Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Things were different then

How have I missed Dr Ian Mortimer? I've only just discoverd he writes fiction as James Forrester, and yes, I've read them. Duh. Now I am deep into the Time Traveller's Guide ot Medieval England, and enjoying all the detail. He claims that medieval man  had no understanding of cultural development which is why the paintings on the fourteenth century church walls depict Christ and his disciples in medieval clothes.

He says, and I believe him, that almost everything about the fourteenth century is different from the modern world.  Consider the aristocracy of England, who have been speaking French since the Norman invasion in 1066. By the fourteenth century, they are only just switching to English. Edward III speaks English, books start to be written in English even though Latin is still the preferred language of law. English slowly becomes the tongue of the country even though old knights and ladies cannot be bothered to learn a new language "at their age." Cornwall persists in speaking Cornish, and Wales in Welsh. If dialects present problems today, they were so much stronger more prevalent and more difficult in medieval days.

Knowing the date is such an easy thing today. But medieval English people considered Lady Day, 25th March, as the start of a new year. Some aristocrats prefer 1st January, and clerks of the Exchequer begin their new year on Michaelmas Day, 29th September.
All three systems were in use at the same time, and things are furthe complicated when you know that Florence and Venice work a year behind England. Portugal and Castile operate a different calendar altogether and sailing into Lisbon would have taken you into a future 39 years ahead of England. Nobody uses the term Anno Domini, either. They use the regnal year, ie I am writing this in the sixty first year of Elizabeth II.

Other things are different, too. Work and working condition, for a start. Then there's money, and dress and education....

PS We have frogspawn - and the little pond is frozen!

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