…and I don’t want to go back to school. I’m sure many other students share this feeling, although probably not many of them are 67 years old and auditing (meaning no tests or papers or credit) two classes on Medieval English History and Chaucer.
I was really engaged with the British history class until we got past the mid-900’s. My main interest is King Alfred, “the Great,” who died in 899 C.E., and his grandson King Aethelstan, as well as Alfred’s amazing daughter, the Lady of Mercia, Aethelfled.
I kind of skimmed through the later Anglo-Saxon Kings, as well as the Scandinavian Kings of England, Cnut, Harold Harefoot, and Harthacnut. Did you know that Danish kings at one time ruled England?
When Harthacnut, the last Scandinavian king of England, died in 1042 C.E., he was succeeded by the last Anglo-Saxon king of England, Edward the Confessor, who later became a saint and who ruled England until 1066.
I will not attempt to go through the complex and turbulent events of that year, 1066 C.E. Suffice it to say that it was the year of the Norman Conquest, which brought about a sea-change in the lives and customs of the English people.
Now we have gone through the Norman Conquest, with William the Conqueror, and his son William Rufus, plus first three Henry’s, bypassing the civil war between Stephen and Matilda in the interests of time while our professor was sick, but covering Richard “Lionheart” and John (think Magna Carta).
Did you know that there was an earlier civil war in England in the 12th century, which is now called the Anarchy, before the more famous one in the 17th century between the Royalists, or Cavaliers, supporting the Crown, and Oliver Cromwell’s Parliamentarians, often called the Roundheads?
You might want to look up the turbulent reign of Stephen, in the 1100’s, after the first Henry died. I think Matilda, daughter and designated heir of Henry I, got a raw deal.
Some of Matilda’s downfall came from her poor people skills. She was apparently arrogant. That could have been because she was an Empress by marriage, to the Holy Roman Emperor (who, confusingly was another Henry, but not of England).
But I think Matilda’s personality, if it had been housed in a male body, would have caused many more people to support her against Stephen. She became her father Henry II’s heir because of the grave and foolish misfortune known as The White Ship, in which her popular and beloved brother Arthur was drowned.
Henry II of England, sometimes called Henry Fitz-Empress, was Matilda’s son.
I may be leaving out kings, but then there are so many of them, and so little time to write this blog!
We are now up to the beginning of the 14th century, with Edward I, also known as Edward Longshanks (because of his unusual height) and the Hammer of Scotland (because he conquered Scotland).
I’ve read the sections on his changes to property law and common law, the chancery and Exchequer. He incorporated more local gentry into important positions that had formerly been occupied by nobles from the Court. For example, Sheriffs of Counties and Justices of the Peace, which made local people feel more involved in their government.
Now I’m facing the section on his changes to military administration.
And I am getting weary.
Meanwhile, I’ve exhausted my enthusiasm for reading Chaucer’s works in the original language, which is Middle English. What we speak now is Modern English. There are many differences. The sad thing about my waning interest is that it began its decline right as we were starting to read The Canterbury Tales, for which Chaucer is best-known. But he wrote many earlier works, in very intricate rhyme schemes, of which Romaunt of the Rose and The Book of the Duchess were my favorites.
Now I’m tired of trying to figure out Middle English, especially since our Riverside Chaucer omnibus edition uses a really small font. I’m getting new glasses at the end of the month. Maybe that will help!
But before I go, here is an interesting tidbit: in Middle English, the word “ask” was pronounced “ax,” which is considered to be a mark of poor education now. But maybe folks who now say “ax” are merely showing off their knowledge of Middle English! 🙂