The truth behind medieval chivalry

From Kathleen McGarvey, University of Rochester:

Our popular ideas of the chivalric world are off base, according to historian Richard Kaeuper. The gallant knights on horseback and banners unfurling before exciting tournaments largely come from people in the 19th century who saw the Middle Ages through a romantic haze.

Chivalry was a violent, often grisly, phenomenon. “It’s hands-on cutting and thrusting. It’s a very bloody profession, and [people from the last several centuries] admire it to excess,” says Kaeuper, a professor at the University of Rochester. But he also insists that chivalry is more than a timeless warrior code.

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Bone found at English abbey could be King Alfred the Great

From Fox News:

British archeologists are hoping they have discovered partial remains of the ninth-century’s King Alfred the Great at a medieval abbey in southwest England.

Preliminary tests suggest that a pelvic bone found in a museum box is either Alfred, or his son, Kind Edward the Elder. The bone was among remains excavated some 15 years ago at an abbey in Winchester, England, but they were never tested. Instead they were stored in a box at Winchester Museum until archeologists recently came across them.

“The bone is likely to be one of them, I wouldn’t like to say which one,” Kate Tucker, a researcher in human osteology from the University of Winchester told Reuters. Researchers say that, given the historical record, bones that old could only have come from Alfred or his family.

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Medieval history term of the week: Mainmorte

Mainmorte

Mortmain. The lord’s right to a share of his men’s personal estate after death. (Duby, Georges. Rural Economy and Country Life in the Medieval West, 555)

*term retrieved from Netserf Medieval Glossary 

From the Statute of Quia Emptores, 1290, on the buying and selling of land

And if he shall have sold to anyone any part of those his lands or tenements, the infeudated person shall hold that (part) directly of the lord in chief, and shall straightway be charged with as much service as pertains or ought to pertain to that lord for that parcel, according to the quantity of the land or tenement sold; and so in this case there shall fall away from the lord in chief that part of the service which is to be performed by the hand of the infeudator, from the time when the infeudated person ought to be attendant and answerable to that same lord in chief, according to the quantity of the land or tenement sold, for that parcel of service thus due. And it must be known that by the said sales or purchases of lands or tenements, or any part of them, those lands or tenements in part or in whole, may not come into mortmain, by art or by wile, contrary to the statute recently issued on this point.

The History of the Medieval World: From the Conversion of Constantine to the First Crusade


The History of the Medieval World: From the Conversion of Constantine to the First Crusade

By Susan Wise Bauer

Hardcover: 746 pages
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (February 22, 2010)
ISBN-10: 0393059758

Book Description:

A masterful narrative of the Middle Ages, when religion became a weapon for kings all over the world.

From the schism between Rome and Constantinople to the rise of the T’ang Dynasty, from the birth of Muhammad to the crowning of Charlemagne, this erudite book tells the fascinating, often violent story of kings, generals, and the peoples they ruled.

In her earlier work, The History of the Ancient World, Susan Wise Bauer wrote of the rise of kingship based on might. But in the years between the fourth and the twelfth centuries, rulers had to find new justification for their power, and they turned to divine truth or grace to justify political and military action. Right thus replaces might as the engine of empire.

Not just Christianity and Islam but the religions of the Persians and the Germans, and even Buddhism, are pressed into the service of the state. This phenomenon—stretching from the Americas all the way to Japan—changes religion, but it also changes the state.

Avg customer review on Amazon: 4.5 stars (49 reviews)

Anglo-Saxon coffin uncovered in Lincoln Castle

From Culture24:

Experts say a shoe-wearing skeleton, found as part of an excavation on a church beneath Lincoln Castle dating back at least 1,000 years, should reveal much about the Saxon city ahead of radiocarbon dating on its hidden coffin

The bones of a holy figure, still wearing shoes and initially wrapped in a finely-woven textile, have been found buried within a wall beneath Lincoln Castle in a discovery pointing to the remains of a church dating to “at least” 1,000 years ago, according to experts.

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Berkhamsted Castle

A brief history:

Berkhamsted Castle is a Norman motte-and-bailey castle at Berkhamsted in Hertfordshire, England. The castle was built during the Norman conquest of England in the 11th century to control a key route between London and the Midlands. Robert of Mortain, William the Conqueror’s half brother, was probably responsible for the construction and became the subsequent owner of the fortification. A motte and bailey design, the castle was surrounded by extensive protective earthworks and a deer park for hunting. The future town of Berkhamsted grew up alongside it. Subsequent kings granted the castle to their chancellors and it was substantially extended in the mid-12th century, probably by Thomas Becket.

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Additional reading:

Archaeologists further knowledge of Palace in Sherwood Forest

From Heritage Daily:

Archaeologists have helped to prove the size and thus the importance of a Palace that formed the royal heart of Sherwood Forest in the medieval period, by discovering and excavating the previously unknown boundary ditch of the site.

The ruins of King John’s Palace in Kings Clipstone are a local landmark famous for their association with ‘Bad King John’, the enemy of Robin Hood.

In fact during the medieval period the site was known as the King’s Houses and was an extensive royal palace with an adjacent deer park, located at the heart of Sherwood Forest. The palace was favoured by the crown and visited by all eight monarchs from Henry II to Richard II from the second half of the 12th century until the end of the 14th century.

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Today in Medieval History: Happy Leif Erikson Day!

Today is officially Leif Erikson Day. Commemorated as a national holiday by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964, the holiday is an observance of Leif Erikson and his companions as the first known Europeans to set foot in North America. The holiday gives the nation a chance to honor the contributions of Americans of Nordic descent and the overall spirit of exploration and discovery.

The date of October 9th is not the actual date Leif Erikson landed in North America, but it was chosen because the ship Restauration arrived in New York Harbor on October 9th, 1825, from Stavanger, Norway, which marked the beginnings of the first organized immigration from Norway to the U.S.

Richard III’s lost chapel near York

From The Press, article by Emily Flanagan

ARCHAEOLOGISTS near York believe they have found a chapel built by Richard III to commemorate the Yorkist victory in one of the bloodiest battles ever fought on English soil.As the row continues over whether the Plantagenet king should be buried in York or Leicester, a discovery in a peaceful field on the outskirts of York has unearthed more of his legacy, ending a 16-year search for the building’s remains.

The land was where the Battle of Towton was fought; the bloody clash between the Lancastrians and Yorkists in the War of the Roses. According to accounts at the time, it left 28,000 soldiers dead, causing rivers to have run red with blood and survivors fleeing across “bridges of bodies”

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