involve his son in such actions, but that was where she was so very wrong!

siggy entertains horik and his son.

siggy entertains horik and his son.

everything I do I do for Rollo

everything I do I do for Rollo

if rollo rises I rise also     And you need my help

if rollo rises I rise also And you need my help

Horik does involve his son! “I want my son to undertand the games we play, you and I play, and Ragnar tries to play.”

I want my son to start to understand the games we play  you and I play  Ragnar tries to play

I want my son to start to understand the games we play you and I play Ragnar tries to play

my son is ignorant of these games and strangely ignorant of other things as well

my son is ignorant of these games and strangely ignorant of other things as well

I want him to enjoy the attentions of an experienced free woman

I want him to enjoy the attentions of an experienced free woman

Siggy suddenly realized just how far Horik was willing to drag her down to have complete control over her in her desperate attempts to ensure Rollo’s rise…But, she also did realize that she could not quit in the middle of such a treacherous game. For fear of her life and that of Rollo, now she must carry through with this because this act showed just how merciless and soulless Horik was. He would have no qualms about seeing her and Rollo done away with should she not comply with his wishes now. Especially now that she had admitted her feelings for Rollo and that she would do anything to ensure his rise in life.

how far does siggy degrade herself to help rollo rise once the game has begun one can not just quit or back out in the middle of it horik watches and siggy will not forget how low he has forced her to sink

and so siggy will go on with the game now because she must

and so siggy will go on with the game now because she must

Siggy may have played the whore because she felt desperate enough for Rollo’s future that she would have done anything for him, but that did not mean that she did it willingly or because she enjoyed it. Her disgust in herself was evident and she would never forgive Horik for putting her in such a position. There in lies the difference between Siggy and the ones such as Kwentirith!

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2015/01/05/vikings-trivia-who-is-princess-kwenthrith/

kwentirith inspecting the northmen Kwenthrith1 kwentirith talk to me of love and death

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A well fought battle, but who are the victors?

First of all, I must wholeheartedly and very sincerely apologize for my delay in reporting on the final battle results. I know that I promised to announce the winners of this heated battle on Saturday, but if you read the end of my entry for that day, you will know that I was surprised by another event? I am sorry to say that this event took some precedence over our on going battle for honor between Outlander Fans and Vikings fans… I am quite sure that all of you would agree and if put in the same position as I was that evening, you would have made the same choice!

Valentine's day from Rollo

Had any of you been made the same offer or invitation, would you have refused? Would you, even you Outlander Highland Scotsman fans, have been able to resist the temptation of being alone in the woods with the great and mighty Rollo? I think not!   I will just give you all my apologies and tell you that I enjoyed myself immensely… I will not go into all of the details of our much private evening because I am not one to kiss and tell… I do have some secrets to keep! Siggy could be reading or listening and I do not want to put any hard feelings or doubts between us? I will just leave the matter at this explanation, Rollo and I have had a much long discussion, come to an understanding between ourselves and we will consider ourselves as “friends with benefits”!

 

Now, on to the results of that much heated battle? If you all recall, it started quite simply enough, a small skirmish on open field to give both sides, The Outlander Fans and The Vikings Saga fans a chance to show their valor, their honor and their blood thirst for dominance and bragging rights? There was of course an option to declare that you did not care who won, so long as men would go shirtless? It was a long and cut throat battle, right to the very end! At first it looked as though those who just wanted shirtless men would take the field and the glory? But, as the battle wore on, you all showed that there is much more to you than just wanting to see half naked men. I am happy to say that the battle took a serious turn and was fought well on both sides for honor and glory of either Outlander or Vikings. It came right down to the wire and I feared it would be an even tie. Now, I did promise to give the Vikings an advantage in the battle as I was concerned about the fairness of such a battle. The Outlander Fans have been here far longer and are a mighty tribe to contend with? The Vikings fans got a much later start here on this blog so I felt that in all fairness, they should be given a way to even out the playing field? As it turns out, they needed no such advantage.

When the battle became intense, those Viking women showed their worth, dug their trenches and raised their shield walls to show that they were worthy of such a battle. Both sides also showed that, while they enjoy a view of a shirtless man, that view would not deter or distract them from fighting for their honor!

Vikings meet Outlander

So, who has finally won the battle? Well,  All that I can say is, “All Hail the Shield Maidens!” You have proven that when it comes to a battle for honor, One should not mess with a Viking Woman!  All of the women who fought so valiantly have also proven though that they prefer their men to have heads attached to their shirtless bodies?  I think even Princess Kwentirith would agree that for the most part, she would rather have her captured men whole?

how many heads did you want

The men might plot and partake in the more gruesome of battles and shows of victory. We women all fight just as  fiercely for victory, but we fight in different ways and as I said, we prefer our spoils of war to whole, living and breathing for us to enjoy after the battle is finished!

vikings_season2_episode10_gallery_3a-P the wrath of a shieldmaiden You go girl go girl two lagertha with her maidens lagertha and shieldmaidens katheryn-winnick-stars-as-shield-maiden-lagertha-in-history-channels-vikings ecbert and lagertha3

So, Fierce Shield Maidens what have you won with this battle? Why, You have earned the right to settle in those places where you fought not for power and control or great riches of silver but for land to farm,  homes to call your own,  to eventually live in peace and yet pass on your own great fighting spirit and independent nature to future generations who would claim thrones of England and also become those fiercely independent Highland clans and Warriors!  Without your battles, your struggles and your desires for land that you could call your own, that future might look much different!

To the victors go the spoils of the War… Raise your drinking horns high, celebrate and remember that once the war is won, we are all still women fighting a great fight together? As we are so often reminded, Women must stick together to survive! Join with those Highland Women who are your descendants as well, rejoice and share your rewards…. a break from the battles to enjoy a bit of the shirtless men! Ohhh and do not forget to include the women of those Saxon lands that fought just as bravely and suffered as much as everyone else. I’ve heard that there is a wonderous large hot tub in that land, just waiting for all of you to experience?

rollo4 rollo7 Rolloragnar2 ragnar and lagertha ask athelstan to join them Ragnar and Ecburt in the tub

Bjorn Ironside Jamie's backside jamie being flogged Claire and Jamie wedding nightrob roy 2rob_roy_13

braveheart-mel

claire and frank11Scottish menscottish men5scottish men6scottish men7scottish men8

My one last suggestion and warning to all of you as you are enjoying your feast…. You might be well advised to keep Princess Kwentirith away or she may claim them all as her own personal spoils of war and you will not see any of them again for quite some time?

Kwenthrith1 Kwenthrith3 Kwenthrith2kwentirith talk to me of love and deathkwentirith inspecting the northmenkwentirith I always knew I would like these men

 https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/category/princess-kwenthrith/

 

 

 

 

 

500 years of history in 3 minutes

Because we’re all about history here and traveling through time to experience it, I want to share this incredible view of women through the ages.  A trip through time through the faces of women in art over 500 years merge together in this 3 minutes! It’s powerful, thoughtful, mesmerizing as it reflects the changes and perceptions of beauty in different eras and cultures.

“Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.” 
― Confucius – See more at: http://viralwomen.com/post/five_hundred_years_three_minutes_one_changing_face_mesmerizing#sthash.sakoYz5x.dpuf