Asking questions

The ramifications of a simple enquiry may turn out to be long and tortuous, whether it be a discussion of the famous Caledonian syzygy or Who wrote “Auld Lang Syne” (including maybe what tune it should go to). I’m thinking that my blogs might well be devoted (mostly) to such enquiries, taking the time and the space to examine the ins and outs and in-betweens of a few questions that have interested folks in the past, and may interest folks in the future. As to the syzygy, I’ll get onto Hugh Macdiarmid (he had, bless him, a Murray in his background) at some point, and even Burns eventually (all roads lead to Burns, I should think).

But for the nonce (I love that silly phrase, it makes me think of Chaucer somehow) it occurs to me that a wander through the thickets of the Sutherland Clearances and the Salic Law, involving rowing songs from Upper Canada and Edinburgh literati, would be somewhat entertaining.

So let’s see, we can start with the law of succession. Laws actually, for there are many and they vary from place to place, jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and over time as well. In the Fifth Century the (legendary and apocryphal) king of the Franks, Pharamond, in a region of Europe probably settled by Germans (as opposed to French) brought out a set of laws assigning penalties for various crimes. Written in somewhat raw Latin, they contained one rule that was quite faithfully accepted, namely that succession to property or position in the “Salic lands” would only go through the male line: In terram Salicam mulieres ne succedant. The story is set out at some length in Shakespeare’s Henry the Fifth, Act I sc. 2, by the Archbishop of Canterbury, who proceeds to assure the king that this has nothing to do with Edward III’s claim to France through his mother Isabella, daughter of Philip IV; and so Henry has every right to invade France to claim the throne.
[To be continued in our next.]

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Filed under Politics, Texts, Trivia

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