Jeri Westerson, Author of Crispin Guest Medieval Noirs, Uses Broadsword Against Myths About the Middle Ages

Author of four Medieval Noir novels featuring the fallen and de-broadsworded Crispin Knight, Jeri Westerson took the chapter on a romp through 10 myths about the Middle Ages. Ms. Westerson, aided by a scarifying tableful of weapons, from a flail (mace attached by chain to a handle) to several daggers, and a helm that many of us tried on afterward (whew, it got hot in there.) Her research revealed many myths harbored by later generations about Crispin’s era, which she dispelled—in quick summary:

Myth One: People didn’t bathe. They did, with accompanying goodies like drink and harlots—getting clean while you got dirty, said Ms. Westerson.

Myth Two: Meat was covered in sauces because it was rotten. No, meat was fresh, on the hoof that morning.

Myth Three: All believed the earth was flat. Nope, that idea was put forth by Washington Irving in his 1828 bio of Columbus. Most knew the earth was round. Pictures of the child Jesus show him with a globe.

Myth Four: Lawlessness was rampant. No. There were courts with juries made up of acquaintances of the defendant.

Myth Five: Chastity Belts were rampant. Au contraire, this was a Victorian conceit, and supposed medieval artifacts were of 19th C. manufacture.

Myth Six: “Off with his Head” –yes, but rarely, only for treason.

Myth Seven: Witches were burned at the stake. Not–usually hanged. Joan of Arc was burned for politics, not heresy.

Myth Eight: The Age Was Dark. Actually, it was a period of innovation, e.g., buttons, clocks, musical notation, writing quills, and flying buttresses were invented.

Myth Nine: No manners: Au contraire. Food was carefully prepared and served, and eaten according to one’s rank, with many hand-washings.

Myth Ten: Armor was heavy. Armor was made to be light, some with hand wrought mesh.

Ms. Westerson’s own “medieval noir” sleuth, Crispin Guest was modeled on, did I hear this right? Fabio and Philip Marlowe. Dark Ages? No. But Noir?


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