“de batailler et kerneller de pere et de caux ses chambres de novel comencees en sa place ou mansion”
Well there was one. A licence to crenellate, or more precisely a freedom to crenellate. It was hardly going to be a fourteenth century equivalent of the 7s 6d dog licence his father had had to buy each year for the family pet. He smirked at the thought before turning his eyes back to the microfiche reader.
There it was, clear as day in the Recognizance roll. Well as clear as day if you read 14th century Law French, which he suspected Robertson didn’t. Freedom to turn a town house, albeit a large one on four burgage plots into a defensible building with battlements. Perhaps not actually a castle, although given the problems of Richard II’s rule the concept was far from passé, and in the light of what happened in the debacle following Richard’s murder, fortification was a prescient step for one of the Cheshire men
Being the king’s enforcers was bound to attract a certain amount of discontent and desire for revenge if and when that reign ended with the opposition taking over.
Westmacott sat back and pushed aside the vicissitudes of the century long conflicts between fifteenth century English mafia bosses wearing crowns. He turned his attention instead to composing in his head a series of letters and articles. The short pithy letters would go to the local and regional papers destroying the drivel in Robertson’s articles and in so doing, his popular reputation. The articles for peer reviewed historical journals would slide the knife in deeper and turn the blade more effectively, ending Robertson’s professional standing, such as it was, as a historian.
Robertson would probably not notice of course. He hardly moved in those circles. Westmacott had checked his credentials when he had read the articles in the local rag. He was barely more than a hack journalist. At best an antiquarian repackaging and peddling the idiocies of eighteenth and nineteenth century collectors of folk myths. Barely one step up from those who had believed the stories about Joseph of Arimathea bringing the Grail to Glastonbury. An early example of fake news to gain money position and power. Westmacott almost laughed out loud. You had to hand it to those Benedictines – a great scam that still had resonance to pull in the gullible five hundred years after the monks themselves had been given the heave ho.
Robertson had made enough himself out of recycling folk myths and speculation. Nowhere near the scale of medieval religious scams of course but too much to be allowed to go unchallenged.
In the greater scheme of things it was a small enough victory, but it would be satisfying enough. It would restore the truth about a departed building, reinstate a much loved, to Westmacott anyway, dignitary of the fourteenth century to his proper place in the local pantheon, and remove a competitive charlatan.
Westmacott saw this as an undisputed victory for truth, justice and the Historiographic way. Of course it would also bolster his own reputation for deep forensic research, his careful and precise correction of modern populist revisionism. That it simultaneously destroyed someone who had irked him and challenged his position as the expert in the region was simply an unfortunate byproduct of his commitment to historical truth. He had certainly crenellated and fortified his position with this find. At that thought he could no longer contain himself and he let a rather unprofessional squeak of delight escape into the silence of the reading room.
There were a couple of shuffles of disapproval from the few other occupants. Westmacott sneered; probably family history buffs. Genealogy for the masses. What a sad thing he thought.
He made sure his notes were complete, properly referenced and concisely contextualised, then rewound the fiche to the reference page, extracted the cassette and switched off the machine.
He pocketed his pencils, tucked his notepad under his arm and almost swaggered back to the archivist’s desk.
‘Find what you were looking for Mr Westmacott?’ She asked. Charming lady he thought, quite natural she should know her most illustrious clients by sight.
‘Yes thank you, a most rewarding afternoon.’ With that he placed the cassette on the desk and waited for her to check the catalogue and sign it in and him out.
‘Ooh. You are popular aren’t you?’ she said as she checked the cassette number and typed into the computer. Flattered but slightly confused Westmacott couldn’t help himself and asked,
The archivist laughed.
‘Sorry Mr Westmacott. Not you, though I’m sure you are. I meant this chap.’ She waved the microfiche cassette at him.
Westmacott was puzzled. He had assumed he would have been the only person to request the Recognizance rolls from Richard’s reign for some time. Of course they were bundled with many other ‘Welsh papers’ and Palatinate papers so it needn’t necessarily be a worry someone was trespassing on what he thought of as ‘his’ patch.
‘That is surprising.’ He said as noncommittally as his thoughts would allow.
‘Yes, not out for years then here he is out four times in the last month including today.’
‘Four? But this is the first time I’ve been back this year.’
‘Yes, the other three were that nice man who writes the “Times Past” column, Mr Robertson.’
‘In the last month?’
‘Yes, last time was two weeks ago. Very enthusiastic he was, said he would be making quite a splash with some of his findings. He expected it to be in this week’s Express. Said it would fortify his position as the expert on local castles quite nicely. He likes a joke does Mr Robertson.’ She put the cassette back on the carousel. ‘Right. Anything else I can do for you Mr Westmacott?’
`No. Thank you.’
‘Are you all right? Mr Westmacott. Mr Westmacott!’
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