Monday, July 31, 2023

Angevin History

by Jack Heerema

   The 19th century historian’s work was not complete unless infused with a touch of misogyny. This is particularly prevalent during the period of the Angevin kings. This was not done in a grand scheme as Lord Macaulay’s desire to have everyone in India speak English. Historians have characterized Queen Eleanor as being headstrong, contrary and willful, of course, these terms could never be applied to King Henry II, who standardized laws uniformly across England. There is always a reason behind the reason. He needed money and quickly to finance his continental wars.

   The contributions of women during this period have been very marginalized. Countess Ella founded both Salisbury Cathedral and Lacock Abbey. The results can still be seen today. Lady Isabel was kind, sympathetic and formable in administrating her Irish holdings. Was she not the daughter of Red Eva who led an army in Ireland? William the Marshall would never have a stronger ally than Lady Isabel. William Longsword, Duke of Salisbury would find a similar companion in Countess Ella. Longsword and King John were half-brothers, yet when Prince Louis of France invaded England, Longsword threw his support behind the prince. There is debate whether King John’s improper advances on Countess Ella contributed Longsword defection.

   History is interpreted through the cultural bias of succeeding generations. A jigsaw dropped to the floor and the search begins for the missing pieces. Slowly they are put back together, but we discover that the color is missing, and every generation picks one they feel fits best. Not many of us have experienced a marriage of convenience or as a source of wealth and power. This piece comes in a multitude of colors. We have not experienced the intense struggle between church and state, leading to the death of Thomas Becket. It is important for a historian to understand the culture in the period he studies to determine why decisions were made.

   King Henry II knew the cultural believes and superstitions held within the commonweal. He understood how to use populism and propaganda to further his ambitions. This insight wasn’t not missing in the church’s world view. In the year 1184 Glastonbury Abbey was almost burned down to the ground. A massive amount of funds was required for the rebuilding and what better source of income than from pilgrims making a journey to a holy site. Through his tribulations with the Welsh, King Harry discovered that Arthur’s last resting place was at Glastonbury Abbey. What better way to rally his people around himself than becoming heir of Excalibur. He died before this scheme came to fruition. The abbot of the abbey, on the other hand, still saw this as an opportunity to collect pledges for the building fund. A massive search began by digging up the entire grounds until the grave was found, behold it was. Pilgrims journeyed to the abbey and turned it into a cathedral. 

   Through the reigns of the Angevin kings the tax burdens on the commonweal were onerous and devastating. The continual wars in France, Ireland, Scotland and Wales extorted every penny by succeeding kings. King Richard’s ransom from Austria after fighting in the crusades left a huge swath of destitution and penury in England.  Is where the legend of Robin Hood originated. In our own day we have a superman or batman who rises from this devastation like a phoenix and rights the wrongs and injustices done to ordinary people who are powerless and have not the resources to fight for their own rights. We attribute the rise of Robin Hood to the Angevin period. Is this a coincidence? Every myth is rooted in fact which seems to be too heavy to bear.

   When Prince Louis invaded England in 1216, numerous of the commonweal believed the yoke placed on their necks by King John would be removed. This turned brother against brother and many villages, towns and cities were looted and burned by their own people. There was indiscriminate raping and murders constantly. After a year Prince Louis was driven back to France after the Battle of Dover in 1217. This was done through the combined effort of the barons who stayed true to the English throne and rallied around William the Marshall, Duke of Pembroke.

   This is the backdrop for ‘Marigold, Our Lady of Thieves’. It follows the life and fortunes of a foundling named Marion, who is rescued from a skip by Sir Kai ap Gruffydd who becomes her guardian and mentor. This story reveals how the sword Excalibur was found and how it came into her possession. On the way she is introduced to Robin Hood and the Valkyrie who would become her closest friends. The synopsis and reviews for the novel can be found at 



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