A Fictional Feast.

As it is christmas today I thought I’d share with you an extract from the book I’m writing set mainly in 1185 in England. Due to length issues this scene is now unlikely to make it into the final draft, but seeing as a I did quite a bit of research into christmas meals I thought it might be nice to share it here. Just to be clear, this is fiction. The characters are fictional. This particular scene is set in Canterbury in 1184 and features my main characters siblings Marcus and Adele de Bernier celebrating christmas, after a long journey, with two family friends: merchant Peter de Vere and his wife Ela. Along with Peter’s noble cousin Gerbert de Clancy, the men he brought with him and other unnamed guests.

Once they had both paid their respects to Becket and prayed to him for success on their journey, Marcus led the way out of the cathedral past the church of St Mary’s of Queningate. As they walked back along the crisp Canterbury streets Adele watched everyone attired in their finery returning to their houses for Christmas feasts. She noticed the greenery that decked some of the houses and the feeling of festive warmth in the air as the wealthy of Canterbury vied to be the best dressed and the most splendid. She spared a thought for Joan and Emma, wondering what they would be doing to celebrate. Adele was glad to reach the de Vere’s house but she was tired and really wanted to just go and rest. She knew she couldn’t disappoint Peter and Ela though, so she painted a smile on her face and followed Marcus to the main hall for the Christmas feast. She sighed in appreciation at the roaring fire and settled down at the same table as their hosts. Adele was delighted to be able to spend more time with Ela and Peter, both of whom she was very genuinely fond of. Unfortunately this also meant that they shared a table with Gerbert de Clancy. Adele was seated next to him and being the only female on the table to whom he was unrelated she was the recipient of his wine sodden confidences and his clumsy attempts at seduction, but she had to pretend to be impressed. The food made up for it a little because Ela had spared no effort. Peter de Vere’s merchant contacts were evident in the quality of the offerings. The wine was Poitivan, brought across the narrow sea by an Aquitanian merchant friend of Peter’s. Adele soon discovered that if she plied Gerbert de Clancy with as much of it as possible he didn’t talk to her so much because he was too busy trying to sit upright.

Marcus watched Adele deal adeptly with Gerbert de Clancy, finished off his goose and turned his attention to a sublime chicken dish in which the chicken glowed golden from being rubbed with saffron. He sighed appreciatively as the chicken melted on his tongue. He looked around in delight at what was to come. This was a meal about wealth and prestige. The centerpiece of which was a boar’s head that was ceremoniously being carried in. It still looked menacing even in death and Marcus just knew that the stew made from the rest of the boar would be tender and delectable, so he licked his lips in anticipation. He watched a little apprehensively as the servers handed Peter the boar’s head on its great dish and Peter presented it ceremoniously to Gerbert de Clancy as the highest ranking guest, but as Marcus had feared he was too drunk to do more than just goggle at it in surprise. Just as Marcus was about to do something the servants stepped in adroitly and moved it carefully and quickly back in front of Peter. Crisis averted, Marcus settled back in his seat, his face warm from the fire and his stomach replete with wonderful food. Everything was all right in his world in that moment.

Finally de Clancy left Adele alone to boast drunkenly to the man on his right and Ela leant over and whispered to her. “There was no way we could have fed all of this lot,” she gestured at de Clancy’s men who were singing bawdy songs and quaffing the wine like it was cheap ale, “if it hadn’t been for de Clancy’s mother. Matilda is Peter’s half-sister and a good woman. When she found out her son was intending to foist himself on us for the Christmas season she made sure she sent one of her own cooks ahead of him along with two more of her own people and a supply of food.” She paused a moment, giving a signal to a server. “The cook she sent is an expert in subtleties.” As the spectacular sweets were carried in she added. “It’s almost worth putting up with de Clancy to have them.”

There was a hush in the hall, even de Clancy’s drunken retainers quieted, as three subtleties were carried in. As Adele admired the beautiful recreations of the nativity made in marchpane she couldn’t help but agree with Ela’s sentiments. Their beauty almost outweighed de Clancy’s oafishness. Then de Clancy knocked his wine over so it seeped onto her skirts and onto the rushes and suddenly she wasn’t so sure. She carefully wrung the ends of her skirts out, pushed away de Clancy’s clumsy attempts at an apology and, thanking God that her gown was the dark red of good wine and wouldn’t show the stain, returned her attention to the subtleties. The first was the Annunciation, with the Arch Angel Gabriel greeting the Virgin Mary with an Ave, the second was the shepherds watching their flock as the angel appeared to them, and the third, and the largest, was in the stable with Jesus watched over by Mary, Joseph, the animals, the shepherds and the wise men. There was applause and then they all settled down to eat. No one touched the subtleties because, although they were edible, they were so spectacular. Everyone turned their attention to the wafers, cakes and frumenty of which there were plenty. As they began to eat the sweets a singer came in with a harp and started a ballad. Adele was just settling in to what she recognised as the beginnings of Gormond and Isembart when it was interrupted by Gerbert de Clancy passing out face first into his bowl of frumenty. The singer waited as the only two reasonably sober men in the hall, Peter and Marcus, carried him out to his chamber. When the song was finished and dancing was about to begin Marcus and Adele pleaded fatigue and finally retired to their chambers.

 

Happy Christmas everyone.

Medieval Quotes Advent Calendar 24th of December

So this is the last one. It’s been fun. I hope these quotes have been enjoyed. I’ve had fun ransacking my books and lots of other sources.

I thought I’d finish with one more William Marshal quote. This is the description an incident during the siege of the castle of Milli in 1197 under Richard I when the almost fifty-three year old Marshal ran up a scaling ladder in full armour.

“At this point many of those involved in the attack began to retreat, for they were much dismayed and in fear. Left behind on one of the ladders was Sir Guy de la Bruyere, a knight from Flanders who did his all, with intense vigour, to perform great deeds. Those defending the town had caught him with their spiked pikes between his chin and his chest, so overpowering him that he could in no way help himself with either hand. The Marshal, fully armed, was on the moat, and he was filled with pity and anger about the plight of that knight, whom he saw in such torment, so, fully armed as he was, he jumped down into the bottom of the ditch and climbed, I assure you, sword in hand up the other side, and kept his footing until he reached the ladder on which the knight was held by those who sought to kill him. He dealt such blows with his sword as to fully repay each of them individually for the harm they had done to the knight. He dealt so many blows right and left with the sword that he held in his right hand that those inside fell back and left him the sole occupant of the battlements. Those men, who had no taste for the games he played, left him in sole charge of the field as they all went on their way. The Marshal did not care who witnessed it. And when the King saw him leap forward to climb the wall and mount an attack, he was very angry and wanted to do likewise, without delay, but the high ranking men present advised against this course and prevented it. Once the Marshal had entered the castle by force, our men were so filled with glee that they all shouted as one man: ‘The castle is taken, let’s help him!’ Those in the castle took fright as out men leapt onto the battlements. This did not appear to be a laughing matter to Sir William de Monceaux, the constable of the castle. He would not stand still anywhere, but ran straight at the Marshal with the intention of doing all within his power to do him harm and injury, but he was unable to do so, the Marshal proving too much for him now that he had freed himself from the others as a result of the blows he had dealt them, blows which had cost him so much effort that he was somewhat out of breath. The constable came at him with his sword. The Marshal dealt such a blow at him that he cut right through his hauberk and piercing his flesh so that all he could do was come to a halt. He fell down quite unconscious, battered and stunned by the blow he received from the Marshal, and he stayed motionless on the ground. The Marshal, now weary, and who had done more than enough, sat on him to hold him firm.”

From History of William Marshal Volume II. pgs 61-63. ISBN: 0905474457

Medieval Quotes Advent Calendar 23rd of December

Urban II’s address at the Council of Clermont calling for the 1st Crusade in 1095, as recorded by Fulcher of Chartres. There is more than one version of this address, this is just the one recorded by Fulcher.

“Most beloved brethren: Urged by necessity, I, Urban, by the permission of God chief bishop and prelate over the whole world, have come into these parts as an ambassador with a divine admonition to you, the servants of God. I hoped to find you as faithful and as zealous in the service of God as I had supposed you to be. But if there is in you any deformity or crookedness contrary to God’s law, with divine help I will do my best to remove it. For God has put you as stewards over his family to minister to it. Happy indeed will you be if he finds you faithful in your stewardship. You are called shepherds; see that you do not act as hirelings. But be true shepherds, with your crooks always in your hands. Do not go to sleep, but guard on all sides the flock committed to you. For if through your carelessness or negligence a wolf carries away one of your sheep, you will surely lose the reward laid up for you with God. And after you have been bitterly scourged with remorse for your faults-, you will be fiercely overwhelmed in hell, the abode of death. For according to the gospel you are the salt of the earth [Matt. 5:13]. But if you fall short in your duty, how, it may be asked, can it be salted? O how great the need of salting! It is indeed necessary for you to correct with the salt of wisdom this foolish people which is so devoted to the pleasures of this -world, lest the Lord, when He may wish to speak to them, find them putrefied by their sins unsalted and stinking. For if He, shall find worms, that is, sins, In them, because you have been negligent in your duty, He will command them as worthless to be thrown into the abyss of unclean things. And because you cannot restore to Him His great loss, He will surely condemn you and drive you from His loving presence. But the man who applies this salt should be prudent, provident, modest, learned, peaceable, watchful, pious, just, equitable, and pure. For how can the ignorant teach others? How can the licentious make others modest? And how can the impure make others pure? If anyone hates peace, how can he make others peaceable ? Or if anyone has soiled his hands with baseness, how can he cleanse the impurities of another? We read also that if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into the ditch [Matt. 15:14]. But first correct yourselves, in order that, free from blame , you may be able to correct those who are subject to you. If you wish to be the friends of God, gladly do the things which you know will please Him. You must especially let all matters that pertain to the church be controlled by the law of the church. And be careful that simony does not take root among you, lest both those who buy and those who sell [church offices] be beaten with the scourges of the Lord through narrow streets and driven into the place of destruction and confusion. Keep the church and the clergy in all its grades entirely free from the secular power. See that the tithes that belong to God are faithfully paid from all the produce of the land; let them not be sold or withheld. If anyone seizes a bishop let him be treated as an outlaw. If anyone seizes or robs monks, or clergymen, or nuns, or their servants, or pilgrims, or merchants, let him be anathema [that is, cursed]. Let robbers and incendiaries and all their accomplices be expelled from the church and anthematized. If a man who does not give a part of his goods as alms is punished with the damnation of hell, how should he be punished who robs another of his goods? For thus it happened to the rich man in the gospel [Luke 16:19]; he was not punished because he had stolen the goods of another, but because he had not used well the things which were his.

“You have seen for a long time the great disorder in the world caused by these crimes. It is so bad in some of your provinces, I am told, and you are so weak in the administration of justice, that one can hardly go along the road by day or night without being attacked by robbers; and whether at home or abroad one is in danger of being despoiled either by force or fraud. Therefore it is necessary to reenact the truce, as it is commonly called, which was proclaimed a long time ago by our holy fathers. I exhort and demand that you, each, try hard to have the truce kept in your diocese. And if anyone shall be led by his cupidity or arrogance to break this truce, by the authority of God and with the sanction of this council he shall be anathematized.”

After these and various other matters had been attended to, all who were present, clergy and people, gave thanks to God and agreed to the pope’s proposition. They all faithfully promised to keep the decrees. Then the pope said that in another part of the world Christianity was suffering from a state of affairs that was worse than the one just mentioned. He continued:

“Although, O sons of God, you have promised more firmly than ever to keep the peace among yourselves and to preserve the rights of the church, there remains still an important work for you to do. Freshly quickened by the divine correction, you must apply the strength of your righteousness to another matter which concerns you as well as God. For your brethren who live in the east are in urgent need of your help, and you must hasten to give them the aid which has often been promised them. For, as the most of you have heard, the Turks and Arabs have attacked them and have conquered the territory of Romania [the Greek empire] as far west as the shore of the Mediterranean and the Hellespont, which is called the Arm of St. George. They have occupied more and more of the lands of those Christians, and have overcome them in seven battles. They have killed and captured many, and have destroyed the churches and devastated the empire. If you permit them to continue thus for awhile with impurity, the faithful of God will be much more widely attacked by them. On this account I, or rather the Lord, beseech you as Christ’s heralds to publish this everywhere and to persuade all people of whatever rank, foot-soldiers and knights, poor and rich, to carry aid promptly to those Christians and to destroy that vile race from the lands of our friends. I say this to those who are present, it meant also for those who are absent. Moreover, Christ commands it.

“All who die by the way, whether by land or by sea, or in battle against the pagans, shall have immediate remission of sins. This I grant them through the power of God with which I am invested. O what a disgrace if such a despised and base race, which worships demons, should conquer a people which has the faith of omnipotent God and is made glorious with the name of Christ! With what reproaches will the Lord overwhelm us if you do not aid those who, with us, profess the Christian religion! Let those who have been accustomed unjustly to wage private warfare against the faithful now go against the infidels and end with victory this war which should have been begun long ago. Let those who for a long time, have been robbers, now become knights. Let those who have been fighting against their brothers and relatives now fight in a proper way against the barbarians. Let those who have been serving as mercenaries for small pay now obtain the eternal reward. Let those who have been wearing themselves out in both body and soul now work for a double honor. Behold! on this side will be the sorrowful and poor, on that, the rich; on this side, the enemies of the Lord, on that, his friends. Let those who go not put off the journey, but rent their lands and collect money for their expenses; and as soon as winter is over and spring comes, let hem eagerly set out on the way with God as their guide.”

 

From

http://legacy.fordham.edu/halsall/source/urban2-fulcher.html

Medieval Quotes Advent Calendar 22nd of December

A bit different today. Some medieval poetry. These are from Hywel ap Owain, a fascinating figure in his own right. He was a Welsh prince and an accomplished poet. You can find out more about him here http://michaelfaletra.weebly.com/hywel-ap-owain-gwynedd.html

I’ve included two poems. The first is a recounting  of a battle with the English

Ode VII

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The second is a love poem

Ode V

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For interests sake I’m including the original welsh of the first 6 lines of Ode V. Poems really need to be read in their original language to get a true sense of the work. I’m not 100% certain of its veracity as I don’t read welsh and it is from wikiquote, I generally try to find other sources but in this case I can’t find another welsh version anywhere. Nevertheless it is still interesting.

Karafy gaer wennglaer o du gwennylan;
myn yd gar gwyldec gweled gwylan
yd garwny uyned, kenym cared yn rwy.
Ry eitun ouwy y ar veingann
y edrtch uy chwaer chwerthin egwan,
y adrawt caru, can doeth yn rann.

Welsh from https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Hywel_ab_Owain_Gwynedd

English translations from

https://books.google.com.au/books?id=GzYawdzshXAC&pg=PP2&lpg=PP2&dq=Welsh+Poems,+6th+Century+to+1600&source=bl&ots=dWaYor3CIg&sig=jIChcVFixaiOpC36vboz3SbOAjs&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj-qvz3oenJAhVC7GMKHcJnCIEQ6AEIITAB#v=onepage&q&f=false

 

 

Medieval Quotes Advent Calendar 21st of December

On the death of Caedwalla king of the West Saxons in 689CE

“In the third year of the Aldfrith’s reign, Caedwalla, king of the West Saxons, after ruling his people most ably for two years gave up his throne for the sake of the Lord and to win an everlasting kingdom, and went to Rome. He was anxious to gain the special privilege of being washed in the fountain of baptism within the the threshold of the apostles; for he had learned that by the way of baptism alone can the human race attain entrance to the heavenly life; at the same time he hoped that, soon after his baptism, he might be loosed from the bonds of flesh and pass, cleansed as he was, to eternal joy; and both of these things came to pass with God’s help just as he intended. He arrived in Rome while Sergius was pope and was baptised on the holy Saturday before Easter Day in the year of Our Lord 689; while still in his white robes, he was attacked by an illness and, on 20 April, he was freed from the bonds of flesh and joined the company of the blessed in Heaven.”

From Bede The Ecclesiastical History of the English People.  pg 244 ISBN:9780192838667

Medieval Quotes Advent Calendar 20th of December

The Battle of Stamford Bridge and the Battle of Hastings from a Welsh perspective from the Welsh chronicle

Brut y Tywysogion

“1066. And then a year after that, Harold, king of Denmark, meditated the subjection of the Saxons ; whom another Harold, the son of earl Godwin, who was then king in England, surprised, unwarned and unarmed, and by sudden attack, aided by national treachery, struck to the ground, and caused his death. That Harold who, at fìrst earl, through cruelty after the death of king Edward unduly acquired the sovereignty of the kingdom of England, was despoiled of his kingdom and life by William the Bastard, duke of Normandy, though previously vauntingly victorious. And that William defended the kingdom of England in a great battle, with an invincible hand, and his most noble army.”

From: Brut y Tywysogion pgs 45-47

https://ia601904.us.archive.org/32/items/brutytywysogiono00cara/brutytywysogiono00cara_bw.pdf

Medieval Quotes Advent Calendar 19th of December

Roger of Wendover 1201

“How the king and queen of the English were crowned at Canterbury.

King John kept Christmas at Guilford, and there he distributed a number of festive garments amongst his knights; and Hubert archbishop of Canterbury, striving to make himself on a level with the king, did the same at Canterbury, by which he roused the indignation of the king in no slight degree. Afterwards the king set out to Northumberland, and exacted a very large sum of money from the inhabitants of that county. He then returned to Canterbury in company with his queen, and on the following Easter-day they were both crowned at that place ; and at the ceremony the archbishop of Canterbury was at great, not to say superfluous, expense, in entertaining them. On the following Ascension-day at Tewkesbury the king issued a proclamation, that the earls and barons, and all who owed military service to him, should be ready with horses and arms at Portsmouth, to set out with him for his transmarine provinces at the ensuing Whitsuntide; but when the appointed day came, many of them obtained permission to remain behind, paying to the king two marks of silver for each scutcheon.”

From Roger of Wendover Flowers of History Volume II. Pg 201

https://ia800503.us.archive.org/35/items/rogerofwendovers02roge/rogerofwendovers02roge_bw.pdf

Medieval Quotes Advent Calendar 18th of December

Extract from a letter from Heloise to Abelard.

“I have your picture in my room; I never pass it without stopping to look at it; and yet when you are present with me I scarce ever cast my eyes on it. If a picture, which is but a mute representation of an object, can give such pleasure, what cannot letters inspire? They have souls; they can speak; they have in them all that force which expresses the transports of the heart; they have all the fire of our passions, they can raise them as much as if the persons themselves were present; they have all the tenderness and the delicacy of speech, and sometimes even a boldness of expression beyond it.

We may write to each other; so innocent a pleasure is not denied us. Let us not lose through negligence the only happiness which is left us, and the only one perhaps which the malice of our enemies can never ravish from us. I shall read that you are my husband and you shall see me sign myself your wife. In spite of all our misfortunes you may be what you please in your letter. Letters were first invented for consoling such solitary wretches as myself. Having lost the substantial pleasures of seeing and possessing you, I shall in some measure compensate this loss by the satisfaction I shall find in your writing. There I shall read your most sacred thoughts; I shall carry them always about with me, I shall kiss them every moment; if you can be capable of any jealousy let it be for the fond caresses I shall bestow upon your letters, and envy only the happiness of those rivals. That writing may be no trouble to you, write always to me carelessly and without study; I had rather read the dictates of the heart than of the brain. I cannot live if you will not tell me that you still love me; but that language ought to be so natural to you, that I believe you cannot speak otherwise to me without violence to yourself.”

From the love letters of Abelard and Heloise.

http://sacred-texts.com/chr/aah/aah04.htm

Medieval Quotes Advent Calendar 17th of December

From Self and Society in Medieval France: the memoirs of  Guibert of Nogent

Writing in the 12th century

“After birth I had scarcely learned to cherish my rattle when Thou, Gracious lord, henceforth my Father, didst make me a orphan. For when about eight months had passed, the father of my flesh died. Great thanks are due to Thee that Thou didst allow that man to depart in a Christian state. If he had lived, he would undoubtably have endangered the provision Thou hadst made for me. Because my young body and a certain natural quickness for one of such tender age seemed to fit me for worldly pursuits, no one doubted that when the proper time had come for education he would have broken the vow which he had made for me.”

Guibert was dedicated to the church.

From: From Self and Society in Medieval France: the memoirs of  Guibert of Nogent. pg 44 ISBN: 0806065503