A place for Drachenwald's scribes to hang out, learn, discuss and critique each others work.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

A writ for the ladies of House Green

One charming aspect of the Society is that we make our own stories and histories over the time we spend together, and gain renown for our own actions. This is different from reenactors who are interpreting history where the outcome is already known.

This writ is part of an ongoing story for House Green, who live in Lough Devnaree and its shires in Insulae Draconis.

Some in the Society call this 'schtick'; a presentation in court that makes people laugh. I consider this a gift done in a medieval style that shows my affection and care of House Green and at the same time supports their story in the history of the Isles.

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Writ on the slope.

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Writ finished on my kitchen counter with my own seal in beeswax, and a small seal pouch. Extra beeswax sits in a silicone muffin cup. Robert de Canterbury made the seal for me and I've only had occasion to use it a handful of times, so this was a treat.

Pergamenata, about 11x14"(?), oak gall ink, metal nibs.
Text reads: 
Genevieve la flechiere, viscountess of Insulae Draconis and peer by letters patent, to the most dear Lady Gytha Ui Bhanain, and her gracious and noble Sustren the ladies of house green, I greet you Well
To all right thinkers it is clear that the providence of God has so provided for certain rich persons that, by means of their transitory possessions, if they use them well, they may be able to merit everlasting rewards.
I, Genevieve, desiring to provide for my own safety while I am still able, have considered it advisable to give some little portion for the gain of my soul.
Following the ancient precepts of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, and making the act not a temporary but a lasting one, I should support at my own expense a congregation of holy women, committed to the study of the arts of war and of peace, for the betterment of Drachenwald.
Therefore, to the support and maintenance of these said holy women, do I give and grant, with a sincere heart, to them this donation of 1 English shilling and three ells of good cloth, and in perpetuity from my estate, 1 shilling per annum, and 2 ells of good linen upon michaelmas.
I will, further, that in my time and in those of my descendants, according as the opportunities and possibilities that place shall allow, that they shall regularly with the greatest zeal perform works of mercy such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and welcoming the stranger and the pilgrim.
Wherefore, our right trusty and wellbeloved Lady Gytha, as we have entire confidence in your discretion and devotion, we are resolved that the bestowal of these should be committed to your charge; begging you with all earnestness, that with sober thought and quiet contemplation, you will fulfil this task as you shall best judge it to be according to the Divine Will, and apt and profitable for the utility of the kingdom, and the advantage of the ladies aforesaid.
And we promise, as far as in us lies, to ratify and approve, in all and through all, whatever you shall decide to order, do, change, and provide, concerning the business of the said ladies.
And by the tenor of these presents, we signify all and each of these things afore-said, to all the members of house green and the people of Drachenwald. In witness of which I have sent you these my letter, sealed with my seal.
Given at the Althing, on the 11th Kalends of Allsaints, AS 51.

Context:

Last year, when I took Lord Aodh as a dependent, I took his hands in homage and made clear that he still, as paterfamilias of his own House Green, had responsibilities that our indenture would not change...but that I was available to advise him on dependants, suitable placements for children or orphans, or places in convents for those who were unsuited to marriage.

This raised a small laugh, but apparently struck shock and terror in the Catholic hearts of the ladies of House Green - particularly single ladies, or whose other halves don't play - who all assumed I was referring to them directly.

I found this out later, as Lady Agnes passed it on, and it now has common currency that at least one lady of House Green is destined to a nunnery.

The story grew in the telling, as stories do, that Lady Gytha Ui Bhanain was the most likely convent candidate.

One year on, I decided to build on this, and take the opportunity to bestow patronage, as a medieval noble lady would do: patronage that would be good for her own reputation, good for her soul, and good for the members of a household.

I went in search of example texts of women founding convents and monasteries. I could find some examples of royal foundations such as for Cluny (used as model for the writ introduction), but the individual women patrons were harder to find.

At Lyonet Schwarzdrachen's suggestion, looked up Lady Devorgilla de Balliol, a 13th c patroness of Balliol College Oxford. I struck gold when I found 'Early history of Balliol College', compiled by the splendidly named Mrs Frances de Paravicini, a 19th c historian.

It contains both Latin and English versions of the 13th c documents where the lady instructs a trusted friar to take her alms for the already-founded community of poor scholars, and continue to do the good work of teaching and caring for the group (p 66 of archive.org book).

I left out most of the explicit religious language of the original letter but called on the ladies to perform 'acts of mercy' which broadly fit the service many people invest in the Society: making clothing, cooking food and making newcomers welcome.

The best parts were the lines that said effectively, 'please think carefully - I trust your judgement to use this money well, and will support you wherever I can'.

At court, I presented the writ, 3 ells of good cloth (black wool) and equivalent of 1 shilling to Lady Gytha and Lady Órlaith who stood to represent the ladies.

It falls to the ladies of the house to name their foundation and decide which direction to take the endowment to continue the story.

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