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Friday 27 August 2010
Anya Seton's 1950s classic, Katherine, set the benchmark in high-medieval romance, and few have matched her since. But recently two relative newcomers to the genre, Emma Campion and Vanora Bennett, have both revisited the court of Edward III - not to reprise Katherine Swynford's story, but that of another royal mistress, Alice Perrers.
Sunday 22 August 2010
A legend is born in Thomas Cale, the teenage hero in this first instalment of Paul Hoffman's fantasy adventure. Set in an alternative medieval Europe of relentless injustice and prolific violence, Cale is raised among the Redeemers, zealots bent on pursuing their own unholy agenda. By dint of an accident, Cale can anticipate blows and is therefore able to subvert them. By the age of 14, he is an accomplished assassin and redoubtable strategist in military matters. He is an attractive boy to boot, his patchwork of scars a tribute to the thrashings he has overcome. Pity and devotion stir the hearts of the few women who cross Cale's path: dove and swan-like images of feminine charm.
Friday 20 August 2010
Rare evidence of the harsh lives and squalid deaths of soldiers fighting for what was to become Oliver Cromwell's New Model Army has been unearthed in a series of mass graves.
Sunday 27 June 2010
This scholarly but highly readable work of social history traces the evolution of the English marriage from the late Middle Ages to the present day.
Thursday 24 June 2010
The Lewis Chessmen Unmasked exhibition in Edinburgh brings together the British Museum and the National Museum of Scotland’s collections of the Lewis Chessmen – a set of medieval gaming pieces, originating most likely from Trondheim in the 12th or 13th century, which were discovered on the Hebridean island of Lewis sometime between 1780 and 1831.
Wednesday 16 June 2010
Protesters heckled soldiers and brandished placards opposing the war in Afghanistan during a homecoming parade for troops today.
Friday 11 June 2010
The horror director Christopher Smith (Creep, Severance) gets medieval on our ass with this flawed but intriguing morality tale.
Sunday 04 April 2010
This is an original synthesis of fantasy and historical novel. In an alternate Middle Ages, there's a species of merpeople who are sufficiently closely related to the landsmen to be able to interbreed. The infant Whistle, a sea-dwelling outcome of such a union, is turfed out of his tribe by his mother, washed up on the shore and taken in by a landsman who renames him Henry.
Thursday 31 December 2009
An "irreplaceable" medieval stained glass window has been saved after fire broke out at York Minster's stone yard, police said today.
Album: Huelgas Ensemble, A Secret Labyrinth – A Celebration of Music from the Middle Ages to Renaissance (Sony Classical)
Friday 18 December 2009
This 15-CD set by the Huelgas Ensemble of singers under the direction of Paul Van Nevel is well-named, offering as it does access to the choral works which dominated European musical development for 400 years. It's a labyrinthine world of psalms, motets and shifting polyphonies in which the repeated lyric motifs of "Agnes Dei", "Dixit Dominus", "Sanctus", etc, recur in myriad forms. Alas, the accompanying booklet does not annotate the differences separating ,say, 13th-century arrangements from the 15th-century works, so mysteries remain.
Album: Choir of Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge, Into This World This Day Did Come: Carols Contemporary & Medieval (Delphian)
Friday 11 December 2009
Geoffrey Webber's approach to seasonal repertoire with the Gonville & Caius College Choir favours an austere, classical beauty to illuminate the connections between older medieval carols and new material, as in contrast between the 15th-century "Nowell Sing We" and Gabriel Jackson's more dynamic setting of the same text; both the 13th-century "Edi beo thu" and Stuart MacRae's contemporary carol "Adam lay y-bounden" employ a similar Middle English dialect.
Wednesday 28 October 2009
The history books on one of Britain’s most important battles will have to be re-written. The bad news for scholars is that the Battle of Bosworth Field, which marked the end of medieval England, didn’t take place where historians thought it did. But the good news is that the mistake has saved the battlefield from being looted and destroyed by metal detectorists.
Friday 16 October 2009
It is unlikely that a minor participant in the Oxford English Dictionary would merit a study of his entries – including wallop, walnut, walrus and others under "W" – if he had not gone on to write The Lord of the Rings.
Sunday 04 October 2009
Probably the most notorious of England's medieval queens was Isabella of France, the wife of Edward II – few of us don't know about the red-hot poker murder that ended his life, a grisly death meant also to signify Edward's homosexual practices. Isabella, who was considered responsible for the murder and the manner of it, largely escaped punishment even though she was, as Hilton notes, a queen who "had managed to do something practically unthinkable: to depose an anointed king". She also dispels another myth: the red-hot poker story may have inspired Derek Jarman and Christopher Marlowe, but it probably wasn't true.
Sunday 20 September 2009
When he is a little boy, all the protagonist wants to be is ordinary. But ordinariness is far from his reach, for he is heir to Pirbaag, the shrine of the Wanderer, a medieval sufi in his village of Haripir. Pirbaag is "calm and cold as infinity", home to the mausoleum of the sufi, who wandered into Gujarat centuries ago and became guide and guru. Now the shrine lies in ruins, a victim of the violence gripping the state. Our narrator assumes the role he once spurned to tell the shrine's story.
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