I’ve spent most of the day sitting in a beautiful library filled with decades and centuries old books. The smell of old leather was nearly overwhelming; this dry and comfortable smell that gives you a big hug and puts on the kettle.
What I am trying to do is to research a paper which I am going to write, and it will be about the historical border between French and English at the time of the Plantagenets and the Lancastrians. It is in this period that the English stop using French as the official language, and it is at this time we see the rise of English through poets and noblemen like Chaucer and his contemporaries Hoccleve, Scogan, and John Gower.
If you read the parliamentary notes of the time, which comes in large and long rolls, you will see that they are written in French. But at this time, things change. The English are kicked out of the continent and out of France. This is the time of the Hundred Years War, and on the continent France is coalescing into united country. The Lancastrians are in the thick of this war, and Henry V wins his most famous battle at Agincourt.
His sons, though, lose all the old possessions, as well as the new ones conquered during the war. Aquitaine goes, which has been a possession since Eleanor of Aquitaine married Henry II. Normandy and Brittany burns and is lost. As is Joan of Arc. This is when the royals stop using French, and start to use English. With the claims on the continent gone, England embarks on a course of being apart. This is when the ruling élite renounces its Norman history, and become English.
We never have been apart, of course. We’ve always meddled on the continent. From the wars against Napoleon to dabbling in the Thirty Years war which the Swedish prosecuted across the width and breadth of Germany. You have the rise of the Tsars of Russia who attempted to transform themselves into Europeans. We’ve always been in the thick of it, meddling. We are not so separate as we want to think that we are.
And then, a guy like me, can sit down in a beautiful library in the 21 st century and look at digital fragments of the flowing French written by the Members of Parliament during the Lancasters’ reign, and wonder at it.
And now, having done nothing of what I was supposed to do here, I am just waiting for Mark to come and fetch me. Yesterday we were in London again. The stated reason was that we had to go and see if it was still there after all the flooding, and I can report that it was and that it is still quite nice. It looked a bit touch and go there for a moment, with the Thames rising. But honestly, we went because we wanted to get out of the house for a bit. It is, after all, quite nice to walk hand in hand down the Streets of London. Even in this weather we’re having.
I also started a new blog. If you haven’t seen it, you can see it here. My thinking is that it will be a low-frequency blog for all those posts that get dismal traffic on this blog. All the wild speculations about science, art, mind, matter and about humans. Then I can focus on ridiculous moans about my life here. 😀