A King’s Ransom

On 13 July 1174, King William I of Scotland, known as William the Lion, was captured by Henry II’s troops during the Battle of Alnwick, an engagement during the Revolt of 1173-4. William, whose nickname suggests some amount of badassary but was actually just a reference to the lion on his royal standard, joined the revolt in the hope of wresting control of Northumbria away … Continue reading A King’s Ransom

Cadfael: A Morbid Taste for Bones

hqdefaultFor those trivia lovers, A Morbid Taste for Bones is the very first Cadfael mystery, though it wasn’t the first one adapted for television.

Shrewsbury. The monks are having a medieval blood drive by the look of it. Actually, they’re just being bled because…I don’t know, it’s Tuesday and that’s what they do? One of the monks suddenly gets up and has some sort of fit. Cadfael is summoned and holds him down, shoving a stick in between his teeth and calming him with poppy juice. Jerome thinks the guy was in the grips of some sort of religious ecstasy, while Cadfael thinks he was just weakened and loopy from blood loss. I’m surprised nobody thinks witchcraft was at work, but then, maybe they though no spell could be effective in such a holy place.

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Cadfael: The Devil’s Novice

CadfaelA well-dressed man arrives on horseback at a modest estate—Ashby Manor—and wastes no time making it clear he’s a snob and a half. His name’s Peter Clemence, and he’s coolly greeted by Ashby’s proprietor, his cousin, Leoric. Leoric introduces his family: his ward, Isobel, younger son Meriet, and his clearly much favoured older son, Tristan. Tristan’s pretty fiancée, Rosana, strolls over and Peter kind of hits on her before he’s hustled away by Leoric.

At the abbey, Cadfael gets a visit from Hugh Beringar and Sergeant Warden. Beringar’s heading to Westminster to give an accounting of the shire. Cadfael rather unthinkingly asks who’ll be in charge of keeping the peace and Warden’s like, uh, I’m right here? Cadfael’s response is a definite, oh, yeah, well, I guess you’re better than nothing. Though barely. Nice, Cadfael.

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St Thomas

On the first day of winter in 1118 or 1120, Thomas Becket, future Archbishop of Canterbury whose brutal assassination shocked the medieval world, was born in Cheapside, London. Despite the name of the neighbourhood, his family was fairly well off; his father was a landowner who served as the sheriff of London for a time, and both Thomas’s parents were buried in Old St Paul’s … Continue reading St Thomas

World Without End: The Battle for Kingsbridge

world-without-end-world-without-end-1649500631Previously on World Without End: Lots and lots of people died, and lots and lots of people cried about it. Ralph was made the new Earl of Shiring, Gwenda led a peasants’ revolt, Caris and Merthin finally slept together, and Petranilla claimed one son and had the other one named bishop.

We start off with a very impressive tracking shot over Kingsbridge, so we can get one last look at the town that Godwyn is currently trashing. He’s nonsensically wrecking one woman’s business because she has no husband, never mind that her husband is only absent because he died of plague. What’s Godwyn’s plan here? Impoverish as many people as possible? How would that benefit him in any way? Thomas watches, looking sad. In the background, we see two women hanging with ‘whore’ signs around their necks. Yep, Godwyn’s back in charge, all right.

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World Without End: Plague

World_Without_EndPreviously on World Without End: Plague started creeping across Europe, and Caris was sent to a war zone in France to get an official document from the king telling Godwyn to stop screwing over the convent already.

It’s autumn 1341 and Caris and her assistant/lover are finally making their way home, along with some rather sleek looking rats. They arrive at Kingsbridge and are happily greeted by Cecilia. Caris, looking pretty beaten down, tells her she saw worse things than she could imagine. Cecilia says Godwyn started work on his palace while they were away, so Caris produces the king’s order. Godwyn, of course, completely dismisses it, pointing out that the king’s seal isn’t on it (called it!). Caris, suddenly regaining her spirit, reminds him that the seal is always kept in England, but if he doubts the document’s authenticity, the king will swear to it when he comes to visit. She tells Godwyn he could lose his position and maybe even his head if he defies the king. Godwyn, of course, suggests Caris got the document on her back, but Caris keeps her cool and Cecilia orders him to stop construction immediately.

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World Without End: Into Hell

20239849.jpg-r_640_600-b_1_D6D6D6-f_jpg-q_x-xxyxxPreviously on World Without End: Petranilla killed a few more people, because why not? and Godwyn got in on the action in order to try and steal the convent’s land. For his last trick, he tried to get Caris executed for witchcraft, but she and Cecilia did an end run around him and Caris escaped the punishment by becoming a nun, prompting Merthin to finally hit the road and head to Italy.

We’re seven years on, and back in France with Edward’s armies. His lords report a rather dire situation: they’re in a bad way, manpower-wise, but they can’t get out of France because they can’t cross the Somme because the French have cleverly destroyed all the bridges. So, it looks like they’re going to end up having to stay put and starve through the winter. Ralph says there must be farms around they can raid, and I’d have thought these guys would have already considered that, or that the farms would have been long ago picked clean, but maybe not. One of the other guys says the farms aren’t enough to keep an entire army fed. Edward insists they find a way to cross the river so they can get back to England. Ralph suggests they ford the river at Abbeville and another guy says the French will expect that. Ralph retorts that they could beat the French army there, so Edward gives the order to move out.

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World Without End: Nunsense

World.Without.End.S01E08Previously on World Without End: Merthin got the contract to build a new bridge, and Godwyn was elected prior. Also, the country’s going to war with France, and Caris wants to build a hospice on priory land.

A year has passed, and the English armies are gathering at Antwerp. Edward arrives and is greeted by his daughter and his mother. Edward greets the first happily, the second rather coolly, as befits their relationship. Isabella asks what the news is and he says he’s rather enjoying warring, far more than politicking. Flanders will join them, but only for a hefty fee, and they don’t have the cash. Isabella shrugs that it’s only money, and surely it can be squeezed from somewhere. No wonder people hated this woman. Edward says he hopes France is worth it and his daughter suggests he get crowned at Reims, which would be beautiful. She’s got her dress picked out and everything. He smiles and hugs her.

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