358 – King Harthacnut

Today’s story starts in 1039. It’s a big year, and a lot has happened to get us here. So let’s recap very quickly. The death of Cnut caused a cascade of consequences that reached up to the tip of Scotland and even into the continent. It was an empire crumbling just as it had been [...]

357 – Walter Map’s Courtly Trifles

The early 11th century was an unlikely time of heroes. By heroes I unfortunately don’t mean people of good character and brave deeds, but just people who perform extraordinary feats for their time. One of these was the very first King of Wales, Gruffudd ap Llewelyn. He pulled off what no other Welsh ruler had [...]

356 – Macbeth

Here is the story of Macbeth. If you have just tuned into this episode because of the title, know that it is the second episode in a two-part series. You will want to go to the previous episode, Double Double Toil and Trouble, and listen to that first. There you will learn about the peculiar region that spawned this shadowy highland King.

353 – Mother of the Year

The Medieval chronicler, Adam of Bremen, was writing at around this point in history and among the many things he tells us he also includes how Cnut planned his almost empire. And Adam tells us that Cnut intended Sweyn to rule Norway, Harthacnut to rule Denmark, and Harold Harefoot to rule England. And that might [...]

352 – Chaos

It was November 11 of 1035 and King Cnut was dead. He was buried at Winchester Cathedral. Cnut, and likely the Court, seemed to anticipate his death. Possibly because he had been ill for some time. But the ruling classes of Europe were still completely unprepared for the chaos that followed. Consolidating multiple kingdoms under [...]

350 – A Tough Cnut to Crack

We have another mystery on our hands. We have a missing year. And I don’t think it was because nothing was happening. As we know from the previous episodes, in 1031 things in Norway were getting a bit ropey. Cnut’s son and ex-wife, having just been handed the reins of the region, made some particularly [...]

348 – Ruling Hard or Hardly Ruling

Europe was in chaos in the 1020s. Crises just kept coming, and the powerful were trying to capitalize on disorder. And in times like these, actions can have outsized impact, even the smaller ones. For example, if you sat in Leicester during the 1020s, the last thing you would have been paying attention to would [...]

347 – Aggressive Diplomacy

What we call history was, at one point, just current events. And world affairs never happen in a vacuum. It’s never just one thing happening after another… it’s a whole mesh of events that, while they might happen in their own sequences that look very much like just one thing happening after another, they’re actually [...]

345 – Building Blocks

In the early 11th century, the English were crushed by the Scots in the Battle of Carham. We are told that King Malcolm of Scotland, supported by King Owain of Strathclyde, brought their combined armies to bear against the forces of Ealdorman Uhtred of Bernicia in 1018… and there, they slaughtered the English. But there’s [...]