Category Archives: middle ages

How Trump Is Like Henry II of England–and Not

Since the anti-American GOP’s suck-ups are always seeking to ingratiate themselves with the Donald through the flattery he loves, here’s some for the ages.  Literally.  No doubt Trump would be glad to be compared to a famously wealthy and powerful English king, in this case Henry II of England.  Plus, he doesn’t read so Henry’s less admirable attributes won’t cause any blowback.  (Jeez, Steve Bannon had no problems with his disparaging remarks did he?)

These excerpts are from Geraldus Cambrensis (Gerald of Wales) who was the tutor of two of Henry II’s sons; King Richard (Lionheart) and King John (Lackland).  He well knew King Henry II.  And some of Gerald’s description(s) of that king could easily have been written about Trump.

Here are a few nuggets.

…Well, Henry II., king of the English, was a man
with reddish hair, a big bullet-head, blood-shot gray
eyes that in anger flashed fiercely, a fiery face, and
a broken voice. …; his figure was portly, but
not absolutely of huge and unwieldy bulk. …
…constitutional inclination to corpulence…
…showed greater tenderness of feeling for the fallen than for the survivors: he was far less demonstrative in his care for the living than in his grief for the dead…
…No one was kinder in the hour of trouble : when all was well again, no one more severe. …
…The man for whom he had once conceived a hate, he
could with difficulty be brought to love…
he was by nature not a truthful man, and would habitually break his word without the slightest excuse. For whenever he found
himself in a difficulty he preferred that his honour
should suffer rather than his interest, and thought it
better to lose his reputation for honesty than to miss
an advantage. …
…to the great inconvenience of his subjects exceedingly
slow in coming to a final decision in any matter. … …by the refined malice, as it were, of Fortune it happened that where the king
looked for happiness there he found hostility; where
defence, defiance; where help, hate; where rest and
repose, there especially disquiet and disturbance. …

Henry II did have a number of more laudatory characteristics and  behavior patterns.  He was extremely intelligent and had an incredible memory; he read prodigiously and applied himself diligently to attending to the nuts and bolts of governing.    He also worked hard to keep his weight under control, exercising constantly.

Mr. Trump, not so much.  We knew the man was a pig, by the words that came out of his own mouth.  He openly bragged about getting away with serial sexual assaults.  But we balanced those egregious character and personality flaws against the known reality of his also hideously flawed opponent who was unsuitable in different ways but still definitely not presidential material.  We held our noses and expected a workaholic president who would be busy, busy, busy all the time, mastering the art of statecraft, working to learn the nuts and bolts of government and actually governing.  We thought he’d be re-negotiating unfavorable trade deals which put our country at a disadvantage in commerce, fixing immigration in a sensible way, working to fund the repair of crumbling infrastructure, trying to prevent nuclear war and so on.

What we actually got was a lazy, fat, self indulgent slacker who spends a significant part of his day watching TV and shoveling Big Macs and Kentucky Fried Chicken into his pie hole while tweeting disgustingly immature and vile things about friends, enemies, other countries and and his own employees.  He is scathing in assessing women who are a few pounds overweight while ignoring the plain fact that he should lose at least 75 pounds so he won’t have to waddle like a beached walrus in front of the whole world.  He praises virtually nothing and no one for long.

Someone who feels the need to constantly belittle others in order to make his own sorry self seem superior is way off the mark for any “leader”.  Unlike Henry II.



The Genealogy Project Wasn’t a Complete Bust

So it was back to the genealogy project for a few minutes, to look up the bio
for a many-greats grandfather, Eochaid IV, “The Venomous” King of
Scotland.  What do you suppose someone living in an incredibly violent,
brutal and inhumane time such as the Middle Ages would have to do to earn
the sobriquet “The Venomous” ?  He sounds kinda daunting.  But he was married to a Pictish princess, supposedly, before the Picts got so intermarried/interbred with the Scots that their tribe eventually disappeared.

However, his grandfather had my all time favorite adjectival appendage to
his name–”Fire White”. That would be Aodh Hugh Finn, “Fire White”
King of Scotland, King of Dalriata.  (His grandfather had a less imposing nickname; ‘”crooked nose”.)

But such dilatory/dilettante-ish dabblings were not the extent of the project.
More goal-oriented research had a more worthwhile end.

An old friend of mine was really depressed at the prospect of her daughter
and grandchildren moving from the east coast to Hawaii. She’s a
bibliophile with probably 4,000 books scattered throughout her home.
She’s also a history and genealogy buff whose IT whiz husband has so
fouled her computer with anti-malware/anti-virus software that she can
barely use the darn thing to communicate, let alone do genealogy research.

So I traced some of her family for her–and discovered that one of her
ancestors was with Washington’s force (as a member of the Delaware
Militia I think) at the Battle of Trenton. He also fought in the rearguard
covering Washington’s retreat from Princeton, although I’m under the
impression that there were two engagements between Washington and the
Brits at Trenton. Not sure which one her ancestor was in.

My friend, a retired Army vet, many of whose family fought with the rebels
in the Civil War, is an avid military history buff, so this bit of information
thrilled her. It also sent her scouring through her library to see if she could
flesh out the ancestor’s life story.

This led her to discover a book written by one of the newly discovered

Then I discovered that her family and mine had lived within 13 miles of one
another in the early 17th century, near Amsterdam. In fact, her many greats
grandfather there owned a bookstore near the university. It’s possible that
my ancestor bought books from her ancestor.

From that occurrence in the 17th century, until now, there were several
points at which our families converged abroad and in America, and would
surely have known one another since they were in lightly populated areas.

And, in our childhoods, although we did not know each other, our paths
must have crossed many times. We used the same small, two room library.
We shopped in the same small downtown, we watched the same Christmas

From the 1620’s until today our two histories have intersected again and
again. We’d never have known this if I hadn’t searched for her ancestors to
try and give her some new information which would engage her fascination
with history and her family’s genealogy. Because, of course, I wanted to get
her mind off the sailed-far-away family.

Now she’s passed the new genealogy info on to other members of her
extended family and they have an additional 16 – 19 generations to pore
over. She’s still working on getting her husband to free up her computer
though, so she can use the internet to search for ancestral information.

So, all in all, my extended genealogy project has not only resulted in a ton
of history information about Europe in the Middle Ages, and my own family
history, it also provided my friend with some useful self-therapy to combat
the blues from missing her child and grandkids.

That’s probably a better ROI than, say, playing video games on the internet.

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.