Go to previous post:
Egoboo.

Go to Electrolite's front page.

Go to next post:
Rock and roll never forgets.

Our Admirable Sponsors

January 26, 2004

The past isn’t dead, reprise. Via Language Hat, the website of the Shetland & Orkney Udal Law Group, crusading to overturn that recent and unjust imposition on their traditional way of life—Scottish feudal law. To which one can only say right on! Fight the power!

Really, I’m sure it’s a serious issue; I just can’t help but reflect that no system of social organization ever actually goes completely away. Inevitably, somewhere in the world, the cutting edge of controversy is that suspiciously modern system, feudalism… [04:54 PM]

Welcome to Electrolite's comments section.
Hard-Hitting Moderator: Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

Comments on The past isn't dead, reprise.:

Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 06:28 PM:

There's a term I had not heard before - allodial title.

Lilian ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 07:02 PM:

Well, I have passed the URL to our specialists in Scottish land law at Edinburgh. As one of them is in fact the man who is currently halfway through single-handedly dismantling the feudal system of land tenure I imagine he'll be very pleased :-) It's worth remembering that the Shetland population still thinks of itself as more Norse than British - I suspect this is something of a nationalist issue rather than a Luddite one - plus Udal law may indeed be better for the traditional crofters of the area(subsistence level smallhold farmers) than more conventional land law oriented towards the more urban owner. (Though to be honest, I just don't know.)

It is all change here in the Frozen North, you know. Not only did we have the first case on Web hyperlinking & copyright back in ye olde 1996 (Shetland News vs Shetland Times) , but any day now we are abolishing the post of Lord Lyon King of Arms whose job is solely to deal with heraldic emblems!! Whatever next, you ask with reason.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 07:32 PM:

Of course, I forgot that I have at least one reader who is in fact an actual Scottish attorney. Or barista, or solicitude, or whatever you call yourselves. Hello, Lilian.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 10:25 PM:

Hi, Lilian. Y'all are abolishing the Lord Lyon King of Arms? Why? I've always thought Scottish heraldry was rather better than English heraldry -- and had a more egalitarian distribution, too. On the other hand, heraldry did come in with that same lot whose law the Shetlanders want to get rid of. Or is this purely a practical matter, seeing as how these days nobody really needs to be recognized at a distance when he's got his armor on? Come to think of it, hasn't the whole thing been superseded by license plates? ... Never mind. I'm dead certain I'm behind on this one. Probably by at least a century or two, or three, or six. Where's Jo Walton? I need her for protective coloration. In a pinch, sit next to someone who refers to the Romano-Britons as "we".

So, what's different about the feudal system of land tenure? I'm sort of surprised to hear that it's still in force. On the other hand, there's nothing so conservative as laws relating to the possession of land.

BSD ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2004, 01:00 AM:

"Ancient Common Law", huh?
And I never thought I'd have any use for that first chapter of my property text, which actually talks about the feudal and prefeudal systems which birthed the Common Law.

Zizka ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2004, 01:31 AM:

Claims that feudalism was a Norman imposition on Anglo-Saxon justice were a functional part of the English Revolution of ca. 1688. Talk about the Magna Charta and Bad King John was part of that. Of course, the Shetlanders are arguing for the Norse legal forms of Canute, Bloodaxe, Bluetooth, Gorm, et al.

Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2004, 04:26 AM:

As I vaguely understand, Scottish Law is based on Roman Law, and thus bears little resemblence to English Law or Napoleonic Law, such as influenced the laws of the United States (Nappy in Louisiana).

Is that even close, Lilian?

Lilian ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2004, 06:08 AM:

Well here's the OFFICIAL response from our prof of land law (who seems to agree with me that the real issue here is devolution/nationalism not law..)..

"The irony is that (a) udal law is confined to land law: it is not general law private law let alone public law; (b) since feudalism is
virtually dead general Scots land law is already virtually udal (ie nonfeudal) anyway and the (c) come Martinmas this year the last remains of feudalism will vanish so that all land law will be udal/nonfeudal.

Orkney and Shetland may or may not want home rule but udal law is a
red herring."

Lilian ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2004, 06:08 AM:

Well here's the OFFICIAL response from our prof of land law (who seems to agree with me that the real issue here is devolution/nationalism not law..)..

"The irony is that (a) udal law is confined to land law: it is not general law private law let alone public law; (b) since feudalism is
virtually dead general Scots land law is already virtually udal (ie nonfeudal) anyway and the (c) come Martinmas this year the last remains of feudalism will vanish so that all land law will be udal/nonfeudal.

Orkney and Shetland may or may not want home rule but udal law is a
red herring."

Eimear Ní Mhéalóid ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2004, 07:04 AM:

In Ireland we replaced the title Ulster King of Arms with that of Chief Herald, in charge of the Genealogical Office. Some did think the whole apparatus should be demolished as unsuitable to a republic, as far as I recall from reading Changing Times, the autobiography of Edward MacLysaght who was the first Chief Herald.

According to the Genealogical Office most of the Gaelic chieftains adopted their own arms, sometimes with pre-Norman or even pre-Christian features. I love a site that has sentences like "Some of the settlers of the Tudor and Cromwellian periods were already armigerous before coming to Ireland. "

Beth Meacham ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2004, 10:33 AM:

come Martinmas this year the last remains of feudalism will vanish so that all land law will be udal/nonfeudal

May I just say that I am honored to have friends, and friends of friends, who can post a sentence like this in the Year of Our Lord 2004.

Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2004, 11:00 AM:

As was explained to me back when I bought my current property in Edinburgh, feuduty is payable to the feudal owner of the land on which the block of flats in which I live sits. But feuduty is usually a fee set so long ago, and fixed by law, that the feudal owner of the land usually doesn't bother to claim it: it would cost them more to employ a feuduty collector than they'd actually get. So the law as it stood then was that if the previous owner of the flat had never paid feuduty, I didn't have to even if the feudal owner (no idea who that is, no) showed up and claimed it. And as the previous owner never had, I never had to look into who actually owns the land.

Still, it'll all be over by Martinmas.

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2004, 12:18 PM:

In discussions of heraldry, does any mention of "gules, on a plate a fylfot per saltire sable" trigger Godwin's Law?

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2004, 01:03 PM:

That would be a swastika, right? Given the sense of humor common to heralds of my acquaintance, and their delight in blazoning unlikely things, I suspect it would provoke yawns.

I believe Teresa can still provide the correct heraldic language for describing an Oreo cookie with a bite taken out of it.

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2004, 01:44 PM:

It's the whole Nazi flag, actually. You might be right about the yawns.

Jonathan Edelstein ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2004, 03:17 PM:

There's an organization trying to revive the Cornish stannary parliament, very likely for similar reasons.

Zizka ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2004, 05:11 PM:

My father dug up the family coat of arms. It has a scissors on it, among other things. Apparently someone was very successful in the textile industry around the time of Henry VIII. The rising bourgeoisie. (No way of proving that I'm actually descended from that branch, of course).

At first I was crushed, but when you think of it a scissors can be a pretty fearsome weapon under some circumstances. Pry my scissors from cold dead hands, etc. We're by no means a bunch of wimps.

Swastika motifs are common in Asia as a Buddhist symbol, though they're mirror-image and foursquare compared to the Nazi one. There are also two brick chimneys here in Portland (Or) with swastika motifs in the bricks. I have no idea what the story behind them is.

Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2004, 06:32 PM:

My understanding is that swastikas (either version) were fairly common symbols and decorative motifs in a number of cultures prior to the Nazi rise to power. You can see them in a fair number of early 20th-century buildings, and they don't generally have any meaning except that someone thought they looked cool, or was doing an Amerind symbol theme, or something (several tribes used to use it for decoration with some frequency).

Andrew Brown ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2004, 03:08 AM:

There was a rather lovely edition of Kipling, published in the late Twenties and Thirties, that had a swastika on the spine. My grandparents had about twenty of them, in a glass-fronted bookcase that smelled of cedarwood and pipe tobacco.

You can still find the books, though not, alas, the smells, in second-hand bookshopse here.

Nao ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2004, 07:19 AM:

The swastika was commonly used as a motif in quilts in the US for many years. I think I've read that as people rummage through their elderly relatives' attics, they frequently find such quilts, many unfinished, put away in the late 1930's and never taken out again.

A couple of examples: "Swastika Like Quilts Made Before WWII" and "Swastika quilt, ca. 1880-1990" [sic. I'm sure that's supposed to be 1890.].

chris ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2004, 10:37 AM:

Titles like Lord Lyon King of Arms should never be abolished. They should be amended to be appointed by lottery once a year and recompensed with a half of 80/- in the pub of the winner's choice. After all, they don't do anything, so they don't do any harm.

Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2004, 03:27 PM:

I have tile swastikas in the front foyer of my house. Lucky that it doesn't offend any of the Jews living here...

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2004, 04:32 PM:

Xopher is kinda sorry he mentioned fylfots.

Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2004, 06:04 PM:

Lord Lyon King of Arms? There was also some grumbling about the privileges of The Black Rod, as I recall. But he has some serious administrative duties under Her Majesty. Not to be confused with Black Adder. Or Ruby Rhod.

There was, by the way, one and only one person who ever managed to be both Lord Mayor of Edinburgh and Lord Mayor of London, though not at the same time.

Did I mention that my wife's milkman in Edinburgh was [the] Sean Connery?

Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2004, 07:35 PM:

So, Xopher, you are admitting you have had your fyl of them, right?

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2004, 11:20 PM:

Claude, I fot hard not to respond. Now I fot in your general direction.

By the way, did I mention that I know David Crowe, and that I knew him before he was famous? Which is now, but you heard it here first.

Another Damned Medievalist ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2004, 07:27 PM:

Except, of course, that feudal law and the term feudalism are in and of themselves red herrings, and certainly have far less to do with non-nobles/fighting folk than with those ties of military obligation.


[waving a copy of Brown's "Feudalism: Tyranny of a Construct" in vain]