Valentine’s Day With the Normans: Your Questions Answered



It’s Valentine’s Day here on the GHP, and that means it’s time to answer questions on love and relationships sent in by you, the readers! To address your questions, we’re delighted to welcome special guest Bohemond of Taranto, eleventh-century Norman crusader warlord. Born to jumped-up Norman land-pirate Robert “the Weasel” Guiscard and his discarded first wife, Alberada of Buonalbergo, Bohemond spent most of his early life beating up on his father’s enemies, including Byzantine emperor Alexios I, before graduating to beating up his uncles and half-brothers. In 1096, he joined the First Crusade, where he conquered the city of Antioch and totally failed to return it to, er, Byzantine emperor Alexios I. Probably slipped his mind.

His other achievements include faking his own death to slip past the Byzantine authorities and marrying a French princess 20 years his junior. You can see why we’re so thrilled to have him answering your letters! Without further ado, then, let’s get to the reader mail.

Richard writes: Is an anonymous valentine creepy or romantic? What if there is no other expression of interest or idea who it came from?

Dear Richard: you have a good strong name. I approve. An anonymous valentine’s message is a challenge to your wits! If you can use whatever means are at your disposal to solve the question of the sender’s identity, then you will be worthy of her love. Begin with the bearer of the message. Suborn him with gold if you can, for men are ruled by their greed, but do not be afraid to use threats. From there, work your way back through the chain of agents until you have found your love. She is yours!

Robert the Falconer writes: I can’t afford fancy presents for my loved one, what’s a good cheap way to express your affection on Valentine’s day?

Dear Robert: you also have a fine name. Take heart! Do not allow a lack of funds to stand in the way of your plans. If the will is present, the money will be forthcoming. Look around. Do you have any uncles whose estates might be ripe for the attack? If you have strong uncles, you may have to use guile. Pretend you are about to set out on a journey to the Holy Land and persuade them to lend you the money. Once the maiden and her estates are yours, you can repay them at your leisure. Alternatively, perhaps you will find a community of merchants who can be “persuaded” to front you the cash. May I recommend Greeks? They are all cowards.

Luke writes: How should I go about winning the good opinion of my intended’s father?

Dear Luke: your name is so-so. However, I will answer your question. There are two ways of winning the good opinion of your intended’s father. The first is through feats of arms. This is the best way, because a martial reputation also functions excellently as an implied threat that if the old fool does not part with his daughter he will part with his head. If you are a cripple or perhaps Venetian, you will have to use the second option, that of wealth. A reputation for wealth will assure your beloved’s father that his child will live a comfortable life. However, since a reputation for wealth but not strength puts you at the mercy of any rogue with a good sword arm, I recommend not being Venetian.

Harriet writes:  I am an unwedded woman about to reach the end of my prime.  How can I attract the attention of a good husband? 

Dear Harriet: truly the life of an unwedded maid is a difficult one. There are two options open to you here: the first is to find a complaisant old fool who will marry you with no dowry for your relative beauty. Once you have done this, wait for him to die. You will now be a widow, and free to take your time and marry where you will. By old fool, obviously I mean any man 30 or 40 years your senior. 20 is perfectly reasonable. In fact, in some ways it is the best age difference. Your second option is to assess your competition. You may be surrounded by graceful younger women who snap up all the eligible bachelors. If you have any doughty uncles, contrive some plots to have them murdered or, if you are soft-hearted, disfigured. If you have no uncles, hired ruffians may be substituted.

Francoise asks: How can I tell if it’s true love?

Dear Francoise: this is an excellent question, requiring the application of the arcane science of arithmetic. Simply compare the relative value of his estates and yours. Find a learned monk and ask him to “divide” his estates by yours; he will know what this means. If the result is II or greater, it is love. If lower than I, he is a charlatan and you should have your uncles kill him. Unless he is a doughty warrior, of course, in which case you should listen to his war stories and smile while holding your shoulders back.

Allison asks: What do I give my long-time love to show my affection?

Dear Allison: a simple, heartfelt gift is the best choice. However, if you are stuck, I recommend a duchy. If you haven’t got a duchy, you may find that a city makes a surprisingly acceptable substitute! I could not in good conscience recommend an island unless you are unfortunate enough to love a Spaniard. Spaniards love islands.

Harriet asks: How do I talk to women?

Dear Harriet: I receive this question a lot, although seldom from women. On the assumption that you are in fact a man with an unfortunate name and not the Harriet from the previous question, I will say this. As we all know, women produce a high-pitched fluting noise interspersed with musical laughter which is very pleasant to listen to. What you may not be aware of is that if you listen closely and try to imagine all the sounds an octave or so lower, you will discover that the noise they make is in fact French! Isn’t it remarkable? You will find that women know a surprising amount about estate management. Note: some women speak languages other than French; these are all deceitful temptresses, unless they are Armenians in which case they are fine and noble ladies all right Tancred are you happy now?

Philip asks: Should I tell my beloved I can read? I’m worried she’ll think I’m less of a man.

Dear Philip: you should never tell anyone you can read. Ever. They’ll be asking you to read stuff to them every blessed minute of the day. Sometimes I pretend my chaplain answers all my letters.

Christopher asks: 

Dear Bohemond,

My wife is making me go on this long foreign trip. Her father is a bit overbearing, and it’s a trait she’s inherited. I just sort of finished one and keep wanting to come back, and the abuse I get from my Adelicakes is crazy! She basically questions my manhood.

We’ve got a kid and I think I should be there as a father; otherwise what’s the boy going to amount to!!!!

Dear Christopher: this is a very good quest–hey, wait a minute! You can’t fool me, Stephen II! Fuck off out of here with your whining and take your idiot brother-in-law with you. Leave the knights.

PS: Your half-brother’s ex-wife is pretty cute; put in a good word for me?



Valentine’s Day With the Normans: Your Questions Answered

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