mon 17/02/2020

The Normans, BBC Two | reviews, news & interviews

The Normans, BBC Two

The Normans, BBC Two

Britain's last conquerors are given their due

In the absence of newsreel footage, Professor Robert Bartlett leans heavily on the Bayeux Tapestry

My surname came to Britain with the Normans, and I must say that my forebears have had a bad press in their adopted homeland. From Hereward the Wake to Robin Hood, Anglo-Saxon legends have depicted us as despotic and cruel, whereas we were great builders of castles and cathedrals, brilliant horsemen and tip-top administrators, as well as being despotic and cruel. Anyway, it was good to have the refreshingly un-youthful and un-strident Professor Robert Bartlett (more Norman names) giving us his authoritative account of the antecedents and legacy of 1066 and all that. It’s about time we Viking-Frenchmen had a spokesperson.

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Thanks, Mr Gilbert, an excellent review of an excellent series. I was abroad when the first two episodes were screened but managed to catch up with them on iPlayer. The final episode was particularly good, telling of Norman state building in southern Italy, a story less well known in this country. And like you my forbears also came over with William, except I have a double offense in that my surname is Fitzgerald-Beaumont. It's encouraging to see them get a good press at last!

In some ways you are perfectly correct: the scandinavian invaders were great builders. But before they were great builders they were savages. . . As Vikings they knew where the booty was and they plundered it everywhere, not just around the British Isles. The knew in particular where to find the greatest wealth. It was always -- then and now -- to be found in the Churches, with the 'Holy' men and buried deep in the Vatican coffers. They reckon that at Avignon the Popes hid their booty in rooms with false floors. Now, of course , they resort to Banco Ambrosiana, Anglo-Irish Bank, and everybody else's bank as well. Markus Chinkus knew all about it! You also write: "Like any good Mafiosi, the Normans decided to turn legit – adopting Christ instead of pagan gods, building instead of pillaging, abandoning their Nordic language and beginning to drink wine." Notwithstanding this general view of the Normans, there is much to show that they resisted religion entirely, but for legitimacy, did the work of Der Papst. The deal that allowed the worst criminals in Europe -- beaten off the beaches of Sandymount by Brien Boru -- to return some time later under Papal banners is just how the Vatican works. If we look at the Vatican's relations with the Byzantines, the Lombards, the Franks (Charlemagne, Der Grosse) or Rollo, or the entire succession of French, English and German Kings, or the Reformation Wars, the Thirty Years War, or World Wars 1, 11, Korea, Vietnam, Russia, South America, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, etc., we find the same 'mafioso deal'. The Normans were used to oust Islam in Southern Italy, just as the Americans were used to oust Ho Chi Minh (the big bad Communist who wanted to feed his people) in Vietnam. And that's the point of the business of history -- to see what is enduring, what is of consequence and significance to us and the present world we live in. Instead , therefore, of gazing with awe on the marvels of the Normans, perhaps we should look with greater scrutiny on those whio manipulated them. . . Seamus Breathnach

I'm afraid that, watching tonight's episode (310315), we are only getting a top down view of history - kings, queens, barons etc Where is the record of the majority of the population? The presenter tells us that Queen Margaret helped "the poor" - who were they? Why were they poor? This is a VERY limited view of the history of these times. Interesting - yes, but a history considering the whole society? Most definitely not.

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