Category Archives: Middle Ages Conflict Resolution

More on Knee Jerk Reactions, Fighting Fire with Fire


Amazingly, Trump and his surrogates brag that he fights back, that if
someone punches him he punches back ten times as hard, that he “fights fire
with fire”.

How can they think that mimicking an opponent is a good thing?  It’s purely
reactive. With Trump all it takes is a bit of criticism and he’s off to the
races, tweeting away–and not doing his job.  According to Sun Tsu (and
Miyamoto Musashi) the warrior chooses the time, place and mode of battle.
Letting oneself be constantly baited into over the top overreaction just looks
weak.  Trump comes off like a patsie, not a strong leader.  People rattle his
cage, he goes nuts, they do it again, predictably, so does he.  That is just way too much psychodrama for most folks.

By continually being drawn into childish twitter fights he’s wasting a ton of time that he could be spending on, oh, say, infrastructure, crime, gun violence, Middle East peace talks, Russian hacking of our businesses, elections and who knows what else, and….

So I’m not nearly as thrilled with the, presumably-viewed-as-manly habit
our president has of going off the rails at every little provocation.

By reacting so predictably, it takes virtually nothing for anyone who does
not wish us well to distract our president into following someone else’s
agenda. But a master tactician doesn’t fight fire with fire, he uses unorthodox
and abstruse methods and implements.  Cuts off the oxygen, cools the
temperature, removes the fuel, whatever.

Here’s a perfect example of the foolishness and penalties of knee jerk reactions,

Remember, at the Battle of Hastings, where England became Norman in the
fall of 1066?  After hours of bitter fighting, the English (under half-Danish
Harald Godwineson, King Harald II of England) had held their position behind a
shieldwall which the Normans could not break.  When the Normans got spooked and fled at some point, the English broke formation and pursued them individually and pell mell.  The Normans, seeing the opportunity, wheeled their horses around and picked off the undisciplined English one by one.  Two more times the Normans used the same ploy–pretended retreat followed by counterattack–to induce the English to break formation.  This turned the battle in favor of the mounted Normans.

That’s what knee-jerk “fighting back” got the English.  Their king dead, his body and jeweled gonfannon in the hands of his usurper, the end of Anglo Saxon rule in England, their lands, assets, pride and titles taken and endless abuse at the hands of the Normans for decades to come.

Mindlessly fighting back may sound good but patient critical analysis, and
then fighting back if it’s warranted, is a more sound way to proceed.
Usually. There are always exceptions but, in general, think first.  Just popping off as our president does is not just embarrassing, it makes us look dumb in front of our enemies.  And that definitely is not a good idea.

Charles Martel “The Hammer” is Spinning in His Grave


What’s that sound I hear?  Why it’s my many greats grandfather, Charles
Martel, “The Hammer” Mayor of the Palace of Austrasia, spinning in his
grave.  Charles was the great warrior who kicked the Saracens’ ass in
October, 732, at the Battle of Tours/Battle of Poitiers, forcing them from
most of what is now called France. (Charles was also the emperor
Charlemagne’s grandfather.) The battle, effectively, was the end of the
Merovingian empire and the beginning of the Carolingians.

Well, to be accurate, after the battle the Saracens didn’t exactly leave all of what is now France, but they were more or less confined to Provence for the nonce.

At this battle the Saracens, under the head of the Umayad caliphate, Emir of
Cordoba, Abd el Rahman, got their asses handed to them by Charles and his
army.  This battle ended the expansion of the Muslim invaders’ territories
northward into Europe. (The Saracens had already established themselves
in what is now Spain and were on track to take all of Europe at the time.)

“The Hammer,” an illegitimate son of Pepin of Heristal and
his mistress, Alpaide, was imprisoned at an early age by Pepin’s wife,
Plectrude. There doesn’t seem to be any information about his military
training but at some point he must have had some. One doesn’t just hop on
a horse and start fighting, after all.  How he became such a charismatic and
successful warrior is a tale I’d like to read but so far haven’t been able to find.

Charles is considered the founder of the Europe of the Middle Ages, as well
as the of the Carolingian dynasty.

Given what it took to get rid of the invaders, what would The Hammer think of
how Europe is surrendering itself to the 21st century un-armed Muslim
invasion of Europe which is currently being carried out at the behest of the EU?
(Hence the grave spinning of my prodigious ancestor.) I’m guessing his
attitude towards the unthinking liberals who are giving away their culture,
land and autonomy to millions of foreign Muslims would be “kill them”.
While that is way, way too violent a solution for our tender-hearted times,
there is a point to be made.

It doesn’t make any sense to bring into your country people who would
subjugate and/or supplant you if they could.

Don’t call me a bigot either. I look at how Muslim women are treated, in
their own countries and homes, with absolute horror.  Lopping off labia and
clitorises, making women in brutally hot regions run around in heavy black
bedspreads, refusing to let them drive or leave their homes without a
supervising male–on and on the list of insufferable treatment of women by
Muslims in the Middle East goes.

Sorry but I’m not gonna be guilt-trip-manipulated by a bunch of weenie
liberals into subordinating my own self interest. I don’t want any part of a
religion or culture which insists I must be a second class citizen, subordinate and
subjugated because of my double X chromosomes. (I already fought that
battle once, when being raised as a Catholic.)

As far as I’m concerned, “The Hammer” had the right idea. The occupying
Muslims of his time were not exactly gentle, kind masters of the people they
conquered.  When someone mistreats you–and what the Saracens did was
more than just “mistreatment”–boot them the hell out and don’t let them
come back.  Ever.

Conquest — What’s in It for the Conqueror?


Since we seem to be heading back into the Middle Ages, I’ve been reading up on the history of those grim centuries.  William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy, King of England, invaded Britain in October of 1066 and won the Battle of Hastings, and the country of England.  (The Welsh took a lot longer to be subdued.)  By Easter of 1067, William, having been crowned William I, King of England on Christmas Day 1066 at nearly new Westminster Abbey, returned to the family home at Fecamp, Normandy and had a huge party.  (Earl Harold Godwinsson had also been crowned in that abbey, on January 6, 1066, succeeding Edward the C0nfessor and totally pissing off William, Duke of Normandy who was pretty sure that damn crown was supposed to be his.)

Various historical sources provide details.  This one below, from Orderic Vitalis’ “The Ecclesiastical History of England and Normandy, Vol. 2” (Forester translation) speaks volumes about the luxury to which William was quickly becoming accustomed.  Supposedly he brought everything he’d captured in England with him when he returned for the Easter festivities at the small Northwest French harbor town–even people whose number included many nobles who were not specifically called hostages, but were.

…The feast of Easter was kept at the abbey of the Holy
Trinity at Fecamp, where a great number of bishops, abbots,
and nobles assembled. Earl Radulph, father-in-law of
Phillip king of France- with many of the French nobility,
were also there beholding with curiosity the long-haired
natives of English-Britain, and admiring the garments of
gold tissue, enriched with bullion, worn by the king and his
courtiers. They also were greatly struck with the beauty of
the gold and silver plate, and the horns tipped with gold at
both extremities. …

So that’s what it’s all about?  Snazzy duds, including “garments of gold tissue” and  “horns tipped with gold at both extremities”?  Is that like, the emperor has no clothes?   One has to wonder–was gold tissue to be worn over more substantially woven clothing?  It sounds, well, itchy.

The Hastings invasion sounds pretty much like the Vikings’ original 793 invasion of England at Lindisfarne.  By the time of William II, Duke of Normandy that country was wealthy, fat and soft, ripe for another round of plundering.  William II, Duke of Normandy was only five generations removed from his gr gr gr grandfather, Rollo the Viking.  (The succession was; from Rollo’s son, William le “Longue Epee” styled Duke of Normandy,  to his son Richard I, Duke of Normandy, “Sans Peur” (“the Fearless”) to his son, Richard II, Duke of Normandy (“the Good”) to his son Richard III Duke of Normandy who was succeeded by his brother Robert I, Duke of Normandy (either “the Devil” or “the Magnificent” depending on who’s doing the talking,) who was the father of William (“the Bastard” or “the Conqueror” depending on who’s doing the talking).  William’s conquest was just another Viking invasion.  You might say it was sort of an “apple not falling far from the tree” kind of thing.  It was often speculated that Robert (“the Devil”so called because of suspected fratricide, or “the Magnificent” because, well, I don’t know why) had his brother bumped off so he could have the Duke of Normandy title, but this was never proven.  William,the Conqueror, gr gr gr grandson of Rollo the Viking, conquered England just 273 years after the Vikings first came a-raiding at Lindisfarne.

It’s common knowledge that when William I of England died, his servants stole everything they could carry and left him, basically, lying in his underwear.   Then his corpse wasn’t attended to in a timely manner and it swelled up, then burst during the attempt to inter William.

What isn’t such common knowledge (I think) is that at William’s funeral, before he popped, someone spoke up with a claim to the patch of ground he was to be buried in.  Turns out William had ripped off the land from this guy’s father years before.  So the knights and family retainers had to take up a collection to pay off the gravesite claimant in order for the ill-fated funeral to proceed.  (Can’t ya just see them looking at each other, rolling their eyes and waiting for someone else to cough up some cash.)

Apparently, after the Conqueror’s corpse popped open there was an unbearable stench and the services were hastily concluded.  That would be by the clerics whose livelihoods had been provided for generously by William for decades but who wouldn’t even endure his stinking corpse long enough to provide a moment or two of dignity for the much abused dead king.

Yeah, generally there are plenty of assets in it for conquerors.  But in the long run, the second he (or she) is vulnerable, supporters and sycophants will take all their stuff and leave them lyin’ dead on the floor in their underwear.  They can’t even count on a decent burial.

Humans are such a mystery!  They seem smart but keep making the same mistakes over and over again.

 

 

 

Throwing Shade in Rouen in the Middle Ages


Well, actually it wasn’t just insults,–for poor ol’ John I, Archbishop of
Rouen, it was insults and rocks.  Now, when reading about the Middle
Ages, there’s no avoiding the pervasive role piety and religion allegedly
played in life at all levels of society.  Then, accounts of real life events make
for a clearer understanding of how that actually worked out in real time.

John I Archbishop of Rouen (1067 – 1078, previously Bishop of Avranches)
was “animated with a lively zeal for virtue”.

Not everyone was appreciative.  Volume II of Orderic Vitalis’ “Ecclesiastical History of England and Normandy,” mentions John “taking severe measures to separate incontinent priests from their concubines; and when in a synod he
prohibited their intercourse under pain of excommunication,” (he) …”was assailed with stones, and forced to make his escape, on which occasion when flying from the church he intoned with a loud voice the verse:

” God, the heathen are come into thine inheritance.”

What would Jesus say?  “Be fruitful and multiply.” ?  Nope.  “Hey.  Cut it out!  No throwing rocks in the house!”

How I Got My Name and the Conqueror of Ossory


The following incident took place sometime in 1169 or 1170 during
Strongbow’s conquest of Ireland.  Ossory was a petty kingdom of Ireland at
the time.  The occasion of the Irish conquest by Strongbow was at the
behest of Dermot Mac Murchada, King of Leinster who, after stealing
another king’s wife, was dispossessed of his kingdom.  Strongbow was
promised Dermot’s daughter Aoife (MacDermot) by her father, if he would
help him (Dermot) get his kingdom back.  Strongbow‘s real name was
Richard Fitzgilbert De Clare and his wife thus became Aoife MacDermot De
Clare when she married Strongbow.  (And that is from whence comes my
name.)  There is a famous painting depicting the marriage of Strongbow and Aoife in the Irish National Gallery.  Dermot, who was responsible for Ireland
being conquered by Strongbow and held in subjugation by the English from
that time until the 19th or 20th century, depending upon how you look at it,
is one of the great villains of Irish history.

Here’s what happened before the conquest of Ossory during that war,
according to Gerald of Wales in his history The Conquest of Ireland.
(Gerald was not only a medieval historian, he was also the tutor of  two sons
of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II, King of England, i.e. Richard the
Lionheart and John Lackland, later King John.)

…Duvenald, the prince of Ossory, was the most implacable of all the
enemies of Dermitius (Aoife Note; Dermot) and some time before,
when the son of Dermitius was his prisoner, having become jealous of him,
he carried his vengeance to such a pitch, that he put out his eyes. …

Dermot’s, or actually Strongbow’s, army assaulted Ossory and won the day.
Dermot wasn’t exactly gracious in victory.

…The victory being thus gained, about two hundred
of the enemies’ heads were collected and laid at the
feet of Dermitius, who, turning them over one by one, in
order to recognize them, thrice lifted his hands to heaven
in the excess of his joy, and with a loud voice returned
thanks to God most High.  Among them was the head of
one he mortally hated above all the rest, and taking it up
by the ears and hair, he tore the nostrils and lips with his
teeth in a most savage and inhuman manner. …

And we think we live in violent times.  Talk about needing an anger management course.

If I could go back in time and speak to Dermot, I think the conversation
would go something like this:

“Now, ya just gotta reel it in a notch or two.  Calm down.  Y’know, attenuate your responses just a tad.  Here, I have something for you.  It’s called Prozac. Really, take one, you’ll feel much better and maybe won’t be so high strung.  No, I am not possessed of the devil, it’s just a pill.  Hey, put down that sword…”

 

“Lock Her Up” “Have him flogged” “Lock Her Up” “Have Him Flogged”


To the humor impaired:  This is satire.

Q.  What Do Donald Trump and King Henry II of England Have In Common?

A.  They both made remarks that were construed as hinting that they’d sure appreciate it if someone would get rid of a political opponent, and then gave passive aggressive responses to the resultant firestorm of criticism.  (”Whaaat?” “Was it something I said?” “I was just kidding.”)

Maybe King Henry II’s voluntary penance (flogging) for his faux pas of seemingly wishing for political assassination could be extended to Mr. Trump as well.   Think of it.  It’d be a huge media event that would entertain millions.  The Donald would get tons of attention, which he seeks as resolutelyly as Diogenes, the ancient Greek with the lantern who was unendingly searching for an honest man.  Maybe the pros would outweigh the cons for the ever-surprising Mr.
Trump and he’d agree to the gaudy spectacle.

Henry II was famous for his rages when anyone opposed his will.  After his best bud, Thomas a Becket became Archbishop of Canterbury the two had a falling out over the separation of Church and State.  They had a huge fight about it and in 1164 Thomas ultimately had to scoot to exile in France, where he remained for six years.  (King Henry was really pissed off!)  Eventually, in 1170, Henry and Thomas were reconciled and the archbishop returned to England.  But it was an uneasy truce.

Only a few months after Thomas returned to Canterbury, the two were again at
loggerheads.  The precipitating issue was whether Church or State had judicial authority over clerics.  Apparently many monks had been overly frisky, some even murderous.  Thomas believed only the pope had any authority over religious matters and denounced some bishops during his mass on Christmas Day, 1170, which was interpreted as him excommunicating them.   Henry wanted them reinstated, because he maintained that the clerics’ misdeeds were up to the State to punish (or not).   Thomas said no.

Henry was, as usual, enraged when he didn’t get his way.  He was, in France at the time,  and huffed “Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?” or something along those lines.  Four of his knights were only too happy to oblige their liege lord.

The knights crossed into England and raced for Canterbury.  On December 29, 1170 they caught Becket at the cathedral saying Vespers.  They carved him up. Literally.  The crown of Becket’s head was cut off.   One of the knights delivered a crushing blow to the prostrate Thomas’s head, spilling his brains out right in front of the altar.  Ick!  Even for a king having an archbishop’s brains squashed out at a cathedral’s altar was way too over the top.

So Henry was forced to agree to do penance, which included being publicly flogged by the monks of Canterbury, in the cathedral.

Even though, fortunately, no one took the Donald up on his provocative solicitation of violence, there are plenty of people who’d still love to see him publicly flogged.  It could be done at St. Edward’s Catholic church in Palm Beach–there’s plenty of parking behind nearby Green’s drugstore. (Finding parking is a real problem in Palm Beach.)

Mr. Trump ‘s handlers could sell the idea to him by focusing on the linkage between him and a king.  Yeah, the Donald in sackcloth and ashes, the Catholic priests whaling on him (the Episcopalians at Palm Beach’s Bethesda by the Sea church might go too easy on protestant Trump) cameras rolling, media flacks gabbling like excited geese–it would be the event of the election season.

Maybe some RNC members could be induced to join the floggers.  Catholic Paul Ryan would go for it, and Reince Priebus might be all in as well.   Maybe it could be a bi-partisan fund-raiser for charity.  MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough and
Mika Brzezinski could be the fair and balanced moderators. (Or maybe Stephen Colbert would be a better fit–he’s Catholic.)  It would be awesome theater.

And it would give Democrats an answer to the Republicans’ chant of “Lock her up”.   Dems can start start chanting “Have him flogged”.

Somebody, please, start a petition to have the Donald do penance the Henry II way.   Pretty sure it would garner the number of signatures required for the White House to address it.  President Obama, always a good sport, would probably be okay with it.

What would Jesus say?  “Flogging doesn’t sound so bad compared to what I had to do to save your damn souls.  Go for it.”

Say Hallelujah.  This is an idea whose time has come.

Mercy or Vengeance


Diarmat Mac Murchada (Dermot) King of Leinster, had been dispossessed
by the High King of Ireland.  He sought assistance from Henry II, King of
England to regain his kingdom.  Henry gave his knights permission, if they
wished, to join Dermot’s cause.  Richard “Strongbow” Fitzgilbert De Clare,
Earl of Striguil took him up on it.

Dermot even threw his daughter Aoife overboard, metaphorically speaking;
as an incentive, he gave her as wife to Strongbow.  There is a famous painting
in the Irish National Gallery, “The Marriage of Strongbow and Aoife”
which depicts this event.

In 1170 Strongbow sent an advance party of ten men-at-arms and 70
archers, led by Raymond le Gros, to Ireland.  Near Waterford, at Dundonolf,  about 3,000 men of Waterford engaged Raymond’s small band and, due to the
inopportune tactics employed by the Irish, amazingly, Raymond’s contingent won the day.  It was a long fight and Raymond and his men grew so weary of cutting people down with their swords that they finally resorted to just throwing the Irish off a cliff into the sea where they drowned.

But they also captured 70 Irishmen and there was a public debate about
what to do with the captives.  The noble Raymond pleaded eloquently for their lives, but a more practical knight, Hervey de Montmaurice, was of another mind.  The debate is relevant and apropos today, given the issue of terrorism and the war on it.  Here is how the debate went.

Raymond’s Speech
“RAYMOND, contending earnestly for the liberation of the prisoners, spoke
thus :”
…Their enterprise was honourable, and they are not to be treated as thieves,
insurgents, traitors, or freebooters.   They are now in such a position that
mercy ought rather to be shown them for example’s sake, than cruelty to
torture them. …
…Let our clemency, therefore, procure for us the noble distinction that we
who have conquered others can conquer our own fury and wrath. …
…How worthy is it of a great man, in the midst of his triumphs, to count
it for sufficient revenge, that vengeance is in his power? …
…It is the part of a brave man to consider those as his enemies with whom
he is contending for victory, but to consider the vanquished as fellow-men;
that while courage brings war to an end, humanity may add to the blessings
of peace.  Mercy is, therefore, much more worthy of a noble man than
victory; the one is a virtue, the other the effect of fortune. …
…but as they were made prisoners, their lives were granted, and they have
been readmitted from the rank of our enemies to the common fellowship of
men, it would be a great stain on our honour, and bring us to great disgrace,
if we were now to inflict on them the punishment of death.

“His discourse…was received by a murmur of applause from the people”

Then Hervey had a go at it.
Hervey’s Speech
…Was that the way by which Julius Caesar and Alexander of Macedon
conquered the world ?  Did the nations voluntarily flock together from all
parts to such spectacles of mercy, or were they not rather compelled to
submit to the yoke by force of arms and the terrors of cruelty? …
…Raymond argues with wonderful mildness, as if we had already
subjugated these nations, and we had only to do with treating them kindly,
or as if our enemies were so few, that, with such valour as ours, it matters
not that we augment their numbers, whereas the whole population of Ireland
are leagued for our destruction, and not without reason. …
…Tell me, I pray you, whether Raymond’s acts are not inconsistent with his
words. Let him answer me whether, if the enemy should advance to storm
our camp, and by any chance should succeed, they would deal mercifully
with us. …
…We must so employ our victory that the death of these men may strike
terror into others, and that, taking warning from their example, a wild and
rebellious people may beware of encountering us again. …

How did it work out?

“Hervey’s opinion was approved by his comrades, and the wretched
captives, as men condemned, had their limbs broken, and were cast
headlong into the sea, and drowned.”

So much for “The quality of mercy is not strained”.

The account is taken from The Conquest of Ireland, by Giraldus Cambrensis (Gerald of Wales), a 12th century historian and tutor to  two kings, Richard the Lionheart and his brother, John.