Monday, May 22, 2017

Digging into the Details

You just might be a medievalist if...stumbling on a medieval map excites you!


The map given here is an enlargement from Mad-Irishman Productions.  In researching the area where a certain event will take place, I needed to know the landscape.  Google maps is one way to go, but, while it can tell us something about whether the land itself is flat or hilly, (the Pennines begin approximately ten miles from Carlisle), it can't tell us how forested the area might have been in medieval times.

Mad Irishman's map was the first I found in my search that gave an idea of what areas might have been forested vs. what was fields.  Of course, since he designs maps for role-playing games, the next question was how historically accurate it is.  Cross-checking with today's maps tells me towns and hills and rivers are indeed where they belong.  But it's always good to check multiple sources.

What I found was that searching for landscape Cumbria leads me to multiple offers to take care of my yard.  A new search term, however, lands me on a page that says de-forestation was taking place around the 6th century--as evidenced by pollen records.  It does not, however, specify what parts of Cumbria, never mind a detail like whether the land to the north or south of Carlisle was forested or farmland.

The fun--and frustration--of research is the many rabbit holes waiting to snare us and whisk away the whole day we thought we had!  In searching for an answer as to where Niall lays his trap, I find that silver was discovered near Carlisle in 1133, resulting in silver mines stretching across Cumberland, Durham, and Northumberland.  It doesn't say, however, how long the mining lasted, or what the lasting results to the landscape were.

The map below comes from Free Pages Genealogy, and is a reprint of a1610 map.  It's harder to read, but does seem to suggest, like Patrick's map, that the forestation was south of Carlisle.  It doesn't answer the question of what was there in January of 1319--but it's much closer to the time than looking at Google Maps.


Written sources tell us something of the waxing and waning of the forests in England.  They grew throughout the 12th century.  They grew, especially in Yorkshire, under Henry I and that expansion grew under Henry II until the forests covered 20% of England.  One source says that all of Essex was forestland. 

However, by Niall's birth--the late 13th century--the forests had begun to wane.  1300 was the time of 'The Great Perambulation,' the culmination of pressure on the king to reduce the size of the forests.  They continued to shrink throughout the 14th century.

None of this tells me whether there were forests both to the north and the south of Carlisle, but one interesting story keeps popping up in any search regarding the forests of medieval Cumbria: It is closely associated with Arthurian Legend.  In fact, some suggest that the poem of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, written in the late 14th century, is set in Inglewood Forest, which our maps show just south of Carlisle.  It has also been suggested that the black horses Arthur and his knights often rode might be the Fell Ponies.  To read more about this, click here.

Another question for the historical novelist becomes: How much does it matter whether I claim Niall laid his trap in a forest to the north or to the south of Carlisle?  Or can I just cleverly avoid saying whether it was north or south?  It doesn't really change the story, the plot, the outcome of the scene, or anything about Niall's or anyone else's character, which direction the forest lies from Carlisle.  So why all this work?

I can only answer: There were no potatoes in Sherwood. 

Years ago, someone I knew was reading a novel (yet another novel) about Robin Hood.  He reached the part where Robin Hood and his men were happily munching potatoes.  In medieval Sherwood.  Potatoes did not exist in that time and place.  The suspension of disbelief had been broken.  He could no longer believe he was in the world the novelist had worked so hard to create, because of this slip.

The difficulty, of course, is that there can be thousands of details in a single novel.  And to someone who actually knows about the landscape and forests of Cumbria in the early 1300s, such a detail may become glaring.

However, I see reasons other than that to seek the answers to such details.  I invariably learn more about the world Niall lived in, its culture, its background.  Over the past few days, I've posted about Bishop Irton, who died around the time of Niall's birth and was likely busy (at least on the anniversary of his death) haunting Linstock Castle by the time Niall arrives there.  I now know that Niall may well have been familiar with the legends of Arthur and known he was in the forest--Inglewood--where perhaps the story of Gawain and the Green Knight took place.

Knowing these details of a person's life deepens our understanding of them and allows us to paint them more vividly.  Maybe Niall will never announce out loud, "Hey, isn't this where Sir Gawain met the Green Knight?" but just as an author doesn't tell every bit of background they know, for a setting, just knowing it helps us present it vividly.  So too with personal background and cultural background.

There's another reason for all this research.  It's fun!



COMING UP:
  • Hiking the Grand Canyon, and other adventures on the road
  • Guest posts: Megan Easley-Walsh and Lorrie Holmgren
  • Last Sunday in May, 10 am: Books and Brews with Lorrie Holmgren, mystery author
  • June 24, 2017, 3 to 5 pm: Reading at Eat My Words Books with Michael Agnew
  • October 2017: Author Talk and Book Festival in Appleton, Wisconsin
  • January 9, 2018: Talk with the Edinburgh Book Club
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Saturday, May 20, 2017

Murder on Madeline Island

Dear Readers,

Since January, 2017, I've been hosting Books and Brews with Laura Vosika on 950 AM here in the Twin Cities.  We talk to an author (or two) each month, and Michael Agnew, Minnesota's first beer cicerone, matches beers to the poetry and books we're discussing.  It has been a lot of fun!  We have talked with:
  • Michael Dean, poet and author of Seashells
  • Ross Kramer from Russia and Dr. Christopher Powell on Russian literature and Russian beer
  • Tom Dahill and Genny Johnson on Irish music and their new book Danny Who? and of course...Irish beer [Side note, and no pun intended given my comment is about music, but...am I the only Celtic harpist who hates Danny Boy?  OMG...I hate that song.  I am so sick of it.  Oops, ahem, cough, not that I have strong opinions but...back to our regularly scheduled, non-emotional comments....Except, I definitely saw the humor in the title and the story behind it!] I had a lot of fun with Tom and Genny and playing a bit of flute on some Irish tunes.
  • Poet Andrew Coons:on his first book Sin Eater, on poetry and depression and the healing power of poetry and literature.  The healing power of the arts...it's something Amy and Angus very briefly discuss on their way to Monadhliath in The Water is Wide.
We are currently hoping to expand Books and Brews with Laura Vosika to a weekly program, and to that end, are seeking sponsors for the program.  If you have a business that wants to advertise, let me know!

Coming up on May's program is Lorrie Holmgren, Minnesota mystery author.  I'm especially interested to hear about Lorrie's novel because I've been to Madeline Island.  It was a deep and dark winter and I think my second time in Bayport, Wisconsin, when Someone With a Car told me it would be a great idea to drive across a lake.  Normally, I'm not up for driving across lakes, unless I happen to be the proud owner of Chitty-Chitty Bang Bang (we LOVE you!  Really...we really really love you!  Even as much as we love Sally Fields!)

Maybe it's because, despite my Minnesota roots, I didn't actually grow up here.  I know that Minnesotans have entire shanty villages on ice all winter long and routinely drive vehicles out on ice, but--despite my heritage being here, I grew up in the military, in places like...Virginia and...Mississippi, where you don't drive on lakes...because if you do, you sort of...die.

Anyway, Westering Home  was not yet out at the time that Someone With a Car told me it would be a great idea to drive across a lake .  I believe I sent a copy of the novel via e-mail to several people just in case the Car in Question sank beneath the Ice in Question.  However, because the ice does in fact get extremely thick, we drove across quite safely (and like Shawn in medieval Scotland, I exclaimed, I'm alive!) and...that is my story of seeing Madeline Island.

Honestly, I remember liking it, liking the houses I saw, thinking what a great place to live...but mainly being very deeply engrossed in gratitude that I had not fallen beneath the ice. 

[Side note: I was in a Mercedes.  Hey, if you're going to die, and you don't have a Silver Thunderbird, a Mercedes isn't a bad Door Two.  All the same, not to diss Mercedes or anything, but I'm kind of glad I didn't die under the ice that day.]

The point of it all is--I'm looking forward to meeting Lorrie because I've actually been to Madeline Island, and now neat to find a novel set there!  It's a unique place, and you should tune in to Books and Brews to hear more about it!  I, myself, am looking forward to hearing more about it.

With no further a-do (and definitely no a-don't) I will turn the floor (or the pixels as the case may be) over to Lorrie!

Welcome, Lorrie!

I’m delighted to have the opportunity to be a guest on Books and Brews on Sunday, May 28 at 10 am on 950 AM Progressive Radio.  I’ll be talking with Laura Vosika, author of The Blue Bells Chronicles, and Michael Agnew, craft beer expert, about Murder on Madeline Island, an Emily Swift Travel Mystery.

Pairing beers with stories and poems is a great idea.  I like beer; I like books.  Combining them will definitely work.  I can’t wait to hear what beers Michael will pick to complement Murder on Madeline Island.

In the novel, when travel writer Emily Swift joins her boyfriend for a romantic getaway, she’s eager to explore beautiful Madeline Island.  But after she finds a dead lawyer in an abandoned refrigerator, Emily finds herself accused of murder and she has to find the real killer in order to clear her name.  The case draws her into romantic confusion, a surprising will, a search for a long-lost Ojibwe relative, and a tangled family tree. 
 
This is a book to read on a summer day after you’ve been working hard, mowing the grass or biking around the lake. Then it’s time to take a break, relax in the hammock with a good mystery and an ice cold beer. (I bet Michael is going to tell me it shouldn’t be ice cold.  We’ll see.)

I’m really looking forward to meeting Laura Vosika.  I’ve enjoyed exploring her website, filled with gorgeous photos of Scotland, Celtic myths and lore as well as information about her very popular Blue Bells Chronicles. (My husband is a descendant of the Comyns on his mother’s side so I was especially interested in seeing a story about that clan.)  

You can buy Murder on Madeline Island on Amazon as a book or Kindle or at Once Upon a Crime Bookstore in Minneapolis.

Visit me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/lorrieholmgrenauthor

Or my website at www.lorrieholmgren.com



COMING UP:
  • Hiking the Grand Canyon, and other adventures on the road
  • Guest posts: Megan Easley-Walsh and Lorrie Holmgren (Would you like to be featured here?)
  • Last Sunday in May, 10 am: Books and Brews with Lorrie Holmgren, mystery author
  • June 24, 2017, 3 to 5 pm: Reading at Eat My Words Books with Michael Agnew
  • October 2017: Author Talk and Book Festival in Appleton, Wisconsin
  • January 9, 2018: Talk with the Edinburgh Book Club
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Friday, May 19, 2017

Bishop Irton: the Conclusion of the Haunting Tale

I started some background on the times of the Ghost of Linstock--one Bishop Ireton on Wednesday.  Thursday's post talked about Bishop Irton's early life, the contention with Edward I over his election as bishop of Carlisle, and the Grey Friars' dislike of him.

The Franciscans of Carlisle are believed by some to be the authors of the famous Chronicle of Lanercost--a valuable source in knowing the medieval history of England and Scotland.  From it (and presumably from other sources), we know that Bishop Irton loved to visit his clerics.  And these visits apparently invariably ended up costing them money they could scarce afford.  In October 1280--just months after his ordination in Rome on March 25--he claimed a tenth of the income of a diocesan council, and in addition, insisted on terms not to their liking: paying on real valuation, not traditional, and paying in the new money.

He extorted (such an ugly word and one I'm sure Bishop Irton himself did not use) money from the poverty-stricken anniversary priests, whose livelihood came from saying private masses.

The money, at least in part, went to improving the cathedral at Carlisle: a new roof, glass, and stall work.

In 1282, he caused further anger by claiming the church of Addingham and granting it to his cathedral prior, though in truth Christiana Bruce had already made this grant and he only confirmed it. 

[Is this Christiana Bruce the same Christina Bruce, sister of Robert the Bruce?  A quick glance turns up no other Christiana Bruce, but Robert's sister would have been approximately 4 years old in 1282 and therefore was unlikely to be granting anything to anyone.  A private user on Geni lists Christiana/Christian de Brus, born 1246, as the daughter of Robert de Brus, 5th Lord of Annandale and Isabel de Clare, although more basic sources fail to mention more than two sons for him. 

Given that this Christiana died in 1275, that in those days many Scottish nobles also owned lands in England, and that Geni lists her father's 'occupation' as [ahem...sound the trumpets please!]
  • Lord of Ireby,
  • Constable of Carlisle Castle,
  • Sheriff of Cumberland,
  • 5th Lord of Annandale,
  • (trumpet player, quick breath and another flourish please!)
  • 5th Lord of Annadale de Bruce,
  • Regent of Scotland,
  • Governor of Carlisle Castle and last but not least (well, maybe it is).....
  • Sheriff of Cumberland

....well, seeing the family connection to Carlisle (which in all my research I have only just now found) it seems this Christiana Bruce may well have been granting lands to and fro in that area.]

And (back to our story) poor Bishop Irton got the blame for it.  Of course, given his reputation for wringing money out of poor clergy, he apparently wasn't that poor.

Not content with getting the blame for confirming her grant, he went on in 1287 to confirm another grant, this time of Bride Kirk, to Gisburne.  He regained Dalston manor and church both from Sir Michael Harclay.  At the risk of getting sucked down another rabbit hole, I'll give a link to more information on Michael Harclay and just say at the moment, he was the father of Andrew Harclay, who later held Carlisle, and whom Shawn encounters in The Water is Wide--who could forget The Lasses in Andrew's Orchard!  (Hey, Judd, there's another song for you to write!)

But I digress.  (Oh, and the trumpet player, you can stop now.) 

Also among Bishop Irton's financial activities were his attempts to requisition the tithes of Inglewood Forest for his chapter.  He failed.

With scanty information on Bishop Irton, I do think it's fair to point out that his reputation includes foresight and wisdom--along with greed.  Given the running of a large diocese and many parishes, he likely felt a great need for the money to make many things happen--such as repairing a roof, which is typically a costly endeavor.  Yet it is easy to see how it felt from the other side--those who contributed to all these projects and causes.

Like many bishops of the time, Irton was politically active.  He went with Bishop Anthony Bek to negotiate the marriage between Edward II and Margaret, the Maid of Norway--who did not survive the journey to Scotland.  The Treaty of Birgham was signed on July 18, 1290.

In 1291, there was a series of meetings between Edward I and the Guardians of Scotland--at least one in Norham and thirteen of these at Berwick from May to August.  Bishop Irton was present and must certainly have crossed paths with both William Wallace and Robert de Brus, Bruce's father, if not Bruce himself.

These are the details of history that make writing fascinating.  Irton would likely have been in his late 50s by now, possibly quite a bit older, while Robert the Bruce would have had his 17th birthday in the midst of these meetings.

Also in 1291, Irton was assigned the duty, along with the Bishop of Caithness, of collecting the crusading tenth in Scotland.  One can only imagine that may have been a strenuous job for a man who was getting quite old by the standards of the time.  By January 1292, he had traveled to London for a parliament, returning to Linstock (yes, we're finally getting around to Linstock!), the manor home of the Bishops of Carlisle, in late February.

He died suddenly there of a burst vein, on March 1.  One source says possibly February 28.  Presumably he died in the night and no one really knows which side of midnight he made that great crossing.  It does make one think how much we value dates, however, when in truth it doesn't really matter if he died a few hours before or after the day changed. 

He has come down in history as a man of foresight, wisdom...and greed.  He was buried at Carlisle Cathedral and just months later, on May 25, a great fire destroyed much of his new work and also his very tomb.

It was said that this was God's judgment for his years of extorting money from poor clerics.

And his ghost is now said to appear at Linstock Castle every year on the anniversary of his death.

The story raises questions--as does every ghost story.  What are people really seeing at Linstock?  Why do they believe it's Bishop Irton?  Was he as avaricious as reputed or merely trying to get a job done and not realizing the impact of his demands on others?  Would a man be condemned to haunt his death place for centuries for this?  Why then aren't there a great many more ghosts, since he's certainly not alone in that sin?

As a writer, I'm curious if the stories of his haunting had arisen by 1317--25 years after his death--as Niall, Hugh, and Conal look on.  My guess, if people immediately claimed the fire and destruction of his tomb, just months after his death, as divine retribution, is that yes, there were rumors of his annual presence long before 1317.

How might MacDougall feel, staying in a place where he can expect a ghostly visit on March 1?  More intriguing still--at least to me--is the fact that Alexander MacDougall, having been a young Scottish lord during those meetings at Norham and Berwick, would have met Bishop Irton.  Does he view the prospect of a haunting from one he knew differently than from a nameless, unknown wraith?

Also, as a writer, I have to ask myself: would the ghost of Bishop Irton even have any place in this story?  We can't put information into a book just because it's interesting.  It has to fit with the events and the characters.  And I'm thinking there is one man who will be at Linstock who would have some thoughts about potentially meeting the spirit of one he knew in life.



COMING UP:
  • Hiking the Grand Canyon, and other adventures on the road
  • Guest posts: Megan Easley-Walsh and Lorrie Holmgren (Would you like to be featured here?)
  • Last Sunday in May, 10 am: Books and Brews with Lorrie Holmgren, mystery author
  • June 24, 2017, 3 to 5 pm: Reading at Eat My Words Books with Michael Agnew
  • October 2017: Author Talk and Book Festival in Appleton, Wisconsin
  • January 9, 2018: Talk with the Edinburgh Book Club
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Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Ghost of Linstock, Part 2

I set some background on the story of the Ghost of Linstock yesterday--one Bishop Ireton.  Assuming belief in ghosts at all, it's an interesting question, what sort of a person, what sort of a life, leads to Ghosthood.  So who was this Bishop who Became a Ghost?  (The Reverend who Returned as a Wraith?)

Initially, very little turns up on a search for Bishop Ireton, or Irton as spelled on some sites, or Bishop Irton Linstock (or Lynstock as it was once spelled), except that he died in 1283 and his ghost is said to appear at Linstock on the anniversary of his death and that in 1282 he referred to St. Mary's Chapel at Little Salkeld--the previous name of the church now known as the Church of St. Michael and All Angels. 

Not much left to tell of a life that must have spanned at least 60 years and possibly much more.

This site that speaks of this reference, however, calls him Bishop Irton of Carlisle, and a search on that leads us to Ralph of Irton, which tells us that he actually died on March 1, 1282.  Now a little more information turns up.  He was first a canon at Gisborough Priory, and elected as its prior between 1257 and 1261, and later elected to Carlisle on December 14 of 1278, after William de Rotherfeld refused the position.

King Edward (the elder Edward, Longshanks) objected to the election on the grounds that he had not granted a new license after de Rotherfeld's refusal.  Ralph took the matter to Pope Nicholas who, we are told, 'quashed the election,' yet still gave the see to Irton.  He was consecrated Bishop of Carlisle 'before April 9, 1280.'  On July 8, he paid a fine 'for the king's goodwill.'

  • Prior of Guisborough (Aug., Yorks., North). El. 14 Dec. 1278 (Chron. Lanercost p. 102).
  • Royal objections because no new lic. el. sought after Rotherfield's refusal (cf. C.P.R. 1281-92 p. 10; Cal. Fine Rolls 1 (1911) 134).
  • Appeal to pope, and el. qua., but Ireton prov. by pope and cons. before 9 Apr. 1280 (Reg. Nic. III nos. 636, 1077).
  • Paid fine for king's goodwill 8 July (Cal. Fine Rolls 1 (1911) 131).
  • Temps. 10 July (C.P.R. 1272-81 p. 386).
  • Prof. obed. to York 22 July 1280 (Reg. W. Wickwane, ed. W. Brown (Surtees Soc. cxiv) pp. 222-3).
  • D. 1 March 1292 (Chron. Lanercost p. 143; cf. Cal. Fine Rolls 1 (1911) 307).
Other sources fill in just a little more color to these stark lines of his life.  

Like many clerics of the time, he was involved in politics.  He taxed his diocese in order to complete the Cathedral of Carlisle and was involved in negotiating the marriage of Edward II to Margaret, the Maid of Norway (which of course came to nothing, when she died in Orkney.)

He died of a burst vein while attending parliament in London.

And finally, stumbling upon a wikisource article, Bishop Irton really begins to come to life.  We begin to see a little bit of his personality, rather than a dry list of his activities.  We get an image of the young Ralph, son of a landed family near the village of Irton near Ravenglass, Cumberland, with a father--Stephen--and two brothers--Robert and Thomas.  Isn't it funny how just putting names to his father and brothers makes them--and him--seem more real? 

Irton is a small village in the Scarborough district of England with a population today of only 312.  Is it a safe bet it was no bustling medieval metropolis in the 1200s?  Did young Ralph go the famous Scarborough Fair?  Or did he live in a manor house overlooking this small village and stay away from the lower classes?  

ravenglass, cumbria, medieval history, bishop irton, bishop ireton
Ravenglass, less than four miles away, is a coastal town that dates back at least to the 2nd century and was used as a naval base for the Roman fleet, in addition to being garrisoned for over 300 years.  These, then, were the surroundings of his youth.

Given that the family retained its lands into the 18th century, and Ralph's high connections as a cleric, we can guess they were not exactly of the peasant class?  And given that Ralph went into the clergy, we can guess he was one of the younger sons.

medieval monks, augustinians, augustinian monk, medieval carlisle
He joined the Augustinians, going first to Gisburne Priory in Cleveland in the northeast of England.  Our first glimpse of him as prior at Gisburne is in 1261.  We know nothing of his age or his activities or reputation at the priory before this.  Was he elected prior because of his popularity or diplomacy or skill at handling finances or political connections?  We don't know.  We know only that he held the office for approximately 17 years until the canons and prior of Carlisle to be their bishop, on December 26, 1278.  Edward I fined them 500 marks for holding the election without his consent and refused Irton's nomination.  (Because a king can do that if the year is 1278.)

It became quite an affair by the sounds of it.  Had it happened today, one can only imagine the tweets that might have flown among the various bishops, prelates, pope, and king!  Tempers were hot enough as it was, from the sounds of it, even with their medieval tweets-on-vellum taking the travel time they did.

The Archbishop of York delayed confirming Irton to the bishopric.  We are not told why--but certainly not wanting to displease a king would be a reasonable reason.  Unfortunately for the Archbishop of York...he died.  (The Archbishop, that is.)  Or maybe that was his reason for delaying--knowing soon enough he wouldn't have to deal with it.

Irton, the unrecognized bishop-elect, traveled to Rome to appeal to Pope Nicholas III, who appointed three cardinals to look into it.  The cardinals decided that, technically, the election had been informal and therefore Nicholas III nixed Irton's election.  However, he immediately used his papal provision privilege to appoint Irton to the vacancy.  Ordonius Alurz, cardinal bishop of Tusculum and one of the three investigating cardinals, ordained Ralph as bishop on March 25, 1280.  [Catholic Hierarchy] 

Nicholas sent a message of April 9, 1280 to Edward I asking him to accept this decision.  The now-bishop Irton returned to England in May and on July 10, Edward restored his 'temporalities,' which had apparently been unstored.  Or de-stored.  Or simply taken away.  Temporalities are defined as properties or revenues.  There is no mention elsewhere of these being taken from Ralph but it seems they were.

The prior and convent were forgiven to the tune of another 100.  Edward was an expensive man to know--and displease--but I guess considering the times we're talking about, we can say with a completely straight face, they are lucky it didn't cost them an arm and a leg...and an intestine and a head.

And so, Ralph Irton became the Bishop of Carlisle, moving west again, to within 55 miles of his childhood home (a hard day's ride for the Scots on their garrons, but likely several days for a bishop.) He took a very active role, which wasn't necessarily approved of by others--the Franciscans of Carlisle, for instance.

[A side note: In The Water is Wide, Niall visits both the Franciscans, the Grey Friars, and the Dominicans, the Black Friars.  The medieval Dominicans had a certain interesting feature to their priory, built on the city walls, that made them much more useful to Niall.]

Once again, however, the post is getting long enough...and the day is not getting any longer...and my to-do list is...and so we'll find out tomorrow what Ralph Irton did to agitate the Grey Friars and what happened after his death that some said was divine retribution.



COMING UP:
  • Hiking the Grand Canyon, and other adventures on the road
  • More guest posts from Megan Easley-Walsh and other authors (Would you like to be featured here?)
  • Last Sunday in May, 10 am: Books and Brews with Lorrie Holmgren, mystery author
  • June 24, 2017, 3 to 5 pm: Reading at Eat My Words Books with Michael Agnew
  • October 2017: Author Talk and Book Festival in Appleton, Wisconsin
  • January 9, 2018: Talk with the Edinburgh Book Club
~ ~ ~
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