Sunday, 1 July 2012

Raimon-Roger Trencavel and the birthday party By Mary Hoffman


This 1st July celebrates a whole year of our blogging as The History Girls! For the whole month we will be choosing our favourite characters from history and telling you why we like them. But because mine is a sombre choice and because we have accumulated so many Followers and hits over a single year, I shall follow that by starting off .... BIG Fanfare .. The History Girls’ virtual First Birthday Party!



Everyone is invited to bring their favourite food and drink and we have a special dispensation from all the museums, galleries and archaeological sites in the world to enable you to bring with you your favourite object from history and tell us about it.



Now, to my historical hero. Raimon-Roger Trencavel. I found out about him when I was researching my second historical novel, Troubadour (Bloomsbury 2009). I also went on a private pilgrimage to Béziers and Carcassonne in 2008, two places most associated with Raimon-Roger in the Albigensian Crusade.

He was the young Viscount of both cities as well as Razès and Albi and was a Cathar sympathiser at the very least. He owed allegiance both to his uncle, Raimon, the 6th Count of Toulouse and to King Pedro of Aragon.

Raimon-Roger was a very young man – only 24 at his death – married to Agnes of Montpelier and with a small son. But he had to cope with situations beyond the experience of most nobles or indeed most people.

In the Languedoc of that time (the early 13th century) there were many among the nobles and common people living in fortified hill-towns (later known as “bastides”) who were Cathars, that is, according to the Pope, heretics. Pope Innocent the Third (was ever a Pontiff less well-named?) declared war on them after his Papal Legate was murdered – as he believed on the orders of Count Raimon of Toulouse.

Raimon might well have been a Cathar himself. They were Dualists, believing that the soul was created by a the Divine and the body by a baser entity. Pacifist and often vegetarian, they were sitting ducks for Pope Innocents’ army of French barons, who had only to serve 40 days (the “quarantine”) in order to keep any land, property or chattels they won in battle against them.

Raimon-Roger, as I said,  was a Cathar sympathiser, who could believe that the northern army would kill unresisting “heretics.” But he knew that the Jews in his cities were even more at risk. As the huge army approached Béziers, Raimon-Roger rounded up all the Jews and took them to his home city of Carcassonne under his protection, along with his wife and child.

Carcassonne today - my photo
Trencavel was not to know that the leaders of the army – Simon de Montfort and the Abbot of Citeaux – would put to death every citizen, man, woman and child, of Béziers. The massacre occurred on 22nd July 1209 and I try never to forget it. (It is probably apocryphal that the Abbot said, “kill them all – God will know his own” but he ceratinly wrote boastfully to the Pope about his action).

Imagine what the citizens of Carcassonne only a few miles away must have felt when they heard that 20,000 of their neighbours had been put to the sword or burned in Béziers – heretic and orthodox believers alike! How they must have dreaded the approach of the army to their gates!

After a siege, Raimon-Roger accepted the guarantee of a safe-conduct to have a parley with the army leaders. They captured him and threw him into his own dungeon (pictured) where he mysteriously died “of dysentery” on 10th November of the same year.


I have never been able to find out what happened to the Jews of Béziers/Carcasonne but the inhabitants were unexpectedly spared, allowed to leave the city clad only in their underclothes.



So I salute young Raimon-Roger for his bravery, his attempts to save his vassals instead of his own skin and I despise and loathe the Abbot of Citeaux and Simon de Montfort, to whom the city of Carcossonne and the Viscount’s titles and lands were given as a prize while Raimon-Roger still lived.



God will know His own, indeed. And there are two who certainly aren't even though one had a high position in the Church.



And now – time to party! Everyone is welcome to bring food, drink and their favourite historical object, big or small. There’s room for us all at the HG birthday party.



Although I won't be back in the country till late on Sunday, 1st July, I am kicking us off with a bottle of ice-cold Prosecco and some good olives and some salted almonds.

Salute, History Girls. It’s been a great year.

My chosen object is a sixteenth century pomander. I love the way that it opens into the shape of a flower, while closing into a globe. It epitomises for me the way the world is full of unexpected treasures.

Play nicely! I'll drop in on the party later on.

27 comments:

Marie-Louise Jensen said...

Happy birthday, History Girls!
To celebrate, I'm bringing some Bath spiced buns and a syllabub, to stay in my current Georgian theme. And a snuff box. A particularly fine one which any highwayman would love to get his hands on, filled with hand-mixed snuff.

Caroline Lawrence said...

Diem natalem felicem! I'm bringing my spongia or spongestick, Roman toilet paper. It is my talisman for when I visit schools and my motto is "Have spongestick will travel!"

K.M.Lockwood said...

Am I wrong in assuming you have read Kate Mosse's Labyrinth? There's a mini-series coming soon too.
I loved Carcassonne.
Thanks for the post!

jongleuse said...

Thank you for this post. I've always been fascinated by the Cathars and their history. Carcassonne is so beautiful, particularly at night when the tourist buses drive away and the place is lit against the darkening sky. Will definitely be reading Troubadour on my next trip to France!

alberridge said...

Joyeux Anniversaire! For the party I'm bringing strawberries from my garden, so we can eat something in the exact same form they've been eaten for centuries.

My special object is my Victorian inkwell, found on the site of Lord Raglan's headquarters in the Crimea. I doubt it was his - it's only plain glazed earthenware - but whoever dipped their pen in that pot was doing exactly what we do here. He was writing history.

Jane Borodale said...

Happy Birthday HGs! I'm bringing a hogshead of strong or March beer (because there'll be a lot of us) and looking in the 16th-century larder can't quite decide between musk comfits, for the end of the feast, or fine gingerbread from Hugh Platt's 'Delightes for Ladies,' made thus: 3 stale manchets, 1 oz ginger, 1 oz cinnamon, 1 oz liquorice and aniseeds beaten together, 1/2 lb sugar, 1 quart claret. Platt assures us that "this is your gingerbread used at the Court and at all gentleman's houses at festival times."

Dianne Hofmeyr said...

Happy Birthday History Girls! I'm bringing honey cakes flavoured with cardomom. My special object will be a small cedarwood chest with ebony and ivory veneer and silver mountings. In it will be two translucent alabaster unguent jars... one in the shape of a girl swimming with a duck, the other a composite dish of a fish nibbling at a lotus flower. Both will contain unguents of lily and juniper and lotus oils and we'll smother ourselves with these as was the custom at any 18th Dynasty party.

Theresa Breslin said...

I will bring the Hangover Cure! It will “check headaches, drive away pain, and protect from noisome pestilence” Among the many ingredients of my 16th Century recipe are: gold leaf, coral, dissolved pearls, blue lapis lazuli (washed 9 times) ivory and unicorn scrapings, a stag’s heart and occidental amber - mixed with two ounces of best malmsey, all in a tightly closed silver dish.
My object to bring will be the Serpent Standing Stone by the roadside at Aberlemno. It’s an ancient megalith, decorated by the Picts, with mirror and z-rod symbols and a serpent in the top left hand corner, similar to the serpent carving on the bottom right hand corner of a standing stone found in France. Thought to record actual events, these stones tell stories…

Sue Bursztynski said...

Happy birthday, History Girls! I'll bake some medieval spiced shortbread (last time I made it, my parents ate the entire tin while I was out for the evening!) and I'll come wearing the Jewels Of Helen. :)

Sue Bursztynski said...

By the way, have you read Catherine Jinks's Pagan novels? Wonderful YA medieval tales going from Jerusalem in the third Crusade to the Cathars in France.

adele said...

Happy birthday to all my fellow History Girls! It's been a smashing first year and this post is a terrific way to start off our 'historical personages' month. I'm bringing the cake I devised for Charles Dickens' birthday and put on the blog for 7th Feb. and my object is one I've written about on here as well: Hannah Smith's Casket from the Whitworth Gallery in Manchester!

The Virtual Victorian said...

Happy Birthday. I shall bring Mrs Beeton's Victoria sponge cake...the recipe where she forgot to include any eggs! But, it won't matter because adele's cake will be delicious and I'm sure she'll bring plenty along.

My object will be a copy of Diary of a Nobody...and when everyone's tired and sleepy I'll read them an afternoon story or two...

Katherine Roberts said...

Happy birthday History Girls!

I'm feeling pretty full up already on all that lovely historical food and drink, and although I planned to bring some honey cakes, Bucephalas (the Great Horse) ate them all! So instead I'm bringing that drink I think the Romans used to make them - well, puke - so after visiting the bathrooms and using Carloine's sponge stick, we will all have plenty of room for lots more party food and drink...

(Does this count as virtual bingeing? If so, I think I'll have to go on a virtual diet next week.)

Teresa Flavin said...

Fascinating post, Mary, and what a beautiful pomander. Stunning!

Happy first birthday to all the History Girls! It's been a privilege to be a part of this wonderful group. I'm bringing plenty of heather ale to the party, as well as the gorgeous Monymusk Reliquary which resides in the National Museum of Scotland. You can see it here:
bit.ly/N2LiOI

Slàinte!

Laurie Graham said...

Happy birthday HGs!

I've asked Jack Buzzard to knock up a nice refreshing bergamot water ice for us and I'll be serving it in a Sevres porcelain seau a glace I've borrowed from the Metropolitan Museum in New York.

I love virtual parties. All things become possible.

H.M. Castor said...

Happy birthday, History Girls! I have brought with me a virtually inexhaustible supply of fine champagne (the historical character I'll be blogging about later this month, Winston Churchill, did not believe in skimping on such things even when money was low (his answer to financial worries, very often, was to write another history book!)). And I am bringing a beautiful locket ring belonging to Elizabeth I that contained portraits of herself and her mother Anne Boleyn. It usually resides at Chequers, but is currently on display in London, in the Goldsmiths' Company's exhibition 'Gold: Power and Allure' (until 28th July - admission free). There's a picture of the ring in a piece I wrote here: http://onthetudortrail.com/Blog/2011/10/12/finding-anne-boleyn/

Linda B-A said...

Many Happy Returns History Girls! I''ll be blogging about Capability Brown tomorrow, and he's sending you a stunning vista because as history lovers you are all gifted with a fine sense of perspective.

Ann Turnbull said...

Happy birthday, History Girls! I shall bring the Hermes of Praxiteles from the museum at Olympia. It is wondrously beautiful and I have never forgotten seeing it there. And some homemade elderflower soft drink and a pretty salad with mint from the garden.

alberridge said...

Thank goodness for Teresa's Hangover Cure and Ann's elderflower soft drink. Those of us who came early are about ready for both of them - and personally I blame Jane's beer.
It's also possible Harriet's inexhaustible champagne hasn't helped much...

Either way I've reached the pleasantly inebriated stage of wanting to propose toasts - starting with Mary Hoffman, author of this fabulous post, and 'founder of the feast' in a way that would have been totally lost on Ebenezer Scrooge. Here's to Mary, here's another to all the History Girls of the last year, and here's one more to all the History Girls of the next.

(comment ends abruptly as author is carried away paralytic. I told you, it's Jane's beer.)

Marie-Louise Jensen said...

I'll drink to all that, Louise! Sue Bursztynski, I've read the Pagan novels - excellent. Any chance of sharing that medieval spiced shortbread recipe with us? :-)

Eleanor said...

Happy birthday everyone. I have just celebrated by eating an entire packet of good old-fashioned chocolate biscuits. All in the cause of historical research, of course. I was wondering what it felt like to be Henry VIII, Daniel Lambert, etc, etc...

Mary Hoffman said...

(Staggers in late as promised). Well, I see you've left all the empty bottles and plates with crumbs for me to clear away but I'm glad everyone seems to have had a good time!

I got back to my house three hours ago, having been on TEN separate vehicles since we left our daughter's boat in Panama on Friday morning!

So I have no idea what the time actually is according to various regions of my body. Except I'm fairly sure it must be bedtime somewhere in the world and can be here too.

What a riotous end to a fabulous first year, History Girls! And thanks to all who dropped by. It was nice to see you and read all your comments. Abstemiousness can wait till tomorrow. As can the clearing up.

Jane Borodale said...

Hic.

Sue Bursztynski said...

Marie-Louise, will hunt the recipe up on my laptop recipe file and email it to anyone who wants it. I got it from a book by Madeleine Pelner Cosman and it may be copyright breaking to publish it here. But it is yummy!:)

Linda said...

Happy Birthday! Here's to the next one!

I'm not time-travelling far for my contribution, though as far as I can tell, it's just as unobtainable as sweetmeats from a distant age. I shall bring a whole box of a chocolate bar called Milky Lunch. It was around in my youth, but has since disappeared, and had a delicious vanilla flavour. I do miss it!

And as this is wholly fantasy, I think I shall wear my favourite sixties mini-dress: lime green with a huge paisley-patterned kipper tie. I was pretty skinny at the time, with long, long blonde hair, and it was fashionable, honest . . .

Penny Dolan said...

This was a great party with fine items on the diplay and great conversation. I snuck in late yesterday as I was out visiting a re-enactment. With most of the men out "playing", the women watched the fires or quietly whiled away their time with needlework or chat. So that decided me. Over here in our virtual outbuilding, I have set up a printing press so that we will all - eventually - have something to read! To NOT have books - how sad!

Penny Dolan said...

Oh dear. Forgot to say. A hugely Happy Birthday, all you wonderful History Girls! It has been a great and interesting year.