As you know I am reading Viking Britain: An Exploration. Yesterday I was reading about Offa, Saxon king of Mercia, who is most remembered for his dike which runs along the boarder with Wales. He was a very powerful man who commanded that a kingling under his “protection” should have his head chopped off for the crime of minting his own coins. What I found striking was that Mercia and its domination of Saxon England swiftly declined (read collapsed) after his death. I woke up this morning thinking about a conversation I had with a friend Dr Simon May, of Coventry University, over a game of Bloodbowl. He is an expert in the history of organised crime and told me that criminal gangs under the control of a single charismatic leader are easy to destroy by removing that leader, organisations built around and idea are harder to destroy. I think that is what we are seeing in Mercia, that Offa rules as a gangster and when he goes so does everything built with his power, very Lord of the Rings!
On this special day remember our poor Saxon ancestors who unfortunately drank too much at Yule. Terrible because our Viking ancestors had gotten hold of diaries so knew when the holy days were and didn’t have to fight the Saxons, they just turned up, shoved them in a sack and took them off to Micklegard to be sold as slaves.
Spare a thought also for Hengist and Horsa who were sent by the Jutes on a peace mission to the Frisians over Yule. This episode is called “The Frisian Massacre” so you can guess how well it went! Before Yule started one of the Jutes killed a Frisian but before honour could be satisfied Yule started and our ancestors didn’t fight over Yule. It must have been a very uncomfortable Yuletide, would make the most uncomfortable Christmas dinner look like a feast, and at the end the Jutes fell on the Frisians before coming home.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.