Friday, May 31, 2013


In a landscape formed by a rocky outcrop and tall trees, the figures of the three protagonists are represented on a minor scale: Queen Margaret protecting her son from the onslaught of the robber.
Francisco Vieira, “O Portuense” (1765-1805) 
Oil on canvas 
126 x 102 cm 
Inv. 23 Pin CMP/ MNSR 

Orkney Pict or Pictish subject?

Before we look at the inhabitants of Orkney in the Pictish period, we should first look at the term "Pict" and its usage in relation to the Northern Isles.
Just as the term "Pict" is thought to have originated as a Roman nickname, these days it remains a generic term, although used slightly differently. Now historians have adopted the terms "Pict" or "Pictish" as a convenient label for the period and people from about AD 300-800.
Although this is undoubtedly useful to describe specific time periods, an unfortunate side effect is that this has led to a common assumption that Orkney's population and culture was somehow changed or was replaced.
But although a number of ancient historical accounts suggest the Picts were foreign invaders, it is now generally accepted that the inhabitants of "Pictish Orkney" were simply the descendents of the islands' Iron Age broch builders. By 565AD, Orkney had been incorporated into the Pictish kingdom and thereafter was labelled by under the all-embracing collective name "Picti".
Although undoubtedly influenced by their Pictish overlords, the people of Orkney continued to live in and around centuries old settlements, such as the Broch o' Gurness,in Evie. In their sturdy, stone houses, they lived relatively comfortable lifestyles as farmers and fishermen.
But although technically under Pictish rule, the question remains as to the extent of Pictish influence.
It seems likely that Orkney's "Picts" were a small, independent part of a larger political unit. But just because you're part of the Pictish Kingdom doesn't necessarily make you Pictish — just as the inhabitants of nineteenth century India were technically part of the British Empire, the population and their culture remained Indian.
In a similar vein, in 1468 Orkney became part of the Kingdom of Scotland. But we know there were distinct differences in culture, language and tradition, elements of which remain even today. Others, such as the Norn language, survived until the eighteenth century - 300 years after the islands became technically "Scottish".
Just as post-Norse Orkney was undoubtedly affected by the influence of the new Scottish rulers, centuries before it is also likely that the main "Pictish" kingdom influenced the Orkney kingdom - but although there are clear examples of distinct Pictish influence in the county, does this necessarily mean a widespread acceptance of Pictland's culture? The question is open to debate.
So where we see the phrases "Orkney's Picts" or "Pictish Orkney", perhaps it would be better to read "the people of Orkney during the Pictish period."

What Tolstoy Said About Napoleon in "War & Peace"...

Image Credit: Creative Commons

WAR&PEACE: On the thirteenth of June a rather small, thoroughbred Arab horse was brought to Napoleon. He mounted it and rode at a gallop to one of the bridges over the Niemen, deafened continually by incessant and rapturous acclamations which he evidently endured only because it was impossible to forbid the soldiers to express their love of him by such shouting... He rode across one of the swaying pontoon bridges to the farther side, turned sharply to the left, and galloped in the direction of Kovno, preceded by enraptured, mounted chasseurs of the Guard who, breathless with delight, galloped ahead to clear a path for him through the troops. On reaching the broad river Viliya, he stopped near a regiment of Polish Uhlans stationed by the river.

"Vivat!" shouted the Poles, ecstatically, breaking their ranks and pressing against one another to see him.

Napoleon looked up and down the river, dismounted, and sat down on a log that lay on the bank. At a mute sign from him, a telescope was handed him which he rested on the back of a happy page who had run up to him, and he gazed at the opposite bank. Then he became absorbed in a map laid out on the logs. Without lifting his head he said something, and two of his aides-de-camp galloped off to the Polish Uhlans.

"What? What did he say?" was heard in the ranks of the Polish Uhlans when one of the aides-de-camp rode up to them.

The order was to find a ford and to cross the river. The colonel of the Polish Uhlans, a handsome old man, flushed and, fumbling in his speech from excitement, asked the aide-de-camp whether he would be permitted to swim the river with his Uhlans instead of seeking a ford. In evident fear of refusal, like a boy asking for permission to get on a horse, he begged to be allowed to swim across the river before the Emperor's eyes. The aide-de-camp replied that probably the Emperor would not be displeased at this excess of zeal.

As soon as the aide-de-camp had said this, the old mustached officer, with happy face and sparkling eyes, raised his saber, shouted "Vivat!" and, commanding the Uhlans to follow him, spurred his horse and galloped into the river.., heading for the deepest part where the current was swift. Hundreds of Uhlans galloped in after him. It was cold and uncanny in the rapid current in the middle of the stream, and the Uhlans caught hold of one another as they fell off their horses. Some of the horses were drowned and some of the men; the others tried to swim on, some in the saddle and some clinging to their horses' manes. They tried to make their way forward to the opposite bank and, though there was a ford one third of a mile away, were proud that they were swimming and drowning in this river under the eyes of the man who sat on the log and was not even looking at what they were doing. When the aide-de-camp, having returned and choosing an opportune moment, ventured to draw the Emperor's attention to the devotion of the Poles to his person, the little man in the gray overcoat got up and, having summoned Berthier, began pacing up and down the bank with him, giving him instructions and occasionally glancing disapprovingly at the drowning Uhlans who distracted his attention.

For him it was no new conviction that his presence in any part of the world, from Africa to the steppes of Muscovy alike, was enough to dumfound people and impel them to insane self-oblivion. He called for his horse and rode to his quarters.

Some forty Uhlans were drowned in the river, though boats were sent to their assistance. The majority struggled back to the bank from which they had started. The colonel and some of his men got across and with difficulty clambered out on the further bank... That evening.., Napoleon also gave instructions that the Polish colonel who had needlessly plunged into the river should be enrolled in the Legion d'honneur of which Napoleon was himself the head. 

(War & Peace Chapter II, Book Nine)

What Tolstoy 'FORGOT' to Say about Napoleon I in "War & Peace":

That Napoleon Plunged into the River to Rescue the Drowning Poles.

Image Credit: Creative Commons

THE FULL STORY: The Emperor [Napoleon i] knew that the welfare of every member of his forces was (it must be said) his responsibility. It was not a responsibility from which he withdrew for (as he put it) "I put myself in the position of being their father the moment they enlisted in my army. If I did not wish to assume this responsibility, I should have indeed retired to private life. That assuming this responsibility on my part has earned me the love of my soldiers is not something I take lightly. It makes me shudder to think of those who have taken power - and commanded armies - but have not felt this corresponding responsibility for human life. I should not rule without it, and could not live without it. Not to care about others is to live in hellish vanity, and not to act on that care is a misery."

Hence when [at the incident misdetailed by Tolstoy above]... Napoleon I realised that the Poles were indeed drowning, he did not hesitate. Throwing off his overcoat and gesturing that "all who can swim join me," he [threw aside his imperial business and] plunged into the river. As I have detailed earlier, Napoleon I was a sound swimmer and not afraid of depths or currents. He seized the nearest drowning Pole and pulled him to the bank. Forcing him [up the bank] (it must be said) but remembering that this was not the only victim of the rash act of the unit - "one can not be as gentle as one would wish when lives are at risk" Napoleon I frequently said. Then he once more returned to the river to rescue the others.

One of Napoleon's aides had summoned some small boats, which were beginning to gather to rescue more survivors - offered a position in one of the boats Napoleon refused. He could effect his own rescue from the water, and it was his responsibility to rescue the Poles who yet remained in the water.

Napoleon's next care was the horses... but [most made it alive from the river without assistance]...

Dripping wet on the river bank, Napoleon snatched up his riding crop and plyed it against the [euqally wet] commanding Polish officer. By what foolishness (the Emperor thundered) had "you, their commanding officer, put them - your soldiers - in this danger, this stupid wasteful useless danger? To impress me? Am I to be impressed with waste and foolishness? You do not 'show more loyalty to me' by doing such things..."

The officer stood there like a chidden child. "A child would not have done such a thing!" said Napoleon, "A child would have known that that river is dangerous, and there is nothing to be gained by crossing at a dangerous spot when there is a safe crossing immediately to hand! Were you plunged into the water to save a drowning lady, or in hope of charging into a battle which hangs in the balance? No..!"

Napoleon I was to remark that it is "one of the failings of the Polish race that they think such rash bold actions - which serve no purpose but seem gallant - are a mark of national pride. But I can only say that this time they truly believed they acted from loyalty, and I hope my admonishments to them that afternoon have taught this unit (at least) better."

(A Contemporary Biography by an Eyewitness)

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset (c. 1406–1455)

August 22, 2010
Henry VI and His Queen, Margaret of Anjou
Through his quarrel with Richard PLANTAGENET, duke of York, Edmund Beaufort, second duke of Somerset, helped initiate the political conflicts that eventually escalated into the WARS OF THE ROSES.

Edmund Beaufort was a younger son of John Beaufort, earl of Somerset (d. 1409), eldest of the legitimated children of John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster (1340–1399), by his mistress Katherine Swynford (d. 1403). As a branch of the house of LANCASTER, the BEAUFORT FAMILY held a claim to the Crown that could possibly rival the claim of the house of YORK. Beaufort succeeded his elder brother John as earl of Somerset in 1444 and as duke of Somerset in 1448. He served in FRANCE from the 1420s, recapturing Harfleur in 1440 and relieving CALAIS in 1442. In 1446, he succeeded York as lieutenant of France, but his failure to hold Normandy against French assaults, though not entirely his fault, earned him great unpopularity.

In 1450, anger over the defeats in France sparked JACK CADE’S REBELLION, which in turn led to the overthrow and murder of HENRYVI’s chief minister, William de la POLE, duke of Suffolk. Despite his unpopularity and his military failures, Somerset enjoyed Henry’s confidence and assumed leadership of the royal government. York, angered by Somerset’s appointment to the French governorship and believing him to be ambitious for the throne, attacked the duke as an obstacle to needed reforms and as a traitor responsible for the loss of France.

Holding few lands of his own, Somerset was staunchly loyal to Henry VI, upon whom he depended for favor and office. The king frustrated all York’s attempts to remove Somerset from power until 1453, when the onset of Henry’s mental illness initiated York’s FIRST PROTECTORATE and allowed the duke to commit Somerset to the TOWER OF LONDON. Released immediately upon Henry’s recovery in early 1455, Somerset was acquitted of all charges and restored to office. Fearing perhaps that Somerset meant to destroy him, York and his noble allies, Richard NEVILLE, earl of Salisbury, and his son Richard NEVILLE, earl of Warwick, took arms against the COURT. After failing to achieve Somerset’s surrender, York and his allies attacked a royal party at the Battle of ST.ALBANS in May 1455. The battle ended when York’s forces slew Somerset. Considering his father’s death a murder, Henry BEAUFORT, third duke of Somerset, intensified his family’s rivalry with the house of York, thereby ensuring the continuance of civil strife.

Further Reading: Allmand,C.T., Lancastrian Normandy, 1415–1450 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1983);“Edmund Beaufort,” in Michael Hicks, Who’s Who in Late Medieval England (London: Shepheard- Walwyn, 1991), pp. 285–287; Griffiths, Ralph A., The Reign of King Henry VI (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981); Storey,R. L., The End of the House of Lancaster, 2d ed. (Stroud, Gloucestershire, UK: Sutton Publishing, 1999);Wolffe, Bertram, Henry VI (London: Eyre Methuen, 1981).

What Tolstoy FORGOT to Say about Napoleon in "War & Peace"

Leo Tolstoy's "War & Peace" is considered one of Russia's greatest novels. As Wikipedia puts it "'War & Peace' delineates in graphic detail events surrounding the French invasion of Russia, and the impact of the Napoleonic era on Tsarist society, as seen through the eyes of five Russian aristocratic families." First published in full in 1869, the novel was a Victorian-era best seller and was soon translated from Russian into a variety of other languages.

Amongst the sprawl of people and events in "War & Peace" one towers above the others - the man without which there would (in a real sense) be no "War & Peace." This man is Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821), pictured left with his son. Napoleon was not a work of fiction, he was a real person (and a real ruler); his presence dominates "War & Peace", he is the catalyst through which human nature is revealed and history unfolds.

Tolstoy has made little attempt to 'fictionalise' Napoleon; the author has drawn him directly from history. But has Tolstoy drawn him directly from life?

One in ten Scots men descended from Picts

The Picts inhabited  territory north of the Forth and Clyde. Picture: Getty
The Picts inhabited territory north of the Forth and Clyde. Picture: Getty
A RECENTLY discovered DNA marker suggests that 10 per cent of Scottish men are directly descended from the Picts, it is revealed today.
Mystery has long surrounded the fate of the tribe of fierce enigmatic people who battled with Rome’s legions before seeming to disappear fromhistory.
Now new research from ScotlandsDNA, an ancestry testing company, has found a marker strongly suggesting for the first time that a large number of descendants of these northern tribes, known as “Picti” by the Romans meaning “Painted Ones”, are living in Scotland.
Dr Jim Wilson, chief scientist at the company, who found a Y chromosome marker arising amongst the direct ancestors of the Picts, said this was the “first evidence that the heirs of the Picts are living among us”.
After testing this new fatherline marker labelled R1b-S530 in more than 3,000 British and Irish men, Dr Wilson discovered it is ten times more common in those with Scottish grandfathers than those with English ­grandfathers.
A total of 170 men living in Scotland have been found to carry this marker, although the number is likely to be far higher.
While ten per cent of more than 1,000 Scottish men tested carry R1b-S530, only 0.8 per cent of Englishmen have it.
About 3 per cent of men in Northern Ireland carry the ­lineage, but it was only seen once in more than 200 men from the Republic of Ireland.
It is believed the presence in Northern Ireland is due to the plantations of Lowland Scots in the 16th and 17th centuries. This is a pattern usually seen with markers that appear to be ­restricted to Scotland.
Dr Wilson, who is also a senior lecturer in population and disease genetics at the University of Edinburgh, said this difference is highly statistically significant and can be applied to the general population as clear evidence of a very Scottish marker. He said: “The finding just popped out of the analysis. While there have been hints of this from previous data, what was surprising was the really huge difference between Scotland and England.
“It is a clear sign that while people do move around there remains a core who have remained at home. Perhaps this was due to farming or that moving would have to have been done on foot.”
Dr Wilson added: “As you go up your family tree there are all sorts of paths. But if we can see that about 10 per cent of fatherlines look to have a Pictish origin, then we can make the prediction that probably a lot of the other lines do.”
Ancient Pictland is often defined by historians as the area where Pictish symbol stones and Pictish place-names, such as those that have the prefix Pit or Pett are found. This heartland lies in Scotland north of the Forth and stones and pit-names are seen particularly in Fife, Perthshire, Tayside, the Northeast and around the Moray Firth coastlands. Within Scotland there is a strong concentration of the R1b-S530 group in those very same areas.
Alistair Moffat, managing director of ScotlandsDNA, said: “These findings were probably one of the biggest surprises we’ve had in our research. The Picts seem kind of exotic, and different and quite colourful and so I was personally, really, really rather taken with this.”
Dark age kingdom
The Picts were a confederation of tribes who lived north of the Forth and Clyde beyond the reach of the Roman Empire.
They constituted the largest kingdom in Dark Age Scotland and fought off both the Romans and Angles.
They were first mentioned by a Roman chronicler in about 300AD and were a dominant force in what is now Scotland for at least 600 years. By the late 200s AD the Picts had overrun the northern frontier of the Roman empire on more than one occasion. Their neighbours were the Gaels, Britons, Angles and the Vikings.
The Picts were assumed to have “disappeared”. But this version of history has since been updated and it is now believed they were overtaken by political events becoming assimilated by incoming Scots invading from Ireland.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Who are the Picts?

File:Serpent stone.JPG
The Aberlemno Serpent Stone, Class I Pictish stone

The Picts are the aboriginal people of Scotland.
The Picts, as they were known to their enemies, were a mixed group of peoples. The earliest inhabitants of the land were of the same stock as the Iberians, while another people started their migration from somewhere in northern India after the last glacial period abated, approximately 3000 to 4000 years ago. The latter were the Vanir or the "Beaker people" to archeologists. They moved to the west and stayed for a time in the Middle East, settling in the area north of the Black and Caspian Sea. They were matriarchal farmers and artisans, a predominantly peaceful folk. With the coming of more warlike Aesir peoples, also migrating to the west from India, the Vanir slowly moved northwesterly along the river which became known after them — the Don.
Eventually some of the Vanir moved across the sea, onto the land of Iberian folk of what is now Northern Scotland. They also settled in the present countries of Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland.
The Vanir brought with them the knowledge of working with metals, which the Iberian people lacked. The two peoples got along well together, for both were Matriarchal and the Vanir contributed agricultural knowledge the Iberians needed. For their part, the Iberians added ancient skills of woodworking, mining, medicinal plant lore, and magic. Indeed, you will find a great difference in tone and tenor in the "Hulder" — the name given to the Iberians by the Vanir — stories of the Vanir, and those "Faerie" tales of other cultures.
The Vanir and the Huldre were generally respectful, even helpful to each other. The Vanir were followed into that area much later by the Celtic peoples, who also migrated north along the Volga River. These Celtic peoples at first settled peacefully among the Vanir and Huldre, introducing new technologies to their new home.
Other migrations of Celts brought more warlike peoples, who tried to conquer the Vanir and the Huldre, but succeeded in only pushing them deeper into the northern wilderness. These people to were added to the makeup of the Pictish people. The Vanir and Huldre merged with these new peoples and became the people known as the Picts, who repulsed the advances made by the Romans and Scots, and dealt the Angle-Saxons the defeat at Dunnichen.

Sunday, May 26, 2013


Kingdom of Summer

Bradshaw's second Arthurian tale, originally published in 1981, surpasses 2010's Hawk of May in bringing the world of a Roman Arthur to life. The tale of Gwalchmai, aka Gawain, continues, this time narrated by no-nonsense Rhys ap Sion, a farmer who leaves his family's holdings to pledge his service to Gwalchmai and the forces of the light. Gwalchmai often broods; Rhys simply does what needs to be done, whether that's thatching a roof or facing off against the evil Queen Morgawse. Where Gwalchmai has otherworldly power of the light to ward off the darkness, Rhys has only his loyalty, his Christian faith, and his shrewd manner, and he's all the more likable for it. Arthurian retellings rarely come from the voice of a freeman, and Rhys's grounded perspective enhances the fantastical elements. Adults and young readers alike will be delighted by Bradshaw's engaging mix of history, legend, and romance. (Sept.)

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Was Edward of Westminster Really the Son of Henry VI? (1453)

Marriage of Margaret of Anjou and Henry VI (1445)

Margaret of Anjou (1430 - 1482) was the queen consort of England's Henry VI of England (1421 - 1471). Henry's father, Henry V, died when the son was only nine months old. Henry VI was raised with considerable influence of his regents. Even before Margaret, at 15, married Henry in 1445, there were rumors he'd been afflicted with bouts of mental instability. Henry's mother, Catherine of Valois, was the daughter of Charles VI of France, known to have struggled with insanity. (Henry also inherited the crown of France through his mother when he was eleven months old, when that grandfather died; he never ruled France as the throne was taken by Charles VII Valois in 1429.)
Even after he assumed power, Henry seemed mostly interested in religion and statecraft, not in his wife. Margaret did not become pregnant until 1453. About that time, Henry slipped into a serious mental breakdown, and was unaware of what was happening, including the birth of his son, Edward, in October 1453. When he came out of the breakdown, he acknowledged paternity of his son, and had him invested as Prince of Wales in 1454.
However, there were rumors that, given the long period before the queen became pregnant, and his insanity around the time of conception, the son had a different father. Two men were the primary suspects of being the real father:
  • Edmund Beaufort, second (or first) Duke of Somerset (1406 - 1455). He was a younger son of John Beaufort, whose parents were John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, and Katherine Swynford. He was a cousin of Henry VI, and a favorite of Henry. Edmund Beaufort had considerable power from 1451 through 1453, when the king's insanity made him vulnerable; the king was imprisoned in the Tower of London, released only when he recovered his wits. Edmund Beaufort was killed in 1455 at the First Battle of St. Albans, known as the first battle of the Wars of the Roses. The rumor of his adultery with the queen may have been part of a campaign during the king's insanity to destroy his reputation and reduce his power. His marriage in the early 1430s was unlicensed, and had to be later pardoned (1438), so he was already the subject of marital scandal. His wife, Eleanor Beauchamp, lived until 1467.
  • James Butler, fifth Earl of Ormond and first Earl of Wiltshire (1420 - 1461). He was a strong supporter of the Lancastrians in the Wars of the Roses, and was an advisor to the young Prince of Wales, his alleged illegitimate son. When the York party prevailed at the Battle of Towton, Butler was beheaded. Butler was married in 1458 to the daughter of Eleanor Beauchamp and Edmund Beaufort, the latter being the other suspect in Margaret's alleged adultery.
As with other accusations of infidelity and illegitimacy, these were leveled by those who had an interest in destroying the reputation of the prince and his claim to the throne, and countered by those who had the contrary interest. Few have taken these claims seriously, however.

The PEDIGREE of Anna Morgause (Queen) of GODODDIN

 Husbands/Partners:       Gwair (Gwyar) ap DWYWG   ;   Lot LUWDDOC (King) of GODODDIN 
 Children:       Tegid (Tegyth) ap GWAIR (ap GWYAR)   ;   Thaney (Saint) verch LOT   ;   Gawain `the Green Knight'   ;   poss. Mordred (q.v.)

/-- Gradlon MAWR (King) of BRITTANY   +====> [ 221 ,,q,&]
/-- Selyfan (Salomon Salmon) I (King) of BRITTANY
/  \-- Tigridia of IRELAND   +====> [ 220 ,,q,&]
/-- poss.  Constantine (I) ap SOLOMON  (375? - 411)
or: King Constans `the Monk' (Constantine's son)
OR: poss. source: Constantius III of ROME   +====> [ 220 ,,XD,&]
/-- Patricius (Patrick) FLAVIUS
/  \-- poss.  daughter of Patricius FLAVIUS  (355? - ?)
/-- Uther PENDRAGON  (401? - 495?)
/-- Llancelod
\-- Ivoire verch LLANCELOD  (375? - ?)
/  or: Fausta
Anna Morgause (Queen) of GODODDIN
/-- Frwdwr ap GWRFAWR   +====> [ 219 ,,q,&]
/-- Cynwal ap FRWDWR  (400? - ?)
/-- Amlawdd WLEDIG ap CYNWAL  (425? - ?)
\-- Ygerna (Igraine) verch AMLAWDD
or: poss. Vivianne I del ACQS, q.v.
/-- Edern (Aeternus) ap PADARN   +====> [ 224 ,,qD,&]
/-- Cunedda WLEDIG ap EDERN (King) of NORTH WALES
/  \-- poss.  (Princess) of DUMNONIA & BRITTANY   +====> [ 218 ,,q,&]
\-- Gwen verch CUNEDAG  (426? - ?)
or: Yglais (daughter of Lambor, q.v., 14th Grail-King)
OR: Scotnoe   +====> [ 228 ,,xD,&]
/-- Coel Hen GUOTEPAUK (King) of GODODDIN   +====> [ 220 ,,qD,&]
\-- Gwawl verch COEL  (388? - ?)
\-- Ystradwal verch CADFAN   +====> [ 218 ,,q,&]