World War III

Today is the feast day of St. John Paul the second. As any of us old enough to remember he was one that triumvirate, including Reagan and Thatcher, who defeated the Soviet Union, and did it peacefully. Some friends of mine say that he was the greatest of them, I think it may be so. He surely had the most compelling story. For more on him, Chalcedon wrote about this today, here.

But it was a very close run thing, there were many alarms in the night, before that hateful wall came down, and it could easily have gone wrong. Here’s one way it could have. Today’s movie is a reminder of what and why we held the line all those years.


Thank God saner heads prevailed.

Hat tip to Weaponsman

1066/1776 and all that


We’ve had a couple of posts in the last week concerning battles in Saxon England. Many Americans, I suspect, think it no part of our heritage, but in that, they are wrong, these battles shaped the development of England, and that shaped America. Jessica wrote about this a few years ago and her thoughts are perhaps even more valid today. Neo

It is hard to pin down what you mean by culture, but despite the efforts of the MSM to pretend that our culture comes from all sorts of wonderful and weird places such as Kenya, the values on which this country was formed were those of a Christian heritage. It was a particular type of heritage. The early pilgrims were of British descent and of Protestant inclination. They were men and women who saw themselves as like the Israelites of old – in the wilderness, building a new Jerusalem – a shining city on a hill. But they also brought with them something from their British heritage – a love of law and freedom. Unlike some countries where the law was seen as the enemy of freedom, in England, from Magna Carta onward, it was seen as the protection of the liberties of the people.

But those Barons of Norman descent at Runnymede did not invent that idea; they inherited it.  The Normans were, as befitted the descendants of Scandinavian pirates, a tough lot; they could not have taken so much land if they had not been. But in England they found the descendants of other men from the North, the Saxons, and those Saxons had developed their own way of doing things.

For all that modern historians doubt the idea that the Saxons developed a form of consultative government via the Witan, that was not what those who settled America believed. They came with the idea that democracy had begun in the Saxon forests, and they applied it in the wilderness they settled. These were tough men and women too, but they valued freedom above all things. For that they crossed the Atlantic in small ships; for that they endured the hardships of building a new Jerusalem. Sustained by their Christian faith, and strong in their love of freedom, these people forged a nation and a culture. It was the threat to that from the German tyrant George which drove them to rebellion. Kipling expressed it best here:


The  snow lies thick on Valley Forge,
The ice on the Delaware,
But the poor dead soldiers of King George
They neither know nor care.

Not though the earliest primrose break
On the sunny side of the lane,
And scuffling rookeries awake
Their England’ s spring again.

They will not stir when the drifts are gone,
Or the ice melts out of the bay:
And the men that served with Washington
Lie all as still as they.

They will  not  stir  though  the mayflower blows
In the moist dark woods of pine,
And every rock-strewn pasture shows
Mullein and columbine.

Each for his land, in a fair fight,
Encountered strove, and died,
And the kindly earth that knows no spite
Covers them side by side.

She is too busy to think of war;
She has all the world to make gay;
And,  behold, the yearly flowers are
Where they were in our fathers’ day!

Golden-rod by the pasture-wall
When the columbine is dead,
And sumach leaves that turn, in fall,
Bright as the blood they shed.

It was a brothers’ war, and when it was over they bore no real ill-will and became friends and allies.

They could do that because of a shared love of freedom and the same concept of justice. There was no need to ask what culture was, and those uncounted millions who found in the New World a haven, embraced those values – so much so that people took them for granted – they were surely universal. Rule for the people and by the people did not fade from that land, and even after a second and bloodier war of brothers, the nation united around those shared values. To become an American was a great a noble ambition for every immigrant. It never meant junking your ancestor’s past, but it did mean embracing a better life – and recognising the values of your new country which made that possible.

Somewhere, and we can speculate where and how, that simple truth got mislaid by our rulers. The next few posts explore some of this – and invite you all to think about it with us.


dsc00985Another battle that we should take notice of, this one before the Battle of Hastings that made the phrase “1066 and all that” so famous. This one was exactly 1000 years ago today. Amazing thing is that for the participants it was likely just as important as Hastings.

This is the battle where Cnut, King of Denmark, about whom an old Norse poem says this:

Skjöldungr, vannt und skildi
skœru verk, inn sterki,
(fekk blóðtrani bráðir
brúnar) Assatúnum.

Strong Skjöldungr, you performed a feat of battle under the shield; the blood-crane [raven/eagle] received dark morsels at Ashingdon.

There are some wonderful takeaways here, Skjöldungr refers to Cnut’s heritage, his ancestors were the  legendary Skjöldung dynasty – the Scyldings of Beowulf. And the blood-crane here might refer to the legendary Raven banner of Denmark, which is mentioned in the Encomium Emmae Reginae, which says this.

Now they had a banner of wonderfully strange nature, which though I believe that it may be incredible to the reader, yet since it is true, I will introduce the matter into my true history. For while it was woven of the plainest and whitest silk, and the representation of no figure was inserted into it, in time of war a raven was always seen as if embroidered on it, in the hour of its owners’ victory opening its beak, flapping its wings, and restive on its feet, but very subdued and drooping with its whole body when they were defeated.

Now that’s a banner fit for a warrior race! It must be said though that the Encomium is quite unreliable. And besides, I think the author might protest a bit too much.

On the other side was Edmund Ironside, son of Æthelred the Unready (actually, I think Unraed, which means “without counsel”) but both seem to be true, he had died in April 1016, and Edmund his son succeeded him, finally uniting (most) of the English.

via A Clerk of Oxford: The Battle of Assandun: Three Sources

And so these were the sides that met at Assandun, the Danes (and likely some of the English as well) against the English under the leadership of another legendary captain Edmund Ironside.

And so, as The Clerk of Oxford tells us, from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle:

[The [Danish] raiding-army turned back up into Essex, and went towards Mercia, and destroyed all that they overtook. Then when the king [Edmund] heard that the army was inland, he gathered all the English nation for the fifth time and travelled behind them, and overtook them in Essex at the hill which is called Assandun, and there they fought a hard battle together. Then Eadric the ealdorman did as he had so often done before, and first began the flight with the Magonsæte, and so betrayed his king and lord and all the English nation. There Cnut had the victory, and won for himself the whole nation of the English. There Bishop Eadnoth was killed, and Abbot Wulfsige, and Ealdorman Ælfric, and Ealdorman Godwine, and Ulfkytel of East Anglia, and Æthelweard, the son of Ealdorman Ælfwine, and all the best of the English nation.]

England had a new king, a Dane, in whose train was a young Dane by the name of Godwine, who would go far, and whose son Harold Godwineson would become the last Anglo-Saxon King of England, killed at Hastings.

But before that would come to pass, Edmund, who had retained Wessex in the settlement after Assundun, died a few months later, and Cnut became King of all England. In a few years, he would dedicate a minster at Assundun in Essex, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle tells us:

[In this year the king and Earl Thorkell went to Assandun, with Archbishop Wulfstan and other bishops, and also abbots and many monks, and consecrated the church at Assandun.]

And the Clerk explains:

The people named in this entry indicate the importance of this church to the new Danish regime. Wulfstan is the great archbishop of York, whom we last encountered in 1014 railing against the disloyalty of English people who collaborated with the Danes; he had by this time had quite a change of heart, and become one of Cnut’s chief advisers and law-makers. (A lot can happen in six years!) Wulfstan presided at the consecration of the church at Assandun, and one of his surviving sermons, ‘On the Dedication of a Church’, may well have been preached on this occasion. The other person named by the Chronicle is Earl Thorkell, who was remembered as the hero of Assandun, and whom Cnut had recently made Earl of East Anglia. Any event which could bring these two men together must have been pretty extraordinary. We can also populate the Chronicle‘s crowd with various people likely to have been there, standing beside Cnut, Thorkell and Wulfstan: Cnut’s new wife Emma, Earl Godwine (and his new Danish wife, Gytha?), Æthelnoth (soon to be made Archbishop of Canterbury), the Norwegian earl Eiríkr, newly appointed earl of Northumbria, and more. The church was entrusted to Stigand, a priest probably of Anglo-Danish origin, who though very much a winner after the Danish Conquest was very much a loser after the Norman Conquest. With hindsight, there are many tantalising connections and ironies to be drawn out from this disparate collection of people – English, Danish, Norwegian and Norman – who were between them to shape England’s fate throughout the eleventh century: the following year Thorkell would be outlawed, three years later Wulfstan would be dead, and fifty years later the young priest Stigand would be Archbishop of Canterbury, crowning the upstart Godwine’s son King of England.

There are (at least) two choices for this church, this is one of them:


Again quoting from The Clerk of Oxford

All that said, let me show you what I saw at Ashdon. If Ashdon is Assandun, Cnut’s minster would be this church, St Botolph’s, which is actually in the nearby village of Hadstock. Why not Ashdon itself? I’ll quote the guidebook: “While it is just possible that evidence for an Anglo-Saxon building is encapsulated in Ashdon church, there is nothing to suggest a structure of minster-proportions; hence historians have turned to Hadstock where a large and imposing Anglo-Saxon church cannot fail to command attention. There is no doubt that it was a minster, and of the period in question; it stands on the same ‘Hill of the Ash Trees’ as Ashdon.”

The core of the present church is late Anglo-Saxon, and thus plausibly of the date of Cnut’s minster. It’s worth noting that St Botolph, the dedicatee of the church, was one of the saints in whom Cnut took an interest; Cnut was responsible for the translation of Botolph’s relics to Bury St Edmunds, where he founded a church on the anniversary of the Battle of Assandun in the 1030s. There’s some suggestion there was a shrine to Botolph here, not just a dedication – the archaeologists talk about traces of an empty Saxon grave in the fabric of the south side of the church.

All in all, quite an important anniversary, which would likely be more important still if St. Edward the Confessor hadn’t died childless only 50 years later. Such are the ways of history.

[More, and more pictures, today from The Clerk of Oxford. Yay!

4 Reasons Globalism Won’t Retreat Anytime Soon

holocaust-e1459342376327Rachel Lu brings a whole load of common sense for us to ponder…

Globalism is in full-on retreat, or so I’ve been given to understand. Cosmopolitans, your name is mud. This is the year when conservatives start thumbing their noses at soft borders, interventionist foreign policy, and even free trade. We’re sick of liberals and their snooty multiculturalism. Up with nationalism, localism, boosterism, protectionism, and mom’s apple pie! It’s a big world, after all.

Why is this happening? If you’ve paid even a modicum of attention to recent discussions of Brexit, Trumpism, and related cultural currents, you’ve fully grasped by now that the common man is feeling alienated and marginalized, and doesn’t intend to take it anymore. That prompts a further question, however. To what extent can globalism really retreat?

People have been tilting against this particular windmill since the end of the Cold War. (Remember the ’90s and the protests against the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, and other international organizations?) Conservatives have traditionally held (with our pinkies prominently elevated) that there are fundamental truths about our globalized world that are bound to resurface however we try to bury them. Even conservatives, though, have started flooding the anti-globalization bandwagon in this election year.

Peering through the murk, what we see in our current political memes is a noisy celebration of half-truths and half-baked ideas. Yes, there are some real insights to glean from the currents of this tumultuous year.

Read it all at: 4 Reasons Globalism Won’t Retreat Anytime Soon

I don’t have all that much to add to what she says since I pretty much agree. I do want to emphasize that no matter what, and no matter how much I (or you) want the 50s and 60s to return, they aren’t going to. We, like each generation, have our own challenges, which we have to solve to the best of our ability. The past can be a useful guide, but it still depends on us to find the right answers for our time. Some things are eternal, but most aren’t. Nick today at All along the Watchtower speaks of how we were created in the image of God. He’s right, we are, but part of that is that He left us to figure out most things for ourselves, using our God-given intelligence. So we’d best get on with it, and quit kicking cans down the road.

While you’re pondering all this, also think about this. The poorest person in America or the UK today, is amongst the 1% of people that have ever lived. We never had it so good. I wonder if that isn’t the problem, we have so much time to bitch because the living is so easy.

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.

The Harrying of the North


Normans burning Anglo-Saxon buildings, in a scene from the Bayeux Tapestry

This month is one that is amazingly rich in history, especially English history, and so we are going to have several posts in the remainder of the month. I’m thankful because personally, I’ve had nearly all the politics I can stomach – maybe a bit more. Maybe you’re at the same point, if so, welcome to a rich history.

Today, James Aitcheson tells us about the Harrying of the North. If you thought the Anglo-Saxons were easily conquered by the Normans, you have something to learn, as well as something about how ruthless the Normans really were.

The Battle of Hastings is the most famous event of the Norman Conquest, but it was only the opening engagement in the invader’s consolidation of power in England. For several years afterwards, the country was riven by internal conflict as the Norman’s fought to extend their rule, climaxing in a notorious campaign known today as the ‘Harrying of the North’.

The Harrying, which took place over the winter of 1069–70, saw William’s knights lay waste to Yorkshire and neighbouring shires. Entire villages were razed and their inhabitants killed, livestock slaughtered and stores of food destroyed. This scorched-earth operation is one of the defining episodes of the Conquest, not just from a military-political perspective but also in terms of how it has shaped modern perceptions of the Normans as a tyrannical and merciless warrior class. But why were such brutal measures considered necessary and why was the north in particular targeted?

By the winter of 1069, the Norman war machine had been active in the field for more than three years. Throughout 1067 and 1068 there had been a succession of localised revolts and incursions by foreign foes in various corners of the country – Devon, Kent, Herefordshire and the midland earldom of Mercia – although each of these was swiftly put down. Castles were established, including in the major towns of Warwick, Nottingham, York, Lincoln, Huntingdon and Cambridge, in an effort to quell the disturbances and impose control. Nevertheless, it is important to recognise that, even by the beginning of 1069, William was still not master of the entire kingdom. His authority extended no further north than York and it was in the region beyond that the greatest threat to his rule lay.

William’s early attempts to bring the northerners under his heel had involved appointing native English earls to govern them: first Copsig and then Gospatric. Both appointments had been dismal failures: the former was assassinated by a rival in 1067; the latter defected in 1068 to the midland rebels. Finally, in January 1069, William sent one of his own men, Robert Cumin, at the head of an army to conquer the region by force, only for them to be ambushed and slaughtered at Durham.

Worse was to come. That summer the Normans found themselves at the centre of a perfect storm, as their enemies all began marching at once.  Foremost among them was a coalition of Northumbrian noblemen, including Gospatric but led by Edgar Ætheling, then around 17 years old and making a fresh bid for the crown, having already been briefly acclaimed king in London following Harold’s death in 1066.

The Northumbrian threat was compounded in August when a Danish invasion fleet numbering some 240 or 300 ships – depending on which source we believe – arrived in the Humber.

via The Harrying of the North | History Today Read it all!

A desperate matter, for both sides, and far from the romantic image of brave knights and fair ladies. It’s always been a hard and dirty business, conquering people, and the English were plenty stiff-necked in those days, as they were in 1940.

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