Kentigern and Asaph

Today we’ll be talking about St. Kentigern’s Monastery in St. Asaph. Wait a minute, that’s two saints. Yes, it is, and in the case of this particular monastery, it’s a bit confusing because the monastery was founded by St. Kentigern, and then it was taken over by a second saint, Asaph, for which the town was named. In fact, unless you do some research, you might never know that the monastery in St. Asaph was initially founded by Kentigern at all. Two weeks ago, in my introduction to early monastic houses, I explained that they weren’t organized along the lines that we have come to know from the later Middle Ages, in that each would belong to a particular order: Benedictine, Cistercian, Augustinian, Franciscan, or Dominican. Each had their particular ‘rule’ they followed, the monks wore different colored robes, had Read more…

Hadrian’s Wall

Hadrian’s Wall “was a defensive fortification in the Roman province of Britannia, begun in 122 AD in the reign of the emperor Hadrian. It ran from the banks of the River Tyne near the North Sea to the Solway Firth on the Irish Sea, and was the northern limit of the Roman Empire. It had a stone base and a stone wall. There were milecastles with two turrets in between. There was a fort about every five Roman miles. From north to south, the wall comprised a ditch, wall, military way and vallum, another ditch with adjoining mounds. It is thought that the milecastles were staffed with static garrisons, whereas the forts had fighting garrisons of infantry and cavalry. In addition to the wall’s defensive military role, its gates may have been used as customs posts.[1] A significant portion of Read more…

Wales and Scotland: War, Rebellion, and Edward I

Edward had his eyes on Wales for thirty years, ever since Llywelyn ap Gruffydd’s forces had swept through his lands (held custodially by Edward’s parents and guardians) in 1256.   (see my post:  http://www.sarahwoodbury.com/the-rising-of-1256/)  Llywelyn’s army marched all the way to Deheubarth that summer and fall, and set the stage of Llywelyn’s twenty year supremacy in Wales.  However, it wasn’t until 1267 that Edward’s father, Henry III, acknowledged Llywelyn as the Prince of Wales, a title he inherited from his grandfather–and another ten years after that before things fell apart for the Welsh prince.  http://www.castlewales.com/llywel2.html Edward participated in the Ninth Crusade (see my post: http://www.sarahwoodbury.com/the-ninth-crusade/) and despite the fact that his father died in 1272, he didn’t return to England until 1274, at which point he immediately turned a covetous eye on Wales.  Why Wales instead of Scotland?  It seems likely Read more…

The Succession of 1290 (Scotland)

When Alexander III of Scotland died in 1286 by falling off a cliff (which is another whole story–what king dies falling off a cliff when riding from one castle to another alone in the fog? Whatever.), he left Scotland without a king. He had one living grandchild, Margaret, otherwise known as the ‘Maid of Norway’. She was the child of Alexander’s daughter, who’d died at her birth, and Erik, the King of Norway. The succession was already in trouble after King Alexander’s only son died, two years earlier:  “When Prince Alexander died on 28 January 1284, leaving only the king’s granddaughter Margaret living out of his descendants, Alexander III summoned all thirteen Earls of Scotland, twenty-four barons and the heads of the three main Gaelic kindreds of the West, Alexander of Argyll, Aonghas Mór of Islay and Alan MacRuari of Garmoran. At Scone on 5 February Read more…

Scots, Scottish, and Gaelic … what’s the difference?

What language were people speaking in 13th century Scotland? Undoubtedly, that is a question that keeps most people up at night. In a nutshell, in 1288, in Scotland, people spoke three local languages regularly.  At the time, they called them:  French, English, and Scottish. What is confusing is that those are not the names used to refer to these languages NOW.  French, was Norman French. Robert the Bruce, a great King of Scotland, descended from the Gaelic Earls of Carrick, and on his father’s side from “ancestors in Brix, in Flanders. In 1124, King David I granted the massive estates of Annandale to his follower, Robert de Brus, in order to secure the border. The name, Robert, was very common in the family. Brought up at Turnberry Castle, Bruce was a product of his lineage, speaking Gaelic, Scots and Norman Read more…

Archaeology news in the UK–exciting update!

I am always on the lookout for interesting archaeological finds or digs in the UK.  I have three today: The first is the ongoing quest for the grave of Richard III: http://www.northwalesweeklynews.co.uk/conwy-county-news/uk-world-news/2012/08/24/archaeologists-in-richard-iii-dig-55243-31688154/ “King Richard III, the last Plantagenet, ruled England from 1483 until he was defeated at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. It is believed his body was stripped and despoiled and brought to Leicester, where he was buried in the church of the Franciscan Friary, known as Greyfriars.” Richard III is the king defeated by Henry Tudur, the descendent of Ednyfed Fychan, the seneschel to Llywelyn the Great. Henry became Henry VII.  The interesting problem in this case, and it has happened all over the UK, is that they lost the location of the original church where they think he is buried!  You wonder how that could have happened Read more…

The Quest for Welsh Independence

When the Romans conquered Britain, the people they defeated were the Britons, the ancestors of the Welsh, a Celtic people who themselves had come to the island hundreds of years before. After the Romans marched away in 410 AD, the Saxon invaders overwhelmed the British in successive waves, pushing them west and resulting in a Saxon England and British Wales. When the next conquerors—the Normans—came in 1066 AD, they conquered England but they did not conquer Wales. Not yet. For the next two hundred years, power in Wales ebbed and flowed, split among Welsh kings and princes, Marcher barons (Norman lords who carved out mini-kingdoms for themselves on the border between England and Wales), and the English kings. Through it all, the Welsh maintained their right to independence—to be governed by their own laws and their own kings. The ending came on Read more…

Scotland and Its War for Existence

Today I have a guest post on a parallel subject to my interest in Wales:  JR Tomlin on the Scottish quest for independence.  Her book,  Freedom’s Sword, is available from Amazon or Smashwords:  http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/46734.  Welcome! ____________________ Because I write about Scotland, I felt it would be a good idea to briefly discuss Scotland’s history, and in particular, its invasion by England, as well as the eventual loss of its independence. I won’t do so with an emphasis on academics. For that, I suggest reading the work of G. W. S. Barrow, Professor Emeritus at the University of Edinburgh and probably the pre-eminent medievalist of the last century. In particular, I recommend reading both his Robert Bruce and the Community of the Realm of Scotland and his Kingship and Unity: Scotland, 1000–1306, that is if you have a deep interest in the subject.  Otherwise, just Read more…