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Book Gleanings

I’ve got time to read these days. I’m no scholar, but I’ve been reading all kinds of books on the Middle Ages for 50 years, and I still find new tidbits (or maybe these are things I’ve forgotten), but when I find something of interest to me, something new and unknown, I often jot it down inside the cover or on the book mark.

Book Gleanings are the notes from the latest tomes I’ve read, expanded somewhat so that the reader can understand them too. These are not the basic facts of the Middle Ages, but generally will be details not necessary for the Pendragon game, or specific vocabulary, or just obscure facts and events, and other unique, strange or amusing strange things.

Life in a Medieval Castle cover

From Life in a Medieval Castle

Joseph & Frances Gies

I’ve recently read two other books by J&F Gies, and I will recommend any book about the Middle Ages that's by them, to anyone with an interest in the subject. They manage to cover the broadest, most introductory facts for the novice, yet contain enough intimate detail and new information to fascinate the aficionado like me. Here are my notes from this book.

Favorite Thing: The Curse on William Marshall!
The most incredible thing I learned here was that my favorite knight, Sir William Marshall, was cursed. This isn’t in his official biography!
He owned a lot of land in Ireland, and in pursuit of his honors he took a couple of manors from an Irish abbey, and refused to return them as they were supposed to be his. As a result of that the Irish bishop excommunicated him. He didn’t care, apparently, because he never did anything about it for the rest of his life. But his dutiful son did care, and he asked the bishop to remove the curse from his dead father. The bishop came to William’s tomb in London, and there publicly announced that he’d absolve William if the manors were returned, but if not, he’d curse him to hell and also curse all his sons, to die without issue. The sons refused. They all died, one after the other, and none left issue.
This is also another colorful example of those Christian Irish monks and their colorful ability to curse.

p 25
chemise, French name for the curtain wall built in close to the keep

Page 95.
A lord’s household is divided into two parts:
the mesnie, of military personnel (knights, guards, squires, men-at-arms, a porter, watchmen; and
domestic staff (elsewhere called famulia

This is the a payment due to the lord, so a knight can acquire his inheritance
By the end of the 12th century, this had been standardized to be equal to one year of income.

Aide, especially for ransom of the lord.
First, this could be applied many times, not just once (as I had thought).
This became standardized by the end of the 12th century to be that a payment for any aide was equal to 5% of the annual income of an estate.

After a while, a lord’s household typically had two stewards, one for the estate and one for the household (which I’m labeling “dapifer” from other sources.).

Rugs, as used on the floor, came into use in the 14th century.

P 104, 108
Household Jobs: these are some positions in the larger households, which have many servants, not just a manorial one.
General: candle maker, sauce cook, poulterer; boy helpers for any of them
For Chamberlain: cofferer, keeper of wardrobe, tailor, laundress
For Marshall: groom, smith, carter, clerk, purchaser,
For Chaplian: clerk, errander, purchaser, almoner
Personal assistants: chambermaid, barber
In Hall: porter, usher, server

p 110. Fabrics:
Usually wool
Fine silks, such as samite, sandal (taffeta), damask (a kind of brocade)
Camlet, from Cyprus, is woven camel or goat hair
Fur trim: squirrel, lambskin rabbit, miniver, otter, marten, beaver, fox, ermine, sable
Decorations: tassels, embroidery, feathers, pearls

Bringing new land under the plow

Boons, or benes, are the work benefits that commoners get from their lords, who feed them various amounts for their work. Benes were classified according to what the lord paid:
Alebidreap, when he gives ale
Waterbidreap, when he gives water
hunger bidreap, when he gives nothing
dryreap, when there is no ale

“sporting chance”
At the end of the harvest working day the lord gives his workers a “sporting chance.”
Perhaps it is as much hay as he can life with his scythe, or a sheep loosed in the field—if they can catch it, they can eat it.

The manorial court, where the lord oversees and pockets the fines

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