Another Brunanburh Sneak Peek – Releasing 31st October 2014

Brunanburh – Athelstan – 937

I rise from my knees before my portable altar, the noises of the busy camp flooding back into my consciousness. Grimacing, I wonder how I’ve managed to ignore it for so long. Men shout to each other, dog’s bark and horses shuffle in their temporary paddocks. The press of men and animals can be felt even within my own personal tent.

My personal priest, Beornstan, watches me. He’s not alone. My ealdormen and my commanders have spent much of the last week watching me surreptitiously, thinking I’m not aware of their scrutiny. I don’t think they expect me to crumble with the stress and the knowledge of the battle that must come, but they are looking for something. I hazard its my confidence. And so I must hold myself firm and let not one flicker of doubt of the victory to come show in my face or in my actions. That is why I seek the comfort of my Lord. Only to him can I profess my anxieties. But never out loud. Only when I speak to him with my mind can I ask the question that taunts me, ‘am I doing the right thing?’

Not that I can act any differently, not now. Those who should have sought my protection and my overlordship have tested my patience. They have gone against me, as I somehow knew they always would. Not all of them, but even those who were my close allies have become distant of late, avoiding my messengers and sending responses that reach me too late to be of any use.

I would blame myself but none of this is of my making. They gave their word. They broke their pledge. They must be punished. They must know that the English are not to be ridiculed and ignored. The English are a truly powerful race and we must be respected as such. We’ve grown since our near annihilation at the hands of the Vikings during my grandfather’s tenure of this land and we will not retreat or run from any who attempts to encroach on our land.

I would blame the arrogant Norse King of Dublin for all my ills but he’s not so persuasive that he could have made men act against their nature. He’s just the excuse they needed for their current actions.

I’ve not been ignorant of the man’s increasing success in his native land, and I’d been warned that once he felt secure there he would attempt to claim back the land that he feels is his birth -right, the Viking Kingdom of York. I can admire his misguided hopes whilst acting violently to repel him. There is no irony there. He’ll not have back what is mine and my people’s. York is a part of the ancient Saxon kingdom of Deira. It belonged to my ancestors, the Saxons, and we will keep it or die trying to protect it.

My ealdormen and holy men agree with my. Most are here with me now, even the more militant of the holy men have come and will fight alongside the men of the fyrd and the men of the household troops that guard my own person, or their own Lords, my ealdormen.

The only aspect of the entire coming battle that surprises me even a little is its position. I would have expected the battle to occur near York, close to the heartlands of the kingdom that he wishes to claim. Instead, we’ll meet in battle between the source of his power across the sea, Dublin, and the Kingdom he wants, the old kingdom of York. It’s a strange place to make battle, and I smirk a little. As Edmund advised, it’s proven to be to our advantage to hem them in a little and make them take a stand in an area that I can’t imagine is to their choosing.

Sadly, it’s close enough to the sea that Olaf might either send for reinforcements or retreat that way, but my men will be deployed in such a fashion that they might be cut off.

It’s a fine day. A good day for a battle, if such could exist. I pray the Lord is showing his support for my actions in everything from the blue sky dotted with sporadic clouds high in the air, to the gentle breeze rustling the ripening crops, to the light and welcome heat coming from the sun. We’ll be cool when we attack our enemies. Sweat will not easily bead our faces unless the fighting becomes fierce.

I’m fitted out for battle, ready and willing for it to start. My coat with its closing woven together metal rings fits me closely, pulled close together by my decorated belt, complete with pouches and hooks from which my weapons hang. A small, richly decorated bone handled knife, a sword made for my own hand and height, a carefully constructed piece of workmanship made by the finest metal worker in the land. I even watched him make it, bending the molten metal and hammering it into place, allowing it to cool and then repeating the procedure, time and time again until the sword was complete. And then to top it, he added a handle made of bone and wound a coil of metal tightly around it so that the blade stays true to its handle.

If I must make war, then I will do it with the best weapons possible.

On the small wooden stool, sits my shield, polished, sanded and repainted, the colours are bright and gaudy, the reds and oranges and blacks of my wyvern standard easy to differentiate. Any who I meet will know that they fight a man of the ancient Wessex line.

My clothing reflects the same colours as my shield. A little less bright, they still mark me as a man of Wessex, a man of England, and many of my warriors likewise dress the same. My gloved, now safely stowed inside one of my waist pouches, are deepest black, better to hide the bloody and gore that will cover me before the day is done.

My hair is neatly tied back, secured with bands of twisted rope, and for the occasion I have shorted my blonde beard a little. In battle its important to deny the enemy even the smallest means of them killing a man. Without being able to gain a fist hold on my beard they’ll not be able to grab tightly and hold on.

These men who swore their oaths to me ten years ago, and who tested me three years ago, shall not defeat me here. They swore a holy oath, they were guests at my Witan, honoured guests no less and yet they turned against my gentle imperium and sided once more with the Dublin Norse.

But I’ll not upset myself further now. We’ve arrived at this moment and honeyed words or overtures of friendship will not sway me – not again and not when they dare to enter my lands in hostility.

We’ve been marching for the last two days, my troops and the members of the fyrd arranging themselves in a position where we can clearly watch for the enemy, as I must now call them.

We know where they are, the forward scouts have seen to that, and so with the help of my ealdormen and leader of my household troops, and my warrior half-brother, we’ve argued back and forth calling for a number of local guides to explain the lay of the land and finally I’ve had my way.

This spot, high on a steep hill, overlooking the lush countryside around is a place my Aunt once exclaimed with delight at seeing, musing that it would make both a fine muster point and a wonderfully defensive position. This will be where I defeat the pretentions of Constantin; the old grizzled warrior, the upstart from Dublin and any others who feel that my sway is too great over their lands and that mine are for the taking.

Beside me, Edmund is being fitted with his war gear, his brynie, and his sword holster and heavy gloves. He wears the same colours as me, his own belt as encumbered with pouches and hooks as my own. Many may think that to fight with a sword is all that is needed, but my brother and I have small knives, a war axe, a sword, and also matching shields. He looks a little grim but his actions are decisive. He’s as committed to this battle as I am.

I watch my men with pride. There is a purposefulness in them all. They share my desires here, more so than when I attacked Constantin’s lands three years ago. Many didn’t appreciate my taking the ship and land army away from our own lands. I can understand their reluctance. They didn’t want their own land undefended, not when so many enemies surround us. They also didn’t want a greater area of land to defend and they didn’t want people who didn’t want to be ruled by me under my command for they could only cause trouble.

I understand. I don’t agree. And I will, god willing, prove to be correct.

Brunanburh – A Novel of 937 – Sneak Peek Part Two

Chapter 1 – 927 – Eamont – Constantin

It’s a sobering thought to realize my advanced age compared to this young King, who styles himself of the English. He is courteous and treats me with respect, as he does all the other Kings he’s called before him, at this meeting place, high in the north of his lands, but too close to my own for comfort. And yet, for me, his respect just reminds me of how very old I am compared to him and the other Kings. I will list them all, just to mark myself amongst them. Hywel of the southern ancient Britons, Owain from my puppet kingdom of Strathclyde and Ealdred of Bamburgh, the northern most tip of the once mighty land of the Northumbrians so called for they lived to the North of the mighty river Humber.

So many of us all together in one place at the behest of the young Lord. It’s an uncomfortable thought and a remarkable achievement for how little blood has been shed to bring it about. I wonder if our people are tired of bloodshed and distrust or whether he really is emboldened by the knowledge that his God blesses his every move and brings about its success.

His respect annoys me. My advanced age should mark me as wise and wily. I’ve been able to hold my own against my enemies for more than twenty years, yet I can’t help but think this young man thinks me too old, too weak and too easy to subdue. He, who has gained so precipitously from the deaths of his own half-brother, and his own brother-in-law so that he now stands as King over the old lands of Wessex, Mercia, and the Kingdom of York, looks at me a little too closely. I want to assure him that I will not be the next to give up my earthly crown for a more heavenly one, but, he might just have a valid argument, for of all of us here, I am most likely to die next.

As I said, it annoys me. As does having to be here at all. Why should I bow to this King of the English? I am King of the Scots, and have been for nearly thirty years. I’ve governed well and kept my people safe so why should I now submit to an ‘overlord’? I’ve never feared to fight in the past and don’t now, and yet I’m here, as are the other Kings. We’ve decreed that we’ll all reach an accord with each other, but I can tell from the shifting feet and sideways looks of my fellow attendees that this might all be a ruse.

Athelstan is not untried in battle. In the past I know he’s encountered the men of the Welsh King’s and those of the Dublin King’s as well. Alongside his aunt, Aethelflaed of Mercia, he’s done great deeds and secured more land for his kingdom. But she’s been dead for many long years now and he stands alone against us all.

I too came to terms with her once, over ten years ago. She was a wise woman, devout and assured in her powers and she trained her young nephew well. But, the accord did not last. They never did. The shifting sands of allegiance and counter-allegiance run contrary to any agreement lasting too long. Perhaps the shifting feet have the right of it after all.

I met the young King’s father once as well, Edward, King of Wessex and Mercia, seven years ago when bloody Ragnall and his Norsemen were causing havoc amongst our borderlands. Edward, Donald of Strathclyde and myself reached an agreement to curtail his raiding activities amongst any of our lands. If he attacked one of us, we would all respond. Or so we said.

The worked, in a fashion, for later the same year Ragnall came to an independent agreement with Edward. Again, it didn’t last long for Ragnall had the audacity to die the following year. Since then Sihtric has ruled the York kingdom, the land that was once the ancient kingdom of Deira. Coerced into Athelstan’s kingdom via marriage to his sister, his death was not long in coming, and his kingdom not long in joining Athelstan’s lands for all that he had repudiated both his wife and his new found religious fervour for my Christian God.

And my point in recounting all this? Athelstan’s aunt and his father were more my age, and their respect was genuine, one contemporary to another, not as a son to a doddering father. I have sons enough of my own to know the difference.

Still he is a finely wrought man; long blond hair graces his head, and he is tall and well built, clearly still training each day so that he can wield his sword and spear as and when they’re needed. For all that he wears fine clothing, I hear chosen and embellished by his second stepmother, the raw energy of his muscles can be seen flexing and stretching the fabric of his deeply dyed royal tunic. He almost compels me to train as often as he does, instead of passing the duty to my sons, who are more of an age with him. I wish I could feel fatherly towards him, but I don’t. I can respect him, providing he respects me.

And so this treaty. Why am I here? Is it because he swept into the old Danish kingdom of York after his brother-in-laws death and effectively annexed the land back to his kingdom, and I fear what he will gain if he pushes further north, or is it because he vows himself a Christian King, and I too am a Christian King, of the old Ionan school no less, and it would be a good and Christian thing to live in peace with my neighbours? I don’t yet know, but what I do know is that few have died an untimely death to bring about this understanding, and so, in the spirit in which it’s offered, and provided it does not become too onerous, I am prepared to accept the hand of friendship extended by Athelstan. It will be easily done, and can be just as easily un-done. I risk nothing by being here, and I may even grow in acclaim if this union is a success.

I will wait with baited breath.

Only three more weeks to go until the whole book is released! If you’re worried you might forget to get the book on 31st October, then hop off to your ebook retailer of choice, and pre-order it now!

Oh, and in the meantime, you can always reconcile yourself with the new Bernard Cornwell book set just a few years before Brunanburh. It’s due out the week before Brunanburh (23/10/14) so it might keep you going until then.

Brunanburh – A Novel of 937

An apt day to share this, I hope. The beginning of my latest novel about a great battle between the English, the Welsh, the Scots and the Dublin Norse.

Prologue September 925 Kingston upon Thames

The church is full, the smell of incense heavy in the air. Expectant faces look my way, some friendly and open, others more hooded although none are overtly hostile. These are my people, and I rule them as King. This ceremony will officially mark me as anointed, raised above them by Almighty God. And for the first time ever, I will be crowned as King of the English, with an actual crown. No helmet will grace my head, marking me as a warrior before a King, for all that I am a warrior, and proud to be one.

No, my holy men have decreed that it’s time for a change. A new Coronation service has been constructed and a new crown has been moulded and fitted to my head. It is made of the lightest gold and embellished with the finest, though understated, jewels. It is beautiful to behold, and probably the worst kept secret in my kingdom.

It will fit me perfectly, and it will mark me as no other King has yet been marked. Not my illustrious Grandfather, Alfred, who bought his religious conviction to bare in crushing the Viking menace and holding Wessex complete against the attack, nor my father, Edward, who continued my grandfather’s work, and added Mercia and much of the Danish lands to his kingdom.

My father. A man I respected and loved, and yet who decreed that despite my grandfather’s expectations, I would not be sole King after him. No, he gave that position to my half-brother; a youth younger than I, though barely, less tested in the ways of war, but more in the skills of the diplomacy of the Wessex court. And the men of the Wessex witan voted for him.

I didn’t curse my father for his choice, but it did confuse me, until the men of the Mercian Witan voted that I was to be their King. And yet, dividing the only recently reunited realm seemed wrong somehow, counter-productive. However, I didn’t have long to question my holy men or decry my father’s good sense, for my half-brother, as I say, a youth younger than I, shortly joined my father in his heavenly splendour, and then it was I who acceded to the kingship of Wessex as well as Mercia. Almost as if my Lord God too decried the division of our mighty realm.

Not that it was as easy to achieve as I’ve implied. The men of Wessex were unsure of me, a youth raised at my aunt’s Mercian court, following my father’s second marriage. His decision to crown my step-mother as Queen, a position denied my own mother, long dead now, somehow making my brother more ‘throne worthy’ than I, a child born of the union between a young man who was not yet King, and his wife, who would never be a Queen. A King born of two consecrated parents is to be preferred where there’s one available!

I’m a youth tried in battle against the Vikings and the Danish and yet somehow, not tried against the wily nature of the men of Wessex. But I shouldn’t dwell on that now, not when I’m at my own Coronation.

And now the land is united, again, under one ruler-ship, my own. And this is my moment of divine glory.

A prayer is intoned by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Aethelhelm appealing to God to endow me with the qualities of the Old Testament kings; Abraham, Moses, Joshua, David and Soloman. As such I must be faithful, meek, full of fortitude and humility whilst also being wise. I hope I will live up to these expectations.

I am anointed with the holy oil and then I’m given a heavy gold ring with a flashing ruby to prove that I accept my role as protector of the one true faith. A finely wrought sword is placed in my hands, with which I am to defend widows and orphans and with which I can restore things left desolated by my foes.

Further I’m given a golden sceptre with which to defend the Holy Church and a silver rod to help me understand how to soothe the righteous and terrify the reprobate, help any who stray from the Church’s teachings and welcome back any who have fallen outside the laws of the Church.

With each item added to my person, I feel the weight of kingship settle on me more fully. I may have been a King for over a year now, but this, this is the confirmation of all I have done before and all I will be in the future. It is a responsibility I am pleased to take, but a responsibility all the same. From this day forward, every decision I make, no matter how trivial will impact on someone I now rule over. It’s much for a young man to think about.

The prayers continue around me but I am looking at those who I now rule, my second step-mother Eadgifu, little older than me for all that she produced nine children for my father before his death, is resplendent in the front row of the Church. She is serine in her place as King-mother; for all that she is not my mother. I have her support, and the support of her sons and daughters. She will rule my household for me, and in payment, and in part to fulfil my own wishes, I will stay celibate, choosing never to marry. After all, I have half-brothers a plenty who can rule when I’m dead in my grave. And if I live to old age, then their own sons can rule in my stead.

I catch her eye with a solemn nod of my head, and she inclines her own head in acknowledgment that the new King has marked her with especial favour. She is a woman who knows the worth of her own good looks and uses them to the best advantage. She dresses carefully, the colours sombre but pleasing to look upon.

She is pleased with the way events have played out. I think she misses my father, her husband, but she must have known when they married that in all likelihood he would die before her. But with our agreement, she’s lost nothing. She’s still Queen of the Anglo-Saxons, as she was consecrated, at my father’s command. Still the mother of King’s and likely to me the mother of King’s for many long years yet to come.

And I? I am King of the English, as my Archbishop proclaims to rousing cheers from all within the heavily decorated Church, festooned with bright flowers and all the wealth this Church owns. Gold and silver glitters from every recess, reflecting the glow of the hundreds of candles.

I am more than my father was, Edward, and I am more than my grandfather, Alfred. I am King of the English, king of a people not a petty kingdom.

It is done. I am an anointed King and I will protect my land, and with God’s wishes, I will extend its boundaries yet further, clawing back the land from the Danes and bringing the Kingdom of the Northumbrians back under my command.

As the cheers reverberate throughout the confined space of the Church I hold my joy in place. It would not be Kingly to sit and grin at everyone. Instead a regal expression touches my face, a small tug of my cheeks to show my understated joy at becoming King of this proud people.

Releasing 31st October 2014

Bradford Kaims in Current Archaeology

Bamburgh Research Project's Blog

This month’s Current Archaeology magazine features a multi-page article on our recent work at Bradford Kaims. They have done a tremendous job, so do have a look if you get the chance.

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Also, if you have not yet discovered it, Edoardo Albert has a new book out about Alfred the Great, which he describes in his own words below:

The summer is over, the children are back at school and I’ve got a new book in stores. In Search of Alfred the Great: the King, the Grave, the Legend, from Amberley Publishing, is a biography of – you’ve guessed it – Alfred, first king of the Anglo-Saxons, and the man who saved England. Indeed, if all you know of Alfred is the cakes, then this book will tell you why, of all England’s monarchs, he was the only one to be called ‘Great’.

My co-writer is human osteologist…

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Time to do some … studying!

Well, I really can’t put it off for much longer so I’ve started on my dissertation – as in, I’m putting some concerted effort into it with the intention to produce some informative excel tables on which to base my arguments. I’m just hoping now that my ‘wishy washy’ hunches and ideas of the last four years now actually amount to something (no pressure there then!).
My dissertation needs to be 20000 words long, so, if I calculate based on my writing speed, I could write it next week – if I get my tables sorted today and tomorrow (again, no pressure then).
So, I might be a little quiet next week, and if I’m not that means only one thing – I’m not writing my dissertation and need a good telling off!
Fingers crossed for successful writing!

Windy day in the 9th century

Bamburgh Research Project's Blog

Sometimes the most fascinating aspects of archaeology are those rare moments when you get to connect to a past event through a discrete little discovery. Whether it is the finger prints of a potter on an ancient pot or a personal object lost by an individual, it is all part of a rich tapestry of reconstructing the past.

A thin wind-blown sand lens lies just beneath the dark deposit that the leaf blade is lying on A thin wind-blown sand lens lies just beneath the dark deposit that the leaf blade is lying on

We have been cleaning the south west corner of Trench 3 in order to record it a final time before we cover it to prevent its slow erosion. We made one of those small discoveries in the process. Bamburgh lies close to the beach and can be pretty windy. Its particularly annoying when the wind blows sand over our cleaned surfaces, adding a thin layer that has to be removed. It was amusing then…

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King Aethelred II of England

Aethelred II, to put it mildly, gets a bad press, the writer’s of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle have nothing good to say about him, blaming him for the ills that befall the country at the hands of the Scandinavian raiders, and there is an inevitability about the events that unfold from 1009 onwards that culminate in Swein of Denmark claiming the English throne, and following his untimely death, the actions of his younger son, Cnut, to achieve the same honour a few years later.
And, don’t get me wrong, the list of places attacked by the Vikings is long, their demands for payment appear huge and their willingness to kill even those who should have been protected, for instance the Archbishop of Canterbury, callously presented.
Yet, his by-name, Unready is a misinterpretation and also a play on words, his name meaning wise-counsel, and Unraed meaning no-counsel and being changed to ‘the Unready’ a word nothing like no-counsel.
So if we accept that his by-name should be no-counsel and not ‘the unready’ does that make it any more appropriate?
Most assuredly not. Aethelred had his fair share of ealdormen (later the title was changed to earls from jarls under the Scandinavian kings) and the detailed work done by historians has attempted to uncover who they were and what they did. The Anglo Saxon Chronicle appears to have hidden much from today’s reader, so intent in its desire to paint Aethelred in as unflattering colours as possible, and mentions only some of the Ealdormen. My particular favourite, Ealdorman Leofwine of the Hwicce is not mentioned once and yet charter evidence shows that he held his post for many years from 994-c1023, quite a long time to be ignored by the main source for the period.
Other details show just how powerful the King was; he recalled his coinage about every seven years and reissued it with new images, he collected the gelds used to pay the raiders, he built and provisioned a vast ship army and he had laws proclaimed in his name. And all of this he must have done with the consent of the Witan, for England although ruled by a King was also ruled through the consensus of the greatest men in the land. England, not long united, was just too big for one man to rule alone, and it was broken down almost into its constituent pre-united kingdoms, Mercia, Northumbria, the East Angles, Kent, Wessex and the Western provinces, sometimes each area having an ealdorman and at other times, ruled by the King’s High Reeve. He was surely King over a well organised and rich country, and no matter what the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle implies, the men of the land were prepared to fight for their King, and they didn’t attempt to dislodge him from his kingship although by about 1000 onwards he had a host of sons old enough and probably strong enough, to govern in his stead.
I think even his usual by-name of Unraed is unwarranted, and certainly his unreadiness is unwarranted. History plays tricks on how our past King’s are viewed, and more often than not, they’re too harsh, too conciliatory, or in the case of many, they’re totally forgotten about. Perhaps being a King was not all it was cracked up to be!

The Vikings anyone?

Is anyone else out there watching the Vikings? Silly question, cause I know it’s really popular. And wow, isn’t it just fantastic. I think I love almost everything about it, well, apart from one or two niggles, and I’m going to attempt to discuss without giving anything away. So hopefully, I don’t need to give a spoiler alert!

I’m up to episode three in Season 2 and well, the thing that’s bothering me most, is the portrayal of ye old Anglo-Saxon Kings. The Vikings are essentially all quite, and apologies here for not being the next word, ‘cool’. They’re simple men, with simple needs and wishes and their women are strong and loyal. What I love most is the characters – even though they’re supposed to be characters from over 1000 years ago, I think that they’re very easy to relate to. They’re not all bloody thirsty (insert your own expletive here).

The scenery is stunning, the dialogue is simple and effective, the storyline is ambling along at a lovely pace, just enough to keep you intrigued but not in a huge rush. The battle scenes are far more realistic than anything in Game of Thrones, and reveal just how lethal and brutal and strong they were, but until last night, they didn’t come across as too obsessed with a bit of torture.

But the Anglo-Saxon Kings, they’re being portrayed as arrogant and dumb, all at the same time. Now, before everyone jumps up and down, I appreciate that they’re the ‘enemies’ of the Vikings. I get that, but, having them strut their stuff in an ancient Roman bath house and make it all into a bit of a c*** fight is doing them a little bit of a disservice. (It also makes me want to know where they are? Where is this bath house? I know that much of the structure of Roman Britain remained in place when they hoped off back to Rome, but, after four hundred years I’m not sure it would have been in quite such good condition!)

I admit that I didn’t pay too much attention to the Northumbrian King’s portrayal (although I might have to go back and watch it again) and maybe his character was the same (only without the Roman bath). And I also know it’s really easy to see the whole Christianity thing as a bit of a joke and show the priests as zealots but to do the time period any justice I feel that both the Vikings and the Anglo-Saxons need to be treated with the same respect. Everyone (I hope) likes the Vikings so why can’t we like the Anglo-Saxons as well. It bugs me a little.

The joy of other shows that I’ve enjoyed in (almost) recent years is that the writers make you engage with the characters even when they’re nasty pieces of work (Prison Break is the best example I can think of, although Game of Thrones has its far share of nasties who the audience end up finding appealing), and I want The Vikings to do the same. Please!!!

Is my rant over? Not too sure really (cause the scene with the lovely Agatha annoyed me as well but I don’t, as I said, want to spoil anything). So maybe for now, I’ll go back to my hermits shell, and my copy of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and get on with some writing. But hey, writers of the Vikings, give us a few Anglo-Saxon characters to engage with (other than the monk – is he called Athelstan, I can’t remember?).

And now, I really must do some writing. Brunanburh continues over on Wattpad, and I’d love some feedback on how you think it’s developing.

http://www.wattpad.com/story/15294409…Brunanburh

Charters and Leofwine, Ealdorman of the Hwicce

I always think that the characters of Anglo-Saxon England are a little too ethereal for people to really connect with. As I’ve said before, I think it’s difficult to visualise life before the Norman Conquest, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.

My current obsession, and victim of my historical fiction endeavours is Leofwine, Ealdorman of the Hwicce during the reign of Aethelred, who I refuse to call ‘Unready’ because I just don’t think he was. I think, as many might say about todays economic situation, that he was a victim of his times, treated harshly by historians. (https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/344194)

My research is going deeper, examining the evidence of the charter attestations that Leofwine made (where he signs, and therefore, it must be assumes, agrees to whatever the charter is concerned with). Charters from before the Norman Conquest are rare, and have only survived in copies because they benefitted someone in some way, normally the monastery or Church that the copy of the original charter has survived in.

This effectively means that in determining the validity of the Charter, historians need to know about what was happening in the world at large, when the COPY of the charter was made. Effectively, to study Anglo-Saxon history, you have to also study early Anglo-Norman history to work out just what’s going on and why the Charter is so important.

In the records of Sherborne, Leofwine’s name can be found attesting two charters. No original copies of the charters survive, and the record as we have it, is in a twelfth century hand. So, should it be trusted? Should it be used as an historical source? Or as with so much history, can it really only be used as a historical record of the time period that produced it? After all, at least a hundred years and probably more like 150 years, separate the copy of the charter and the date of its drafting and attestation.

It’s an interesting dilemma and one I don’t plan on solving today. Would I use it? Yes, I would but I’d be standing on the shoulders of those giants of academic history who have studied far more charters than me and who have decided that the copies are ‘probably’ genuine as they stand. 

And how relevant are they to Leofwine? I think very, because they appear to show his standing at the Royal Court. In S933 (AD1015) he signs as the third ‘dux’ (ealdorman) and on S910 from AD1005 he also signs as the third ‘dux’. So what does it all mean? Well, as with everything the picture is wider than just Sherborne. In total Leofwine attests 41 charters whilst an Ealdorman. So although I think its important to examine the validity of the Cartularies that the charters survive in, it’s a bit of a painstaking and picky business. But one I’m enjoying. For anyone really keen to look at Leofwine’s charters in more detail, you can start by having a look at http://www.kemble.asnc.cam.ac.uk.

Enjoy.