Thursday, January 17, 2013

Today's research snippet. A description of Henry II

Chronicler Gerald of Wales always has to be read with a pinch of salt as he often has agendas and can be full of praise or bile about a person because either he wants to curry their favour or they have displeased him.  Yet his writings are vibrant, colourful, and show the workings of a busy, enquiring mind, and in that aspect they are quite delightful.
Here is Gerald's description of Henry II. 

Gerald of Wales on Henry II.
Henry II king of England, was a man, then, having her hair somewhat red, grey eyes, and an ample and Round head: his bluish eyes were fierce, and suffused with the redness when in a passion; his face  fiery, his voice broken, his neck in a slight degree depressed from his shoulders, his breast square, his arms strong; his body fleshy, rather by nature than by indulgence of appetite;his belly was large, and yet there was no unusual Rutan ditty, no laziness what ever: and he was moderate even in his excesses: for he was sparing and sober both in meat and drink and addicted in parsimony as far as was practicable in a Prince; and that he might repress and mitigate this misfortune of nature by industry, and might alleviate the sins of the flesh by the bigger of his mind, he was accustomed to torment his body by a moderately harassing it by waging against it and more than intestine war - conspiring as it were against himself. For, besides the times of war is which pressed upon him, what remained when these matters were accomplished, that little space even he scarcely gave to rest. In time of peace he never indulged himself in any peace and quiet; for being immoderately given to hunting, he mounted his swift horse at break of dawn, and passed the day in a state of restless activities; at one time wandering through the groves at another penetrating into the woods, and at another traversing the tops of the mountains; and when he arrived at home in the evening, you would scarcely ever see him sitting down, either before supper or after; for after so great fatigue, it was his habit to weary the whole court by standing continually. But since this maxim is especially useful in life ,'that there should be no extremes in things, and that no remedy is good if it occasions frequent swelling of the feet and ankles' ( for the injury is increased if the beasts of burden kick against you) he hastened on his old age to his other bodily inconveniences which itself may be called a second nurse and Minister of many evils."

Today's research photo.  It's actually a link because I don't have a copyright original of this, but it's a mural painting of Henry II (with his four sons not shown here) on the wall of the chapel of St. Radegonde in Chinon.

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