Viking Raids

A few years ago, a story came out about 51 headless Vikings unearthed at a site in Weymouth, England.  http://www.cnn.com/2010/TECH/science/03/12/viking.olympics/index.html “On Friday, officials revealed that analysis of the men’s teeth shows they were Vikings, executed with sharp blows to the head around a thousand years ago. They were killed during the Dark Ages, when Vikings frequently invaded the region.” Researchers have dated the remaines to the period between 890 and 1030 AD, postulating that it was a raiding party that was executed once it was caught too far from its Read More…

The Celts in Wales

The Irish, Welsh, and Scots all have a Celtic ancestry, but they settled their respective regions before the Roman conquest of Britain.  There is an amazing amount of debate as to the origin of the Celts:  were they Phoenician?  stocky and dark?  tall and blonde?  as culturally cohesive as the label suggests?   The standard theory is that the Celts were an Indo-European group that gradually migrated across Europe and Asia, with an identifiable, distinct culture by 750 BC.  As a group, they were well-known to the Greeks and Romans.  The map Read More…

Roman Roads (Bwlch y Ddeufaen)

In an earlier post, I discussed the routes across the Welsh and English countryside during the Middle Ages.  Many of these roads were based in the Roman roads, built between the 1st and 4th centuries AD.  In Wales, the Romans built roads but also improved old ones, which wasn’t their normal operating procedure. It was forced upon them, however, because they found the land so inhospitable that it made it difficult for them to lay down their straight roads. The Roman roads lasted such a long time because the Roman Read More…

The Welsh Dragon

For most of history, the Welsh dragon was not a very common symbol. In fact, it was flown by only one king, Cadwaladr ap Cadwallon, who reigned from 655-682 AD. It was so distinct that his flag came to be known as “the Red Dragon of Cadwaladr”.  Today, it is known as the ‘Welsh dragon’ and the the Welsh flag looks like this: (my The Last Pendragon Saga is about a mythic version of Cadwaladr) Within Welsh mythology, the story of the two dragons, one red (for the Welsh) and one white (for Read More…

Medieval Forensics

People murdered each other in the Middle Ages.  How did a medieval detective go about finding the murderer?  Many authors have written medieval murder mysteries and if the Brother Cadfael mysteries are anything to go by, medieval forensics were a primitive, but burgeoning science. Some things that a medieval detective could determine: Time of death:  “Rigor mortis—literally, “death stiffness,” happens very methodically—from the face downward about 2 hours after death. It takes another 8-12 hours for the body to become completely stiff and fixed into position. Fixed for another 18 Read More…

Making Sense of Medieval Britain

This is the second installment in my new video series about medieval Britain. Medieval Wales and Britain in general is my thing (obviously!), and since I can’t get enough, I kind of assume everyone around me can’t either 🙂 As I wrote last week, with the help and encouragement of my husband, I’ve started a series of videos about the history of Britain. The videos will be put up weekly. The first one was a short introduction to the series. This week we have Making Sense of Medieval Britain, where Read More…

Introduction to a new video series

All about medieval Britain in bite-sized pieces! With the help of my husband, I’m starting a new series of videos about the history of Britain as background to my books. Medieval Wales and Britain in general is my thing (obviously!), and since I can’t get enough, I kind of assume everyone around me can’t either 🙂 The videos will be put up weekly, starting with this first one, which is an introduction to the series. Next week … Making Sense of Medieval Britain. If you want to see the videos Read More…

St. David’s Day

St. David is the patron saint of Wales and his feast day (and possibly the date of his death) is March 1.  The Welsh spelling of his name is ‘Dafydd’ (Dah-vith). St. David “died in the year 589. His father was the son of Ceredig, King of Ceredigion. After being educated in Cardiganshire, he went on pilgrimage through south Wales and the west of England, where it is said that he founded religious centres such as Glastonbury and Croyland. He even went on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, where he was Read More…

Great Historical Fiction/Fantasy Novels

History is anthroplogy for the past.  Great historical fiction brings you into that past world and makes it accessible.  Would life in thirteenth century Wales chew me up and spit me out?  No doubt.  But that doesn’t mean I can’t spend many happy hours living there.  I am also partial to the fantasy element of historical fiction in part because I acknowledge that past lives are truly inaccessible to me and if I wanted to read about something that was absolutely true, I would get the non-fiction version.  That said Read More…

Happy St. Dwynwen Day (Welsh Valentine’s Day)

Thanks to Americymru for the information! January 25th is Saint Dwynwen’s Day … the Welsh St Valentine. Typically, however, she ends up a nun. Brychan, a legendary 5th-century king of Brycheiniog had 24 daughters, of whom Dwynwen was reputedly the prettiest. She fell in love with a local prince called Maelon Dafodrill. Unfortunately her father, mindful of political advantage, had already arranged a marriage for her. Dwynwen was distraught. She hid in the forest and asked God to help her forget Maelon. She fell asleep and was visited by an Read More…

Christmas and the Winter Solstice

8 December 21st is the winter solstice in 2018. The image is of Stonehenge at the Winter Solstice in 2007. I’m pretty sure a whole bunch of those people have no idea why they’re there … Cultures throughout the world and throughout history have celebrated the winter solstice, carefully calculating it’s date and time for sunrise and sunset, and aligning standing stones, worship sites, and burials in coordination with the sky.  Wikipedia has an excellent catalog of these events:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winter_solstice “The December solstice occurs when the sun reaches its most southerly declination Read More…

Betrayal in the Belfry at Bangor

“And there was effected the betrayal of Llywelyn in the belfry of Bangor by his own men.”—Brut y Tywysogyon, Peniarth manuscript 20. (Chronicle of the Princes) This comment is sandwiched between the description of the defeat of the English at the Menai Strait on November 6th, and the death of Llywelyn on December 11th. It is only found in the manuscript kept at the National Library of Wales, not the incomplete version at Oxford, which ends with the firing of Aberystwyth Castle on Palm Sunday (April, 1282). Here is the Read More…