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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Filed under Eastern Europe, England, literature

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