Tuesday, September 24, 2013

"Things" concerning the men who once sailed in Longships.

The Law Rock or Speaker of the Law
At the "Althing" of Iceland.
Painted by W.G. Collingwood
Circa 1826-Public Domain
     In the name of this blog are two elements.-Modern and Medievalist or Medieval if you will. Because I look for them, I see medieval links to our everyday existence. Most of Europe for instance is nothing more than a framework of modern governance overlaid upon centuries of tradition, most of whom are medieval in nature. I believe it is part of the human condition to keep our history and our heritage or the heritage of those from whom we come from alive, and relevant in our daily lives.

    As an example of people keeping their culture alive, year and years ago I was sitting in a pub with a good friend of mine from Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland. We were watching Ireland battle Denmark to a tie in a World Cup qualifying match. At the end, when Ireland has scored the tie goal, an Irishman at the back of the pub yelled out in a really loud voice, "That! For Clontarf!" My mate and I just about fell off of our bar stools laughing. Incidentally it took almost a thousand years for that little statement to be uttered...

     For those who might not know the Battle of Clontarf happened on  the 23 of April 1014. It was a battle between Dubliner Danes, Orkney Adventurers and a large collection of Vikings from all over the Scandinavian world. Vs. Brian Boru the then High King of Ireland. In the end the Danes and their allies were beaten but Brian Boru was killed by a group from Orkney fleeing the battle. The blood loss on the side of the Irish was so great, that very few Noble Irish Families did not have at least one family member die. -So it evolved into  a badge of honor amongst the Irish, to say they had someone die at Clontarf.-End the end, it resulted in a draw for Ireland with a dead king and a goodly amount of their nobles perished and the Danes loosing much of their assembled forces.

Battle of Clontarf
By Hugh Frazer. 1826
Public Domain.

    The oldest Parliamentary Government in the world exists in Iceland, called the Althing. Which incidentally makes it the oldest semi-continually governing Democracy on the planet. It was found in 930 on the open plains just outside of Reykjavik. It operated on an annual basis for almost 1083 years.It was disbanded by the Absolute Monarchy of Denmark in 1800 and later reestablished in 1845. It had the one tiny break in its roughly 1083 year history. The Althing like any institution evolved. It went from a gathering of all the free men in Iceland and the (Godars)-a combination of powerful person and lord could decided legal cases and dispense justice, to the modern institution it is today. I will include a Wikipedia Links at the end of the article.

     There is another odd term which is slowly dropping out of usages in the English language. Although to be fair it does still crop up in the odd newspaper article and novel. I just so happens to be one of my all time favorite words: Bailiwick. It is a an Old English, combination of (Bali) and (Wick) and as a result because it is Old English it has a very close analogue in German. Both mean roughly the same thing:

Noun: Bailiwick or plural (Bailiwicks)
1. The district of which a Bailie or Bailiff has jurisdiction.
2. A persons's concern or sphere of operation, and or expertise.
3. A termed used as an area of governance by the Teutonic Knights*

     Which brings us to one of the more medieval aspects of the British Monarchy. The Crown Dependencies of the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man-which are held as personal possessions of the Crown. Although there is a qualifier, as their governance or ownership is described as "The Crown in right of..."-Just add the appropriate name.

     All three are independently governed by representatives of the Crown, most notably Bailiffs in the Bailiwicks of Guernsey and Jersey, and the Lieutenant-Governor for the Isle of Man-(2005 The Isle of Man created a new position that of Chief Minister, as their head of government) Ultimately though, no matter what the civil authorities do, their laws and regulations must travel through the Privy Council of Her Majesty the Queen. She is the ruler of these lands.-Yes before the rocks start flying my way, I realize this is very much a simplification of a complex style of governance. However it remains that these islands are held in possession by Her Majesty the Queen and they are extremely medieval in nature Guernsey and Jersey have been in the possession of the Crown since the time of William the Conqueror. If you just go by his ascension to the English throne in 1066, that is roughly 948 years this coming Christmas...

All of which is contrasted with the Isle of Man declaring it has the oldest continuous operating parliament in the world called the Tynwald. Note: you have to read the description carefully. The key words are "Continuously Operating." Remembering the Althing of Iceland. The Althing had a break in service of 45 years. The Tynwald on the other hand did not. The Isle of Man officially came under feudal lordship of the English crown in 1339. Although as part of the Lordship of the Isles it reinvested itself into the British Monarchy in 1765. The Tynwald is reputed to have been founded in 979 AD. The people of the Isle of Man celebrated its existence in 1979 with a millennial birthday celebration. Although from what I have read, there does not appear to be any records of the Tynwald appearing until the XII Century. Incidentally "Tynwald" means roughly the same as the Icelandic "Althing" -The place of the "Thing", or the assembly.

     In closing I would like to state, my descriptions used in this posting are very much of a generalized nature. I have include links to various sites to give you the reader a place to do your own research, and come to your own conclusions. It is also interesting to me when I sat down to write this post, I had no idea how the history of Ireland, England, and the British Crown Dependencies would all be related. But if you read the Wikipedia articles I have included in this post, you will see in one form or another they are all linked because of Vikings, Normans (Semi-Civilized Vikings), and the Danes. In fact all of these institutions, countries and even the British Crown owe some part of their existence to men who once sailed in Longships and a desire to have their voices be heard.

All my absolute best!
-DS Baker


The Battle of Clontarf:



The Althing and the official webpage of:


The official link to the Icelandic Parliment

The link to the British Crown Dependencies


The Bailiwick of Guernsey:


The Official Portal for the States of Guernsey:


The Bailiwick of Jersey:


The Isle of Man:


The Wikipedia Isle of Man Portal:


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