The Ice Saints are St. Mamertus, St. Pancras, and St. Servatius. Their feast days fall on May 11, 12 and 13.There is often a cold or frosty snap on these days and this year was no exception. In medieval times farmers needed to know when to work the fields, no books to guide them so they relied on days that marked weather. They needed saints’ days to help them in this. The historian Barbara Tuchman wrote in A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century, ‘Christianity was the matrix of medieval life: even cooking instructions called for boiling an egg ‘’during the length of time wherein you can say a Miserere.’’ It governed birth, marriage, and death, sex, and eating, made the rules for law and medicine, gave philosophy and scholarship their subject matter. Membership in the Church was not a matter of choice; it was compulsory and without alternative, which gave it a hold not easy to dislodge.’
May Holidays and Emerging from Confinement
France today adheres to laïcité, or non-sectarianism, indeed our local salle des fetes proclaims this above the door with the word laïque, which translates as secular. But folk lore or old church lore still exists. Saints’ days are marked and noted. During May there can be four holidays, a rather special mix of Labour Day on May 1st, VE Day on May 8, the moveable feast of Ascension Day, this year on May 21st, and Whit Monday creeping into June on the 1st. In 2021 all of these will fall in May.
The few chilly days passed by and the weather in May became very warm and sunny. In time for the easing of the confinement so that people can now look forward to restaurants and bars opening again. Those with terraces are most fortunate.
Another venue opening up is the local Château de Fayolle. I first saw this building, now beautifully restored, about 15 years ago when a group of friends considered buying it and trying to turn it into a cooperative living venture. Isn’t it interesting how this idea grabs us when we are students and then again as we get much older?
Isabella knew about living with groups of people all the time, it was the way everyone lived in her time, no real privacy and even if there were chambers built and set aside for the queen, there was always someone with you. After John’s death I imagined her deciding what to do as she was spurned by her young son’s advisors. Here is an excerpt from near the end of Part 1. I chose to set it on All Saint’s Day, November 1st. Isabella moved from castle to castle at this difficult time and she could have been in one or two places. I chose Corfe Castle as I like the image of her staring out to sea and thinking about the country of her birth.
All Saint’s Day, an early chilly mist lay across Studland Bay and Isabella wrapped in her warm winter cloak was working out what to do next. To secure her possessions was paramount and if she could not establish a position of influence within her son’s fledgling court then she would make sure of something tangible.
‘Well if I am to be ostracised I can at least have some say about my properties and what dower I can take.’
Isabella’s clerks wrote to the sheriff of Devon, instructing him that:
‘Immediately and without delay the city of Exeter and various other properties in Devon which have been assigned to me in my dower should be handed over to me. My possession of the stannaries is of utmost urgency and importance.’
She stamped the letter with her great seal, and there she was standing, facing front, robed and crowned her hair falling in ringlets around her face. In her right hand she holds a flower, in her left a bird. Isabella by the Grace of God, Queen of England, Lady of Ireland. Isabella Duchess of the Normans, of the Men of Aquitaine and of Anjou.
Isabella thought, I have lost all those dower lands in Normandy and Anjou, my position here in England is being frustrated at every turn. But my place in Aquitaine, my Angoulême inheritance waits for me and to return home at this time when I am being turned aside, unheeded by these powerful men who do not appreciate my worth, that is a decision to rejoice in.