Ye gods, it's awful complicated...the early Middle Ages I mean. I've found a chap who was the leader of the First Crusade and knowing virtually nothing about the Crusades I looked him up...and was left with my head reeling after trying to decipher his family lineage...there were wives poisoning husbands and husbands locking wives up in castles and brothers murdering brothers and bastard children laying claim to the throne and being ousted by legitimate children and then getting murdered anyway and so many people were taken to the gallows...the hangmen must have been working overtime.
If they weren't ending their days on a scaffold, or expiring from poison, they were dying from the Black Death...
So I didn't find out much about the Crusades after all, but I did find out that William the Conquerors wife was a fiesty lady named Maud Matilida or Matilda Maud depending on what you happen to read about her, and she was only 4ft-2ins tall...word reached her that William wanted to marry her and said she wasn't going to marry a bastard...so there. He turned up on her doorstep and dragged her into the street by her braids...after which she changed her mind and said she'd marry him after all...
Some historians dug her up to measure her bones 'cos no-one quite believed she was so tiny...she was though. And in case you are desperate to know...William the Conqueror was 5 ft-10 ins tall 'cos they dug him as well to measure his bones...
Matilda/Maud had eleven children and William stayed faithful to her until he had a quarrel with one of his sons and Matilda/Maud took the son's side in the argument. William went off the rails after that and fathered several more babies with mistresses.
Some of the background to these people reads rather like portions of the Old Testament...William beget William who beget Thomas who beget...and after I've read the first paragraph I've already forgotten which person I'd started with...
It doesn't help that none of them had just one title. If William was the King of England he was also the Earl of somewhere else and the fourth Lord of another place and some of the children had lots of titles and some didn't have any and they travelled about so...
Born in England and died in France...born in France and died in Turkey...born in the Outer Hebrides and died at Westminster...
The sheer logistics of travelling any distance in the days before decent roads when the forests were full of wild Boar and Wolves and people armed to the teeth with murder in mind just lurking behind the next tree...you'd have had to have had an endless supply of horses for a start because no one horse could have ever managed such distances...and there were all the people you'd have taken with you...
And speaking of trees...I found the man who was said to be the real Robin Hood. His name was David de Huntingdon...1144-1219. In case you are unfamilar with the tree connection, Robin Hood is said to have hidden in a huge old Oak tree called The Major Oak which is in Sherwood forest...I did once have a photo of myself and my little brother peering out of the hole in the tree...but we both looked as miserable as sin so I threw it out. I expect mother had told us to 'take that look off our faces'...
There isn't any actual proof that David De Huntingdon was the man called Robin Hood but according to historians he is the most likely candidate...he certainly came from a minor Royal family and was thought of as something of a Black Sheep because he rejected his heritage...
I have seen the skeleton of a Crusader...he is in the crypt of the little church I visited with Des...the guide on that occasion assured everyone present he really was a Crusader 'cos he was buried with his ankles crossed...then I took T and Reuben to see him and another guide said he wasn't a Crusader at all...just a man who happened to be taller than average for his times whose ankles had been neatly crossed to make him look like a Crusader...he still encouraged all the visitors to go and rub his finger though 'cos it's supposed to bring you luck.
Most of the Crusaders were buried in graves with a stone carved with a Skull and Crossbones...that seemed to be the accepted acknowledgement of who they were...the skull and cross bones fell in and out of fashion as a grave marker...some were used for victims of the Black Death and others for the Great Irish Famine so you need to know the history of the actual burial ground before jumping to conclusions...in Irish history it is thought the carving was to remind people of their own mortality but if that were the case you'd think they would be more commonplace, in all the burial grounds we've visited, I've only ever found two roughly hewn stone markers with the skull and crossbones carved on their surface.
So, from the First Crusade where I became totally lost after two minutes with the complicated lineage...to the legend of Robin Hood who might have been David...to most people meeting a sticky end from poisoning...hanging...the Black Death and plain old sword swipes in battles...I'm not much the wiser, but it is interesting...