Battle: 950 Years Ago, Today

ccjma2rxeaehvtm-jpg-largeYou know that I like to commemorate events in history, and October is a rich month for that. I’ve often said that American history is a niece of British, especially English history. This month is a prime example of why. Today is the 950th anniversary of the battle of Hastings. The Norman Conquest is one of the pivots of our (and perhaps world) history. Don’t think so? Let’s look at it, but first a short history of it.

In January St. Edward the Confessor, the last King of England of the House of Wessex, which we have spoken of several times with regard to Alfred the Great, died, and eventually was borne in state to the new Westminster Abbey (which he built) where he was buried. Incidentally, his feast day is 13 October.

The succession was a disputed one, it settled out as having three claimants, Harold Godwinson,  The nobles of the realm offered him the crown, although he had a pretty weak claim to it, being the brother-in-law of King Cnut

Amongst the other claimants, King Swegn Estrithson, of Denmark and Edgar Aetheling (Atheling actually means throneworthy) and he was of the House of Wessex, the Grandson of Edmund Ironside, he was also a minor. Neither of these seems to have been considered at all.

But there was also King Harold Hardrada of Norway acting on behalf of Tostig, Earl of Northumbria, and King Harold’s brother. Tostig has always seemed to me to be a very troublesome younger brother, and it looks like Harold thought so too. But this was a serious claim.

Then there was William, Duke of Normandy, whose claim was based on a promise made ears before by Edward, and backed by the Pope.

And so, Harold was crowned at Westminster by Archbishop Stigand of Canterbury and Archbishop Ealdred of York. I also note that Halley’s comet was visiting that year, all seemed to think it a bad omen for Harold and a good one for William.

To contest this matter, William had to convince his nobles to help, and not demand, which he did and got the support of the Pope as well. William was a planner and took his time with his preparations, which worked to his benefit.

And so, in May, Tostig made his first, abortive try to invade England, which caused Harold to call out the Fyrd, which was peasants who were required to serve at his pleasure, and he kept them out, waiting for William.

Meanwhile, William was preparing including calling his magnates to help him dedicate his wife Mathilda’s new abbey of St Etienne, in Caen, on 18 June 1066, and get his people to support him.

On 20 September Tostig and Harold  sailed up the Ouse river and fought Earls Edwin and Morcar at Fulford outside York. The Earls were defeated and badly and took no further part. Following this Harold came up with a scratch force consisting mostly of his own Housecarls and thegns, He then marched 180 miles in four days calling out shire levies as he went. He offered Tostig his earldom back if he would change sides, and when he didn’t the forces met at Stamford Bridge on 25 September.

Both Hardrada and Tostig were killed in the battle beneath the Raven banner but, it was a hard battle and the King’s force was beat up and tired.

At this point, William landed probably at Pevensey from his 700 ships. And then he proceeded to burn and pillage to force Harold to come south and fight him. Which worked. Harold raced his forces back south down the Roman road called Ermine Street and on 14 October they met in battle, at where else, the place now called Battle. A friend mentioned the other day that Harold stopped at Waltham Abbey. She writes:

In the run-up to 14 October, an intrepid group of re-enactors are currently retracing the likely route of Harold Godwineson’s march from York to Battle, via Lincoln,Peterborough and the Weald of Kent. Today [6 Oct] they will be passing through Waltham, where (according to the abbey’s twelfth-century chronicle) Harold stopped on his way to Hastings, and prayed before its Black Rood for a victory which would not come:

[Harold] had entered the church of the Holy Cross in the early morning, and placing upon the altar relics which he had with him in his chapel, he made a vow that if the Lord granted him success in the outcome of the war he would endow the church with a large number of estates as well as many clerks to serve God in that place, and he promised to serve God in the future like a purchased slave. Accompanied by the clergy, and with a procession leading the way, he came to the doors of the church where, turning towards the crucifix, the king in devotion to the holy cross stretched himself out on the ground in the form of a cross and prayed. Then occurred an event pitiable to relate and incredible from an earthly point of view. When the king bowed low to the ground the image of the crucified one, which had previously been looking directly ahead above him, now bowed its head as if in sorrow, a sign portending what was to happen.

Turkill, the sacristan, testified that he had seen this while he was himself collecting together and putting away the gifts which the king had placed on the altar, and that he told many people about it. I heard this from his very lips, and it was confirmed by many bystanders who with their eyes saw the head of the figure upright, though none of them except Turkill knew the moment it had bowed.

The Waltham Chronicle: an account of the discovery of our holy cross at Montacute and its conveyance to Waltham, ed. and trans. Leslie Watkiss and Marjorie Chibnall (Oxford, 1994), p.47.

This powerful miracle-story feels as if it was born of the same impulse of historical imagination as prompts re-enactors to retrace Harold’s route today. To me one of the most poignant images of 1066 is the thought of that grieving marble figure, and Harold’s unanswered, though miraculously acknowledged, prayer.

Via: The Danish Conquest, Part 12: Otford

It’s an interesting battle, and the linked article gives a reasonable description but the short form is: William won and Harold died. You may have heard of Battle Abbey, it marks the site.

And so for the last time (so far) in history was England conquered by an outside force.

BBC – History – British History in depth: 1066.

It is beyond doubt, one of the most pivotal moments in our, and the world’s history.

Transgender Activists and Brophobia

Well, one can hope, anyway!

Well, one can hope, anyway!

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”

“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.”

Lewis Carroll

Indeed. Recently Robert Tracinski wrote in The Federalist about Transgender Activists and Brophobia. It’s a pretty interesting and important article. Here’s some of it.

What really leaped out at me from this response was the following passage, which I suspect explains a lot of the motive behind this fanatically enforced orthodoxy.

All that “typical guy stuff” you hold so near and dear: have you considered that it’s actually extremely alienating for guys who differ from antiquated masculine norms? Many men like me who are queer-identified and/or comfortable with their femininity do not relate to the dickswinging contest nonsense that (mostly straight and white) men in fraternities apparently find so sacred. Your perspective has led you to believe that these rituals are essential for all men, when actually, not all men relate to your sh—y brand of toxic masculinity.

So this enlightened progressive just derided another person’s sexual orientation and gender identity as “toxic.” Yay, tolerance!

Yay, tolerance, indeed. But we’ve all heard plenty of comparable stories, haven’t we? Later, he says this,

The stoking of brophobia reflects the Left’s basic problem with the concept of “tolerance.” They use the word to mean “advocacy on behalf of groups we like and against groups we don’t like,” which is the exact opposite of its actual meaning. Tolerance is supposed to mean tolerance specifically of people you don’t like. That’s why you’re “tolerating” them—you don’t like them, but you’ve agreed to put up with them anyway, to recognize their right to live and speak, and to engage them in a civil way. […]

That is (or at least was) a simple definition of a common word. I don’t know about you but tolerating others like oneself doesn’t seem to me to reflect much credit on one to me. On the other hand tolerating those who say or do things (things that don’t actually physically hurt people) does reflect a fair amount of credit on one. Continuing.

You see comments like: “I’m really disgusted that he was given a platform,” “literally shaking I’m so angry,” “SOS SOS SOS,” and my favorite: “if this article was triggering for anyone I would not recommend delving into the comments—some readers/commenters use deeply offensive language and there is heavy support for the author’s message.” Boy, millennials really live down to that “snowflake” caricature, don’t they?[…]

It’s important to remember that the contemporary code of political correctness emerged from an actual, literal totalitarian ideology. Karl Marx argued that all of culture—ideas, religion, art, everything—was just a “superstructure” built to disguise and perpetuate the real foundation of society, which was the economic relationship between labor and capital. Modern neo-Marxists turned this idea into the slogan “the personal is the political,” which was the origin for the concept of political correctness.

In this philosophy, there is no such thing as an apolitical “private life,” and everything a person does — his every preference, every aspect of his personal identity — can be judged for its political meaning and conformity to the right causes. But the new Marxists also conceived of the underlying “base” of human life more broadly: it was not just the struggle between the worker and the capitalist, but the struggles for power among social pressure groups based on “race, class, and gender.”

via Transgender Activists Need To Get Over Their Brophobia

And you know, that may be the base difference. I frankly don’t give much of a damn about what you do, or even what you do with consenting adults. At least as long as you inflict no injury on others.

Yes, I’m a Christian, and if you want my advice on how to live your life, I’ll be happy to tell you. But I’m neither God nor your dad, so I have no real reason to tell you how to live. Often enough here, we’ll tell you what has worked for us, and has worked for some two thousand years, but it’s up to you to apply it or not. Although I would remind you that if a Christian is wrong, well then oblivion is the end. However, if an atheist is wrong, I think it a much worse outcome for him.

That all is subject of course to keeping it quiet and private, as we used to say, “Don’t scare the horses.” And that’s a matter for the civil authorities, mostly, but even there, I’m pretty tolerant.

And that’s the major difference, isn’t it? The new Marxists aren’t at all tolerant, and no, I’m not tolerant of intolerance, not in a society. I wanted to say in a civil society, but I’m not sure the modifier still applies.

St. Teresa of Calcutta

And so the Catholic Church last Sunday recognized St. Teresa of Calcutta as a saint. It was pretty obvious even during her lifetime here on earth, but even in the church bureaucrats gotta bureaucrat. It’s always been so, in fact, that how organizations stay on track, so I’m mostly kidding here.

But she wasn’t. Working with and for the poorest of one the world’s poorest cities, she accomplished miracles, showing their plight to the rich and the powerful.

But her work for the powerless went well beyond the precincts of Calcutta. Her most powerless client was always the unborn, who she worked incessantly to save.

How remarkable it was to hear this small woman at the National Prayer Breakfast in 1994

By abortion, the mother does not learn to love, but kills even her own child to solve her problems. And, by abortion, that father is told that he does not have to take any responsibility at all for the child he has brought into the world. The father is likely to put other women into the same trouble. So abortion just leads to more abortion. Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want. This is why the greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion.

The entire address can be read here. It is interesting to note that then-President Clinton and his wife, Hillary, sat stunned through the five-minute standing ovation that answered her address. You, like me, know what side of that controversy we want to be on.

And controversy it has been and continues to be. Here’s a bit from Breitbart about why the left hates her so.

So the questions again present themselves: Why so much hatred? Why so much deep-seated anger against this woman?

Sifting through the literature dedicated to smearing the legacy of Mother Teresa, one discovers that all the arguments against her really boil down to two, which the Left can never forgive: her vocal and intransigent opposition to abortion and her overtly Christian spirituality that moved her to pour herself out for her fellow man.

All the other reasons given—that she provided inferior health care, that she was occasionally irritable with coworkers, that she accepted donations from morally ambiguous characters—are really just a cover for the two that irked the Left to the point of hysteria.

And hysteria it has been.

In a noteworthy 1986 essay published by the international abortion giant Planned Parenthood, titled “Mother Teresa, the Woman of My Nightmares,” one gets a taste of the profound odium stirred up by this simple religious sister.

“This very successful old and withered person, who doesn’t look in the least like a woman, especially when she raises her clenched fists in prayer, and who, for us, is a very suspect holder of the Nobel Prize,” Planned Parenthood wrote in its official publication Sexualpedagogik, “has become for us the symbol of all that is bad in motherhood and womanhood, an image with which we do not wish to be associated.”

“You, you nightmare of women! You unliberated, enslaved wives, mothers, nuns and aunts, what do you want from us, who have finally decided that we are going to take control of our bodies, our children, and our destiny into our own hands?” it ran.

Abortion, in fact, formed the centerpiece of Mother Teresa’s definition of poverty and all that is wrong with the world. The three most public speeches of her career—her acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize, her Harvard Commencement address, and her words at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C.—all focused on abortion as the greatest social injustice in the world today.

via Why the Left Hates Mother Teresa of Calcutta

I have no trouble at all telling between them “Who is on the Lord’s side”. Nor do I have any trouble knowing where I should (and do) stand.


Let it Burn!

By Davide Roveri  @DavideRoveri‏ via Twitter

And so 350 years ago, yesterday, the King’s baker in London, did not properly attend to putting his oven out, and London burned. Thus the Great Fire of London. Samuel Pepys wrote in his diary…

Some of our maids sitting up late last night to get things ready against our feast today, Jane called up about three in the morning, to tell us of a great fire they saw in the City. So I rose, and slipped on my night-gown and went to her window, and thought it to be on the back side of Mark Lane at the farthest; but, being unused to such fires as followed, I thought it far enough off, and so went to bed again, and to sleep. . . . By and by Jane comes and tells me that she hears that above 300 houses have been burned down tonight by the fire we saw, and that it is now burning down all Fish Street, by London Bridge. So I made myself ready presently, and walked to the Tower; and there got up upon one of the high places, . . .and there I did see the houses at the end of the bridge all on fire, and an infinite great fire on this and the other side . . . of the bridge. . . .

So down [I went], with my heart full of trouble, to the Lieutenant of the Tower, who tells me that it began this morning in the King’s baker’s house in Pudding Lane, and that it hath burned St. Magnus’s Church and most part of Fish Street already. So I rode down to the waterside, . . . and there saw a lamentable fire. . . . Everybody endeavouring to remove their goods, and flinging into the river or bringing them into lighters that lay off; poor people staying in their houses as long as till the very fire touched them, and then running into boats, or clambering from one pair of stairs by the waterside to another. And among other things, the poor pigeons, I perceive, were loth to leave their houses, but hovered about the windows and balconies, till they some of them burned their wings and fell down.

Having stayed, and in an hour’s time seen the fire rage every way, and nobody to my sight endeavouring to quench it, . . . I [went next] to Whitehall (with a gentleman with me, who desired to go off from the Tower to see the fire in my boat); and there up to the King’s closet in the Chapel, where people came about me, and I did give them an account [that]dismayed them all, and the word was carried into the King. so I was called for, and did tell the King and Duke of York what I saw; and that unless His Majesty did command houses to be pulled down, nothing could stop the fire. They seemed much troubled, and the King commanded me to go to my Lord Mayor from him, and command him to spare no houses. . . .

[I hurried] to [St.] Paul’s; and there walked along Watling Street, as well as I could, every creature coming away laden with goods to save and, here and there, sick people carried away in beds. Extraordinary goods carried in carts and on backs. At last [I] met my Lord Mayor in Cannon Street, like a man spent, with a [handkerchief] about his neck. To the King’s message he cried, like a fainting woman, ‘Lord, what can I do? I am spent: people will not obey me. I have been pulling down houses, but the fire overtakes us faster than we can do it.’ . . . So he left me, and I him, and walked home; seeing people all distracted, and no manner of means used to quench the fire. The houses, too, so very thick thereabouts, and full of matter for burning, as pitch and tar, in Thames Street; and warehouses of oil and wines and brandy and other things.

The city was, of course, a tinderbox, being built of half-timbered buildings, covered in pitch, and with thatch roofs. And in fact, fires had become common since the invention of the chimney in Tudor times. But I can’t think of one between London, in the 13th century, and Chicago in the 1870s that so caught the imagination or  was quite so fearsome.

Last night (local time) London commemorated it with the burning of a mock up on the Thames. It was quite the sight itself. One could pretty much imagine what it must have been like, and watching Old St. Paul’s collapse, was quite moving. I’m inclined to think, they talked too much on the live feed, but still, it was much better than merely hearing about it.

As Rebecca Rideal noted here, 1665 was not a great year for England. It started off with a naval defeat from France, continued with the last outbreak of The Plague, and then this. One of the things I do like about this video, and British TV in general, is that they have a group of actual historians (and good ones, as well) who do a fair amount of presenting, you saw several of them in this video.

A spectacular, and moving, commemoration of one of history’s magnificent, and terrible tragedies. Well done.

Still Naught For Our Comfort

One of the things that I love about my partner here, Jessica, is that she has rekindled my love for poetry, and you have seen each of us use it to reinforce our points. It is hardly a new method but, it is one used rarely these days. I suspect because most of us are so ill-educated that we are unaware of its richness, and ability to reinforce our point.

If you read much of Lincoln’s writings and speeches, for instance, you will see it used to great effect. For instance his famous, “of the people, for the people, and by the people’ was not original, nor did he claim it was, and his listeners knew it was not. The original is this: “This Bible is for the government of the people, for the people and by the people.” it is by John Wycliffe and it is from 1384.

She has greatly enriched my life, but more importantly, she has enabled me to make my points much more clearly. I wrote most of this post while she was just starting to recover from her illness, and it spoke deeply to me then, and in fact, looking at the world today, it still does.

A sea-folk blinder than the sea
Broke all about his land,
But Alfred up against them bare
And gripped the ground and grasped the air,
Staggered, and strove to stand.

For earthquake swallowing earthquake
Uprent the Wessex tree;
The whirlpool of the pagan sway
Had swirled his sires as sticks away
When a flood smites the sea.

Our towns were shaken of tall kings
With scarlet beards like blood:
The world turned empty where they trod,
They took the kindly cross of God
And cut it up for wood.

He bent them back with spear and spade,
With desperate dyke and wall,
With foemen leaning on his shield
And roaring on him when he reeled;
And no help came at all.

There was not English armor left,
Nor any English thing,
When Alfred came to Athelney
To be an English king.

It was a very bad time to be King Alfred of Wessex, and I think it holds parallels to where we are now, in America.

“Mother of God” the wanderer said
“I am but a common king,
Nor will I ask what saints may ask,
To see a secret thing.

“But for this earth most pitiful.
This little land I know,
If that which is forever is,
Or if our hearts shall break with bliss
Seeing the stranger go?”

And here we come to my introduction to this epic by Jess, when she quoted it to me when by deceit, Obamacare was ruled constitutional. That defeat continues to unfold to the detriment of the country, as do many others.

I tell you naught for your comfort,
Yea, naught for your desire,
Save that the sky grows darker yet
And the sea rises higher

“And this is the word of Mary,
The word of the world’s desire
`No more of comfort shall ye get,
Save that the sky grows darker yet
And the sea rises higher.’

Naught for your  comfort has become a catchphrase for us when things go awry, which has been often these last few years for us, personally, and for us as Americans, and for Britons as well.

We are living through a failed presidency (or at least trying to) and one of the reasons it has failed is that many of our countrymen have confused Obama with God, and I suspect he has as well. That never turns out well, and it is not here either. Nor does the next four years look exactly like ‘Morning in America’. But then neither did 1976.

I’m reminded that first class leaders hire the best men they can find to help them, and second class leaders hire third class helpers, and worst of all, third class leaders hire lackeys who will tell them what they want to hear. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Makes me wonder at who we are considering hiring to run ‘America, Inc.’

We will have to simply use our intelligence to try to select the best person. We have many things to fix. It’s going to be an epically hard battle, and we could do worse than to emulate King Alfred.

But remember, we remember King Alfred because he won. Let’s finish with the rest of the poem.

And this was the might of Alfred,
At the ending of the way;
That of such smiters, wise or wild,
He was least distant from the child,
Piling the stones all day.

The King looked up, and what he saw

Was a great light like death,
For Our Lady stood on the standards rent,
As lonely and as innocent
As when between white walls she went
And the lilies of Nazareth.

That may well happen again, but if we look around, the landscape does rather look as the poet describes here, doesn’t it?

They shall not come in warships,
They shall not waste with brands,
But books be all their eating,
And ink be on their hands.

Yea, this shall be the sign of them,
The sign of the dying fire;
And man made like a half-wit,
That knows not of his sire.

What though they come with
scroll and pen,
And grave as a shaven clerk,
By this sign you shall know them
That they ruin and make dark;

By all men bond to nothing
Being slaves without a lord,
By one blind idiot world obeyed
Too blind to be abhorred.

By thought a crawling ruin,
By life a leaping mire,
By a broken heart in the breast
of the world
And the end of the world’s desire.

By God and man dishonored
By death and life made vain
Know ye, the old barbarian,
The barbarian come again

Did that interest you enough to wonder about the poem and its author? I hope so. It was written by G.K. Chesterton (and its much longer than the excerpts here) it’s called The Ballad of the White Horse. You can find it at Project Gutenberg.

There is, of course, another lesson implicit in the poem. King Alfred succeeded because he was true to his vision and his faith. If we are not, we will fail.

By the way, Jess and I also often quote Mother Julian of Norwich to each other as well, especially as reported by T.S. Elliot in Little Gidding.

All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.

Too much zeal?


“Surtout, pas de zele” is attributed to the French statesman, Talleyrand, who managed in turn to serve the French revolutionaries, Napoleon and the restored Bourbon monarchs; it is little wonder that when he died during a conference on the future of Belgium, the Austrian Chancellor, Metternich, is supposed to have commented: ‘I wonder what he meant by that?’ In many ways this has become the modern political style – and not without reason. If we look at the zealots of the last century we see Lenin, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, men who claimed to be inspired by the ‘rights of man’ and the ‘rights of the worker’ and who, in pursuit of their vision, thought nothing of slaughtering millions of their fellow men in order to achieve what they thoughts of as a worthy end. That, of course, is the mark of the zealot – a claim to be acting in a higher cause whilst being willing to ruin the lives of millions – in Lenin’s chilling formulation: ‘You can’t make an omelette without breaking some eggs.”

In our own era, the worst examples of this sort of zealotry come from ISIS, rightly categorised as a death cult, which thinks nothing of killing people and mistreating them in the most vile ways – the name of their ‘Prophet’. I can understand why so many Muslims get upset when others identify them with these people – it’s more or less my reaction when people who know I am a Christian try to blame me for the churches burning each other in the past, or for priests who covered up sex abuse, or for some of the dubious characters who have occupied high positions in the various churches. I doubt not that all these people were filled with righteous zeal for their cause – but I should not care to be ruled by such people, nor will most of us vote for such people.

Judaism, Christianity and Islam all have their ascetic, zealous wings, occupied by people who think that if someone is enjoying themselves, they are on the road to hell. The Puritans in Britain abolished Christmas, insisting it was a penitential season and should be marked as such; the moment the soldiers stopped enforcing such a rule, it was abandoned. ISIS insist there should be no smoking, dancing, or brightly coloured clothes; the moment their power is broken, people go and do all of those things.

The urge to tell people to behave in a certain way runs strongly in most religions. Jesus had little time for the religious authorities of his day, who seemed to him to be so obsessed with the letter of the Law that they had forgotten its purpose. The same is true of the religious zealots of our time – they imagine that if everyone lives lives of severe penance then somehow all will be well with them; if they got the chance they would try to enforce such a dour regime; they would have to, because no one would be fool enough to vote for it.

The ancient Manichean heresy survives still in such zealots. They instinctively separate the world of the flesh from that of the spirit and imagine that only the last matters, when the mainline Christian churches have, sensibly, emphasized the complementarity of the two; the Word became flesh, and the 40 days in the wilderness apart, was not given to feats of ascetic austerity, We can follow suite.

There has always been a type of personality which wants to exercise control over itself and others by imposing forms of personal austerity. One of the advantages of democracy is that such people never get elected.

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