Power was inherently and inescapably male in the Middle Ages. The images displayed on the Great Seal of England encapsulated expectations of a medieval monarch: on one side the king sat in state to administer justice to his people, a sceptre in his hand; on the other he rode a towering warhorse with his sword unsheathed, ready to defend his kingdom. But a woman couldn’t sit as a judge or lead an army into battle. A woman, therefore, could not rule.
Life at sea may not have been a particularly attractive prospect for a man in Georgian England, but it was always an option: The Royal Navy was constantly, chronically, in need of sailors. Its peacetime strength in 1792 was fifteen thousand men,but in five years it increased eightfold, and by 1813 the number stood at one hundred and fifty thousand- this in a nation whose population was only about 10 million. England’s navy may have been the envy of the world, but it was not at all uncommon for her warships to sail undermanned.
Bede was a Northumbrian, born in 673 on the lands of the monastery of St Peter at Wearmouth. At the age of seven, his parents sent him to St Peter’s to begin his education. And there he remained, first as student and then as master, either at Wearmouth or at the twin monastery of St Paul at Jarrow on the river Tyne, till his death in 735 at the then ripe age of 62.