Medieval Monday: The Middle Middle Ages

Medieval Mondays are back! And with (sort of) better illustrations. If you need a refresher:

All Roads Lead to Rome

The Dark Ages

Charles in Charge

Make Haste to Hastings

Now Boarding Crusades 1-9 (Part 1)

Now Boarding Crusades 1-9 (Part 2)

What a Tedious Little Man

Prince John comes to the English throne in 1199 upon Richard the Lionheart’s death. And pretty much everything you’ve ever heard about him is true. He was so tyrannical and money-grubbing that his barons rebelled and he was forced to sign the Magna Carta at Runnymede in 1215 to guarantee the rights of his subjects. However, he soon broke the agreement and a civil war broke out.

King John

Even though Magna Carta ultimately failed to rein in John, it did serve as a template for all future laws in England limiting the king’s power (and was the basis for our Bill of Rights). The coalition of barons also introduced the idea of nobles having a say in the government which would later develop into Parliament.

Shocking Trivia! The King of France—supported by some of the rebellious barons—invaded England and ruled part of it for a year. But after John’s death in 1216, the barons united behind young Henry III and his regent, William the Marshal, and King Louis I was forced to sign a peace treaty and leave. Why do you never see him listed among the kings of England? The treaty included a provision stating that Louis had never actually been a king of England.

The Mongol Hordes

Trouble wasn’t just brewing in England during the 13th century. Eastern Europe was having to deal with the Mongol hordes for most of the century. In 1223, Genghis Kahn invaded Russia. From 1238 to 1241 Genghis’ son, Ogedei, invaded Russia (again), destroyed Kiev, defeated a European coalition force in (modern-day) Poland, and reached the gates of Vienna. Only Ogedei’s death forced the Mongols to retreat.

Genghis Khan

Mongke, grandson of Genghis, succeeds Ogedei and he spends his time harassing Muslims throughout the Middle East—much to the delight of Christians there. The famous Kublai Kahn, however, only operates in the Far East, and after his death in 1294, the Mongolian Empire begins to fall apart.

Around the World in 35 . . . Years

In 1260, 6-year-old Marco Polo sets out with his father and uncle on a trip to the other side of the known world. He won’t return until 1295. His accounts include real things that he saw (such as paper money in China) and fantastical stories that he heard along the way (with no real distinction between the two). He is credited with bringing the pasta noodle to Italy from China, and his voyage marks the beginning of Europe’s exploration of distant lands.

Useless Trivia: In 1284, an Italian creates wearable eyeglasses (for reading).

Hammer of the Scots . . . and the Welsh . . . and the Jews

In 1282, Prince Llewelyn, last of the Welsh princes, dies in an ambush and the following year, Edward I of England—known as “Longshanks” for his great height—conquerors all of Wales.

In 1290, Edward expels all the Jews in England. They will not be allowed to live in the country again until Oliver Cromwell invites them back in the 17th century.

In 1292, the Scottish nobility ask Edward to mediate rival claims to the throne of Scotland. Edward gladly assists, then turns around and declares that Scotland is his vassal state. This gives rise to William Wallace, Robert the Bruce, and the wars for Scottish independence that last into the early 14th century.


Useless Trivia: Edward I has a fearsome reputation as an oppressor of everyone who wasn’t English, but he was very devoted to his wife. He appears to have never been unfaithful to her and after she died, he had crosses erected along the route of her funeral procession as a tribute to her.

Also note that Longshanks is known as Edward I, even though Edward the Confessor came before him. Apparently the Norman invasion reset the numbering system.

Additional Reading:

If you want to know the story behind the picture of Bannockburn, you can find it here on Scotland’s History. (What isn’t mentioned is that the Bruce and de Bohun had bad blood between them predating the battle; that’s why Henry charged the Bruce before the battle was even joined. Also, don’t let the word “river” fool you. Bannockburn is a ditch. Or, if you’re in a generous mood, it’s a creek. But it’s no river by any American standard. It is, of course, possible that it was wider and deeper during the middle ages; reclamation of swamps and narrowing of rivers to make more farmland is a very old practice.)

My 1370’s Blue Cotehardie

Wow, I do still remember my blog password.

Despite the fact that I haven’t been busy here, I’ve actually been quite busy in real life. My husband and I have been doing a lot of re-enactments lately and are very active in our local group. I’ve also been writing a monthly newsletter for two years, which has been really good, but something of a time and creative ideas suck. Stuff I used to do for Medieval Monday and other random medieval blog posts have ended up going into the newsletter instead.

But next month is my last newsletter, so maybe I’ll direct some of my writing back here (if I can get back in the habit of blogging; it’s kind of like exercise in that, if you stop doing it, you get out of shape and it’s really hard to start back up again). At the very least, I can share some of my newsletter articles here.

In addition to that, I’ve been editing The Flames of Prague. I think I have it where I want it and I have a proofreader lined up. I just need to get it sent off to her and let my husband have one last look through it to make sure a couple of chapters that I edited work. Once that’s done, I’m going to enter it into an Arts & Sciences competition. Depending on the comments it gets there, I may do some minor tweaking. But otherwise, I think I’ll publish it the end of January!

I’ve also been busy sewing. This is my newest costuming project.

Unfortunately, it was late in the day when we took these pictures, and we’ve misplaced our camera, so we had to use my husband’s tablet (so the picture quality isn’t as good).

The dress is a medium-weight wool, half-lined in linen. It’s from English Gascony around 1370. (Since most far-western European fashion came out of Paris at this time, my dress is a bit more fashion-forward than that of my contemporaries still living in England. Their necklines won’t drop that low for about another decade.)

JpegThis is configured as a hunting outfit. The dress is just off the ground, so I’m less likely to step on it. The skirt is full (man, is it ever! I thought I was never going to get that thing hemmed!), which makes it very easy to ride (almost all women rode astraddle at this point in time). And my [husband’s] bycocket hat–while worn by men in all sorts of situations–seems to be associated solely with hunting or traveling when worn by women.

I’m dressed for a summer hunt (summer in Europe; this was not terribly fun to wear on a 93 degree day in Mississippi), wearing only my chemise under it. However, I will be making myself a pair of detachable red sleeves that I can pin on which will convert it to winter-wear.

The entire dress is completely handsewn. All of the seams in the wool are sewn open and have a red wool yarn edging decorating (and protecting) the raw edges. (If we can ever find our camera, I’ll take some pictures of the inside.) The lining seams are all flat-felled.

JpegAt the very last minute, I entered this into an A&S competition. I didn’t make this dress to be an entry, but I was so happy with the way it fit, I entered it into the “Costume Review” category, which specifically looks at period patterning and fit. I scored really well on the fit (my documentation–aka research paper–was sorely lacking, since I hand-wrote it in the car on the way to the event without the benefit of a single book), so I’m going to take the time to do my documentation properly and enter it into another A&S competition.

I’d just like to brag that my perky bustline and cleavage is achieved without a bra or any modern undergarments; I’m held aloft by nothing but the two dresses. It’s taken me nearly 13 years of learning to sew and pattern to get to this point.

c 1380 Germany - Trier New York, Morgan Library & Musem MS G64

Some chunky German girls, circa 1380, showing the high bust and fitted dress.

St. Helena wearing a bycocket with a crown on top of it.

St. Helena wearing a bycocket with a crown on top of it.

From Magna Carta to Agincourt to My 600th Post!

This is my 600th post, so I thought I ought to do something special for it. I thought about the fact that June 15 is the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta–a date which is almost upon us. But October 25th is the 600th anniversary of Agincourt, which obviously ties in perfectly with it being my 600th post.

Eh, why not feature both? I’m an over-achiever anyways, and you can never have too much history.

Magna Carta

(This is an article I originally wrote for my local SCA group’s newsletter.)

June 15, 2015 will be the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta. But, while you may have heard of it, you may not know what it did or why it’s gone down in history as one of the most important documents in Western civilization.

From the time of its formation, England was unlike the other kingdoms of Europe. The Anglo-Saxons brought to Britain an idea of kingship by election or right of arms. A king was only king so long as he had the support of his people and he was answerable—at least in some way—to them. If he failed them, then another powerful leader would emerge and challenge his right to the throne. There was no idea of divine right before the coming of Christianity.

In Anglo-Saxon times, kings made promises to their people in their coronation oaths. Later, the Normans—desperate to maintain their control over the Anglo-Saxons—began writing these oaths down as charters. They spelled out and made legally binding (theoretically, anyways) the rights of the nobles, and sometimes also addressed the rights of the Church and even freemen of the realm. Rather than rule with absolute authority—as the kings of France would later do—the kings of England had to barter with their people for their power.

In 1093, William II (the Conqueror’s son) issued a deathbed charter. It’s been lost, but it’s believed that it granted pardon, forgave debts, and promised that his heir would maintain all the currently-existing laws—in short, that he would not renege on anything his father passed which was beneficial to the people. William ended up not dying, though, and it appears that he himself reneged on the charter.

Later, in 1100, his nephew, Henry I, took the throne, even though his older brother was presumably still alive (albeit on Crusade). The previous king, his eldest brother, William Rufus, had not been popular, and the barons—the most powerful nobles in the kingdom at that time—were distrustful of Henry and his motives. So Henry created the Charter of Liberties (also known as the Coronation Charter) as a peace offering. In return for their support, he guaranteed certain protections:

  • The king would not take or sell any property from a Church upon the death of the abbot or bishop.
  • No baron or earl would have to purchase his inheritance.
  • While the barons and earls were supposed to consult with the king regarding the marriage of their kinswomen, the king was not allowed to block any “prudent” marriage. Widows were likewise to consult him regarding their remarriage, and likewise he would not block them if their choice was reasonable. The only thing he barred outright was the marrying of any of his “enemies.”
  • A baroness or countess who was widowed was not to be denied her dowry. The men appointed to oversee the inheritance of minor children were not be impeded.
  • Barons had a right to give away their possessions to charity, so long as they didn’t impoverish their heirs.
  • If barons committed a crime, they were not allowed to buy their way out of it by paying off the crown; they had to stand trial and answer for it as legally proscribed.
  • Knights who rendered military service and provided their own horses were not be required to also give grain and farm goods as a tax.

With the one exception made for the Church, all of Henry I’s guarantees were for nobles only. But it did limit the power of the king by enshrining certain rights. Rather than everything belonging to the king—to give and take at his pleasure—it allowed that at least some people (and the Church) had a legal right to their property—both real and personal; they could give it away or they could freely leave it to their heirs. They also had a right to their own bodies, as evidenced by the fact that the king could not marry the women against their will (“she [the widow] shall be allowed to remarry according to her wishes”), nor could he block a marriage unless it was beyond reasonable.

Unfortunately, the Charter of Liberties was forgotten until King John (of Robin Hood infamy) took the throne and drove a significant number of his barons to the brink of war in 1215 by excessively taxing them for a war in France which he subsequently lost. Also, like his immediate predecessors, he ruled with the idea that he was above the law and could therefore change laws arbitrarily as it suited him. This led to a lack of stability in the kingdom, since no one knew how to plan or act, since what might be legal now may be made illegal tomorrow without warning.


Runnymeade. (The monument was actually placed by the American Bar Association)

At Runnymeade, the Archbishop of Canterbury persuaded the two sides to meet and create a new charter that would avert open rebellion. However, both sides quickly reneged on their promises, the Pope (an ally of the king) revoked the charter, and a revolt happened anyways.

When King John died, his son, Henry III, was still in his minority. The regency government (under the leadership of William the Marshal) reissued the charter (minus a few of the most controversial bits) in 1216, and when peace was finally established in 1217, it officially received the name we now know: Magna Carta. In 1297, Henry’s son, Edward I (Longshanks), reissued the charter and declared it a permanent part of English statutory law.

King John

King John is forced to sign Magna Carta

After Parliament was established and began to issue laws, Magna Carta gradually lost its legal relevancy, although it gained a near-mythic status. When James I and Charles I, in the seventeenth century, tried to claim an absolute monarchy, such as the kings in France had, Magna Carta became a rallying cry for everyone who wanted to keep the power of the king in check. When Charles I refused to accept any limits on his sovereignty, he was executed. The monarchy was restored after the Commonwealth period, but all subsequent kings ruled with the knowledge that they were only there by the will of the people, and the people could withdraw their support if the king didn’t hold up his end of the social contract.

The idea of a government that was limited and that guaranteed certain rights to its citizens was the spark that began the fire of the American Revolution and subsequently generated the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. That is why a copy of one of the Edward I versions of the Magna Carta is housed in our capital alongside our other important documents. Although nowhere near the scope of our own founding documents, it certainly was the seed for all of them.

A Selection of Magna Carta Guarantees and Regulations

  • Guaranteed the freedom of the Church
  • Forbade the exploitation of a ward’s property by his guardian
  • Forbade guardians from marrying a ward to a partner of lower social standing
  • Guaranteed the rights of a widow to promptly receive her dowry and inheritance.
  • Forbade the forced remarriage of widows (also renewed the right of the king to forbid the remarriage of baronesses, within reason)
  • Protected debtors from having their lands seized, so long as they had other means with which to repay their debt
  • Prohibited lords from levying an “aid” (a one-time tax levied solely for the benefit of the lord) on their freemen, except to ransom themselves, pay for their oldest son to be knighted, or pay for their oldest daughter’s wedding.
  • Established a permanent location for the kingdom’s court of law (instead of having court wherever the king wished it)
  • Defined the authority and frequency of county courts.
  • Set standard measurements for wine, ale, grains, and cloth
  • Forbade the trial of anyone based solely on the word of a royal official
  • Forbade the sale of justice, its denial, or its delay
  • Guaranteed the safety and right of free entry and exit to foreign merchants
  • Permitted freemen the right to leave England for short periods of time (wartime being excepted)
  • Encouraged the lower lords to adhere to the same laws as the king

And compare our Constitutional Amendments with these from Magna Carta:

Articles 28, 30, 31: No constable or other royal official shall take corn or other movable goods from any man without immediate payment, unless the seller voluntarily offers postponement of this. No sheriff, royal official, or other person shall take horses or carts for transport from any free man, without his consent. Neither we nor any royal official will take wood for our castle, or for any other purpose, without the consent of the owner.

Amendment 3 and 5: No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law. …[N]or shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Article 39: No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land.

Amendment 6: In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

Article 20: For a trivial offence, a free man shall be fined only in proportion to the degree of his offence, and for a serious offence correspondingly, but not so heavily as to deprive him of his livelihood. In the same way, a merchant shall be spared his merchandise, and a villein the implements of his husbandry, if they fall upon the mercy of a royal court. None of these fines shall be imposed except by the assessment on oath of reputable men of the neighbourhood.

Amendment 8: Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

As part of the celebration of the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, all four remaining copies of the original 1215 version will be on display at the British Museum this year.



Agincourt is the battle which features in Shakespeare’s Henry V.

When Henry V came to the English throne, he made a claim to the French throne as well–as most of his predecessors had done. And, like his predecessors, he was willing to waive his claim to the throne in exchange for money, recognition that English holdings in France were indeed English, and, in his case, a marriage contract with Princess Catherine (which included a hefty dowry). But when the French countered with a marriage contract at half the amount of dowry asked for, no payment of gold, and no recognition of any English lands beside the Aquitaine, Henry was insulted and his Council and Parliament granted his request to declare war against the French.

In the middle ages, wars were almost exclusively waged in the summer when the weather allowed armies to move, food was readily available, and there was little for men to do on their farms. Campaigns generally ended in the fall when it was time to allow the men to go back to their land to get in their harvests. But Henry’s campaign into France didn’t start until rather late in the summer–August–and it began by besieging the port city of Harfleur. The city held for a little over a month, and by the time the English army had come to terms with the city and broke camp, it was October 8. But Henry couldn’t be sure that Parliament would grant him war taxes again the following year for another campaign–especially as taking only one city was hardly the sort of stuff to inspire people to endure another year of war and taxes. So instead of returning home, he headed towards Calais, seeking a richer prize before winter.

But the siege had created disease in his army (as sieges often did, mainly due to poor sanitation), and his army–which had never been terribly large–lost a lot of men along the way to dysentery, poor rations, and the hard marching conditions in increasingly bad weather. In fact, many of the men were so plagued by “the runs,” they stopped wearing underwear and rolled their hosen down to their knees or ankles so that they could squat on the side of the road and go without impediment.

Henry’s army had only 6,000-9,000 men when they were stopped by 12,000-36,000 French soldiers in a narrow strip of farmland between two forests and the road to Calais. There was nowhere for the English to go and there were even more French troops on the way. There was nothing for them to do but fight.

But, while it initially looked like the French had bottled up the English–giving them no choice but to stand and fight while still weak–the terrain actually worked in favor of the English, because–like the Spartans holding Thermopylae–the great numbers of French troops were funneled into a relatively small front, keeping them from outflanking the English army and negating their superior numbers.

Also, Henry’s army was made up primarily of longbowmen–anywhere from 3/4ths to 4/5ths of the soldiers were archers. The French were forced to come at the English while under constant arrowfire. The average English archer was capable of shooting up to 10 rounds per minute. Imagine, if you will, some 48,000 arrows flying through the air every minute, and you will understand why medieval witnesses to such battles said that the sky was darkened by arrows.

The French sent in their cavalry (as in most medieval battles, the bulk of the French knights fought on foot, so the cavalry was just a small portion of their army), but they found the English archers were well-protected behind a wall of sharpened stakes, which kept the knights from mowing down the lightly-armored archers. The French horses, however, were also lightly armored, and it was they who took the brunt of the archerfire. Wounded, the horses panicked, and the ones who didn’t go down, taking their riders with them, bolted back towards the French lines, where, instead, they mowed down their own troops as the first line of French infantry were moving up.

The horses also tore up the ground–which had been plowed post-harvest–and made even muddier by heavy fall rains. The French infantry found themselves trying to slog through mud said to have been knee-deep in places–all while under a constant rain of arrows. Then, to compound matters even worse, additional French foot soldiers were sent in too soon behind the first wave. The first men, slowed by the mud and their own dead and wounded, were soon joined by even more men trying to walk through even worse mud and even more dead and wounded. The press of the living and the dead slowed them up even more and sapped them of their strength. The heavily-armored French knights began to literally drown under the weight of their own armor as they were knocked down or struck by an arrow and found they were not able to get out of the mud under their own power. Contemporary French chroniclers said that there were knights who drowned in their own helmets because they became stuck, face-down, in the mud.

Those who survived the 300 yard death march found themselves in a meat grinder–engaging the English men-at-arms at the center of the English lines while the longbowmen on the edges of the line continued to fire at their flanks at near point-blank range. At such a short distance, the arrows were able to pierce all but the hardest and thickest pieces of armor (typically the helmet and breastplate), making the armor all but useless.

When the English archers ran out of arrows, they switched to their side swords, axes, maces, etc. hand weapons, and pushed in to the fray. Their light armor made it easier for them to cross the muddy fields and the French were so exhausted by this point, it was easy for the archers to hack down the flower of French chivalry.

The battle lasted approximately three hours. In that time, it is estimated that 7,000-10,000 French soldiers were killed while only 112 Englishmen were said to have died. And a portion of those dead were the members of the baggage train, who were attacked by a small French unit which managed to get behind the English army.



Hair I Am

We’re coming into the summer season and that means lots of re-enactment events to attend. We did two in a row, plus went to a friend’s house the weekend before that to be her taste-testers for the dishes she was cooking for a feast. Now it’s time to hermit a little before the next round begins.

Me by Jennifer Morrow-BruckA couple of weekends ago, I went down Georgia to teach some classes. A lady at the event snapped a good picture of me in my May Day flowers.


A women weaving flowers into a wreath.


Chaplets made from greenery.


The woman in red appears to have a flower wreath. The others are probably wearing metal circlets, but the little circles may represent flowers (we know from effigies that they wore metal flowers on circlets).

Women, especially unmarried girls, usually wore flowers in their hair on May Day and certain other holidays during the middle ages. Weddings were also a favorite time to wear flowers.

Me with sewn braidsLast weekend, I sewed my braids with gold and pearls, but this is the only picture I have from the event.

It was a bit time-consuming to do, but not as difficult as you would think. I braided my hair at my temples, as I normally do, then folded it into thirds so that the end of my hair was sandwiched between the other two parts. Then I tied a knot into a heavy gold thread and sewed the two halves together following the pattern of my braid. When I was done, I ran the remainder of the thread down the backside of the braid, tucking it behind the other threads, and left it unknotted (so that I could undo it at the end of the day). Then I switched a beading thread and knotted that around the end of a pearl. I sewed the pearls to the braids everywhere the strands of the braid crossed. Then I ran the tail of the thread down the back of the braid, too. At the end of the day, I was able to pull it all out without cutting any of it, so it’s useable again.

And, actually, I did all of this the night before, then put on my husband’s coif and slept on it. I often get two wears out of my braids that way, but never when they’re put up like that; normally I take my braids down, pull them into a scrunchy behind my head, then put on a coif. That doesn’t bother me, because they’re really not in the way. I don’t recommend sleeping in this style, though–especially if you’re a side sleeper like me. It might not be so bad if you sleep on your back or stomach.

I want to put together a class on how to fix your hair in various 14th century hairstyles. I also want to play with creating fake braids and practice making faux braids on a friend with short hair so everyone can have the most iconic hair of the middle ages.

When I was looking back at some pictures of myself, I realized I can really channel Philippa of Hainault when I want to.




A-Viking We A-Went

I don’t think I ever put the results of my first Viking clothing experiment up. (One busy month faded into another, into three.)

Of course, it was finished at the last possible minute and my sewing machine (my really expensive one) died in the process. (That’ll be $100, minimum, to get adjusted.) But, even though it could still use a few tweaks, it looks great.

DSCN0406 These are the pants. Pleating the legs into the band was the hardest part (but, surprisingly, not that terrible).

I almost forgot to get pictures of the final product. I only thought about it when it got late and people started to leave. And, since we had forgotten our camera, we had a friend take a few pictures with his iPad.

Here’s Stuart, doing his best Viking impression: taking the Anglo-Saxon woman hostage.

John's Memorial 2John's MemorialHere we are, reconciled. (Or maybe I’m just pretending to be happy and really plan on killing him in his sleep. You never know.)

I made the colored bands to go across the chest of the coat, but he decided, at the last minute, that he didn’t want them (leaving them off saved time, so I really didn’t complain). Underneath the coat is a plain gold tunic (I didn’t have time to sew embroidery onto it because my machine broke). The collar on the coat came directly off the original fur coat. I cut it off in one piece, put it on the Viking coat, we agreed we liked it, so I just stitched it on. That was a lot faster and easier than cutting a collar out myself.

On the whole, I really like the way it looks. Early-period isn’t a time frame we’re terribly interested in playing in, but it’s nice to have something we can wear when there’s a themed event. Eventually, I’d like to have one outfit from every major clothing epoch, so I’m covered no matter what the theme.

And speaking of making clothes, I’m making myself a new dress. I went to Sir’s a couple of months ago and loaded up on some of their wool remnants ($7.99/yd, with 20% off!). I got enough for me two dresses and Stuart a cotehardie (plus some linen for Stuart another cotehardie). Coming back from Gulf Wars always makes me feel inspired and crafty, and we’re looking at doing some stuff with some other reenactors in the next year or two that’s a step up in historical authenticity. My ultimate goal is to get my clothing looking as authentic as what the reenactors in Europe are wearing. (My sources of inspiration: Katafalk, Medieval Silkwork, and Neulakko)

Gulf Wars 24

A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I went on our annual trip (annual when we can afford it, that is; we’ve missed the past two) to Gulf Wars, a week-long SCA event just south of Hattiesburg, MS.

I had every intention of taking lots of pictures and some video, but between taking classes, teaching classes, and getting a cold partway through the week, I took almost none. (We were not with it this War. It’s like, after missing two years in a row, we forgot what we were doing. We waited until the absolute last minute to pack and did a half-assed job with stuff we normally take more seriously.)

But, we did manage to get a few pictures (and I’ll add in some old ones, so you can see a little more).

HomeSo, to start with, here is our home away from home. We’re still in the process of setting up, so there’s no furniture in it yet, but when it’s fully set up, we have a full-size bed (with a real mattress), a clothes rack, pantry shelves, and a dressing table and stool. Oh, and we also use a propane heater when it’s cold (we only used it the first night to burn off the damp; the rest of the week it was plenty warm–even hot, during the day).

While setting up, Stuart managed to pull an entire water spigot out of the ground. Hitting water lines/sprinkler systems with tent stakes, backing over spigots, etc. is so common in the SCA, we jokingly refer to these incidents as finding a “miraculous spring.” Stuart might have a first for ripping up a spigot with his bare hands, though.

Holy Well

The Miraculous Well of the Blessed St. Stuart



The Miraculous Well of St. Martin. Note the sacred pick-ax (painted gold) and the reliquary box (which contains broken pieces of PVC pipe).

Some folks down the road built a shrine to their miraculous spring (although it wasn’t out this year; I guess they couldn’t make it to War).

While almost everyone camps in tents, a few enterprising people have built themselves houses (this is next on mine and Stuart’s to-do list).

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(Not being the carpenter/constructor types, we plan on buying a pre-built storage building and altering it to appear medieval.)

Some encampments have fancy gates.

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There are even a couple of large, public buildings on site:


The Viking longhouse. (It’s very neat on the inside. In the evenings, they build a fire in the central hearth and there are seat/bed platforms around the walls where you can hang out and chat with people.)

The Green Dragon. This is a semi-functioning pub (alcoholic beverages aren’t sold). They have different performances every evening–sometimes two per evening. (Inside is also very neat. They have a tiny musician’s loft above the bar. The doors have medieval counterweights to make them self-closing, and when it’s cold, they’ll light a fire in the big cauldron in the middle of the floor.)

We eventually want to put a gate up on our land, but our house will probably end up happening first. (Again, no carpentry skills–not to mention, it’s an 8+ hour drive for everyone in our camp, which means we can’t just run down there for a work weekend and throw up a gate.)

But, that being said, we did have one work weekend year-before-last, when we built ourselves a fire pit.

Child Labor

Hmm… maybe this is why we can’t get anything built in a timely fashion. …We need more child labor!



The finished fire pit.

So, now that you’ve seen how we live, let me show you what we do.

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But, it’s not all fighting. There are massive amounts of classes, Arts & Sciences displays and workshops, dancing, parties, fencing, hound coursing, and equestrian (to name a few things).

There is also archery and thrown weapons. Stuart bought a new longbow at War and went to the archery range to try it out.

ArcheryWe also spent some time at the falconry tent

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I had assumed that people hunted with birds for food–that the birds would get you a rabbit for your dinner. But, in reality, you end up feeding them pretty much everything they catch, and then some (they don’t hunt with them at certain times of the year). The owners actually raise pigeons to feed the birds when they’re not hunting with them (pigeons and doves were commonly raised in the middle ages, too, and no doubt some of them went to the birds). If they catch anything big, like a rabbit, then that gets put into the freezer to be fed to them a piece at a time.

The purpose of hawking in the middle ages, then, wasn’t to use birds to catch yourself dinner, but just to watch them hunt and kill something. Part of the reason why only nobles could have birds (besides sumptuary laws, which strictly relegated who could own what kind of bird) was that they were expensive to maintain. Not only did you have to feed it when it couldn’t feed itself, but you pretty well had to have a full-time falconer to take care of your birds.

And these birds are not really tame–not like your cat or dog or even a domesticated bird. One of the falconers explained that they kept bells on the birds’ feet so that they could hear them if they flew away. She said that at a previous War, one man let his loose and the bird never came back. And she said she had one to get away from her when she was hunting with it. It got a squirrel and then decided that it needed to hide and eat, so he flew off into the brush. She was only able to track him down by listening to his bells when he moved his feet.

The only reason why any of them stay with their human handlers is because they know they can always get a free and easy meal. I seem to recall, from a conversation I had with one of the falconers several years ago, that they were only allowed to keep some of the endangered ones for a few years, while they were juveniles (because juveniles have a high rate of mortality in the wild). After that, they had to release them. And, in fact, barring age or injury, any of these birds could go back to the wild at any time–unlike truly domesticated animals.

I asked the falconer one year how they managed to gentle the birds, and he said that after wild-catching one, he would sit in a recliner in his basement, take the bird out of its box, and hold it until it quit beating its wings (while watching TV–because it could take a while). When it had tired itself out and calmed down, then he would feed it. After that, he would feed it and handle it regularly and it would quickly come to associate people with food, so it wouldn’t fight when it was taken out of its box. When it was pretty well-behaved, they could leave it out on a perch in the house, where it would spend additional time around other people and around the other birds. (The smaller birds are naturally afraid of the larger ones, but after a while, when they figure out that the large ones can’t get to them, they calm down around them.)

Unfortunately, after we got home from War, we found out that the people who owned all the birds, save the male hawk, had a car fire on their way back home. They managed to get out of the car in time, but all of their birds died. A couple of different groups of people are working on raising money to help them replace their birds. (They are licensed to wild-catch some species, but some of the ones pictured are not native to their part of the U.S. and have to be bought or traded for.)

Plundering My Own Fabric Horde

So, how are things going with my writing and sewing projects? Well, despite the slow start, they’re going surprisingly well. I’ve made it a point to dedicate one hour each night to each project (I even have time to get in an hour of Sims, too!), and that’s keeping me well on track. I’m also getting 45-60 minutes of writing in at lunch every day, and between the two sessions, I’ve been more than making my daily word counts. I’m still hopeful that I will have my story done by the end of November.

I have to admit that I feel like an old pro tackling NaNo. I’ve conquered it three times (and failed it once), and I’ve had a lot of practice writing in between years. Working on a story that’s already somewhat plotted, I can write 800-1,200 words in an hour. Once, 1,667 words a day seemed like a monumental task, but now I can toss that out in my spare time without thinking anything about it. The old adage about things getting easier the more you practice applies to writing as well.

(And if it’s true that everyone has a million words of crap in them, I’m getting close to reaching that goal as well! My fanfic is over 300,000 words, and each of my books come in at 100,000 to nearly 200,000 words each (pre-edit). Not even counting blog posts, I think I’ve probably hit that goal. So maybe everything I write from now on will be gold! LOL)

As requested, here are some pictures of my sewing project. These are the pants.


I put a boot on one leg so you can see how it’s supposed to blouse over the top of the boot.


A close up. Pleating the leg to the cuff was a bitch, but it looks fab!

The fabric is a light sage-green flannel that is so nice and soft. And because these pants are so loose (I have them pinned tightly to my dummy; they’ll be even looser on my husband), they should be really comfortable to wear all day.

I ended up changing my mind about the color scheme when I found this fabric in the back of my closet. I’m still going to use the dark green linsey-woolsey for the coat (it will contrast nicely with these light pants), but I’m going to use some more found fabric–a dark gold cotton twill–for the tunic. It’s not as colorful as I initially wanted, but it pairs well and I already had all of it. (And someone gave me the gold fabric, so it didn’t even cost anything.) I’m going to do some quickie embroidery on the tunic for a little splash of color, then there will be the fox fur on the coat.


A reminder of what I’m aiming for.