What I like, when I can get it, is British detective series, or British spy movies, [they do these better than the Yanks] or historical stuff ~ if there's not too many inaccuracies, but after a week of lying on the couch doing the dying swan act & watching all our old dvds I was feeling more than a little jaded. What I found, all I found, was The Last of Europe's Warrior Kings.
I thought we might be looking at pre~Christian Europe, which I know something about, spasmodically, with some rather largish gaps. We were not. We were bang in the Middle Ages, a period of history I particularly dislike. It was brutal, grubby & incredibly ignorant & I confess I have never understood what drove the dynasty wars.
What was worse is that of all that dark & grubby period I particularly dislike the Norman invasion of England because, true to form, I had read something of William, an incredibly nasty man with an overinflated ego, who brutalised the north of England & came to a justifiably ugly end, his bloated body too short for the sarcophagus so that when the monks tried to force it, his bowels exploded causing an unimaginable stink. He was rather hurriedly disposed of despite a local peasant declaring the land the church was built on had been stolen by William & no way was William going to be buried on land he owned! Wow.
It is the period before William I know something about: Alfred's Britain because Alfred managed to unite Wessex with Mercia, making them a force to reckon with a rather large Northumbria & leaving all the little eastern kingdoms along the seaboard to eventually, one assumes, be swallowed up by the larger & more powerful kingdoms. There is no England. The Pictish kingdom of eastern Scotland is long gone. Cornwall is part of Wales. In a weird sort of way it was still a rather Celtic landscape ~ or Saxon, they operated along similar lines ~ local *kings* who ruled all the territory brute force could hold but moving more into the tangled political hotbed that is England's history. Think *Danelaw*.
The bit I don't understand was the over~riding urge to fight each other over bits of land, establish dynasties that were uncertain & generally short~lived. Let's face it, about all I knew of the Norman invasion was stray bits of poetry:
William the first was the first of our kings
Not counting the Ethelreds, Egberts and things.
He had himself crowned and anointed and blessed
In ten-sixty - I needn't tell you the rest.
In other words I knew zilch. Oh a stray maybe fact regarding arrows but naturally the whole sorry tale is a good deal more sordid & family feudish & waaay more fascinating. One wonders what might have happened if Edward the Confessor had actually clearly named a successor though one suspects that would not have stopped Tostig [how does one spell that name?] ~ or William for that matter~ both of whom were rather obsessed with becoming king & none of whom were closest in line of succession but as that was a boy...
I do find the visualisation of history makes it easier to remember. One of the joys of the modern age. It always makes me wonder though, what was wrong with living simply with beautiful things: trees & flowers & animals & the good earth to till? Why the urge to kill & destroy & accumulate? That is the total sum of human history. Such a waste & nothing to show for all that angst in the end.