My kind of guy

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Dagobert, the long-haired king as seen by our Victorian forefathers…unless you prefer the contemporay 7th century and rather minimalist profile on a gold solidus.

Dagobert the First. Born somewhat in 602 unless it was 605 AD, dead as a dodo by 639 AD. The last great Merovingian king. Son of Chlothar II, great-grand son of Chlothar the First himself son of Chlodowig/wech? the First and as you guessed it , we are mulling about the First dynasty of the Frankish realm. Frankish realm, Francia, Francie,France.

I must say the nineteenth century model is more eye-candy than the profile, gold coin or not. Dagobert was ruthless, a great warrior king (translate as managed to win and not die in battle) and a great womanizer. Do not forget that we are talking about a seventh century prince. Maybe the men we describe as having many women were simply widowers, trying to get a healthy/surviving heir (sorry, girls did not count). Why? Because it would seem the original tribe had some kind of law where only the boys could become kings. Nowadays women have about made it and the Hundred Years war would not have happened… Let’s return to our brooding hero of the day.

Let’s go back to Dagobert. Upon reaching 18-21ys old, he becomes king of Austrasia (eastern side of the realm) till his father’s death in 629 when he unites his kingdom to Neustria (not-eastern side; the word ‘western’ must not have been invented yet). Finding that he still had some free time left from ruling two kingdoms, he had three official wives and two official concubines. As he was a Christian, I suspect the ladies were just temporary accomodations, early deaths [blog mantra: they all died young in the 7th century!]and for those who survived, who were not smart enough to discreetly move away (a sudden need for solitude or a desire to become an abbess)… ‘accidents’ just happened. None the less, he went to war with notable success maintaining the borders safe (roughly) and dabbling elegantly in law-making and the judicial system. He may be responsible for his half-brother’s sudden death. Between you and me, as they all die young-singsong, he may be unfairly accused.

The problem lays in his grand-mother, a very nasty piece of work. Yes, Queen Fredegundis who aside killing bishops, killed – supposedly- her father-in-law, her brother-in-law (maybe the second too as she certainly tried to remove the third one), her husband’s first and second wife and all his children born to said first wife, plus a few other people and rumour has it her husband. What is certain is that when Dagobert’s grandfather dies, Dagobert’s own father is not yet six months old.

Chlothar II will die aged 4;, our easy on the eye guy dies at 36. Leaving two sons. At best 8 and 4 ys old. Told you: they all die young.

As you know, I often go back on the crime scene or rather the post scene. I shall return soon with a longer entry. Meanwhile enjoy this manly man. Did I mention his hair was long because in these days only the royal family could have long hair. Here you have it: any movie with long haired barbarians: wrong. Clean shaven barber trimmed. Yep, our great….grandpas were heroes because a razor blade in the Dark Ages was not that safe… and still they shaved!.

Enter the Evil Queen

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You are in for a treat today. This is Fredegundis or gunda, Today she is known as Fredegonde. The bad bad, cruel, mean, evil Fredegonde. She is probably the original prototype of Snow White Queen, and in my story she is cast as can be expected as the Villain.

As you have been good, this is an original post. And tumblr will be served after you!

Fredegunda started low, as low as can be in the Merovingian times. A slave, a servant.  was ambitious…

Firstly she started bedding her owner’s son. Then becoming a concubine to  Chilperic, who was himself the son of a concubine who has been smart enough to give a son to Chlothar.

Except for Clovis who had married a true princess: Chlothildis of Burgundy, the boys had a tendency to get cozy with maids, slaves , servants. Because a kingly father-in-law is harder to quiet down than an inferior. Chlothar, Clovis’s surviving son (what are little murders in one’s fanmily…but simple peccadilloes) had married six or seven wives, including two sisters hopefully not at the same time.

And fallen in love with Radegunda, a Thuringian princess after killing her father and her brothers and her family (he probably did not like his in-laws). Radegunga left him and found peace in a monastery. Being dumped by one’s wife was something quite unexpected for Chlothar. Yet he bore her no ill will. Knowing his very limited patience for nonsense, one can write 1500 years later and having no way to know the individuals: he was head over heels in love with her.

Anyhow, you get the point: one Frankish prince, numerous maidens, and countless children. If they survived infancy. Chilperic was not the oldest of Chlothar’s brood. There were Charibert, Gunthramm. Sighebert and the bastard Chramm. Chramm rebelled against his father. A mistake he would not repeat.

Tired of of this ancillary nonsense, Charibert married Ingoberga, daughter of a patrician family. Gunthramm emulated with the daughter of a similar ranking Burgundian family. Chilperic busied himself with his mistress. When Sighebert woos successfully the eldest daughter of the Wisigothic King. Brunehildis. Charibert has already divorced/repudiated his wife who has given him a daughter. Gunthramm has done the same. Wives of noble extraction have brothers who can be unpleasant when one visits too often one’s servant. Slaves on the other hand are thankful…

Yet Sighebert has married into royalty. Chilperic will do the same and marries Galswinthe, Brunehildis’s sister. End od the story.

Fredegunda. you remember? In the matter of a few years she is responsible for Galswinthe and Sighebert’s death, she is also responsible for the death of Chliperic’s previous lover  and all the children he had through this woman. She will order the assassination of one or two bishops. The scene shows her having the cheek to visit one of her victim who is ailing (not for long).

God must have been angry, all her children die. No children? She is getting older but manages to give again a son to Chilperic. Lucky her. Lucky because said child is barely six months old when Chilperic dies.

Many did suspect and will suspect the bairn is not from his official father. Gunthramm will doubt it… Yet, this little boy will one day unite all the Frankish realms under his hand. Chlothar the Second is a man his ancestor Clovis approves of.

Maybe having a murderous mom helps.

No can do

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Today, you are introduced to a unhappy couple. Oh, they are in love and never stopped loving each other. Sadly, they were cousins and the Church forbade connubial bliss. Being stubborn and the King, Robert carried on and got excommunicated. Finally, they had to submit, the marriage was dissolved and he remarried for a third time. Leaving his beloved Bertha of Burgundy (what a surprise, Burgundy again. Have a swill of this excellent Beaunes)

His third wife Constance of Arles is famed for being a shrew. One cannot blame the teenager to have coughed at the notion of sharing her husband, title and court with his ex-wife/on-going lover. 5 years later, he would try to get his third wife repudiated and marry again the love of his wife.

Anyhow, one day , the said frustrated king was writing a Church hymn and his unhappy third bride was complaining he never wrote her poems (because these were the days where you had to make yourself the Hallmark card with matching lyrics). Being cheeky, he brazenly told her this song : O Constancia Martyrorum was about her. Dear Constance was flattered.

Because being the object of a song called : O, Patience of Martyrs was not a give away. Or her Latin was very poor.

Poor Robert and Bertha. And poor Constance. These were the days where you got married because of your dowry, the influence of your father etc and certainly not because you cared for your bedfellow or he for you. Poor Constance: discovering your husband was moping for another woman must have dispelled a few illusions.

Sorry, guys. I cannot find a large picture. Here you have the unhappy couple, just told off by an array of bishops No can do.

You see:  the problem was not about two celibate consenting adults: they were cousins! Somewhere on the family tree… Ah the delightful hypocrisy of the days. Because if we start saying who is the cousin of whom, we are going to be looking at askance about each and every royal European family; including nowadays. And some persisted with the Church’s benediction. Without having to visit 2012, we have Oswiu of Northumbria son of Acha of Deira and Aethelfrith of Bernicia marrying his first cousin Eanflaed of Northumbria daughter of Edwin of Deira and Aethelburg of Kent somewhere in 644 AD.

These two could do. One must wonder what was the main topic of their conversations considering : Edwin had killed Aethelfrith, because Aethelfrith had killed Aelle, who was Edwin and Acha’s dad. If I add that it was Oswiu’s half brother Eanfrith with the help of Penda (remember the name: Penda will be one of the main characters of this blog), that Oswiu’s daughter will at one poinr marry Penda’s son and subsequently murder him (mercifully, not on the same day)… one may well be wonder why the Church blessed any of these weddings. Peace weaving was the aim. Seems to me some couples would have begged to differ.

So you have it: the ones who want to marry and cannot, the ones who are married and would like not to be married. Nothing new under the sun

Crossing a river: diving in the unknown

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First thing first. Apologies for the lack of flair in selecting Sympathy for the Devil lyrics as means of introduction. Regardless, it did its job, right?

So it was… 406AD that is. The Empire had already started to melt down. And somehing, far East, very far had started. Epidemics, war, invasion, failed invasion, losing factions caught in civil wars who knows. But the dominos had started falling and the last domino was a river whose only bridge was under the control of a Roman town/garrison/fortress/stronghold. The interlopers were stuck on the Eastern bank and winter was coming.

Think: was it a troop of fit warriors, or the ramshackle remains of a mix-mix toss-toss of tribes who were just survivors? If the latter, you were bound to find women, children, elders (if you were over 45, you were old) and it was cold and no food…oh, the joy of it.

Think: was it a troop of fit warriors, or the ramshackle remains of a mix-mix toss-toss of tribes who were just survivors? If the latter, you were bound to find women, children, elders (if you were over 45, you were old) and it was cold and no food…oh, the joy of it. The historian version is uncertain: something happened: was it a trickle, a downright invasion planned ahead like Napoleon or Hitler or was it the desperate flight of survivors facing epidemics, hunger and a bigger worse tribe with an attitude… all depends of your mood.

Nowadays, the master plan invasion seems less likely; famine is on the charts. And probably a few (quite a few) dismal years of failed crops and the fear of the slow extinction of their tribes. Everybody was flying, Everybody had heard about some wild success story of some Germanic tribes allowed to settle peacefully in the imperial realm. Everybody wanted a slice of the spoils. Hence imagine them flying all the poorly maintained roads on their side of the Barbarian world. It was not the American Dream, but it must have been a copycat.

Riding ahead, because he is the new chieftain (see the scalps hanging on his stallion chest) , his sword and shield at hand and looking behind how his flock is doing, the warlord. He looks young because by our standards he is probably thirtyish. War is his trade, but we are in winter and food is scarce. A bow and a spear are a lot more useful.

Walking near him, his equerry, possibly a kinsman plods on. You know the older man is high in the hierarchy because his sword pommel is in gold. In these days, what looked like gold was most likely  gold. These were the days where a dissatisfied customer could properly get at your throat … and slash it. Besides, wives and girlfriends would only accept gold… Not much change here.

In the distance, the dark walls of the Roman fortress and the fearful houses which give shelter to the legionnaires’ ‘local’ families. Across in the distance, another tribe who has yet to decide to cross the frozen river. Our young chieftain knows that the biggest share will go to the first one arrived.

His tribe will get the lion’s share. His warriors will be rewarded for their fidelity and the women will soon give birth to a new well-fed and healthy generation. It sounds very romantic. I doubt that he feels like it; in 406 AD you do not do dashing heroes; you do survival of the fittest and the luckiest. My chief has been lucky, he is on the Gallic side of the Rhine and he will resume breathing once the long line of his people has reached the right bank. Which was the western bank in this story.

If you insist on names, we shall entertain a flight of fancy. The Burgondi did cross the Rhine about that time. So you have it, a Burgondian chieftain who does not know that 1600 years later, his descendant will provide one of the best white wines of the planet: the Montrachet. Welcome to Burgundy.  And please do not chill too much the wine…

Classic introduction to 406 AD thanks to the Rolling Stones

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Please, allow me to introduce…

SnailFrog. … At least you know where I come from. Right from the land where eating snails or frog legs smothered with parsley and garlic butter is an art de vivre. Yes, art. The way one lives one’s life is an art.

You can live like you are working in a factory, repeating the same routine or free as a ? … no, not a bird. Free in your head, free to dream the skiy nobody has really seen but the lucky few from space.

Here I am: SnailFrog. Ranter before the Eternal. As this blog will proceed, you will learn more about me, my delights, my rages and my shameless disinginuosity. Blog, beware…

A snail can crawl a long way for a long time; a frog can leap and a blog can be fun.

So, a few answers:

Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto.

Terence. Publius Terentius Afer.

– Why Terence? If you cared to read about me.

Terentius is or rather was a very smart Roman playwright born in North Africa. Did I read his plays? Yes. Do I remember any? Err, no. None the less, his plays have been honoured by Moliere. To be admired by this great man well over 1500 years later is proof the that writer had this little something which is qualified as Intelligence. Plus Montaigne had the very quote painted on the ceiling of his library. Read Terence, guys. You cannot go wrong. By the way, I would not be surprised if a certain man from Stratford-upon-Avon had not also pilfered our African friend.

In 406, the Empire was already quite uncivilized or rather accepting that it was way too wide not to include foreign troops. Already, some smart cookies had become key military players and made welcomed in some provinciae. These guys would accomodate the local thriving bureaucraty (i.e. tax collectors). In less than a century, the Franks would be so well assimilated that SnailFrog’s Gallo-Roman great…grandmother would decide to make her mumbling hapless Frankish suitor happy (whether he wanted to be happy or not, that is).

While the Franks were discovering Gallic Haute Cuisine and the fine art of collecting taxes, Romans were leaving Britain and cancelling their electricity subscription. Yup, Dark Ages.

Mainland Europe was having to make do with errant Barbaric tribes unable to find a proper camping site while ‘I am the Scourge of God’ Attila himself was showing his prowess up to France. Mainland Europe as seen from Britain as having it ‘easy’ must have felt slightly miffed by Britain as the Romano-British were complaining ‘only’ – at least Gildas was complaining – of the ’coming’ of Jutes, Angles and Saxons.

Let us compare and contrast : 3 measly tribes over so many decades oozing from ridiculously small ships on one side and countless tribes fleeing from Hunnic invasions. You get the point. It was like today. An EU of common misery versus the worshippers of orderly queues of invaders. The invaders did not like queuing. Arthur did try his best; but it was a temporary relief.

The difference, if there is and there was a difference was that some mainland tribes realized that the local bureaucrats holding the key to yearly inland revenue, by keeping in place said bureaucracy , they had solved chronically depleted coffers. Within less than one hundred years (before Mount Badon) said savage immigrants had become enough civilized to keep to themselves and their ethnic groups some delightful Barbarian family customs (such as bloody family feud) while becoming theoretically Christian and a lot more learnt in Latin. Iam not saying life was easy: Barbarians rulers had stopped the invasions; but familial infighting meant the poor peasant/slave/sod stiill got killed. Though this time it was not the invading Wisogoth but the Neustrian cousin. One cannot always win.

In Britain, possibly some invaders missed the point of the usefulness of a successful Treasury/Exchequer, killed a few/a lot of priests and more or less wasted 100 years till…

My own story begins. Yup, I have a big project. Top secret. Do not therefore be surprised if this blog will be discussing 449 AD and Whitby Synod plus Merovingian recipes. Plus a foultitude as in many, many more subjects like Alexandre Dumas (why Hollywood is stupid enough not to make a movie out of this man’s amazing biography) or ‘where to drink tea in Paris and …enjoy!’.

Finally, let it be obvious that I consider that Waterloo was the best thing which happened to France after Bonaparte got killed by Napoleon. Yup, Wellington is shredding his boots whilst Napy is eating his hat. But it put France on the right tracks. Yes, History loves twists… And SnailFrog will to go to work. Soon. As in now.

Till we meet again.

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