A Medieval Story for Valentine’s Day, Bonne & Charles

The general word on the Internet is the first Valentine card was sent in 1415. It’s not accurate and it’s not true. The particular Valentine was written in mid-February of 1416; it was on vellum, not card stock; it’s not the first Valentine card; and no one knows if it was sent.

Charles, Duke of Orleans, who was in London, England, wrote the Valentine that all of the Internet declares, and that fact is true. He had a wife, Bonne, who was in Paris, France or somewhere in France. If it was sent to her, it traveled a far distance on foot and on horseback and on ship. Pagan Valentine’s Day had been celebrated in Western Europe for centuries, and romantic, oftimes coded erotic, messages, had been exchanged for about 100 years by then between educated men and women who ran in the same crowd and lived in close proximity. So much for general information on the Internet…More specific information was found on special websites dealing with Medieval times.

Here’s what I found:

It is possible that Charles was lonesome for Bonne, while he was in London. He had just been captured (on October 25, 1415 specifically) by the English on French soil and was being held prisoner in London or in the London countryside. Charles was one of the lucky ones. Just about every other French aristocrat was killed in the Battle of Agincourt during the 100 Year War between the English and the French for land in France dowered to Eleanor of Aquitaine (former Queen of France) when she married Henry II, the English King. Charles and Bonne hadn’t been married long, about 5 years by 1415. He had been soldiering a lot during those five years, so they didn’t see much of each other. A 100 Year War preoccupies a lot of generations of men folk.

There are three curious things, though, about these two you should know: (1) It was an arranged marriage whose purpose was to avoid further bloodshed between their families; (2) Bonne was 11 when she was engaged to Charles, who was 16; and (3) his father-in-law, Bonne’s father, had assassinated Charles’ father, Louis.

Maybe they loved each other; maybe not. I don’t even know if they ever lived together as man and wife, for she was only 11 when they married, 16 at the time he wrote the verse. In any event, Charles penned a poem on Valentine’s Day in 1416 and it has been retained for almost 600 years.
You may not know that a Duke is a Prince, and noble, highborn prisoners were prized when captured in battle. They were ‘cash cows,’ held for ransom by the opposition, until their families could raise and pay the money for their release. At that time, although most men folk fought for the French King, France wasn’t exactly a country, then, and the King didn’t assume any responsibility for ransoming his patriotic nobles or aristocrats. (No one cared much for non-nobles or non-aristocrats, except their families. But, they were never captured and held for ransom. More often than not, they were killed. They’re the enormous body counts in battles of old, the serfs and servants.) This ransom was up to the noble or aristocratic prisoner’s family, if they wanted their relative back home. (And they did want their men folk back.) His ransom in today’s money could be as much as $500,000 ($US). The actual amount in Medieval English crowns was 150,000 crowns. This sounds like an enormous sum. What with the French losing the war, their King’s reoccurring madness, Joan of Arc’s triumph, then ignominy, a subsequent economic depression, the Black Plague, and Charles’ family having to pay his upkeep all those years, (plus lots of other things) it took his family 25 years to get the money and treaty agreement together to turn him over.

Bonne died while Charles was held prisoner in England, and they had no children. (She falls from the written record because she did not produce progeny, and no one knows exactly when she died or where she was when she died. Actually, no one is exactly sure where she was living and with whom while she was married to her incarcerated husband, Charles. It’s probable she was transferred to Charles’ family estate at the time of the betrothal and raised by Charles’ family until the wedding, remaining there until she died. There’s one more tidbit about poor Bonne, and that is this: Bonne may not have been her name. It’s really an adjective in Old French, and merely means “good girl.”)

A manuscript of the poem is in the British Library. I don’t know if it’s the original. It’s named by the scribe, Harley, in the archive, and scribes’ copies were often rewritten and rewritten and passed around for years and years amongst wealthy families. If it is the original, it was not unusual for scribes to assist in Valentines, for they made a living writing fancy script and making pretty pictures. (Apparently, Charles’ family sent him enough money to pay the scribe, so he didn’t live too badly while he was held prisoner.) How the manuscript got to the British Library after 600 years was by bequest, but I was unable to check out the provenance. The BL was willing to describe the manuscript: There’s a Cupid image and a 3-part verse. The verse is in Old French, not English. There is no version of the poem on the Internet.

I was able to find a description by A.E.B. Coldiron, who says it’s an appeal to Cupid with Charles as a servant of Cupid (Lust imagery, I think.) but no one is named and there is no heading. Charles says he admires this person (Bonne?) and despairs of seeing her again. He is frustrated (which is what all noble men were required to express in Chivalric code), but Coldiron doesn’t say what he’s frustrated about. He promises to be faithful and praises her beauty, virtue, and honor. He may describe intimate moments they’ve shared, a custom in Valentines, but I suspect not. She was simply too young to have been expected to cohabit with her groom and when she was old enough to cohabit, he was away fighting battles, then captured.

A non-academic source has published the following verse on a website, http://www.homespunpeddler.com and has attributed this verse to Charles in a collection called “Romantic Valentines.” It doesn’t read anything like Coldiron’s description, so I doubt if it’s the one he wrote to Bonne. I offer it to you, so you know what a translated from Medieval French into modern English 15th century Valentine would read like.

“Wilt thou be mine? dear Love, reply

— Sweetly consent or else deny.
Whisper softly, none shall know,
Wilt thou be mine, Love?

— aye or no?
Spite of Fortune,
we may be Happy by one word from thee.
Life flies swiftly —
ere it go Wilt thou be mine, Love?

— aye or no?”

Frankly, the above verse is not that terrific, is it? I would call it doggerel. Maybe something is lost in the translation. If not, I think he could have done better. He had a lot of time on his hands.

I’d like to believe that Charles and Bonne did love each other, but don’t know for certain. (The glimmer of hope I entertain that Charles loved Bonne is an anecdote about him reading a love poem he composed to her at their wedding ceremony. Some scholars believe he was showing off his poem prowess, but some scholars are without a scrap of romance in their souls.) Things were different six hundred years ago: love and marriage didn’t intersect amongst nobility and aristocrats. Children were pawns and shuffled around to do smart things for their families. Duty to family superceded love and children dutifully married other children. Romance was in the chivalrous code, hence, unrequited. Sexual congress was for procreation, a duty, and family lineage promulgation was its purpose. Lust was with wrenches, when they could be found. If Bonne and Charles loved each other, it’s a sad story of 2 children from good families. If they didn’t love each other, it’s a jailhouse reverie of a young man who burns. I don’t want to leave you on either note. So, I’ll go for this: go get some vellum (stretched goat skin), pen a personal message of your feelings to your love, make it pretty and fancy all over, and hand it to your love. Maybe your message will be memorialized until 2605, when someone like me comes around to figure what happened then.

Destination Wilderness: Wanderlust

When was the last time you let yourself swirl? When was the last time you gave in to pleasure? When was the last time you let your imagination run wild? When was the last time you dreamt? When was the last time you discovered? When was the last time you tasted ecstasy? If all your answers were a long time ago and you want to experience all these sensations at once, try wanderlust and go backpacking: Feel what you feel and you won’t regret a moment!

Ibn-e-Batuta wasn’t just a famed traveler and scholar but also a very eloquent scribe for no one has ever described travelling more exquisitely and expansively, as he did, over 700 years ago. He said ‘Travelling: it leaves you speechless (and) then, turns you into a storyteller!’.

And that is it! Travelling is more than an experience: it’s a phenomenon that a very select few get to taste in its virgin sense; and those who do get to drink from its exotic wells, will rarely settle for anything else. Read anyone accomplished and you’ll find how travel inspired their stories; or read the revered Sufi sage, Rumi, and hear him say that travel brings power and love back to your life.

It is sad to see our generation missing out on this passion and thereby, denying themselves opportunities of a lifetime. Despite the incredible globalization and infrastructural leaps abounding all around us, only a handful of us will ever choose to step foot on foreign shores or even locally remote areas.

We, as a society, have let ourselves get engulfed by paranoia – of the unknown, of economic sustenance and of physical security – and these qualms are depriving millions of experiencing places, moments and lives beyond the realm(s) that we know of. Wouldn’t it be ironic, today, to have your birthplace and tombstone, within a ten mile radius?

Most of us blame the West for its unforgiving portrayal of our society, people and culture; and we loathe their media for not showcasing the real country we dwell in and it’s pretty true. However, another stark reality is that this also works backwards. Imagine all our ideas about all places foreign being equally contrary to facts!

There is a whole lot of truth that is out there – waiting to be explored first hand and yet, here we let our hearts and mind rust amidst hearsay. We are criminally putting a scope limitation on our horizons, knowledge and may I say, our dreams and visions! To quote, Saint Augustine, “The world is a book and those who do not travel, read only a page”.

I could go on and write those typical blog pieces which enumerate a dozen or even scores of reasons to travel but I am looking to strike a different chord here. This is about the very soul of undertaking travel without clinging on to business, educational or other conventional tags: this is about sparking fire in your blood: this is rebellion – in its purest form.

Travelling’s essence is discovery, exploration and experience. This is very different from the mainstream commercial tourism that we see today: this form is more about the journey than the destination: this travel is not about splurge hotels and plush dining but about camping and meeting the unknown: this travel is not about meticulous planning but about letting yourself wander: this is not about finding anything but yourself: this is about getting lost in a sublime immersing experience that comes promised when you prepare to throw caution to the winds.

This sort of travel not only ensues in a completely fresh opportunity to re-discover life around us but this is also going to be surprisingly timeless, inexpensive, easier to plan and yet, it’s going to be a very heartfelt one. All it will ever take is courage and giving in to your first ever expedition. Travel once, with all your heart and this addiction will find its way into the deepest recesses of your heart and soul.

Travelling will allow you to challenge yourself, it teaches some very invaluable lessons to lead a memorable life, it lets in relaxation and celebration, it gives you that much needed escape, it lets you meet the real yourself, it confers upon you new dimensions and perceptions, it fuels an insatiable ambition inside you that is enduringly calm and fulfilling yet passionately electric and finally, it bestows you with freedom!

Haven’t you ever dreamt? Ever noticed where does it all begin from? How do you dream? The first step to dream is more often than not, a flight to another place or setting or environment or situation – and that exactly is how powerful journeys can be!

Humans were bestowed with feet not roots for none of us is exactly meant to stay: It’s not just the mountains that are calling: it is the whole universe calling us to explore and find our own answers. Most unfortunately, it is us who refuse to listen and give in to inertia!

Our society is mostly made up of settlers and you will find a keen sense of lethargy embedded in them but listen to Rumi, he says that when setting out on a journey: do not seek advice from those who have never left home: (and) do not be satisfied with stories or how others have fared: unfold your own myth! And remember that towards the end, you only regret the chances you didn’t take.

I shall again borrow Rumi’s eloquence and expression to sum it all up. “Respond to every call that excites your spirit. Ignore those that make you fearful and sad, that degrade you back towards disease and death!”

And that’s it, we all need to go out there, on our own, for our own and to be of our own! This is when you spread things and fly!

We are not meant to live away in cages and there is no better way of experiencing the climax of free living than packing your backpack and going on your dream voyage that you have been putting on backburner for quite a while now: your time is now: do not let anyone or anything dictate your plans. Go, taste some elixir of adventure; and wherever you choose to go, go with all your heart; and you’ll never be alone!

Rise and shine, everyone!

Jerome As Doctor of the Catholic Church

Establishment of the Catholic Church

Following the establishment of the Catholic Church by Roman Emperor Constantine it went through years of destabilization. It was almost on the brink of collapse when Jerome was appointed by Damasus, the then Bishop of Rome, to save it. As an educated and well-traveled scribe Jerome had also lived in the East for many years. He had spent time in Bethlehem where he witnessed atrocities against women that he thought justified, as noted in his diary.

Jerome’s Version of the Facts

Jerome’s letters and diaries are available in public libraries and are a wealth of information into the beginning of the church, the struggles to overcome the disparity between various groups and the opposition to many of its claims and especially its new found prophet. The religion was founded at the Council of Nicaea where the differences between the delegates really showed up. They were all of sun-worshiping religions born of the Babylonian Islam, as was Constantine and his bishops.

Imperial Roman Religion

The imperial Roman Religion was copied from that of the Egyptian religion and temples to Isis were prominent in Rome at the time. Constantine believed he was the son of Apollo, an image of the sun god in human form. He was considered a living god and was obviously jealous of any other god that could take his power away. The Catholic religion was his way of counteracting this threat.

Buried Roots

Over the years the church he established has altered many things and written much to bury the roots of the faith in myths from sun worship. Jerome, however, has done us a favor by leaving behind records of what he did and how he accomplished them.

Delegates to the Council of Nicaea

The Council delegates, from various reports, went back to their churches unable to practice anything of the new religion as they had no format. That meant they carried on before with new orders from Constantine that everyone much worship the image he created. He gave the church leaders’ power over life and death to ensure this happened. That power was carried through until the Middle Ages and later.

Constantine’s New Parliament

What he had done was to establish a parliament answerable to him as king that could rule in all the provinces in his name and control the masses through what they called spirituality. The weapons to do this were heaven and hell. If one obeyed then they could go to the former but rebels would go to the latter.

Jerome’s Commission

With only that to go on Jerome now had to work out how to save the Church while giving it structure, laws, a format to work to and even tradition. He did that by adopting the garments, order of service, festivals and calendar from the Imperial Roman Religion. This is in his letters uncovered by Fray Jose of Spain who was commissioned by Phillip II to research Jerome’s history. He had access to Vatican archives to complete the task. While he was doing this in the 16th CAD he was perplexed as to how Jerome could have translated the Septuagint from Hebrew as he had no knowledge of that language. In fact he concluded that the translation, which became the Old Testament, was translated from Greek.

Jerome’s Admissions

Jerome states how he altered parts of it to comply with the New Testament and of that document he states that he took all the writings from around the empire and decided which was “most true”. He also states how he wrote introductions to chapters in both books and the Book of Matthew, which is based on the birth and life of Krishna, details church laws that were not known beforehand.

Differences in the Four Gospels

Differences between the four gospels are stark. Matthew and Luke are the only 2 that recognise the birth of Christ. Matthew claims he was born in a house and fled to Egypt to avoid the evil king Herod. Luke states he was born in a manger and was taken to the temple at 8 days of age and presented as normal. He then lived in Nazareth as a carpenter’s son. Both these books are written by scholars and it is impossible that those who were not highly educated scribes could have written them.

Vulgate was First Bible

Jerome then published the completed bible as the Vulgate at the end of the 4th CAD. While the Catholic Church recognizes this other Christian denominations oppose it because they do not want to believe that their faith is Catholic. The facts are that there was no Christian movement before Constantine invented it along with its image of Christ, as predicted in Revelation 13:13-18.