Friday, 20 February 2015
I do not lie. I have received at least one e-mail enquiring about the Coat of Arms and a phone call asking if they could speak to Sandra. As I do not know who Sandra is I assumed they had dialled the wrong number; but the caller assured me this could not be so because Sandra does not have a phone. I also had a door-to-door salesman asking me if I wanted to buy a new door. He had a small suitcase full of samples but I declined to buy any because they were all too small for the apertures in our house.
Anyway, back to the Coat of Arms. This dates back to medieval times and is the family crest of one of my ancestors - the Baron Sir Richard The Lion Liver - as you can see from the depiction of a lion wearing a crown.
The crown is significant because Baron Sir Richard The Lion Liver was indeed a king of a northern land where men were strong and big and tough and women told them what to do. Can you imagine ... big red beards covering savage warrior faces, mighty muscles bulging from their arms and a six-pack that looked more like a twelve-pack on their chest? And the men were just as masculine!
My brave and courageous ancestor was known as The Lion Liver on account of his excessive drinking which surprised many doctors of the time as to how his liver survived all that alcohol. Apart from mead, which is an alcoholic medieval drink made from honey, Sir Richard also drank all sorts of wines and spirits. They may not have had whisky or vodka at the time but he certainly drank spirits just as potent as the ones we have today, if not more so.
As a Baron and Knight in his own right, he usually fought many jousting tournaments up and down the land, where he charged another knight on horseback with a lance, with an aim to unseat him from his horse.
Because Sir Richard used to drink so much he was not that steady on his feet, never mind on horseback. So his aids used to lift him on the horse and then tie his legs together underneath the horse's belly.
Since horses at these tournaments were always covered with large decorative blankets depicting the colours of the knight rider, no one noticed that brave Sir Richard was literally tied to the horse. Consequently, he won every jousting tournament in the land and was never un-seated from his horse; even that time when sadly his horse collapsed and died and Sir Richard was still seated upon him. He won a special medal on that day as his horse was carried away with him still seated upon it.
Sir Richard The Lion Liver is best known for the invention of the triangular table. As King of his own northern kingdom, he shunned King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table in Camelot and decided to create his own army of valiant knights.
He designed his own triangular table because Sir Richard had only two knights in his army, so a triangular table suited him best as the three of them could sit around it quite comfortably and none of them would think himself superior to the others; (although he knew full well that he was!)
In a famous battle against one of his fiercest enemies Sir Richard showed his prowess as an incredible warrior and strategist. The advancing enemy army had surrounded his castle and planned to take it at night when all the soldiers and villagers were fast asleep. Sir Richard ordered his peasants to collect and bring every cat they had in their towns and villages. In those days cats were in abundance to keep down the rats and vermin population. Sir Richard commanded that all cats which were not black by nature had to be dyed black using a mixture of coal dust and oil.
At midnight precisely he opened the castle gates and the villagers let all the cats run loose. At the same time his soldiers played the violin as loudly, and as badly, as they could. The cacophony of thousands of screeching violins and hundreds of black cats running wildly everywhere frightened the attacking army and their horses who thought Sir Richard had unleashed evil spirits to attack and kill them. They all ran away not to be seen ever again.
That episode gave rise to the superstition still prevalent today: It is bad luck to walk under a black cat.
As already mentioned, Sir Richard The Lion Liver drank so much that he had little blood in his alcohol circulation system. Once during a medical check up he was asked to give a urine sample and it had an olive and a little umbrella in it.
He died at the fermented old age of 101 and according to his wishes he was cremated on a funeral pyre on the grounds of his castle. It took the fire brigade a fortnight to put the fire out. They then had to beat his liver with a stick to stop it wriggling around in search for a drink.
And that's Sir Richard The Lion Liver - a great ancestor of mine whose Coat of Arms is proudly displayed above. Let's drink to his good health.