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Mile-a-minute weed or devil's tearthumb (Polygonum perfoliatum, syn. = Persicaria perfoliata) is an invasive annual vine in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern United States that reproduces solely through seeds. Our study aimed to identify how mile-a-minute seed viability is affected by time of year and the maturity of the fruit surrounding the achene. Full-sized immature (green) and mature (blue) fruits were collected from five field sites every 2 wk over a 3 mo period, and seed viability was assessed using a triphenyl tetrazolium chloride (TZ) assay. At the onset of seed production in mid-August, 35% of seeds from immature fruits were viable. This percentage increased steadily, peaking at 84% in late September before declining at some sites around the time of the first frost. In contrast nearly all seeds with mature fruits (96%) were viable at all collection dates. Thus land managers who apply physical or chemical control methods for mile-a-minute weed should do so before the onset of any seed production and not simply before fruit maturation. If it is necessary to apply control methods after fruit set, it should be done as early in the season as possible.
The papers in this volume are based on some of those given at a conference hosted by the Manchester Centre for Anglo-Saxon Studies in April 2006, entitled ‘Royal Authority: Kingship and Power in Anglo-Saxon England’. A volume devoted to this subject is welcome for, despite numerous earlier studies of kingship and of individual kings, it remains easy for students of the Old English period to take kings and their office for granted. There they are, at the pinnacle of their societies, unquestioned and unquestionable. Contemporaries might have opinions on the character and efficiency of particular kings, though these (if not effusively complimentary) were usually expressed retrospectively. No-one, however, seems to have queried the existence of kingship itself. Only the Icelanders, out of all the early European polities, adopted a different form of political organization, and even in Iceland the goðar might be taken for ‘kings’ in their own localities, rather like the kings of the many English provinciae eventually incorporated into the heptarchic realms.
This process of trout swallowing minnows and being swallowed in turn by pike, which eventually produced Englalond, used to be viewed as a natural progression, the first step on the road to nineteenth-century parliamentary sovereignty and the British Empire. Such attitudes are nowadays dismissed as laughable, but some of the attendant preconceptions remain; the expansion of West Saxon power in the tenth century, for instance, is still occasionally called a ‘reconquest’, though in fact it was no such thing.
This paper is intended to promote a more balanced view of the extent of the royal archives kept by and for Anglo-Saxon kings than either the national land registry postulated by Cyril Hart in 1970 or the minimalist entity suggested by Michael Clanchy in 1979 and 1993. Hart envisaged a centralized registry of title in Wessex from 854 onwards, postulating ‘first that the later Anglo-Saxon kings kept copies of the royal landbooks issued by them, and secondly that this royal collection was housed at Winchester, at least during the last century of the Anglo-Saxon state’. In marked contrast, Clanchy has stated that ‘It seems unlikely that England was governed by a bureaucracy using documents in its routine procedures before 1066.’ I shall return to Hart's theory in due course but, against Clanchy's view, while acknowledging the paucity of specific references to the deposition of documents for the future use of the monarch, I would argue that the range and sophistication of royal government by 1066 would certainly have been reflected in a similar range of records kept. This may seem axiomatic to Anglo-Saxonists, but is still not always apparent to others who prefer to stress the Norman contribution to English history.
The Records of Royal Administration
Anglo-Saxon officials involved in each of a number of royal activities or responsibilities would have had to create some records not merely for immediate convenience but also for future reference. From the late sixth century onwards, these would usually have been written on parchment but may sometimes have taken the form of wooden accounting tallies of the type used in the twelfth-century royal exchequer.
Detailed accounts must have been kept of the returns from national taxation, whether in the form of money payments or of tribute in kind. Although the earliest surviving manuscript of the list of peoples and their taxable values known as the Tribal Hidage is from the first half of the eleventh century, the text itself was (as argued by Nick Higham) probably originally composed in the seventh century for Edwin, king of Northumbria, as overlord of his southern neighbours. It would have been preserved on that king’s behalf, and probably by his heirs, as both a fiscal document and a political statement.
We have a complete record of the places of burial of the kings of Wessex and England from the reign of Æthelwulf (839–58) onwards (Table 5.1). For the earlier historic period the sequences are incomplete (Table 5.2), but we are still more likely to know where a king was buried than where he was born or married. Though most of the tombs themselves and their contents have been lost, some have been recovered through excavation and some written accounts give very precise details about the location of a king's burial, as will become apparent in the discussion below. There is therefore a valuable body of evidence surviving for one of the major rites of passage which all kings had to undergo. The problems in interpreting the evidence, of course, should not be underestimated as there is much we are never told. Who made the final decision about a king's resting-place? Sometimes, for instance, when the place of burial was a church which had enjoyed much patronage from the ruler during his lifetime, it may be safe to conclude that the choice was his, but this is unlikely to have always been the case, as evidence from later periods suggests. Nor did royal bodies necessarily remain where they were originally interred. Relatives might remove them to what was considered a more appropriate place, or rivals oust them altogether. Those kings who were also saints were particularly likely to have had their bodies translated from their original places of burial.
Throughout most of the period from which documentary records survive. Anglo-Saxon kingship is closely associated with law-giving. The earliest text in Old English is the law-code issued by Æthelberht I of Kent (c. 580–616) towards the end of the sixth or the beginning of the seventh century, inaugurating a tradition of written legislation which continued up until the eleventh. Other regional laws survive from the reigns of Æthelberht's successors Hlothhere (673/4–685), Eadric (685–686) and Wihtred (691–725), and from that of the West Saxon king Ine (688–725/6). The first national law-code was issued by Alfred the Great (871–899) between 887 and 893, and was followed by further sets of laws in the names of Edward the Elder (c. 900–925), Athelstan (c. 925–939), Edmund (c. 939–946), Edgar (c. 959–963), Æthelred (c. 978–1014) and Cnut (c. 1020–1023). Not all were intended to be comprehensive. The later seventh-century Kentish laws were issued to supplement rather than to replace those of Æthelberht, and some of those dating from the tenth century are short sets of clauses addressing specific topics, supplementing the domboc compiled by Alfred. The legal corpus as a whole is characterized by repetition, with later laws drawing on earlier ones, and contemporary codes borrowing from each other. This is important for many reasons, not least in leading to the successive recopying and hence preservation of texts which might otherwise have been lost.
The essays collected here focus on how Anglo-Saxon royal authority was expressed and disseminated, through laws, delegation, relationships between monarch and Church, and between monarchs at times of multiple kingships and changing power ratios. Specific topics include the importance of kings in consolidating the English "nation"; the development of witnesses as agents of the king's authority; the posthumous power of monarchs; how ceremonial occasions were used for propaganda reinforcing heirarchic, but mutually beneficial, kingships; the implications of Ine's lawcode; and the language of legislation when English kings were ruling previously independent territories, and the delegation of local rule. The volume also includes a groundbreaking article by Simon Keynes on Anglo-Saxon charters, looking at the origins of written records, the issuing of royal diplomas and the process, circumstances, performance and function of production of records. Gale R. Owen-Crocker is Professor of Anglo-Saxon Culture at the University of Manchester. Contributors: Ann Williams, Alexander R. Rumble, Carole Hough, Andrew Rabin, Barbara Yorke, Ryan Lavelle, Alaric Trousdale
Several of the ‘Anglo-Saxonists’ who originally formed the core of the Manchester Centre for Anglo-Saxon Studies – archaeologists, historians and Old English specialists – have, in the past, focused attention on individual Anglo-Saxon kings by organizing conferences about them, with publications arising. It seemed logical, therefore, when the lot fell to me to organize the MANCASS Easter conference of 2006, to attempt an investigation of the nature and functioning of Anglo-Saxon kingship itself. In the ‘Call for Papers’ for the proposed conference on ‘Royal Authority: Kingship and Power in Anglo-Saxon England’, I offered the following hint as to the way I envisaged the conference developing:
The objective is to replace the common approach to Anglo-Saxon kingship which focuses on ‘famous names’ and biographical details, in order to examine the wider concept of royal authority.
While it proved impossible entirely to divorce the concept of kingly power from the names and biographies of known rulers, laws and charters being associated with named kings, I was delighted by the original and detailed insights produced by viewing these sources through the lens of ‘Kingship and Power’. The majority of the conference papers based their arguments on Anglo-Saxon text, though Barbara Yorke's wide-ranging examination of the way in which kingly power was expressed publicly and posthumously through a study of the known burial sites of monarchs from pre-Christian times to the eleventh century considered physical manifestations of royal authority and some considered artefacts, including Gareth William's Guest Lecture on coins (published elsewhere).
Since the publication of John Mitchell Kemble's Saxons in England in 1848, the concept of the itinerant ruler has been long acknowledged, if not always fully appreciated, as a major feature of Anglo-Saxon kingship. A practice which was hardly unique amongst their European contemporaries and arguably emergent from notions of what was practicable in the post-Roman West for the victualling of the king and his followers, in Anglo-Saxon England this took the shape of feorm, a term which referred to the render of goods and entertainment. Proximity and the ability of the king to be seen at known times was an important corollary – if not the indeed the function – of this practice.
I have argued elsewhere that the landholdings recorded in Domesday Book as providing the ‘farm of one night’ are a significant feature of royal provision in the West Saxon landscape. Like others. I am of the opinion that there is evidence in Domesday Book for continuity of provision in kind for a royal court. However, it is not the intention of this paper to revisit the details of this system but rather to explore the wider implications of the royal usage of landholdings in Wessex, considering the development of the king's feorm on a broader canvas.
The role played by written law in expanding Anglo-Saxon royal authority has been the subject of considerable scholarly debate since Patrick Wormald's 1977 article, ‘Lex scripta and verbum regis: legislation and Germanic kingship from Euric to Cnut’. In that essay, Wormald argued that early law-codes provide ‘direct evidence for the image which Germanic kings and their advisors, Roman or clerical, wished to project of themselves and their people: an image of king and people as heirs to the Roman emperors, as counterparts to the children of Israel, or as bound together in respect for the traditions of a tribal past’. In broad terms, what Wormald suggests is that Anglo-Saxon royal legislation served a symbolic function, depicting the king as the primary source of legal authority. Though possessing questionable value as applied law, Old English legislation nonetheless asserted an ideological argument for the centralization of royal power. Responses to Wormald, most notably by Paul Hyams, have focused primarily on whether this ‘maximalist’ notion of kingship truly reflected the day-to-day realities of pre-Conquest governance. In this article, however, I approach Wormald's arguments from a slightly different perspective: rather than examining how Anglo-Saxon laws characterize the king, I consider how pre-Conquest legislation portrays the subject. Doing so not only expands our understanding of the relationship between ruler and ruled, but it also reveals how evolving perceptions of the written legal text reflect the changing roles and responsibilities of the individual before the law.