THE NORMANS, THE BBC,THE PAPACY AND US!
As one who watched both Professor Robert Bartlett's 'Normans' andDan Snow's 'Norman Walks', let me say how much I enjoy theBBC's sense of history and these two items in particular.Hitherto I have admired the BBC’ ‘sense of history’. But on recentreflection I find that I must reconsider this view. Indeed, I have toadmit of a general problem that now pervades my entire viewing of these wonderfully formal historical offerings, one’s prejudicesdrawing one decisively if reluctantly towards
Pillars of Wisdom,
where, as Oscar Wilde reminds us, even in a pitiable medievalgutter some spirits see the stars.The problem revolves entirely around our notion of the Papacy aswell as our notion of the ‘Nation State’. By my reckoning, theNormans not only beat the crap out of everyone for not beingNormans and good Christians, but they made French the languageof the people for at least 400 years after their conquest. Inadministration, law, architecture -- practically everything -- anynotion we have even of Saxon England is reviewable backwards.Moreover, what does that say of our idea of ‘England’, ‘Ireland’ , ‘Scotland’, ‘Germany’, ‘Italy’, and the European Nation State?One cannot be blamed for thinking that during the Dark Ages andthe Early Middle Ages, there was little or nothing known of theNation States or how -- if at all -- they were conceived. And whilethe middle ages was ubiquitously violent and volatile -- and canoften be likened to a game of chess, played out for real by endlesspetty kings (mostly relatives) and neighbouring city states(especially in Italy) -- the real governor of the European land mass,never to be found on a Chess Board, was the Pope.It was a time when everyone was running off to Rome to pay one’srespects to the sole overlording religion in Italy. The story of Jesushad been doing the rounds and, as Wycliffe had pointed out, thecorruption of mother Church was so horrific, that the Pope’s nextmove was to swamp Europe with young men called Benedictines,Franciscans, Dominicans, etc., etc.. The church became the biggest