March 23rd, 2010

Caspian

Mercia forever

The heritage lottery fund as done the good thing and granted the extra money needed to ensure that the Staffordshire Anglo-Saxon hoard will remain intact and in the Midlands. This is wonderful news on all sorts of levels, not least that it shows respect for the context of the find and for the (extremely important) early mediaeval history of the area. As a Mercian, I am proud to know this material will be remaining where it belongs and not exported to the wilds of London. The pieces are astonishing and there is a lot to be learnt from them. (zaan when it's been fully examined, I suspect we will be learning a whole lot more about sword fittings, amongst other things. There are some lovely things in there.)
There's a good piece about it here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/2010/mar/23/staffordshire-hoard-anglo-saxon-grant

Professor Starkey is by no means an Anglo-Saxonist, but the points he makes about the significance of Mercia are to the point. This is the kingdom of Offa and Penda, the guardians of borders and allies, as often as enemies, of the kings in Wales, one of the truly great kingdoms of the early Saxon period. Its end is often blamed on the viking invasions of the 9th century, but the reality was more complex, and much of its destruction lies at the feet of Alfred of Wessex and his successors, who dismantled their dangerous neighbour and downgraded its leaders. One of the very few politically important women in Anglo-Saxon England was active in Mercia, moreover -- AEthelflaed, Alfred's daughter, who married the man who should have been its king (AEthelred, who was instead an ealdorman subject to Alfred and his successor). She was known as 'Lady of the Mercians, and was highly respected by all about her as a major political force: after her husband's death, she remained the de facto ruler of Mercia.
So let's hear it for Mercia and its original capital, Tamworth. (No laughing at the back.)
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