Monday, August 23, 2010

Edward I - British Caesar

This king that was, Edward I, was a shivery king with a heart of steel and a grasp for empire. As such he forged Britain through hearty attempted conquest over native celtic peoples (Welsh, Scottish Gaels and to some extent the Irish) - through invasion, then settlement and consequently the attempted eradication of the indigenous cultures. Not pretty, the stuff of empire building. Like its component, war, it is ugly and everywhere.

I am reading Marc Morris' recent popular history "A Great and Terrible King - Edward I and the Forging of Britain". It is very sobering reading, and now I have the background for the Welsh novels of Sharon Kay Penman. This work has so far turned out to be an eye opener - as this is another period where I am a little lost and thirsty for a bit of "knowledge". Sometimes I despair at my late arrival to several eras of English history, but, with an American education and a collegiate stint at classical languages, it is only in the last few years I have been lucky enough to have the time to peer into the story of these deeply fascinating British Isles.

Back to Edward (please) - I was interested to learn of his interest in Arthur as a unifying king (or so the myth that was taken as fact at the time bore out). Geoffrey of Monmouth's flight of fantasy as it is seen now was taken as history to the thinking sorts then, and may be considered a work of propaganda. I have pulled his "History of the Kings of Britain" off my shelf, so maybe next will come a walk into a subroutine of the whole Arthur shtick. Of course, Henry VII bought into all of the Arthur magic when he so named his son.

And to think England was almost ruled by a king named Alfonso.