Today we're thrilled to welcome Mark Noce (Between Two Fires) to Heroes and Heartbreakers. When fierce warriors can be found in your backyard, marriage—and love—is an important part of survival. Mark is here to talk about love and survival in the Dark Ages. Thanks, Mark!
During the Dark Ages, the Welsh people must have felt like it was end of the world. Saxon invaders harried their borders, bitter infighting ensued amongst the nobility, and plagues occasionally swept the land with devastating effect. Yet in the midst of all this potential bitterness, the resilient people of Wales showed extreme courage in defending those they loved. Much of the historical record of the time period has been forever erased due to the tumult of the times, but legends have naturally sprung up to fill the gap. One famous example are of course the Arthurian sagas, where knights and ladies battled the Saxons by day and kept their loved ones close at night, never knowing what tomorrow would bring. It must have been a difficult era to live through to say the least, but it doubtlessly added a zest to life knowing that the joys of today had best be enjoyed now for they might not be there tomorrow.
People lived for the moment and this added an almost modern sensibility to an otherwise very medieval era. For instance, St. Gildas noted how kings like Maelgwyn of North Wales was married, divorced, then fought a man in a duel so that he and the other man’s wife could marry. Whether his motives were for love or lust, this definitely wasn’t always an era of carefully planned alliances, but a time and place where people tried to find some genuine happiness in the short span of life allotted to them. Women often took matters into their own hands, seeking husbands as they sought fit, such as the Celtic queen of Dumonia whom clerics simply referred to as the ‘lioness’ due to her reputation for commanding her own fate and her subjects like a man.