Monday, 16 March 2015

Dark Days in York

The historic walled city of York is said to have been founded by the Romans as Eboracum in 71 AD, at the confluence of the rivers Ouse and Foss in North Yorkshire, England. At its prime it was the largest town in northern Britain and capital of the Roman province of Britannia Inferior.

In 208 the Roman Emperor Septimius Severus travelled to Britain, strengthening Hadrian's Wall and reoccupying the Antonine Wall during a campaign in Caledonia (modern Scotland). Following a short illness Severus died at Eboracum in 211, his body cremated outside the city walls. In 306 Constantius I became the second Emperor to die at Eboracum. His son Constantine I (Constantine the Great) was instantly proclaimed as successor by the troops based in the fortress. His bronze statue stands outside York Minster.

Constantine I
The traditional view is that the name "Eboracum" is based on a Latinisation of the native British name “Eburos” for the ancient site, "place of the yew trees”. The name was later revived as the Anglo-Saxon trading port of Eoforwic, from the Old English “eofor,” for boar, and “wic” for settlement. The usual explanation given is that the Anglo-Saxons confused the Brythonic word “ebor”, yew tree, with their own word “eofor”.

The city became the capital of the northern ecclesiastical province of the Church of England, a role it has retained with the present building of the Gothic cathedral of York Minster, the second largest in Northern Europe, dominating the city skyline, begun c.1230 and completed in 1472. The first church recorded on the site was a much more modest affair; a wooden structure was built in 627 to provide a place for the baptism of Edwin, King of Deira.

In 866 Eoforwic was captured by Ivar the Boneless, leading a large army of Danish Vikings, known as the "Great Heathen Army" to the Anglo-Saxon chroniclers, and renamed the city 'Jórvík.' Excavations at Coppergate in central York by the York Archaeological Trust revealed that during the 10th century, Jórvík's trading connections reached as far as the Byzantine Empire in the Eastern Mediterranean. The site of the excavations is now the Jorvik Viking Centre. Eric Bloodaxe, last ruler of an independent Jórvík, was finally driven from the city in 954 by Eadred, King of Wessex, in his campaign to unify England. Eric was killed and Eadred took control of the kingdom of York.

Whether Eboracum, Eoforwic, or Jórvík, call it what you will, a visit to York with its rich heritage never fails to stimulate the senses, walking the city walls being one the best ways to take in views of this rich historical tapestry.

York - city wall and Minster (Source: http://www.jorvik.co.uk)
The city walls have been convincingly described as the best in Britain, with most of the medieval walls built to encircle the city 700 years ago still intact. The tops of the walls were restored about 150 years ago to provide a public walkway, the route marked with small brass pavement studs on the ground showing a tower with battlements, providing what is claimed to be the best city walk in the country. Who could argue with that? But this city has a dark, dismal secret.

The Romans surrounded their fort with walls but little evidence of these remain today; the current walls are largely of Medieval construction, strengthened in the 1640s for the English Civil War. There are four main Medieval gateways, or bars, into the city: Bootham Bar; Monk Bar; Walmgate Bar; Micklegate Bar. The Minster sits toward the north corner, between Bootham Bar and Monk Bar. In the south corner between Walmgate Bar and Micklegate Bar are the Lesser Gateways: Fishergate Bar, Fishergate Postern and Victoria Bar. 

Just past the Guildhall some steps lead up to the Walls at Monk Bar. Outside the Walls  here is Sainbury's multi-storey car park, built on the site of York’s medieval Jewish cemetery. The area is still called Jewbury but it was long forgotten and fell in to disuse when all Jews were expelled from England in 1290 and not re-discovered until construction work began on the supermarket.

Situated between the Rivers Foss and Ouse, beyond the city walls and Fishergate Postern Tower, is Clifford Tower on the top of a steep man-made mound with extensive views across the modern city. The Foss was dammed at Fishergate Postern Tower, where the road now crosses the river. The purpose of the dam was to flood York's castle’s moats, now filled in, Clifford’s Tower, or the King's Tower as it was then known, the castle keep, being the only significant remnant of old York Castle. A stone plaque at the bottom of the steps recalls a disturbing event over 800 years ago on the hill where Clifford’s Tower now stands.

Clifford's Tower
The mound was constructed by William the Conqueror in 1068 after meeting resistant in the north. This was promptly besieged and the wooden defences were destroyed within a year.  Undeterred, in March of that year, William built another castle (Baile Hill), positioning each castle on either side of the river Ouse. Clifford's Tower on the Eastern side of the river and Baile Hill on the Western side with the foundations of York Minster laid in 1070.

There is no record of Jews in England before the Norman Conquest, however, it is known that William the Conqueror brought a Jewish contingent from Rouen, in Normandy, to Britain in 1070 for the prosperity their commercial skills and incoming capital would bring to England. However, they were not permitted to own land or to participate in trades, being limited to money lending. During the 12th century Jews from Paris and elsewhere in France were settled at York making worthy contributions to the Exchequer.

Fuelled by Christian enthusiasm for the Crusades anti-Semitic feeling was running high throughout Western Europe in the 12th century, with aggression directed against Jews not just in England, but also France and Germany. Pope Gregory VIII had called Christians to arms for the Third Crusade to put Jerusalem under Christian control once more after the Crusader army was slaughtered by Saladin at the Battle of Hattin in 1187. A rumour started that the new crusader-king no longer wanted to protect the non-Christian Jews of England, some even claimed there was no need to go abroad to find enemies of Christianity to kill. Yet the fate of Europe’s Jewish communities is often omitted from accounts of the Crusades.

England’s newly crowned monarch Richard I, 'The Lionheart', had “taken up the cross” and was eager to join the crusade. Rioting had spread throughout England since prominent Jews had been denied entry to Richard's coronation in 1189. One of these was Benedict of York, the wealthiest Jew in the City who was mortally wounded in the rioting at Westminster.

After rioting had engulfed the towns of Norwich, Stamford and Lincoln they began in York on 16th March 1190 with a mob attempting to burn down Benedict’s palatial house. The Jews were officially protected by the king as his feudal vassals but the entire Jewish community of York, 150 people, sought protection in the royal castle, barricading themselves into the wooden keep, where Clifford’s Tower now stands, in fear of the mob.

The royal constable was locked out of the keep and refused entry. Calling on a group of knights, he ordered the castle keep to be taken by force. The mob were encouraged by members of the local gentry who saw this as an opportunity to erase the debts they owed to the Jewish money-lenders in York. It is claimed that most of the Jews chose to commit suicide in the keep rather than fall to the hands of the mob. It is claimed that after killing their wives and children they set fire to the wooden keep and killed themselves. However, a few declined suicide only to perish in the fire, or be murdered by the mob. After the massacre the gentry proceeded to the Minster to destroy records of their loans, so absolving themselves from repayment to the king, who would acquire the property and debts owed to the murdered Jews.

The events at York were recorded in the Chronicles of the Abbey of Meaux in East Yorkshire, and Roger of Howden. The chronicler William of Newburgh described the mob who murdered the Jewish community of York as acting “without any scruple of Christian conscientiousness”.

Soon afterwards a royal inquest was held which resulted in the city receiving a heavy fine, but no individuals were ever held responsible for the loss of life at York that night. It is thought that some of them were already travelling through France to join the Crusades.

The events at York have been compared to the Siege of Masada, one of the final events in the First Jewish–Roman War, in which, according to the 1st century historian Josephus, a long siege by troops of the Roman Empire ended in the mass suicide of the 960 Sicarii rebels and their families hiding on a large hilltop in current-day Israel, in 74 AD.

Josephus  reported that when the Romans entered the fortress at the end of the siege they found it to be "a citadel of death." The Jewish rebels had set all the buildings but the food storerooms ablaze and had committed mass suicide. Masada has become a controversial event in Jewish history, with some regarding it as a place of reverence. The Jews of York were probably aware of Masada and may have seen a similar fate for themselves.

Judaism prohibits suicide, therefore it is argued that the Jews must have killed each other in turn. However, there is no archaeological evidence that Masada's defenders committed mass suicide. And what evidence is there for a mass suicide at York?

The cemetery at Jewbury is estimated to contain around a 1,000 graves, it must have been one of the largest Jewish cemeteries in the country. The archaeologists discovered about 500 medieval graves during the construction of Sainbury's multi-storey carpark in the 1980s. However, none of the excavated graves at Jewbury showed any signs of violence, except one, it therefore seems unlikely that these were the bodies of the Jews massacred in Clifford's Tower in 1190. What became of their fate? At Norwich seventeen skeletons found in a well were identified as Jews murdered during this period

No physical memory was left in the city of the murders, but archaeological excavations have revealed the burnt remnants of the original wooden structure beneath the tower. For years it was believed a cherem had been placed on York, prohibiting the resettling of the city by Jews following the mass-murder in 1190.

Memorial plaque at Clifford's Tower
In efforts toward reconciliation it has been argued that Jews continued to live at York and built houses after the massacre at Clifford Tower up to the expulsion in 1290 under Edward I and there is no evidence of a cherem at York in any known Rabbinical text.

Today, at the foot of Clifford’s Tower, a plaque marks this dark day in York’s history. Further to the memorial plaque, in 1990, exactly eight-hundred years after the massacre, the slopes of Clifford's Tower were planted with daffodils with six pointed petals representative of the Star of David, which flower in March when the 150 souls were lost.

Next time you are in York admiring the fine medieval walls and the rich history of the city bear a thought for that dark day in March 1190.


Copyright © 2015 Edward Watson
http://clasmerdin.blogspot.co.uk/

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Saturday, 7 March 2015

The Tudors: Divorce and Dissolution

On this day 7th March in 1530 King Henry VIII's divorce request against Catherine of Aragon was denied by the Pope triggering a remarkable series of events that will finally conclude later this month.

The Battle for the Roses
On 22nd August 1485, Henry Tudor became King Henry VII of England upon defeating Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field, the last significant battle of the Wars of the Roses, effectively bringing to an end the civil war between the Houses of Lancaster and York.

Marching through Wales on his way to Bosworth Field Henry flew the ancient battle standard of Cadwaladr ap Cadwallon, 7th century king of Gwynedd, the Red Dragon (Y Ddraig Goch), claiming direct descent from the noble families of Wales. The Red Dragon is indeed ancient and can be traced to the Arthurian Legend when Merlin prophesied of a battle between a red and a white dragon, the red dragon being the Britons and the white dragon representing the invading Saxons.

Henry carried the Red Dragon through London in his victory parade with the flag carried to St. Paul's Cathedral to be blessed. The arms of Cadwaladr were also prominent at his coronation. With the victory Henry became the first Tudor Monarch of England, his opponent Richard III was killed in the battle and the last king of the House of York. After the Battle of Bosworth Field, Henry Tudor added his family colours, green and white, representing the Tudor House, to his Red Dragon flag, today the National flag of Wales.

In the aftermath of the battle Richard's crown was found and presented to Henry who was crowned king at the top of Crown Hill, near the village of Stoke Golding. Richard's body was stripped naked and bound over a horse and taken to Leicester where it was exhibited in a church. After two days, Richard's corpse was interred in a plain unmarked tomb within the church of the Greyfriars Friary Church.

Arthur Prince of Wales
In an effort to strengthen the Tudor claim to the throne and emphasise his family's Welsh ancestry, Henry had royal genealogists trace his lineage back to the ancient British rulers and decided on naming his firstborn son after the legendary King Arthur. Subsequently, Winchester was identified as Camelot where his wife, Elizabeth of York, was compelled to give birth to his heir.

Born at Saint Swithun's Priory (today Winchester Cathedral Priory) on 20th September 1486 Arthur was Henry and Elizabeth's eldest child with the young Prince viewed as "a living symbol" of not only the union between the House of Tudor and the House of York, but also of the end of the Wars of the Roses; he was the great hope of the newly established House of Tudor.

Before Arthur was two years old he was betrothed to the Spanish princess Catherine of Aragon, the youngest surviving child of Ferdinand and Isabella, rulers of Spain. Arthur and Catherine married on 14th November 1501 in Old St. Paul's Cathedral. After the wedding and celebrations, the young couple moved to Ludlow Castle on the Welsh border but less than six months later on 2nd April 1502 Arthur was dead, victim of an unknown ailment.

Fourteen months after Arthur's death Catherine, Princess of Wales, was betrothed to his younger brother, the future Henry VIII, who was too young to marry at the time. Canon law forbade men to marry their brother's widow but Catherine testified that her marriage to Arthur was never consummated, therefore the marriage was deemed not valid and received dispensation from the Pope. Following King Henry VII's death in April 1509, the young King's first priority was to marry Catherine in June of the same year.

Supremacy & Suppression
Frustrated by his lack of a male heir after 24 years of marriage, King Henry VIII lost interest in Catherine and became fascinated with Anne Boleyn, the Queen's lady-in-waiting. The King began to petition the Pope for an annulment claiming that the marriage was cursed as it went against the biblical teaching that a man should never marry his brother's widow. But on the 7th March in 1530 the King's request for a divorce was rejected by the Pope.

The political and legal debate continued for six years with Catherine seeking not only to retain her position as the King's true and legitimate wife but also that of her daughter Mary, insisting that she and Arthur, her first husband and Henry's brother, did not consummate their marriage and therefore were not truly husband and wife.

By 1533 Anne Boleyn was pregnant forcing Henry to act; his solution was to reject the power of the Pope in England and instruct the Archbishop of Canterbury to grant the annulment. The subsequent divorce led to the Reformation in England and schism with Rome with Henry then declaring that he, not the Pope, was supreme head of England's church through the Act of Supremacy, passed by Parliament in 1534.

In 1536 Henry began the legal process in which the monasteries, priories, convents and friaries in England, Wales and Ireland, would be disbanded through the First Act of Suppression (1536) and the Second Act of Suppression (1539). During this period around 800 religious houses were either demolished or disbanded.

One such was Greyfriars Friary Church, Leicester, the last known location of the body of Richard III. With the demolition of the church and the site levelled following its dissolution in 1538 Richard's tomb appeared to be lost forever.

The Return of the King
The search for Richard's body began in August 2012. The archaeological excavation was led by the University of Leicester Archaeological Services and Leicester City Council with the Richard III Society.

By comparing historical maps the search located the foundations of the Friary Church where Richard's body had been hastily buried in 1485, located beneath a modern-day city centre car park. On the first day of the dig a human skeleton belonging to a man in his thirties was uncovered. The remains showed signs of severe injuries and had several unusual physical features, most notably a severe curvature of the back. DNA analysis has matched the remains to descendants of Richard's sister Anne of York concluding beyond reasonable doubt that the skeleton was that of Richard III.

Richard's remains will be re-interred in Leicester Cathedral on 26 March 2015.



Copyright © 2015 Edward Watson
http://clasmerdin.blogspot.co.uk/


Pictures: Wikimedia commons



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Sunday, 1 March 2015

Brân - Celtic god of Hades

Brân fab Llyr/Bendigeidfran is the central character of the Second Brânch of the Mabinogi, which traditionally bears the name of his sister, Brânwen ferch Llyr. Brân Bendigeid, “Blessed Raven” is a Celtic sea-deity, the son of Llyr, associated with the early Celtic cult of the head and and possibly with the Morrigan, the goddess of battle, strife, and sovereignty who also appears in the form of a crow. The Morrigan can appear as both a single goddess and as a trio of deities with Badb (Crow), and either Macha (also Crow) or Nemain (Frenzy). There is ample evidence that the concept of a raven goddess of battle was not limited to the Irish Celts.

In the Mabinogi
In the distant mythological past, Brân is a giant and king of Britain. His sister Brânwen is betrothed to Matholwch, king of Ireland. Matholwch is insulted when his horses are mutilated so Brân presents a gift of a magic cauldron to the Irish king. Matholwch takes Brânwen back to Ireland with him. When Brân hears Brânwen is being mistreated by her husband’s people he musters the hosts of Britain for an expedition to Ireland. He leaves his son Caradawg as officer in charge of the Island of the Mighty while he embarks to Ireland.

In the bloody war that ensues, Irish warriors are revived by being thrown into the peir dadeni (cauldron of rebirth) resurrected but without the power of speech. Ultimately Brân succeeds in rescuing Brânwen but in the midst of the fighting, there is an obscure traditional utterance in which Brân is called 'Morddwyd Tyllion' this is clear reference to his fatal wound (pierced thighs). The fighting ends when the Irish and the army of the Island of the Mighty have all but annihilated each other; only seven of Brân's party survive and return to Harlech. He tells his followers how to deal with the situation by decapitating him:

‘And take the head,’ he said, ‘and bring it as far as the
White Mound (Gwynfryn) in London, and bury it
with its face towards France. And you will be a long
while on the way. In Harlech you will be seven years
engaged in feasting, with the birds of Rhiannon
singing above.’

The following 87-year Otherworldly feast is referred to in the tale by the peculiar traditional name 'yspydawt urdawl benn' (hospitality of the noble head), during which Brân’s head remains alive, uncorrupted, and as good a companion as ever. The Otherworld feast comes to an end when one of Brân’s retinue opens the door facing south, towards Cernyw (Cornwall) and Aber Henfelen. They must now end their sojourn in the Otherworld, take the head  and bury it at the White Mound. The Third Brânch (the Mabinogi of Manawydan), opens with Brân’s head interred as a talisman preventing the incursion of foreign oppression.

It is evident from the Mabinogi account that Brân is a supernatural figure; his head has the ability to live on after its decapitation; it talks, sings and can prophesy to its companions in an Otherworldy feast that lasts 87 years.

In the Book of Taliesin
In the Second Brânch tale, Taliesin is named as one of the seven who returned from Ireland with Brân’s head. Among the mythological poetry in Llyfr Taliesin, in the poem Song Before the Sons of Llyr, there are allusions to two episodes in Brân’s story which interestingly use the same words as the Mabinogi tale:

A battle at the feast over joyless beverage,
A battle against the sons of Llyr in Ebyr Henfelyn. 

I have been with Brân in Ireland.
I saw when Morddwydtyllon was killed 

Complete is my chair in Caer Siddi,
No one will be afflicted with disease or old age that may be in it.
Manawyddan and Pryderi know it  

The narrator, Taliesin, was one of the seven survivors named along with Manawyddan, Pryderi, and four others in the Mabinogi of Brânwen. Clearly, the poem and the tale of Brânwen are closely related texts, referring to the same event, confirming the old and traditional status of elements of the Mabinogi text.

In the Welsh Triads 
The burial of Brân’s head is recorded in the Triads of the Island of Britain (Trioedd Ynys Prydein) as one of the Three fortunate concealments of the Island of Britain. The following translation is based on the Red Book version (Llyfr Coch Hergest):

The head of Bendigeidfran son of Llyr, which was
concealed in the White Hill in London, with its
face towards France; and so long as it remained as it
was laid there, no Saxon oppression (gormes) would
ever come to this island. 

Brân's severed head is also described as one of Three Unfortunate Disclosures because Arthur declared that he needed no talisman to protect his own country and dug up the head. However, we are not told what he did with it.

In Ancient Greek History
Brân's story is well known in traditional accounts, as we have seen, featuring in the Mabinogi, The Book of Taliesin and the Triads of the Island of Britain. John Koch has equated Brân's story with the famous historical Gaulish chieftain Brennos (Brennius), together with Akichorios, who led a Celtic offensive in the Balkans and attacked Macedonia and Greece in the 3rd century BC.

At the beginning of 279 BC the Gaulish chieftain Bolgios’s army annihilated the detachment of the Macedonian ruler Ptolemy Keraunos, opening the way into Greece for Brennos to follow with a force comprising 152,000 infantry and 20,000 cavalry. Brennos continued south. By the autumn of 279 BC he had reached and passed the strategic pass at Thermopylae. Brennos then attacked Delphi with 65,000 men. It seems the winter forced the Gauls to retreat; a miraculous snowstorm sent by Apollo saved the Delphic sanctuary from the onslaught of the Gauls. Brennos, gravely wounded, retreated to the north, where he rejoined Akichorios’s forces but, unable to stand the pain of his wounds, he took his own life by stabbing himself.

The episode of Brennos’s death has been compared with the voluntary beheading of the wounded Brân after the great invasion of Ireland in the Mabinogi; Diodorus Siculus (22.9) has the wounded Brennos command his surviving followers to kill him.

Some of the treasure taken from Delphi by Brennos’s Gauls was deposited, as an offering to their god, in the sacred pools of the Volcae Tectosages at Tolosa (Toulouse) in south-west Gaul. The treasure was then raised out of the ritual pools by the Roman general Caepio when the area was conquered in 106 BC, and considered comparable with the talismanic deposition of Brân’s severed head which protected Britain from foreign conquest.

In Medieval Welsh Legendary History
In Brut y Brenhinedd, the Welsh versions of the Historia Regum Britanniae of Geoffrey of
Monmouth, the legendary prehistoric British king called Hely by Geoffrey appears as Beli, and the
conquerors of Rome whom Geoffrey called Brennius and Belinus have the Welsh names Brân and Beli. However, Beli may derive from the Old Celtic name, which is attested as both Bolgios and Belgius, and was borne by the chieftain who led the Gauls’ invasion of Macedonia in 280–279 BC.

Another Brennos (of the Senones) was a Gaulish leader who marched at the head of assembled Celtic warbands c. 390 BC, that routed the Roman army eleven miles from Rome. The recurrence of the name Brennus raises the suggestion that it was a title rather than a proper name. However, the Welsh name Brân could be related to Gaulish Brennos, but is not its exact equivalent. Geoffrey probably saw the name 'Brennius' as a Latinisation of 'Brân' and muddled the two accounts.

The Raven
The story of Brân in the Mabinogi is well known for the 'talking head' episode when, after being fatally wounded, Brân orders his retinue to severe his head and take it with them. The head continues to talk and remains uncorrupted until one of the party break a taboo and open a window to the south. The head is then buried at Bryn-Gwyn, the White Mound, said to be the site of the Tower of London, however, the Tower's association with the raven is a late tradition. Nearby Tower Hill, described as the“blood-stained ground to the north-west of the Tower,” maybe a better candidate where there is archaeological evidence of a Bronze Age settlement and, later, the site of many public executions. According to Geoffrey the 'White Mound' is the burial place of Brutus.

There seems to have been a cult of the head at the site of St Paul's with numerous animal skulls found there when the building of the present cathedral began in 1675 AD, architect Sir Christopher Wren, discovered remains of a pagan Stag Goddess temple in the foundations of the previous Cathedral which had been destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666. This was possibly the site of the pagan temple at Ludgate Hill, reputedly destroyed by the Saxons in 597.

Koch suggests that the Roman Saxon Shore fort of Brâncaster in Norfolk, may have been the site of the original interment of Brân's head. Recorded in the Notitia Dignatatum under the Romano-British name as “Brânodunum” meaning the 'fort of Brân'. It seems more than coincidence that a fort of the litus Saxonicus should be named after a supernatural protector defending the land from foreign oppression (gormes) as reflected in the Triads; the White Mound in London would hardly be in the first line of defence against overseas invaders.`

Anne Ross informs us that birds and heads are associated with each other concerning the Irish war raven goddesses. In O'Mulconry's Glossary, from the Yellow Book of Lecan, the name of the goddess Macha is described as “a crow, or it is one of the three Morrigana. Mesrad Machae, Machae's Mast, that is the heads of men after their slaughter.” Ross adds that the heads of the dead would thus appear to be this bird-goddesses' due, i.e. the dead were more than just food for crows; the spirits of the fallen belonged to the Morrigana.

Koch has drawn attention to a similar reference in Y Goddodin. Crows and ravens feature heavily in Welsh poetry depictions of battlefields. This is typically seen as the act of consuming carrion but can equally imply the presence of a deity collecting souls of the fallen. Koch translates the following stanza (A.24) of Y Gododdin as:

The hero with the protective shield under its polychrome boss,
(with movement like a colt),
was tumult on slaughter's high ground, was fire,
His spears were readied, they were [like] the sun,
He was food for ravens, he was spoils for Brân.

The final line of this stanza makes it quite clear that the dead were not just food for carrion birds but the property of Brân; he was the Celtic god of Hades.

Koch adds that in pre-Christian times, Brennos functioned as the Brittonic god of death, comparable to the Irish Donn and the Dis Pater of the Gauls as reported by Julius Caesar. This supernatural role fits perfectly with Brân's living decapitation and the 87 year Otherworld feast of the noble head.

Significantly, in the Mabinogi of Brânwen the gathering in Ireland is referred to as Gwledd Brân, (The feast of Brân): there is strong argument for presenting Brân as a Celtic psychopomp, guiding the souls of the dead heroes of the battlefield to the glorious afterlife.


Copyright © 2015 Edward Watson
http://clasmerdin.blogspot.co.uk/


Sources:
Anne Ross, Celtic Pagan Britain, Academy Chicago, 1996.
Rachel Bromwich, Trioedd Ynys Prydein (The Triads of the Island of Britain), University of Wales Press, Third Edition, 2006.
Mary Jones, Celtic Literature Collective, Song Before the Sons of Llyr from Llyfr Taliesin (The Book of Taliesin).
John T. Koch, Brân, Brennos: an instance of Early Gallo-Brittonic history and mythology, Cambridge Medieval Celtic Studies (CMCS) 20, 1990.
John T. Koch, Celtic Culture, ABC-CLIO, 2006.
John T. Koch, The Gododdin of Aneirin: Text and Context from Dark-Age North Britain, Celtic Studies Publications, 1997.
Angelique Gulermovich Epstein, War Goddess: The Morrígan and her Germano-Celtic Counterparts (Dissertation).


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Thursday, 5 February 2015

King Arthur's Great Hall Tintagel

After being disappointed at Tintagel Castle I wandered  down Tintagel high street into King Arthur's Great Hall of Chivalry thinking it was an Arthurian bookshop. Books it did have and plenty of them but nothing particularly rare or difficult to find elsewhere. A doorway off the shop leads into a long corridor adjoining a massive hall, an Arthurian work of art, a shrine to the King, funded and created by people who evidently loved the legend.

King Arthur's Great Hall of Chivalry
The Hall was formerly known as Trevena House, after the name of the village before it changed to Tintagel after the castle on the nearby peninsula, until it was purchased by Frederick Thomas Glasscock in 1928. The house was originally built on the site of the former Town Hall and Market Hall in Fore Street by J D Cook, born at Camelford and one time editor of the 'Morning Chronicle' and founder of the popular 'Saturday Review'. He visited Tintagel rich with its Arthurian memories and bold headland and ruined walls every summer during the 1860s and befriended the Vicar and Honorary Constable of the Castle, the Reverend Kinsman, who had taken a great interest in the island making it safer and more accessible to visitors, constructing a new path to the headland. It was largely due to Kinsman's interest that the island became a tourist attraction in the Victorian period. Cook died in 1868 and was buried under an immense white monument in the churchyard on the hill above Tintagel, as near the edge of the cliff as possible.

Glasscock was a wealthy business man who spent a small fortune adapting the Hall as a worthy monument to King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table in the spirit of true romance. And it is a fitting monument indeed. It is said Glasscock employed local and Cornish workmen for the construction as far as possible, because of their love for the great King who once ruled over their land.

Corridor leading to the Great Hall
It became the headquarters for Glasscock's Order called the Fellowship of the Round Table which he founded in 1927 where brother knights were initiated into a chivalric system of medieval romanticism. The Fellowship was so successful that Glasscock had to increase the size of the Hall which opened in 1933 pretty much as we see it today.

It is claimed that over 50 types of Cornish stone were used in the Hall's construction, including slate, granite, greenstone, tourmaline, onyx, elvan and serpentine, brought here from places such as Rough Tor and Castle-an-Dinas on Bodmin Moor and others from the nearer Tintagel Castle.

Everything in the Hall is based on Arthurian Romance. There are 125 shields of granite, set along the full length of the Hall, said to represent the passage from darkness into light. The banners of the Knights are hung around the Hall

The Throne
There are thrones carved of solid oak carved with the emblems of insignia of King Arthur and his Queen Guenevere. Granite is also used in the huge six ton canopy over the throne, supported by nine massive granite pillars. There is also a granite Round Table, along with two wooden ones.

Ten paintings by William Hatherell R.I. on the walls depict the principal events in the story of King Arthur. It is suspected that Hatherell died in 1928 before he completed his Arthurian commission for Glasscock.  Hatherell depicted scenes from Malory's Morte D'Arthur such as the choosing of Arthur to be King; the gift to him of the great Sword Excalibur; the presentation of the Round Table; the achievement of the Sangreal; and of course, the passing of King Arthur.

The Great Hall
Veronica Whall, the daughter of Christopher Whall leader of the Arts and Crafts Movement 1880-1910, designed the 73 stained-glass windows in the Hall considered to be the largest collection of stained glass panels of King Arthur made in the 20th century. The large windows either end of the hall are reminiscent of the Pre –Raphaelite era and worthy of a great cathedral, referred to as the best post Pre – Raphaelite windows anywhere.

‘The Windows of the Knights’ show each Knight of the Round Table illustrated by his unique shield at each window where the Knight’s story is also told in words. The Hall has eighteen windows known as the 'Windows of Virtue', which portray the principal virtues which the Knights of the Round Table agreed to observe. The virtues are graded in quality, starting with the less spiritual ones such as Strength, Perseverance and Obedience, through to the more spiritual such as Purity, Faith and Love.


However, there appears to have been some discord between Glasscock and Whall when he apparently refused to pay the agreed price. This ended up in a court case, the strain of which affected the artist's health.

Glasscock extended his Fellowship to America but he died in 1934 on board the Queen Mary on a voyage to further promote his organisation. Glasscock had been a Freemason and bequeathed the Hall to his local lodge who still use it for meetings.

Stumbling upon this impressive Great Hall by accident made the visit to Tintagel worth it.


Copyright © 2015 Edward Watson
http://clasmerdin.blogspot.co.uk/


Sources:
Paul Broadhurst, Tintagel and the Arthurian Mythos, Pendragon Press, 1992.
King Arthur's Great Halls of Chivalry, The Sword in the Stone Ltd. (undated pamphlet)


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Saturday, 31 January 2015

Tintagel Castle

Wave after wave, each mightier than the last,
Till last, a ninth one, gathering half the deep
And full of voices, slowly rose and plunged
Roaring, and all the wave was in a flame:
And down the wave and in the flame was borne
A naked babe, and rode to Merlin's feet,
Who stoopt and caught the babe, and cried "The King!
Here is an heir for Uther!"

Island of Disenchantment
Straddled across the windswept precipitous headland, Tintagel Castle is half on the mainland, half on the island, connected only by a narrow neck of land which has led to the popular acceptance that the origin of the name arises from Cornish Dintagel; 'Dun' meaning 'fort' with '-tagell' meaning 'narrow place'.

Suggestions that the source of the name is from 13th century Norman French at first glance seem absurd but Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain (Historia Regum Brittaniae) c.1136 AD contains the earliest written mention of Tintagel in the tale of how Arthur was conceived there when Uther Pendragon, King of Britain, magically assisted by Merlin of course, seduced Queen Igerna, the wife of Duke Gorlois of Cornwall. We have no idea why Geoffrey would have chosen Tintagel as the site of the conception but we do know that he placed much of his Arthurian 'history' in Cornwall.


There is little evidence of any occupation before the Dark Ages, various small finds, including pottery and some late 3rd and early 4th century Roman coins, suggest activity on the headland but nothing more. From around 450 AD to 650 AD Tintagel was a prosperous and highly significant site. Its position made it highly defensible and most unusually it also has supplies of fresh water.

So many steps....
C A Ralegh Radford's excavations in the 1930s identified the apparent pattern of scattered small-scale structures as buildings of a monastic enclosure; the remoteness of the headland would be an attractive site to those seeking isolation. Radford worked at the site again in the 1950s and found nothing to change his mind. Indeed, some of the pottery fragments bore Christian symbols, taken with the wider distribution of these types of imported pots they appear to match that of early Christian inscriptions. Fragments of imported high-quality Mediterranean pottery have been found all over western Britain, but Tintagel has by far the largest quantity so far discovered. The pottery along with  Mediterranean glassware is evidence of trade with lands as far away as ancient Byzantium, possibly in exchange for desirable Cornish tin.

This remained the accepted interpretation of Tintagel island until Archaeological excavations, commissioned by English Heritage, between 1990 and 1999 re-evaluated Radford's work and concluded that instead of a small community of Celtic monks, Tintagel may have been one of Western Britain’s premier centres of Dark Age political and military power.

Remains of the 13th century castle
Radford, along with Geoffrey Ashe, co-founded the Camelot Research Committee in the 1960s with like-minded individuals under the direction of archaeologist Leslie Alcock in an attempt to discover Arthurian sites such as Camelot. Ralegh Radford directed excavations at Glastonbury Abbey between 1951 and 1964, the infamous burial place of King Arthur; Alcock directed excavations at South Cadbury hillfort from 1966-70 publishing his interpretation of his findings in the book 'By South Cadbury Is That Camelot' (Thames & Hudson, 1972).

The pottery finds, combined with the buildings on the headland suggest intensive occupation at this period, often interpreted as a seasonal stronghold of the Kings of Dumnonia (Devon and Cornwall).
The  high-quality Mediterranean pottery has also been found at Cadbury Castle in Somerset, a favoured suggestion for Arthur's Camelot. Then suddenly the pottery imports stopped.

Dark Age remains near the summit
After the mid-7th century there is little evidence of activity on the Tintagel headland for the next 500 years. During the 13th century, a castle was built on the site by Richard, Earl of Cornwall, which later fell into disrepair and it is the ruins of these buildings that dominate views of the site today. Once past the 13th century curtain wall to the Great Hall courtyard you are at will to explore the Dark Age remains that are generally distinguished as low grass-covered banks over the top of the island. If you know where to look you will find King Arthur's Footprint immortalised in stone at the highest point of the island. Nearby is King Arthur's Seat a cleft in the cliff. The rock here bears a peculiar series of hollows known as King Arthur's Cup and Saucers.

In about 1480 the antiquary William Worcestre claimed Tintagel as the place of Arthur’s birth as well as his conception but the identification of Tintagel as King Arthur’s Castle is not found until 1650. However, by now Arthur's base was firmly established at Camelot, wherever that was, and Tintagel,with little activity, slipped into relative obscurity until a late revival in the Victorian Age and became a tourist attraction.

Merlin's Cave
The cavern on the west side of the Haven is known as Merlin's Cave. This is a late addition to the Arthurian legend and known since the late 19th century and publication of Tennyson's Idylls of the King. It is here, according to Tennyson, that the infant Arthur was washed up on the shore.

Today the site is managed by English Heritage and many visitors, myself included, come away with a rather negative picture of the place of where King Arthur was conceived, or born, depending which legend you are recalling. The dominant remains are those built by Richard, Earl of Cornwall, in the 13th century. The Dark Age remains are slight and, as well laid out and identified as they are, are not much to look at and hardly inspire any connections to a 6th century power base of the  Kings of Dumnonia. The so-called 'Artognou' stone found on the headland in 1998 has no connection whatsoever with King Arthur although it was much publicised as such at the time of its discovery; no doubt it was good for business. Even the name of the island may be French. And to cap it all the video display shown in the EH visitor centre will certainly dispel any hopes of finding an historical Arthur here. I left this island of disappointments feeling rather flat like so many others.


On walking back up to the village, once named Trevana, but not shy in missing the opportunity of Arthurian exploitation, they changed its name to Tintagel to match the castle, you pass the King Arthur's Arms Inn and opposite is the oldest Post Office in the country, dating to the 14th century, complete with sagging roof.  Further along the high street passing a myriad of gift shops you arrive at King Arthur's Great Halls of Chivalry.


Copyright © 2015 Edward Watson
http://clasmerdin.blogspot.co.uk/


Sources:
Alfred, Lord Tennyson, The Coming of Arthur from Idylls of the King
Paul Broadhurst, Tintagel and the Arthurian Mythos, Pendragon Press, 1992.
Colleen E Batey, Tintagel Castle, English Heritage Guidebooks, 2010.
Oliver Padel, Cornish Place-name Elements, Nottingham: English Place-Name Society, 1985.

All photographs copyright © 2015 Edward Watson


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Sunday, 25 January 2015

King Arthur's Hall: Monument or Pound?

“Arthures Hall. A place so called and by tradition helde to be a place whereunto that famous K. Arthur resorted: it is a square plott about 60 foote longe and about 35 foote broad, situate on a playne Mountayne, wrowghte some 3 foote into the grounde: and by reason of the depression of the place, their standeth a stange of Poole of water, the place sett rounde aboute with flatt stones in this manner.” (Norden, 1584)

A Moorland Enigma
The mystery of the well known monument of King Arthur's Hall on Bodmin Moor in Cornwall has been noted since it was first recorded by John Norden in 1584. The site is shown on a map of 1610 as “Arthurshall”. Debate continues whether the provenance of this moorland monument belongs to Prehistoric or Medieval times. King Arthur's Hall is a rectangular enclosure, a rare 'un-British' monument, as Burl calls it and sees similarities to the rectilinear enclosures of Brittany. It's closest relation in Britain is the rectangle of the Stonehenge Station Stones. King Arthur's Hall is an enigma. Isolated and remote, its purpose and date remain shrouded in the moorland mist.


This listed ancient monument has been damaged by livestock in the past and is now fenced for its own protection. The bank has dropped over the years and excavation may uncover further fallen stones. The interior appears to have been lined by a continuous row of large facing slabs, most now either recumbent, leaning or buried. In the centre of the south side one of the stones has been set at right angles to the bank, seemingly deliberately marking a significant feature but unfortunately the opposite position on the north bank has been disturbed. A RCHME survey in 1986 discovered traces of cobbling in the north-west corner.

King Arthur’s Hall, also known as Arthur’s Hunting Lodge, is situated in an area of open moorland, Arthur’s Downs, that extends north towards the settlements and ritual monuments of Louden Hill, eastwards towards Garrow Tor and south to Hawkstor.

The name of King Arthur is attached to a variety of landscape features; the original myth now lost to us, but it is clearly ancient and in existence in the earliest stratum of the Arthurian legend as shown in the Historia Brittonum. This 9th century document is our earliest account of a historical Arthur, the dux bellorum, the leader of battles, who fought twelve successful campaigns. Yet  contained within the same manuscript (Harlian 3859) and attached to the Historia Brittonum is the Mirabila, The Wonders of Britain, which includes a folkloric Arthur who's dog Cabal is as big as a horse and left his footprint in a rock. Another wonder mentions the ever-changing size of the tomb of Arthur's son Amr. The concept of Arthur throughout British folklore as a figure who hunted in the wild, untamed, remote parts of the landscape is apparent in Cornwall and clearly very different to Geoffrey of Monmouth's creation of an Emperor or a sub-Roman warlord. Whether there ever was such a man is open to debate but his legend endures across the wild moorlands.

There is another Cornish site known as Arthur’s Hunting Lodge at Castle-an-Dinas, near St Columb, from which Arthur rode in the hunt on Tregoss Moor; a stone in St Columb bears the four footprints that his horse made whilst he was out hunting. Nearby on Bodmin Moor, in the parish of North-Hill, are other prehistoric sites bearing the names Arthur’s Bed, and near Trewortha Farm, Arthur’s Troughs, said to be where Arthur fed his hunting dogs as recorded by the 18th Century Cornish antiquarian, Dr William Borlase, who, in 1754, said of the site:

'Round Arthur's Bed, on a rocky Tor in the parish of North-hill, there are many [rock-basins], which the country people call Arthur's Troughs, in which he us'd to feed his Dogs.'

The Hall
King Arthur's Hall is a rectangular enclosure measuring 47m by 20m, constructed  of banked earth and rough stones, of which 14 remain upright, with 25 leaning, 13 fallen and possibly another 5 visible. Modern estimates suggest there may have been as many as 138-140 stones, many of which may now lie beneath parts of the collapsed bank. An inturned stone in the south bank is set at right angles to the rest of the stones.

The earth banks are about a metre high and over 5m wide. The enclosure is aligned north-south with a gap, that may have formed an entrance, in the south-west corner. The reed-covered interior is a poorly drained, boggy rectangular hollow which usually contains a pool of water in a depression at the centre, 60cm lower than the surrounding moorland, from which the interior has been scooped out with the earth used to form the banks. The subsequent depression allows water to collect which has led to the suggestion that the gap in the south-west corner may not be ancient having been made for drainage; notably Norden's 16th century plan fails to show the gap in the south-west corner.

The enclosure is positioned on a slight ridge below the crest of the moorland plateau on King Arthur's Downs, being visible from about a mile distant but from the north only. Nearby to the south-east are a pair of ruined stone circles, 400m beyond these is the Leaze stone circle. About a mile and a half to the north are the Prehistoric settlements of Rough Tor and Louden Hill, with three further stone circles to the south.


There is evidence of substantial medieval settlement on Louden Hill with King Arthur's Hall situated near the boundary between the manors of Hamatethy and Blisland. Indeed, the Hall appears to have been present in the establishment of the manorial boundaries, which does not exclude an earlier date. On the contrary, boundaries tend to be 'one of the most permanent and ancient features of the English landscape' with Prehistoric monuments frequently used to establish boundaries in the early Medieval period.

Prehistoric Monument or Medieval Pound?
Many suggestions have been put forward for the origin and function of the Hall, ranging from a Neolithic mortuary house or enclosure, a Bronze Age ceremonial or ritual monument, a cock fighting pit to a medieval pound for stray animals. It is worth noting that a long cairn on Louden Hill was originally said to be a medieval structure and only correctly identified as prehistoric as late as 1984.

The very name 'King Arthur's Hall' is suggestive of a meeting place; thus it has been suggested that the upright granite slabs look like chairs, perhaps the place where King Arthur held counsel with his Knights? But according to a well-known website on ancient sites King Arthur's Hall has nothing to do with King Arthur. So there you have it, but they fail to come up with an alternative explanation.

The size of the construction of the monument and lack of original entrance tends to suggest it may be sepulchral in purpose, possibly a mortuary enclosure.  Many long barrow sites started off as small rectangular enclosures of earthen banks topped by a timber palisade, constituting a mortuary enclosure. British Neolithic mortuary enclosures were typically sub-rectangular banks with external ditches and raised platforms of stone or wood within them, thought to be used for the exposure of corpses prior to burial elsewhere. Remains of mortuary enclosures of this period are often found under long barrows. Long barrows are relatively rare in this part of the country with no more than a handful known in Cornwall. If King Arthur's Hall is a mortuary enclosure where is the sepulchre?

Prehistoric enclosures of rectangular construction are relatively rare but a similar enclosure exists in Brittany, which has been identified as a Bronze Age cremation site, and a similar ramparted construction at Lough gur in Ireland has been dated to the Neolithic. Without excavation and the absence of any archaeological finds the date and purpose of the monument must remain speculative. Recent work has shed some light on the monument but essentially King Arthur's Hall retains its mystery.


Clearance work at King Arthur's Hall conducted by members of The Heritage Trust in 2013-14 revealed a revetment wall was constructed to retain the inner bank. This brief investigation concluded that over time the earth had covered over the top of the revetment wall suggesting that the structure was originally a rectangular enclosure from which the earth was extracted and banked up on four sides, forming a sub-level receptacle with an apron between the excavated area and the banks. By removing some turf it revealed the depth of the excavated area appeared to be shallower at the perimeters and deeper in the middle. This false receptacle would have filled with water, either rising or from rainfall. Was this simply a medieval dew pond constructed for watering livestock? The continuous bank would make that seem unlikely.  So we are back to the possibility of a prehistoric enclosure for ritualistic use.

King Arthur's Hall may have experienced several construction sequences over time; Burl suggests the enclosure may have started life as a 'megalithic rectangle' similar in appearance to the monument at Lanveoc, Finistere on the Crozon peninsula in Brittany, also aligned to the cardinal points but with the longer sides arranged east-west.

The banks of King Arthur's Hall may have been added later in the medieval period and the enclosure adapted to form a pound for stray animals. But the apparent lack of any portal arrangement considered with the 'awkward' siting of the entrance in the south-west corner of the enclosure argues against King Arthur's Hall being originally conceived and constructed as an animal pound, which, from the prehistoric period onwards, were commonly constructed using drystone walling techniques – not megalithic stones.

The construction at King Arthur's Hall is unusual in that typical prehistoric earthen enclosures tend to have the bank created from the spoil of the ditch. There is no evidence of a ditch here, as noted above the earth banks have been created by scooping out the centre to a depth of 60cm. This technique of scooping material out for the banks was widely used in the construction of henges in Ireland, but almost unknown in Britain. Mayburgh henge in Cumbria is another rare example in Britain.

In parts of King Arthur's Hall were the neighbouring stones remain in place, presumably in their original position, they appear to have been arranged alternately low flat-topped slabs and taller pillars 'like the parapet of a disjointed battlement'; an arrangement that would be pointless in an animal pound. Burl considers the stones are embellishments and notes a similar observation in the West Kennett Avenue at Avebury where paired yet contrasting stones (male and female?) are used in prehistoric ritual monuments. The stones at  King Arthur's Hall rest against the bank rather than revetting it as in the Grange henge in Co. Limerick, Ireland.

It would appear King Arthur's Hall is not typical of British prehistoric construction and therefore we do not recognise it as such. Instead of assigning the monument to the  medieval period as an animal pound we need to recognise it as a Neolithic monument constructed using a conglomeration of prehistoric methods taken from Ireland and Brittany.


Copyright © 2015 Edward Watson
http://clasmerdin.blogspot.co.uk/


Notes & References
John Norden, A Topographical and Historical Description of Cornwall, 2nd edition, 1728.
Diana Coles, 'King Arthur's Hall; Megalithic Monument or Mediaeval Pound', 3rd Stone magazine issue 39.
Aubrey Burl, Great Stone Circles, Yale, 1999.
Aubrey Burl, The Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany, Yale, 2000.
The De Lank to Lowermoor water main, Bodmin Moor, Cornwall, commissioned by South West Water and English Heritage and carried out by the Cornwall Archaeological Unit (now Historic Environment Projects), Cornwall Council. Draft October 1994, revised March 2011


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Monday, 12 January 2015

Anglo Saxon Coin Hoard Found in Buckinghamshire

One of the largest hoards of Anglo Saxon coins ever found in Britain was discovered on farmland in Lenborough, Buckinghamshire just before Christmas 2014 during an annual end-of-year rally for members of the Weekend Wanderers Detecting Club. The find has been sent to experts at the British Museum for analysis.


Metal detector Paul Coleman found a lead-lined container buried two feet under ground containing more than 5,000 silver coins made in the reigns of Æthelred the Unready (978-1016) and Cnut (1016-1035). Mr Coleman knew they had stumbled across something significant when they picked up a signal the size of a manhole cover. The coins were hidden inside a lead bucket with the top folded over. If the coroner rules the coins are legally treasure, as expected, he could be in line for a six-figure payout which he will share with the landowner.

It is thought that the coin hoard could be connected to a mint established by Æthelred at Buckingham only 15 miles away from the find site, one of 70 active at the time, including Winchester, London and York, during a remarkable period of history which pioneered the mass production of the solid silver currency in England.

Æthelred became King of England around the age of ten following the murder of his half-brother Edward II in 978 at Corfe Castle, Dorset, after reigning for just three short years. Edward was the eldest son of King Edgar but was not his father's acknowledged heir and his succession was disputed.

Æthelred was not generally suspected of being directly involved with his brother's murder, but the attendants of his household certainly were with many, such as the chroniclers John of Worcester and Henry of Huntingdon, pointing the finger of suspicion firmly toward his mother Ælfthryth. The suspicious circumstances of Æthelred ascension to the throne, and the growing legend of St Edward the Martyr, made it difficult for the new king to rally the nation behind him against the raiding Danes which had plagued his reign from the 980s onwards.

Æthelred failed to win or retain the allegiance of many of his subjects  and was given the epithet 'Un-raed', often interpreted as 'Unready' taken to mean 'no counsel', but actually a miss-translation of the Old English for 'bad-counsel', seemingly a reflection of the poor advice he received during his reign, and a deliberate pun on his first name meaning 'noble counsel', typical of the royal House of Wessex.

On St Brice's Day 13 November 1002, Æthelred ordered the massacre of all Danes in England to eliminate potential treachery. Gunhilde, sister of Sweyn Forkbeard, King of Denmark, was said to have been among the victims. Her death is thought to have been a primary motive for Sweyn's invasion of western England the following year, in which he campaigned throughout Wessex and East Anglia in 1003–1004.

The Buckingham mint remained active during the time of Cnut, with Æthelred pushing his people hard to raise Danegeld (literally 'Danish tax'), to pay tribute to the Danes. But the pay-off's failed to stop the Danish raids and he fled to Normandy in 1013 when Sweyn dispossessed him.

Following Sveyn's death in 1014 Æthelred returned to England but died  two years later in April 1016 during the invasion of Cnut, the son of Sweyn, that sailed up the Thames with a force of more than 10,000 men. He was the first king of England to be buried at St Paul’s Cathedral. Cnut consolidated his position by marrying Æthelred’s widow Emma. Cnut's empire now stretched across the sea to Denmark, and even extended his rule into Norway and parts of Sweden, known as the North Sea Empire.

The lands of Cnut the Great 1016–1035 (Wikimedia Commons)
Æthelred's oldest surviving son, Edmund Ironside, led the English against the Danes between 1014 and 1016. Following victory for Cnut at 'Assandun' in Essex on 18th October 1016, Edmund conceded all territory north of the Thames while his realm was reduced to just Wessex. But when Edmund died barely two months later in November, Cnut inherited the whole kingdom.

We will never know who buried these coins during these turbulent times or why they never recovered them. However, it is difficult not to speculate on the context of the Buckinghamshire hoard being entangled in Danegeld payments and Danish incursions.

Only half of the 5,251 coins of the Buckinghamshire Hoard have been cleaned so far but all have proved to be in excellent condition and, as coins of the two kings known in the hoard, Cnut and Æthelred, rarely fall below £200 per coin, the total value of the find could be around £1 million.

In July 2009  metal detector Terry Herbert discovered the largest ever hoard of Anglo Saxon treasure in a field at Hammerwich, near Lichfield in Staffordshire. Consisting of more than 3,500 gold and silver warrior artefacts, the ‘Staffordshire Hoard’ was valued at £3.3 million.


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Sources:
Buckinghamshire ancient coin hoard find 'unprecedented' – BBC News 03 January 2015
Metal detecting club finds Anglo Saxon hoard – Museums Association 07 January 2015



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