We Are Not Amused, Sir Guillaume!


The collected works of Sir Guillaume de la Belgique



The collected works of Sir Guillaume de la Belgique

From the back cover:

Humorous and heartwarming stories of knighthood, medieval history and life in (and around) the SCA.

With a foreword by Duke Armand de Sevigny, and a special introduction for non-SCA friends, family and co-workers …

For nearly a decade, Sir Guillaume has shared his hilarious views of chivalry, history, medieval re-creation and the SCA in his monthly column “I Didn’t Expect an Inquisition.” This long-awaited book is a collection of Guillaume’s best, plus a variety of brand new material — a witty and wonderful celebration of the Current Middle Ages.

Sir Guillaume (writes) with insight, flair and humor.

— Baron Bruce Draconarious of Mistholme, OL, OP

Guillaume has brightened our lives …

— Duke Armand de Sevigny, KSCA, OP (from the foreword)

… He makes us laugh, but he also makes us think …

— Mistress Renata Kestryl of Highwynds, OP, former Caidan Chronicler

… We are the richer for his words.

— Duchess Natalya de Foix, OL, OP

No matter what you enjoy about medieval history or the SCA, you’ll find plenty in this book to make you laugh, and to touch your heart, including:

  • William Marshal and the Wondrous Fish
  • Chivalry with a Side of Salad
  • Bump in the Knight — A Medieval Halloween
  • Rocking the World of History
  • Bring a Torch: Medieval Holiday Traditions
  • Crazy Li’l Thing Called Courtly Love
  • Foo-Foo, Smash Mouth & The Death of Arthur
  • The Saga of an American Knight in England (four chapters!)
  • The View from the Big Chairs

And much, much more

With an introduction for non-SCA members, this book makes a great gift for family, friends and co-workers.

Looking for a sample?

After many years in the Society, I sometimes find myself in strange situations and wonder,

How would a normal person react to this?”

For example, I’m not sure if a typical employee would, in the middle of a monthly safety committee meeting at work, begin to contemplate how a modern office structure compares to the organization of William the Conqueror’s army. I think a normal corporate executive would be more concerned about giving the appearance of taking notes while drawing comical cartoons of the boss.

Because of my experience with the SCA, I often find myself looking at the most mundane situations and searching for some sort of historical lesson. Sometimes this provides insight resulting in efficient problem solving and communication; more often it makes people wonder if I’m taking some kind of prescription medication.

Recently I had occasion to stay in the home of Lady Laurana’s parents after an out-of-town tournament, along with about a dozen other Calafians who had traveled to the event. Sunday morning, Laurana’s father, who we’ll call “Bill” (because that’s his name), was making pancakes and trying to keep six hungry fighters, including a majority of the Calafian chivalry, from eating every carbon-based item in his kitchen. We had already devoured two loaves of bread, half a leftover pizza, a whole plate of fresh fruit, a dozen bagels, and a five-pound box of Cap’n Crunch with Crunchberry cereal which Sir Ryan specifically requested as his breakfast of choice and which Lord Patrick thought was extremely tasty when mixed into a bowl of granola.

During the course of breakfast conversation, (“Please put the furniture down! I promise I’ll make more pancakes.”) Sir Attila mentioned that he had once been in the landscaping business – a fact which Bill hoped to use to his advantage. Soon after breakfast, Bill took Ryan and Attila outside to look at a huge rock beside the driveway which, Bill told them, he was thinking of moving to the back yard.

The rock was about the size of your average side-by-side refrigerator, and, in Attila’s estimation, weighed “way too much for us guys to move.” Ryan, on the other hand, thought that several tough fighters could easily carry the gargantuan boulder to the back yard as a token of repayment for Bill’s hospitality.

After a few minutes of discussion, they were joined by myself, Sir Caius, and Patrick, and the six of us decided to give the rock a trial lift – against the advice of Attila, who I think suspected (correctly) that if we so much as laid a finger on the rock we were not going to stop until the job was done, no matter how many people perished in the process.

Unfortunately, this half-ton behemoth of a rock cunningly thwarted all of our attempts to move it by pure knightly brute force. At this point, Bill, being a reasonable person, said, “This rock is a lot heavier than I thought. Let’s just skip it.”

Until now, the whole rock-moving incident was pretty run-of-the-mill – something you’d see in hundreds of back yards on any given weekend all across the country. The difference is this: An average batch of guys would, at this point, have broken out a “sixer” of beer, turned on the Sunday Afternoon Football Pre-Morning Locker Room Warm-Up Show, and spent the rest of the day scratching their groinal regions; but we, with our unique historical perspective, weren’t going to be outsmarted by a rock.

Attila said: “How did the Egyptians move their stones when they built the pyramids?” Of course, he said this with a straight face, and he fully expected that someone in the crowd would have the answer. Ryan replied that the Egyptians had thousands of slaves to move their rocks, but since we only had one squire present, we quickly ruled that method out.

Man: User of Tools
We moved on to the “Man: User of Tools” phase of the project when someone remembered Archimedes’ theory of leverage. Then, Bill, who was feeling a little uncertain about the whole idea but who didn’t want to stand in the way of innovation, brought three long steel bars from his garage to use as levers. With a great amount of whooping and leaping about, we managed to lever the rock a distance of nearly two feet during the course of the next 15 minutes.

Wonders of the Ancient World
Next we came to the “Wonders of the Ancient World” project phase. Sir Caius, delving deeply into his historical knowledge, said, “Let’s do what the Celts did to build Stonehenge. Let’s get some rollers and put them under the rock and we can move it easily.”

Attila replied, “The Celts were morons. Look at Stonehenge, they didn’t know what they were doing. We need wheels! The Hungarians used wheels! Is there a cart around here?”

“No,” said Caius, “The Celts were great. I’m telling you the rollers will work …”

Suddenly, I realized these six grown men, who were engaged in a project that had begun as nothing more than the moving of a rock, had quickly turned the task into a debate about the technological developments of the medieval world and how these techniques could be put to use with common household items. Where else but in the SCA?

We found a cart which we were fairly confident was strong enough to hold the rock and, using our levers (and the Persian idea of a “fulcrum” tossed in by Felinah just for good measure) we got the rock about half-way onto the cart. After 30 minutes of levering and pushing and grunting and sweating, we and our Hungarian wheels had moved the rock the better part of 10 yards, with Caius and Ryan, the whole time, trying to convince us how much easier the job would be if we used Celtic rollers instead.

At that point, the cart proved that, in fact, it wasn’t strong enough and dumped the rock into Bill’s woodpile. “You see,” said Caius, “the Hungarians knew nothing about moving rocks. They only knew how to make goulash. We need rollers.”

As we were trying to resurrect the cart, Ryan went off and found two short pieces of pipe to use as rollers; we jammed them under the rock, still dubious about this fabled piece of Celtic lore, and gave a shove. All of us, even Bill, were amazed as the huge boulder moved easily, even gracefully, forward. I felt like Luke Skywalker watching Yoda levitate the spaceship from the swamp using The Force, and I would have gone on feeling surprised even longer if, just at that moment, the rock hadn’t crashed down off the rollers about two inches from my foot.

Caius responded with his typical restraint and tact: “Wooooo! The Celts were geniuses! The Celts were gods! Celts! Celts! Celts! …”

(You can find the answer to the age-old question, “Which is smarter, the fighter or the rock?” in the conclusion of this story in Guillaume’s book.)

When a new fighter is introduced to the sport of SCA combat, his first thought is often, “What is that smell?” Then, as the novice gets to know some of the skilled and seasoned warriors of the Society, he finds that he has the desire to attempt to beat them with a stick – a desire which is shared by many other members of the Society (including many of their spouses) who are thwarted only by the marshals’ unreasonable regulation against allowing them onto the field without the proper protection.

Finally, the new fighter realizes that he must make his own armor if he is going to “get serious” about participating in SCA combat. Of course, once a fighter’s armor is complete, a certain amount of maintenance is required as anything that is beaten with a club two or three times a week is going to require repair eventually – except, of course, for major internal organs in a fighter’s cranial region, which will eventually just cease to function due to excessive damage.

(Author’s note: While all of the references to fighters in the above text refer to them in the masculine sense, this is not an attempt to imply that women are incapable of participating in SCA combat. Most women, in reality, decline to participate because they are far too smart than to voluntarily experience hemorrhaging and contusions without the benefit of serious narcotics – and I say this with the greatest respect for Lady Eichling and my own dear Baroness Felinah, both of whom are at my home even as I write this column thinking of ways to increase the force of their head blows and probably removing vital rivets from my helm.)

As much as I would like to hold an armor workshop to help all the fighters of the Known World maintain their armor and weapons, I can’t because my garage is not that big. Instead, I would like to present a sample armor workshop schedule so that any fighter can hold an efficient and successful armor-making event.

Armor Workshop Sample Schedule

4:45 p.m. – I arrive home after work and prepare for intensive and productive armor workshop. I clear the workbench of camping gear, gardening catalogs, Neil Diamond cassette tapes, portable stereo, Christmas lights, and coffee mugs. I arrange various armor-making tools so everyone will have easy access.

5:00 p.m. – Several fighters arrive and begin to unload suits of armor in various stages of construction or repair from their cars, then set out to begin Serious Work.

5:05 p.m. – One of the newer fighters announces that his goal at this workshop is to complete an entire suit of 13th century brigantine and mail armor with the material he has brought with him, but he is uncertain how the armor should be buckled. I tell him that I’m sure I have a book with some illustrations of the Battle of Crecy which he may find helpful.

5:06 p.m. – The entire armor workshop adjourns to my bookshelf to conduct “research” into various armor and weapons styles using such respected reference books as The Norman Conquest, The Chronicles of the Crusades, Mongol Warlords, Battles in Britain, The Complete Star Trek Companion, The Essential Calvin & Hobbes, Dave Barry Turns 40, The Ultimate Chocolate Cookbook, and The Art of Nude Photography.

5:45 p.m. – With several sketches of armor and several cups of hot chocolate, we decide it is time to return to the workshop to begin Serious Work.

5:50 p.m. – One of the fighters discovers he has forgotten the rivets he was going to use to repair his leg armor. He subsequently announces that he cannot finish the project and packs away his armor.

5:51 p.m. – Lord Wolfnoth arrives to proudly display his new director’s cut DVD of “The Warlord” starring Charlton Heston. He also tells us that he is going to make himself a new helm in the style worn by Draco in the movie.

5:55 p.m. – The entire armor workshop adjourns for five to 10 minutes to view a short portion of “The Warlord” and offer advice on helm construction.

strong>6:00 p.m. – After watching the opening scene of the movie, we advance the tape to review other sequences in the movie which are judged to be useful as armor-making references, such as the scene where the Frisians are burning the tower, the scene where Charlton Heston threatens to chop his brother into little pieces, and, of course, the scene where Charlton Heston rescues the pretty maiden from the evil clutches of her clothing.

6:45 p.m. – Feeling inspired by the fierce battle sequences, we return to the armor workshop to begin Serious Work.

6:50 p.m. – Another fighter discovers that the chin strap he had hoped to attach to his helm was forgotten at home. He announces that he cannot finish the project and packs his armor.

6:55 p.m. – Lord Acelin arrives with two full cartons of Double Chocolate Chunky Devils Food Fudge ice cream. The entire armor workshop adjourns to consume the ice cream because “we would hate to let it melt.”

7:00 p.m. – We decide that two half-gallons of ice cream is not enough to feed the seven people present at the armor workshop, so we send a reconnaissance team to the local supermarket to procure two more cartons.

7:35 p.m. – Supermarket strike team returns with one carton of Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream and one carton of Marshmallow Goo Supreme, along with three Sarah Lee pound cakes, two quarts of whipped cream and two jars of microwave hot fudge.

7:45 p.m. – As the hot fudge is warming in the microwave and one of the fighters is collecting cups for a second serving of hot chocolate, someone suggests we put in the videotape of the “Connections” episode about the Norman Conquest.

7:46, 7:48, 7:52, 7:57 p.m. – “Connections” tape is rewound and played repeatedly over the segment where James Burke uses the broadsword to hack apart a side of beef; the levels of shouting and cheering involved in each replay cause the neighbors to wonder if there is a game of Australian-rules football being played in the kitchen.

8:15 p.m. – The fighters decide it’s time to return to the workshop and begin Serious Work. …

(Will any armor be successfully repaired tonight? You won’t know until you read Guillaume’s book.)

There is a wonderful old saying that goes,

Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.”

This, of course, implies that the people who came before us were doing more than just stumbling along blindly through their lives with no idea where they would wind up, or what the impact of their actions would be – and if the SCA teaches us anything, it’s that history is more often made by dumb luck than by genius or vision.

Because of this, we can see the immense value of insightful, well-researched essays and documents which put the events of the Middle Ages into perspective. For example, a scholarly study of the Norman Conquest of England and the famous Battle of Hastings would provide insight into an event of immeasurable political, cultural and military impact. I was hoping to include one in this book, but frankly, it sounds like a lot of work, so instead, I’ll just make some stuff up as I go along.

Sacking The Saxons

At the beginning of 1066 A.D., the King of England, Edward “Fast Eddie” the Confessor, lay dying. Edward was best known for his famous quote, “Although these are hard times, I must confess, I am raising your taxes again.”

England’s system of Royal Succession was based on Danish/Saxon tradition which mandated that the wise men and leaders of England all come together for a “Whitnegamot” (An old Anglo-Saxon term meaning “square dance”) in order to elect the new King based on the ability to govern with foresight and justice – or, if this proved too difficult, they also had the option of electing a new King based on who gave them the most gold.

After the death of Edward, the men of the Whitnegamot decided, after days of debate and more than a few casks of ale, that it was time to elevate a young, energetic fellow by the name of Harold “The Sap” Godwinson, to the throne. “It’s quite an honor to be your new King,” Harold said in a speech at his coronation. Your faith in my leadership and judgment fills me with pride. And now, it’s time to raise your taxes.”

The choice of Harold as King of all England did not sit well with the nobility of other nations, most of whom were trying to come up with some feeble excuse why they should be King of all England. The top competitor for this title was William “Billabong” of Normandy, whose major campaign theme in the race for the crown was, “Grandma slept with the King.” William decided to visit England to demonstrate that the enlightened, progressive system of royal selection employed by the Saxons was slightly inferior to that of the Normans, in which governmental representation and political foresight were replaced with swords, torches, spears, crossbows and catapults.

Although most of the people of England felt that two oppressors … sorry, we meant, “candidates,” were enough, a third “independent” participant decided to throw his helmet in the ring. His name was Harald “I’m not the other guy named Harold” Hardrede, King of Norway. To Harald, England was the key to reaching his ultimate dream: to sit on the throne of a “Northern Byzantine Empire,” which was a fairly silly idea since there were relatively few Byzantines to be found in the area. He had noticed, you see, that the Byzantine Emperor received his taxes mainly in the form of gold, gems, silk, spices, and incense, wherea s Harald, as King of Norway, received his taxes mainly in the form of sheep, sheep skins, wool, mutton and fleas. This was the situation he hoped to rectify (or at least escape) by invading England.

William And The Wind Bags

Meanwhile, William gathered his knights on the northern coast of Normandy. His challenge was to cross the English Channel in ships devoid of technologically advanced propulsion systems, such as “oars.” In fact, the Norman ships were driven by a system known to historians as, “a big bedsheet tied to the top.”

Hampered by this lack of a discretionary sailing system, William’s army partied … sorry, we meant, “exercised,” waiting for the navigators’ signal that the wind had shifted toward England and that it was time to have the Norman Invasion. From the navigators’ point of view, this was quite a set-up; as long as the wind wasn’t blowing toward England, they got to sit on the beach, eat William’s food, drink William’s ale, and carouse with William’s camp followers. As soon as the wind shifted toward England, they got to sail overseas, get shot at, build castles, fight Saxons, and probably die.

“Italy,” the navigators would say to William in the morning. “Wind’s headin’ right toward Italy today.” Then the next morning it would be, “Poland today, Will. If we sail with this wind we’ll end up in Poland. Or maybe Egypt.”

Finally, when William’s food supply was nearly exhausted and many of his barons and knights were beginning to wander off aimlessly, he asked the navigators, “Which way would the wind blow if I were to burn down your homes, kill your children, and boil you in oil?” “Whoa, look at that!” the navigators said collectively. “There goes that pesky old wind heading right toward England.” …

(We don’t want to spoil the end of this story, which you can enjoy in Guillaume’s book.)


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