Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Alas My Love You Do Me Wrong...

At Christmas time most of the public, unbeknownst to them, are bombarded with at least one 16th century song. The myth behind its composition has become an accepted truth and its origins are lost amongst a reset of lyrics. I speak of "Greensleeves", one of my favorite Tudor era songs.

Can we get something out the way? Yes? Ok:

Whew, I feel better. Greensleeves is composed in an Italian style which did not hit England until the Elizabethan period. Henry was already dead for at least thirty years. And thus, Greensleeves was not written for Anne Boleyn either. The actual meaning behind the word greensleeves is still unknown. Green was the color love but it could also represent sexual abandon. Other lyrical interpretations take us in many different directions. Personally, I think the lyrics are pretty straightforward given other song examples. Greensleeves simply refers to a lady who wears (surprise, surprise) a green sleeved gown. Perhaps she was the writer's muse or inspiration.

Here is Greensleeves with its original lyrics:
And Greensleeves in one of the best Snickers commercials ever:

"What Child Is This" is a Christmas carol written by William Dix in 1865. It was set to the tune of Greensleeves and is now a commonly played song in churches, stores and e-cards.


Friday, 7 December 2012

"Let York Overlook The City Of York"

A long overdue summary of York as I prep for the last week of my first semester abroad! Plenty of posts to come in between now and December 14th so keep watching...

Now then, onto York! As always, the page is on the right.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

What Tangled Webs We Weave

With some sticky notes, colored rubber bands, tape and patience, you too can create a medieval family tree. This one has been a work in progress for a while now. I thought I was finished earlier this week until I realized I misplaced Anne Neville (now who would do that?) which threw the entire tree out of alignment. The picture below now shows everyone in their proper spot.

At the top we have Edward III and one of his many children, John of Gaunt. It is through his descendents that we get the dynastic struggle known as the Wars of the Roses. One of his sons went on to become Duke of York, the other, Duke of Lancaster. The latter takes the throne by force from King Richard II, son of another brother. Two generations later, the Yorkists object to the failing rule of Henry IV's grandson. There you have it.
Now then, my disseration is on George Talbot the 4th Earl of Shrewsbury. This tree was created to understand his past. The Talbots are the family on the left, relatively secluded from the murky web that comprises of the Staffords, Nevilles and Beauforts. George is the third green square from the bottom up (left). His family then goes through the 3rd, 2nd and 1st Earls of Shrewsbury. Each Earl was quite successful and earned family honors along the way. The First was a famous general during the Hundred Years War with France. The Second died protecting Henry VI at Northampton during the Wars of the Roses. The Third died young (25) but still managed to marry a high status woman (Lady Catherine Stafford).
The point to all of this is to show the extensive inter-relationships of families which George was born in to. For example, there were both Yorkists and Lancastrians. George had to tread carefully to avoid banishment or execution. He was a Lancastrian yet had to fight for the Yorkists at Bosworth. He was forgiven by the new king Henry VII and promptly fought for him at Stoke in 1487. Even then, family alliances meant that George could be pulled down as an accomplice if any of his kin or friends went rogue. How did he survive when his morals were on the line? What did he do when his honor was questioned? These are the questions I hope to answer in the following months...    

Saturday, 1 December 2012

History In Sheffield: Pt 8

What better way to start the festive season than to incorporate some holiday history made in Sheffield?!

Scottish born James Montgomery moved to Sheffield in 1792 and quickly worked his way up to become editor of the Sheffield Iris newspaper. Always at the forefront of humanitarian efforts, he was imprisoned several times for speaking out against the political status quo. He also abhored slavery and worked to eliminate child chimney sweeps.
He is, however, mostly remembered for his poems and hymns. One of the latter in particular receives substantial play during the Christmas season. This is the hymn "Angels from the Realms of Glory". Written and published in Montgomery's own newspaper in 1816, the song was first sung in 1825 and only received its final tune in the early 1900s. Here's where it gets tricky:

In the United States, AFTROG is sung to the tune of "Regent Square". In the UK, AFTROG is sung to the tune of "Iris" which is the same tune used for "Angels We Have Heard On High". Furthermore, when sung in the UK, AFTROG also uses the same chorus as AWHHOH. Personally, I think "Angels From The Realms Of Glory" is a much more epic title.
Here are the first stanzas and chorus of each song:

Angels from the realms of glory
Wing your flight o'er all the earth
Ye who sang creation's story
Now proclaim Messiah's birth

Come and worship, come and worship
Worship Christ, the newborn King

Angels we have heard on high
Sweetly singing o’er the plains
And the mountains in reply
Echoing their joyous strains

Gloria, in excelsis Deo
Gloria, in excelsis Deo

Why not listen for yourself? I put together a quick video of the song as it is sung in the UK. This rendition comes to us from the famous King's College Choir in Cambridge. Please note the song is not mine and is only being used for educational purposes! The picture was taken by me. This statue of James Montgomery sits outside of Sheffield Cathedral having been moved there in 1971 from his grave site.