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The Legend of Isabella, the Queen of Wight

Countess Isabella de Forz is not really the Queen of the Isle of Wight but she is a woman of legend. She owns all these lands and not even King Edward I of England can move her, though he lusts after them. Several legends have grown up around the Countess of Devon but I liked this one: she settles a border dispute amongst four neighboring parishes by marching to a small hill in the midst of a mire (a truly disgusting place) removing her ring and throwing it down, calling that spot the bounds of the four parishes. That place is called "The Ring in the Mire" to this day.

Now she is dying, and as her life slips away, a servant of King Edward convinces her to bequeath the Isle of Wight to the King. The exact legality of that little transaction remains in question to this day since she never actually seals it by her own hand... technically speaking. [1] [2] [3] [4]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
Regarding the legality of bequeathing the Isle of Wight to King Edward I of England, it sounds fishy, but like most transactions of this type, the rule of law goes to the ruler....in this case....the King. This applies to the Constitution of the United States of America. I know that many people scream and holler that such-and-such a law is unconstitutional and I often agree with them. And how many times have I agreed with the argument that such-and-such a law should fail because of a technical glitch that rendered the entire law technically incorrect? But when the system wants a law to work, they seem to find a way to make it work regardless of whether it follows the plain meaning of the legal text or the original intent of the lawmakers.

Legislating Morality

Giano della Bella is the "Elliot Ness" of Florence. He gives up his lofty privilege as a Grandi to lead a Popolano (people's/populist) movement to restrain the Grandi (essentially noblemen) who are engaged in what can only be described in modern terms as organized crime. The Ordinances of Justice amounts to a new constitution for Florence. It bars noblemen and laborers from holding public office essentially leaving Florence to the guilds-men of the middle class. Elected offices are changed frequently in a complex formula and the Ordinances make it illegal to "rub out" anyone who has become... uh... inconvenient. But the mobsters... I mean noblemen... will not take this change graciously. A few years later, Giano della Bella will be sentenced to death on trumped up charges. He will escape to exile while his fellow populists fight amongst themselves for power.[5] [6] [7] [8]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
It is too bad that this new constitution of Florence fell apart but it was a good first try at imposing the rule of law on Florence. To this point it was "might makes right" and generally that meant the established families with the most money and spears made all the rules. In many ways it reminds me of the movie "The Godfather" where the bad guys are indeed very bad but not all bad. One can see how they got caught up in the tit-for-tat fighting, honor and frankly... just plain business. It almost makes sense... in the short run, but in the long run, the rule of law must triumph if the majority are to make a good life for themselves. In this case, though, the Pope is going to send in his army in a few years from now to clean up this mess.

Love, Italian Style

Dante of Florence has written a love poem that has become exceedingly popular throughout Italy. It is entitled "La Vita Nuova", The New Life and while love poems are not usually important to the development of a civilization, this one has some influence. Dante has written this popular poem in a Tuscan dialect that will become the standard for the Italian language. Dante will go on to write his most famous work some time after 1308: "The Divine Comedy", known popularly as "Dante's Inferno." [9] [10][11] [12]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
I found it odd that Dante who is best known for his depiction of Hell should also have made an impact on civilization writing a love poem. It is because of that irony that I had to mention his part in establishing the modern Italian language. It will be considered the language of culture for long time to come.

See Also


  1. "Isabella de Forz, Countess of Devon", Wikipedia
  2. "Isabella de Redvers (1237-1293)", from Encyclopedia Britannica
  3. "Queen of the Wight - Isabella de Fortibus" h2g2: the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy: Earth Edition, 2013-April-18
  4. "History, gazetteer and directory of the County of Devon including the City of Exeter, and comprising a general survey of the County and separate historical, statistical and topographical descriptions of all the hundreds, unions, parishes, townships, chapelries, towns, ports, villages - hamlets.", W. White, Sheffield, 1878
  5. "Giano della Bella", Brian Duignan, Encyclopedia Britannica
  6. Eliot Ness and the Untouchables, Wikipedia
  7. "Vieri dei Cerchi", Editors, Encyclopedia Britannica
  8. "Giovanni Villani on the introduction of the Ordinances of Justice", originally from Internet Medieval Sourcebook
  9. "Dante's Vita Nova: An Introductory Note, a Preface, and an Excerpt", Andrew Frisardi, Winter 2011
  10. The New Life (La Vita Nuova) by Dante Alighieri
  11. "Divine Comedy", Wikipedia
  12. "Dante Alighieri", Wikipedia

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