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The Black Monk

Discussion in 'Research' started by skip.knox, Jun 1, 2019.

  1. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    Sometimes, in doing research, you trip over something most cool. Here's a biography that just begs to get folded into a story somehow.

    Fellow called Eustace, born near Boulogne, to a minor noble family, which is sorta cool in itself because it was home to one of the first crusaders. Anyway, the kid goes off to Toledo where, according to legend, he learned black magic. Returns to his homeland and becomes a Benedictine monk (they wore black habits; hence the nickname)

    Then his daddy gets murdered. Eustace leaves the order to tend to his family, becoming an adviser to the count of Boulogne. Then, the fellow who killed daddy starts slandering him, accusing him of malfeasance of office. There's a duel; Eustace loses; the lord banishes him, but Eustace holes up in the forest, along with his brothers, and proceeds to harass the lord, burning buildings, and using his black arts to go about in disguise.

    Eventually, he leaves the forest and goes to the English Channel, where he becomes a pirate, preying especially on French shipping. This puts him in good graces with King John of England, who gives him a number of ships. Eustace takes control of the Channel Islands, becoming a kind of pirate king there.

    After nearly a decade of great success, Eustace switches sides. King John, with his usual ham-handed political sense, made an alliance with the very lord who had protected the killer of Eustace's father and had outlawed Eustace. So, the Black Monk went over to King Philip of France and proceeded to wreak havoc on English ships.

    Now followed several more successful years. Probably his great achievement was in aiding Prince Louis (Philip's son) in his invasion of England (it's okay if you don't know about that nearly-successful French invasion; it doesn't get taught much). He got Louis and a whole army across right in the teeth of the English navy.

    But all good (or bad; Eustace sorta had a rep) things come to an end. He was killed in 1217 in what is sometimes called the first real naval sea battle of maneuver England ever fought. The English got the weather gauge on the French; Eustace's ship was boarded, and the English sailors beheaded Eustace on the spot.

    Apparently there's a "romance" -- a long poem -- about Eustace's exploits, full of all sorts of outrageous stories (e.g., one time Eustace transformed himself into a bird). Alas, the poem has never been translated into English, and I don't read medieval French. But I bet there's some chewy stuff in there.

    Anyway, I find this sort of thing great fun. It's really what underlies my creation and cultivation of Altearth.
  2. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

    Thanks for this. I had heard bits of it but not the fuller story. I think I will read some more.
    Britain not invaded since 1066 is one of the most pervasive myths of British society, education...
  3. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    >Britain not invaded since 1066 is one of the most pervasive myths of British society, education...

    One of the lessons I learned from thirty-five years of teaching is this: myth is stronger than history. Or, more compactly: myths comfort; truth discomfits.
    Night Gardener, SamYellek and Gurkhal like this.

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