battle bridge

The nobility of your forbears magnified you, O Edith,
And you, a king’s bride, magnify your forbears.
Much beauty and much wisdom were yours
And also probity together with sobriety.
You teach the stars, measuring, arithmetic, the art of the lyre,
The ways of learning and grammar.
An understanding of rhetoric allowed you to pour out speeches,
And moral rectitude informs your tongue
– Godfrey of Cambrai, prior of Winchester Cathedral (1082-1107)

Edith of Wessex was born c. 1025, the eldest daughter of Godwin, Earl of Wessex, and his wife Gytha. Her family was a formidable one: Godwin was one of the most powerful men in England, while Gytha was the sister-in-law of Cnut.

She was raised at Wilton Abbey, which she later had rebuilt as a sign of gratitude. There she learned Latin, French, Danish, and some Irish as well as grammar, rhetoric, arithmetic, weaving, embroidery, and astronomy. There is little else we know about her early life apart from her education, but she seems to have been especially close to her brother Tostig.

Edith’s father, Godwin, had a troubled relationship with King Edward the Confessor because Edward believed that Godwin was responsible for the death of his brother. Even so, Godwin was the most powerful man in England and Edward needed his support, and so married Edith at Godwin’s behest on 23 January 1045.

The relationship does not seem to have been a particularly romantic one. They were 20 or so years apart in age and he disliked her family, but all the same she had some influence and it was said that she always advised Edward wisely, and did a lot to improve his kingly image.

In 1051, Godwin and Edward’s relationship significantly deteriorated. Rather than risk arrest, Godwin fled the country with his sons. Edith was sent to a nunnery and all her lands confiscated, perhaps because he didn’t like her, thought they had little hope of conceiving together and wished to remarry, or simply wanted to get revenge on her father. The next year Godwin returned to England and civil war looked likely, but Edward lacked support and was forced to restore Godwin’s lands to him and reinstate Edith as Queen.

Though the two were still unable to have children (probably not because Edward had taken a vow of chastity, as is often said), Edith’s influence as Queen grew, as is shown by the increase in the amount of charters she witnessed, and she joined the circle of Edward’s most trusted advisers. 

In 1055, Edith’s brother, Tostig, became Earl of Northumbria but his rule was hugely unpopular and 10 years later the local Northumbrian population rebelled, killing Tostig’s officials and outlawing him, asking instead to be ruled by a member of the leading Mercian family. There is some evidence that many of the Northumbrian people viewed Edith as complicit in Tostig’s tyranny, and indeed it’s likely that she herself had one of Tostig’s political enemies assassinated. Finally, one of Edith’s other brothers, Harold was sent to deal with the matter. He agreed to the rebels demands, depriving Tostig of his earldom, and Tostig, who fled to Flanders, never forgave Harold, nor did Edith. 

On 5 January 1066, Edward the Confessor died, leaving Edith’s brother as King Harold II. The main chronicle on Edward’s reign, commissioned by Edith herself, actually attempts to discredit Harold’s claim, showing the extent of the rift between the siblings. Some historians, such as James Campbell, even believe that Edith was in personal danger from Harold, who wanted to placate the still restless Northumbrians by treating Edith harshly.

Harold successfully fought off Norwegian invaders that year at the Battle of Stamford Bridge, in which Tostig died fighting on the side of the Norwegians. Edith’s reaction is not recorded, but it is easy to imagine that she must have been heartbroken. Harold’s next major battle, the Battle of Hastings, was fought against William, Duke of Normandy. Harold and 2 of Edith’s other brothers died that day, and William was proclaimed King.

William sent men to Winchester to demand tribute from Queen Edith and she willingly complied. As a result, William allowed her to keep all her estates and income. Following this, Edith lived a comfortable life and when she died on 18 December 1075, she was recorded as the richest woman in England. She was laid to rest next to her husband in Winchester Cathedral and given a funeral befitting a queen. 

As with so many women in history, Edith is often overlooked, but we have much to thank her for. Because she commissioned the Vita Edwardi Regis, she is responsible for much of the information we have on this period, and art historian Carola Hicks even suggests that she commissioned the Bayeaux Tapestry. Regardless of whether this theory is true, Edith is a person worth remembering. She was strong, determined, and loving, though some of her more corrupt actions are utterly deplorable. Nonetheless, her influence and contribution to Edward the Confessor’s reign is not one that should be forgotten.

youtube

While the Enterprise 3D Project seems to have gone mostly silent (takedown notices on youtube, their website/twitter hasn’t been updated since 2015, but their FB had some posts last april) another person is doing a similar project, again with Unreal Engine. I have to admit this particular video from last year gave me a couple of chills.

Ok but seriously I need to give you the scoop on some of the ridiculousness that went down during Lexington and Concord because it was insane. These are just some of my favorites:

  • John Hancock and Samuel Adams are hiding out at Hancock’s cousin Lucy’s house in Lexington. When Paul Revere shows up to tell them to leave, William Munroe, a militiaman who was guarding the door, tells Revere to shut up and go away because everyone was asleep.
  • Hancock’s fiancee Dolly asks him to take her to Boston so that she can rescue her father. Hancock tells her that she isn’t allowed to go back there while the British are still occupying the city. She reminds him that they aren’t actually married yet so she can technically do whatever she wants without his permission.
  • Paul Revere and William Dawes meet a Concord doctor named Samuel Prescott, who just happens to be out at 1am because he had spent the day with his girlfriend and presumably got kicked out of her house. When a group of British soldiers chase them, Revere is captured, Dawes comically falls off his horse, and Prescott manages to get away with the alarm message to Concord. His getting the message across in time meant that there were enough soldiers in Concord to beat the British, meaning that his walk of shame basically caused us to win the battle.
  • Paul Revere tells the soldiers who captured him that there are hundreds or armed and angry country hicks converging on Lexington center who are prepared to slaughter the British; the soldiers get so scared they just let him and the other captives go and run away.
  • Elijah Sanderson, one of the Lexington militiamen, is sent out, unarmed, as a scout, and is captured. Luckily he is in the same group of captives as Revere and is also let go. After telling the Lexingtonians what is going on he is so exhausted that he sits down next to the fireplace in the tavern and falls asleep, only waking up when the drum starts beating. Once he gets outside he realizes that he had never actually gone home to get his gun and so has to hide in the tavern during the battle.
  •  Joseph Warren somehow sneaks out of Boston to join the fighting and almost get himself killed. At one point a bullet whizzes by so closely it knocks a bobby pin out of his wig.
  • After the battle at the North Bridge in Concord a man named Elias Brown, who was mentally disabled and did not really comprehend what was happening, starts wandering through the crowd selling hard cider to the soldiers on both sides and getting everyone drunk.
  • A British officer named Jeremy Lister was not assigned to the expedition, but had volunteered when another officer said he was sick and couldn’t go. He is shot at Meriam’s Corner and the bullet shatters his elbow, leaving his arm immobile for the rest of his life. After he recovers he is informed the other officer had been faking it to get out of work. 
  • A British soldier and an American soldier have a standoff in front of a well when they show up at the same time to get a drink. Both men pull out a gun and fire a shot; both of them die.
  • Samuel Whittemore, an 80 year old man from Menotomy, hides behind a wall and starts picking off British soldiers with dueling pistols. Eventually one of them manages to get through, shoot him in the face, and bayonet him several times. Some friends find him several minutes later still trying to reload his gun. They drag him home kicking and screaming, assuming that he will be dead soon. He lives to be 98.
  • A woman in Lexington, Mary Sanderson, hides in the woods with her family and then comes home to find a half-conscious British soldier lying in her bed. When her husband Samuel gets home he finds Mary raining obscenities upon the poor injured man. Samuel tells her that if they didn’t give him some food he will never have the energy to leave, but the soldier is so terrified of Mary he refuses to eat, only taking the food after making Samuel eat it to make sure it wasn’t poisoned.