English History… the Nobles Spoke French… Illiterate Peasants Spoke English


I just finished reading an article about the Magna Carta. (The Rule of History by Jill Lepore, The New Yorker, April 20, 2015.) Lepore writes about England’s King John and how in 1215 he signed the Magna Carta. She writes:

“Magna Carta is written in Latin. The King and the barons spoke French. ‘Par les denz Dieu!’ the King liked to swear, invoking the teeth of God. The peasants, who were illiterate, spoke English.”

I shouldn’t have been surprised that the King and barons spoke French. Being a fan of early European history, I know that in 1066, William the Conqueror claimed his right to the English throne. William was from Normandy and spoke French. But, because English has been perfected and many take great pride in their mastery of it, it’s strange to think of those who spoke English as being, “illiterate.”

Suellen Ocean is the author of the historic novel The Celtic Prince Available here:


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Suellen Ocean

With a Bachelor of Arts degree from Sonoma State University, Suellen Ocean does her writing from the hills of Northern California. She began writing professionally for print and radio broadcasting in the late 1980's. Her first self-published book led to her becoming "officially" published, when in 1998 she was asked to participate in the anthology, "The Simple Life" through Berkley Books, New York. She is the author of sixteen books on diverse subjects.

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