Bergen and Hakon’s Hall

I’ve been mainly focusing on medieval England, Ireland and France recently, so I thought it was time medieval Norway got a look in. So I decided I’d write about Bergen and the castle there, known as Hakon’s Hall. Now I need to begin with a slight disclaimer, some of my photos of the Hall will have date stamps, this was due to a malfunction with my camera at the time. I can crop them out, but then you lose part of the photo so in this case I decided to leave them in. Also I was pretty much standing in puddles (it was very wet) to take some of the exterior shots, so there is the odd water droplet.

This post will predominantly be about Hakon’s Hall, but I did want to talk a little about Bergen as well,. Mainly as an excuse to use my photos of the old town and the ones from the top of the mountain, and because context is always good.

So Bergen.

This is the photo where you can see what I meant about the weather.

Bergen is the second largest city in Norway. It was founded in 1070 by King Olaf III Haraldsson. In the 12th and 13th centuries it was a the de-facto capital of Norway. It was the central residence and gathering point for the king and his assembly and was most likely the key administrative hub of the kingdom as well. Additionally it was, and still is, a major trading centre. In the 1300s it was possibly the largest town in Scandinavia with a population of 10 000. As a site of royal residence it was also of immense political importance, but I will return to the royal connections when I look at Hakon’s hall more closely.

From a trading perspective Bergen became an even more important port when the Hanseatic League of German merchants acquired control of the trade in Bergen in the 14th century, they continued this hold until the 17th century. The old town of Bergen, called Byrggen, is Unesco World Heritage listed. It was listed in 1979 as an important example of a trading centre going back to the 14th century and as a centre for the Hanseatic League. The Hanseatic League was essentially a cabal of Germanic merchants who cooperated across seven countries and nearly 200 cities to control large areas of trade from roughly the 14th century until the 17th century. Bergen was one of the key ports in this network. Although fire has destroyed much of Byrggen over the years, it has been restored using traditional methods, so the integrity of the old town remains, giving a fascinating visual window into how Bergen would have looked and operated centuries before. The buildings are all built from pine, and continue to be restored today with traditional methods and tools. In the early 2000s the repair work on just two buildings used 3500-4000 board meters of pine, which is sourced from local forests. There are roughly 62 buildings remaining in Byrggen, and looking after them is an ongoing conservation process. The Byrggen you see today, stems from a large fire in 1702. You can see how the buildings work in the photos below

This is by no means a comprehensive history of Bergen, but it sets the stage for the remainder of this piece: Hakon’s Hall. Hakon’s Hall has always been part of a larger fortress complex , now called Bergenhaus Fortress or Begenhaus Castle. It was an active military complex into the 20th century and the buildings on the site, including a military museum, reflect this. The only time it saw conflict was in 1665 when the garrison of Bergenhaus Castle intervened on the side of the Dutch in a battle with the English and the English were forced to flee. You can see some of the other buildings that make up the fortress in the photos below.

It was used as a base of operations during the German occupation in World War II. In fact it was an accident in World War II which caused significant damage to Hakon’s Hall and other parts of Begenhaus Fortress, which resulted in large scale restoration. But that is at the end of the Hall’s story; let’s begin at the beginning.

The Hall itself dates to the reign of, unsurprisingly, King Hakon. King Hakon Hakonson was the first king who united Norway under a single ruler. He reigned from 1207-1263 and there is a saga about his life called Harkonar sara Hakonarsonar, which was commissioned by his son not long after his death. Incidentally it was written by Icelander Sturla Þórðarson who was the nephew of Snorri Sturlson, the famous saga writer who has been featured on this blog before. You can read about Snorri here. The saga outlines King Hakon’s life and movements, in quite a bit of detail as he travelled around his kingdom. Medieval kings were often peripatetic as they moved around a lot to ensure their rule of law was enacted. In Haakon’s case, during his reign he spent 26 winters in Bergen, more than half of the winters of his time as king, which highlights the importance of Bergen and the castle to him as a central base. King Hakon, had come to throne on the back of a series of civil wars so when he began to rebuild the structures at Bergenhaus in stone, it made sense that as well as being practical useful buildings they were also fortified.

So the building that stands today that is known as Hakon’s Hall, is the key remaining part of what was an extensive rebuilding project. He actually had two halls built. The larger of the two is Hakon’s Hall, though at the time it was referred to simply as the stone hall. The second was the Yule Hall, which from the name would have been used for yule celebrations and the coming together of the king and his retinue. The first known use of the two halls was in 1261 on the 11th of September for the wedding of Hakon’s son Magnus, who was also his joint king.

The Hall itself would have been very imposing for its time; 37 m long and 16 m wide it was designed to illustrate the power of the king and is actually one of the largest halls in medieval Europe. It was also a big step to build in stone, in a country known for its extensive amount of wood and expert carpenters, the Hall was making a statement of authority and military strength.

King Hakon died in 1263 in Kirkwell in Orkney, after fighting several battles in an attempt to ensure Norse rule over the island. The Haakon Haakonsson’s Saga described his death from an unspecified ‘disorder’ and went on to say that

The King still found his disorder increasing. He therefore took into consideration the pay to be given to his troops, and commanded that a mark of fine silver should be given to each courtier, and half a mark to each of the masters of the lights, chamberlains, and other attendants on his person. He ordered all the silver plate belonging to his table to be weighed, and to be distributed if his standard silver fell short. At this time also letters were written to Prince Magnus concerning the government of the nation, and some things which the King wanted to have settled respecting the army.

It went on to say: He still spoke distinctly; and his particular favourites asked him if he left behind him any other son than Prince Magnus, or any other heirs that should share in the kingdom, but he uniformly persisted that he had no other heirs in the male or female line than were publicly known.

and

On Sunday the royal corpse was carried into the upper hall, and laid on a bier. The body was clothed in a rich garb, with a garland on the head, and dressed out as became a crowned monarch. The masters of the lights stood with tapers in their hands, and the whole hall was illuminated. All the people came to see the body, which appeared beautiful and animated, and the King’s countenance was fair and ruddy as while he was alive. It was some alleviation of the deep sorrow of the beholders to see the corpse of their departed sovereign so decorated.

So with Hakon’s death the possession of the Hall passed into the hands of his son, King Magnus. He repaired the hall after a fire in 1266 and added to the complex by building a keep in around 1270. The keep was ultimately incorporated into the 16th century Rosencrantz Tower which you can see below covered in scaffold.

Hakon’s Hall remained at the centre of the life of the royal court. This was partly because at this stage Olso was not a royal city as it was the centre of a Dukedom. Hakon’s grandson Eirik, who reigned from 1280-1299, used Bergen as the main royal residence and he actually died in Hakon’s Hall, as in he deliberately had his death bed there. The Hall stayed important to the royal court as long as Bergen remained the main administrative centre for the Kings of Norway and one of the main meeting places for the assemblies which governed the Kingdom. When Hakon V succeeded his brother Eirik in 1299, as he’d been a Duke who ran much of his administration from Oslo and he continued to do so, splitting his time between Bergen and Olso. Bergen’s central role began to diminish. Once Denmark and Norway became a unified kingdom in 1380, Oslo gained more prominence because it was closer to Copenhagen and the area had become more prosperous, though Bergen still had the higher population. So Hakon’s Hall as a place of royal authority waxed and waned inextricably with the fate of Bergen as a seat of royal power. It was still functioning as a representative building in its own right in the reign of Christian I because it is mentioned when he visited Bergen in 1450, but by the 16th century it has effectively become a storage room, or a barracks for the soldiers. You can still see its visual prominence as part of the complex of buildings in this late 16th century depiction of Bergen by Scholeus

The question of what you see today and how much it relates to the original hall of 1261 is a complicated one. It has always been part of a larger complex, but its identity was lost as it was incorporated into the wider Bergenhaus fortress, in fact it used a prison from the beginning of the 19th century. It was known as ‘the Slavery’ and its royal antecedents forgotten. Additionally it has been restored a number of times, probably the most extensive was in the 19th century when the distinctive external gabling was included. This was a period of time when, along with a lot of other European countries, Norway was rediscovering and romanticising its medieval past.

Other parts of the 19th century restorations included some of the windows and some of the lovely carved heads which adorn them and were possibly based on the originals. You can see the carved heads in the photos below.

The final restoration, pretty much to the hall you see today, was necessitated by the accident towards the end of World War Two that I mentioned earlier. So, on the 20th of April 1944 the Dutch freight ship Voorbode was docked in Bergen for emergency repairs when the cargo of tons of dynamite exploded. It has never been fully disproved whether it was sabotage or not. The explosion killed more than one hundred people and about five thousand people were injured. It also blew the roof off the Hall and set fire to it. Damage control occurred quickly, but it wasn’t until the 1950s that it could be completely restored. You can see the damage in the model below.

The Hall you see today was opened for the 700th anniversary in 1961. It was decided to keep much of the 19th century restoration, but the main difference is the walls inside and out were un-plastered. The intention was to make it a space that while reflecting its medieval origins, also can be used as part of the modern society. For example the textiles that hang in pride of place in the main hall were commissioned specially as the height of their craft in 1961. You can see some of the textiles and more photos of the main hall below.

Hakon’s Hall is more than just the main hall however, so I thought I’d finished up this post with a look through some of the other sections. You actually don’t enter into the hall proper, there would originally have been a stair leading up to it, but today you go in through the covered entrance you can see below

You come in to a side building and go down to the basement. You can see the bedrock in the basement proper and it would have been used as a storage room.

There is a middle story as well, which is more open with better light and the vaulting that was erected, in one form or another, to be a fireproof floor after the fire of 1266

These lower layers of the Hall, give you an idea of its time as a utilitarian building, even when it was the hall of kings. Today Hakon’s Hall has regained its rightful place in the history of Norway and serves as part of a museum that thousands visit every year to learn more about Norway and its rich and complex medieval antecedents.

References:

Site visit: 22/09/2018 (as you can see from all the date stamps)

Hakon’s Hall information booklet

Welcome to the Fortress Trail booklet

Hakonshallen 750 Years Royal Residence and National Monument / Oysten Hellesoe Brekke and Geir Atle Ersland (eds.)

https://web.archive.org/web/20110811094653/http://web.hist.uib.no/delfag-h97/tormod/explo.htm

https://web.archive.org/web/20070930155645/http://www.bergen.kommune.no/byarkivet_/ekstern/20.april_1944.html

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Scoleus.jpg

http://www.orkneyjar.com/history/haakondeath.htm

https://www.hanse.org/en/hanse-historic/the-history-of-the-hanseatic-league/

https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/59

The Photos are all mine

Victorian History Quiz: Easy to Evil

This month I decided to do a quiz, as I haven’t done one for a while. I have also updated two old posts with some new photos and a video. The updated Tower Hill Cemeteries post can be found here and the updated Port Fairy and Cape Schanck can be found here

But to return to the quiz.

The rules are simple. There are sixteen questions in four categories: Easy, Medium, Hard, Evil. You will see a question then a photo clue, the answer is underneath the photo. Good luck and keep track of your score so you can see how you do at the end.

Have fun.

Easy

  1. What is the name of the capital of Victoria?

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A. Melbourne

 

2. Where was the best known book by Joan Lindsay set (hint it features a character called Miranda)

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A. Hanging Rock

 

3. What is the name of the main station in Melbourne? (this is very very easy if you look closely at the photo)

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A. Flinders Street Station.

 

4. What is the name of the island best known for its parade of little penguins

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A.Phillip Island

 

 

Medium

5. What was the Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne built for?

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A. The 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition

 

 

6. Who was one of the founders of the State Library of Victoria, the the library of the University of Melbourne, the Supreme Court Library and was the judge who condemned Ned Kelly to death.

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A. Sir Redmond Barry

 

7. Where in Melbourne can you find 12000 unknown bodies?

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A.Under Queen Victoria Market.

 

8. What attraction was once known as the sow and piglets?

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A. The Twelve Apostles.

 

 

 

Hard

9. When was the State Library of Victoria established?

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A.1854

 

10. What and where is the photo below?

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A. The ceiling of the ANZ gothic bank in Collins Street Melbourne

 

11. What is the structure below called and what was it used for?

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A. Coop’s Shot tower and creating lead shot.

 

 

12. When was the Shrine opened?

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A. 1934

 

 

Evil

13. What decade was the Scenic Railway at Luna Park opened and which company designed it?

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A. 1910s (1912) and it is designed by L A Thompson Scenic Railway Company of New York.

 

 

 

14. What is the name of the mansion built in what is now Somers for Frederick Grimwade in 1895?

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A. Coolart

 

 

15. Who is the cairn on Arthur’s Seat dedicated to and why?

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A. Matthew Flinders because he stood on the mount in 1802

 

16. Who designed the Forum Theatre

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A. John Eberson and Bohringer, Taylor & Johnson

 

So that is the end. How did you do?

1-4: Well you’ve got some basics down pat. Good start.

5-8: You know more than basics, well on your way.

9-12: Good work, beginning to build a wealth of obscure facts.

13-15: Incredible effort. You may know more about Victoria than is sensible 🙂

16: Are you sure you didn’t write the quiz?

 

The photos are all mine

 

Advent Calendar of Medieval Religious Institutions: December 25th: Abbaye-aux-Hommes, Caen

This is the final post in my advent calendar. Thank you to everyone who has read them along the way, commented, shared and most importantly enjoyed them. Have a great Christmas and holiday season

Ellen

Du Hommes1Hommes3

hommes2

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The Abbaye-aux-Hommes was founded by William the Conqueror. It was a Benedictine abbey and dedicated to Saint Steven. The church of Saint-Etienne was consecrated in 1077. The majority dates to the 11th century but the choir was redesigned in the 13th century to reflect the then contemporary gothic style. The majority of the church is built in the romanesque style. The monastic buildings were erected in the 11th century but they were destroyed in the first war of religion  (1562-63) the first of the wars fought between the Roman Catholics and the Huguenots. They were rebuilt in the 18th century.

The church is also the burial place of William the Conqueror. His marble tomb can be seen in the photo above.

William married Matilda of Flanders in 1053 despite the fact that the Pope had banned the marriage due to consanguinity, they were distant cousins. They fought the Papal ban for nearly a decade and when it was finally lifted both of them built abbeys in Caen as a sign of gratitude. Matilda’s abbey was the Abbaye-aux-Dames which was the subject of yesterday’s post. Matilda is also buried in the abbey she founded.

The French Revolution forced the closure of the monastery and the monks were removed. In 1802 the abbey church becme the parish church and in 1804 the monastic buildings became a boy’s school.

In WWII in 1944 the high school provided refuge for the residents of Caen during bombing and survived intact. The monastic buildings are now home to the local council.

References:

Site visit 2015

Abbaye-aux-Hommes information booklet.

http://www.caen-tourisme.fr/en/discover-caen/william-the-conqueror/abbaye-aux-hommes

https://thefreelancehistorywriter.com/2012/05/10/matilda-of-flanders-queen-of-england-and-duchess-of-normandy/

The photos are all mine.

 

 

Advent Calendar of medieval Religious institutions: December 10th: St Mary’s Abbey Ferns.

StMFerns1StMFerns2JPGStMGerns3The town of Ferns in County Wexford, Ireland stands at an important strategic site as the area was historically the capital of the Kings of Leinster. The first christian community roughly on this site was founded by St Aidan in about 600.

The legend is that whilst he was building his monastery his followers were complaining that water couldn’t be found. So St Aidan ordered them to dig in a certain spot. Beautiful clear water then emerged from the hole and became known as St Mogue’s well (Mogue being another name for Aidan). The well is now under the road next to the abbey, but it is still accessible from a more modern structure just to the side. It is said to have curative powers, including the ability to reduce baldness.

The abbey you see today was founded by Diarmuid MacMurrough King of Leinster in 1158 as an Augustinian Abbey. The foundation charter of the abbey included a portion of all the beer brewed in Ferns. Not much of the abbey remains today; only parts of the church and the vaulted chancel survive sadly. The bell tower is the most unusual feature, the base is square shaped and then it tapers into a round top as it reaches higher. Stairs to the top of the tower still survive.

The abbey’s founder MacMurrough holds the dubious distinction of being the Irish king who invited the Anglo-Normans to Ireland (they never left again). MacMurrough lost his kingdom in the late 1160s and he sailed to England to invite the Anglo-Norman lords to come and help him reclaim it. Richard Strongbow Lord of Striguil (now called Chepstow) was the key lord to answer his call and MacMurrough promised Strongbow his kingdom on his death and marriage to his daughter Aoife if he would help. Strongbow agreed and MacMurrough took sanctuary at St Mary’s in 1167/68 while his waiting for his Anglo-Norman allies to arrive.

MacMurrough died in 1171 and is buried in the abbey’s grounds.

Strongbow had married Aoife by this point and he became the ruler of Leinster. The Anglo-Norman lords never left Ireland again. Strongbow’s daughter was Isabel de Clare who married William Marshal and inherited Leinster in her own right.

The abbey continued to function under Anglo-Norman rule and it was dissolved in 1539 as part of the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

References:

Site visits 2012 and 2015

Ferns: Ancient capital of Leinster book.

https://historicalragbag.com/2016/12/20/advent-calendar-of-castles-december-20th-ferns-castle/

https://historicalragbag.com/2014/11/27/marriage-alliances-1180-1250-part-4-isabel-de-clare/

The photos are all mine.

Who am I? Medieval edition

Simple rules:

  1. There are four clues
  2. To see the next clue scroll down
  3. If you guess on the first clue you get four points, second clue three points etc.
  4. The fourth clue is always pictorial
  5. Some are harder than others and there is no particular order. Each question is weighted the same
  6. There are ten questions.
  7. The answer is after the final pictorial clue
  8. If you see the next clue you don’t get the point.

 

1.

a) Married twice

 

 

b) A patron of Fontevraud

 

 

c) A great heiress and Duchess in her own right

 

 

 

 

 

d)eofa

Answer: Eleanor of Aquitaine

 

2.

a) Born to the daughter of the Earl of Salisbury

 

 

 

b) Once won a pike

 

 

c) Regent of England.

 

 

d) IMG_3421

Answer: William Marshal

 

3. 

a) Died in Rouen

 

 

 

b) Ordered what is known as an early census

 

 

 

 

c) Was a bastard in many senses of the word.

 

 

 

d) Bayeux Tapestry 7JPGAnswer: William I

 

4. 

a)  Known as a great writer and thinker of the early medieval period

 

 

 

b) Had a son called Astrolabe

 

 

c) Was castrated for his great passion for one of his students (it’s a little more complicated, but that’s the gist)

 

 

 

d)IMG_7444

Answer: Abelard 

 

5.  

a) The illegitimate daughter of a king of England

 

 

 

b) Married to a foreign Prince

 

 

c) Helped broker a peace between her husband a Prince of Wales and her father King John

 

 

 

 

d)joanna close

Answer: Joan of Wales

 

6. 

a) An Irish lord

 

 

 

b) Buried in Ferns

 

 

c) The reason the Normans came to Ireland

 

 

 

 

d) Diarmut grave

Answer: Diarmait mac murchada

 

7.

a) The second oldest son of a King.

 

 

 

 

b) Died in 1183

 

 

 

c) Known as reckless and crowned in his father’s life time.

 

 

 

 

d)IMG_7222Answer: Henry the Young King

 

8.

 

a) A medieval writer who liked to travel

 

 

 

 

b) Descended from Nest, a well known Welsh princess.

 

 

c) Known for his descriptions of Wales and Ireland

 

 

 

 

d)IMG_5579Answer: Gerald of Wales

 

9.

a) 12th child

 

 

 

 

b) Knight of the Garter

 

 

 

 

c) Arguably the last Plantagenet.

 

 

 

d)IMG_5855

Answer: Richard III

 

10.

a) Married at a very young age

 

 

 

b) Daughter of Alice de Courtenay

 

 

c) Remarried when her husband died and her children with her second husband reaped great benefits at the court of Henry III

 

 

d)Richard IAnswer: Isabel of Angouleme

 

 

So how did you do?

1-10: Not too bad, maybe read a little more

11-20: Absolutely getting there, excellent effort

21-30:  Brilliant, you really know your medieval figures!

31-40: Are you sure you didn’t check the next clue? No? Didn’t just have a pile of lucky guesses? No? Well then, exceptional effort!!

 

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

Medieval Quotes Advent Calendar 7th of December

A description of the ships on which Richard I was sailing to the Holy Land for the 3rd crusade.

“The ships which the king found already prepared on the shore were one hundred in number, and fourteen busses, vessels of great magnitude and admirable swiftness, strong vessels and very sound, whereof this was the equipage and appointment. The first of the ships had three spare rudders, thirteen anchors, thirty oars, two sails, three sets of ropes of all kinds, and besides these double whatever a ship can want, except the mast and the ship’s boat. There is appointed to the ship’s command a most experienced steersman, and fourteen subordinate attendants picked for the service are assigned him. The ship is freighted with forty horses of value, trained to arms, and with arms of all kinds for as many horsemen, and forty foot, and fifteen sailors, and with an entire year’s provisions for as many men and horses. There was one appointment for all the ships, but each of the busses received a double appointment and freight. The king’s treasure, which was very great and inestimable, was divided amongst the ships and busses, that if one part should experience danger, the rest might be saved.”

 

From: The Chronicle of Richard of Devizes Translated by J.A Giles. pg 13

http://www.yorku.ca/inpar/devizes_giles.pdf

Advent Calendar of Medieval Quotes 3rd of December

3rd of December

From Roger of Wendover. A description of happenings immediately after the death of Henry II.

I would like to point out that I am not including these quotes as examples of definitive facts. All medieval chroniclers need to be taken with a large grain of salt.

“He died on the octaves of the apostles St. Peter and St. Paul, after a reign of thirty-four years,seven months,and five days. On the morrow,as they were carrying him to be buried, arrayed in his royal robes, his crown, gloves, shoes, ring, sceptre, and sword, he lay with his face uncovered; and when Richard, hearing the news of his death, came to meet the convoy, blood flowed from the nostrils of the deceased, as if he was indignant at the presence of one who was believed to have caused his death.”

From Roger of Wendover Flowers of History Volume II. Pg 76

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

 

The Magna Carta

In celebration of the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta I thought I’d share 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.

This is obviously in translation, and was part of a significantly complicated situation but it is still interesting.