Know Your White History: Wergeld


This thread is all about your legal options if you were to travel back in time to medieval Europe and murder someone. It’s also about measuring the decline of the extended family and the origins of English individualism. On Bertha Phillpotts’ “Kindred and Clan in Past Time”.

Say as an example you traveled back in time to 14th century Sweden and murdered somebody. This is who and what you would have to pay: plaintiff 7 marks, King 4 marks, parents 2 marks, brothers 1 mark, 1st cousin 1/2 mark, 2nd cousin 1/4th, 3rd cousin 1/8th.

The old Germanic name for this custom is wergeld. The wergeld gets mocked as barbaric, but understand that the fine to be paid was huge. In early laws it was often set at 200 gold solidi, which Seebohm thought was the equivalent value of 100 cattle, the original Germanic fee.





Know Your White History: The Collapse of the Scottish Clan System



The term “clan” is derived from the Gaelic word “clann”, meaning family or children, however, it is a misconception that persons who bear a clan’s name is a lineal descendant of the clan chief (ceannard cinnidh) or hereditary family.

Many clansmen took their Chief’s surname to show solidarity, through marriage, to settle in clan territory, or to obtain the protection of the ruling family in a system known as the ‘Duthcas’.

The clan centered on the chief, who’s succession was governed by a system known as ‘Tanistry’, an ancient law of succession where an heir was chosen from individuals within the hereditary line, often descendants of former Chiefs.

Beneath the Chief is the Chieftains, heads of individual houses from which the clan formed, the eldest of which was called the ‘Toiseach’, and then there are the ‘Daoin-Uaisle’, the aristocracy or clan elite.

At the bottom of the tier system are the main clan members. Most of a clan’s followers were tenants, supplying labour to work the lands, and sometimes to fight in clan feuds and times of greater turmoil against the armies of England.

The origins of the clans vary, often claiming mythological founders that reinforced their status and glorified notions of their origins, such as Clan Campbell, that claimed they had descended from Diarmid O’Dyna, a demigod, son of Donn, and one of the Fianna in the Fenian Cycle of Irish mythology.







History of the Middle Ages: King John, The Worst Monarch in English History?

I would be amiss not to mention the excellent Sword-play movie set during this very time period, Ironclad, with Paul Giamatti playing the role of King John. -SF


When it comes to Kings (and Queens) of England, there is strong competition as to who can claim the title of being the worst in the nation’s long history. There is Ethelred the Unready, whose chaotic reign saw the country held to ransom by Viking invaders, and there is Richard the Third, forever associated with the murder of the young princes in the Tower of London. There is Henry the Eighth and his six wives. There is Queen Mary, better known as Bloody Mary, burning Protestant martyrs at the stake. There is Charles the First who, in common with some of Henry’s wives, ended up losing his head. And then there is King John. That’s Bad King John, who ruled from AD 1199 to 1216 and features so prominently in the legend of Robin Hood.

Well Meaning or Dangerously Wicked? Now King John does have his apologists who will point out that John (also known as John Lackland because, as the youngest son of King Henry the Second, he was not expected to inherit any great estates) was a monarch who struggled to do his best in difficult times.

To an extent this is true. There was a dispute between the English crown, which liked to control senior church appointments, such as the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Pope, who wanted his own men in these roles. During John’s reign this dispute escalated to a point where Pope Innocent III actually excommunicated John and placed an interdict on England for five years, which meant nobody could receive a church christening, marriage or funeral service.

Read the Remainder at Ancient Origins