The Battle of Hastings took place 950 years ago today. For a full view of the Bayeux Tapestry look here. For the 1966 Royal Mail commemorative stamps, ranging in denomination from 4d to 1/3, see here. Watch Time Team search for the battlefield here.
6505 (997). When Vladimir went to Novgorod after upland troops with which to fight the Pechenegs (for there was desperate and constant conflict with them), the latter, on perceiving that for the moment there was no prince at hand, came and beset Belgorod. They allowed no sally from the city, and great famine prevailed. Vladimir could not bring succor, for he had no troops with him, and the number of the Pechenegs was great. The seige was thus prolonged, and the famine grew increasingly severe. The inhabitants thus held a council in the city, and said among themselves, "We are about to die from hunger, and no aid is to be expected from the Prince. Is it not better to die? Let us surrender to the Pechenegs, and let them spare some, though they kill others. We are perishing of famine as it is." Thus they came to a decision. But one old man was not present at the council, and inquired what it was about. The people told him that on the morrow they would surrender to the Pechenegs. Upon hearing this decision, he summoned the city-elders, and remarked that he understood they intended to surrender to the nomads. They replied that the people would not endure famine. Then the ancient said, "Listen to me: do not surrender for three days, and do as I tell you." They gladly promised to obey, and he directed them to collect a measure of oats, wheat, or bran apiece. They gladly went in search of these supplies. Then he bade the women prepare the liquid with which they brew porridge, and ordered them to dig a pit. In this pit he bade them place a tub, and to pour the liquid into the tub. Then he ordered them to dig a second pit, and place a tub in the latter likewise. He next commanded them to bring honey, so they fetched a basket of honey that was stored in the prince's storehouse. He then bade them dilute it greatly, and to pour it into the tub in the other pit.
Upon the morrow, he directed them to send messengers to the Pechenegs. The citizens went forth to the Pechenegs, and offered them hostages, so that ten of the nomads should come into the city to see what was happening in their town. The Pechenegs rejoiced, thinking that they wished to surrender. They therefore accepted the hostages, and selected the chief men of their own party, whom they sent into the city to look over the town and learn what was occuring. The Pecheneg representatives entered the town, and the inhabitants said to them, "Why do you waste your strength? You cannot overcome us if you besiege us for ten years. We secure our sustenance from the earth. If you do not believe it, behold it with your own eyes." They thus conducted the Pecheneg envoys to the pit where the brew was, then drew some up in a pail and poured it into pots. After they had brewed porridge, they conducted the Pechenegs to the other pit. They hauled up the buckets and after eating from them themselves, offered them to the Pechenegs. The latter were astonished, and exclaimed, "Our princes will not believe this marvel, unless they eat of the food themselves." So they poured out a bowl of brew and buckets of mead from the pits, and gave them to the Pechenegs, who returned to their camp and recounted all that had happened. After brewing the porridge, the Pecheneg princes ate it, and were amazed, and upon recovering their own hostages and returning those given by the city, they raised the siege and returned home.
Cross and Sherbowitz-Wetzor (translators), The Russian Primary Chronicle: Laurentian Text, pages 122-123.
Today marks the 530th anniversary of the death of King Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field. The unearthing and reinterment of Richard's bones captured a lot of attention between 2013 and this year, giving some future novelist a unique prism through which to view the England of this decade. While it's still around you should go look at Alexandra Buckle's blog How to Rebury a King, which begins and ends in March 2015 and makes about a half-hour's read. She documents the rediscovery not so much of Richard as of 15th-century practices of reburial.
It was Ljot's usual habit to get up early to see to his work and cattle. Gudmund and his men waited in the woods on a tongue of land between two glens. They saw a man leave the farmhouse wearing a dark cape and holding a battle-ax in his hand. He went to the sheep pen and drove out the sheep. Then Gudmund told his men to run up and grab him, but not to use weapons on him.
Ljot saw them, turned around, and ran towards the glen with the battle-ax in his hand. He leaped into the glen, and since there was ice underfoot, he slid all the way down. He wasn't hurt.
Gudmund said, "There he goes!" and threw a spear after him, but it only hit his battle-ax. Ljot picked up the spear and went home. Gudmund went back to the woods and said, "Ljot is skillful, and such men fare well. He's not a troublemaker, but a brave man and shrewd. He took the only way out and he must have known before that he could escape that way. We'll wait now and see what he means to do. We'll not turn away even though staying here is rash indeed."
When Ljot came home he kept the spear -- it was inlaid with gold. Later his men asked where it had come from. Ljot answered, "Gudmund the Mighty sent it to me." They asked who brought it, and Ljot said Gudmund trusted no one in this matter, adding, "He sent it himself."
W. Bryant Bachman, Jr., Four Old Icelandic Sagas and Other Tales,"The Saga of Valla Ljot", pages 62-3.
If Alfred the Great was indeed the first King of England, and not William the Conqueror, then three Edwards have been left out of the head count. Plus one of the Edwards reigned twice. The list should go:
Edward I (899-924) "Edward the Elder"
Edward II (975-978) "Edward the Martyr"
Edward III (1042-1066) "Edward the Confessor"
Edward IV (1272-1307) "Edward the First"
Edward V (1307-1327) "Edward the Second"
Edward VI (1327-1377) "Edward the Third"
Edward VII and VIII (1461-1470 and 1471-1483) "Edward the Fourth"
Gabriel reminds the three wise men to get on their bikes in a carving in Autun Cathedral.
Then King Karlamagnus called for Turpin, his chaplain, and gave him the seat of the archbishopric of Reins; and to Rikard, his scribe, he gave the bishopric of Miliens. The pope consecrated them both, and then they all took their leave and went home.
King Karlamagnus went to Eiss, and there he found Gilem, his sister. He led her into his sleeping hall, and slept next to her, so that he felt love for her, and they lay together. Afterwards he went to church, and confessed to Egidius all his sins except this one; Egidius blessed him and went to Mass.
And as he sang low Mass, Gabriel, God's angel, came, and laid a letter on the paten. On it was written that King Karlamagnus had not confessed all his sins: "He has lain with his sister, and she shall give birth to a son who shall be named Rollant. And he shall give her in marriage to Milon of Angler; she shall be delivered seven months after they shared a bed; and he shall know that he is both his son and his nephew, and he should see that the boy is well looked after, for he has need of him."
Egidius took the letter from the paten and at once he went, in his vestments, to King Karlamagnus and read it before him. He confessed, and fell before his feet begging forgiveness, promising that he would never again commit that sin. He was shriven, and did all that the letter had ordered: he gave his sister to Milon, and made him duke of Brettania. The boy was born seven months later.
Karlamagnús saga, volume 1, pages 117-18. Translation by Constance B. Hieatt.
Inside, the old man was carrying his incense to the altar and going around the altar with his censer, worshipping the Powerful One. He was performing his duty, the divine service, enthusiastically and with a clear mind (the way one should gladly follow one's lord), when feelings of fear came over him, and he became frightened at the altar. He saw, behind the altar, an angel of God inside the shrine. The angel spoke to him in words and told the old man not to be afraid or frightened of him. "Your deeds are precious to the Ruler," he said, "as well as your word. He is grateful for your service to Him and grateful that you think so much of His power alone. I am His angel. My name is Gabriel, I always stand before God, I am always in the presence of the All-Ruler, except when He wishes to send me off on His affairs. Now He has sent me on this journey and told me to let you know that a child will be born to you -- from your elderly wife a child will be granted to you in this world -- and he will be wise in words. Never in his lifetime will he drink hard cider or wine in this world: this is the way the workings of fate made him, time formed him, and the power of God as well. God said that I should say to you that your child will be a warrior-companion of the King of Heaven. He said that you and your wife should care for him well and bring him up on loyalty, and that He would grant him many honors in God's kingdom. God said that this good man was to have the name John and He commanded that you call the child by that name when he comes. He said moreover that the child would become a warrior-companion of Christ, His own Son, in this world, and that both of them would be coming very soon on His mission."
The Heliand, pages 7-8. Translation by G. Ronald Murphy, S.J.