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General Discussion / OTD 29th July 796: Death of King Offa of Mercia
« Last post by Phyllis on August 01, 2020, 09:21:38 AM »
Continuing my series of posts from the Companions' Facebook page, here is the most popular post from the past week commemorating the death of King Offa of Mercia.

On 29th July 796 AD King Offa of Mercia died. This was the man who caused to be built the eponymous Dyke, who corresponded with Charlemagne, who issued international currency and who was acknowledged as Bretwalda, the High King. His wife Cynethryth was the only Anglo-Saxon Queen known to issue her own coinage.

Offa came to the throne following the death of his cousin Æþelbald, who was killed by his own men in 755 AD, and after driving out Beornred who had briefly tried to take the throne which resulted in a civil war in the kingdom.  According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle:

“Aethelbald, king of the Mercians, was slain at Segeswalde [Secklington], and his corpse was taken to Repton and there buried. His kingdom was usurped by the tyrant Beornred, who held it for a short time with neither peace nor comfort, and then lost his throne and life  together. Beornred was succeeded in the kingdom by Offa, grandson of a cousin of Aethelbald, king of the Mercians.”

A later continuation of Bede’s Ecclesiastical History notes “where he was treacherously murdered at night by his own bodyguards.”
Offa was the son of Þingfriþ, who was the son of Eanulf. He was descended from Eowa, the brother of King Penda of Mercia. He seemed to have inherited his forebear’s martial ability.

Offa had to rebuild his kingdom from the chaos, including re-establishing control over the Hwicce and Magonsæte (West Midlands), Lindsey (East) and the Middle Angles.

He quickly asserted control over London in order to support his commercial interests and issued new coinage from there to emphasise his power. In the 760s he took Kent and followed by Sussex in 771 AD. He fought against a Kentish uprising in 776 AD at Otford but had recovered the south-east of England by 785 AD.

However, he did not have the support of Jænberht, Archbishop of Canterbury, which would have caused him difficulties. Nevertheless he patronised a number of monasteries across his kingdom, such as Medeshamstede and Crowland, and founded others or took control of existing houses. His conflict with Jænberht resulted in him persuading the Pope to allow special privileges including the creation of a new Archbishopric at Lichfield.
Although his commercial activities would have been welcome to many, the Church saw him as interfering and overstepping the boundaries between Church and state. The Synod at Chelsea in 787 AD, which saw the establishment of the See of Lichfield, was known as the “contentious synod.” Roger of Wendover tells us what happened:

“Pope Adrian sent legates into Britain to renew the faith which Augustine had preached. They were honourably received by the kings with the clergy and people, and reared a fair structure on the firm foundation of the faith, the grace of Christ co-operating with them.
They held a council at Chalchuthe, when Jainbert, archbishop of Canterbury, resigned a portion of his episcopal jurisdiction to the archbishop of Lichfield. In that council also, Offa, the most potent king of the Mercians, caused his eldest son Egfrid to be solemnly crowned king; he was a pious and noble-minded youth, and reigned from that time conjointly with his father unto the end of the latter’s life.”

Perhaps more importantly under his religious programme he founded St Albans Abbey, probably in the early 790s. Roger of Wendover goes into great details about Offa had a vision which led him to disinterring Alban, and going to Rome to arrange the canonisation of Alban and to obtain papal blessing for the foundation of the Abbey. Possibly he wished to promote a cult of a saint to rival that of Augustine at Canterbury. Offa is also one of the possible founders (another candidate is Ine of Wessex) of the Schola Saxonum in Rome.

His relationships with other independent kingdoms varied. He married his daughters strategically, to Wessex and Northumbria. Wessex probably submitted to him as a sub-king after the death of Cynewulf, but there is no record that Northumbria did the same.

Alfred’s biographer, and Welshman, Asser tells us that "a certain vigorous king called Offa ... had a great dyke built between Wales and Mercia from sea to sea." The attribution is supported by name evidence, although the length is now thought to be “only” 103 km. It was an impressive project requiring significant resources and control to build. He also constructed a number of burhs which were taken up and developed further by Alfred over a century later. It is not thought they were planned as strategically as Alfred’s nor that Offa understood their commercial opportunities.
In 792 AD he was supposed to have assassinated Aþelberht of East Anglia, his son-in-law, at the instigation of his queen. Roger of Wendover embellishes magnificently in his chronicle:

“At the same time, Athelbert, king of the East-Angles, son of king Ethelred, left his territories, much against his mother's remonstrances, and came to Offa, the most potent king of the Mercians, beseeching him to give him his daughter in marriage. Now Offa, who was a most noble king, and of a most illustrious family, on learning the cause of his arrival, entertained him in his palace with the greatest honour, and exhibited all possible courtesy, as well to the king himself as to his companions. On consulting his queen Quendritha, and asking her advice on this proposal, she is said to have given her husband this diabolical counsel, “Lo," said she, " God has this day delivered into your hands your enemy, whose kingdom you have so long desired; if, therefore, you secretly put him to death, his kingdom will pass to you and your successors for ever." The king was exceedingly disturbed in mind at this counsel of the queen, and, indignantly rebuking her, he replied, "Thou hast spoken as one of the foolish women ; far from me be such a detestable crime, which would disgrace myself and my successors;" and having so said, he left her in great anger. Meanwhile, having by degrees recovered from his agitation, both the kings sat down to table, and, after a repast of royal dainties, they spent the whole day in music and dancing with great gladness. But in the meantime, the wicked queen, still adhering to her foul purpose, treacherously ordered a chamber to be adorned with sumptuous furniture, fit for a king, in which Athelbert might sleep at night. Near the king's bed she caused a seat to be prepared, magnificently decked, and surrounded with curtains ; and underneath it the wicked woman caused a deep pit to be dug, wherewith to effect her wicked purpose. When king Athelbert wished to retire to rest after a day spent in joy, he was conducted into the aforesaid chamber, and, sitting down in the seat that has been mentioned, he was suddenly precipitated, together with the seat, into the bottom of the pit, where he was stifled by the executioners placed there by the queen ; for as soon as the king had fallen into the pit, the base traitors threw on him pillows, and garments, and curtains, that his cries might not be heard ; and so this king and martyr, thus innocently murdered, received the crown of life which God hath promised to those that love him. As soon as this detestable act of the wicked queen towards her son-in-law was told to the companions of the murdered king, they fled from the court before it was light, fearing lest they should experience the like fate. The noble king Offa, too, on hearing this certainty of the crime that had been wrought, shut himself up in great grief in a certain loft, and tasted no food for three days. Nevertheless, although he was counted guiltless of the king's death, he sent out a great expedition, and united the kingdom of the East-Angles to his dominions. St. Athelbert was ignominiously buried in a place unknown to all, until his body, being pointed out by a light from heaven was found by the faithful and conveyed to the city of Hereford, where it now graces the episcopal see with miracles and healing powers.”
Certainly St. Æþelberht’s shrine was very popular, but it is more likely that he rebelled against Offa and was executed for his pains as the story of the assassination cannot be dated earlier than the 11th or 12th centuries. The earlies version has him beheaded by Offa.
Offa seems to have modelled himself on his contemporary on the Continent, Charlemagne, and for this he gained the warm approval of Alcuin of York who was one of the most influential members of Charlemagne’s court. However, there is no sense of him being an equal to Charlemagne and his suggestion that Ecgfriþ might marry Charlemagne’s daughter Bertha was met with outrage and caused a break in diplomatic relations.
He died on 29th July 796 AD and was buried at Bedford, which he had founded, but his story was not yet quite over. According to Roger of Wendover he suffered the ignominy of his tomb being washed away by the river in flood.
"Offa, the magnificent king of the Mercians, having nearly completed his most noble monastery, died, according to the opinion of many, in the town of Offley (in Hertfordshire), and his body is said to have been conveyed to the town of Bedford, and to have been buried in a royal manner in a certain chapel outside the city, situated on the bank of the river Ouse. It is reported by nearly all the people of that neighbourhood, even to the present day, that the aforesaid chapel, from decay and the violence of that river, was precipitated, together with the king's tomb, into the stream; and that the sepulchre is now seen by bathers in the summer time deep beneath the waters, but though it has been sought with the greatest diligence, yet, as if by a fatality, it cannot be found."

Offa was succeeded by his son Ecgfriþ, whom he had groomed for kingship at great effort, but who reigned only 141 days and died of a sickness.
Offa’s legacy was of personal achievement and power rather than national advancement. King Alfred referred to Offa’s Law Code and Æþelstan bequeathed a sword which had belonged to Offa to his brother Edmund in his will. However, Offa did not seem to have a vision of uniting the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms or of doing more than ensure his own success and that of his son.


« Last post by David on July 26, 2020, 03:29:10 PM »
The 2021 calendars have arrived. Attached is a photograph of the calendar with the cover on the left and an inside page on the right. The cost is £6 plus postage so with postage for the UK that is £9.10 for 1 calendar, £15.10 for 2 calendars, £21.10 for 3 calendars and £27.10 for 4 calendars.
For Europe the cost, including postage, of 1 calendar is £11.35 (£12.20 by PayPal)
For Australia, Hong Kong and New Zealand the cost, including postage, of 1 calendar is £13.18 (£14.20 by PayPal)
For the rest of the world the cost, including postage, of 1 calendar is £12.63 (£13.60 by PayPal)

They are available from David Hinch or Jenny Ashby.
General Discussion / The Fuþorc: Is (Ice)
« Last post by Phyllis on July 25, 2020, 10:51:33 AM »
This week’s most popular post on Facebook was not a date related post, but one in our Fuþorc series. They tend to come up every couple of weeks, and in this way we work through the whole alphabet through the year.
Our next most popular posts were similarly not date-related, but talked about the Alfred Jewel and the Beasts of Battle.
So here’s the post:
Today let’s return to the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc, or alphabet, as described in the Rune Poem. The futhorc, named after the first six letters of the sequence, differs from the Futhark of the Norse. We’ll take a look at each rune in turn over the coming months and find out what they mean and what they can tell us about Anglo-Saxon culture and society.
Today it’s Is
“Ice is very cold and extremely slippery; it glistens as clear as glass and most like to gems; it is a floor made by the frost, fair to look upon”
“Is byþ ofereald, ungemetum slidor,
   glisnaþ glæshluttur gimmum gelicust,
   flor forste geworuht, fæger ansyne”
Let’s take this opportunity to look at some travellers’ tales of the Frozen North from the 9th century.
As part of his cultural and educational project, King Alfred encouraged travellers and traders to share stories about their voyages with the court. Two accounts have survived, being written down in Old English attached to the translation of Orosius: those of Ohthere of Hålogaland and Wulfstan of Hedeby.
Ohthere lived in the far north, near Tromsø, in the north of Norway. Here is the beginning of his tale:
“Ōhthere sǣde his hlāforde, Ælfrede cyninge, þæt hē ealra Norðmonna norþmest būde. Hē cwæð þæt hē būde on þǣm lande norþweardum wiþ þā Westsǣ. Hē sǣde þēah þæt þæt land sīe swīþe lang norþ þonan, ac hit is eal wēste, būton on fēawum stōwum styċċemǣlum wīciað Finnas on huntoðe on wintra and on sumera on fiscaþe be þǣre sǣ.
“Ohthere told his lord, King Alfred, that he lived the furthest north of all the Northmen. He said that he lived in the land northwards of the West Sea (Atlantic). He also said that the land extends a long way north, but it is all waste, except for a few places here and there the Finns live, hunting in winter, and in summer fishing in the sea.”
He then explains that he sailed north for another three days, further than the whale hunters had gone, and then for three days more. The he had to wait for favourable winds to change direction and then he sailed east for four days. Once again he had to change direction and wait for the winds to sail southwards to the mouth a great river. He then turned back for fear of the tribes that had settled the river banks.
Ohthere then added that the Bjarmians (a particular group of Finns that were known for their wealth and trade in many Norse sagas) told him stories about lands beyond but he wasn’t sure if they were true. He visited them to trade walrus ivory and he also told the king about his own hunting trips, where on one occasion he and his men had killed more than 60 animals in a couple of days.
Ohthere then began to talk about his own wealth and homeland. He had a large herd of reindeer (600 ), and a small farm with cattle, sheep and pigs, and horses to plough, However he also received tribute from the Lapps on a sliding scale depending on the rank of the Lapp in question.
He then described the land of the Northmen, where it was fertile, where rocky, and the lands of Sweden (Sweoland) to the south and Kven Land (Cwena Land) to the north across the moors. Where he lived himself was called Hålogaland, about a month’s sail away. It was the settlement furthest north and about 5 days sail to Hedeby.
Wulfstan of Hedeby also provided a contribution about his voyage to Trusö in seven nights and days:
“Wulfstān sǣde þæt hē ġefōre of Hæðum, þæt hē wǣre on Truso on syfan dagum and nihtum, þæt þæt scip wæs ealne weġ yrnende under seġle. Weonoðland him wæs on stēorbord, and on bæcbord him wæs Langaland and Lǣland and Falster and Scōneġ; and þās land eall hȳrað tō Denemearcan. And þonne Burgenda land wæs ūs on bæcbord, and þā habbað him sylf cyning. Þonne æfter Burgenda lande wǣron ūs þās land þā synd hātene ǣrest Blecinga ēġ, and Meore and Eowland and Gotland on bæcbord; and þās land hȳrað tō Swēon. And Weonodland wæs ūs ealne weġ on stēorbord oð Wislemūðan.”
“Wulfstan said that he travelled from Hedeby to Trusö in seven days and nights, that the ships was under sail the whole way. Wendland (Weonoðland) was to his starboard and Langland, Lolland, Falster, and Skåne were to his larboard (port). That land all belonged to the Danes. Then Borgholm came on larboard and they had their own king. After Borgholm were the lands that were ever called Blekinge, Möre, Öland, and Gotland. Those lands belong to the Swedes. And Wendland was to the starboard all the way to the mouth of the Vistula.”
The Vistula, a very large river, and another river, the Elbing, joins it in a lake called Estmere.
“Þæt Ēstland is swȳðe myċel, and þǣr bið swȳðe maniġ burh, and on ǣlċere byriġ bið cynincg. And þǣr bið swȳðe myċel huniġ and fiscað; and se cyning and þā rīcostan men drincað myran meolc, and þā unspēdigan and þā þēowan drincað medo. Þǣr bið swȳðe myċel ġewinn betwēonan him. And ne bið ðǣr nǣniġ ealo ġebrowen mid Ēstum, ac þǣr bið medo ġenōh.”
Estland is very large and there are many burhs, and each burh has a king. There is a great amount of honey and fish; and the king and the richest men drink mares’ milk and the poor and the slaves drink mead. There is a great deal of fighting between them. And there is no ale brewed there among the Estonians but there is plenty of mead.”
The Estonian dead are left in their houses, unburied, for a month or more, and longer if a king or noble. A wake is held during this time with feasting and drinking, paid for the by the dead man’s estate. Once it is time to burn his body, his wealth is divided up and buried with a mile of his village, the largest portion furthest away. Then men race their horses from 5 or 6 miles away to find the treasure and whoever gets there first wins it. Once his wealth is divided up the body is burned on a pyre with his last few possessions, and no trace must be left on penalty of a fine.
The Estonians can magically summon cold so the bodies do not decay above ground.
This text is said to be the earliest known written source for the term "Denmark" (dena mearc), and perhaps also for "Norway" (norðweg).
« Last post by David on July 24, 2020, 02:44:13 PM »
The application form has just arrived. That was an amazingly prompt response.

« Last post by David on July 24, 2020, 12:36:51 PM »
Sarah Jones

Please send an application form to the membership secretary.
General Discussion / OTD 17th July: Death of Edward the Elder
« Last post by Phyllis on July 18, 2020, 09:01:51 AM »
Continuing my series of posts from the Companions' Facebook page, here is the most popular post from the past week - the death of Edward the Elder. Honourable mentions also go to posts about Eorcenberht and St Swithun.

This is one of our longer reads, so it's interesting that it was so popular! You can read our daily articles at https://www.facebook.com/yorkshiregesithas/ and this should be accessible even without a Facebook account.

So, back to Edward - here's what we said.

Edward the Elder, son of Alfred the Great, died on 17 July 924 AD.
Edward was the second of five legitimate children born to Alfred and Ealhswiþ; two boys and three girls. His arguably more famous sister Æþeflæd was the eldest child by. He was born around 875 AD, the precise date not being known making him still a toddler when Guðrum and his Danes came to Wessex in the winter of 875-6 AD and took Wareham. He was also still very young when the family had to hide at Athelnet  in the Somerset Levels from January-May 878 AD.
Edward grew up in a time of constant Viking incursions and battles. Like his elder sister he would have learned from his father’s victories and mistakes. He was noticeably less lenient or trusting in his negotiations when he was King, and developed the system of burhs (fortified settlements located at strategic points around the kingdom) to great strategic advantage.
As he grew, throughout the 880s and 890s, he would have been surrounded by the scholars and churchmen at his father’s cosmopolitan court where Alfred’s educational and cultural reforms were being realised, and the security brought by the burhs and the new standing army made apparent. Alfred’s early warships would also have contributed to the king’s ability to resist attack. Some of the scholars at this time later served Edward as King, such as Plegmund, the Archbishop of Canterbury. According to Asser in his Life of Alfred, Edward and his younger sister Ælfþryþ learned the Psalms and made use of books under the care of tutors and nurse at the court.
As an æþeling Edward would have followed his father around the kingdom and attended court when he was old enough, learning the skills he would need as king and witnessing charters. He was given military command In 893 AD Edward led a force against the Viking raiding army at Farnham, joining the local fyrd (militia) and driving the Vikings off. According the Chronicle of Æþelweard Edward had been leading a force elsewhere and then arrived to join the attack at Farnham, turning the course of the battle. Edward pursued the Vikings back to Thorney, in Mercian territory, and was joined by Æþelred, ealdorman of Mercia and his brother-in-law through marriage to Æþelflæd. The Vikings were then under siege until the Anglo-Saxons had to withdraw because the fyrd had reached the end of its term of service, leaving Edward with only his personal retinue behind – another valuable lesson for the future king about logistics and planning.
It is possible that later in the decade Edward acted as a sub-king in Kent; he certainly had strong support from Kent in later years.
Edward’s marriages are not entirely clear. There were three women in his life: Ecgwynn, Ælfflæd and Eadgifu. His relationship with Ecgwynn may not have been an approved marriage by the Church, and the lack of clarity may be related to the politics around the succession of their son, Æþelstan. Alfred seems to have seen Æþelstan as a potential future heir, and this may have been related ot his fosterage in the Merican Court in preparation for a role there.
When Alfred died in 899 AD Edward succeeded to the throne and was crowned on 8th June 900 AD in a service conducted by Plegmund, probably at Kingston-upon-Thames on the borers of Wessex and Mercia.
Although Alfred had tried to make the transition to his son’s rule as smooth as possible, Edward faced rebellion from his cousin Æþelwold on the basis that Alfred had stolen his right to succession when Æþelred had died in 871 AD. Alfred’s succession had been based on the fact the Æþelred’s sons were both very young children and not suitable to rule; Æþelred’s elder son had died by 899 AD.
Æþelwold seized the royal manors at Wimborne (where his father Æþelred was buried) and Twynham. He also abducted a nun. It is possible this was actually Edward’s sister Æþelfgifu who was Abbess at Shaftesbury as marriage to her would strengthen Æþelwold’s claim to the throne; if not she would have been important in some way to help his claim. However, he had misjudged his case, no one came to join him and Edward pursued him in force perhaps more quickly than anticipated. This was to be typical of Edward; he was quick and decisive in his actions. Æþelwold escaped under the cover of night, while the nun set off in a different direction but was arrested. Meanwhile Æþelwold went to Northumbria where he built up strong support in the kingdom, becoming supposedly (according to the Annals of St Neots) “King of the Danes” in less than two years. It is possible that the coins of this date with the name “Alwaldus” may be his.
In 902 AD Æþelwold was back, landing in Essex, presumably with the support of the Eohric, the king of East Anglia in return for reward in Mercia. They moved into Merica first heading west towards Dorset, pillaged in Wiltshire and then withdrew back to East Anglia. This may have been due to lack of support in the surrounding country or better information about relative troop sizes. Edward pursued them deep into Danish territory but then had t call off the pursuit. The Kentish fyrd was separated from the main body of Edward’s forces and Æþelwold took his chance to attack them. This became known as the Battle of the Holme, on 13th December 902 AD, late in the fighting season. Edward is said to have sent seven messages to the Kentish fyrd to re-join the main troop but this did not happen. The Kentish men were outnumbered but fought hard; in the end they were all slaughtered, but Æþelwold himself was also killed along with Eohric and a number of Anglo-Danish warlords.
With the threat to his regime now removed Edward finished his father’s project of building the New Minster at Winchester. His mother Ealhswiþ died on 5th December 902 AD and eventually she and Alfred were moved from their resting places to the New Minster after its completion around 903 AD.Relations with the Old Minster were frosty for some time until Friþustan became Bishop.
The key aspect of Edward’s alter reign was his relationship with Mercia and his campaign against the Danelaw to unite the various kingdoms under Wessex.
In 906 AD Edward agreed the Peace of Tiddingford with a number of Danish warlords, updating the agreement between Alfred and Guðrum. This peace held for three years before the Mercian raid on Bardney.
Æþelred and Æþelflæd had been transferring their power base away from Tamworth to Gloucester, where they built a new Minster. This removed their primary power base from the border with the Danelaw. However, the new foundation at Gloucester clearly need an important relic to attract pilgrims and enhance its status. They decided they needed the relics of Oswald held at Bardney, formerly in Mercia but now in the Danelaw. So in 909 AD they went and got them in a raid violating the Peace of Tiddingford. The Danes retaliated, aware that Edward was preoccupied with his fleet in Kent. Like Æþelwold before them, they under-estimated the speed and decisiveness of his reaction.
Sometime on the 5th or 6th August 910 AD they met at the Battle of Tettenhall. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records:
“In this year the Angles and the Danes fought at Teotanheal on the 'eighth of the ides of August [6th Aug.], and the Angles obtained the victory. And that same year Aethelflaed built the fortress at Bremesbyrig.”
Æþelred had been suffering ill-health for some years and he died in 910 AD. From this time on Æþelflæd is the “Lady of the Mercians” and leads her people until her death in 918 AD.
Æþelflæd and Edward now constructed a series of burhs across England as defence against the Vikings. Although seemingly acting independently their activities complement each other with devastating effect. Edward’s strategic mind and organisational ability made him a force to be reckoned with, and he developed the strategies used by his father. Edward’s burhs were not just defensive fortifications; they became an offensive technique for establishing a presence in enemy territory and consolidating his hold upon it. He also adapted continental practice of building twin burhs across a river to control traffic. Building a burh would have required an army of labourers to create the fortification, and he would then have needed to garrison it before he moved on.
In 918 Æþelflæd died, and the partnership ended. Uniquely, Ælfwynn, the only child of Æþelred and Æþelflæd, became the first English woman to inherit a throne from her mother.
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle record the events around the death of Æþelflæd:
“918 AD: This year, in the early part of the year, by God's help, she peacefully got into her power the fortress at Leicester, and the greater part of the army which owed obedience thereto became subject to her ; and the people of York had also covenanted with her, some having given a pledge, and some having bound themselves by oath, that they would be at her command. But very shortly after they had become so, she died at Tamworth, twelve days before Midsummer [12th JuneJ the eighth year of her having rule and right lordship over the Mercians ; and her body lies at Gloucester, within the east porch of St.Peter's church.
AD. 919. This year also the daughter of Aethelred, lord of the Mercians, was deprived of all dominion over the Mercians, and carried into Wessex, three weeks before mid-winter: she was called Aelfwyn.”
Edward removed his niece from Mercia and she disappears from the record. From that time he is King of both kingdoms, and continued to expand into the Danelaw. It is perhaps surprising that Æþelstan did not at this time become lord of Mercia.
In 919 AD Edward also separated from his second wife, Ælfflæd and married Eadgifu of Kent, daughter of Sigehelm, ealdorman of Kent, killed at the Battle of Holme. He may have wished to secure the succession, despite having two sons by Ælfflæd already, as well as six daughters. However, he had a further three or four children with his third wife, including Edmund and Eadred who later succeeded Æþelstan. He also gained the submission of the Welsh kings and fortified his western borders, presumably against the greater threat of the Irish Vikings. The he fortified the border to the north-east against the Vikings in York, followed by the submission of all the major leaders in the north, including the Scots, Northumbria and Strathclyde.
And so in 924 AD he was in Chester dealing with a rebellion, and on 17th July, having completed his task, he died at Farndon-on-Dee south of Chester. It is not clear if it was related to an injury form the fighting at Chester or in pursuing the Welsh back across the border.
His heir, Ælfweard, then died on 1st August and eventually Æþelstan gained the throne.
Edward is called "Elder" to distinguish him from Edward the Martyr and Edward the Confessor. Today Edward he is a somewhat overlooked King of that name compared to the Confessor and the Martyr, but the leadership he showed during the Viking incursions helped forge the vision of England. It was not inevitable that he should have succeeded as he did; things were still very much in the balance. Sir Frank Stenton was of the opinion that he led “one of the best sustained and most decisive campaigns in the whole of the Dark Ages.”

General Discussion / The Staffordshire Hoard - open publication
« Last post by Phyllis on July 16, 2020, 07:54:54 AM »
The report has very generously been made freely available - at this link


General Discussion / OTD 10th July: Lady Godiva's Ride
« Last post by Phyllis on July 12, 2020, 09:20:55 AM »
This week's most popular post was about Godgifu, wife of Leofric, alleged to have ridden naked through the streets of Coverntry in 1040. To be fair most of the comments were humerous remarks about the accompanying image, that of Lady Godiva by John Collier, c. 1897.
A copy of that can be seen here as well as on the Facebook post, and obviously readers were mostly concerned about the authenticity of the stone buildings....

Here's the post itself, which is rather lengthy -

It is alleged by Roger of Wendover in the 13th century that on 10th July 1040 Godgifu (Godiva) rode naked through the streets of Coventry to persuade her husband, Earl Leofric, to stop taxing the poor so heavily. We may at least celebrate the generous intention even if we do not accept the historical accuracy! Tennyson wrote a poem about her:
“Then she rode forth, clothed on with chastity:
The deep air listen'd round her as she rode,
And all the low wind hardy breathed for fear.”
Little is known about her background or early life. It is possible she was a widow when she married Leofric, Earl of Mercia; she and Leofric seem to have had at least one son, Ælfgar. He had been, in the words of the Chronicle, unjustly overlooked in favour of Tostig Godwinson for the earldom of Northumbria after the death of Siward in 1055, and had been outlawed. However, despite his support for Gruffydd ap Llewellyn he had been restored to the earldom of East Anglia later that year and when his father died in 1057 he succeeded to Leofric’s earldom of Mercia. His sons include Morcar and Edwin, who were important in the later story of England. Ælfgar also had a sister, Ealdgyth, who married Gruffydd.
Godgifu appears on a charter with her husband in the 1050s endowing a monastery in Coventry, built to replace the once destroyed by Vikings in 1016.
She gave Coventry a number of works by the famous goldsmith Mannig and as well as a silver necklace valued at 100 marks. She also gave a necklace to Evesham, to be hung around the figure of the Virgin and a gold-fringed chasuble to St Paul's Cathedral in London.
The manor of Woolhope in Herefordshire, along with four others, was given to the cathedral at Hereford before 1066 by Wulviva and Godiva, and this is generally held to be the same Godgifu and her sister. It is also possible that Thorold, who appears in the Domesday Book as sheriff of Lincolnshire, was her brother.
Following Leofric’s death in 1057 Godgifu seems to have survived until some time between 1066-1086. She is mentioned in Domesday as one of the few Anglo-Saxons and the only woman to remain a major landholder following the Norman invasion in 1066. However, by 1086 when the Domesday was published Godiva had died and her former lands are listed, but now held by others. It is believed she was buried at Coverntry with Leofric, although Evesham Abbey also claimed that she was buried there.
Despite the early lack of record, later chroniclers become much more effusive about Godgifu. John of Worcester, writing in the 12th century, recorded that in 1057 Leofric died and:
“was buried with great pomp at Coventry; which monastery, among the other good deeds of his life, he and his wife, the noble countess Godiva, a worshipper of God, and devoted friend of St. Mary, Ever-a-Virgin, had founded, and amply endowing it with lands on their own patrimony, had so enriched with all kinds of ornament, that no monastery could be found in England possessed of such abundance of gold, silver, jewels, and precious stones as it contained at that time. They also enriched, with valuable ornaments, the monasteries of Leominster and Wenlock, and those at Chester dedicated to St. John the Baptist and St. Werburgh, the virgin, and the church which Eadnoth, bishop of Lincoln, had built on a remarkable spot, called in English St. Mary's Stow, which means in Latin St. Mary's place. They also gave lands to the monastery at Worcester, and added to the buildings, ornaments, and endowments of Evesham abbey.”
At this point in the evolution of the Godiva legend, the Earl and his wife are both viewed positively as benefactors of the Church. John’s text is repeated by Simeon of Durham in his Historia regum Anglorum et Dacorum.
Then in Roger of Wendover’s Flores Historiarum, written at St Albans in the early 13th century, the story suddenly takes on a new life and the entry for 2017 reporting Leofric’s death now includes the familiar legend:
“in the same year died Leofric earl of Chester, a man of praise-worthy life; he was buried in the monastery which he had founded at Coventry. Having founded this monastery by the advice of his wife the noble countess Godiva, he, at the prayer of a religious woman, placed monks therein, and so enriched them with lands, woods, and ornaments, that there was not found in all England a monastery with such an abundance of gold and silver, gems and costly garments. The countess Godiva, who was a great lover of God's mother, longing to free the town of Coventry from the oppression of a heavy toll, often with urgent prayers besought her husband, that from regard to Jesus Christ and his mother, he would free the town from that service, and from all other heavy burdens ; and when the earl sharply rebuked her for foolishly asking what was so much to his damage, and always forbade her ever more to speak to him on the subject ; and while she, on the other hand, with a woman's pertinacity, never ceased to exasperate her husband on that matter, he at last made her this answer, " Mount your horse, and ride naked, before all the people, through the market of the town, from one end to the other, and on your return you shall have your request." On which Godiva replied, "But will you give me permission, if I am willing to do it?" "I will," said he. Whereupon the countess, beloved of God, loosed her hair and let down her tresses, which covered the whole of her body like a veil, and then mounting her horse and attended by two knights, she rode through the market-place, without being seen, except her fair legs ; and having completed the journey, she returned with gladness to her astonished husband, and obtained of him what she had asked ; for earl Leofric freed the town of Coventry and its inhabitants from the aforesaid service, and confirmed what he had done by a charter. The said earl also, at the instigation of his countess, munificently enriched with lands, buildings, and various ornaments the churches of Worcester, St. Mary of Stone, and St. Wereburg, with the monasteries of Evesham, Wenloc, and Lenton.”
Later writers added some more embellishments, such as Peeping Tom (first recorded by name in 1773, but in relation to an effigy based on an earlier tradition), and dropped the two knights who accompanied her, but the essence of the story remained albeit with Leofric receiving an increasingly hard press.
The reason for the legend is unclear and may be a founding story for the city of Coventry. It may originally have been derived from a pagan tradition of a fertility goddess celebrating spring. The naked woman with long hair, riding in a springtime procession, is the one constant factor in all variations of those legends. The Peeping Tom story may in this case be a part of the original myth, recalling similar examples of those who intruded on the forbidden rites of other fertility goddesses. Godgifu’s horse would therefore be an important element of the story, probably replacing the more traditional male victim of the rites. So in the end the story may be another example of pagan tradition being subverted by or for Christian audiences.

In an unrelated incident, the Emperor Hadrian, wall builder extraordinaire, died on 10th July 138 AD, probably of heart failure. This is believed to be purely coincidental.
General Discussion / OTD:5th July 2009 Discovery of the STaffordshire Hoard
« Last post by Phyllis on July 05, 2020, 09:02:56 PM »
This week's most popular Facebook post, despite only being posted today, was one about the Staffordshire Hoard. Here's what we said:

It's the anniversary of the Staffordshire Hoard being discovered in a field on 5th July 2009 by a metal detectorist called Terry Herbert. The Staffordshire Hoard is the largest collection of Anglo-Saxon gold and silver metalwork ever found, anywhere in the world. It consists of around 4,000 items which combine to a total of over 5kg of gold, nearly 1 ½ kg of silver and around 3,500 cloisonné garnets.
Remarkably it was buried just below the surface, due to soil erosion over the years, and had been disturbed by ploughing the previous year, scattering it. It was probably buried around 650-675 AD, and lay close to the Roman Road of Watling Street which was still an important route at the time. Excavation at the site confirmed there were no buildings or other evidence for Anglo-Saxon habitation on the site, confirming it had been buried in a relatively remote location (although presumably where it could be found again near the road).
In November 2012 a further 81 pieces of gold and silver items were discovered in the same field when it was ploughed again.
The Hoard comprises primarily war gear which is particularly important as most survivals from the period are church items or female burial pieces, which provides a limited view. This find enables researchers to explore the warrior culture more fully than in the past.
The pieces are removed from weapons rather than representing the main body of the weapon itself (such as the sword blade). There are almost 100 pommel caps for instance and probably helmet fittings. However, swords are the major contributing type of object and it has been suggested that the fittings were taken to depersonalise the original blade. Each object is unique in pattern and probably identified the owner in some way. However, whether these are from a single battle or collected over many years is not clear.
The location of the find is in the Kingdom of Mercia and dates to the seventh century when the kings there were expanding aggressively. The items might represent any of their campaigns against the other kingdoms. One theory is that the burial is a ritual deposit, but it may have been battle loot or a ransom, or just hidden from attackers, or even collected for recycling into new fittings; debate remains keen.
While the quantities are enormous, the quality is also extraordinary indicating that the objects were created for elite warriors. The hoard contains only one written text, a biblical inscription written in Latin and misspelled in two places. It reads: “Rise up, O Lord, and may thy enemies be dispersed and those who hate thee be driven from thy face.” (Numbers 10:35). More generally, there are three kinds of decoration: cut and mounted garnets, gold filigree, and animal patterns.
Most of the garnet decoration uses the cloisonné technique, setting thin slices of garnet cut to fit in the pattern made by gold wire Stamped gold foil placed beneath the garnet allowed light to reflect back, enhancing the brilliance and making its colour a darker red. Some pieces are decorated with stylised animals interlaced in the Anglo-Saxon Style II. There are two sources of garnet in the hoard. The very small garnets came from the Czech Republic and the larger cut garnets are from the Indian subcontinent.
Scientific analysis has also revealed that the goldsmiths managed to remove some of the silver from the surface of the items so that the object appears even more golden. The technique is not understood fully but it shows a very sophisticated understanding of materials and technology.
More recently research has identified that approximately a third of the fragments in the Staffordshire Hoard come from a very high-status helmet, and two reconstructions were created over an 18 month period by a team of specialists. The fragments in the Hoard are too fragile to be put back together but the reconstructions have made use of digital technology to capture form and decoration as closely as possible based on the analysis of the fragments.
A silver gilt cheek piece and an animal headed terminal were identified in the initial finds, with another terminal being identified later. The second field survey in 2012 then picked up a second cheek piece. The terminals fitted onto a crest, and were decorated with Style II interlaced animals, including serpents and quadrupeds. Eventually some of the sheet metal fragments, some weighing less than 1g, were reconstructed and a silver band which had encircled the base of the helmet emerged showing kneeling or running spearmen.
None of the iron or leather of the original helmet survives so reconstruction was difficult. However, the crest, cheek pieces and decorative sheets all indicated a crested helmet, similar to the ones found at Sutton Hoo, Wollaston and Coppergate (York). Although so little of the helmet survives, it is considered the finest example of the type so far, with its golden ornamentation reminiscent of late Roman (4th century) helmets. It is also unique in that the grooved channel on the crest indicates it had an actual hair crest on it. The reconstructions have crests of pale horsehair dyed with madder to a vibrant red to match the dominant red and gold colours in the hoard. It has been suggested that the helmet should effectively be considered to represent a crown.
The reconstruction had to work out the substructure of the helmet, and this was done by analogy for other helmets and fittings matched to holes on the fragments where possible. The final product weighed in at around 3kg which is heavy but manageable. It has proved to be well balanced, and the original probably used iron instead of steel for the frame would have reduced the weight by 1 kg, and is the more likely material used in the original.
The two reconstructions are to be displayed at the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery and the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery at Stoke-on-Trent.


Old English Language / Re: Translation plse plus other
« Last post by Wayne Aelfhere on July 01, 2020, 09:32:10 PM »
Looks excellent. I've saved a copy.
Thank you.
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