Sep 252018
 

On this date in 1237, kings Henry III of England and Alexander II of Scotland, signed the Treaty of York, which affirmed that Northumberland, Cumberland, and Westmorland were subject to English sovereignty. This treaty established the Anglo-Scottish border in a form that remains almost unchanged to modern times (the only modifications have been regarding the Debatable Lands and Berwick-upon-Tweed). The treaty detailed the future status of several feudal properties and addressed other issues between the two kings, and historically marked the end of the kingdom of Scotland’s attempts to extend its frontier southward.

The treaty was one of a number of agreements made in the ongoing relationship between the two kings. The papal legate Otho (also known as Oddone di Monferrato) was already in England at Henry’s request, to attend a synod in London in November 1237. Henry informed Otho in advance of the September meeting at York, which he attended. This meeting was recorded by the contemporary chronicler Matthew Paris, who disparaged both Alexander and Otho. Paris’ false allegations against Alexander, portraying him as boorishly uncivil and aggressive, have been repeated uncritically in several historical accounts. In fact, Henry and Alexander had had a history of making agreements to settle one matter or another, and they were, by and large, cordial because the two had strong kinship ties. Alexander was married to Henry’s sister, Joan, and Alexander’s sister Margaret had married Hubert de Burgh, a former regent to Henry. On 13th August 1237 Henry advised Otho that he would meet Alexander at York to conclude a peace treaty. Their agreement was reached on 25th September “respecting all claims, or competent to, the latter, up to Friday next before Michaelmas A.D. 1237”.

The title of the agreement is Scriptum cirographatum inter Henricum Regem Anglie et Alexandrum Regem Scocie de comitatu Northumbrie Cumbrie et Westmerland factum coram Ottone Legato (Agreement written between Henry, king of England and Alexander, king of Scotland concerning the counties of Northumberland, Cumberland, and Westmoreland, done in the presence of papal legate Otto). The particulars of the agreement are as follows:

    The King of Scotland: quitclaims to the King of England his hereditary rights to the counties of Northumberland, Cumberland, and Westmorland; quitclaims 15,000 marks of silver paid by King William to King John for certain conventions not observed by the latter; and frees Henry from agreements regarding marriages between Henry and Richard, and Alexander’s sisters Margaret, Isabella, and Marjory.

    The King of England grants the King of Scotland certain lands within Northumberland and Cumberland, to be held by him and his successor kings of Scotland in feudal tenure with certain rights exempting them from obligations common in feudal relationships, and with the Scottish Steward sitting in Justice regarding certain issues that may arise, and these, too, are hereditary to the King of Scotland’s heirs, and regarding these the King of Scotland shall not be answerable to an English court of law in any suit.

    The King of Scotland makes his homage and fealty – de praedictis terris [in the aforementioned territories]

    Both kings respect previous writings not in conflict with this agreement, and any charters found regarding said counties to be restored to the King of England.

Older historians have shown little interest in the agreement, either mentioning it in passing or ignoring it altogether, and it still does not get much mileage in contemporary histories of relations between Scotland and England. Given that the treaty established a border that is still in effect 800 years later, you’d think it would have more prominence.  Undoubtedly, the problem rests in the fact that for hundreds of years England and Scotland were at each other’s throats, so that the location of the border between the two countries was of minor importance in comparison with the rivalry between them.

The waters are further muddied by the fact that the official chronicler Matthew Paris, (c. 1200–1259), who was known for his rhetorical passion and his invectives against those with whom he disagreed, did not like the participants for some reason. Paris describes the papal legate Otho in negative terms, as someone who was weak and timid in the face of strength but overbearing in his use of power over others, and as someone who avariciously accumulated a large amount of money. He describes Alexander and Henry as having a mutual hatred in 1236, with Alexander threatening to invade England. He describes the 1237 meeting at York as the result of Henry’s and Otho’s invitation to Alexander, and that when Otho expressed an interest in visiting Scotland, Alexander claimed no legate had ever visited Scotland and he would not allow it, and that if Otho did enter Scotland he should take care that harm does not befall him. Paris goes on to say that Alexander had become so excited in his hostility at the possibility of Otho’s visit to Scotland that a written agreement had to be drawn up concerning Otho’s visit.

There is nothing in contemporary primary sources to support Paris’ vituperative account, and it is contradicted by well-known facts regarding dates and correspondences, and by information concerning previous visits to Scotland by legates. Legates had visited Scotland in the reigns of Alexander’s father William I, his uncle Malcolm IV, and his grandfather David I, and Alexander himself had seen a papal legate hold a council at Perth for four days, making his alleged outrage and threats incongruous and highly improbable.

Despite the fact that Paris’ slanders are contradicted by the actual facts of the case, historians have frequently used them as reliable source material, and, hence, end up giving us a twisted analysis of Anglo-Scottish relations of the time.

Borders drawn on a map by treaty are a decided curiosity. The inhabitants on either side of the line owe their national allegiance to political centers that are typically quite a distance from the borderlands, yet they are often culturally more alike one another than different. Such is the case of the peoples divided by the Anglo-Scottish border. Their dialects are similar, their occupations are alike because of a shared geography, and their cuisines show more similarities than differences. So, what is a good dish to celebrate a border that divides people who are culturally alike? You might want to debate this question yourself, especially if you have more than a nodding acquaintance with English and Scottish cooking traditions. I’m going to go with the noble kipper, a type of smoked herring that is produced in ports on either side of the border: the same, yet different.

No one knows how kippering of herrings originated although there are many fanciful tales that have been invented over the years. Ports in both northern England and in Scotland claim to be their birthplace with little to no justification or historical support. Herrings are turned into kippers by splitting them open, gutting and salting them, and then curing them in wood smoke. If smoked long enough they turn red, giving them the old name “red herring,” which appears as early as the 13th century in a poem by the Anglo-Norman poet Walter of Bibbesworth: “He eteþ no ffyssh But heryng red.”

The harbor village of Craster in Northumberland is famed for Craster kippers, which are prepared in a local smokehouse, sold in the village shop and exported around the world. Likewise, the kippers from nearby Seahouses. On the other side of the border, kippers are produced in Dunbar and Eyemouth.  The herring used to make the kippers in these towns is all the same fish, but the resultant kippers are markedly different. Which is better is a matter of personal taste.

Kippers need to be poached or grilled before they are eaten, typically as a breakfast dish on either side of the border. I can’t say when the last time was that I had a kipper for breakfast, but my normal custom is to eat a whole fish, poached, with plenty of wholewheat bread and butter on the side. Some people like a fried egg in addition, but I find this habit to be a trifle overwhelming.

Mar 182016
 

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Today is the feast of Saint Anselm of Lucca (Latin: Anselmus; Italian: Anselmo; 1036 – March 18, 1086), born Anselm of Baggio (Anselmo da Baggio), which is a major holiday in Mantua because he is the patron saint of the town. Normally I would consider Anselm too minor a figure to be worth a post, but I live in Mantua, so he counts as a bigger deal than usual.

Anselm was a medieval bishop of Lucca in Italy and a prominent figure in the Investiture Controversy amid the fighting in central Italy between Matilda, countess of Tuscany, and Emperor Henry IV. His uncle Anselm preceded him as bishop of Lucca before being elected to the papacy as Pope Alexander II; owing to this, he is sometimes distinguished as Anselm the Younger or Anselm II.

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Anselm’s birthplace is disputed and his date of birth is unknown. Sources are divided as to whether he was born in Milan or Mantua. General sentiment in Italy favors Mantua as his birthplace because of his close association with the town. His uncle, Anselm of Lucca the Elder, became Pope Alexander II in 1061 and designated Anselm to succeed him in his former position as Bishop of Lucca (1071), sending him to take investiture from the Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV.

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Anselm traveled to meet Henry, but was loath to receive the insignia of spiritual power from a temporal ruler and returned without investiture. In 1073, Alexander’s successor Pope Gregory VII, again appointed Anselm as bishop of Lucca, but advised him not to accept investiture from Henry. For some reason, Anselm did so this time around despite the pope’s injunction, but soon felt such remorse that he resigned his bishopric, and entered the Benedictine Order at Padilirone, a Cluniac monastery near Mantua. This was the beginning of the Investiture Controversy which pitted church against state concerning authority in church matters, and which was ultimately a key factor in the Protestant Reformation.

In the 11th century, temporal rulers chafed at the authority of the papacy to appoint high ranking church officials in their lands, whereas popes wanted the prerogative to appoint bishops and cardinals without local interference. As always, it comes down to money, power, and control. In the 16th century the issue came to such a head that German, Swiss, and English monarchs simply broke with Rome and took the power from the papacy. In the 11th and 12th centuries things simmered down after some judicious compromising on both sides.

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Gregory VII ordered Anselm to return to Lucca, and he reluctantly obeyed, but continued to lead the life of a monk. In the years 1077–79, he accepted the transfer of several castles from Countess Matilda, in preparation for Henry’s expected campaign against Italy, which was carried out in 1081–84. Meanwhile, he attempted to impose stricter monastic discipline upon the canons of his cathedral. Most of the canons refused to submit to the new regulations and Anselm was expelled from Lucca in 1081.

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Anselm fled first to the shelter of Moriana, an episcopal stronghold only a few miles up the Arno from Lucca— accompanied by Bardo, a priest who later wrote his vita—then retired to Canossa as spiritual guide to Countess Matilda. Bishop Benzo of Alba, Henry IV’s fiercely partisan supporter, tells how Matilda and Anselm stripped the monasteries to send gold and silver to Gregory in Rome. His biographer Rangerius, who succeeded him as bishop of Lucca, ascribed the rout of Matilda’s forces and the other enemies of Gregory VII to Anselm’s prayers, which is why he is sometimes depicted in art as standing before an army in confusion – the age old question, “which side are you on?”

Some time later pope Victor III made Anselm papal legate to Lombardy, with authorization to rule over all the dioceses which had been left without bishops due to the conflict between pope and emperor.

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Anselm was both a Biblical scholar and a canon lawyer. He wrote some significant works attacking lay investiture and defending pope Gregory against antipope Guibert. He spent his last years assembling a collection of ecclesiastical law canons in 13 books, which formed the earliest of the collections of canons (Collectio canonum) supporting the Gregorian reforms, which afterwards were incorporated into the Decretum of the jurist Gratian.

Anselm died in Mantua on March 18, 1086, and is the town’s patron saint.

Mantua is famous as a culinary center. Some of the local specialties include bigoli con le sardelle, pasta with sardines, stracotto d’asino, donkey stew, salame con l’aglio, garlic sausage, luccio in salsa, pike in sauce, tortelli di zucca, pumpkin tortelli, and torta sbrisolona, a crumbly cake. I’m going to reprise what I used to write when I was living in China. If you want authentic Mantuan food, come to Mantua. I’ll give you an idea about preparing bigoli con le sardelle, but without local pasta and fish, it won’t be the same. Bigoli is much like spaghetti only thicker and coarser which holds the sauce well; the sardines are caught in Italian waters. “Sardine” is not a well defined category of fish. Any small member of the herring family can qualify. Do the best you can, but be sure to use fresh fish, not canned. This is a good dish for Lent.

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Bigoli con le Sardelle alla Mantovana

Ingredients

150 g sardine fillets
400 g fresh bigoli
1 onion, chopped
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 garlic clove, minced
salt and pepper

Instructions

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet and gently brown the onions. Add the sardine fillets and cook until soft. Add the garlic. With the back of a wooden spoon, mash the fish into the olive oil until the sauce is creamy.

Meanwhile cook the pasta in plenty of boiling, salted water. Drain the pasta and add it to the sauce in the skillet. Mix thoroughly and serve on a heated platter (garnished with parsley if you wish).