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My translation of the portion of the statutes of the sixteenth-century French Ordre du Saint-Esprit concerning the initiation of a new member. In comparison to fifteenth-century ceremonies, this shows a much greater emphasis on the power of the Sovereign. As one might expect from a kingdom embroiled in religious wars, there is also a far greater emphasis on the role of the Church.

Those who will have been received to enter into said Order . . . )


Jan. 15th, 2015 09:42 pm
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I bought early period shoes at An Tir Twelfth Night. I try for sixth century when I'm doing early period stuff, which is a hard time period to buy shoes for: due to market forces, people sell Roman-era shoes and Viking-era shoes, but not much in between. Thus, when I saw comparatively inexpensive, plausibly at least fifth-century shoes, I jumped at the chance.

Of course, afterward I discovered that since I had last checked, there had been a new reconstruction of the sixth-century Queen Arnegunde's shoes, which suggests I really should be looking for something more slipper-like. It's still a better silhouette than my fancy leather Birkenstocks, though!
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It's January! I have illusions of unscheduled time! Give me topics to post about.
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  • [livejournal.com profile] aelfgyfu is running a Kickstarter for a new glass furnace:


    Rewards include hand-blown medieval drinking glasses and Dalek ornaments.

  • [livejournal.com profile] reasie has a story, Jupiter Wrestlerama, up in Lightspeed. She writes, "The core of the story had always been small-town life, and I made it a story about that." If you like stories about economics, hard choices, and the outer reaches of the solar system, you will like this story.

  • [livejournal.com profile] hrj wrote a book called Daughter of Mystery which I have been pressing on all of my friends who might appreciate a swashbuckling lesbian romance. The magic system is also very interesting. At some point I wrote a list of 'characters who have stuck with me', which divided neatly into independent, imaginative women and absent-minded male scientists. In Daughter of Mystery, women get to be independent, imaginative, and scientifically minded, which, alas, is all too rare. Specifically, the magic in this story is susceptible to careful intellectual (especially linguistic) analysis-- it doesn't just depend on the intensity of characters' emotions, or the power of their specialness-- which I found refreshing.
ursula: (icosahedron)
Justice Calling, an urban fantasy novella by Annie Bellet. This is new-style urban fantasy, with shapeshifters and hot guys (albeit, in this case, not much of an urb: it's set in a fictional small town in Idaho). The sensibility is television-istic: fast pace, witty banter, tragic backstories, and a general tendency to prioritize things that look cool over things that make sense.

An innovative conceit sets this story apart from others in its genre: the heroine uses modern fantasy and science fiction, particularly Dungeons and Dragons, as a frame for understanding her innate magical powers. This is an excuse for lots of nerdy references-- Annie's an old friend, and at times I felt like we were kicking back and reminiscing about campaigns gone by-- but it also makes a lot of sense. Why would someone resort to paging through old tomes, when there are so many ideas about magic readily available?

The conceit makes for some interesting problem-solving on the heroine's part (a Dune reference plays a crucial role in the big showdown, for example). It also offers endless opportunities for readerly metagaming (why hasn't Jade heard of Locate Person?) I want this book to have a fandom so I can argue about it.
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This is a Latin scroll text for a new member of the Order of the Laurel with an Italian persona. ([personal profile] zarhooie made the scroll and asked me for text.) It is adapted from a fourteenth-century invitation to the Order of the Knot; you can find a translation in Boulton's book The Knights of the Crown.


Magnifica femina, et fidelis dilecta Sofonisba Vespasiana Gabrielli. Nostra Societas fecit ordinem quemdam Laureae vocabulo insignitum in nobilibus et parilibus quibusdam Capitulis comprahensum, ad quem per nos assumpti sunt, et successive tantummodo assumuntur, quorum sit nobis nota in artibus et scientiis sollertia, et eadem sine discrepantia in quolibet operatione voluntas, inter quos, et de quorum numero te conditionis praemissae feminam connumerandam decrevit nostrae electionis Judicium, et facta Nobis nosceris fidelis socia. LAUREA igitur sub cuius denominatione ORDO ipse sumpsit vocabulum, ecce tibi insigne donamus, et a te recipimus Juramentum in nostris manibus. Suscipiens itaque LAUREAM ipsam, qui sicut frondes laureae figuraliter virescunt in perpetuum, sic Professores illius in scientia crescunt, ita ad multiplicandum tuam sollertiam, et ad tuum vigorandum de virtute in virtutem processum in opere incumbens tibi exhinde coronam laureae portes, quod potioris laudis consequaris augmentum, Sociis praesertim imitabiliter per exemplum, et in ipsis assignandis tibi ex parte nostra Capitulis contineri videbis. Data feria Bellatorum Dominorumque Belli acta baronibus Nordskogensibus et Jararvellensibus die 12 Julii anno Domini 2014 et anno Societatis 49.


Magnificent woman and beloved subject Sofonisba Vespasiana Gabrielli: Our Society made a certain order, distinguished by the name of the Laurel, comprehended under certain noble and peerly Statutes, into which there have been and shall successively be admitted by us those whose skill in the arts and sciences and faithful willingness without discrepancy in any activity is known to us. Among these and of their number the choice of our Judgment has selected you as a woman possessed of the aforesaid qualities: know that you are made by us a faithful companion. Thus the LAUREL, under which denomination the ORDER itself takes its name, behold we give you its badge, and receive from you the Oath in our hands. Therefore, taking up the LAUREL itself, which just as the laurel leaves figuratively grow green forever, just so the professors of the Laurel grow in knowledge, thus for the multiplication of your skill, and to your strengthening, proceeding from virtue to virtue in work incumbent upon you, henceforth may you bear the wreath of laurel, and may you pursue that worthy sign of praise through imitation of the example of your Companions, and through our assignment of these same Statutes to you, you will see how to persevere. Given at the fair of Warriors and Lords of War run by the Nordskogen and Jararvellir barons on the 12th day of July in the year of our Lord 2014 and in the year of the Society 49.
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[personal profile] wild_irises wrote, Tell me about a personal event that is a treasured or meaningful memory.

I thought this prompt was interesting for the meta-journal reason that it initially seemed impossible, due to some combination of the attitude that ideas are more interesting to write about than events, and a superstitious feeling that if I'm going around treasuring past events too often, there is probably something wrong with the present.

But actually, 2013 was eventful, perhaps excessively so! I have only glancingly mentioned the fact that I spent four weeks at research workshops this fall, in Toronto, England, and France. This was both fortuitous and overwhelming. The French workshop was Women in Numbers-Europe, so named for its excellent acronym. It was held at CIRM, which is in the hills above Marseille. Adriana and I had a free day in the city after the workshop ended. We decided to take the ferry to the Chateau d'If, which is the fortress in the Count of Monte Cristo. It's a big, white, squarish castle, set on its own island in the middle of the bay. I took an informational pamphlet in French, and Adriana took one in English. The French pamphlet, and only the French one, explained that Francis I was inspired to order the castle's construction when he visited Marseille to see a rhinoceros, which was stopping in the city on its way to the Pope. I bought a T-shirt with the rhinoceros for [personal profile] glasseye.

2013-10-19 14.00.46

On the ferry trip back, we sat on the front deck. We were surrounded by a raucous group of French middle-school girls, who were singing folk songs and hip-hop in loud voices, and trying to dodge the spray. When they discovered we lived in America, they conducted a bilingual interview with us (their English was about as bad as our French). The results were as follows:

  • Do you like hamburgers? (Sometimes.)
  • Do you like fish? (Yes.)
  • Which do you like better, Marseille or Paris? (I have never been to Paris.)
  • Are you in love? (Yes, I have a husband.)
  • What is his name? (Brian.)
  • Have you been to New York? (Yes, my sister lives there.)
  • Have you been to California? (Yes, I used to live there.)
  • Have you met a movie star? (No, but I have friends who work in Hollywood.)
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Suggest a topic, and I'll post about it in January? (You can suggest a day if you like; otherwise I'll just use topics until they're gone.)
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  • What did you recently finish reading?

    A Stranger in Olondria, by Sofia Samatar. If you are interested in fantasy novels about cultures and gods that are not alternate-medieval-European cultures and gods, surely you are also reading this book? In many ways it feels like a late-eighteenth or early-nineteenth century novel, with its layers of stories within the story, but it is self-consciously structured and the prose is self-consciously lush in a way that feels more like the modernist writers. Also, it made me cry.

    More slowly, I read The Seljuks of Anatolia, which is a collection of essays about the Turks who were in Turkey before the Ottomans. There's some very interesting historiography here, about Turkish construction of identity and the information you can glean when faced with a dearth of "traditional" sources. I was particularly interested in an essay on the fluid religious identities of the Anatolian Seljuks (some seem to have been professed both Islam and Christianity depending on context). I was also interested in the titles the Seljuks used, and the way they showed a standard pattern of titles used for less and less important people over time: for instance, 'malik', which I'm used to translating as 'king', clearly means something more like 'prince' in the Seljuk context.

  • What are you currently reading?

    Servant of the Underworld, by Aliette de Bodard. This is a fantasy mystery novel about the Aztecs; it's part of my haul from Bakka Phoenix, an excellent science fiction & fantasy bookstore in Toronto. Before I went there, I started Miss Mackenzie by Anthony Trollope, which is unusual among nineteenth-century novels (and perhaps contemporary ones!) in that its heroine is in her mid-thirties.

  • What do you think you'll read next?

    I also bought a couple of spy novels with fantasy overtones; hypothetically one of these is earmarked for [personal profile] glasseye, so that means The Rook ought to be first.

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Ginger raspberry fool

Here's a summer dessert I invented. It's a fool, which means custard and berries, though the very oldest fools may just have been custard.

I used the mango parfait recipe at Global Table Adventures for some of the quantities.


1 1/2 tsp packed fresh grated ginger (or a small knob of peeled ginger)
2 eggs
1 cup milk
2 cups heavy cream
1/3 cup + 2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla
About 3 pints mixed berries (I used raspberries from our garden and blueberries from the farmers' market)


Whisk the ginger, eggs, and milk with 1 cup cream and 1/3 cup sugar. (I used homemade vanilla sugar, with beans from saffron.com.)

Heat the mixture in a small pot over a low flame. Stir frequently with a rubber spatula, scraping the bottom of the pot each time. Don't let the mixture boil! After a while, the custard will begin to thicken. Keep stirring, and don't let the bottom curdle. When the custard is thick but still pourable, pour it into a bowl and chill it. (If you're worried about curdling, strain through a sieve before chilling.)

Rinse the berries and toss them with about a tablespoon of sugar.

As the ginger custard chills, it will thicken. When the custard is chilled, or your impatience triumphs, whip the remaining cream to stiff peaks with the remaining spoonful of sugar and the vanilla. Fold the ginger custard into the whipped cream until they are mixed. Layer the berries and the ginger cream in a serving dish (use a glass trifle dish if you've got one!) Chill again, or serve immediately.
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2013-04-28 21.43.01

On Saturday, [personal profile] glasseye and I went to Bardic Madness, a Northshield event which features a series of themed challenges.

One of the challenges asked entrants to memorialize another entry in the style of a sixteenth century broadsheet. I decided that this sounded fun, and went poking through English broadsheets at Early English Books Online (I have access through my university library). I found this fanciful "Callophisus" tourney challenge by Philip Howard, Earl of Arundel. Conveniently, another Bardic Madness challenge asked entrants to create a boast for a fighter.

Next, I needed a fighter. I talked to my friend Anpliça, and learned that Theodweard l'Archier planned to fight for her in Fall Crown; they gave me permission to boast extravagantly on their behalf. Theodweard's heraldry has an oak tree as the main charge. Elizabethan tournaments took themes from Greco-Roman mythology, as well as chivalric romance. I decided to reference the Oracle at Dodona, which was known for its rustling oaks.

With Dodona in mind, I wrote my text, and ordered some fake oak leaves from a milliner on Etsy to make a wreath. I don't own much in the way of sixteenth-century garb, but I remembered the pink dress that [livejournal.com profile] pandorasbox had given me.

I typeset my text the cheater way, in Word. I used the JSL Ancient and Blackletter fonts. This is a sixteenth-century style font which includes special characters such as the long 's' and a blackletter 'r' without the upright stroke. I tweaked some of my spellings to sixteenth-century spellings, using the "Callophisus" text and the Oxford English Dictionary. I didn't do a full OED check on my text, but I did change 'citizenry' to 'citizens' after learning the former word is out of period. My text as it looked before printing is here.

For the initial letter 'W', I made a two-inch by two-inch linoleum block print. I found some initial 'W's in the EEBO broadsheet collection for models; it turns out that "Whereas" is a common first word, so there were plenty to choose from. I tried to make the floral decoration look a little bit like the flower in Anpliça's arms. Unfortunately, when it came time to print my block print, I discovered that I'd discarded the thinner I had for oil-based ink in one of my recent moves. I had to use water-based ink instead, which is serviceable but doesn't print as cleanly.
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Here are some notes on buying a horse for [livejournal.com profile] ornerie, from The Book Containing the Treatises of Hawking, Hunting, Coat-armour, Fishing, and Blasing of Arms.

A good horse sholde have xv proprytees and condycions.

That is to wyte, thre of a man, thre of a woman, thre of a foxe, thre of an hare: and thre of an asse.

Of a man: bolde: prowde: and hardy.

Of a woman: fayr brested: fayr of heere: & easy to lippe upon.

Of a foxe: a fayr taylle: shorte eeres wyth a good trotte.

Of an haare: a grete eye: a drye heed: and well rennynge.

Of an asse: a bygge chynn: a flatte legge: & a good hove.

Well travelyd wymen nor well travelid horse were never gode.
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The tagline for The Twelfth Enchantment is "Jane Austen with magic". Most writers who combine Jane Austen and magic do so because they like Regency romance and fantasy; David Liss usually writes noir-ish detective novels with historical settings, so his take on the premise is non-standard. (I note that many of the Amazon reviews of Twelfth Enchantment boil down to "I'm a big fan of David Liss, but this book has magic and girl cooties, so I don't like it.")

I personally like historical fantasy, but am a bit suspicious of direct Jane Austen tributes. Austen had both an incredible knack for characterization and an intense moral sense, and it's hard for a modern imitator to match either one of those traits, let alone both. Liss's heroine, Lucy, at least notices when she is engaged in ripping giant holes in her reputation about half the time, for which I give her & her creator credit.

Several of the major characters in The Twelfth Enchantment are lifted directly from Jane Austen-- the villain is Lady Catherine de Bourgh by another name, for instance-- and several others are well-known historical figures. Liss's own approach to characterization is more in the mystery tradition, where everyone has a secret motive and might suddenly turn out to have been evil (or good) all along. Lucy spends a lot of time changing her mind about whom to trust and rushing from place to place.

To my mind, The Twelfth Enchantment's closest literary cousins are not Austen at all, but rather Charlotte Brontë's Shirley, with its themes of industrial unrest and Romanticism, together with Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. The magic in The Twelfth Enchantment, like the magic in Jonathan Strange is a mix of British fairy legends and alchemical lore. Twelfth Enchantment has a genuinely spooky sequence involving a changeling baby, a hilarious bit with a possessed tortoise, and some interesting musings on the ethics of charms. Although the problem is not as carefully worked through as in Jonathan Strange, I think Twelfth Enchantment is making a similar argument about intelligent men who screw things up because their prejudices prevent them from communicating with other people.
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It is the tenth anniversary of my first substantive livejournal entry!

I feel as if I should construct a new geeky wishlist for this birthday, but in the past ten years my personal income has increased by a factor of ten (from a baseline of 'college student'), which makes it much easier to buy books when I want them. I could use a hypercube of my own, though.
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  • What are you currently reading?

    Danse de la Folie by Sherwood Smith; [personal profile] sartorias mentioned yesterday that her book was on sale for $.99. It might be still, depending on when you read this! Thus far, it's entertainingly fluffy.

    I'm also reading bits and pieces of an abridged version of Gregory of Tours' History of the Franks, and Fanny Burney's Camilla. Best anecdote from Gregory of Tours thus far: the time when one of the Franks plotted to kill his brother by hiding a bunch of armed men behind a curtain, but the curtain was too short, so the men's feet were visible, and the brother was on guard. Eventually the schemer gave his brother a valuable silver dish to persuade him to go away. Thus far much of the plot of Camilla is driven by her Comically Illiterate Uncle; I tend to find him somewhere on the continuum from embarrassing to horrifying, rather than comic, which makes it slow going.

  • What did you recently finish reading?

    The Edwardians by Vita Sackville-West, and The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi.

    The Edwardians was interesting but ultimately a little slight. I am generally astonished that the BBC has not made a miniseries of it. (Also, it's interesting to see attitudes that I'd associated with Heyer-being-historical showing up as upper-class Edwardian attitudes: complaints about the Dower House, for instance. Layers on layers!)

    I had avoided The Quantum Thief based on fears that it might be a bit too surreal for my tastes, but ultimately found it quite satisfying. The cover blurb is from Charles Stross, which makes sense, because Quantum Thief feels a bit like a less aggressively weird cousin of Singularity Sky. (Both involve a fusion of a late nineteenth-/early twentieth-century Revolutionary aesthetic with quantum-AI-super-science.)

  • What do you think you’ll read next?

    I have Thieftaker and Redshirts out from the library, so likely one of those.

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Meme from Book View Cafe.

  • What are you currently reading?

    I am bouncing back and forth between The Lions of al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay and 1610: A Sundial in the Grave by Mary Gentle. Both are historical fantasies which make many nods to old-fashioned swashbuckling Romance (I mean Romance as in roman, not Romance as in people falling in love, though that happens too). The Lions of al-Rassan is about a thinly disguised version of Moorish Spain, while 1610 is an alternate history which begins with our antihero inadvertently aiding in the assassination of Henri IV. I am finding both books rather slow going, which explains the bouncing.

    I have mixed feelings about Guy Gavriel Kay generally: I hated the Fionavar Tapestry in the way that one can only hate books lent by someone else, but liked his Sarantium books and Under Heaven, although I got tired of the hot-tempered hero with a heart of gold with whom everyone falls in love. I might be impatient with The Lions of al-Rassan because I know the period too well (I don't actually know that much about Moorish Spain specifically, but a semester of medieval Islamic history still unfits me for many fantasy novels). Really, though, I think I'm just tired of heavy-handed foreshadowing. I'm also mildly uneasy about religious and gender stereotypes. In particular, I wish Kay would refrain from inventing female characters who seem cool on paper, and then not letting them contribute to the plot. (Seriously, if your character is a skilled doctor who begins the book by vowing vengeance on a king, why do you let her boyfriend kill the king and her dad perform the impossible surgery?) I also find the small-r romance dull; Flowery and Epic is not really my thing.

    The small-r romance in 1610 is boring me, too, which is really too bad, since a cross-dressing woman with amazing rapier skill ought to suck me right in. Gentle goes in for obnoxious grit, though, and reading about sex from the point of view of someone who's mildly disgusted by it is not much fun. The actual plot is cool, though: scheming mathematician-astrologers try to change history!

  • What did you recently finish reading?

    Rachel Ray by Anthony Trollope (fluffy, slight, and also overtly sexist, classist, and anti-Semitic, if you're keeping score), and The Wrong Reflection by Gillian Bradshaw (as soon as you know it's science fiction, the plot is somewhat obvious; but I was surprised and pleased by our heroine's eventual romantic partner.)

  • What do you think you’ll read next?

    I just acquired Nate Silver's book from the library waitlist, so should probably read it quickly and return it.
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Comments to the SCA's Board of Directors on the Same-Gender Consort Proposal for changes in Corpora are due Dec. 1.

Here's my letter.


Dear Board Members,

I write to comment on the proposed Corpora language,

"Each competitor in a Royal List must be fighting for a prospective consort of the opposite sex unless the Crown has elected to permit a competitor to fight for a prospective consort of the same sex."

My comments are long, so I have divided them into the following sections:

* My background
* Wording of the Corpora proposal
* Co-rulership as succession strategy
* Shared rule in Europe
* Co-rulership vs. gay marriage
* Bottom line


I am a citizen of Northshield; I have also lived in Caid and An Tir, and I have strong ties to the Midrealm, because my husband lived there for several years. I am a member of the Order of the Laurel. I received that honor for research in languages and heraldry. As a herald, I have conducted extensive research into medieval titles and ceremony. Most of this letter concerns my research into the medieval precedents for two kings simultaneously ruling a kingdom. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you are curious about the historical examples I refer to, or would like to discuss the evidence in more detail.


I support the proposal for changing Corpora. As I discuss below, I believe that allowing for the possibility of same-sex co-rulers will increase the authenticity of our recreations. I also believe that, in service to the ideals of chivalry and nobility, contestants in Crown Tourneys should fight for the person they believe will make the best King or Queen, not the person they find most attractive or the first person of the opposite sex who agrees to serve as consort.

I believe that this specific proposal for changing Corpora is badly worded, because it forces every single Crown to decide whether or not to discriminate against same-sex fighter/consort pairs. If the Board wishes to allow the Crown the option of excluding same-sex fighter/consort pairs in keeping with current tradition, it should add language to Corpora that explicitly permits kingdoms or Crowns to create additional qualifications for participation in Crown Tourneys. After all, kingdoms and individual Crowns already have some leeway to set requirements for Crown Tourney entrance that differ from the minimum Society requirements; for example, some kingdoms require that entrants in Crown Tourney have submitted names and devices for heraldic registration, while others do not. However, I would prefer a badly worded change in Corpora which permits same-sex Crowns to no change at all.


I specifically want to address the argument that the historical examples of same-sex co-rulers are scattered and contingent. I believe that this characterization distorts the historical record.

Many of us assume that primogeniture, where the oldest son inherits his father's lands and position, is the normal mode of kingly succession. Primogeniture did become more common over the course of the Middle Ages, and became an entrenched mode of royal succession in western Europe after the SCA's period. But primogeniture was never universal, and it is by no means a natural or self-evident principle. A ruler might wish all of his children to inherit both property and power. The inhabitants of a realm might wish to be ruled by the most capable or qualified candidate, rather than the eldest child of a previous ruler.

Co-rulership, where two (or more) people hold a title such as 'king', 'duke', or 'emperor', was a useful strategy for resolving competing claims for political power. The strategy was used both to effect compromise between rivals, and to ensure the succession of a favored heir. Thus, co-rulership was an alternative to primogeniture in some times and places, and a means of guaranteeing primogeniture in others. Co-rulership was the norm in many prominent medieval cultures, including Capetian France and the Byzantine empire, and appears occasionally in others throughout SCA period. Let me give a brief history of shared rule in Europe prior to 1600.


Under the Roman Republic, shared executive power was the law of the land: the heads of government were two consuls, elected for simultaneous one-year terms and with the power to veto each others' actions. The first Romans to share imperial power were Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus, adopted sons of Emperor Pius Antoninus. They were both granted the titles of Imperator and Caesar by the Roman senate in 161 AD, in accordance with the succession plans laid out by Antoninus' predecessor Hadrian. Lucius Verus died in 169; Marcus Aurelius' son Marcus Aurelius Commodus became the next co-emperor in 177. After Marcus Aurelius, shared imperial Roman rule was common. One notable example is the third-century rule of the soldiers Diocletian and Maximian, who designated Galerius and Constantius as junior co-rulers, using the title of Caesar.

The tradition of co-rulership continued under the Byzantines. The Byzantines used the co-emperor status as a means of dividing power among several legal heirs, as when Constantine I attempted to leave the empire to his three sons, Constantinus, Constantius, and Constans, as a means of recognizing a particular heir while the senior emperor still lived, and as a means of grasping power. Perhaps the most famous example of shared rule among the Byzantines is the case of Justin and Justinian; Justinian helped his uncle Justin gain power, was formally named co-emperor shortly before Justin's death, and duly succeeded him. As an example of the role co-emperorship could play in a power grab, I note the tenth-century Byzantine emperor Romanos Lekapenos. Romanos was an Armenian peasant's son who rose to prominence in the military, became the emperor Constantine VII's father-in-law, crowned himself co-emperor, and then proclaimed his own sons junior co-emperors. The Byzantines also provide an example of two women sharing rulership: in the eleventh century, the two sisters Zoe and Theodora ruled briefly as co-empresses. They both used the title of autokrator or emperor, and were featured together on coinage.

Co-rulership was common in early medieval Western Europe. In the Pictish king-lists, for example, there are several instances of pairs of kings described as "ruling together"; our data about the medieval Picts is scanty, but the king-lists tell us that these co-kings had different fathers. The most famous early medieval co-ruler may be Charlemagne, who ruled as co-king with his brother Carloman until Carloman's death in 771, and crowned two sons as co-rulers and heirs, first Charles the Younger, and then (after Charles' death) his second son Louis. There were also co-kings in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms and Visigothic Spain, co-princes in Italy, and co-ruling brothers in the Welsh kingdoms of Gwynedd and Deheubarth. Sometimes co-rulers shared power amicably. Others chose to divide the kingship under duress, as when the eleventh-century King Magnus the Good of Norway and Denmark agreed to accept his uncle Harald Hardrada as co-king of Norway, in order to end Harald's raids on the Danish coast.

Between the tenth and twelfth centuries, the Capetian kings of France routinely crowned a son as co-king and heir, in an effort to control the succession. The ceremony was important in part because primogeniture was not automatic: for example, Constance of Arles, the wife of the eleventh-century ruler Robert the Pious, tried to persuade Robert the Pious to crown their son Robert as designated heir, rather than his older brother Henry.

In Anglo-Norman England, the twelfth-century king Stephen tried to have his son Eustace crowned as co-king and heir. However, the Archbishop of Canterbury supported Stephen's rival the Empress Matilda, and refused to perform the ceremony. Eventually, the Empress Matilda's son succeeded Stephen to the throne of England, and was crowned as Henry II. In turn, Henry arranged the coronation of his own son, also named Henry. (Henry the Young King died of dysentery, and never ruled alone.) The Anglo-Norman coronations of heirs may have been inspired by the Capetian example. In Ireland, the thirteenth-century king of Connacht, Cathal, crowned his oldest son Aodh as co-ruler in imitation of the Anglo-Norman tradition. Cathal favored the strategy of co-rulership because it gave him greater control over the succession process: ordinarily, other important nobles would expect a voice in the selection of the king's heir.

In the thirteenth century, the Count of Foix and the Bishop of Urgell resolved a dispute over the territory of Andorra by agreeing to share sovereignty as Princes of Andorra. The arrangement survives to this day: the modern heads of state of Andorra are the Bishop of Urgell and the President of France. Frederick the Fair and his cousin Louis the Bavarian made a less successful attempt to resolve a territorial dispute by co-rulership in the fourteenth century: although they agreed to rule the Holy Roman Empire jointly, the electors did not ratify their agreement. Instead, under the terms of the Treaty of Ulm Frederick became King of Germany, while Louis was crowned as Holy Roman Emperor.

We continue to see co-rulers in both Western and Eastern Europe through the end of the sixteenth century. The brothers Wilhelm and Ludwig ruled the Duchy of Bavaria jointly, for example. In sixteenth-century Russia, Ivan III ruled with his father Vasily the Blind. In late 1529 or early 1530, Sigismund I of Poland persuaded a group of noble senators to elect his son Sigismund II as co-king and successor; however, the Polish legislature responded to this royal attempt to override the nobility's prerogatives by banning future elections during the reigning monarch's lifetime. One of the best-known examples of sixteenth-century co-rulership involves rulers of opposite sexes: Charles I of Spain (also known as Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire) was a co-monarch of Spain, together with his mother Joanna.


Arguments for and against co-rulers in the SCA often parallel the arguments for and against gay marriage. The examples of historical same-sex co-rulers don't fit neatly into this rhetorical framework: some co-kings were rivals, some were friends or allies, and some were close relatives, but none of the same-sex co-rulers were married to each other.

There actually were some ancient and medieval ceremonies for the union of two men which may have been viewed as akin to marriage, and at least one medieval ruler, the Byzantine emperor Basil I, may have participated in such a ceremony. (Basil's political and romantic careers were, dare I say it, Byzantine: born a Macedonian peasant, Basil persuaded the emperor Michael III to crown him as a co-emperor, then arranged for Michael's murder.) John Boswell's book Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe describes the case for viewing these ceremonies as similar to marriage; it also offers an excellent synopsis of the ways in which ancient and medieval assumptions about the nature of marriage differed from modern assumptions. Along the way, Boswell demonstrates that late antique and early medieval husbands and wives often referred to each other as "sister" and "brother": the terms conveyed affection and equality rather than suggesting incest, just as today one can use "baby" as a term of endearment for a significant other without suggesting statutory rape. One might speculate that "adopted brother" in a late antique context had the same connotations that "partner" does today!

Although research into medieval views of marriage and sexuality is fascinating, I believe that in the context of choosing SCA kings and queens, the topic is a bit of a red herring. After all, we don't require candidates for king and queen to be married, or pretend to be married. We don't even assume that they are romantically involved. Let me give an example from my kingdom's recent history: when I attended Northshield Coronation this fall, the newly crowned king and queen gave awards to the significant others of the former king and queen as one of their first actions, and the populace approved vociferously.

Moreover, it would be naive to assume that medieval kings and queens were ordinarily in love with each other: some were rivals, some were friends and allies, and some were relatives ruling together. I note that the situations where queens shared legal sovereignty with kings, rather than simply using the title of queen as a courtesy, are at least as varied as the situations where two kings shared sovereignty.


If our goal is to re-create the Middle Ages, we should allow for the possibility of two kings, or (in rare cases) two queens. If our goal is to encourage ideals of chivalry and nobility, we should ask contestants in Crown Tournaments to choose someone to fight for based on whom they will believe will be an excellent king or queen, not based on who is a member of the opposite sex or who is romantically available.

Written in the Shire of Shattered Oak in the Kingdom of Northshield in the year of grace two thousand and twelve.

Ursula Georges.
Companion of the Laurel, Lady of the Cygnus, Lady of the Jambe de Lion, and Companion of the Tsveti Madrone.
ursula: (Default)
When I was in grade school, we'd run the mile for Presidential Fitness Testing once or twice a year. I always ran the entire way, very slowly, and ended with the taste of blood and iron in my mouth. Is this:

(a) totally normal,
(b) a sign that I was unusually out-of-shape for a fifth-grader,
(c) a sign that I was unusually stubborn for a fifth-grader,
(d) a sign that I had undiagnosed asthma?
ursula: (sheep)
Helen is a novel written in the late 1920s; the eponymous character is a girl who is in her late teens when the First World War starts. I found this novel in the library, and wondered why I'd never heard of it. The reason, I think, is that it's casually anti-feminist in a way that has fallen out of fashion. It's cheerfully classist, too, but here it's so dated that to my feckless American eye the assumptions are merely quaint. Helen's clinching argument on gender roles, for instance, is "Can you imagine a man ordering dinner from Cook?" One of her artist friends has a servant to hang drapery for him; other friends, a starving-artist couple, are too poor to reliably buy jam for afternoon toast, but still pay someone to clean their flat twice a week.

Helen's friends are rather fast, but Helen herself is heroically virginal. I forgot to read this with my historical-prudery goggles on, and therefore found the sexual liaison that makes an important plot point rather underwhelming. On the other hand, some of the descriptions of parent/child affection would forebode dire things in a more recent novel, where here they're meant to be sweet: every culture has its own prurient obsessions.

Historically interesting features include young women's war jobs as drivers and nurses (for some reason one only ever hears of the WWII equivalents), the influenza epidemic of 1918 as a plot point, and the way young people are described as "the Moderns". The most satisfying part (to me at least) was the many discussions of how obnoxious it is when people expect public displays of emotion; some of Noel Streatfeild's novels have a similar theme. As early twentieth-century romances involving heroic naïveté and Bohemian artists go, though, I personally prefer E. Nesbit's Incomplete Amorist. For one thing, intensely sentimentalized though they are, it's a little bit easier to believe that Nesbit's starving artists might be starving.
ursula: (icosahedron)
I want to share my work bookmarks (and only my work bookmarks) across a couple of computers. Which service should I be using? I'd be happy with a website or some sort of Firefox extension, but I'm not sure I want to dig through all the options on my own.

February 2015



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