Medieval

  • Header Midsomer Murders History Sword of Guillaume

    The Sword Of Guillaume


    (Caution: Contains spoilers for Episode: 13×01: The Sword of Guillaume)

     

    To begin with, there is a disappointment: The Sword of Guillaume mentioned in the episode is as fictitious as Sir Richard Guillaume himself. And there is no connection between the Battle of Hastings and Brighton.

    I could end this article with that, but the Battle of Hastings was real, and there are small, subtle mentions and connections to Midsomer. And so there is this article.

     

    Guillaume’s greatest butchery

    We are in Lady Mathilda William’s manor in Midsomer Parva. Tom Barnaby is here because Lady Matilda, who owns most of Midsomer Parva, fired a shotgun blast through the windscreen of the Mayor of Midsomer, David Hicks, who went straight to Barnaby’s house to complain about her.

    Battle of Hastings
    The battlefield seen from the north. Public Domain.

    Tom Barnaby, however, is quite gentle and dislikes David Hicks as much as she does. For Tom Barnaby has not yet forgotten and forgiven the Mayor for not only not wanting to fix his roof, but for succeeding in his corrupt machinations.

    But we are not there yet, we are in Lady Mathilda’s mansion, piano music is playing in the background. The lady receives the DCI.

    Tom Barnaby is about to give his gentle, mild admonition, but the lady keeps interrupting him and obviously isn’t listening. Instead, she launches into a sort of interrogation, asking him about William the Conqueror and the Battle of Hastings. The policeman answers correctly, but clearly hasn’t heard of Richard Guillaume. So he is enlightened:

    Guillaume was William the Conqueror’s man in charge of making sure the population submitted to William, the future King of England – and anyone who didn’t was killed by Guillaume’s sword.

    The sword became a symbol of English hatred of the French, especially in Brighton, where it seems many people wanted to submit to Richard Guillaume and the Normans and paid with their lives.

    Richard Guillaume was the ancestor of Lady Mathilda William’s husband, as she mentions with disgust. Williams – English for Guillaume.

     

    Relatives – an inherent evil?

    Battle of Hastings
    Army movements before Battle of Hastings, 1066. Public Domain.

    As Tom Barnaby mentions in the dialogue, the Battle of Hastings took place in 1066. It was the last in a series of battles fought after the death of the childless English king Edward the Confessor. Edward had provided for his succession before his death, but only in two ways: First, he had promised his great-nephew William, Duke of Normandy, in the 1040s or 1050s, but on his deathbed he is said to have yielded to the opposition of the Anglo-Saxon nobility and appointed Harald Godwinson as his successor. Harald was the son of the very influential nobleman Godwin of Wessex.

    Earlier, during his reign (1042-1066), Edward had reformed the English kingdom into a centralised Norman-style administration and filled key positions with Normans. Much to the protest of the Anglo-Saxon nobility.

    The dispute was not only between Harald Godwinson and Duke William of Normandy, but also with the Norwegian king, Harald Hardråde, who was supported by Tostig. Tostig was Harald Godwinson’s brother. And while the two brothers, England and Norway respectively, fought several battles, the Norman Duke William seized the opportunity. While the other contenders were fighting at Stamford Bridge near York (not to be confused with the football stadium in London!) and Harald Godwinson was winning the decisive victory, William arrived in the south of England at Hastings. Harald marched south while William sacked the city.

     

    A day in Hastings, 1066

    Battle of Hastings
    Position of troops at the start of the Battle of Hastings. By Andrein. CC-BY SA 3.0.

    Then, on 14 October 1066, the Battle of Hastings was fought. It lasted from 9am until dark – which must have been between 5pm and 6pm – and was a bloodbath for the Anglo-Saxons in particular, and the day of Harald Godwinson’s death. The two armies were similar in numbers, as were the casualties on both sides, but the Norman army was made up of trained knights, while the Anglo-Saxon army was still a people’s army with many peasants from ancient times.

    At first, however, it did not look like a Norman victory, as the Anglo-Saxon army formed a shield wall on Senlac Hill that could not be breached. Consciously or unconsciously, however, the rumour spread that William of Normandy had fallen. So the Normans retreated, and some Anglo-Saxons left the parapet and chased after them. But then came the news: William was alive! The Normans stormed back, using the holes in the Anglo-Saxon ramparts to throw them into confusion and then fought hand-to-hand for hours. By late afternoon or evening, Harald Godwinson must have been mortally wounded.

    After the battle, the Normans were anything but accommodating and fair, refusing to allow the Anglo-Saxon family members to bury their loved ones. Only Harald Godwinson is said to have been buried after his widow identified him.

     

    The Battle Abbey

    The Norman dead were buried in a mass grave which has never been found. But it is thought that Battle Abbey was built over the mass grave and thus directly on the former battlefield 7 miles (11 km) north of modern Hastings, whose original Saxon settlement was moved a few miles after the battle.

    William had the abbey built during his lifetime. During the Dissolution of the Monasteries it was dissolved and given to secular landowners who used the building as a residence. In 1976, with the help of some American donors, it was bought by the government and is now managed by English Heritage.

    Duke William of Normandy moved north after the battle, crossing the Thames at Wallingford (Causton in Midsomer County) and then travelling along the Chiltern Hills (where many episodes of Midsomer Murders were filmed) to London. At Westminster he was crowned King of England by Ealdred on Christmas Day 1066. The new capital of the Kingdom of England became London (previously it had been Winchester).

     

    The Battle of Hastings: A Crusade?

    William of Normandy was a devout man, or at least he knew how to use the Roman Catholic Church to his advantage. William himself had the stigma of being an illegitimate child because his father, Richard II, was a polygamist and his mother was not married to him – this was not uncommon under “more danico”, Danish Viking law. The Dukes of Normandy were descended from the Scandinavian dynasty of the Rollonids, who had been Dukes of Normandy since 911. Here is the link between the Britons and the Normans: in 1002 the British Anglo-Saxon king Æthelred II married Emma, the sister of Richard II. Emma, sister of Richard II, Duke of Normandy.

    When Richard II died in 1035, his son was only seven or eight years old. Edward was not yet on the English throne and was still living in Normandy. He saw the power of the underage and illegitimate king in Normandy being taken away from him. In the early 1040s, Edward became king and William was knighted. William tried to regain his lost rights – he was successful, but there was always trouble. By 1054, Edward was back in Normandy and it was probably at this time that he promised William the English throne.

    Whether it was a reaction to his illegitimate birth that William was so pious and moral and interested in the welfare of the Norman Church, we do not know. But he was a champion of the Church, campaigning against simony and clerical marriage.

    Before going to England, he approached the Pope and pointed out that Harald Godwinson’s commitment to the Church was lacking. The Pope gave his blessing to William’s campaign to England – almost a crusade, or at least a Christian mission.

     

    No Sir Richard Guillaume, no sword

    Bayeux Tapestry
    HAROLD REX INFECTVS EST – King Harold was killed – it says on this detail (number 57) of the Bayeux Tapestry, commissioned by William’s half-brother, the Bishop Odo of Bayeux after the Battle of Hastings. He became the Earl of Kent.

    Guillaume and Richard were common Norman names of the time, but no Richard Guillaume can be found. There were only men in William of Normandy’s armada called either Richard or William/Guillaume.

    So far I have found

    • Guillaume, Comte d’Évreux (of the Rollonid dynasty, died 1118).
    • Guillaume de Crépon (William FitzOsbern), seneschal of the duke, from 1067 1st Earl of Hereford, died 1071
    • Guillaume de Warenne (William de Warenne), 1st Earl of Surrey, 1088 Founder of the House of Warenne, died 1088
    • Guillaume Malet (William Malet), Lord of Graville, founder of the House of Malet, died c. 1071
    • Richard de Bienfaite, founder of the House of Clare, died 1090
    • Richard Goz, Viscount of Avranches, founder of the House of Conteville
    • Guillaume de Percy (William de Percy), founder of the Percy family, died between 1096 and 1099

     

    Sir Richard’s chapel

    In the episode, Sir Richard Guillaume slaughtered the people of Brighton with a sword when they resisted the Norman takeover. He then had a church built in Brighton. Tom Barnaby meets the Reverend Giles Shawcross, who is resigned to no longer having to say mass here. While Tom Barnaby asks him about Hugh Dalgleish and Lady Mathilda, he is only interested in the historical sign on the side of the church entrance. He points to the inscription, which says that the chapel was built by Richard de Guillaume in 1069.

    „Welcome to St Peter’s. Dedicated to the Seaman and Fisherman of the South Coast Throughout the Ages. St. Peter’s was originally built in 1069 by Richard Guillaume of Normanny who was given the land now known as Brightoon and Hove by William the Conqueror. The Original church was built…“.

    The text on the wall of the chapel goes on a little further, but that’s all that can be read in this scene.

     

    The aftermath of the Battle of Hastings

    Yes, the Normans were far from welcome. To demonstrate and consolidate his power, the new English king, William I, expropriated most of the Anglo-Saxon nobles and replaced them with his Norman lieges. He thus established a new aristocracy in England. When he returned to Normandy for the first time in the spring of 1067 – his rule there was still not really secure – he took many of England’s most important men hostage on his first trip home to Normandy.

    Before that, he changed

    • the administration (centralised administration, feudal system with the Oath of Salisbury)
    • the military (introduction of an army of trained vassals)
    • the Church (adapting it to continental standards, replacing almost all bishops with Normans and having Norman monks found monasteries in England), and
    • Trade (close links with the continent).

    He also had a number of buildings built, especially castles, which were scattered around the country as a symbol of the Norman regime. To protect London from further Viking attacks and to prevent possible uprisings by the locals, he built Baynard’s Castle and Montfichet Castle near the Thames, as well as the Tower of London.

     

    Domesday Book and the English language

    The most lasting effect, however, was linguistic, as Norman French became the language of the English upper classes, judiciary and administration. The Anglo-Saxon language was relegated to a non-written language after the Battle of Hastings. Although the Norman kingship lasted only until 1154 (after which the English kingship came from the House of Anjou-Plantagenet), it took many more decades for the class and language differences to be overcome and for a common Anglo-Saxon and Norman language, Middle English, to emerge. Even today, the Norman influence can be seen in some English expressions. For example, the animal in the field is a pig, but on the table it is pork.

    Not forgetting the Domesday Book, compiled in 1086, which lists for each county the landowners before and after the Conquest and their holdings, with value, tax assessment, plough, number of peasants and other data.

     

     

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    Literature

    • Bates, David: William the Conqueror. Hew Haven 2016.
    • Coad, Jonathan: Battle Abbey and Battlefield. English Heritage Guidebooks. London 2007. P. 32, 48.
    • Dolderer, Winfried: Sieg der Normannen über die Angelsachsen bei Hastings (14/10/2016).
    • Huscroft, Richard: The Norman Conquest. A New Introduction. New York 2009. S. 80-85.
    • Medievalist Hanna Vollrath in an interview with Herwig Katzer. Cf. Katzer, Herwig: Schlacht bei Hastings. In: WDR ZeitZeichen (WDR5) (14/10/2011).
    • Marren, Peter: 1066. The Battles of York, Stamford Bridge & Hastings. Barnsley 2004. P. 146.
    • Williams, Ann: Æthelred the Unready. The Ill-Counselled King. London 2003. S. 42-55.

     

    Sources

    • Poitiers, William of: Gesta Guillelmi II Ducis Normannorum (1071-1077).
    • Vitalis, Ordericus: Historia Ecclesiastica, Volume 4 and 5 (1110-1042).
    • Bayeux Tapestry (late 11th century).

     

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    • Header Midsomer Murders History Domesday Book

      Domesday in Midsomer


      (Caution: Contains spoilers for Episode: 07×02: Bad Tidings)

       

      Sergeant Daniel Scott has just arrived at his new police station in Causton and is assigned to investigate a murder in Midsomer Mallow. Tom Barnaby and his new sergeant are walking across a meadow where a woman’s body has been found. Daniel Scott is struggling to walk on the uneven ground and in the tall grass. Meanwhile, Tom tells him that this place is called Chainey’s Field and has been common land for centuries – even in the Domesday Book.

      In the background of the scene you can see a mansion, possibly the Spearmans’ house, which was filmed at Tyringham Hall in Cuddingham, Buckinghamshire. I’m not sure here, however, whether the large meadow referred to in the episode as Chainey’s Field is part of the Tyringham Hall estate. But a majority of the episode was filmed in various locations in Cuddingham and here, according to the Domesday Book, although there was no common field called Chainey’s field, the settlement of Cuddingham already existed. This included not one but two manors named after Tyringham: One was owned by Wiliam FitzAnsculf at the time of the records, the other belonged to the Bishop of Coutances. The present Tyringham Hall, built in 1792, has been on the National Heritage List since 30 August 1987.

       

      England’s first land register

      Domesday Book
      The Great Domesday Book. Photo by Mark Cartwright for the National Archives. CC-BY SA 4.0.

      19 years after the Battle of Hastings, King William I ordered at Christmas 1085 – which was then the beginning of the year 1086 – in concern about a possible invasion from Denmark and Norway, to compile the own and annually taxable property of his subjects as well as accurate information about the military and other resources at his disposal.

      This also included the annual value of every piece of landed property to its lord, and the resources in land, manpower, and livestock from which the value derived.

      The Domesday Book is England’s first land register and consisted of money assessment lists. Indirectly, it was also the country’s first census. It is kept at The National Archives in Kew (London).

       

      Completed in 1087

      Collected were (1) lands, (2) their owners, and (3) the number of male inhabitants in most regions of England and parts of Wales. in order to fix in writing the taxes and dues. Further, the services due to the king, and the extent and value of the estates of the king’s direct liegemen.

      The entries on the counties in the Domesday Book are mostly structured in the same way: A description of the royal boroughs and the royal sources of revenue at the time of the Battle of Hastings is followed by a list of the feudatories and a description of the demesne with its belongings. The terra regis, which was directly subject to the king, is described first, then the other fiefs in turn.

      The result of the survey was that numerous sub-vassals held very large estates. William I demanded the oath of fealty from them, no matter whose liegeman they were.

      The first survey was completed in 1087, but the book was not finished until after William I’s death in 1090. We now know that the survey was far less organised and systematically collected and compiled than previously thought. The methods used to collect the data have not been definitively clarified.

       

      An big step for England

      The compilation was an important step on the way to centralising power from local nobles to the royal court because before 1066 common law applied in Anglo-Saxon Britain: peasants and nobles owned land and rights that were not documented.

      If Midsomer County existed, Chainey’s Field would already have been recorded as common land in this compilation. In reality, the Domesday Book recorded a total of 268,984 male heads of households in 13,418 places, from which the full population figure can be calculated: an estimated 1.2 and 1.6 million people lived in the area covered by the Norman Land Register. It can also be seen that land use was fairly evenly divided with a slight majority at 35% arable land.

      Basically all land belonged to the king according to the fief pyramid, but only 17% was in direct access as 54% belonged to the eleven tenant-in-chiefs of William I, almost all of whom were blood relatives of him: Odo of Bayeux, Robert of Mortain, William FitzOsbern, Roger de Montgomerie, William de Warenne, Hugh d’Avranches, Count Erstach III of Boulogne, Alain the Red Earl of Richmond, Richard FitzGilbert, Geoffroy de Monbray, Geoffrey de Mandeville. We have already met the Richards and Williams in the chapter on the Battle of Hastings. These eleven men were subject to over 100 manors. The remaining 26% were owned by Norman bishops and abbots.

       

      English Counties Domesday

      Eternal validity

      The undertaking was contemporary without parallel. Originally, the compilation was called “Liber de Wintonia”, i.e. “Book of Winchester” The name Domesday Book only came into being a century after its completion, because the results of the nationwide investigation were to be valid until the end, i.e. until Judgement Day. The Old English term “doom” meant nothing other than law or judgement.

      Nevertheless, it stands to reason that Richard FitzNeal had the end of the world in mind. Within the first thousand years after Christ’s birth, there had been repeated signs and calculations of the end of the world. And just in the year 1179, in which FitzNeal made the “Domesday Book” out of “Liber de Wintonia”, the astronomer John of Toledo predicted the end of the world for 1186: all planets would be in the constellation Libra from 23 September 1186 – that was a sure sign of the end of the world. What might make us smile today triggered a European mass panic at the time. The Byzantine emperor, for example, had all the windows of his palace bricked up.

       

      Additional information

      About the Domesday survey: In addition, the “little Domesday” Book was added for Norfolk, Suffolk, and Essex. Not included were the later Westmorland, Cumberland, Northumberland, and County Durham because they did not pay the national land tax called the geld. Extra space was left for London and Winchester, but not filled.

      About the eternal validity: Richard FitzNeal in the Dialogus de Scaccario (1179): „unalterable“, „its sentence could not be quashed“, cf. Johnson, C. (Ed).: Dialogus de Scaccario, the Course of the Exchequer, and Constitutio Domus Regis (= The Establishment of the Royal Household, Oxford Medieval Tests). London 1950. P. 64. In fact, there were no further such surveys in England until 1873. Cf. Hoskins, W. G.: A New Survey of England: Devon. London 1954. p. 87. The “Return of Owners of Land” of 1873 was also called “Modern Domesday”.

       

       

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      Literature

      • Darby, Henry Clifford: Domesday England. Cambridge 1986.
      • Harvey, Sally: Domesday. Book of Judgement. Oxford 2014.
      • Hoskins, W. G.: A New Survey of England: Devon. London 1954.
      • Johnson, C. (Ed.).: Dialogus de Scaccario, the Course of the Exchequer, and Constitutio Domus Regis (= The Establishment of the Royal Household, Oxford Medieval Tests). London 1950.
      • NN: Life in the 11th Century. In: The Domesday Book Online.
      • Stenton, Frank Merry: Anglo-Saxon England. Oxford 1971.

       

       

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      • Header Midsomer Murders History Dantean Anomaly

        The Dantean Anomaly


        (Caution: Contains spoilers for Episodes: 14×06: The Night of the Stag)

        On a colourfully decorated village square, a very well-attended, joyous fete takes place. There are stalls and plenty of alcohol to drink. We are at the Midsomer Abbas May Fayre, which is celebrated jointly by residents from Midsomer Abbas and Midsomer Herne – always on the first of May. Malmsey wine is served in a sweet version (= the well-known sweet Madeira wine) and in a tart version. Now, a man, Reverend Conrad Walker, enters the wooden platform and speaks into a microphone and welcomes the crowd.

        There is vigorous applause as the two aldermen, Samuel Quested from Midsomer Abbas and Will Green from Midsomer Herne, come on stage. The Reverend meanwhile leaves the podium. Samuel Quested takes the floor and reminds the crowd of the spring of 1370, when there was a disastrous frost that froze all the apple blossoms and the inhabitants of Midsomer Abbas faced famine. The apple harvest was the main source of income for most of the inhabitants. But help came from neighbouring Midsomer Herne, who oddly seemed not to have had problems with frost, even though they live in the neighbouring valley.

        They gave away their apples and established a friendship between the two villages.

        The audience is cheering as Samuel Quested symbolically hands Will Green a basket of apples and the Reverend re-enters the stage and takes the microphone.

         

        The Micro Famine?

        In 1370 there were indeed crop failures in England, coupled with a new outbreak of the bubonic plague epidemic in 1369 – for the second time in England in the 1360s – and this during the Hundred Years’ War between England and France.

        Well, apparently 1370 was not only a year in the middle of the Hundred Years’ War between England and France (1337-1453), but also a year with an even more amazing microclimate because the frost apparently stopped at the valley. (Both villages were apparently spared from the bubonic plague epidemic of that year. At least it is not mentioned).

        However, the crop failure of 1370 is hardly mentioned in literature or even in contemporary sources. This is not so surprising because the plague of bubonic plague was probably many times worse. It was also apparently not as devastating as the Great Famine period of the 1310s, as the Dantean Anomaly is also called.

         

        Dante Alighieri’s “Inferno” – a field report?

        Dante Alighieri
        Sandro Botticelli: Dante Alighieri, circa 1495. Oil on canvas. Public Domain.

        Dantean Anomaly – this term was coined by Oxford geophysicist Neville Brown in his 2001 book History and Climate Change.

        “Dantean” refers to the Italian author Dante Alighieri and his work “Inferno”, which has at least become world-famous since Dan Brown’s book of the same name.

        In the last years of his life, Dante Alighieri experienced the Great Famine in Italy, which peaked there in 1310-1312. At the same time, he wrote his work for which he is still famous today: La Divina Commedia, the Divine Comedy. Researchers disagree on exactly when he began the work, but it was probably in the 1300s.

        The first part of the Divine Comedy, the aforementioned “Inferno”, contains passages that seem like a result of his exuberant fantasy and fatalism, but were probably nothing more than his way of handling his real experiences:

        “I am in the third circle, filled with cold, unending, heavy, and accursed rain; its measure and its kind are never changed. Gross hailstones, water gray with filth, and snow come streaking down across the shadowed air; the earth, as it receives that shower, stinks.“ (Inferno: Canto VI)

         

        Crash weather events due to climate change

        These extreme weather conditions occurred roughly from 1300 to 1325 and were by no means limited to England, the British Isles, or Italy. Rather, a total of 30 million people were affected throughout northern, central and, in some cases, southern Europe.

        The 1310s in particular were a drastic climatic anomaly.

        In the century before, an increase in solar radion and decrease in volcanic activity led to a warming and prosperous society throughout Europe with strong population growth, many new settlements and technical improvements in agriculture that made it possible to feed the population. This century of progress was then followed by periods of partly too much rain and partly too little rain from 1300 to 1325, leading into the Little Ice Age. The Dantean Anomaly was therefore nothing other than a sign of the blatant climate upheaval – which at that time led to an Ice Age.

        Today we can only dream of that, although the weather events do not differ. Only we cannot expect the escapades of the climate to calm down again. The “Dantean Anomaly Junior Research Group“, a Europe-wide research project, is investigating the prehistory, development and effects 700 years ago and can already say: the weather events of the 1290s and around 2020 are damn similar. Then, as now, they were locally occurring weather events that could also differ greatly. For example, a Dominican monk from Colmar, Alsace, noted that the winter of 1303/04 was exceptionally cold in Rome, but much warmer than usual in Alsace. On the other hand, a year earlier the winter in Alsace was too cold and in Rome too warm.

         

        The Dantean Anomaly in England

        So what was the weather like during this climatic transition period in England? And can any references be made to the local weather of the filming location?

        Filming took place in Oxfordshire, namely in Stanton St. John (Midsomer Herne) and Sydenham (Midsomer Abbas). Unfortunately, in the few weather records that have survived to the present day, location information is very rare. Therefore, I cannot say whether Sydenham or Oxfordshire in general was affected by a bad harvest in 1370, nor how the village or county fared during the Dantean Anomaly.

        But let’s look at the weather of the years in England. I am mainly using a compilation of sources on the weather in England compiled by historian Katheryn Warner.

         

        Dantean Anomaly
        The consequences of the Dantean Anomaly for England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland.

         

        The consequence: The Great Famine

        Hansel and Gretel
        Arthur Rackham: Hansel and Gretel, 1909. Public Domain.

        This frequent alternation of too hot and too dry, too wet and too cold weather led to massive crop failure, especially in 1314 and 1315. In 1315, floods destroyed one-third or one-half of the harvest. Famine was inevitable. Even King Edward had to go without food when he travelled to St Albans, as he had done so often before: There was simply no bread. It was not until 1317 that the harvest in England returned to normal, but food stocks were not fully replenished until 1322.

        Across Europe, about 5-12% died in the two or three decades. Many animals also died of a highly virulent disease called murrains, which weakened the animals inexorably to the point of death – probably a kind of food-and-mouth. But people couldn’t even preserve the dead animals for their food, because salt was damp from the rainy season and also very expensive.

        Parents gave their children away – not because they had a better chance of survival elsewhere, but parents only had a chance of survival if they didn’t still have children to feed. They needed the little food themselves in order not to starve. The world-famous fairy tale of Hansel and Gretel very likely originated during the Great Famine: the parents send the children off into the world, hoping they will never come back. Eventually they go to the house of a woman who is apparently so starved that she has become a cannibal.

         

        Inflation and disease

        However, it was not only the famine that caused concern, but also the political and social destabilisation of society and an inflation. The aristocracy had to watch the value of its domains collapse.

        Inferno
        Illustrated transcript from Dante Alighieri’s Inferno, Canto VI: The Gluttons. Northern Italy, end of the 14th century. Public Domain.

        Land had to be sold, often at severely reduced prices, while many more would need to borrow to survive. Some small monasteries had to close, others sold relics to pilgrims.

        The government thought it would be a good solution to install price controls and to import food from Southern Europe. Well, the rationing and regulation of food prices was a slight improvement for the consumers, but for the farmers it meant ruin because their businesses were no longer viable – and they could no longer support themselves. Therefore, the government lifted the price controls a few months later. This led to inflation and an eightfold increase in prices.

        If it was “only” an outbreak of small-pox in England in 1305, the immunocompromised population throughout Europe was followed by the great plague epidemic, which occurred again and again locally until the 18th century. As elsewhere, it cost many lives immediately after the Great Famine because their immune systems had become weak from hunger. In England, the plague epidemic of 1349 alone cost 30% of human lives and was followed by others – five in the 14th century alone (1360, 1361, 1369, 1375, 1390).

         

        The Papal Edict that Never Existed

        Remember the Reverend Norman Grigor and his family’s appearance at the Midsomer Abbas May Fayre at the Domesday-like admonishing words he speaks?

        He refers to the horn dance, a Beltane cult in which competing men with deer antlers go at each other to determine the strongest, most willing mate among themselves. Reverend Walker reassures us, however: this dance was toned down in the 1880s and is no more than a folk dance. We also see this in the episode.

        John Barnaby later approaches Reverend Conrad Walker about these lines and Walker says they are part of a papal edict of 669 with which the Pope tried to put a stop to the pagan Beltane cult.

        It should have been by Pope Vitalian at that time, but this edict does not exist. There was no edict in 669, nor was there ever an edict with this content. So it was only invented for dramaturgical reasons for the episode. But let’s be similar: it could very well have existed because there were numerous attempts at that time, as well as a thousand years later, to make the pagan cults absolete.

         

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        Literature

        • Bauch, Martin: The “Dantean Anomaly” Project. Tracking Rapid Climate Change in Late Medieval Europe” (27/08/2016). In: Historical Climatology.
        • Bauch, Martin/Labbé, Thomas/Engel, Annabell/Seifert/Patric: A prequel to the Dantean Anomaly. The precipitation seesaw and droughts of 1302 to 1307 in Europe. In: Climate of the Past 16 (2020).
        • Brown, Neville: History and Climate Change. A Eurocentric Perspective. London/New York 2001.
        • Buttery, Neil: The Great Famine (1315-1317). In: Climate in Arts & History.
        • Frank, Robert Worth: Agriculture in the Middle Ages. Philadelphia 1995.
        • NN: 10 Things to Know About the Great Famine. In: Medievalists.net.
        • NN: The Great Famine 1315-1317. In: British Food. A History (09/09/2020).
        • Pribyl, Kathleen: The Climate of Late Medieval England. Reconstruction and Impacts. Lecture at the Town Close Auditorium, Norwich Castle Museum, 2 November 2013. Based on: Kathleen Pritbyl, Rihard C. Cordes, Christian Pfister: Reconstructing medieval April-July mean temperatures in East Anglia, 1256-1431. In: Climatic Change 113 (2012). S. 393-412.
        • Sharp, Buchanan: Royal paternalism and the moral economy in the reign of Edward III. The response to the Great Famine. In: Economic History Review 66 (2013), pp. 628-647.
        • Storey, R. L.: England. Allgemeine und politische Geschichte. Das Koenigtum im Konflikt mit Adelsgruppierungen. Der Hundertjaehrige Krieg. In: Lexikon des Mittelalters 3. Darmstadt 2009. Col. 1946-1958, here col. 1951.
        • Warner, Katheryn: And Your Weather Forecast For The Early Fourteenth Century Is… In: Edward II (10/09/2009).

         

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