Category Archives: Wednesday’s Words

Offers short excerpts of writings from throughout history that has or should have influenced Western culture.

A Knight’s Oath of Fealty

Knight Swearing Fealty

     The training of men who planned on giving service to a lord as a knight.  Often a young boy would be sent to foster and serve as a page in the household of a lord.  After years of training, the older boy would become a squire and serve a knight who began his training in earnest.  When the young man proved his ability to serve he would be granted knighthood in a sacred ritual. 

     The ritual began with fasting and a Night Vigil in the Chapel of a Castle or a Church. During his last night as a Squire he prepared for the vigil by ritual bathing – the body needed to be thoroughly cleansed as a symbol of purification.  The Knight wore a white vesture to symbolize purity covered by a red robe which symbolized nobility  His shoes and hose were black which symbolized death  A sword and shield was placed on the altar.  The Knight knelt or stood at the Chapel altar, in silent prayer, for ten hours.

     Knighthood was conferred in the adoubement ceremony, or the accolade.  In the morning he was joined by others to hear Mass and a lengthy sermon on the duties of a knight  A sponsor took possession of the sword and shield which had been blessed by the priest.  The sword and shield was passed to the lord who was to conduct the knighthood ceremony. The Knight was presented to the lord by two sponsors in a Public ceremony. The vassal would appear before the lord bareheaded and without and weapons. The vassal would then kneel before the lord, clasping his hands as in prayer which he would stretch outward towards his lord. This position signified total submission.

      The Knight swore an oath of allegiance to the lord and swore the following vows and oaths:  “I promise on my faith that I will in the future be faithful to the lord, never cause him harm and will observe my homage to him completely against all persons in good faith and without deceit.”

     The lord would then take the hands of the vassal and announce his acceptance. The lord presented the sword & shield and ‘Dubbed’ the squire who was pronounced a Knight when the lord would say, “I dub thee Sir Knight.”   ‘Dubbing’ was a blow struck with the flat of the hand or the side of the sword and was regarded as an essential act of the knighting ceremony  The sponsors then put spurs on the knight and hung his sword.

     At the end of the Knighthood ceremony a Knight could claim the title “Sir.” The Knights Shield displayed an heraldic blazon which identified the Knight. The Shield and Spurs were symbols of Knighthood. A disgraced Knight had his spurs hacked off and his shield was hung upside down as a sign of dishonor.

Tomorrow, Castles at War    Rita Bay

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Calgacus: Caledonians Against the Romans

Calgacus Addressing the Caledonians at Mons Graupius

     The Roman writers are often the only source of information about “barbarians.”  While the Celts and  Picts did not put their history or beliefs  into  writing, the Romans recorded their own observations, what they’d heard from others and personal views about their enemies.  Since the readership of the Roman writers was other Romans, they expected to read about the superiority of the Roman culture and the evil deeds and/or intentions of the enemies who needed to be conquered to insure the safety of Rome and its possessions.

     Tacitus was a first century AD historian who wrote extensively about the Romans in Britain who happened to be under the leadership of his father-in-law, Gnaeus Julius Agricola.  Agricola was appointed governor of Britannia about 78 AD.  He immediately focused his attention on subduing the tribes in Wales and northern Britain.  Titus, Vespasian’s successor, ordered Agricola to conquer the rest of Britain.  His two legions attacked the tribes of what is now southern Scotland and prepared to advance north.  A revolt to the south forced him to quell that rebellion before proceeding north.  When Domitian succeeded his brother Titus, Agricola was ordered to push the attack.

     In 83 AD after Agricola’s ships invaded Scotland, Calgacus and his army gathered at Mons Graupius (location unknown) Tacitus recorded both generals’ speeches but the following words of Calgacus’ are the most famous:  “They create desolation and call it peace. Let us then, unconquered as we are, ready to fight for freedom, prove what heroes Caledonian as been holding in reserve!”  Tacitus reports that Calgacus’ army was decimated by the superior strategy and training of Agricola’s army—10,000 dead Picts compared to 360 Roman soldiers.  Agricola withdrew south, leaving the northern tribes to conduct guerilla warfare against the Romans.  The mighty Roman army never advanced so far into Scotland again.  An excerpt of Calgacus’ speech follows:

     “To us who dwell on the uttermost confines of the earth and of freedom, this remote sanctuary of Britain’s glory has up to this time been a defence. Now, however, the furthest limits of Britain are thrown open, and the unknown always passes for the marvellous. But there are no tribes beyond us, nothing indeed but waves and rocks, and the yet more terrible Romans, from whose oppression escape is vainly sought by obedience and submission. Robbers of the world, having by their universal plunder exhausted the land, they rifle the deep. If the enemy be rich, they are rapacious; if he be poor, they lust for dominion; neither the east nor the west has been able to satisfy them. Alone among men they covet with equal eagerness poverty and riches. To robbery, slaughter, plunder, they give the lying name of empire; they make a solitude (also translated as “create desolation” RB) and call it peace.”

To read the entire speech:

Tomorrow, The Tower Houses of Scotland  Rita Bay

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The Homes of the Picts

The mysterious Picts (so-called by the Romans) lived throughout Scotland the Romans arrived, during the Roman occupation, and for several centuries after the Romans left.  No one knows for sure their origins—from the ancient local populations, Ireland, Spain, Norway,  or somewhere else. Elements of their language, culture, and art was unique to their people—a topic of discussion for another day and post. 

Pictish Settlements

The range of Pictish settlements that have been discovered is very broad and depends on the location and resources available for building. The Picts left brochs (round stone towers), souterrains (underground storage passages that were used as food stores ceremonial use, or hideouts.), crannogs (houses built over the lochs), and round houses which often surrounded the Iron Age brochs or hillforts for protection.  Most of what survives today is constructed of stone and found in the Northern and Western Isles.   

Mousa Broch


The southern Picts built with more perishable materials, such as timber and turf.  The settlements of the southern Picts are no longer visible other than in the higher glens. Excavations at Pitcarmick in Perthshire revealed very long, broad, round-ended turf buildings the purpose of which is unknown. No Pictish palaces survive but some remains were identified at Forteviot in Strathearn. Forteviot stood on important trade routes, surrounded by rich agricultural land.

Pictish House

The Picts became Christians and eventually disappeared, absorbed by the Scots—but more on that another day. 

Tomorrow, At Home with the Scots      RitaBay


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One of the big secrets of the marriage of Prince William which is the main event today is the location of their two-week long honeymoon.  It’s been a big secret but Kate was recently seen buying warm-weather clothing.  Who knows their destination but today’s posts is about honeymoons. 

The concept of a special time

Will & Kate

after marriage goes back to the biblical time when a man was exempt from public duty.  In more modern times, the term honeymoon came into use referring to the sweet month after a marriage.  Later, the honeymoon was associated with travel as in a bridal tour. In some European countries, the newlyweds were given a month’s supply of mead which is an alcoholic drink made from fermented water and honey.

Tomorrow, Swords & Knots               Rita Bay

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Book of Common Prayer Regency Marriage Service

Marriage of George IV
 After King Henry VIII broke with the Catholic Church in the 16th century, the Church of England had to develop a common liturgy that reflected the beliefs of the new religion. 
During the reign of Edward VI, Henry’s son, the clergy developed The Book of Common Prayer. The book which included the prayers and regular services, and form of occasional services—baptism, confirmation, marriage, prayer for the sick, and a funeral service, was suppressed by Edward’s successor Queen Mary Tudor who attempted to restore the Catholic faith. After her death, her sister Queen Elizabeth returned to the Protestant religion and the Book of Common Prayer became the standard for the Church of England.  Later versions updated the services.  Excerpts of the marriage service used during the Regency (1815 edition) are featured in today’s post:


Wilt thou have this Woman to thy wedded wife, to live together after God’s ordinance in the holy estate of Matrimony? Wilt thou love her, comfort her, honour, and keep her in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all other, keep thee only unto her, so long as ye both shall live?

The Man shall answer, I will.

Then shall the Priest say unto the Woman,

With thou have this Man to thy wedded husband, to live together after God’s ordinance in the holy estate of Matrimony? Wilt thou obey him, and serve him, love, honour, and keep him in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all other, keep thee only unto him, so long as ye both shall live?

The Woman shall answer,    I will.

Then shall the Minister say,

Who giveth this Woman to be married to this Man?

Then shall they fire their troth to each other this manner.

The Minister, recessing the Woman at her father’s or friend’s hands, shall cause the Man with his right hand to take the Woman by her right hand, and to say after him as followeth.

I take thee N. to my wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part, according to God’s holy ordinance; and thereto I plight thee my troth.

 Then shall they loose their hands; and the Woman, with her right hand taking the Man by his right hand, shall likewise say after the Minister,

I take thee M. to my wedded husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love, cherish, and to obey, till death us do part, according to God’s holy ordinance; and thereto I give thee my troth.

WITH this Ring I thee wed, with my body I thee worship, and with all my worldly goods I thee endow: In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen. 

Pride & Prejudice

Google Books contains the numerous editions of The Book of Common.  You can read the read the entire 1815 Wedding Service in the Behind the Scenes page at 

Tomorrow, Not a Morganatic Duo     RitaBay


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Churchill: His Call to War Speech


Churchill Giving the Victory Sign

In May of 1940, Winston Churchill was in the process of forming a new government in Britain. Germany was waging war with Britain on several fronts.  Churchill needed to give a broad explanation of what was occurring and to prepare the people for the horrific sacrifices they would make during the war to come.  What he delivered was one of the greatest “call to war” speeches in history.  Below is an excerpt:

Sir, to form an Administration of this scale and complexity is a serious undertaking in itself, but it must be remembered that we are in the preliminary stage of one of the greatest battles in history, that we are in action at many points in Norway and in Holland, that we have to be prepared in the Mediterranean, that the air battle is continuous and that many preparations have to be made here at home. In this crisis I hope I may be pardoned if I do not address the House at any length today. I hope that any of my friends and colleagues, or former colleagues, who are affected by the political reconstruction, will make all allowances for any lack of ceremony with which it has been necessary to act. I would say to the House, as I said to those who have joined the government: “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.” We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is our policy? I will say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark and lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: victory; victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival. Let that be realized; no survival for the British Empire, no survival for all that the British Empire has stood for, no survival for the urge and impulse of the ages, that mankind will move forward towards its goal. But I take up my task with buoyancy and hope. I feel sure that our cause will not be suffered to fail among men. At this time I feel entitled to claim the aid of all, and I say, “Come then, let us go forward together with our united strength.”

Tomorrow,  Ben Franklin’s Quips              Rita Bay

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Reagan: “A Time for Choosing”

The Actor

     On October 27, 1964, Ronald Reagan (1911-2004) who had recently converted to the Republican Party gave a speech supporting the election of Barry Goldwater as President of the United States.  Goldwater lost to Lyndon Johnson but the speech that lasted less than five minutes and seldom mentioned Barry Goldwater or the election launched Reagan on a political career that would land him in the White House 16 years later. 

Check out the whole speech—there’s text and a YouTube video—on the link below.  The speech was so great, in fact, that it was difficult to select an excerpt but this section addresses the need to confront Communism and the threat of Russia which Reagan did as President:

The President

 “. . . You and I know and do not believe that life is so dear and peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery. If nothing in life is worth dying for, when did this begin — just in the face of this enemy? Or should Moses have told the children of Israel to live in slavery under the pharaohs? Should Christ have refused the cross? Should the patriots at Concord Bridge have thrown down their guns and refused to fire the shot heard ’round the world? The martyrs of history were not fools, and our honored dead who gave their lives to stop the advance of the Nazis didn’t die in vain. Where, then, is the road to peace? Well it’s a simple answer after all.

The Inauguration

You and I have the courage to say to our enemies, “There is a price we will not pay.” “There is a point beyond which they must not advance.” And this — this is the meaning in the phrase of Barry Goldwater’s “peace through strength.” Winston Churchill said, “The destiny of man is not measured by material computations. When great forces are on the move in the world, we learn we’re spirits — not animals.” And he said, “There’s something going on in time and space, and beyond time and space, which, whether we like it or not, spells duty.”

You and I have a rendezvous with destiny.

We’ll preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we’ll sentence them to take the last step into a thousand years of darkness.. . .”

Check out the text and YouTube video of Reagan’s entire speech:

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Kennedy’s Inaugural Address

Kennedy's Official Portrait

     On January 20th, 1961 John F Kennedy was inaugurated as the 35th President of the United States. Kennedy who was 43 years old was the youngest man and the first Catholic elected to the office. After a heavy snow, he delivered an inaugural speech that challenged a nation and  became the foundation for Camelot.  The following is the excerpted end of his address.

    “In your hands, my fellow citizens, more than mine, will rest the final success or failure of our course. Since this country was founded, each generation of Americans has been summoned to give testimony to its national loyalty. The graves of young Americans who answered the call to service surround the globe.

     Now the trumpet summons us again — not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need — not as a call to battle, though embattled we are — but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, “rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation,” a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself.

Kennedy;s Inaugural

     Can we forge against these enemies a grand and global alliance, North and South, East and West, that can assure a more fruitful life for all mankind? Will you join in that historic effort? In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility — I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it. And the glow from that fire can truly light the world.

     And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world, ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.

     Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us here the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.”

Read Kennedy’s full speech with commentary:

Tomorrow: Shakespeare’s Insults Rita Bay

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Thomas Paine & “Try Men’s Souls” Excerpt


Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine wrote numerous pamphlets in support of the American Revolution.  His most famous quote is from The Crisis and begins “THESE are the times that try men’s souls.”  What comes afterwards, is an exhortation to fight against British oppression.  The following is the introduction to “The Crisis:”

“THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated. Britain, with an army to enforce her tyranny, has declared that she has a right (not only to TAX) but “to BIND us in ALL CASES WHATSOEVER,” and if being bound in that manner, is not slavery, then is there not such a thing as slavery upon earth. Even the expression is impious; for so unlimited a power can belong only to God.”

To read the full text and many other primary docs of America’s history:

Tomorrow:   A Vintage Postcard from  New York      Rita Bay


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Col. Travis’ Letter from the Alamo

The Alamo

At the Alamo in San Antonio, then called Bejar, 150 Texans led by William Barret Travis made their stand against Santa Anna’s vastly superior Mexican army. On the second day of the siege, February 24, 1836, Travis called for reinforcements with the heroic message below. Little help came. Santa Anna’s troops broke through on March 6. All of the defenders of the Alamo died.

Commandancy of the Alamo— Bejar, Fby. 24th 1836—

To the People of Texas & all Americans in the world— Fellow citizens & compatriots—I am besieged, by a thousand or more of the Mexicans under Santa Anna—I have sustained a continual Bombardment & cannonade for 24 hours & have not lost a man—The enemy has demanded a surrender at discretion, otherwise, the garrison are to be put to the sword, if the fort is taken—I have answered the demand with a cannon shot, & our flag still waves proudly from the walls—I shall never surrender or retreat Then, I call on you in the name of Liberty, of patriotism & every thing dear to the American character, to come to our aid, with all dispatch—The enemy is receiving reinforcements daily & will no doubt increase to three or four thousand in four or five days. If this call is neglected, I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible & die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his own honor & that of his country—Victory or Death William Barret Travis Lt. Col. comdt

P.S. The Lord is on our side—When the enemy appeared in sight we had not three bushels of corn—We have since found in deserted houses 80 or 90 bushels & got into the walls 20 or 30 head of Beeves— Travis

Tomorrow: Vintage Postcard–Branding Cattle    Rita Bay


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