28 February, 2009

Names and Stuff

Something of a hotch-potch of a post today: a rant about the crapness of many things on the internet, names and spellings.

Spotted on the web recently: a forum where someone was asking whether William Wallace was the real father of Edward III. Now there's a thoroughly-discredited piece of nonsense that still rears its ugly head fourteen years or whatever it is after Braveheart. Another forum member pointed out confidently (and correctly, of course) that this was completely impossible, but asserted that the likeliest father of Edward III was...Edward I. Yes, that's Edward I who died in July 1307 and Edward III who was born in November 1312. Evidently this belief arose on the grounds that Edward III resembled his grandfather far more than his father. I suppose on that basis, Edward the Black Prince and Henry V can't possibly have fathered Richard II and Henry VI respectively - to give two examples of great warriors who had sons with no military ability whatsoever.

The misinformation that finds its way onto the net is astonishing. I posted a while ago about an article that has Edward II's wife Isabella as a rebel on the lam in Scotland pursued by Edward III, brilliantly managing to confuse the queen of England with Isabel MacDuff, countess of Buchan. And I saw a blog post a while ago which talked about Queen Isabella's family and background in France, her marriage to Edward II and their children - then suddenly started saying that "Isabella's policies within Castile set the pattern of Spanish policy at home." It's not often you see Isabella of France confused with her great-great-great-granddaughter Isabella the Catholic.

There was also a recent blog post about the red-hot poker murder - presented as certain fact, naturally - which calls Edward "the little fella." Yes, that's Edward II, the man described by fourteenth-century chroniclers as "one of the strongest men of his realm," "tall and strong, a fine figure of a handsome man" and "a handsome man, of outstanding strength." Whatever else he was, I think we can state with some confidence that he wasn't 'little'.

The utter uselessness of some online genealogy sites never fails to amaze me. Recently, I saw "Hugh Audley was born in 1290. Hugh Audley is dead." No kidding? And "William Wallace died in Executed."

I was also thinking about a thread on Plantagenesta a while back, where Mississippienne destroyed the myth that, after King John's disastrous reign, the name John was considered unlucky for kings, and it was 'decreed' that none of them would bear this name again.

She's correct, of course. Edward I called his eldest son, who was born in 1266, John. The boy died at the age of five, but of course Edward couldn't have known that, and had every reason to think that he would be succeeded by King John II. Edward II's second son was John of Eltham; he was heir to the throne between January 1327 and June 1330, when his nephew Edward the Black Prince was born. Had anything happened to Edward III before he and Queen Philippa conceived their son, England would have had its John II.

And if anything had happened to Edward II before he became king or before he and Isabella conceived Edward III, England would have had its first King Thomas - the heir to the throne between July 1307 and November 1312 was his half-brother Thomas of Brotherton, later earl of Norfolk. Edward II's elder brother Alfonso - named after their uncle, the king of Castile - was heir to the throne for just under ten years, from the death of their brother Henry (Edward I's second son) in October 1274 to his own death in August 1284. People in England must have grown used to the idea that one day they would have a King Alfonso. If the boy had lived to succeed his father in July 1307, Alfonso, or Alphonse, would be a common English name. There's a weird thought.

And on the subject of the name Edward itself - the reason this name has been so popular for centuries is because Henry III revered King/St Edward the Confessor. After 1066, Edward, like other Anglo-Saxon names, fell out of use. Henry III, because St Edward the Confessor was his favourite saint, chose the name for his eldest son in 1239. By then, the name probably seemed as outlandish as as if Henry had called his son Ethelred or Wulfstan. From 1272 to 1377, all the kings of England were called Edward, thus ensuring its perennial popularity. Just imagine if Henry III had favoured Saints Sigeberht, Wigbert or Eorpwald instead.

French scribes of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries struggled with the name Edward, and usually wrote it as Edouwart, Edduvart, Eduart or Ewart. Occasionally they spared their blushes by addressing Edward I and Edward II as "the most splendid prince, Ed’, by the grace of God king of England."

Talking about spelling, I've recently been reading Pierre Chaplais' collection of letters written during the 1324/25 war of St-Sardos, between England and France over Gascony. It's fascinating to see the difference between the French used in England at that time and the French used in Gascony, which looks really Spanish or even Portuguese. Edward II was addressed in letters as 'my lord Edward, by the grace of God, king of England, lord of Ireland and duke of Aquitaine'. English scribes wrote this as 'monsire Edward, par la grace de Dieu roi Dengleterre, seigneur Dirlaunde et duc Dacquitaine'. Gascons spelt it 'mi sire Ewart, par la gracia de Diu, rey Danglatora, senhor Dirlanda et duc de Gasconha'. Dublin, written in England as 'Dyvelin', came out as 'Dovelina', the name of Sir (monsire) Robert Wateville as 'mossen Robbert de Watavila', and Sir Ralph Basset's as 'mosen Raou Basset'.

I love this, because it gives me an idea as to what Piers Gaveston must have sounded like. ;) And finally: shortly after Edward II sent Isabella to France to negotiate with her brother Charles IV in March 1325, she sent him a letter informing him of her progress. She called him "my very sweet heart" (mon tresdoutz coer) five times during the letter.


Susan Higginbotham said...

One also comes across Edward II marrying Wallis Simpson. Talk about a confirmed bachelor!

Gabriele Campbell said...

Oh dear, that is worse than some of the nonsense about Arminius that is gracing mediocre newspapers these days (a result of the 2000 anniversary of the Varus Battle).

Kathryn Warner said...

Susan: that's classic. I've also seen him succeeding Queen Victoria in 1901. (Though I'm not complaining about the error on an online bookshop which gave the title of Ian Mortimer's biog of Edward III as The Perfect King: The Life of Edward II.)

Gabriele: mostly I manage to tune out all the nonsense and misinformation about Ed II, but there's so damn much of it I occasionally find myself getting so irritated I have to write a blog post to get it off my chest. ;)

Jules Frusher said...

Maybe it's just that our historical people got around a bit more than we thought ;-)

I bet Piers sounded quite sexy with an accent like that! Perhaps it gave an edge to his insults too lol!

Susan Higginbotham said...

Just got a Google alert that had Edward II expelling the Jews from England. I do wish people would count their "I"'s occasionally.

Anerje said...

In the late 80's, before the internet, I aked my local library to order a book on Edward II - and got a book on George III! Now work that one out!

Swooning at Piers Gascon accent! (Been reading too much 'Where Nobles Tread'!) Once again, your research is meticulous!

Kathryn Warner said...

Lady D: I bet he sounded dead sexy. ;)

Susan: GAH!!!

Anerje: thanks! Heading over to your blog now to read your post on Nobles.

Satima Flavell said...

What a hoot! I wonder if Mrs Simpson would have been quite as eager to marry King Wigbert VIII?

Don't be too hard on genealogy software. It does its little best. It's usually possible to overcome some of the limitations by changing entries manually, but when you're uploading a gedcom of 10,000 names cleanup ambitions inevitably pall after a few generations. Stating that Hugh A. is dead is the software's way of reassuring itself and the reader that the researcher is not breaking any privacy rules by uploading names of living people. Some especially clever genealogy programs know that a person born more than 120 years ago can generally be safely assumed to be dead so there's no point in mentioning it, but not all software is that smart. And nothing can be done about human error, such as when a researcher inadvertently enters the cause of death in the field meant for place of death:-)

Christy K Robinson said...

Seen on a bus bench (in my mind): "Eorpwald XIII for Mayor of Yorvick!"

Carla said...

Interesting that Gascon French was so distinctive. Is that related to langue d'oc?

Kathryn Warner said...

I think Gascon was (is?) a dialect of langue d'oc, Carla, but I'm not sure.

Just Me said...

Gascon is an Occitain language, and closer to Catalan than it is to French.