No sooner had my musical tangent from early modern music to medieval music gone from troubadours to 12th century polyphony, when I had an astounding memory of my life as Count William that I hope I can confirm.

I remember the day I was released by the Bishop of Beauvais.  He took me to mass, still bound and in my filthy clothes.  At the end of the mass, they gave my mail to a couple of pages and took me out onto the cathedral steps, my hands still bound.  I was given a shove forward and stumbled toward King John or perhaps his envoy (it might very well have been William Marshal, my colleague and uncle by marriage).  He embraced me and personally unbound my hands, then the pages dressed me in my mail (which had been kept pristine because it was good quality mail and of value to them as booty if I should die) and put a fresh surcoat on me.  They gave me a handsome chestnut stallion to ride.

Such an age of extremes… only a few hours earlier I’d been wallowing in my own filth in the Bishop of Beauvais’ dungeon.  One of the guys I was with actually died there in that dungeon.  But once my ransom was paid, it was good to be the Earl of Salisbury and the king’s brother to boot… though I probably still smelled frightful.

Incidentally, it’s not that we weren’t clean back then (prudish attitudes about bathing didn’t become a thing until the later half of the 13th century), it’s that bathing was something you did when you’d gone home and didn’t have anything important to do.  Even the nicest inns didn’t give you much more than a chamber pot and a basin to wash in.  I definitely don’t miss that level of grit you got from being a prisoner in those days, even a noble one.


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