Medieval manuscripts blog

28 December 2018

Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms: the exhibition quiz

Have you been to the British Library's Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms exhibition yet? If not, you had better hurry, because eternal honour and glory are at stake in the form of this quiz.

Visitors to the exhibition will have a distinct advantage, since the answers to at least four of these questions are written on the walls of the gallery. For additional inspiration, you may wish to turn to the articles and descriptions of some of the exhibits on our fantastic new Anglo-Saxons webspace.

Good luck, brave quiz-warriors! Bear your shields forth and your gleaming thinking caps (with apologies to the epic poem Judith)!

A visitor admires the displays at the Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms exhibition

The Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms: Art, Word, War exhibition at the British Library (image © Tony Antoniou)

1. Who was the first king of England?

2. According to Bede, how many languages were spoken in Britain in the 8th century?

3. Why is Domesday Book so-named?

4. To whom was Emma of Normandy married?

Miniature of Queen Emma from the Encomium Emmae Reginae

5. In which alphabet are the earliest surviving pieces of English writing?

6. The MRSA bacterium is thought to be combated by a remedy found in which Old English medical manuscript?

7. In which year was Codex Amiatinus last in England?

Miniature of Ezra writing in Codex Amiatinus
Miniature of Ezra writing in Codex Amiatinus, written at Wearmouth-Jarrow before 716: Florence, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana
, MS Amiatino 1 (© Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Florence)

8. Which king gave his name to an earthwork that can still be seen on the English-Welsh border?

9. What is the oldest item in the exhibition?

10. Locate the British Isles on this 1000-year-old world map.

An 11th-century Anglo-Saxon map of the world
An 11th-century Anglo-Saxon map of the world: Cotton MS Tiberius B V/1, f. 56v

And a bonus question: How did King Harold II die?

Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms: Art, Word, War is on at the British Library until 19 February 2019. Tickets have been selling like hotcakes (not the ones reputedly burned by King Alfred), and can be purchased here.




And here are the answers. How many did you get?

1. King Æthelstan (reigned 924–939)

2. Five, namely English, British, Irish, Pictish and Latin

3. According to Richard fitz Nigel, writing in the 12th century, it was called Domesdei, the Day of Judgement, because its decisions, like those of the Last Judgement, could not be appealed

4. Queen Emma, who was married in turn to King Æthelred the Unready (978–1016) and to King Cnut (1016–1035)

5. The runic alphabet

6. Bald's Leechbook

7. AD 716, when it was taken by Abbot Ceolfrith of Wearmouth-Jarrow to Rome

8. Offa's Dyke, named after King Offa of Mercia (reigned 757–796)

9. A fragmentary manuscript of the letters of Cyprian, probably made in northern Africa in the 4th century

10. In the bottom, left-hand corner

Bonus. The experts, and the sources, are divided on this one. He was either hit in the eye by an arrow, was hacked down in battle, a combination of the two, or (less likely) he escaped and died peacefully many years after 1066. Take your pick!



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