Which allows me to micro-blog on my use of ‘Domna’ here instead of ‘Domina’, which would be the proper Latin word for it.
Have you ever heard of “lexical renewal”? Yeah, that’s a process that involves ALL languages.
Words tend to be spoken. That is a fact.
As they get used, they slowly morph. It can happen in many ways. A word too short will become longer. A word a tad too long will be shortened. Words that totally lost their primary meaning will be utterly replaced.
The Latin word for ‘sun’ was ‘sol’. It was too short and could easily be confused with other words on the long run. Therefore, a diminutive was added to give ‘solellus’ (which basically means ‘little sun’). It later gave ‘soleil’ in French (see, it was shortened here!).
The word ‘caput’, meaning ‘head’, progressively lost its primary meaning and was slowly replaced by ‘testa’ (a kind of jar). It gave ‘tête’ in French.
Fun fact, nowadays we use ‘tête’ in French to describe many things beyond a physical and bodily head. We come up with new words to describe it such as ‘tronche’, ‘trogne’ or ‘gueule’. Those are very familiar words but such was also ‘testa’ in Latin at first!
‘Domina’ belonged to the words that were shortened and gave ‘domna’ (a word already used by native Latin speakers in the 1st century AD). It would later turn into ‘doña’ in Spanish or ‘dame’ in French.
Latin had little use of possessive articles such a ‘my’ or ‘mine’. They became very common though for later European languages since the declinations fell out of use. Therefore ‘domina mea’ gave way to ‘madame’ or… ‘madonna’!
In 1440, the queen of Hungary and one of her ladies-in-waiting stole the Hungarian crown—the actual, physical crown—to save the throne for her son. Helene Kottanner broke into the vault, snatched the crown, and escaped across the frozen Danube with a sled. Let’s talk about ROYALTY!
I proudly answered the call of duty and found it as another occasion to talk about my favourite non-Disney princess: Joan of Arc.
My Personal Contribution
late. Yet again, it’s still Tuesday somewhere!
Buckle up, girls and boys. We’re about to dive into counterfeit history. When
historians don’t find authentic documents to prove their hypotheses, what do
they do? The honest ones acknowledge their ignorance. There’s nothing glamour
about it. That’s why the others fabricate the documents they need to prove
their point—when they even bother to fabricate them…
The Truth about Joan. Was Joan of Arc a Royal Bastard Princess?
think that conspiracy theories would be limited to our contemporary era, did
how to square the circle: the Earth is flat, climate change is a lie, vaccines
don’t work and the illuminati rule the world. If you go back and forth from one
to another long enough, it all starts to make sense, but that’s only when you
start to seriously question your mental sanity.
is that conspiracy theorists are also trying to colonize the past with the most
heretic holy trinity: the holocaust never happened, medieval Europe only had
white people and Michael Jackson never died. He’s chilling on some Pacific Island
with his buddy Elvis. Someone could swear his sister saw a picture or
something, you know, tangible proof.
Among the many conspiracy theories about history the one I’ll tackle down here states that Joan of Arc was actually Charles VII’s sister.
Charles VII of France, an Alleged Bastard Himself?
Contamine, who knows more than anyone about the 15th century,
medieval France, briefly addressed the rumors according to which Charles VII
of France was a bastard himself, in his latest biography of the French king
(published in 2017; not to brag, but I own a dedicated copy).
about your wife, my liege? Isn’t she also born from the mad king?”
He was still sane of mind when he conceived her.”
As a matter
of fact, Catherine of France, Henry V of England’s wife, was born on October
27, 1401, a year and a half before Charles VII, and Charles VI (it is
heavily documented) lost his mind in the year 1392 during a military
expedition where he attacked his own men. Meaning, according to Henry V’s
logic, that his dear wife was also an illegitimate child, but hell with the
inspection, accusing the queen of adultery served no real political purpose to
the Anglo-Burgundian alliance since she was on their side and that her signature is what made the Treaty of Troyes (1420) valid because of
the dementia of her husband. The Treaty
of Troyes acknowledged Henry V of England as sole heir to Charles VI
of France. Fun fact, Henry V died of dysentery a few months ahead of Charles VI.
He never was crowned king of France and he only left behind him a one-year-old
child and a wife who quickly consoled herself with a handsome knight.
question remains: who would have been Charles VII’s father, if it weren’t
Charles VI? Well, who else but Louis of Orléans, Charles VI’s
brother! After all, the duke of Orléans almost killed the king by burning him
alive with a torch, then he attempted to rape the duchess of Burgundy—which
explains why John the Fearless hated his guts*.
thought Game of Thrones was full of
latter allegation is solely reported by Thomas Basin (d. 1491) in his biography
of Charles VII.
Who really was Joan of Arc’s Father? A Shakespearian Tale
pseudo-historian, Pierre Cazet, bragged that he discovered the truth behind
Joan’s true social status. How come a young maid from the countryside was ever
received by the king? Saint Louis himself, the holiest French king of all, met
his subjects regularly in the open air to render justice, according to Jean of
Joinville (d. 1317). Therefore it should be totally inconceivable that Charles VII
would ever meet an intriguing would-be prophetess that had such a notoriety
duke of Lorraine personally invited her over and that the
bastard of Orléans, while she was in Gien, sent people to meet and inquire
about her and her journey to Chinon.
She had to be a secret Disney princess!
it all comes from a play written by Shakespeare. I mean, this could only be the
stuff of great literature. How could a poor and deficient mind come up with
such a brilliant twist? Henry VI,
act 5, scene 4. A shepherd, Joan’s father, comes up to her as she’s
tied at the stake. Since she left, he’s been searching for her everywhere.
Ah, Joan! this kills thy father’s heart outright.
Have I sought every country far an near,
And, now it is my chance to find thee out,
Must I behold thy timeless cruel death?
Ah, Joan! sweet daughter Joan, I’ll die with thee.
however, doesn’t break into tears. She gets all riled up!
Descrepit miser! base ignoble wretch!
I am descended of a gentler blood:
Thou art no father nor no friend of mine.
Then she turns
to the men who’ve put her at the stakes.
Let me tell you whom you have condemn’d:
Not me begotten of a shepherd swain,
But issu’d from the progeny of kings;
Virtuous and holy; chosen from above,
By inspiration of celestial grace,
To work exceeding miracles on earth.
brilliant literary idea of a royal Joan (I mean, what a twist!*) then inseminated the rotten minds
of ill-informed money-grabbing pseudo-historians, who pandered ‘sensational’
books only to fill their purse. Hence Joan was Charles VII’s secret
sister. However, who was her father then do you ask? No other than Louis ‘the
Legend’ of Orléans.
at her trial that she was nineteen, meaning she was born in 1412. How could
that be a problem? On November 23, 1407, Louis of Orléans was assassinated in
the streets of Paris by John the Fearless (GoT
quality, I tell you!). Therefore, Joan lied. She must have been twenty-four and
was actually born in 1407.
Oh. And by
the way, her mother was Queen Isabeau herself. Why not? It’s not like she gave
birth to a child on November 10, 1407. Wait? Is my math right? Do I remember anything from my biology class? It must be right. Right?
audacious conspiracy theorists, whom websites I won’t link here to deny them
the pride of free views to their counter, have now passed the idea that Joan
was Queen Isabeau’s daughter. They see as a better fit than her actual mother,
Isabelle Romée, was the descendant of Charlemagne. Also, they don’t need any
document to prove it to you. You should trust them on their words for it. Jacques
d’Arc, who, according to them, is not even Joan’s biological father, is also of
noble birth too. Cherry. On. Top.
This is all
a bunch of undocumented nonsense.
was depicting Joan of Arc as an utterly crazy woman. This was not a twist but a foregone conclusion.
Upon meeting death, she shows her true ugly colors.
Joan’s Coat of Arms: the Ultimate Evidence?
battle of Patay and right after the liberation of Orléans, Charles VII
granted a coat of arms to Joan of Arc. On a blue background stands a sword
under a crown, flanked by two heraldic lilies. Joan’s judge at her trial at
Rouen blamed her for arrogance. Who was she to dare display the ‘fleur-de-lis’,
the official emblem of the French crown?
to our dear conspiracy theorists, Joan’s coat of arms was a clever acknowledgment
of her true origin. An acknowledgment so clever, in fact, that Charles VII
publicly recognized Joan as his sister but in a way that no one could uncover
it. A secret hiding in plain sight!
I … can’t …
seems only obscure to us because we don’t understand its language. We look at
coat of arms the same way Napoleon looked at the pyramid. He knew they meant
something. He knew they were the stuff of legends. But he had yet no solid archeological
knowledge of their history and meaning.
happened that Charles VII granted to other people the right to display the
fleur-de-lis on their coat of arms. He especially granted it to the city of
Tournai, which so far up north, deep into Burgundian territory, remained
unyieldingly loyal to his cause. The fleur-de-lis was a royal honor, a symbolic
and powerful mark of recognition for exceptional services and also a way to tie
people to the royal house.
the crown? Well, what about it? Joan kept saying she was only serving one lord,
the Lord. That crown is probably
God’s own crown, for Christ’s sake (that is my personal hypothesis). All in
all, the coat of arms translates into: “I fight under God’s command for the
good of France.” How could that ever be conceived as a secret acknowledgement
of common parenthood?
Joan of Arc was not Charles VII’s
secret sister (and he was not Louis of Orléans’s bastard) but her story is only more beautiful
because of it. I understand that some limited minds would only grant great
deeds to people of noble breed, I do, but they’re utterly wrong. She was a
commoner from the country side with nothing to her name but her faith, her sass
and her cold-blooded bravery.
I know Joan
of Arc didn’t actually change the course of history. The victory of Orléans was
almost a given when we take everything into account beyond her legend. Plus, it
took more than a decade to finally boot the English out of France after she
passed. However, she stood high and tall on a crucial turning crossroad in
medieval history. It all looked gloom then she suddenly shined bright in the
middle of the dark. She shocked her contemporaries like a comet burning the
I find it very comforting that any young woman could achieve such a thing.
However, fair warning, anyone tries to imprison and sentence Greta Thunberg to
death, I might personally lead the commando to rescue her.
The AskHistorians Subreddit invited me to pitch in on their latest Tuesday Trivia event. This week theme was FIRE.
Fire in the hole! …and in the house, castle courtyard, barn loft, cave, wiping out entire cities. What are some of the major flame-related disasters in your era? How did people fight fires?
I could just not pass on such an honor and I did my best to come up with a good story to share.
My Personal Contribution
If you know me you guess by then what I decided to talk about. Again. Joan of Arc.
This is the
story of how she died and how she burned.
judges had found her guilty on twelve accounts. Chief among them was the charge
that her visions were nothing but superstitious delusions that proceeded from
evil and diabolical spirits. Joan was also found guilty of attempted suicide
because she jumped from the tower of the Beaurevoir castle when she tried to escape
from her Burgundian ward, Jean de Luxembourg (a tale that I already briefly
mentioned in a
I will be
lazy for a minute and briefly remind that suicide was deemed as a very serious
crime in the 15th century, France. If you committed suicide, your
belongings were confiscated—meaning you could leave no inheritance to your
relatives—and your body would have to suffer a degrading sentence. We have
actually found pardon letters addressed to people who committed suicide,
blaming their death on insanity or something else, meaning they were eventually
not responsible of their own demise.
On a less
judicial and more spiritual level, let me quote Benjamin Zweig on that one (and
be a doll, check out his thesis on the Images
of Suicide in Medieval Art):
As the German nun and mystic Hildegard of Bingen tells us, suicide is unforgivable because it is a blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. But, then, what makes suicide blasphemous? Because, she and other medieval theologians might respond, suicide denies the possibility of God’s forgiveness. By flinging one’s own body into death, one doubts God’s mercy. When one denies God’s grace, one repudiates God’s very essence—that is, the Holy Spirit. To kill oneself is to proclaim one’s disbelief in God. But unlike blasphemous words, for which one can plead mercy, suicide cannot be undone. One cannot repent after death.
conclude in reminding that in his touring of the circles of Hell, Dante visits
the Forest of Suicide. It should serve as a final proof that attempted suicide
was a good reason to find anyone guilty of something immoral. Of course, Joan
tried to escape, and ultimately to live, but it didn’t bother her judges. She
jumped and it was constructed as a guilty charge against her.
that Joan sided against the Burgundians also played against her. It was seen as
a transgression against God’s commandment to “love thy neighbor”. No one
bothered to mention her quarrel against the English, which indicates the
political ties of her judges and who might have really been pissed at her. She’d
sent a letter to Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy. I bet that letter was very
ill received. She also met him, and Monstrelet records it. He reports that he
was there himself, but that he forgot what the Duke said to the Maid. How
convenient… Let’s not forget that he later offered his chronicles to Philip the
not least, Joan’s unwillingness to answer her judges on certain matters—like
her personal exchanges with Charles VII—were constructed as a rebellion against
the church. She was therefore charged as schismatic.
On May 24,
1431, Joan was put in front of a stake and her charges were read to her.
Everything was ready for her to burn alive and be done with like Jean Hus and
many others before her. However, before the end of the sentencing, Joan finally
cracked under the pressure, pleaded guilty and asked for a pardon, which was
granted to her. She was brought back to her cell and probably raped by her
twelve charges, Joan had also been found guilty of wearing men’s clothes. It
was deemed as blasphemous. Therefore when she was seen wearing them again after
her “confession”, maybe as a way to repel her wards, she was deemed relapse. It
meant that the church couldn’t do anything for her anymore. Her soul was beyond
saving. She had to burn at the stake…
Burning at the Stake
It was a
Wednesday. Joan was brought out of her cell for the very last time on May 30,
1431, at the sweet age of nineteen.
We think indeed
that she was born in 1412, which is why her biography and dictionary written by
Philippe Contamine, Xavier Hélary and Olivier Bouzy was published in 2012, six
hundred years after she was born.
Ladvenu, who heard Joan’s last confession and escorted her to the stake,
reported that until the bitter end, she maintained that her visions were sent
to her by God and that she didn’t believe that she’d been fooled by any evil
By ten o’clock
in the morning, Joan was already where she would die, on a scaffold where
everyone could see her. The good people of Rouen didn’t dare to move to help
her. They were still under the shock of the 1418-1419 siege that cost them so
many lives. However, we can guess that they didn’t really like what they saw.
One very sarcastic Norman chronicler, Pierre Cochon—not to be mistaken with
Pierre Cauchon, Joan’s chief judge—stopped his chronicle at the very moment
Joan entered Rouen. He never mentioned her in his work. Yet he was a close
friend to several of the clerks who attended her trials and who, for the most
part, pleaded heavily in favor of Joan on her second trial.
some case, is more meaningful than any formulated opinion…
Fauquembergue, clerks for the Parliament in Paris, wrote that Joan wore a miter
which displayed four words: “Heretic. Relapse. Apostate. Idolatrous.” There was
also a board that described Joan as the wickedest witch of the West.
The executioner put the stake on fire and Joan burned alive. However, the fire was extinguished halfway to show that under her men’s clothes she was indeed a woman. Eventually, her ashes were spilled in the Seine to make sure no one could turn any of her remnant into a relic.
How She Was Replaced
telefilm that cast Neil Patrick Harris as Charles VII shows how La Hire and
Jean de Metz arrived too late to save Joan at Rouen. They see the flames from beyond
the city walls. They know she is dead… However, historically, the French captains
and the French court remained quite indifferent to Joan’s passing.
La Hire was
otherwise busy at the time. Earlier that year he’d taken the city of Louviers
in a successful commando mission that freed the most skilled and wisest French
captain of the time, a man so dangerous that the English had always refused to
discuss any ransom and kept his location secret, Arnaud-Guilhem de Barbazan,
the man who singlehandedly defended Melun nine months in 1420 against Henry V
and all of his army.
were in the business to retake Louviers and La Hire swooped back in the city in
April to manage its defense. As he sneaked out of town to fetch for
reinforcements at La Ferté he was captured, taken to Dourdan and released in
exchange for several hostages. He still had yet to pay for his ransom and La Hire
therefore went to Chinon to ask the king for help. Charles VII, who
couldn’t pull out money the way his grandfather did to help out Du Guesclin,
allowed La Hire to write to the good cities of France to raise money for his
ransom. We know that La Hire wrote at least to Lyon and Tours.
In the end,
he was nowhere near Rouen when Joan died and not the least concerned with her
passing. Jean de Metz? We don’t know where he was at the time…
On August 12, 1431, La Hire had forgotten Joan of Arc altogether. According to the chronicler Jean Lefèvre de Saint-Rémy, La Hire and several captains put a young shepherd at the front of their army to lead them to victory but the poor boy didn’t have Joan’s nerves. He was captured, brought back to Rouen and probably thrown in the Seine to drown. No one bothered with a “proper trial” on that one.
If you follow me on Twitter you’d know that I’ve been on a little book shopping spree. I went to the second hand bookshop to sell youth novels that my fiancé had lying around. I came back home having sold almost none of them… plus carrying in a bag some history books that caught my eye. I mean, I just can’t help myself.
One thing lead to another. I showed my new findings on Twitter. One book was about the earl of Warwick. Not Richard Beauchamp as I first expected, but his son-in-law, another Richard, son of a third Richard who’d been earl of Salisbury after Thomas Montagu passed away at the siege of Orléans, in 1428. How can you not be easily confused when shopping compulsively?
My sickness followed me home. Once on my computer and looking for a manuscript that I knew had been made for Richard Warwick Jr. by his mother and displayed the story of Richard Warwick Sr., I found out that it hadn’t been digitized yet by the British Library. At which point my heart almost broke. I looked online for the Cotton MS Julius E IV, or the “Warwick Manuscript” as it is also called, and found out that some of its illuminations were reproduced in a 2017 monography on male education in the Middle Ages: From Childhood to Chivalry, by Nicolas Orme. Some extracts were available on Google Books and, since I was still hazy from my shopping spree, I freaking bought the damn book. You’re right I did!
As a matter
of fact I’m annoyed with a statement found in the Age of Empires 2 in-game
encyclopedia about Chivalry. It reads as follows:
Becoming a Knight
At the age of 7 or 8, boys of the noble class were sent to live with a great lord as a page. Pages learned basic social skills from the women of the lord’s household and began basic training in the use of weapons and horsemanship. Around the age of 14 the youth became a squire, a knight in training. Squires were assigned to a knight who continued the youth’s education. The squire was a general companion and servant to the knight. The duties of the squire included polishing armor and weapons (prone to rust), helping his knight dress and undress, looking after his belongings, and even sleeping across his doorway as a guard.
At tournaments and in battle, the squire assisted his knight as needed. He brought up replacement weapons and horses, treated wounds, brought a wounded knight out of danger, or made sure of a decent burial if needed. In many cases the squire went into battle with his knight and fought at his side. A knight avoided fighting a squire on the other side, if possible, seeking instead a knight of rank similar to or higher than his own. Squires, on the other hand, sought to engage enemy knights, seeking to gain glory by killing or capturing an enemy knight of high rank.
In addition to martial training, squires built up their strength through games, learned to at least read, if not write, and studied music, dancing, and singing.
By the age of 21, a squire was eligible to become a knight. Suitable candidates were “knighted” by a lord or other knight of high standing. The ceremony for becoming a knight was simple at first, usually being “dubbed” on the shoulder with a sword and then buckling on a sword belt. The ceremony grew more elaborate and the Church added to the rite. Candidates bathed, cut their hair close, and stayed up all night in a vigil of prayer. In the morning the candidate received the sword and spurs of a knight.
I have yet to break down that statement and I will surely do it in another in-depth blog post. But this is a fun fact. Let’s only scratch the surface on this one.
What bothers me with this statement is that it displays a very linear step-by-step narrative of how young aristocrats became knights. It’s much too easy. History is messy. Medieval History especially. Knighthood is a concept that evolved over time. It wasn’t even a thing before the 12th century. It became a heavily ritualized process by the end of the 15th century. It was loaded with religious meaning. Plus, I’m really not sure about that classic 7-14-21 years old progression. I know that I’ve read about it myself when I was a kid, and not only on the Age of Empires 2 in-game encyclopedia.
To keep it
short here I’ll simply quote Nicolas Orme on the matter, to bring more
perspective and nuance:
[Giles of Rome] reproduces the outlines of Aristotle’s threefold scheme of movement for babies, light exercises for boys and strenuous training for adolescents. But he has little to say about boys, except that they should play at ball, and centres his treatment of physical education almost wholly on military training in adolescence. This begins at 14, earlier than Aristotle had recommended for strenuous exercises. It lasts for four years and involves learning the kind of riding and fighting required for a knightly career, before embarking on the career itself at 18.
quoting Nicolas Orme, he wrote down a little further something that really
grabbed the attention of my 2019 post-gender studies and LGTBQ+ rights mind.
Medieval writers criticized children for indolence, oaths and insubordination, but not for aggression.
on to tell us a few stories that exemplify that statement. Those stories are
the purpose of this blog post. Enjoy!
Charles the Bold
First of all, I cannot not remind my dear and attentive reader of a former blog post of mine, in which I explain how Philip the Good wished for his son, Charles, to prove his manhood by risking his life jousting against the most renowned knight of their time: Jacques de Lalaing. I thought it was “funny” because whilst Philip the Good was pushing his son to take deadly risks, Isabella of Portugal, Charles’ mother, heavily frowned upon it and argued with her husband. It looked like a typical “boys will be boys” story.
that Nicolas Orme tells is another one yet. And a pretty much enlightening one!
Fast track back to the 12th century and meet William Marshal, the best knight of his own time, because there is a Jacques de Lalaing for every new generation of knight. Just as a book was written to narrate the life and deeds of Jacques de Lalaing, William Marshal saw his life turned into an epic poem. This biographical poem starts with William’s childhood and tells how he became King Stephen’s hostage while his father, John FitzGilbert, lead a rebellious life. King Stephen was ready to kill the young boy, who was only 5 or 6 years old, in order to teach his treacherous vassal a lesson. John answered that he could forge a better son if needed with an anvil and a hammer. Talk about toxic masculinity!
Yet, as he
was unknowingly lead to his most certain death, a weapon caught the eye of
young William Marshal. It was a javelin that the earl of Arundel was toying
with. “Sir! Give me that arrow!” pleaded William.
The kindly Stephen was so touched by this that he changed his mind, and led William back to his camp where they played ‘knights’, each holding a plantain and trying to knock off the head of the other’s.
resist the urge to share you the poem itself (I don’t really care if you don’t
understand a word of it—maybe you do!—it’s just too damn pretty):
E li emfes ke l’on portout, Ki de sa mort ne se dotout, Si vit le cunte d'Arundel Qui teneit un bozon molt bel; Si li dist o simple reison: "Sire, donez mei cel bozon." Quant li reis oï ceste enfance, Por trestot l'or qui est en France Nel laisse[s]t il pendre cel jor.-, Mais par simplesce e par doçor, De quei sis cu[e]rs esteit toz pleins, A pris l'enfant entre ses meins.
We cringe today when we see young boys playing with make-believe fire-weapons in kaki suits right in the middle of the school yard. It was already the case when I was a kid in the 90’s, here in good old Belgium. It must most certainly be the case in many U.S. schools! However, boys and young men were more than heavily encouraged to play with weapons in the Middle Ages. Royal rolls actually testify that my all-time favorite medieval figure, the bad-ass-poleaxe-berserk-gallant-husband-and-patron-of-the-arts-founder-of-the-university-of-Caen John Lancaster, Duke of Bedford, Regent of France, was given swords at the prime age of 11 years old in 1400-1401. His elder brother, Henry V of England, received his at 9 years old, in 1397. No wonder they beat the shit out of the French from 1415 to 1435.
Louis de Saint-Pol
I will conclude this fun fact with another 15th century figure: the most infamous Louis of Saint-Pol, who became no less than ‘Connétable de France’ and yet was beheaded for high treason.
learned the art of war from his uncle, John of Luxembourg. This one was not
blind, we shouldn’t mix him up with the King of Bohemia, yet he lost an eye in
battle and we could call him “One-Eyed John”. He’d been La Hire’s fiercest foe
if we don’t take John Talbot into account. I like to call them the Three Hounds of War. I swear I’ll write
about them one day. They were just too epic to be overlooked.
Here is one
of the most shocking sentence I read in Monstrelet’s chronicle:
That day the young count of Saint-Pol was introduced to warfare for his
uncle, the count of Ligny, had him kill a few men. The young count took great
pleasure in it.
When I first read this line in 2015, I just couldn’t wrap my head around it. Monstrelet was not even the kind of chronicler to promote violence. He laments several times about the state of the kingdom and the misery of the little people. He brazenly blames the Flemish urban militias to be too hasty in matters of war. What the hell? A few years later down the way, though, I understand Monstrelet better.
I will conclude
this fun fact on the following oversimplified statement.
Young men were encouraged in the Middle Ages to
develop a taste for war from a very young age, but only as long as they were aristocrats (and there was such a
thing as going too far).
Next time I
should also present you a few anecdotes about noblemen that turned away from
violence and embraced more peaceful or spiritual ways of life, much like Henry
VI of England or Charles IV of the Holy Roman Empire, who were both sons to
great warriors, respectively Henry V and John the Blind. Because as always,
with History… it’s messy!
trolling” is a somewhat polite and cute way to say that you’re just being a
dick on the internet. Even though this term, troll, tends to diminish or
devalue the harm done by so-called and self-proclaimed trolls, trolls today
holds nothing on the ultimate troll
master from 1098, Bohemond of Taranto. Only 90’s kids can remember.
The Byzantine princess, Anna Comnena, had already observed that Bohemond was one of a kind when she stated that “a certain charm hung about this man but is partly marred by a general air of the horrible.” However, what he did to insure the capture of Antioch really puts him on another level amongst the great military minds of history.
The rumor spread that Turks had infiltrated the camp and where reporting on the crusaders’ every moves. When it was brought to the kind attention of Bohemond, he said, and I’m making this up for the good of the story: “Fear not, my friends, for there shall be spies no more once I’m done with them.” As a matter of fact, or so the legend goes, they all fled overnight!
What follows is rated R. So hide your kids, you
will not find this on Wikipidia.
How did Bohemond manage to get rid of the Turk spies so quickly and effectively? First, he gathered a few of them like sheep you herd for slaughter. Then, he introduced them to his cook. The cook cut down their jaws then proceeded to slide them onto a massive skewer, just like pigs. The Turk spies were roasted over a fire, barbecue style.
People came to look from all over camp at that macabre spectacle and see for themselves if what they said was true. Bohemond had turned cannibal! Horrified at the idea to end the same way, all the spies left in camp ran away once dusk settled into night. That was one less problem for the Crusaders. Bohemond had then no problem to secure his secret commando operation to capture the tower of mount Silpius with the help of an inside man, which lead him to conquer the city of Antioch eventually.
Where did I find this fun fact? René Grousset, L’épopée des coisades. Paris: Perrin, 2002, p. 35. Not the best book on the topic, but it’s very well written and therefore quite entertaining while remaining fairly informative.