the saxon chronicles


W I L L I A M - comes ultimately from the given name Wilhelm (cf. Old German Wilhelm > German Wilhelm and Old Norse Vilhjálmr). The Anglo-Saxon form should be *Wilhelm as well (although the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle refers to William the Conqueror as Willelm). That is a compound of two distinct elements : wil = “will or desire”; helm; Old English helm “helmet, protection”; > English helm “knight’s large helmet”.

Westworld + Etymologies

The Utter and Egregious Fallacy of “That Was Just What Happened In Medieval Times”

Right, so. I’m angry all over again and I’m going to be angry for a while, because if I see one more idiot defending the rape scene over the fact that “that was just what happened in medieval times,” I am going to put a brick through my computer screen. This won’t be as long or as in-depth as I want it to be, since I have to go to work soon, but my medieval historian buttons have been pushed to a sufficient degree that I have to make some response to all this. So without further ado:

  • Legislation to protect women and children was an idea as far back as the seventh goddamn century (and before), but it certainly appeared in the western Christian/Latin legal canon with Adamnan of Iona’s “Law of the Innocents.” Christianity itself modified existing Greco-Roman social codes to give women (who had no rights at all in antiquity) a surprising amount of protection and recognition in marriage and society. Was this always followed? Of course not. But you can bet your ass it was a thing, and one of the reasons early Christianity was so suspiciously received, due to its lenient treatment of women, slaves, the poor, the leprous, and other outcasts.
  • On that note, we call them “the Dark Ages” because we are a bunch of Eurocentric assholes who figure all of civilization collapsed when Rome fell. Yes, Western Europe wasn’t doing so hot, but everywhere else was flourishing – socially, culturally, religiously, artistically.
  • The Vikings were forward-thinking as hell with their legal treatment of women (so, for that matter, were the Welsh). Both cultures allowed a wife to separate from her husband with no penalty if he was abusing her, and in the Vikings’ case, he would be shamed and socially ridiculed for being such a low-down tool as to mistreat a woman. The Vikings did not fuck around. And among the Welsh, maternal inheritance and property rights counted just as much as paternal.
  • Rape was physically and brutally punishable in England from at least the 11th century on. Prior to the Norman Conquest, it was treated as an offense for which one had to pay weregild – literally “man money” – the same as when someone was murdered. Post-Norman Conquest, you got your goddamn dick chopped off, the same as thieves lost a hand and oathbreakers lost tongues. You see the pattern? It was a serious crime. People weren’t just out raping all and sundry. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (otherwise not fond of William) eulogized him as a “violent but very wise” man, and praised him for making England so safe that an unarmed man or maiden girl could travel the roads without fear of robbery or molestation.
  • If you were a dude that everyone hated, you got accused of rape and mistreatment of women. It wasn’t cool.
  • Due to the teachings of the third century Roman physician Galen, it was believed that a woman could not conceive if she didn’t have an orgasm. No, this does not mean that medieval couples were trying positions from the Kama Sutra every night (the Church still had strict guidelines on when and where and how you were supposed to do the do) but it also doesn’t mean that women’s pleasure was some completely mystical and/or unthinkable idea.
  • Likewise, early consummation DID happen (Margaret Beaufort, Eleanor of Castile) but it was frowned on. The Church imposed penalties on husbands who consummated their marriage too early, and while noble girls were generally married around 14-16, commoner girls were about the same age as today (early-mid twenties) and could often marry for love, depending on their social station.
  • While marital rape and abuse was not legally recognized or classified as a crime, that didn’t mean it went unpunished. Since most noble marriages were business transactions, that meant the wife was an investment of some value, and a sure way to piss off her menfolk (and the Pope) was to mistreat and abuse her. King Philip II of France spent years under interdict and excommunication for his appalling treatment of his second wife, Ingeborg, and was ultimately forced to capitulate and take her back. The Pope would in fact often champion the causes of mistreated noble wives (usually to force concessions out of her husband, but still). Annulment and separation, while unusual, were not completely impossible, and did happen – one of the chief grounds for it being granted was mistreatment and abuse.
  • Furthermore, the code of chivalry specified honorable treatment for noblewomen. Of course, this did not mean it was lived out in practice, and common women were fair game, but there was in fact an existing and well-known legal framework for how you were supposed to treat your womenfolk – Ramsay would have been as reviled in the medieval era as he is to our modern sensibilities. Medieval people weren’t different from us and out rape rape rapin the livelong day. In fact, I would hazard a guess that it’s gotten MORE common now that we, you know, no longer chop the goddamn dicks off people and they generally skate with no consequence.
  • Besides, the “the medieval era was dark and barbaric” attitude relies on the mistaken narrative of “progress,” i.e. things were terrible back then and have been constantly evolving to this point in time, where we no longer do the gross things they did. DING DONG YOU ARE WRONG! This is a historiographical fallacy to excuse our own atrocities and act like the cost of the modern world was “necessary” for “developing” us to who we are now, and that all the bloodshed, death, colonialism, world wars, etc can’t possibly be as bad as what they did Back In The Day. Saying “people got raped back then!” is implicitly saying “and they don’t get raped today, because Progress.” It’s incredibly stupid and hypocritical. So don’t even start that shit with me.
  • Last, these are not real events magically happening outside anyone’s control. This is a television show written by 21st century people. They have repeatedly used rape as a clumsy plot device in the past. They continued to do so and twisted it this time to happen to a beloved major character purely for the self-admitted purpose of shock value. They planned it since season 2 and waited for Sophie Turner to come of age so they could shoot it legally. So acting like GoT is this pseudo “medieval world” where nobody had any control over the fact that Sansa was put in a position to be violated by Ramsay is again, laughably facetious. They manipulated the story, characters, and narrative to be sure that this happened. They made a writing choice. Hence we are going to criticize that writing choice. We have as much right to do that as they do to create it in the first place. It’s called consequences. “Free speech” does not mean you get to say whatever you want and no one can challenge or correct you. It means the government can’t put you in jail or otherwise legally harass you with the mechanisms of the state for it. Someone else using their free speech to call you a fucking idiot is perfectly legal.
  • In conclusion: No, the medieval era was not some beacon of rights and happiness for women. Terrible things could and did happen. But they excited just as much public outrage as they did today, and were oftentimes more harshly punished (at least if you were noble born, because CLASSISM! Take a shot). Every bit of development and progress we HAVE made was extremely hard won. But quit acting like it was just an inevitable, normal, and necessary fact of life in medieval times. Because you know nothing, Jon Snow.

Edith of Wessex - The Last Anglo-Saxon Queen

Born the third child and eldest daughter of the Anglo-Saxon Earl Godwin of Wessex and his Danish wife Gytha Thorkelsdóttir, Edith was a member of the most powerful noble family in England. She had six brothers, including the ill-fated King Harold Godwinson, and two younger sisters. Edith was afforded a good education at Wilton Abbey. She is known to have spoken several languages. It is unknown exactly when Edith was wed to King Edward the Confessor, but it is likely that she was in her early twenties. Edith appeared as a good match for the Anglo-Saxon king just emerging from years of disputes and succession wars with the Viking controlled east. Though her father was a thoroughly Ango Saxon earl, her mother was of Viking descent and was the sister of a brother-in-law of Cnut the Great, the late stepfather of King Edward. 

Edward the Confessor and Edith were married for at least fifteen years, yet the royal union produced no children. It has been popularly assumed that Edward was so deeply religious that he took a vow of chastity. There is also a theory claiming that Edward so loathed Edith’s family that he refused to consummate the marriage. Neither of these theories are plausible. In 1051 Edith’s family did indeed fall out of favor with King Edward and as a result Edith was forced into a nunnery. It is thought Edward was considering divorce due to their childlessness But by the next year the Godwins had retaliated and Edith was back at Edward’s side.

Queen Edith may be viewed as a silent and un-involved consort, but she was likely a driving force behind her husband and the creator of his image. She commissioned jewels and other adornments for Edward, which contributed to his kingly presentation. In The Vita Edwardi Edith is praised for her piety, but Edith appears to have been more fiercely political than quietly devoted. She was part of the innermost circle of Edward’s advisers and was determined, opinionated, perhaps even a little calloused. She involved herself in church matters and regional politics, at one point securing the earldom of Northumbria for her favorite brother Tostig, which later resulted in rebellion. 

Upon Edward the Confessor’s death Edith’s brother Harold was declared king. To the Anglo Saxon faction, Harold Godwinson was the rightful heir of King Edward. But across the Channel, Duke William of Normandy was asserting his right to the throne as Edward’s cousin. The dispute culminated in one of the most famous battles in history- the Battle of Hastings. King Harold was cut down by an arrow through his eye and William emerged as King William the Conqueror. Edith lost three more of her brothers at Hastings, with another imprisoned. Within hours she had become the senior member of the noble family of Wessex. 

 After the Norman conquest Edith lived relatively quietly. She paid tribute to King William and kept her estates and personal wealth.The Domesday Book records her as the wealthiest woman and fourth wealthiest individual in England in 1066. Edith occupied herself by studying the lives of saints and it has recently been theorized that she was the author of the famous Bayeux Tapestry. Queen Edith died at Winchester on 18 December 1075. King William was responsible for arranging her funeral and according to The Anglo Saxon Chronicle she was “ brought to Westminster with great honour and laid her near King Edward, her lord.”          

Queen Æthelswith’s Ring, C. 853-874 AD

The owner of this ring was Æthelswith, Queen of Mercia (855-89 AD), and sister of Alfred the Great. It was found at Aberford in West Yorkshire, England in 1870. The bezel is circular with a pearled border; it is ornamented with a medallion inscribed in a quatrefoil and containing the Agnus Dei between two letters; the leaves of the quatrefoil and the spaces between them are chased with foliage. Each shoulder has a semi-circular panel with a pearled border, containing an animal on a ground of niello. Inside the ring is engraved with an inscription: EA⃒ÐELSVIÐ⃒REGNA which translates to Queen Æthelswith. Little is known about Æthelswith, but according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle she married Burgred of Mercia in 853, lived abroad following his exile in 874 and died at Pavia in 888, while on a pilgrimage to Rome.

10 books that have stayed with me:

  • So Long, and Thanks For All the Fish - Douglas Adams (the entire H2G2 series, really, but this one in particular)
  • Queen of the Damned - Anne Rice
  • The Dark Tower series - Stephen King
  • The Saxon Chronicles  - Bernard Cornwell (particularly the Last Kingdom)
  • Ender’s Game - Orson Scott Card
  • Nineteen Eighty-Four - George Orwell
  • A Book of Five Rings - Miyamoto Musashi

Not pictured:

  • Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
  • Millennium People - J.G. Ballard
  • In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson - Bette Bao Lord
These men came from three tribes of Germany: from the Old Saxons, from the Angles, and from the Jutes … their commanders were two brothers, Hengest and Horsa, that were the sons of Wihtgils. Wihtgils was Witta’s offspring, Witta Wecta’s offspring, Wecta Woden’s offspring. From that Woden originated all our royal family …
—  Anglo-Saxon Chronicle

anonymous asked:

Do you think wolves will ever be wild in England again or will they only be able to be seen at places run by charities? sorry this doesn't make sense, i wasn't entirely sure how to phrase it. Thank you, I love your blog, it's incredible!

Though early writing from Roman and later Saxon chronicles indicate that wolves appear to have been extraordinarily numerous on the island, there are currently no wild wolves in England, nor in the rest of the UK. In 1500, the last wolf was killed in England. In 1770, Ireland’s last wolf was killed. They were exterminated from Britain through a combination of deforestation and active hunting through bounty systems. 

If wolves want to return to England on their own, they’d have to swim back there. The closest country where wild wolves reside from where they could swim to England from would be France. So yeah, that’s not going to happen.

Over the past few years there however have been several initiatives/ideas for reintroducing wolves in the UK, such as this plan for Scotland, so who knows! Another interesting article: [x]

Lesson 1 - The Viking Age and Our Sources

Starting today (25th of March, 2016), I will begin a series of posts regarding Viking History. I have noticed that I have failed to present Viking History in a more condensed and unified way, and so I hope these post will help solve that. I will do my best to post a lesson each Friday at 9 p.m. EST. (See my ‘about me’ section if you’d like to know my degree of credibility and background).

The Viking Age

The Viking Age lasted between 793-1066 CE. The definition of this period is a modern invention that historians have used to describe the heightened activities of the northmen during the Early Middle Ages. It was a very dynamic period in which the people of Scandinavia restlessly expanded their activities outward, quite to the surprise of the rest of Europe. Taking Europe by storm, the Vikings (whose origins I will further discuss next week) made a massive impact, both negative and positive. 

The Viking Age is no simple matter. It was a period of complicated interactions and new relations. Throughout the period, Christianity seeped its way into Scandinavia by means of native royal powers. Raids on monasteries define the traits of these people, yet there is far more to their story than this. They were mercenaries, merchants, innovators, and settlers. Their age altered the foundations of many nations as well as shook those of others. It is a very broad period of history and often requires a lot of background in various other European people to understand the events of this age.

Keep reading

Bernard Cornwell - Kings of the North - Chapter II
Richard Armitage
Bernard Cornwell - Kings of the North - Chapter II

At sea, sometimes, if you take a ship too far from land and the wind rises and the tide sucks with a venomous force and the waves splinter white above the shield-pegs, you have no choice but to go where the gods will. The sail must be furled before it rips and the long oars would pull to no effect and so you lash the blades and bail the ship and say your prayers and watch the darkening sky and listen to the wind howl and suffer the rain’s sting, and you hope that the tide and waves and wind will not drive you onto rocks.

Bernard Cornwell - Kings of the North, read by Richard Armitage

Nothing against Bernard Cornwell, but honestly, I would listen to the phone book if Richard Armitage read an audio version…

Lesson 20 - Viking Warfare.

Note: [If you have not done so already, check out last week’s lesson. Visit “Viking History” on my blog to view all of the lessons.]

Komiði sæl og blessuð, vinir,

Prepare yourself, for our ships are nearly ready to sail west. In this lesson, we will be briefly discussing the foundations for future raiding: warfare. How did they fight? How organized were they? What was the scale? What advantages did they have? It would be foolish to assume that these northmen just washed ashore and swung aimlessly. The Vikings did not always have the luxury of fighting helpless monks (poor souls). On that note, we must ask ourselves: Were the Vikings any more violent than their times already were? Were their methods much different? Allow me to quit stalling and get on with our discussion.

1. Early “Warfare”
2. Size and Numbers
2. Viking Advantages
3. Atrocities?


Viking “warfare” may not be exactly what you’d think, or what Hollywood would like you to think. It would actually be more appropriate to call their “warfare” small-scale raids instead, at least for the majority of the period. Vikings, of course, raided before the Viking Age, just not to such a scale (as in the amount of individual raids taking place). Not that “warfare” was unified, either. These endeavors were independently run and with relatively few men. It is not until the ninth century, when the Viking Age really kicks off, that we see an increase in their “forces.” By this time we have stronger kingships with more centralized authority. This is where we see what looks more like warfare than raids, with hundreds of ships at one persons disposal. Of course, the sources that we have quite likely exaggerate their numbers, but regardless, their numbers had increased as the Viking Age peaked and reached its end.


Anglo-Saxons sources, for example, use specific words when describing the Viking “troops.” They, as in the English, used the term here more frequently than the term ford. Here meant, according to Ine of Wessex’s law code, “an invading army or raiding party containing more than thirty-five men” [1]. Fyrd, on the other hand, was used more in reference to an organized, larger amy. The terms are loosely used at certain times in history, however, so this alone is not enough to judge the size of the Viking “troops.”

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle refers to “The Great Army,” but again, judging the size is difficult. Especially given the amount of movement and splitting that this army goes through. We will be discussing this “Great Army” with greater detail in future lessons.

As the tradition goes, medieval sources tend to give rounded, large numbers, so it is truly difficult to give exact size to these Viking forces. In the end, numbers increased as the Vikings became more “Westernized.” Eventually they began to adopt the same mannerisms of the Christian kingdoms there were raiding. Kingships rose in Scandinavia as they mirrored their more organized and fortunate (in terms of wealth) neighbors. The average size was probably in the hundreds, but by the 1000s there were perhaps some forces reaching more of an “army” size. This is mainly because leadership was actually becoming more concentrated.


Ship Technology:

Their ships were arguably the best ships in the West during this period. They could sails the open sea, but also sneak into shallow rivers. This enabled them to perform surprise attacks and easily resupply their campaigns.

Mobility and Logistics:

They could, with the help of their ships and landing flexibility, adapt very quickly to their terrain and situation. Not only could they strike fast, but they could react equally as quick.

Shrewd Choice of Targets:

Let’s be honest, no matter how morally wrong attacking Churches was at the time (and arguably still so today), it was genius. They were full of money and had no guards. Literally no one armed to protect this wealth. It was protected only by a cultural understanding of which the Vikings were not a part of. Furthermore, the Vikings were very good at exploiting internal politics. As we will see in Franica next week, the Vikings tore them up, playing on the tension between kings after the death of Charlemagne. Also, let’s not leave out ransom. They made a ton of money off of ransoming. Truly, the Vikings obtained maximum payoff with the most minimum of risks.

Good Timing:

Not only did they know where the money would be easiest, but they knew when it would be even less defended or full of wealth. The Vikings, at times, would attack these churches during feast days, when people gather. This also allowed them to single out the wealthy.


The first Viking raid, that of Lindisfarne, was likely a lot less random than certain media has made it seem. There is good reason to believe (based on the timing of the raid, seasonally) that they were actually already there during the winter. They often took over well-stocked sites in advance early in the winter. They then stayed over the winter, extending their stay. This allowed reconnaissance and familiarity with the terrain.


Were the Vikings brutal? Of course, but were they more brutal than anyone else at the time? Probably not. They had no respect for churches, but were they really expected to? They were historically confined to the conditions and expectations of a culture they were not yet fully a part of. They were horribly portrayed by the surviving sources because the sources we have were the people getting raided. Of course they would make the Vikings seem like God’s punishment against humanity. These sources likely expressed this devastation with literary enrichment. They have plenty of good reason to think so badly of these Vikings, but we cannot simply forgo our realization that this is but one perception.

Of course, we cannot fully excuse the Vikings, for they did terrible things. Yet, “bad” is generally a perspective. From their point of view, it was honorable and justified. “You can’t protect it? Well then you shouldn’t have it!” VS. “This is a holy sanctuary, what are you doing? This is barbaric!”

Let’s not forget, either, that raiding and plunder was not an entirely new thing. A lot of people, Christian and pagan alike, plundered churches for various reasons [2]. Although a bit later, think about the Crusades, the massacring of Jews, Muslims, and even Eastern Christians is nothing that can be ignored. No one is free from fault - no religion nor any group of people. The Vikings are no exception. They have fault, but should not be fully demonized either. Every human being has a dark side, but also a light side.

To put this simply: History is far too complicated to brand one “people” as solely good or bad at any given time. Doing so is unwise and irresponsible. This is still being debated, but before making assumptions, or picking a side, understand the complexity. For once you obtain that insight, you realize that “picking a side” is honestly just another way of simplifying the complexity of a problem. It does little good, for both ends are good yet bad.


Before we move into the raiding segment of this “course,” keep all of these things in mind. Viking “warfare” starts off rather small, but grows as the Vikings become more like kings, gaining more fame, wealth, and authority. This growth would have been reflected in their attire and weapons, of course. Their actions were not random. They knew very well what targets were best and when to hit them. They were not fools, nor random, violent-seeking brutes. The Vikings committed “terrible” acts, but they were not demonic savages either.

This lesson ends the first half of this “course.” I hope you have all been pleased so far with how things have progressed. We will be moving into less culture and more raids, people, and events beginning next week.

Skál og ferð vel.

Next Week’s Lesson: Lesson 21 - Vikings Raids: Francia.


[Gen.] Jennifer Dukes-Knight, “Crafts, Art, and Weaponry,” Lecture, Viking History, University of South Florida, 2015.

[1] I was not able to find sources to give backing to this, but I also did not spend hours trying to do so. It was information provided to me in my class (cited above). My professor is a credible source, so I am not too concerned. Of course, if anyone really needs it, I can do the research.

[2] I actually know of a few Irish examples of this (Feidlimid, to name one), if anyone is curious about it. I did not want to lengthen the lesson by diving into this topic, but I would happily provide more upon request.

The Forest of Anderida during the Roman Occupation of Britain, SE England

From the wiki article on The Weald

While most of the Weald was used for transhumance by communities at the edge of the Weald, several parts of the forest on the higher ridges in the interior seem to have been used for hunting by the kings of Sussex.

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle relates events during the Anglo-Saxon conquest of Sussex when the native Britons (whom the Anglo-Saxons called Welsh) were driven from the coastal towns into the recesses of the forest for sanctuary, viz;

“A.D. 477. This year came Ælle to Britain, with his three sons, Cymen, and Wlenking, and Cissa, in three ships; landing at a place that is called Cymenshore. There they slew many of the Welsh; and some in flight they drove into the wood that is called Andred’sley.”