The Anglo-Saxon Monk’s Guest Blog

Prefatory note from J.B. –

Since Dr Monk threatened me with maledictions (he provides scary samples; see blog) if I changed his English spelling and usages from The Queen’s to American, I thought it prudent to leave all unchanged.

His guest blog is mostly about Rochester Cathedral’s treasure, the Textus Roffensis. First, though, he introduces himself. As you’ll see, along with entertaining self-revelation, he strikes in passing a note of righteous indignation about the ongoing mutation of universities. Less and less institutions of higher learning, they’re making themselves into trade schools. He makes an undeniable point. Where will be the repositories of unprofitable knowledge? Who will do for civilization what medieval monasteries and Arab scholars once did when the light of learning dimmed elsewhere? And this is not even to speak of research, discovery, fresh interpretations; of expanding information. There will surely always be those who want to learn “merely” in order to know. But where will they find their material? Formal (as distinct from self-) education becomes ever more, for most, an unaffordable luxury. We appear to approach a point where a vocation to academic scholarship will resemble a yen to hitch a ride to Hollywood and become a movie star. That is, the odds of earning a living in one of these ways will be much like the odds for the other.

Let us turn from these fretful musings, however, to the rollicking Anglo-Saxon Monk on the subject of the Textus Roffensis. We deserve to have some fun, and here it is…


William The Conqueror

This site’s primary focus is on William the Conqueror, his times and contemporaries . . . and venturing further.

William was born in 1027 or 1028 and died on September 9, 1087. His contemporaries included Cnut, last-but-one viking king of England; Harald Hardrada, another viking king, whose sobriquet means approximately what it sounds like: hard guy; King, later Saint, Edward the Confessor of England (a kinsman of William’s); and, of course, Harold Godwinson, the last Anglo-Saxon (or, perhaps better, Anglo-Danish) king of England, whom William defeated at the Battle of Hastings on October 14, 1066. Whether you write about this period or are simply interested in it, I would like to hear from you. Share your thoughts and pictures, correct my errors, talk about your projects.

What sort of human being was William?  I’ll begin with famous excerpts from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, written by a monk from among the conquered in 1087:

What shall I say? Sharp death, that passes by neither rich men nor poor, seized him also. He died in Normandy, on the next day after the Nativity of St. Mary, and he was buried at Caen in St. Stephen’s minster . . . If any person wishes to know what kind of man he was . . . then will we write about him as well as we understand him: we who often looked upon him, and lived sometime in his court. This King William then that we speak about was a very wise man, and very rich; more splendid and powerful than any of his predecessors were. He was mild to the good men that loved God, and beyond all measure severe to the men that gainsayed his will. On that same spot where God granted him that he should gain England, he reared a mighty minster, and set monks therein, and well endowed it . . . He was also very dignified. . . So very stern was he also and hot, that no man durst do anything against his will . . . But among other things is not to be forgotten that good peace that he made in this land; so that a man of any account might go over his kingdom unhurt with his bosom full of gold. No man durst slay another, had he never so much evil done to the other; and if any churl lay with a woman against her will, he soon lost the limb that he played with . . . May the Almighty God show mercy to his soul, and grant him forgiveness of his sins! These things have we written concerning him, both good and evil; that men may choose the good after their goodness, and flee from the evil withal, and go in the way that leadeth us to the kingdom of heaven.

–Quoted from the online Anglo-Saxon Chronicle:, accessed July 18, 2014.

Writing historical fiction about William the Conqueror

Always a history buff, I naturally read a lot about war. Before becoming focused on William the Conqueror, I had read specifically and voluminously about World War II. I had known two American World War II veterans well––one Army, the other Navy––who (knowing I had done my homework, for they never made small-talk on this subject) told me about their experiences under fire. Another told me about committing atrocities: “We did what we had to do.” What I learned added realistic darks to my mental portrait of the Conqueror. More on my project of writing fiction about the Conqueror that reads realistically in the ABOUT section of the site.

Also on the site, including posts for pure fun:

September 9, 2015 update, BuzzFeed, on “Westminster spider”

Blogging about Weighing the Witnesses (= figuring out what to believe in the chronicles)

Alexandra Kiely’s guest blog on medieval graffiti––and be sure to see her own blog.
The Norfolk Medieval Graffiti Survey’s Facebook page is also highly recommended for its currently posted images and ones to be posted as their survey goes on.

Yeoman Warder Chris Scaife, Ravenmaster of HM Tower of London, King Harold on a Harley, and Yeoman Warder on a Harley.

Also: Humor, conscious or unconscious, from medieval MSS in the blog: for example, “Medieval Teletubbies in a basket”

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