Medieval Quotes Advent Calendar 16th of December

Two shorter quotes for the price of one today. Both about Isabel de Clare and William Marshal



William Marshal speaking to his retainers in Ireland about his wife Isabel de Clare who he is leaving nominally in charge of his lands in Ireland, which he holds though marriage to her, while he goes back to serve King John.

“My Lords, here you see the countess whom I have brought into your presence. She is your lady by birth, the daughter of the earl who graciously, in his generosity, enfieffed you all, once he had conquered the land. She stays behind here with you as a pregnant woman. Until such time as God brings me back here, I ask you all to give her unreservedly the protection she deserves by birthright, for she is your lady, as we all know; I have no claim to anything save through her”.


History of William Marshal Volume II. pgs 177-179. ISBN: 0905474457


2. William Marshal and Isabel de Clare’s wedding in the house of Richard Fitz Reinier

“She was married under a favourable star, that worthy, beautiful lady of good breeding, that courtly lady of high birth. Who bore children whose fortunes were so promoted by the Lord our God in his providence, as we see now and have seen in the past.”

History of William Marshal Volume II. pg 485. ISBN: 0905474457

Medieval Quotes Advent Calendar 15th of December

A short one today, but with a fascinating back story.

It is a rare surviving example of a king demanding knight service from one of his retainers. In this case Henry II asking William Marshal to bring forces. He requested that Marshal come “to [him] fully equipped as soon as may be, with as many knights as [Marshal] can get, to support [Henry II] in [his] war.” It went on to add, “You have ever so often moaned to me that I have bestowed on you a small fee. Know that if you serve me faithfully I will give you in addition Châteauroux with all its lordship and whatever belongs to it.”

David Crouch, The English Aristocracy 1072-1272, A Social Transformation, Yale: Yale University Press, 2011, p. 29.

Châteauroux was a pivotal fortress in the disputed region of Berry, south-east of Tours in France, and was in the hands of the French at the time so Henry II was offering Marshal a castle he would have had to fight to take possession of. In normal circumstances Henry could not have offered it at all, however its lady was the underage Denise of Châteauroux who was probably not more than 15 and who was most likely under Henry’s guardianship at the time. This meant that Henry could offer Châteauroux to Marshal by offering marriage to Denise. This marriage never came about because Henry II died in 1189 and in that year Richard I, Henry’s son and heir, gave Marshal the even wealthier heiress Isabel de Clare.

The document dates to 1188 and it’s remarkable survival is discussed in the excellent article below.

Medieval Quotes Advent Calendar 14th of December

Gerald of Wales on the topography of Ireland

Chapter IV: Of the surface of Ireland, and its inequalities; and of the fertility of the soil.

Ireland is a country of uneven surface, and mountainous; the soil is friable and moist, well wooded, and marshy; it is truly a desert land, without roads, but well watered. Here you may see standing waters on the tops of the mountains, for pools and lakes are found on the summits of lofty and steep hills. There are, however, in some places very beautiful plains, though of limited extent in comparison with the woods. On almost all sides, and towards the sea-coast, the land is very low, but in the interior it rises into hills of various elevations and mountains of vast height; not only the surrounding country, but also the central districts, being rather sandy than rocky. The tillage land is exuberantly rich, the fields yielding large crops of corn; and herds of cattle are fed on the mountains. The woods abound with wild animals; but this island is more productive in pasture than in corn, in grass than in grain. The crops give great promise when in the blade, still more in the straw, but less in the ear; for the grains of wheat are shrivelled and small, and can hardly be separated from the chaff by dint of winnowing. The fields are luxuriantly covered, and the barns loaded with the produce. The granaries only show scanty returns.

Chapter V: On the prevalence of winds and rain; and their causes.

The crops which the spring brings forth, and the summer nourishes and advances, are harvested with difficulty, on account of the autumnal rains. For this country is exposed more than others to storms of wind and deluges of rain. A wind blowing transversely from the north west, and more frequent and violent than any other winds, prevails here; the blast either bending or uprooting all the trees standing on high ground in the western districts, which are exposed to its sweep. This arises from the land, surrounded on all sides by a vast sea and open to the winds, not having in those parts any solid shelter and protection, either distant or near. Add to this, that the waters attracted in clouds, and collected together by the high temperature of that region, and yet neither exhaled by fiery atmospheric heat, nor congealed by the coldness of the air and converted into snow or hail, at last burst in copious showers of rain. In short, this country, like other mountainous regions, generates and nourishes most abundant rains. For the heat evaporating from the high lands by excessive wet, the moisture which they attract is easily converted into its native element. And it is usually distinguished by various names, according to its various elevations. While yet hanging about the hills, it is called mist; when it rises higher, and, floating in the atmosphere, is quite disengaged from the earth, it becomes clouds; again descending in drops or particles, it is called snow or rain, according as it is solid or liquid. Thus, Ireland, Wales, and Scotland are subject to much rain. pgs 12-13

Medieval Quotes Advent Calendar 13th of December

A letter from Henry III to the people of Ireland regarding the institution of the Magna Carta. It was unlikely to have been written by him, as it was still during William Marshal’s regency.

“The King to all archbishops, bishops, abbots, earls, barons, knights, free tenants and all our faithful subjects settled throughout Ireland, greetings.

With out hearty commendation of your fidelity in the Lord, which you have ever exhibited to our lord father and to us in these our days are to exhibit our pleasure is, that in token of this your famous and notable fidelity, the liberties granted by our father and by us, of our grace and gift to the realm of England shall in our kingdom of Ireland be enjoyed by you and your heirs forever.

Which liberties distinctly reduced to writing by the general council of all our liege subjects we transmit to you sealed with the seals of our Lord Gualon, legate of the apostolical see and our trusty earl William Marshal, our governor and governor of our kingdom because as yet we have no seal. And the same shall in the proceeds of time and on fuller council  receive the signature of our seal.

Given in Gloucester on the 6th day of February.”

Dr Thomas Leland, History of Ireland from the Invasion of Henry II, London, 1773, p. 203.


Medieval Quotes Advent Calendar 12th of December

A letter from Eleanor of Aquitaine when she was still Queen of France.

In the name of the holy and individual Trinity. Amen.
I, Eleanor, by the grace of God queen of the Franks and duchess of the Aquitainians. We wish to make known to all the faithful, future as well as present, that we, for the redemption of our soul and [that] of our ancestors and for the redemption of the souls of the ancestors of Louis, king of the Franks and duke of the Aquitainians, our husband, have given and granted in eternity to God and the knights of the Temple present and future who were established for the defense of holy Christianity against the unfaithful pagans, the mills which I had at La Rochelle and which Isembert of Castre Julie held in his lifetime and which Gangan of Taunac reclaimed from the gift of the count of Poitou and that Gangan gave them to the said knights of the Temple. Besides that we have given and granted in eternity to the knights of the temple the houses which they had at La Rochelle, occupied by them, that is within their enclosures utterly free and immune from all custom, infringement and legal exaction and tallage and violence of our ministers except our toll. Whoever should wish to give to those knights of the Temple anything from our fief by which we do not lose the service of our men, that we wish and grant. Also we have given and granted to said knights of the Temple that all the possessions of those knights throughout our land may go and come securely and freely without any custom and without any charge/tax either by land or by water. That this deed/charter may obtain the perpetuity of stability, we have commended it to writing and strengthened it with the authority of our seal and the writing of our name.
Enacted publically at Lorrez-le-Bocage, in the thousand thirty-ninth year of the incarnation of the Lord, the third of our reign, with those prsent in our palace whose names and signs are inscribed below.
The sign of Ralph count of Vermandois and our seneschal.
S[ign] of William, butler.
S., of Matthew, chamberlain.
S., of Matthew, constable.

Medieval Quotes Advent Calendar 11th of December

From the Anglo Saxon Chronicle

A.D. 1137. This year went King Stephen over sea to Normandy, and there was received; for that they concluded that he should be all such as the uncle was; and because he had got his treasure: but he dealed it out, and scattered it foolishly. Much had King Henry gathered, gold and silver, but no good did men for his soul thereof. When the King Stephen came to England, he held his council at Oxford; where he seized the Bishop Roger of Sarum, and Alexander, Bishop of Lincoln, and the chancellor Roger, his nephew; and threw all into prison till they gave up their castles. When the traitors understood that he was a mild man, and soft, and good, and no justice executed, then did they all wonder. They had done him homage, and sworn oaths, but they no truth maintained. They were all forsworn, and forgetful of their troth; for every rich man built his castles, which they held against him: and they filled the land full of castles. They cruelly oppressed the wretched men of the land with castle-works; and when the castles were made, they filled them with devils and evil men. Then took they those whom they supposed to have any goods, both by night and by day, labouring men and women, and threw them into prison for their gold and silver, and inflicted on them unutterable tortures; for never were any martyrs so tortured as they were. Some they hanged up by the feet, and smoked them with foul smoke; and some by the thumbs, or by the head, and hung coats of mail on their feet. They tied knotted strings about their heads, and twisted them till the pain went to the brains. They put them into dungeons, wherein were adders, and snakes, and toads; and so destroyed them. Some they placed in a crucet-house; that is, in a chest that was short and narrow, and not deep; wherein they put sharp stones, and so thrust the man therein, that they broke all the limbs. In many of the castles were things loathsome and grim, called “Sachenteges”, of which two or three men had enough to bear one. It was thus made: that is, fastened to a beam; and they placed a sharp iron [collar] about the man’s throat and neck, so that he could in no direction either sit, or lie, or sleep, but bear all that iron. Many thousands they wore out with hunger. I neither can, nor may I tell all the wounds and all the pains which they inflicted on wretched men in this land. This lasted the nineteen winters while Stephen was king; and it grew continually worse and worse. They constantly laid guilds on the towns, and called it “tenserie”; and when the wretched men had no more to give, then they plundered and burned all the towns; that well thou mightest go a whole day’s journey and never shouldest thou find a man sitting in a town, nor the land tilled. Then was corn dear, and flesh, and cheese, and butter; for none was there in the land. Wretched men starved of hunger. Some had recourse to alms, who were for a while rich men, and some fled out of the land. Never yet was there more wretchedness in the land; nor ever did heathen men worse than they did: for, after a time, they spared neither church nor churchyard, but took all the goods that were therein, and then burned the church and all together. Neither did they spare a bishop’s land, or an abbot’s, or a priest’s, but plundered both monks and clerks; and every man robbed another who could. If two men, or three, came riding to a town, all the township fled for them, concluding them to be robbers. The bishops and learned men cursed them continually, but the effect thereof was nothing to them; for they were all accursed, and forsworn, and abandoned. To till the ground was to plough the sea: the earth bare no corn, for the land was all laid waste by such deeds; and they said openly, that Christ slept, and his saints.

Medieval Quotes Advent Calendar 10th of December

This one is a little different and I make no claims that it is at all factual 🙂 It is part of a real epic that follows the exploits of marcher baron Fouke Fitz Waryn. But in the periods when he wasn’t doing anything particularly interesting the author was forced to make stuff up, hence the dragon. Enjoy.


“Fouke took the damsel by the hand and entrusted her to Sir Audulph for her protection as they left the rock cave. They had scarcely come out into the open air when they saw the dragon flying in the sky above and heading straight towards them. From its hot mouth the beast belched forth smoke and horrible flames. It was a very ugly creature, with a large head, square teeth, cruel claws and a long tail. As soon as the dragon spotted Fouke it swooped down and struck at him with its claws, delivering such a blow on the shield that it tore it in two. Fouke raised his sword and, with all his strength, struck at the dragon’s head. Given the hardness of the creature’s outer shell and the horny matter on the front side of its body, the sword did no harm whatever to the beast, nor did it even cause it to waver in its flight. The dragon began its flight from afar in order to strike harder. Fouke, who could not stand the blow, dodged behind the tree which was beyond the fountain. He saw that he could not harm the dragon from the front side, so he waited until it made a turn. Then Fouke struck a convincing blow to the body near the tail, thereby cutting the beast in two. The dragon began to scream and yell. It rushed for the damsel with the intention of seizing her and carrying her away, but Sir Audulph defended her. The dragon clasped Sir Audulph so tightly in its claws, that he would have been crushed if Fouke had not come so quickly. After cutting of the beast’s paw, Fouke was able to free Sir Audulph with great difficulty. Its sharp talons had already cut through the hauberk. Fouke struck the dragon squarely in the mouth with his sword and in this way he finally killed it. Fouke was very weary, and rested awhile before going to the dragon’s lair. He took all the gold her found there, and carried it to his galley. John de Rampaigne examined Sir Audulph’s wound and dressed it, for he knew a lot about medicine.”


From Fouke Fitz Waryn trans and ed Thomas E Kelly in A Book of Medieval Outlaws. Pgs 153-154. ISBN: 9780750924931



Medieval Quotes Advent Calendar 9th of December

This is a letter from Hildegard of Bingen to Elizabeth of Schoenau

I, a poor little form and earthen vessel, speak these things not from myself but from the serene light: Man is a vessel which God fashioned for himself, which he imbued with his spirit, so that he might accomplish his works in him; for God does not work as man does but by the order of his command all things are carried out. Grasses, brush, and trees appeared; the sun, the moon, and the stars also came about by his care, and the waters produced fish and birds, and flocks and beasts arose as well, which minister all things to men, as God commanded.
Man alone did not recognize Him. For when God prepared great knowledge for man, man lifted himself up in his spirit and turned himself away from God. For God looked on man to perfect all his works in him, but the ancient deceiver beguiled him and infected him with the crime of disobedience, the love of the unstable wind, when he sought more than he should have.
Ach, o ve! Then all the elements enfolded themselves in the alternation of light and shadows as man did in transgressing God’s commands. God, however, strengthened/irrigated certain men, lest man be completely despised. Abel was good, but Cain a suicide. And many saw the mysteries of God in the light, but others committed many sins, until that time came in which the word of God was manifest as it is said: Beautiful in form beyond the sons of men. Then the sun of justice appeared and illuminated men with good works in faith and in act, just as the dawn comes first, and the other hours of the day follow, until night arrives. Thus, o daughter Elisabeth, is the world changed. For the world is already weary in all the greenness of virtues, that is at dawn, prime, ters, and in the strongest hour of the day, at sext. But in this time it is necessary for God to strengthen/irrigate some men, lest his instruments be idle.
Hear, o anxious daughter, that the ambitious suggestions of the ancient serpent are worrying somewhat those men whom the inspiration of God has so imbued. For when that same serpent sees an elegant gem, he roars, saying: “What is this?” And he worries it with many miseries of the burning mind, desirous of flying over the clouds, as if they were Gods, just as he did.
Now hear again: Who desire to accomplish the works of God, let them always consider that they are earthen vessels, since they are men, and let them always reflect on what they are and what they will be, and leave heavenly things to [him] who is of heaven, since they are exiles, not knowing heavenly things, but only reciting the mysteries of God, just as a trumpet only makes sounds, but does not cause them; someone blows in it in order to make the sound. But the mild put on the cuirass of faith, being gentle, poor, and unfortunate, having the simple habits of children, just as he whose trumpet sounds they are was a Lamb, since God always scourges those who sing in his trumpet, taking care lest their earthen vessel perish, except as it pleases Him.
O daughter, let God make you a mirror of life. But I too lie in the pusillanimity of my mind, fatigued much by fear, sounding a little, at times, like the small sound of a trumpet from the living light. Whence God help me, that I may remain in his ministry.


Medieval Quotes Advent Calendar 8th of December

Henry of Huntingdon on the marriage of Henry I to Adela (Also known as Adeliza) of Louvain in 1120.

“At Christmas, King Henry was at Brampton with Theobold, count of Blois, and after this, at Windsor, he married Adela, daughter of the duke of Louvain, because of her beauty. After the king had been at Berkeley for Easter, he wore his crown in London at Whitsun, with his new queen. Then in the summer, as he went with his army to Wales, the Welsh humbly came to meet him, and agreed to everything that the majesty of his pleasure desired. But on Christmas Eve, an extraordinary wind demolished not only houses but stone towers. I have spoken in elegiacs of the beauty of the said queen.

o queen on the English, Adela, the very muse who prepares to call to mind your graces is frozen in wonder. What to you, most beautiful one, is a crown. What to you are jewels? A jewel grows pale on you, and a crown does not shine. Put adornment aside, for nature provides you with adornment, and a fortunate beauty can not be improved. Beware ornaments, for you take no light from them; they shine brightly through your light. I was not ashamed to give my modest praise to great qualities, so be not ashamed, I pray, to be my lady.”

From: Henry of Huntingdon. The History of the English Speaking People. ISBN: 9780199554805