October 25, 2009

Cuthbert and Durham

The County Palatinate of Durham was a unique jurisdiction in medieval England. Independent of the crown and ruled by its bishop, the local nobility asserted their independence of the rest of England and of obligations such as knight service that other nobles held. What this book review in the Medieval Review explains is that that resistance was grounded upon a political motive- which should be obvious to most- but also upon a spiritual language. The nobility asserted their rights as the successors to those who had guarded the remains of St Cuthbert as they made their journey from Lindisfarne to Durham under Viking assault. What you have here therefore is the independence of a part of England being buttressed and described by a saintly and spiritual motif: religion provides the legitimacy for the County Palatinate to exist and exist free of the interference of London and the rest of the Kingdom.