Mercia in the modern world
Updated: Oct 13, 2020
Think that Mercia disappeared without a trace? Think again.
We may think of the area of Mercia as the Midlands – but this might actually be a relatively recent term. The term "midlands" is first recorded (as mydlande) in 1555. So up to that point it's very likely that Mercia remained the preferred term. And by "very likely" we mean "quite possible."
See? Midlands is only 500 years old.
New kid on the block! Johnny come lately! Steve Morse in Deep Purple!
Home Rule for Mercia?
Before World War 1, Home Rule was all the rage. It was so popular that it wasn't quite implemented in Ireland in time for the Easter Rising. "We are all Home Rulers now" said the Conservatives, who'd spent the last half century opposing it and pushed Ireland into rebellion. Why are Unionists the worst as preserving unions?
It wasn't just in Ireland where Home Rule failed to materialise. The idea of devolved parliaments for English region, including Mercia had been discussed. Not as crazy as it sounds. At the time, regional cities had incredible power. Birmingham was a powerhouse (spawning the powerful Chamberlain clan) and that could have been the perfect place for a Mercian assembly.
The Police and army use Mercia to identify themselves. Both the West Mercian police and the Mercian Regiment - which was formed to clump a load of other regiments together in a regionally flavoured cuts. Nice rebadging, British Army marketing department.
And in sports news, 2012 saw the Mercian Fortis Junior Football League formed. Who will top the table this year? Nunnery Woods Colts Tornados or Leigh & Bransford Badger Dons?
An independent Mercia?
But it gets more Mercia than regional identity. The Acting Witan of Mercia declared independence from Westminster in 2003, but nobody noticed. If they want to be taken seriously as a government on the world stage, they need a MUCH better website. Have you seen the fonts?
But this doesn't put everybody off. If you want to register as a Mercian citizen you can do it online or post a form to a guy called Jeff Kent in Mercia. If you want to register as a citizen of Kent, post it to Jeff Mercia in Kent.
Incidentally, Jeff Kent looks exactly as you’d expect. Yes, that's spot on.
In fairness to Jeff and co, the three core principles of Independent Mercia are: organic democracy, co-operative community and ecological balance.
These are an improvement on ancient Mercia, founded on violent crown seizures, sex with nuns and big dykes.
Mercia in books, film and TV
Bram Stoker set his 1911 novel The Lair of the White Worm in a contemporary Mercia. It was a horror about a big scary worm. Weirdly, not as popular as Dracula.
It was also made into a horror film with Hugh Grant.
“I, I, I, I…”
“Are you afraid, Hugh?”
“No, it’s just how one talks.”
The Last Kingdom
Athelred of Mercia appears in the BBC's The Last Kingdom but is a total git. As does Athelflaed, who's much nicer, but has it away with a Viking and it ends badly with them. Perhaps this explains why she went on to deal out the punishment in real life.
Oh, it's cool to sleep around in Nordic culture is it? Everybody does it do they?
(hack, hack, hack)
In History Channel's Vikings, you get to see Mercia as a separate kingdom. They even have their own standardised armour to differentiate themselves from Wessex and Northumbria. That's definitely not accurate. Armour was probably provided by individuals rather than doled out by an armourer, so it was much more Dress Down Friday. If you wanted to wear war jeans, that was fine.
In Vikings, Mercia is ruled by a queen, Kwenthrith - which was the name of a real Mercian princess and means powerful woman. In the series, Kwenthrith is a general wrongun and even pees on people, hence the term wee tan.
She’s supposed to be the daughter of Offa but the timelines don’t add up at all. The series is set as a young Alfred matures, which is some time after Offa. BUT she might be based on a real daughter of Offa – Eadburh - who ordered all kinds of executions and poisonings on rivals. But then her daddy Offa did bump off loads of children to be king – so let’s not murder shame.
Do you have any more modern Mercian references you could add? Why not get in touch and let us know...