Bump’s First Medieval Congress

May 11, 2013

This will also be the bump’s last Medieval Congress for a while. I’m not about to attempt keeping a baby quiet during an academic conference, let alone a toddler.

I did manage to pick some pretty good sessions this year. The most fun was probably “How Shall a Man Be Armed”. La Belle Compagnie presented four knights across the span of the Hundred Years’ War. The gradual replacement of chain mail with plate armor brought the weight of their garb from 90 pounds down to about 70. Yeah, the knight from 1337 was wearing a lot of chain mail. And he was a big guy, so you can imagine how much chain mail it took to make a full shirt that came almost to his knees. It was fascinating to watch their squires get them into all of the bits and pieces.

I also had to smile at the first presentation in a session on Richard III. It was given by a professor emeritus. And it was kind of missing the thing most presentations have. You know, a thesis. It was about the men Richard named as Knights of the Garter. That was it. You know, there was this one and there was that one. And this is where this one was during the Battle of Bosworth and this is where that one was. And this is what happened to this one after the Tudors took over the throne and this is what happened to that one. It was an annotated litany, if you will. But he had a charming sense of humor. And I wasn’t the only knitter in the room. (Okay, going to DISTAFF presentations on textile and costume history one encounters a lot of knitters. But in other sessions, not so much. Unless, of course, there are other DISTAFF members in those sessions.) Anyway, this other knitter sat next to me, I suspect in part because I already had my knitting out so she knew we were kindred spirits. When the speaker said something about one of these Knights of the Garter having 25 children and then quickly added the caveat that he had two wives, she muttered to me, “That’s not reassuring.”

But the really important thing I learned at this year’s Congress came in the place one frequently picks up interesting tidbits: the line to the ladies’ room. The woman in front of me was commenting on the copious amount of coffee available. She comes to Kalamazoo each year and finds the coffee and alcohol to be flowing. It’s a den of iniquity!

Who knew?!? I’ve lived in Kalamazoo most of my life and never learned this important fact. I’ve been living in a den of iniquity and never realized it. I wonder what I’ll learn at next year’s Medieval Congress…

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