A bright, brief, flash of colour is my only connection with our recently deceased Queen. Like a Kingfisher she flashed past in my life rarely but brightly in a car or carriage. Other times, when she was dressed to not be recognised, the recognition nearly always came after the moment had passed. How will King Charles the third follow that. Men habitually dress in clothes that are less colourful, no wildly exuberant hats apart from his uniform days, or Crown days. Not that this really matters but in part the Queens success was that, when she wanted to be, she was spectacularly visible.
Todays Royal pondering features King John, a monarch best known for creating the Magna Carta at Runnymead in Surrey. The Magna Carta was in fact a Peace Treaty between the King and his Barons.
The Magna Carta was a charter of rights agreed to by King John of England in 1215, and was Europe’s first written constitution. Prior to the implementation of the Magna Carta, English monarchs were considered above the law of the land and ruled with relatively absolute power.
Thankfully this blog is not an Opus Magnum so I need to turn the expectation down a little.
King John was not considered by many to be a particularly good or kind King but in England he scored a sartorial first. King John was the first person to be recorded as wearing a dressing gown. The Kings overshirt for rising in the night.
In his last days there would be a lot of rising in the night. The King was suffering from Dysentry and somewhat foolishly ate an excessive amount of peaches which finished him off.
Todays Royal related blog is perhaps not for the squeamish. I will ease you all in gently. Where does the tradition of flowers come from at funerals? Bodies become odorous, quite quickly, after death unless steps are taken. Flowers and in particular their fragrance can help a bit, as does quick, deep burial or burning. Incense or any other strong smelling fragrance has nothing to do with spirituality and everything to do odour masking. It matters not what any religion dresses the rituals around death up as,the disposal of a body is pragmatic and good for public health.
William the 1st, William the Conqueror had a Royal funeral, planned, quite possibly by Monty Python Funerals.com
Held in Caen, France, things did not go to plan. Injured in battle, possibly a self inflicted injury of a big belly being ruptured by the pommel on the saddle of his horse. William was taken alive to Rouen but died of his injuries. His body was stored in a place that was ransacked and looted. Everything of value was stolen and his naked body left on the floor. There was an attempt at embalming, almost certainly too little, too late and he was transported to Caen for his funeral where a stone sarcophagus awaited him.
There was a kerfuffle immediately when someone claimed the Church and by association the burial site had been built on stolen land but worse was to come. The pre prepared stone sarcophagus was just a little too small. Not enough that the body would obviously not fit, but just tantalisingly too small. The sort of ‘too small’ where a practical person would step up and offer to try and squeeze the King in. This was not a good idea. William the Conquerors damaged and decaying bowels burst at the first application of pressure. All the flowers in the world or Incense for that matter were not going to hide that particular stench. Mediaeval life was not for the fragile…
Where will all this Royal research take us tomorrow.
Saturday morning and Britain has entered a 10 day period of mourning. I thought I might entertain blog readers with snippits of Royal History in these 10 days. While researching one thing I found another which will bubble about unless I let it out immediately.
England once had a King called Sweyn Forkbeard!
Crowned in Gainsborough on Christmas Day 1013 he was dead five weeks later. He was the first Viking King of England.
How did I not know this when I was 10 and unnaturally nerdy. Why has it taken until now. How could I not have noticed on my poster of the Kings and Queens. Sweyn was the father of East Anglian, Poster King Canute and still I had never heard of him when I was growing up there. I demand a refund on my state education, or my free library subscription.
Googling lets me know that I am late to this particular party.
Sweyn Forkbeard is big in Camden where he fronts up a male grooming company. He has cleaned up his act somewhat in their tagline.
Their publicity suggests that he was known for his lustrous hair and beard, even in battle. Other evidence suggests that even by contemporary standards he was a cruel and brutal man.
I am rather preferring the fragrant and well groomed image of Camden Sweyn to Gainsborough Sweyn. A man whose only weapons are big pair of scissors and a fistful of shaving balm.