01 January 2006

Chaucer on Latvians

In the Canterbury Tales, Chaucer (1340-1400) mentions Latvia in the Knight's Tale:
Ful ofte tyme he hadde the bord bigonne
Aboven alle nacions in pruce;
In lettow hadde he reysed and in ruce, ...

Full oft the table's roster he'd begun
Above all nations' knights in Prussia.
In Latvia raided he, and Russia, ...
Chaucer's reputed model for the Knight, King Henry IV of England, made it to Latvia in July, 1390, while temporarily attached to the Knights of the Livonian Order. Even earlier, a Latvian who had come to England with a party of Norse invaders wound up battling against William the Conqueror around 1070.
via Latvians.com, a well-done site that offers a lot of things you won't find in the CIA World Factbook, such as:
  • Latvia is about the size of West Virginia, or Belgium plus the Netherlands.
  • About 2,500,000 people live in Latvia, mostly Latvian; and about 1/3rd Russian, the result of intense Russification during the 50 year Soviet occupation; students of history will note this was not the first campaign to Russify Latvia, the prior one being conducted by Czar Alexander III in the late 1800's — motivated more by fear of Germanic ambitions, but also a time during which speaking Latvian in public was grounds for imprisonment.

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