Yesterday, I was fortunate enough to have successfully organized a Middle Ages Presentation by Sir William the Defender for 63 homeschooling people. We arrived at the designated location at 10am to find Sir William and a few others had everything set up to begin to presentation. We started at 10:30am.
Sir William began the presentation giving us an idea of the time period he was going to talk about and why he enjoyed learning about this time period. He began describing a trip he took to Europe. He visited a castle that had a real blacksmith work area including a working bellow. He described that the 12 yr old would then perform his duties for nigh 12 hours of lifting this bellow of 8 feet long by 4-5 feet tall non-stop. He told us of the metal items of that time and how each were made from Iron Ore collected through hard mining. This lead to the making of Chain mail. Approx. 16,000 rings would take to create one shirt. An entire villiage would expend 6 months of hard labor to produce this shirt for a warrior.
This is where things got personal for me. He choose a “page” for the Lady of his house. Who better than my own son B.!!! At the age of around 12 he would be the Ladies Page, running around town paging craftsmen to do her bidding, then at 13-14 he would be sent back home to study under a Soldier as his Squire. His duties included carrying all his armor pieces, polishing his armor, collecting more armor from the dead, drawing his baths and more. He would also be learning to wear the armor properly and using weapons and healing herbs from the Soldier.
The chain mail was much more suitable as protection against swords and bows than the heavy jackets worn prior to the invention of chain mail. Until dastardly arrows with needle tip bodkins were created, the soldiers were very safe from harm. So much so, that in a battle, 250 soldiers equaled 1 armored soldier on horseback and 50 soldiers to 1 armored soldier with out a horse.
We went further into history with the story of Charles the Great, Charlemagne. He spoke of how many of Charles’ ideas are still used today. Such as when he conquered such a large mass of land he knew he could not manage it by himself so broke the areas in to Counties and appointed Counts to manage them in his stead.
Back to Armor! All the while he is speaking, B. is instructed in helping his Master with getting his various peices of armor on. He begins to discuss the helmets of the time and has a wonderful replica he took pictures of in Europe and had made for him. The history involved being a Helmet worn throughout the Crusades in 1096. During the third Crusade the helmet was embellished with chain mail along the throat by the great grandson of the original owner. HOW to get Armor: – If you were wealthy, you have a Blacksmith make you armor and you purchase it. – Pledge your loyalty to a wealthy Lord, whom will get you the Chain mail shirt. – The peices of armor are passed down from generation to generations within a family. – “Culture contact” = pick them up from the slain in battle. Sword; your sword was Blessed with you as your became a knight/soldier and therefore was not passed down through generations. It was buried with you!
He briefly discussed the parts of the belt you wore over your armor. Its purpose to carry your sword, cup and pouch of healing herbs. More about Swords. Until steel was mixed with the iron of swords, swords were easily broken. He showed us his mace and warhammer. The warhammer has a pick on one side and ab blunt edge on the other shaped like an X. If you hold it as if striking someone it forms a Cross. Crusaders would strike their foes with the blunt end across the forehead, leaving the mark of the Cross upon their brow. “The Christian way of killing….”the Pope sent me!” LOL
In the 1600′s during the War of Roses, the bubonic plague wiped out 20,000 people. Of course, we discussed the handing down to our children the warning of the plague through the song “Ring Around the Rosie”
He then added his shield to his armor. He discussed the meanings of Heraldry associated with his particular coat of arms upon his shield and flag. The crescents above his families Crest, signifies honors bestowed upon the member of his family in battle prior to him receiving it from his father. Heraldry cam e about in 1150′s, as did many other rules. We don’t like rules, so we aren’t going to discuss them.
You were Knighted at age 21. You had been through training with Wasters, wood swords for years prior with your Master and have not died in process of serving him! Yay!
He showed us Roman coins that were 1007 yrs old. Pretty cool! He gave B. one after all were gone, for all h is help throughout the day.
FOOD!!! Rich Folk ate from Pewter plates and cups. Pewter mainly consisting of Lead, led to Lead Poisoning. Resulting in insanity(go figure!) and coma. 1 out of 25 people were buried alive during those times. We only knew this since they would bury folks on top of eachother and would notice after digging up the coffin to place another inside they would see the claw marks of those who woke from comas to find themselves buried alive. This began the Irish tradition of holding a Wake. Laying the body on the table for three days and partying extremely loud to see if the dead would rise. Also, tying a string attached to the wrist of the dead to a bell placed above the plot, so as if the bell rang they would be dug up. You then would be walking around again and folks would notice the person they had just buried walking about, looks like a “DEAD RINGER” for someone they knew. hmmmm….
The Poor ate from wood or bread bowls. Since the bubonic plague, the idea that bathing gave way to disease nearly had all of Europe only bathing once a year. In and around May, the family would bath from eldest to youngest in the same bath water. When it was the infants turn to bath the water was filthy, therefore leading to the phrase, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.” You ate with a spoon and maybe one knife between the entire family. Forks were not around until the 1700′s. You ate with your once a year bathed hands all from the same pot. The folks who used bread bowls, made them from old hard bread and kept them to use several times before discarding. Mold didn’t stop them from using the bowl. The penicillin from the mold upon the bread saved many a poor folk from disease, whilst the rich died of led poisoning. snicker…of course, the poor would still die from food poisoning and many other such things.
He brought up the Four Thieves story: The story is that during an epidemic of the plague in Marseilles in 1722, four thieves made a good living from plundering the bodies of plague victims but escaped contagion themselves. They attributed their protection to the liberal application or ingestion (the stories vary here) of a special vinegar infused with herbs and garlic. He ended with a quick note that today they have discovered a Gene Mutation – Delta 32 that was traced back to the Bubonic Plague. The researchers are not sure as to whether the mutation occurred due to the plague or if the survivors of the plague already had this mutation that saved their lives. A person with this particular genetic mutation is immune to the bubonic plague and AIDS!!! Pretty astounding.
You wanna know where he gets all his information from!?! Books! Read, Read, Read, research, Read, Read, Read! The Internet is not reliable, as there are no checks and balances. Books have editors and bibliographies that you can research for further reference. Not that all books are accurate either, but a lot safer than any source you will find online.
After our presentation we gathered all the families for a field trip! Our guest, Sir William, was very courteous to join us. We ventured to a real castle built by hand by a local gentlemen that encourages folks to tour the property anytime they like. Valhalla Castle built by Ron Hall took him 27 years to build. We were fortunate enough to share this experience with Sir William, whom was very excited to be in the castle. Mr. Hall was also excited to have his first Knight visitor!
My camera’s battery died half way through the presentation, and was Sir Williams photographer for the visit to the castle so he has many pictures to remember the experience by. He allowed me to take some personal pictures of him with the boys on his camera that I eagerly await to see. Until then, you can enjoy all the pictures I have included in this post. I know I do! hehe