M is for Maid of Norway

A2Z-BADGE-100 [2017]

My 2017 A to Z Challenge theme is “The History of Kanata”, the parallel world that is the setting for “Eagle Passage”, my alternative history novel that all began when I wondered, “What would have happened if Leif Eriksson had settled Vinland permanently in 1000 AD? For further details and links to my other A to Z posts – and hints at the ones to come visit “Kanata – A to Z Challenge 2017”.

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M is for Maid of Norway:  8 July 1317 – Dunfermline Palace, Scotland: Margaret of Scotland, known as The Maid of Norway’ due to her birthplace, and her husband, Edvard II of England have united the lands of Albion with their marriage in 1300 and established diplomatic marriages with influential nobles. Christina, the daughter of their Lord Protector in Scotland, Robert the Bruce, is married to their son Alexander, and the Bruce has invited them back to the royal residence.

They are introduced to the scholar Cináed Giselbert who has travelled extensively from the heartlands of Kanata to the academic centres of the Islamic caliphates. He claims that an integrated, holistic view of science is the way forward. His observations have led to some conclusions that could benefit Albion and its allies. The charcoal and tar industries thrive under the support of enlightened merchants. But he has observed that burning timber, most especially in funeral pyres, wastes gases and vapours that are blown away in the wind. He demonstrates a device based on ancient drawings that can harness these gases and vapours. But he apologises that it is crude and craves support from the monarchs and their supporters, saying that other scholars share his beliefs. Margaret persuades Edvard to found a scholastic guild of higher learning in St Andrews, where Cináed Giselbert can gather other academics, explore devices to enhance society, and pass on their knowledge to students.

Stained glass window depicting Margaret, Maid of Norway, who was briefly Queen regnant of Scotland.  Creative Commons Attribution – Colin Smith

In our timeline: Undiscovered Scotland – “Margaret, Maid of Norway lived from 9 April 1283 to 26 September 1290 and was Queen of Scotland from 19 March 1286 to 26 September 1290. She was the granddaughter of Alexander III [of Scotland]. …In September 1290, Margaret set sail in a Norwegian ship from Bergen … Storms drove the ship off course to Orkney, and it eventually landed at St Margaret’s Hope, South Ronaldsay. Here Margaret, Maid of Norway, died, apparently from the effects of sea-sickness, still aged only eight. Had her marriage to [the future] Edward {II] gone ahead, the crowns of Scotland and England would have been united some three hundred years earlier than they eventually were, in 1603. And three hundred years of bloody history would probably have been very different.”

St Andrews University was not founded until 1413, after Oxford (1167), Cambridge (1209), and Northampton (1261).

Charcoal production is an ancient method of fuel production from wood that does require careful forest management, and in Britain led to extensive coppicing, as well as deforestation when demand exceeded demand. Similar deforestation occurred in Scandinavia and Finland where charcoal was a by-product of wood tar production. Charcoal is produced most extensively today in Brazil where it is used to transform ore into pig iron, and from there into mass-produced steel.

The first efficient steam engine to be applied industrially was designed by Thomas Savery in 1698. However, there were some ancient designs.

Aeon – In ‘Could we reboot a modern civilization without fossil fuels’, Lewis Dartnell writes, “Another, related option might be wood gasification. The use of wood to provide heat is as old as mankind, and yet simply burning timber only uses about a third of its energy. The rest is lost when gases and vapours released by the burning process blow away in the wind. Under the right conditions, even smoke is combustible. We don’t want to waste it.” Later, he writes, “For a society to stand any chance of industrialising under such conditions, it would have to focus its efforts in certain, very favourable natural environments: not the coal-island of 18th-century Britain, but perhaps areas of Scandinavia or Canada that combine fast-flowing streams for hydroelectric power and large areas of forest that can be harvested sustainably for thermal energy.”

Could Kanata industrialise itself if its inventors, like Cináed Giselbert, take the correct steps along a different energy path, focusing more on renewable wood derived fuel than coal? In my 2020 scenario, solar has become a major source, but how could they get there without ravaging the planet?


Important Links for the A to Z Challenge – please use these links to find other A to Z Bloggers

Website: http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/atozchallenge/

Twitter handle: @AprilAtoZ

Twitter hashtag: #atozchallenge

4 thoughts on “M is for Maid of Norway

    • The charcoal part was from our timeline, but that article from Aeon made me wonder how quickly the issue of deforestation was noticed – and ask what if someone had seen the problem back then. My fictional guy is based on a real inventor of a 12th-century steam organ, and the thought that Native Americans might have shown concern about burning so much timber.


  1. Pingback: U is for Uppsala | Writing Wings

  2. Pingback: M for Maid of Norway | Writing Wings

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