In Blog

There are only two possible risk outcomes: lucky and wrong. It is worth examining the role of luck and why some outcomes are luckier than others. Friday the thirteenth is supposed to be an unlucky day but few people know why this is so.  The answer can be found in an event that happened on 13 November, St Brice’s Day, over a thousand years ago. 

The king of the Anglo Saxons, Aethelred the second decided the best way to rid the country of Viking settlers was to order all true English men to massacre their Danish neighbours. An early attempt at ethnic cleansing which only resulted in prompting retaliation by the Danes who invaded, killed Aethelred and replaced him with their own king Canute. Aethelred paid with his life and his throne.

The story doesn’t end there, his queen, Emma of Normandy was astute enough to respond. Not only did she agree to marry Canute and legitimise his usurpation of the throne, but she sent her sons back to Normandy for their own safety. It was here that they grew up with cousin William. Emma’s son Edward the Confessor reinstated the house of Wessex in 1042, and Emma died peacefully in Winchester in 1052 where her bones lie in a mortuary chest today. 

On Edward’s death in 1066 his cousin William of Normandy claimed that Edward had promised him the throne and of course the rest as they say is history. The Normans, who like the Danes were of Viking blood, were hungry for new lands, as anyone who has seen the Norman churches in Sicily will testify. England was ripe for the taking and Normans usurped the Wessex dynasty, founded by Alfred in his heroic resistance against the Danes in the late ninth century.  

Aethlered’s decision on 13 November 1002 was risk too far. He encouraged the native English to rise against foreigners without considering the repercussions. He was trying to preserve the English culture from contamination and exploitation, yet in doing so he ultimately destroyed the very thing he was trying to preserve. The Normans not the Danes eventually took control of the country and the House of Wessex was extinguished. This was not just unlucky it was calamitous. 

Is there perhaps a lesson here for English politicians today as the Brexit economy unravels?