Monthly Archives: April 2012

Z-Zenobia

I had a very hard time trying to find a Z that fits my theme. I finally found Zenobia. Now Zenobia was quite a while before the Middle Ages. In fact, she was born in 240. She was the second wife of Septimius Odaenathus who was the king of the Palmyrene Empire in Roman Syria. Her Roman name was Julia Aurelia Zenobia. (I knew there was a reason I liked her – we have the same first name.)

After the death of her husband and stepson in 267,(in which she may have had a hand) her one-year-old son was the heir. As her son was so young, Zenobia ruled in his stead. She became known as a ‘warrior queen’ after conquering Eygpt, Anatolia, Chalcedon, Syria, Palestine, and Lebanon.

Finally in 274, she was defeated, captured , and taken to Rome by Emperor Aurelian. On the way to Rome, her son apparently died.

There seem to be two conflicting endings to Zenobia’s story:
1. Although her death was called for, Aurelian was so enamored of her beauty that he freed her and she lived out her life in luxury. It is said she married a Roman governor and gave birth to several daughters whose names are lost to history.
2. She committed suicide like her idol, Cleopatra.

Where does Zenobia fit in the Current Middle Ages you might ask? Zenobia was the name of the first queen crowned after I joined the SCA. All I really remember about her is that she was a very gracious lady and that she and her lord (not the man who was king) were married on horseback.

Six Sentence Sunday – First Impressions

The bright blue Harley touring bike roared down the street, around the corner, and into the alley behind Glen’s Place causing the men out front to turn and watch. Its rider was tired, sweaty, and muddy and planned to stop at Glen’s for a cold beer then swing by a fast food drive-thru on his way home to take a shower and be in bed by 10 o’clock. He had no inkling that the next 30 minutes would bring about an event that would change, not only his plans for that evening, but for the rest of his life. Anyone watching as he got off the bike and stowed his helmet and jacket in the compartment on the bike would never have taken Dave Johnson for a gay man. He didn’t have any of the stereotypical characteristics commonly associated with gay men; the limp-wrist, the lisping voice, the mincing walk. He was in his mid-30s, about 5’11” and slightly bow-legged from years of riding a motorcycle.

Y-Yew Tree

The yew tree is a coniferous tree native to Europe and Africa. Its height can range from 33 to 90 feet and its girth can be up to thirteen feet.

The reason I include the Yew in the Middle Ages is the fact that it was used extensively for making English long bows.

Yew trees live an exceptionally long time with some believed to be as old as 1,000 – 4,000 years.

Although almost all parts of the Yew are toxic, parts of it have been used in heart remedies since 1024.

Back to the longbows. So many bows were made from Yew trees, that in the fourteenth century the supply of Yew wood in England was so depleted the English had to import wood from other countries. In 1472 any ship entering an English port was required to bring in bowstaves.

In the SCA, we have a song about the Fruit of the Yew which tells of a raid on Wales where the woodsmen drive off the raiders using “The stout longbow staff thowing swift clothyard shafts(arrows)”.

The last line is “Seek not the wealth of the woodlands of Wales, for they pay in the fruit of the Yew.”

X-Xander

The only X I could come up with is Xander and I cannot link it back to the Middle Ages except for the fact it is a nickname for Alexander and there were three Scottish kings named Alexander.
Alexander I, about whom I could find nothing.
Alexander II – August 24, 1198 – July 6, 1249 (reigned from 1214 until his death.
Alexander III – son of Alexander II – September 4, 1241 – March 19, 1286. Became king at the age of seven and died from a fall from a horse.

W-William Wallace

Anyone who has seen the movie Braveheart has heard of William Wallace. However! The name Braveheart was not applied to William Wallace, but to Robert the Bruce who followed Wallace. Bruce’s heart was removed from his body and carried on crusade thus earning the name.

William Wallace is believed to have been born in 1272. Although some details of his birth are sketchy, it is believed he was the third son of Alan Wallace and was born in Elderslie in Renfrewshire. At the time of his birth Alexander III was king of Scotland. Alexander died in 1276 after a fall from his horse leaving his young granddaughter, Margaret, Maid of Norway, as queen. Margaret fell ill on the voyage from Norway to Scotland and never made it to the mainland thus leaving Scotland without a ruler. This left the country in chaos. King Edward I of England stepped in at the request of the Scottish nobles.

Edward named John Balliol as king. He was not a good choice. It didn’t take long for the Scottish nobles to rebel against John and Edward. Civil war broke out.

Wallace was outlawed in May 1297 after his assignation of the high sheriff of Lanarkshire. (According to the movie, this was because the sheriff had Wallace’s wife killed. There is no record that the woman killed was Wallace’s wife.)

In September, 1297, Wallace and Andrew Moray led a small army into battle at Stirling. Contrary to the movie which depicts the battle as field battle, the actual fight took place on a bridge over the River Forth. The Scots remained hidden until about half of the English infantry had crossed the narrow wooden bridge. The infantry tried to retreat back into the cavalry that followed them. So many men and horses caused the bridge to collapse under their weight and many of the English soldiers drowned. Although outnumbered nearly six to one, the Scots were victorious.

Following Stirling, Wallace led a raid into northern England. It was sometime around then Wallace was knighted.

In 1297, Edward’s army defeated Wallace at Falkirk. In September, Wallace turned the office of Guardian of Scotland over to Robert the Bruce. Little is known of his activities from then until 1305. It is believed he traveled to France to try to get support from King Philip IV.

In August, 1305, Wallace was betrayed and turned over to Edward by a Scottish noble, John de Menteith. He was accused of treason to which he replied, “I could not be a traitor to Edward, for I was never his subject.”
On August 23, 1305, Wallace was executed by being hung, drawn, and quartered. (I’ll spare the description.)

One other point regarding the movie: it is doubtful Wallace ever met, let alone had sex with, the Princess of Wales.

Personal note – Wallace’s mother was a Crawford (which I am also).

Wallace monument outside of Stirling – the remains of the old bridge where the battle was fought are visible from the monument. I only made it to the first level (about 1/3 of the way to the top).

William Wallace’s sword. It took a big man to wield that sword.

V-Viking

When we think of the word Viking, most people think of either the Minnesota football team or the people of the Scandinavian countries. The word ‘viking’ was originally a verb used when the Northmen went exploring or ‘a-viking’. They would sometimes be gone from home for several years.

Sailing the oceans in longboats often called drakkars (Norse for dragon) they ventured westward to Greenland, Iceland and even as far as Newfoundland (or the North American continent. There is evidence of Norse settlements as far west as the modern state of Minnesota. (NO-Columbus did not discover America – ask the Native Americans).

The Vikings, in the form of Swedish Rus, also traveled southeastward into Russia and had a hand in the settlement of Kiev, Russia.

They sailed their knarrs (merchant ships) southward into the Mediterranean Sea and traded with the Middle East.

At one point, the city of Constantinople (now Istanbul) was guarded in part by a group of soldiers called the Varangian Guard. Although the first guardsmen in the tenth century were from Scandinavia, by the eleventh and twelfth century, most of the guard members were Anglo-Saxon.

The Vikings were instrumental in settling a lot of Western Europe and the British Isles. Many families can trace their roots back to those settlers. (Or in some cases raiders and rapists).

Another thing we moderns owe the Vikings is the name of some of our days: Wednesday – Woden’s (or Odin’s) day, Thursday – Thor’s day, Friday – Frija’s (or Freya’s) day.

Also – whoever came up with the idea of an A-frame house must have been looking at pictures of the old Viking tents.

There are those who believe the Vikings got bad press when it came to raiding, raping, and burning, but without them a lot of history would be different.

U-Urquhart Castle

Urquhart Castle is located on the west bank of Loch Ness between Inverness and Fort William near the village of Drumnadrochit. Although it is not known exactly when the castle was built, history mentions a castle on this site early in the thirteenth century. In 1296, Edward I captured this castle on his way north. (See Stone of Scone under S). Radiocarbon dating indicates a stronghold of some type was on this site as early as the time of Saint Columba (the late sixth century). It was at one time one of the largest strongholds in Medieval Scotland.

In 1692, forces loyal to England destroyed the castle to prevent the Jacobites from using it as a stronghold. To this day, it remains in ruins.

The dock at the castle serves as a turn-around point for the boat tours out of Inverness. Due to its location on the bank of Loch Ness, it is a popular place for Nessie sightings.

I have to admit, we did not see Nessie the day I was there. I think she stayed out of sight because of the rain. The only other American on the boat was a man from Indianapolis who had been studying Nessie since he was four years old. One of his remarks alluded to the fact that one of the most important sporting events in America was happening that day in Indianapolis, and he was in Scotland. (It was Memorial Day – the Indy 500 was being run.)

Urquhart Castle from the deck of the Jacobite Queen

Docked at Urquhart Castle

T-Thomas the Rhymer

Thomas Learmouth was born in the early thirteenth century in Ercildourne (now Earlston). He was considered a prophet. His prophecies were stated in the form of poetry.

One of his prophecies was the death of Alexander III of Scotland in 1286. “On the morrow, afore noon, shall blow the greatest wind that ever was heard before in Scotland.” This was written the day before the death of Alexander from a fall off of his horse.

Another prophecy attributed to him was the fall of Ercildourne. “As long as the Thorn Tree stands, Ercildourne shall keep its lands.” The Thorn Tree fell and all the merchants went bankrupt and the land was forfeited.

Thomas is also credited with writing Sir Tristrem, a version of Tam Lin in which a mortal (Thomas) is captivated by the Queen of Elfland and spends seven years in her company. He returns to the mortal world for a number of years and then returns to Fairyland from which he has not returned.

Six Sentence Sunday – Accpetance 2

This six takes place a few pages after last week’s when Alex and Andrew see each other for the first time.

The door opened and one of the most beautiful young men I had ever seen came running out, picked up Heather and swung her around. He was about 5’9”, small-boned and wiry, his sandy blond hair hung a little below his ears and there was a smattering of freckles across his nose. He was wearing worn jeans and a bright green, body hugging T-shirt, and cowboy boots; and I could see part of a tattoo just beneath the sleeve on his left arm.

“Hey, Heather, what did you bring me for graduation?” He stopped spinning her around and his eyes lit on me. “Oooooh, is this my present; he’s gorgeous.”

S-Stone of Scone/Stone of Destiny

From the start of Scottish history until 1296, Scottish kings were crowned using the Stone of Scone as a throne. This stone was kept at Scone Abbey near Perth, Scotland. Legend has it the stone originally came from Ireland when the Celts crossed the Argyll Sea and settled in what would later become known as Scotland. The stone is made of red limestone, measures 26 inches by 16.75 inches by 10.5 inches, and weighs approximately 336 pounds.

In 1296, Edward I of England (also known as Longshanks because of his height) invaded Scotland. His invasion got as far north as Elgin near the North Sea. On this trip, Edward took back to England several Scottish artifacts including the Stone of Scone (or so it is thought). Apparently he had iron rings set into each side of the stone for transporting purposes. Even so, it would not have been easy to move. He took the stone to Westminster Abbey and placed it under his throne to symbolize sitting on the Scottish people. There it stayed for nearly seven hundred years until Christmas Day 1950. A group of four Scottish students somehow entered the abbey and stole the stone.

In the process, the stone broke into two pieces. The students took the pieces to Scotland where it was professionally repaired. The English caused a search for the stone, but never found it. Eventually, the stone was left at Arbroath Abbey on April 11, 1951 in the care of the Church of Scotland. The Church informed the London police the whereabouts of the stone, and it was returned to Westminster Abbey.
In 1996, during a time of unrest on the part of Scotland, the British Government decided to return the stone to Scotland. It arrived at Edinburgh Castle November 30, 1996 and now is kept with the crown jewels of Scotland. There is also a replica of the stone at Scone Palace outside of Perth.

Several questions abound regarding the authenticity of the stone at Edinburgh.

Was the stone Edward took to London, the real stone, or was the real stone hidden and a fake stone taken? If so, where is the original?

Was the stone returned in 1951 the same stone that was taken from Westminster Abbey, or was a fake returned?

Is the stone in Edinburgh the real stone, or is maybe the replica at Scone actually the real stone?

Has the original stone been hidden somewhere no one remembers.?

I doubt anyone will ever know for sure.

Me sitting on the replica of the Stone of Scone at Scone Palace, Perth

In case you can’t read it, the sign says, “MOOT OR ‘BOOT’ HILL Site of the coronation of the Kings of Scotland and of Scottish Parliaments. Artificial mound created by earth brought in the boots of lords swearing loyalty to their King.”

Just a shot of the beautiful grounds at Scone Palace.