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I could have been a duke

10/02/2012 @ 7:49am

I could have been a duke.  Or maybe an earl.

The third week in September is always a sad time for me.  It’s when I grapple with the tragedy of the Battle of Stamford Bridge, which is the only thing that stands in the way of me being royalty.

Let me explain.  Those of you who paid attention in European History class (assuming they still teach European History) might remember the date 1066.  That’s the year William the Conqueror and his guys came sailing over from Normandy and took over Britain after winning the Battle of Hastings.

By the way, I’m just guessing that the result of the battle was how he got his nickname “The Conqueror.”  I hope so, because any parent who would name their child “The Conqueror” is really setting the kid up for failure.  It’d be fine if he actually became the king of England, but if he ended up as the slop boy on a goat farm, there could be some teasing.

Anyway, the Battle of Hastings is famous, and everyone thinks William is a big deal for winning it.

Except, the reason William and his troops won the battle of Hastings in October was because half of the English army had been killed on September 25, when King Harold Hardrada of Norway had also invaded England.

Evidently September/October is invasion time – kind of like pro football now.

I don’t have a firm opinion whether William taking over England was a good or bad thing for the English – it was a time when there was quite a bit of conquering going on, in all directions, and as a peasant with several centuries of peasants in my background I guess I don’t see much difference between one king or another.  But we can all agree that the real heartbreaking aspect is if the Normans had landed in England BEFORE the Norwegians, the situation would have been reversed and the chances are pretty good that a Norwegian would have become King of England and installed his subordinates as royalty.

I don’t know if any of my ancestors were in Harald’s army.  For all I know, they were back home getting the barley harvested.  But they could have been and that might have made all the difference.

I’m not sure how I’d do as royalty.  From what I hear, all you need to do is take off your clothes and let people with cameras sneak up on you.  I’m not in favor of that – I don’t even like mirrors, let alone strangers with cameras.  On the other hand, Queen Elizabeth is worth $500 million, the Crown Estate has $15 billion in real estate, she gets a yearly stipend of $12.9 million AND the Royal family gets dibs on swan meat from the flock on the Thames.

Now, I’m sure a duke makes less than a queen, and I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t even like swan meat, but I don’t need thirteen million a year.   I bet I could get by on 10% of that.  Plus, I already have a house; I don’t need a castle.  

The ironic part of all this is that the French won because they were such bad sailors.  They had planned to invade England earlier in the summer, but couldn’t get all their boats pointed in the same direction.  

Oh, well.  That was almost a thousand years ago – I should try to get over it.

Still, I could have been a duke.


Copyright 2011 Brent Olson

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