Monday, 5 October 2015

vulgate or hashtag hastings

It strikes me as a little paradoxical that the claim to the Divine Right of Kings comes of the newer, reformed protestant tradition with monarchs dual-hatted as heads of state churches, the Church of England, the Church of Norway, et alia rather than from something more seeped in history. This political and religious creed, holds that the kings rules by God’s grace alone is not subject to any earthly estate or institution, including the will of the papacy. In other words, the monarchy was invested with both civic and spiritual powers, bucking ancient divisions of authority, which were nonetheless prone to overlap and currying favour or displeasure and later developments, revolts and the spread of democratic-thinking cut short the tenure of a monarch, but this doctrine. Prior to the Reformation—however, alliances were built and strengthened through military campaigns, persecuted under the papal banner, that continued nearly without interruption up until that schism for Western Christianity in the form of the Crusades, launched against whomever was deemed to be a heretic. The first instance of this type of campaigning on a grand scale had a different character than the retaking of the Holy Land but there are definitely parallels with the Norman Conquest of England in 1066 and the First Crusade that coalesced just three decades later.

As way of asserting figurative and more literal legitimacy for inheriting his father’s Norman duchy, the ambitious invasion carried out Gullaume le Bâtard that made him known to history as William the Conqueror—and made crusading a popular method of securing power, turned on the caprice of the wind. To secure his dignity as heir-apparent, though born out-of-wedlock and thus against the marriage of aristocratic families that was sanctioned by the Church, William convinced the Pope that he could bring order to an otherwise recalcitrant England—after all, in the most remote reaches there were monastic, self-governing communities, archbishops had been appointed without papal consultation and they were even conducting mass in the native vernacular. With the backing of the support of the Church, William readied his armies to cross the Channel. English forces also braced themselves for the invasion, and both waited and waited as the prime season to wage war came and nearly passed, waiting for a favourable gust to send the Norman sailing ships across. At cross-purposes to this undertaking, William’s distant cousins, the Norse raiders were poised for an assault from the North. While the distraction would have been surely a welcome one—though the question of claim and settlement is an interesting alternative reality to ponder, the Vikings were praying for winds in the opposite direction. At the last moment before harvest time pulled away the conscripts, the Norse invaders fell on Wales. English forces watching the Norman coast were immediately deployed to the other front—and rather miraculously were able to defeat the Vikings definitely and discourage any future forays. The very next day after the Norsemen had retreated, the winds shifted and propelled the Norman fleet to Hastings. Though drained and shattered from taken on the Vikings, the English forces put up a noble fight in resisting the onslaught from the South, and might have even managed to rebuff William’s troops, had the English held the high-ground and not been lured to fight the Normans on the beaches—where the flat terrain negated England’s advanced manœuverability on uneven ground. It’s a little baffling to think how one event that nearly didn’t happen could create the precedence for such later rifts and clefts. Changing a ruler’s appointment to something akin to God’s lieutenant—and later manifestations, just seem rather to be deferring the argument, until it declines into ochlocracy, mob rule, mobile vulgus.