Charlemagne in the Midlands: Marianne Ailes reports

‘Charlemagne in the Midlands’ might seem an unlikely title – but that is what was going on in Walsall on Wed 3rd April. It was clear at our previous family event in Walsall that many in the area knew little about the unique artefacts held by the town’s Leather Museum: the enigmatic ‘Bayard’s Colts’ are a collection of carved staffs including animal and human heads so a further event was organised by Marianne Ailes, of the Charlemagne: A European Icon project at the University of Bristol and Philip Booth in connection with Walsall Leather Museum. The first was with children from Mary Elliot Special School who enjoyed the story of Bayard, the ‘super-horse’ owned by one of Charlemagne’s rebellious barons. The children were then able to make mini-puppets of Charlemagne. The story-teller Cath Edwards returned in the evening when a public audience listened enthralled to two stories of Charlemagne: the story of the Four Sons of Aymon and their horse Bayard, and the tale of Charlemagne, his wife Fastrada and a magic ring. Dr Ailes explained how well known the Charlemagne narratives were in Medieval England, emphasising a number of Midlands connections. Three of the Colts (which are normally kept in storage) were in a special display case, while five more are exhibited in the Museum as part of their current ‘wicked Walsall’ exhibition.