I don’t want to change the world”, sang Billy Bragg in the early 1980s, “I’m just looking for a New England.” Some nine centuries earlier, that same thought must have crossed the mind of an obscure Saxon nobleman as he sailed away from his recently vanquished homeland.
The story goes that in 1075, a Siward, earl of Gloucester led a flotilla from England into the Mediterranean. Onboard was the flower of England’s native aristocracy, disenfranchised by the Norman Conquest of 1066. They reached Constantinople, gaining permission from the emperor to settle in Byzantine lands on the Black Sea’s northern shore — if they could reconquer them.
They did, and founded a Nova Anglia, the towns of which echoed the names of the ones the settlers had left behind. No trace of the colony remains today, but this New England (on the Crimean peninsula, and immediately to its east) must have survived for at least a few hundred years. Well into the 14th century, the New Englanders’ annual Christmas greetings to the emperor were conveyed “in their native language, English.”
Chances are you’ve never heard of this earlier version of New England — a geographical concept now firmly associated with the Northeastern U.S . That’s because the existence of Nova Anglia is only mentioned by two medieval texts, both far removed in time and place from their subject, and both possibly derived from a single source, since lost.
Hence New England’s apocryphal afterlife, even though circumstantial evidence at least partially compensates the lack of tangible remains…. Full article HERE
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