Hail, Princess Ælfthryth!

Well, checking out the history of May 20 at Wikipedia, I learned something. Or rather, I learned a number of things, most of which don’t have any application here today. Those can wait.

My useful bit of learning is that it was on this date in 794 that King Æthelberht II of East Anglia visited the royal Mercian court at Sutton Walls, hoping to marry Princess Ælfthryth. The reception he got was less than cordial. He was taken captive and beheaded, though sources differ as to whether King Offa’s decision to execute the visitor was his alone or was influenced by – as Wikipedia characterizes her – “Offa’s evil queen Cynethryth.”

Wikipedia notes that the tale of Ælfthryth’s betrothal to Æthelberht II is “a late and not very trustworthy legend,” though the tale of his death at the Mercian court seems to be true. And I imagine one has to question as well, then, the tale that after Æthelberht’s death, Ælfthryth – as Wikipedia tells it – “retired to the marshes of Crowland Abbey,” where she was built into a cell about 793 and lived as a recluse to the end of her days.

Why does that matter? It really doesn’t, except that I love old English names with their odd vowels and odd consonantal combinations. And I remain thankful that none of the parents of the women I courted when I was young – or in later years, for that matter – decided that I’d be more useful without my head.

And then, learning of the tale of Princess Ælfthryth gives me a chance to offer here another of my favorite long-form pieces of pop rock: “Tie-Dye Princess” by the Ides of March. The long track, running 11:31, was the closer to Common Bond, the 1971 follow-up to Vehicle, the group’s 1970 debut, the title track of which had been released as a single and had gone to No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. The album itself went to No. 55.

Common Bond didn’t fare nearly as well. The singles “Superman” and “L.A. Goodbye” went to No. 64 and No. 73, respectively, and a single edit of “Tie-Dye Princess” bubbled under at No. 113. (Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles shows “Tie-Dye Princess” as the A-side of Warner Bros. 7507, while the site Discogs.com shows it as the B-side. I’m inclined to agree with Whitburn.) And Common Bond bubbled under the Billboard 200 at No. 207.

I’m pretty sure that a princess at the court of Mercia wouldn’t have worn tie-dye in 794, but I don’t care. Here, in honor of Princess Ælfthryth and in honor of the possibly true tale of the ending of her courtship 1,222 years ago today, is “Tie-Dye Princess” by the Ides of March.

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