Wednesday, May 19, 2021




Interestingly enough, Sparta was a city within the region of Laconia. This is where we get the term laconic, meaning concise, terse, or using as few words as possible.


December 23rd, 1944, during the Battle of the Bulge:

As a tank destroyer from the 7th Armoured Division moved west from Salmchateau on the highway toward Fraiture, the commander spotted a lone trooper from the 325th digging a fox hole for an outpost near the road.

The commander stopped the vehicle and asked him if this was the frontline.

The trooper, PFC Vernon Haught, with Company F, 325th GIR, looked up and said, "Are you looking for a safe place?" The tank destroyer commander answered, "Yeah."

Haught then said, "Well, buddy, just pull your vehicle behind me. I'm the 82nd Airborne Division, and this is as far as the bastards are going."

Vernon Haught (1923-1995)


We all know of William conquering England, when Harold copped an arrow in the eye, but how many know of William’s death and funeral?


There are two main accounts of the death of William the Conqueror.

The more famous of the two is in the ‘Historia Ecclesiastica’ written by the Benedictine monk and chronicler Orderic Vitalis who spent his adult life in Saint-Evroult monastery in Normandy. While some accounts vaguely state that King William became ill on the battlefield, collapsing through heat and the effort of fighting, Orderic’s contemporary William of Malmesbury added the gruesome detail that William’s belly protruded so much that he was mortally wounded when he was thrown onto the pommel of his saddle. Since the wooden pommels of medieval saddles were high and hard, and often reinforced with metal, William of Malmesbury’s suggestion is a plausible one.

According to this version, William’s internal organs were so badly ruptured that even though he was carried off alive to his capital Rouen, no treatment could save him. Before expiring, however, he had just enough time to set up a death-bed last will and testament that would leave the family arguing for decades, if not centuries.

Rather than conferring the crown on his troublesome oldest son Robert Curthose, William chose Robert’s younger brother, William Rufus, as heir to the throne of England. Technically, this was in keeping with Norman tradition, since Robert would be inheriting the original family estates in Normandy. However, the last thing William should have done was split his dominions. It was too late though. Hardly were the words out of his mouth than William Rufus was on his way to England, metaphorically elbowing his brother out of the way in his haste to seize the crown.

The rapid departure of William Rufus signalled the start of a farcical sequence of events that made the funeral of his father William memorable for all the wrong reasons.

To begin with, the room in which his body lay was almost immediately looted. The king’s body was left lying naked on the floor, while those who had attended his death scuttled off clutching anything and everything. Eventually a passing knight appears to have taken pity on the king and arranged for the body to be embalmed – sort of – followed by its removal to Caen for burial. By this time the body was probably already a little ripe, to say the least. When the monks came to meet the corpse fire broke out in the town. Eventually the body was more or less ready for the church eulogies in the Abbaye-aux-Hommes.

Just at the point where the assembled mourners were asked to forgive any wrongs that William had done, an unwelcome voice piped up. It was a man claiming that William had robbed his father of the land on which the abbey stood. William, he said, was not going to lie in land that didn’t belong to him. After some haggling, compensation was agreed.

The worst was yet to come. William’s corpse, bloated by this point, wouldn’t fit into the short stone sarcophagus that had been created for it. As it was forced into place, “the swollen bowels burst, and an intolerable stench assailed the nostrils of the by-standers and the whole crowd”, according to Orderic. No amount of incense would cover up the smell and the mourners got through the rest of the proceedings as quickly as they could.

By the way . . .


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