Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Sunday 11 January 2009

Of Mothers-in-law and Fishponds

Mothers-in-law have received something of a bad press recently in the usual media Christmas silly-season. Most entertaining, perhaps, is the poll suggesting that mothers-in-law named Margaret provided the most cause for complaint. Now why should this be?

Well, it's wonderful example of a statistical anomaly; leaving aside the numbers named after the Queen's sister, it should perhaps be pointed out to southern journalists that if you shout 'Margaret!' in any Scottish town, you are in danger of being trampled to death. With so many of them around, it's highly likely that some of them must have ruffled a few feathers even before you consider the strong mother-daughter bond in Scottish culture.

The tyrannical mother-in-law is, however nothing new. In perhaps the least topical story ever, I recently came across an account the arrival of Princess Ingundis in 6th century Toledo. She had come to marry the king's eldest son, but, instead of submissively adopting her future husband's religion, the princess steadfastly insisted on remaining a Roman Catholic.

In a scene worthy of 'Dynasty', the king's wife Goisuintha pulled the girl's hair, threw her to the ground and kicked her before taking her outside and throwing her in the fishpond. History, alas, does not report the reaction of the assembled courtiers to this unorthodox form of religious instruction and one is left wondering whether the child was indeed a shining example of religious fervour or - whisper it quietly - a bit of a brat.


  1. I would just like to say that my mother-in-law is marvelous and has never tried to foist her religious beliefs on me, unless it is the belief that one glass of champagne is never enough.

  2. Becky, your attitude does you credit.
    I should perhaps have added the disclaimer that none of the mothers-in-law mentioned in this post bear any resemblance to the respective mothers-in-law of myself or MacHeath.


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