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Saturday, October 26, 2013
Why an Exchequer?
Once upon a time Persia was ruled by Shahs. Today would be the birthday of the last (most recent?) Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who was deposed in 1979.
Some Shahs were happy, others crippled or worse. In Persian, crippled or dead Shahs were Shah Mat. Over time the word Shah evolved into Latin as scaccus, into old French as eschec and finally into English as chess, the game with a king. In modern chess, when the king is crippled, he is checkmate (shah mat).
King Henry II of England, husband of Eleanor of Aquitaine, was French. Whenever did his accounts he did it upon:
"a quadrangular surface about 10 feet in length, 5 foot in breadth, placed before those who sit around it in the manner of a table, and all around it has the edge about the height of one's 4 fingers, lest anything placed upon it fall off. There is placed over the top of the escheker, moreover, a cloth bought at the Easter term, not an ordinary one, but a black one marked with stripes, the stripes being distant from each other the space of a foot or the breadth of a hand. In the spaces moreover are counters placed according to their values." Dialogus de Scaccario c. 1180
Henry's account table looked like a chessboard, and French speaking Henry called his account table an escheker.
That is why Britain's finances are controlled by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Toad, with thanks to the Etymologicon by Mark Forstyth.
My bride and I have the honor of spending the next day and half with 3 young ruffians. I shall return Monday, the gods willing.