Dec 192017
 

On this date in 1154 Henry II was crowned king of England, along with his queen Eleanor of Aquitaine, at Westminster Abbey. Henry, and his two sons, Richard and John, sometimes referred to by historians as the Angevins, sometimes the Plantagenets, have had a tough time being assessed fairly by history, literature, and the general public. I’ve posted repeatedly about how Richard and John have been treated strangely, mostly by Victorian and Whig historians. Henry also has had his ups and downs in the histories of Victorians to the present day, and I doubt that he will ever get a dispassionate treatment. My feeling is that unless you lived in those times, you’ll never truly know what they were like.

“There’ll Always Be an England” (more accurately “There’s Always Been an England) is a strange lens through which to view history.  At one time or another, the rulers of what is now England, or significant parts of it, along with many of the citizens, spoke Gaelic, Latin, Old German, Old Norse, Danish, and French. English came rather late in the succession. If you view England from the present, you can see it as always being a solitary, defiant part of an island, rather disconnected from continental Europe, and, judging by Brexit, that sentiment is alive and well in many parts of the country. But certainly, in Henry’s day, stretching back to William the Bastard and the Conquest (with a capital “C”), England was not much more than a money-making bit of a European empire as far as its kings were concerned, and not important enough to spend a whole lot of time in, or worrying about. Peasants, of course, saw things differently. Richard (Lionheart) had virtually no interest in England, except as a place with enough money to fund his exploits in Europe (not to mention bailing him out of capture), and on Crusade. Henry, likewise, saw England as a component of his Angevin empire in France, although he did spend considerable time there trying to consolidate his holdings after a disastrous civil war between his mother, Matilda, and Stephen of Blois. Both claimed to be the rightful heirs to the throne of England, and each controlled significant parts of the country for the period now commonly called the Anarchy (1135 – 1153).

Henry’s accession to the throne of England was a clear end to the Anarchy, but it did NOT mark the (second) beginning of an English nation as an independent sovereign state with Henry at the helm, as many historians claim. I give that mantle to John, who was the first king in the Norman succession who spoke English as his first language, and the first king in the Norman succession to live primarily in England, and look primarily to England as his power base and stronghold. Henry could understand English, but he always spoke either Norman French or Latin. Henry did consolidate a power base in England, expand his Angevin empire into Scotland and Wales, and initiate laws and institutions that still exist in England in radically altered form, it is true.  But it is not fair to say that Henry established England as England, separate from continental Europe. If anything, the Normans and Plantagenets (Henry included), were an interruption of the process of consolidation of England as an independent, autonomous nation begun under Anglo-Saxon kings, such as Edmund and Alfred, and restored under the Tudors. In between the Normans and the Tudors there were an awful lot of Henrys, all with their part to play.

Henry’s mother, Matilda, was the granddaughter of William I, and cousin of Stephen of Blois, grandson of William. Stephen’s mother, Adele, was William’s daughter. At the time that Stephen was crowned king of England, the country was not quite ready to have a queen even though her father, Henry I, was the previous monarch. Stephen seemed like a better choice at the time, to put it bluntly, because he was a man, not because he had a better genealogical claim to the throne than Matilda. Matilda disagreed. She had proven her chops as empress. Hence the Anarchy, when for almost 19 years Stephen and Matilda fought it out. Why this period is called the Anarchy and not the First English Civil War escapes me. When we talk about THE English Civil War(s) these days we mean Charles versus Cromwell.  But the civil war between Stephen and Matilda was every bit as bloody and considerably longer. Why aren’t the Wars of the Roses called civil wars either? What makes the Stuarts so special?

In any case . . . back to Henry II.  He’s now chiefly remembered for being the king who (perhaps) ordered the murder of Thomas Becket, although the details are still murky, and popular opinion, such as it is, is generally “informed” by plays and movies, and not by actual primary documents of the time.  Henry is generally portrayed as an irascible tyrant and Becket as a piously fervent servant of God and country. Both portraits owe more to dramatic license than actual history.

Henry controlled more of France than any ruler since the Carolingians (yellow and orange shaded areas). These lands, combined with his possessions in England, Wales, Scotland and much of Ireland, produced a vast domain often referred to by historians as the Angevin empire. But it was not really an empire in the classic sense of a domain with a coherent structure or central control. Instead, it consisted of a loose, flexible network of family connections and lands, with local laws and customs applying in different territories, although common principles underpinned some of these local variations. Henry traveled constantly across the empire, and these travels coincided with regional governmental reforms and other local administrative business. This practice has led some historians to conclude that the reforms Henry instituted in England created a lasting notion of England as a distinct, and distinctive, nation. These claims seem overblown to me.

It is true that Henry’s reign saw significant legal changes in England and Normandy. By the middle of the 12th century, England had many different ecclesiastical and civil law courts, with overlapping jurisdictions resulting from the interaction of diverse legal traditions. Henry greatly expanded the role of royal justice in England, producing a more coherent legal system, summarized at the end of his reign in the treatise of Glanvill, an early legal handbook. Despite these reforms it is uncertain if Henry had a grand vision for his new legal system, and the reforms seem to have proceeded in a steady, pragmatic, but piecemeal, fashion, rather than from a core set of principles. Indeed, in most cases he was probably not personally responsible for creating the new processes at all, but delegated the duties to local officials.

I’ll leave the last word to Sellar and Yeatman from 1066 And All That. They defined Henry as a “Just King” with the following pronouncement:

HENRY II was a great Lawgiver, and it was he who laid down the great Legal Principle that everything is either legal or (preferably) illegal.

Makes as much sense as the pontifications of most historians.

There are not many recipes from the 12th century that are much use for recreating typical dishes, but there are a few. A MS was recently discovered in Durham which contains mostly medicinal concoctions, but has a few recipes for sauces. Likewise, Alexander Neckam’s treatise de utensibilis has some recipe suggestions. But we are talking about lists of ingredients, not actual, full-blown recipes. Nonetheless, you could make a sauce for a roast from the ingredient lists. One “lordly sauce” that is commonly offered by bloggers involves combining cloves, nutmeg, cardamom, pepper, ginger, and cinnamon. Some want you to combine them in equal amounts; some want you to have equal amounts of the first five, and then cinnamon equal to all the others combined. Either way, the next step is to add breadcrumbs equal to the quantity of spices, and then mix it all to a thick sauce with vinegar. There is no mention of cooking the mixture, but, usually, a suggestion that the mix should be bottled up and kept to mature (in the manner of what came to be called ketchup).

In the modern kitchen I could see such a brew being used to season a gravy made from pan juices from a roast. In fact, it’s quite similar to gravies I make at this time of year for beef. It has a modern (English) Christmas feel to it, but would have been more year-round in Medieval times (in noble households). It was customary to cut large chunks from a roast and place them on trenchers of bread. Then the diner could use a personal knife to hack off bits of meat and dip them in a bowl of sauce. It’s a bit reminiscent of beef au jus in modern times, except the sauces were much more flavorful.

Apr 232017
 

Today is the first Sunday after Easter, which goes by a wide variety of names depending on ecclesiastical tradition. In Catholic and some Eastern traditions it marks the end of Bright Week during which the resurrection of Jesus is constantly celebrated. In some of those traditions it is called Renewal Sunday, referring to the continual affirmation of the Easter message. It is also called Quasimodo Sunday in some denominations, especially in parts of France and Germany, the name being taken from the day’s introit: — “Quasi modo geniti infantes, rationabile, sine dolo lac concupiscite” (“In the same way that newborn babies long for pure milk”).

In the early church, catechumens were baptized on the Eve of Easter, and on the Sunday following Easter they cast off their white baptismal robes – yet they were still spiritual newborns (needing spiritual milk). In the Anglican tradition it is commonly called Low Sunday which is how I referred to it in church bulletins when I was a pastor. No one knows quite what “Low” refers to – possibly the feeling that the feeling of the celebration of the resurrection is not as great as it was on Easter Sunday. Pastors in general suggest that it refers to church attendance on that Sunday, which is always very low.

In many churches today is called Thomas Sunday following a standard reading of the day John 20:19-31. Here’s the relevant part of the reading:

24 Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” 26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

I always preached on this passage because there is much more to it than meets the casual reader. First there are a few simple things to elucidate. The name Thomas (Koine Greek: Θωμᾶς) given for the apostle in the Greek Bible is derived from the Aramaic or Syriac: ܬܐܘܡܐ‎ Toma, equivalent to the Hebrew Teom, meaning “twin.” The equivalent term for twin in Greek is Δίδυμος Didymos. So verse 24 is a gloss, not an extension of his name. That is, he was not known as Thomas Didymos, but simply Thomas. A better translation of the verse would be, “Now Thomas . . . which means ‘Twin’ . . .” Giving glosses for Aramaic terms in Greek is very common in the gospels. Verse 26 says that “eight days later” the apostles were gathered again. This uses a standard method of counting days in Aramaic whereby the first and last days are counted. So, Sunday to Sunday is eight days, not seven as we normally count in English.

The crux of the passage for me lies in verses 27 and 28, and, I believe, is mistakenly represented in classic iconography.  Jesus says “Put your finger here . . . etc.” in verse 27 but verse 28 does NOT begin, “So Thomas put his finger in the wounds, and believed . . .” Thomas IMMEDIATELY answers “My Lord and my God.” He not only believes without touching Jesus, but he goes on to assert that Jesus is both his Lord and is God, going beyond the obvious inference that Jesus died and has returned alive. The resurrection was miraculous enough, but one need go no farther than accepting it as proof that Jesus, AS A MAN (only), was killed by the Romans but the grave could not hold him. That’s quite extraordinary enough, and is enough for the other gospel writers. John’s gospel goes a step beyond that inference because of John’s author’s basic belief that Jesus was the Word of God incarnate, setting up the doctrine of the Trinity. Thus, in this gospel, Thomas is the first apostle to get the whole story straight. In many traditions, therefore, he is not referred to as “doubting” Thomas, even though at the outset he doubts the testimony of his fellow apostles. Rather, he is seen as a man of extraordinary insight and faith because he goes well beyond what his senses tell him.

Thomas is traditionally believed to have sailed to India in 52 CE to spread the Christian faith, and is believed to have landed at the port of Muziris, (modern-day North Paravur and Kodungalloor in modern-day Kerala state) where there was a Jewish community at the time.He is believed by the St Thomas Christian tradition to have established Ezharappallikal or Seven and Half Churches in Kerala. These churches are at Kodungallur, Palayoor, Kottakkavu (Paravur), Kokkamangalam, Niranam, Nilackal (Chayal), Kollam, and Thiruvithamcode (half church). The 4th century Syriac Christian poet and scholar St Ephrem wrote:

It was to a land of dark people he was sent, to clothe them by Baptism in white robes. His grateful dawn dispelled India’s painful darkness. It was his mission to espouse India to the One-Begotten. The merchant is blessed for having so great a treasure. Edessa thus became the blessed city by possessing the greatest pearl India could yield. Thomas works miracles in India, and at Edessa Thomas is destined to baptize peoples perverse and steeped in darkness, and that in the land of India.

Thomas is mostly known as the missionary to India through the Acts of Thomas, an early 3rd century work of unknown provenance. The Acts of Thomas connects his Indian ministry with two kings, one in the north and the other in the south. According to one of the legends in the Acts, Thomas was at first reluctant to accept this mission, but Jesus appeared to him in a night vision and said, “Fear not, Thomas. Go away to India and proclaim the Word, for my grace shall be with you.” But the Apostle still demurred, so Jesus overruled the stubborn disciple by ordering circumstances so compelling that he was forced to accompany an Indian merchant, Abbanes, to his native place in northwest India, where he put himself in the service of the Indo-Parthian king Gondophares. Thomas’ ministry resulted in many conversions throughout the kingdom, including the king and his brother.

According to the legend, Thomas was a skilled carpenter and was asked to build a palace for the king. However, he decided to teach the king a lesson by devoting the royal grant to acts of charity. Although little is known of the immediate growth of the church, Bar-Daisan (154–223) reports that in his time there were Christian groups in North India which claimed to have been converted by Thomas and to have books and relics to prove it. But at least by the year of the establishment of the Second Persian Empire (226), there were bishops of the Church of the East in northwest India comprising Afghanistan and Baluchistan, with laymen and clergy alike engaging in missionary activity. The Acts of Thomas identifies his second mission in India with a kingdom ruled by King Mahadeva, one of the rulers of a 1st-century dynasty in southern India.

According to the most ancient tradition of the Mar Thoma (“Church of Thomas”) congregations along the Malabar Coast of Kerala State in southwest India, Thomas evangelized this area and then crossed to the Coromandel Coast of southeast India, where, after carrying out a second mission, he was killed in Mylapore near Madras. According to local tradition, Thomas was killed at St.Thomas Mount, near Chennai, in 72 CE and his body was interred in Mylapore. Numerous churches in India claim to possess his relics, and these remains have been moved a number of times.

  

How much of all of this can be taken is legitimate history is open to question. It was certainly quite feasible for Thomas to travel to India, but whether he did or not is another matter. Churches in Cornwall in England claim that both Jesus and Joseph of Arimathea traveled to England (Joseph bringing the Holy Grail with him), but these tales stretch credulity to the breaking point. On the other hand, a trip from the Mediterranean to India was not only possible, but was a regular trade route by sea. The question remains what would have prompted Thomas to make such a trip. The canonical Acts of the Apostles, while not utterly reliable as history gives an account of early evangelizing that accords well with the letters of Paul, who knew the apostles. The narrative in Acts suggests that the apostles, who had been devout Temple-worshipping Jews, were content to remain in Judah and work on proselytizing at home to the Jews, showing that Jesus was the promised Messiah of the Jews, whereas Paul, already an itinerant Hellenized Jew, took it as his mission to travel widely outside of Judah, preaching first to Hellenized Jews throughout the Roman empire, and then to Gentiles.  All parties seemed happy with this state of affairs. It, therefore, seems unlikely that Thomas broke ranks and journeyed to India. In the 2nd and 3rd centuries numerous Christian churches sprang up across Europe and Asia and many desired bona fides that they were founded by apostles. Actually, what is astounding to me is that Christianity took firm hold so early in India – certainly by the 2nd century – whether or not Thomas was involved.

Whether or not we can trust the histories, Thomas is most decidedly linked to the region of Kerala, so a local recipe is in order. Kerala is known as the “Land of Spices” because it traded spices with Europe as well as with many ancient civilizations for millennia, the oldest historical records being trade accounts with the Sumerians from around 3000 BCE. Kerala’s cuisine is quite distinctive in India because of the large numbers of both Muslims and Christians living alongside Hindus. Hindus emphasize vegetarian dishes as well as chicken and fish, but Kerala’s large Thomas Christian population has no food restrictions, so meat dishes in the local style are common as well.

Rice and tapioca are the staple foods of Kerala. All lunches and dinners focus on them and they are served with side dishes that can be meat, fish, vegetables, or a mix of all three.A favorite festive dish of Kerala’s Thomas Christians is a well-seasoned chicken stew in coconut milk with cashews. Lamb and duck can replace chicken in the recipe. Coconuts grow in abundance in the region, and both coconut milk and grated coconut flesh are common ingredients and thickeners. Using whole, fresh spices is more traditional than using powdered ones. Sometimes I crush them a little with a mortar and pestle before the cooking process to help release the flavors. In Kerala this would normally be one side dish among many, along with condiments.

Kerala Chicken Stew

Ingredients

1 ½ lb /750 gm chicken with bones (cut into medium size pieces)
1 onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1 potato, peeled and cubed
1 carrot, peeled and cubed
1 tbsp thinly julienned, fresh ginger
1 tbsp thinly sliced, garlic
2 or 3 green chiles, cut lengthwise
3 whole black peppercorns
3 whole cardamoms
3 whole cloves
1” cinnamon
3 bay leaves
2 star anise
4 curry leaves
4 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
1 cup thick coconut milk
2 ½ cups thin coconut milk
8 cashews
salt to taste
1 tbsp coconut oil

Instructions

Heat the coconut oil over medium heat in a large skillet.  Add the cardamom, cloves, whole peppercorn, cinnamon, star anise and bay leaves and sauté gently for 1 minute.  Add the sliced onion, ginger, garlic, green chiles and curry leaves and sauté until the onion is translucent. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the ingredients to a heavy-bottom saucepan.

Add the chicken pieces, cubed carrots, potatoes, thin coconut milk and salt to taste to the saucepan. Bring to a slow simmer, cover, and cook until the chicken is tender (about 40 minutes).

Meanwhile cover the cashews with hot water and let soak for about 30 minutes. Place them with the water and the thick coconut milk in a food processor or blender, and blend to a smooth paste.

When the chicken is cooked add the cashew and coconut milk paste to the pot, and simmer, uncovered, for a few minutes until the sauce has thickened a little.

Heat the coconut left in the skillet over medium-high heat, add the sliced shallots and curry leaves, and sauté until they are golden. Add them to the stew, simmer an extra minute then serve in a bowl along with plain boiled basmati rice and flat bread.

 

 

Apr 062016
 

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On this date in 1199 Richard I of England, often called Lionheart, died of an infected wound. Usually I celebrate the birth of famous people, and reserve the date of death for martyrs because the day on which they died is commonly used as their feast day (the day they went to heaven). In Richard’s case I think his day of death is much more significant than his date of birth because his death sums up so much of his reign. This date also gives me the opportunity to talk about how Richard was perceived in his lifetime versus what history has made of him, which, in turn, allows me to talk about the nature of history in general. History, despite what many schoolchildren (and schoolteachers and textbooks) believe, is not about FACTS primarily; it is about the interpretation of events. I would have no interest in history if it were just about things that happened. I want to know WHY they happened, and HOW they happened. History is a series of questions to which there are many (sometimes conflicting) answers.

Richard I is a great example to me of a king who has been treated very well by history, but, in my opinion does not (entirely) deserve the high reputation that he has.  By contrast his brother, John, has a bad reputation which he does not (entirely) deserve either. Richard was king of England for 10 years yet spent only about 6 months of his reign in England.  The rest of the time he was fighting “foreign” wars in the Middle East and Europe, or in captivity. Getting him released from captivity almost bankrupted England, and required ruinous taxation. Furthermore, Richard did not speak English and appears to have been interested in the country as a source of revenue only. John, by contrast, spoke English as his native tongue, lived for long periods in England, and was in great part responsible for the development of English-ness as a sensibility among the nobility. I’m not trying to say that we should switch judgments and make Richard the bad guy, and John the good guy. I’m saying that the situation is not black and white.

We also need to get away from the idea that kings all the way from William the Conqueror to Richard were, first and foremost, kings of England. They were not. That is a highly ethnocentric point of view.  In their day, general politics was much more international than it is now. Yes, there was a nation called England – created by William the Conqueror – but it did not stand alone. The kings of England were also rulers of vast tracts of what is now France. So when writing history we need to be more global, and talk about Anglo-French rulers and Anglo-French territory, rather than narrowing our history to England and English kings. If we view Richard as an Anglo-French king, then he was not bad (not good either).  If we think of him only as a king of England, he was terrible.

Richard ruled as Duke of Normandy (as Richard IV), Duke of Aquitaine, Duke of Gascony, Lord of Cyprus, Count of Poitiers, Count of Anjou, Count of Maine, Count of Nantes, and Overlord of Brittany at various times. He was the third of five sons of King Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine. He was known as Richard Cœur de Lion or Richard the Lionheart because of his reputation as a great military leader and warrior (which he was). He was also known in Occitan as Oc e No (Yes and No), because of his reputation for terseness.

By the age of 16, Richard had taken command of his own army, putting down rebellions in Poitou against his father. Richard was a central Christian commander during the Third Crusade, leading the campaign after the departure of Philip II of France and scoring considerable victories against his Muslim counterpart, Saladin, although he did not retake Jerusalem from Saladin.

Richard spoke langue d’oïl, and lenga d’òc, Romance/French dialects (named thus because “oïl” and “òc” are the words for “yes” in their respective dialects). He was born in England, where he spent his childhood. Before becoming king, however, he lived for most of his adult life in the Duchy of Aquitaine in the southwest of France. Although he regarded England primarily as a source of revenue to support his armies he did have a reputation as a pious hero and valiant soldier by many of his subjects. This reputation is, I believe, rather more evident in Victorian literature (especially in latter-day tales of Robin Hood), than when he was alive.

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Here’s a part of Richard’s history that is often conveniently forgotten. He was officially invested as Duke of Normandy on 20 July 1189 and was crowned king in Westminster Abbey on 3 September 1189. He barred all Jews and women from the investiture, but some Jewish leaders arrived to present gifts for the new king. According to Ralph of Diceto, Richard’s courtiers stripped and flogged the Jews, then flung them out of court. When a rumor spread that Richard had ordered all Jews to be killed, the people of London attacked the Jewish population. Many Jewish homes were burned down, and several Jews were forcibly baptized. Some sought sanctuary in the Tower of London, and others managed to escape. Among those killed was Jacob of Orléans, a respected Jewish scholar. Roger of Howden, in his Gesta Regis Ricardi, claimed that the rioting was started by the jealous and bigoted citizens, and that Richard punished the perpetrators, allowing at least one forcibly converted Jew to return to his native religion. Baldwin of Forde, Archbishop of Canterbury, reacted by remarking, “If the King is not God’s man, he had better be the devil’s.”

We can’t lay all of the anti-Semitic acts at Richard’s door, but he certainly promoted an atmosphere of anti-Semitism, which he later tried to repudiate, not because of a change of heart, but because anti-Semitic passions threatened to destabilize England on the eve of his departure on crusade, and he realized that in his absence his hold on power might be tenuous. He was fully aware that he had noble adversaries, and that John was waiting in the wings to take over. In consequence he issued a royal writ demanding that Jews were to be left alone,  but he edict was loosely enforced, and the following March there was further violence including a massacre at York.

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Richard set about raising the huge sums of money for the Third Crusade through the sale of lands, titles and appointments, and attempted to ensure that he would not face a revolt while away from his empire. His brother, John, was made Count of Mortain, was married to the wealthy Isabel of Gloucester, and was given valuable lands in Lancaster and the counties of Cornwall, Derby, Devon, Dorset, Nottingham and Somerset, all with the aim of buying his loyalty to Richard whilst the king was on crusade. Richard retained royal control of key castles in these counties, thereby preventing John from accumulating too much military and political power. In return, John promised not to visit England for the next three years, thereby in theory giving Richard adequate time to conduct a successful crusade and return from the Levant without fear of John seizing power. Richard left political authority in England – the post of justiciar – jointly in the hands of Bishop Hugh de Puiset and William Mandeville, and made William Longchamp, the Bishop of Ely, his chancellor. Mandeville immediately died, and Longchamp took over as joint justiciar with Puiset, which would prove to be a less than satisfactory partnership. Eleanor, the queen mother, convinced Richard to allow John into England in his absence.

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The political situation in England rapidly began to deteriorate. Longchamp refused to work with Puiset and became unpopular with the English nobility and clergy. John exploited this unpopularity to set himself up as an alternative ruler with his own royal court, complete with his own justiciar, chancellor and other royal posts, and was happy to be portrayed as an alternative regent, and possibly the next king. Armed conflict broke out between John and Longchamp, and by October 1191 Longchamp was isolated in the Tower of London with John in control of the city of London, thanks to promises John had made to the citizens in return for recognition as Richard’s heir presumptive.

John began to explore an alliance with the French king Philip II, freshly returned from the crusade (leaving Richard behind). John hoped to acquire Normandy, Anjou and the other lands in France held by Richard in exchange for allying himself with Philip. When Richard still did not return from the crusade, John began to assert that his brother was dead or otherwise permanently lost. Richard had in fact been captured en route to England by the Duke of Austria and was handed over to Emperor Henry VI, who held him for ransom. John seized the opportunity and went to Paris, where he formed an alliance with Philip. He agreed to set aside his wife, Isabella of Gloucester, and marry Philip’s sister, Alys, in exchange for Philip’s support. Fighting broke out in England between forces loyal to Richard and those being gathered by John. John’s military position was weak and he agreed to a truce; in early 1194 the king finally returned to England, and John’s remaining forces surrendered. John retreated to Normandy, where Richard finally found him later that year. Richard declared that his younger brother – despite being 27 years old – was merely “a child who has had evil counsellors” and forgave him, but removed his lands with the exception of Ireland.

For the remaining years of Richard’s reign, John supported his brother on the continent, apparently loyally. Richard’s policy on the continent was to attempt to regain through steady, limited campaigns the castles he had lost to Philip II whilst on crusade. He allied himself with the leaders of Flanders, Boulogne and the Holy Roman Empire to apply pressure on Philip from Germany. In 1195 John successfully conducted a sudden attack and siege of Évreux castle, and subsequently managed the defenses of Normandy against Philip. The following year, John seized the town of Gamaches and led a raiding party within 50 miles (80 km) of Paris, capturing the Bishop of Beauvais. In return for this service, Richard withdrew his malevolentia (ill-will) towards John, restored him to the county of Gloucestershire and made him again the Count of Mortain.

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Partly as a result of these and other intrigues, Richard won several victories over Philip. At Fréteval in 1194, just after Richard’s return to France from captivity and money-raising in England, Philip fled, leaving his entire archive of financial audits and documents to be captured by Richard. At the Battle of Gisors (sometimes called Courcelles) in 1198, Richard took “Dieu et mon Droit”—”God and my Right”—as his motto (still used by the British monarchy today), echoing his earlier boast to the Emperor Henry that his rank acknowledged no superior but God.

In March 1199, Richard was in the Limousin suppressing a revolt by Viscount Aimar V of Limoges. Although it was Lent, he “devastated the Viscount’s land with fire and sword” and besieged the virtually unarmed castle of Châlus-Chabrol. In the early evening of 25 March 1199, Richard was walking around the castle perimeter without his chainmail, investigating the progress of sappers on the castle walls. Missiles were occasionally shot from the castle walls, but these were given little attention. One defender in particular amused the king greatly—a man standing on the walls, crossbow in one hand, the other clutching a frying pan he had been using all day as a shield to beat off missiles. He deliberately aimed at the king, which Richard applauded; however, another crossbowman then struck the king in the left shoulder near the neck. He tried to pull this out in the privacy of his tent but failed; a surgeon, called a “butcher” by Howden, removed it, “carelessly mangling” the King’s arm in the process. The wound swiftly became gangrenous. Richard then set his affairs in order, bequeathing all his territory to his brother John and his jewels to his nephew Otto.

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Richard died on 6 April 1199 in the arms of his mother; it was later said that “As the day was closing, he ended his earthly day.” Richard’s heart was buried at Rouen in Normandy, his entrails in Châlus (where he died), and the rest of his body at the feet of his father at Fontevraud Abbey in Anjou. My epitaph, which accords with many modern historians, is that Richard was a valiant soldier, a devout Christian, and a disastrous king.

Given that we can scarcely call Richard an Englishman it would not be appropriate to celebrate him with English cooking. In any case, we should also understand that in royal households of the time in England the cooking was French, as were the names for the meats – porc, boeuf, and mouton, not the English, pig, ox, and sheep. The most well known French chef of the Middle Ages was Guillaume Tirel, also known as Taillevent. Le Viandier (often called Le Viandier de Taillevent) is a recipe collection generally credited to Tirel, however, the earliest version of the work has been dated to around 1300, about 10 years before his birth. The original author is unknown, but Tirel probably had a hand in later revisions. A transcription of the MS can be found here:

http://www.staff.uni-giessen.de/gloning/tx/vi-vat.htm

A good translation is here:

http://www.telusplanet.net/public/prescotj/data/viandier/viandier1.html

Have fun. I find the original French very hard to understand without a parallel translation. In royal households visual display was prized. Brilliant colors were obtained by the addition of, for example, juices from spinach and the green part of leeks. Yellow came from saffron or egg yolk, while red came from sunflower, and purple from Crozophora tinctoria or Heliotropium europaeum. Gold and silver leaf were placed on food surfaces and brushed with egg whites. Elaborate and showy dishes were the result, such as tourte parmerienne which was a pastry dish made to look like a castle with chicken-drumstick turrets coated with gold leaf. One of the grandest showpieces of the time was roast swan or peacock sewn back into its skin with feathers intact, the feet and beak being gilded. Since both birds are stringy, and taste unpleasant, the skin and feathers could be kept and filled with the cooked, minced and seasoned flesh of tastier birds, like goose or chicken

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Here’s the beginning part of the MS having to do with gilded dishes.  First in the original French, and then a serviceable (abbreviated) translation.

DOREURES

Entremetz pour ung jour de feste ou pour ung convy de prince aux trois jours masles de la sepmaine comme dimenche, mardi et le jeudi.

Pour farsiz et pommeaulx: convient, pour les pommeaulx, de la chair de porc crue, il ne peult challoir quelle, dont les poulles soient farcies; et convient, après que la poulaille est tué, rompre ung pou de peau de la teste, et avoir ung tuyau de plume et souffler dedans tant qu’elle soit bien plaine de vent, et puis les eschauder, et, après, les fendre par dessoubz le ventre, et les escorchier et mettre les charcois d’un costé.

Et convient, pour faire la farce pour farcir la poullaille, du blanc, du lart hachié avec la chair, et fault des oeufz, de bonne poudre fine, du pignolet et du roisin de Corinde et en farsir la peau de la poulaille et ne l’emplir pas trop qu’elle ne crieve, puis la recoudre; et convient la boullir en une paelle sur le feu, et ne le fault guaire laisser cuire, et puis les brochez en broches gresles, et, quant les pommeaulx seront bien faictz, les convient mettre cuire avec ladicte poulaille, et les tirer quant ilz seront durciz, et avoir les broches des pommeaulx plus gresles de la moittié ou plus que celles de la poullaille. Et après, fault avoir de lapaste batue en oeufz tellement qu’elle se puisse tenir sur la paelle, et, quant la poullaille et les pommeaulx seront presque cuitz, les oster et mettre sur sa paste, et prendre de la paste à une cuillier nette, en remuant tousjours, et mettre par dessus sa poulaille et ses pommeaulx tant qu’ilz en soient dorez, et les faire par ii ou par iii foiz tant qu’ilz en soient bien couvertz, et fault prendre du feul d’or ou d’argent et les enveloper, et fault avoir ung petit d’aubun d’oeuf et les arrouser affin que le fueil tiengne mieulx.

GILDED DISHES

Subtleties for a feast day, or for a prince’s banquet on three meat days of the week such as Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday.

[Gilded chickens with quenelles.]

After the chicken is killed, break a bit of skin on the head, take a feather tube, blow in until it is very full of air, scald it, slit it along the belly, skin it, and put the carcass aside.

For the stuffing and the quenelles have some raw pork meat (it doesn’t matter what kind) chopped with pork fat, white [chicken meat], eggs, good Fine Powder, pine nut paste and currants. Stuff the chicken skins with it (but do not fill them so much that they burst), restitch them, and boil them in a pan on the fire (but do not let them cook for very long). When the quenelles are well made, put them to cook with the chickens, and remove them when they are hardened. Spit the chickens on slender spits. Have the spits for the quenelles slenderer by half or more than those for the chickens.

Afterwards, you need to have some batter beaten from eggs until it can stand up in the pan. When the chickens and quenelles are nearly cooked, remove them and put them over your batter. Take some batter with a clean spoon, stirring always, put it on top of your chickens and quenelles, [and put them over the fire] until they are glazed. Do them 2 or 3 times until they are well covered. Take some gold or silver leaf and wrap them (first sprinkle them with a little egg white so that the leaf adheres better).

Needless to say, I’m not about to whip this up for a quick supper, or even for a big dinner party.