Today is the Feast of St Severinus of Noricum who lived in this part of the world in the evil times of the Völkerwanderung. Since he defended the liberty of the Romans against Germanic oppression, he could be a patron saint for what Aelianus likes to call “Arthurian Republicanism.” He had a lot of trouble with Giso, queen of the Rugians, “a dangerous and wicked woman” as Eugippius calls her. Eugippius relates the following story of her cruelty:
She oppressed the Romans with a heavy hand, and even ordered some to be removed beyond the Danube. For one day she came to a village near Favianis, and commanded that certain ones should be brought to her across the Danube to be condemned to the most degrading offices of slavery. The man of God sent to her and asked that she let them go. But she, her woman’s anger kindled to a white heat, replied with a message of the greatest rudeness. “Pray for thyself,” she said, “servant of God, lurking in thy cell! Leave me to issue concerning my servants such orders as I please.”
When the man of God received this answer, he said, “I put my trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. She shall be compelled by necessity to do that which her perverse inclination has despised.”
Even so the swift stroke followed which cast down her haughty spirit. For there were certain goldsmiths, barbarians, shut up and straitly guarded that they might fashion ornaments for the king and queen. On the same day on which the queen had spurned the servant of God, the little son of King Feletheus, Fredericus by name, moved by childish curiosity, went in among them. Then the goldsmiths put a sword at the child’s breast, saying that if any one should attempt to approach them without the safeguard of an oath, they would first run through the little prince, and afterwards slay themselves; since, worn out by toil and confinement, they were utterly desperate. When this came to the ears of the cruel and ungodly queen, she rent her garments for grief, and cried aloud, “O Severinus, servant of the Lord, thus are the insults I have offered avenged by thy God! With profuse prayers thou hast called down vengeance upon my scorn, that thou might be avenged in my offspring!” So, running to and fro, with manifold contrition and pitiable lamentation, she acknowledged that she was smitten by this blow in recompense for the crime of scorn which she had committed against the servant of God. And she instantly dispatched horsemen to seek his pardon; and sent back the Romans whom that very day she had removed, and interceding for whom Severinus had been visited with her scorn. The goldsmiths received the surety of an oath, released the child, and were at the same time themselves released.
When he heard these things, the most reverent servant of Christ returned unbounded thanks to the Creator: who doth sometimes postpone answering prayer, in order that with the increase of faith, hope, and love he may grant greater blessings than are asked. For the omnipotence of the Saviour brought it to pass that when the cruel woman subjected the free to slavery, she was compelled to restore the slaves to liberty.
Love of liberty is a beautiful thing when rightly ordered, and that is what makes it so dangerous when it is disordered.