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            Richard the Lionheart fits the bill, but his neglect of his kingdom while swanning off

            to the Crusades has tarnished even his reputation.

            In fact, the speech is not what it appears to be. It takes a sudden turn:

            This land of such dear souls, this dear dear land,
            Dear for her reputation through the world,
            Is now leased out, I die pronouncing it,
            Like to a tenement or pelting farm:

            England, bound in with the triumphant sea
            Whose rocky shore beats back the envious siege
            Of watery Neptune, is now bound in with shame,
            With inky blots and rotten parchment bonds:
            That England, that was wont to conquer others,
            Hath made a shameful conquest of itself.
            Ah, would the scandal vanish with my life,

            How happy then were my ensuing death!”

            Thus, the speech ends not in celebration but with a lament that England’s former
            glory is being thrown away: “With inky blots and rotten parchment bonds/That
            England, that was wont to conquer others/Hath made a shameful conquest of itself.”
            Bureaucratic clerks and lawyers are elbowing aside warriors. Heroic values are
            abandoned and greed prevails; note the repetition of “dear”: his “dear” (precious”)
            country has been “leased out” like an impoverished farm. England may be

            unconquerable, but it is destroying itself from within, under a bad, weak king. He
            feels that things are so bad that “Ah, would the scandal vanish with my life/How
            happy then were my ensuing death!” But in reality, England had long ceased to be a
            “heroic society”, the one described centuries earlier in the epic poem Beowulf. And
            bureaucrats, as we’ll see, played an indispensable part in the making of England.


            The main point here is that England had not been “sceptred” – that is, united and
            ruled by a single monarch - for very long. It had been a Roman province for several
            centuries (43 to 410 AD), then for several more centuries a shifting patchwork of
            early Angle and Saxon kingdoms. The greatest of these, Wessex, had to share England
            with invading Vikings who occupied and settled the eastern half of the country. From
            1013 to 1042 Viking kings, including Cnut, held the throne. Had things fallen
            differently, England could well have become part of a northern maritime Danish-
            Baltic empire. Instead, we became part of a Norman-French cross-Channel one. Thus,
            because these sessions focus on the pre-1066 period, it is the “unsceptred isle” that

            we shall be concerned with, divided into several political entities. One of the core
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