Saturday, December 29, 2007
Monday, December 24, 2007
Review - The Greatest Knight
Saturday, December 15, 2007
The Question of Joan
Saturday, December 8, 2007
Review - Innocent Traitor
Saturday, December 1, 2007
Review - Boudica
Review - The Tigress and the Rose
- The meetings of Henry II and Rosamund when both were children - just didn't work for me. Please correct me if I am wrong, but I don't believe they ever met prior to Henry becoming King of England, and certainly not in the early stages of his marriage to Eleanor. Henry met Rosamund c.1166 and their relationship lasted ten years, during which time Eleanor was held a prisoner (1173 - 1189).
- The tedious background information contained in the first chapter - too long.
- The naming of the members of Eleanor's Amazon women during her Second Crusade - well as two were non-existant, poor scholarship.
- The "relationship" between Eleanor and a Kurd called Ayub at Antioch, the resultant offspring being Saladin himself - unbelieveable - as was the supposition that Eleanor was a virgin at the time. I believe that Eleanor already had one daughter (c.1145) prior to the Second Crusade, and gave birth to another shortly after her return (c.1151). Louis may have been pious but he and Eleanor were married for at least seven years - and if she were a virgin, it would surely have been cause for comment.
- The sister of Ayub, one Rohesia, was the mother of St.Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury through her liaison with an Englishman named Gilbert.
Review - The Winter Mantle
- Waltheof, Earl of Northumbria.
- Judith, his Countess and niece of William the Conqueror.
- Matilda, their daughter.
- Simon de Senlis, Earl of Huntingdon and Northumbria.
Friday, November 23, 2007
Some Light Reading
My poor brain is completely "fried" - overworked and just plain old tired, so I have decided to give the non-fiction a bit of a miss for a while and take up some historical fiction. Mind you, every book I selected in over 400 pages!!
So, on the agenda for the next month or so - depending upon the state on my mental faculties, are the following books, in no particular order:
- "The Winter Mantle" by Elizabeth Chadwick ( - Norman England and the revolt of Earl Waltheof of Northumbria)
- "The Tigress and the Rose" byRichard Cameron Low (- Eleanor of Aquitaine and Fair Rosamund Clifford)
- "Innocent Traitor" by Alison Weir (- Lady Jane Grey) - I am slightly hesitant as Weir is not a particluar favourite of mine, but others think this foray into fiction is okay.
- "The Greatest Knight" by Elizabeth Chadwick (- William Marshall)
- "The Scarlet Lion" by Elizabeth Chadwick (- William Marshall, again)
- "Bretheren" by Robyn Young (- Knights Templar)
I wonder if I should have tackled those books sitting, covered in dust, on my own bookcase first???
Monday, November 19, 2007
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Elizabeth I - Quotes
“I would rather be a beggar and single than a queen and married.”
“She almost reluctantly learns to admire her strength and convictions as another powerful, determined woman.”
“There is an Italian proverb which saith, From my enemy let me defend myself; but from a pretensed friend Lord deliver me”
“To be a king and wear a crown is a thing more glorious to them that see it than it is pleasant to them that bear it”
“There is small disproportion betwixt a fool who useth not wit because he hath it not and him that useth it not when it should avail him.”
“I am your anointed Queen. I will never be by violence constrained to do anything. I thank God I am endued with such qualities that if I were turned out of the Realm in my petticoat I were able to live in any place in Christendom.”
“Though God hath raised me high, yet this I count the glory of my crown: that I have reigned with your loves. And though you have had, and may have, many mightier and wiser princes sitting in this seat; yet you never had, nor shall have any that will love you better.”
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
The following is a list of nicknames of some of our medieval women:
Queen Mary I of England:
- Bloody" Mary
Isabella of France, Queen of England:
- "The Fair"
Maria II of Portugal:
- the "Good Mother"
Joanna / Juana of Castile
- The Mad (la loca)
Queen Elizabeth I of England:
- Good Queen Bess
- The Virgin Queen
Lady Jane Grey:
- The Nine Day Queen
Agnes of Dunbar, 4th Countess of Moray:
- "Black" Agnes
- Anne of a Thousand Days
- Nan Bullen
Anne of Cleves:
- Flanders Mare
Friday, November 9, 2007
Marie Rua Ni Mhathuna
Noblewoman of County Clare, Ireland
Monday, November 5, 2007
William I and the Question of the Papal Banner
Friday, November 2, 2007
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Daughter of the Eastern Emperor Arcadius and the Empress Eudoxia. She was the sister of Theodosius and Eudoxia.
At the age of 15 (414) her father died and her brother succeeded as Theodosius II. But her brother was weak and Pulchera took over the regency and was herself proclaimed Augusta. Pulchera was present when her brother received their aunt Galla Placida and her two children (421), and though Galla was disliked and distrusted by Theodosius, she was granted imperial rank (423). Theodosius then organized an invasion of the Western Empire (424). Pulchera was virtual ruler of the Eastern Empire until she was ousted from favour by intrigue (442/443).
Though a Christian by birth, Pulchera was educated in the pagan tradition; she was an intelligent woman, speaking fluent Greek and Latin and had a deep interest in medicine and natural science.
The Emperor Theodosius died (450) and aged 51, Pulchera took control of the government of the Eastern Empire. She then married Marcian, Army Chief of Staff, and named him co-Emperor (despite the fact that she had taken a vow of perpetual virginity and said would never marry). Pulchera died a few years later aged 54 (453) and in her will she left vast estates to the poor.
~~~ Melisende (first pub: 1998 Women of History)
Professor & Doctor
Trotula was an Italian woman who achieved fame in the medical profession. She was considered the most knowledgable of all women physicians of her time (and after).
Sunday, October 28, 2007
Women of History - Biographies
Saturday, October 27, 2007
Queen of Scotland (1542 - 1567)
Mary was born (7/12/1542) at Linlithgow, Scotland. She was the daughter of James V of Scotland (d.1542) and Mary of Guise (d.1560). From the day of her birth, Mary was betrothed to the future Edward VI of England (1542) - the vetoing of this marriage led to war with England.
Mary became Queen of France but shortly after, Francis died (1560/1561). Mary was returned to Scotland (1561), and promptly proclaimed herself rightful Queen of England as the granddaughter of Henry VIII's sister Margaret Tudor. Back in Scotland, Mary had to adapt to the anti-monarchial, anti-Catholic, anti-French elements that had dominated Scotland in her absence. Then Mary embarked upon the illconsidered marriage (2) to her cousin Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley (29/7/1565) at Edinburgh, Scotland. Mary soon gave birth to a son, James VI & I (1566).
The following year Mary was caught up in the scandal surrounding the murders of Riccio and Darnley (1567). Mary made mistake upon mistake. Soon after both deaths, Mary made a scandalous marriage (3) to James Hepburn, 4th Earl Bothwell (c.1567), who just happened to have been recently acquitted of Darnley's murder, was then hastily divorced from his wife, and was swiftly promoted to the Dukedom of Orkney and Shetlands. There was an immediate uprising of Scottish lords which resulted in military defeat for Mary at Carberry Hill and Langside (1568).
Mary fled Scotland for England, and threw herself on the mercy of Elizabeth I, who kept her imprisoned in various strongholds. Following intrigues to rescue her and place her on the throne of England, Mary was placed on trial (Oct.1586). She was found guilty of treason and sentanced to death (25/10/1586). After delaying for as long as possible, Elizabeth reluctantly signed Mary's death warrant (1/2/1587) and Mary was executed at Fotheringhay (8/2/1587).
St. Elizabeth of Portugal
Queen of Portugal
Maria of Antioch
Countess of Forli
With her husband, Caterina seized control of Castel Sant' Angelo in Rome during the turmoils (1484) - she surrendered 13 days later (Caterina was 7 months pregnant at the time and aged 21). Girolamo and Caterina left Rome and went to Romagna, where they resided in Forli. Caterina was an well educated young woman, and sought knowledge from all things. She was renowned for keeping book of receipes and prescriptions - many noble ladies corresponded with her exchanging receipes and seeking advice from her. Caterina's husband was a rather weak man, and not exactly an able soldier or ruler. In Forli it was Caterina who issued justice, especially after the revolt (1487) in which her husband failed to do anything.
The following year (1488), Caterina's husband was murdered by the Orsi family. Caterina was taken captive with children but escaped. Caterina sought and received help from Milan and Bologna. From here on, Caterina became noted as a brutal tyrant. Initially she was regent for her young son Ottaviano, but Caterina loved power and was reluctant to relinquish it and so assumed full control. Caterina took a lover, Giacomo Peo, and the two were secretly wed - she bore him a son Bernardino (c.1490). Giacomo was murdered (1495), and Caterina took revenge on all involved (it was said her son was the instigator - her revenge on him was to withhold any power and control from him). Caterina took another lover/husband/advisor in Giovanni di Pierfrancesco de Medici - she bore him a son Giovanni della Bande Nera (father of Cosimo, Grand Duke of Tuscany). Caterina's husband Giovanni died one year later of natural causes aged 29.
Caterina continued to rule her small lands until they were attacked by Cesare Borgia (1499). Caterina sent her children and her jewels to Florence for safety. Caterina was involved in a plot and tried to poison Pope Alexander VI. Meanwhile the Poe's son Ceasre was still beseiging her lands. Imola surrendered then Forli, and Caterina was besieged in the fortress of Ravaldino (1499) for 24 days. The fortress was taken, and Caterina was made prisoner by Borgia who delighted in his illtreatment of her. Caterina was then imprisoned in Belvedere Palace at the Vatican for four months. After a failed escape attempt, Caterina was imprisoned in Castel Sant' Angelo for one year. Caterina was released only after she renounced her lordship. Caterina retired to Florence, where she died eight years later (1509) of liver ailment, peritonitis and pleurisy aged 46.
(Adetheida/Adelheide of Italy)
The Calendar of Saints says her first husband was poisoned by his successor. When she refused to marry the murderer's son, she was imprisoned. King Otto the Great freed her and married her. He died and her daughter-in-law forced Adelaide to quit the royal presence. Throughout these troubles she remained gracious and loving and was canonised a hundred years after her death.
Daughter of Pope Alexander IV (Rodrigo Borgia) by principal mistress Vanozza dei Cattenels. Sister of Juan, Duke of Gandia and Cesare, Cardinal, Duke of Romagna, Duke of Valentinois (also known as "Il Valentino").
Lucrezia was blonde, beautiful, and cultured. She grew up in Rome during the Renaissance. At times, she was accused of complicity in the crimes of both her father and brother. There is however, no evidence to support any of these accusations. She often attended many of the "parties" arranged at the Vatican by both father and brother; and her closeness to her brother Cesare ignited rumours of incest between them - it may also have had something to do with the fact that Cesare had named one of his many bastards after his beloved sister. Cesare was athletic, charming, subtle, a diplomat, master of dissimulation, capable soldier and administrator, who preferred to defeat enemies by treachery; he deceived, betrayed and attacked without warning, killing without excuse, murdering and raping; he campaigned in the name of the church (and for his own personal aggrandizement) and was financed by it.
To further the political ambitions of her father and brother Cesare, Lucrezia was married three times:
Alfonso I d'Este was the son of Ercole d'Este, 2nd Duke of Ferrara and Eleanora of Naples. He was the brother of Isabella (m. Francesco Gonzaga and Duchess of Mantua), Beatrice (m. Lodovico Sforza and Duchess of Milan), Ferrante, Cardinal Ippolito, Sigismondo, and half-brother of Guilo. When Alfonso was aged 15 (c.1491) he was married to 18yo Anna Sforza who later died in childbirth (1497). Unfortunately for Alfonso, he was not attractive not likeable; he was coarse, uncivilised, brutal, brave, cruel, arrogant, licentious; patronized prostitutes. One his prized possessions was his own personal own foundry and cannon (symbol of prestige). When the engagement of Alfonso to Lucrezia was made public, his sister Isabella flew into a rage demanding the arrangements be broken off. However, Alfonso and Lucrezia were married, first by proxy in Rome, then in grandeur in Ferrara (1501).
Shortly after his marriage, Alfonso imprisoned brothers Guilo and Ferrante (1501) after plot to depose him was discovered ? he dealt with them cruelly. At Ferrara, she learned of the death of her father Pope Alexander VI and the fall from power (and death 1507) of her brother Cesare (his ambitions ended with their father's death (1503) which came about after Cesare accidently poisoned both himself and his father; he was imprisoned by the new Pope Julius II (1503); escaped to Naples (1504); shipped to a Spanish prison (1505); escaped but was killed whilst fighting in Castile/Navarre for the King of Navarre (12/3/1507) Viana. Patron of the arts, protector of Leonardo da Vinci. Praised by Machiavelli as a model prince).
After the death of his father Ercole d'Este (1505), he became Hereditary Prince of Ferrara and its third Duke - he was aged 25yo.
Alfonso was suspicious of her (due to a false reputation for wantonness) and spied on her and had her followed. At Ferrara where she established a literary and artistic court, she developed a number of amorous friendships, including Francesco Gonzaga (1505-1511) Duke of Mantua and husband of Alfonso's sister, Isabella and with the poet Pietro Bembo. She also devoted herself to the patronage of the arts and education, as well as devoting herself to works of charity and to the care of her children, including son Ercole II (b.1508).
Despite his suspicions, Alfonso appointed Lucrezia as regent of duchy during his many absences. He never loved her, but did respect her.
Alfonso was forced to defend Ferrara (1510) against Venetians. He fought at the battle of Ravenna (1512). However, he was detained in Rome but fled at coronation of de Medici Pope (c.1513).
After a difficult pregnancy and birth of stillborn child, Lucrezia died (1519) a week after. She was buried in church of Corpus Domin, Ferrara.
Alfonso lost no time in taking up with his mistress Lauri Dianti (who would bear him two sons). He was forced to defend Ferrara against Pope (1519); to defend himself against an attempt by Pope to kidnap him (1521). In the forthcoming wars, he tried to recapture Modena. He was loyal to France (1525) - sent aid. He captured Modena (1527). Plague (1528) at Ferrara. Met Emperor Charles V (1529) - he was aged 53; at Bologna (1530). Alfonso died 1534, and buried in the church of Corpus Domin, Ferrara, Italy; succeeded by his son by Lucrezia, Ercole II.
~~~ Melisende (first pub: Women of History)
Helena was a humble innkeeper's daughter from Bithyna. It was said that as a girl, Helena had been one of the supplementary amenities of her father's establishment, regularly available to clients, at an extra charge.
Helena married Constantius (r.293 - 306). She was the mother of Emperor Constantine I (b.274). Elevated to rank of Augusta, Helena kept her court at Boulogne. Helena was abandoned by her husband (305) in order that he could marry Emperor Maximus' adopted stepdaughter, Theodora. The following year witnessed the death of Helena's former husband at York (25/7/306) when he and his son went to England.
Catherine de Medici
Catherine was the mother of: Francis II of France, King of France (b.1544); Elizabeth (b.1545); Claude (b.1547); Louis (1549 - 1550); Charles IX of France, King of France (b.1550); Henry III of France, King of France (b.1551); Margaret de Valois (b.1553); Hercule Francois, Duke of Alencon-Anjou (1554 - 1584); Victoire (b.1556); and Jeanne (b.1556).
When Henry II assumed the French throne (1547), Catherine had little power during his reign as she was completely overshadowed by his mistress Diane de Poitiers. Catherine's only successful taste of power came when Henry was recognized as Vicar of Empire (1552) - during his absence from France (1152 - 1155), Henry gave power to Catherine. During a tournament in Paris, Henry II lost an eye and died ten days later (10/7/1559) after suffering terrible agony. He was buried St. Denis.
Catherine also had little power during the reign of her first son, Francis II, but on Francis's death (1560) the government fell entirely into her hands. Catherine ruled as regent for her second son, Charles IX, and despite him reaching his majority and assuming power in his own right (1563), she continued to dominate Charles for the duration of his reign.
In her determination to preserve royal power at any cost, Catherine devoted her energies to maintaining a balance between the Protestant group known as the Huguenots, led by the French military leader Gaspard de Coligny, and the Roman Catholics, led by the powerful house of Guise. During the religious civil wars (1562=>), Catherine, a Roman Catholic, usually supported the Catholics; sometimes, however, political expediency led her to switch her support to the Huguenots. Her political manipulations also affected the personal affairs of her family.
After the death of Charles (1574) and the accession to the throne of her third son as Henry III, Catherine's power declined. In a vain attempt to regain control of the government, Catherine tried to reconcile Catholics and Protestants, but she was trusted by neither.
Catherine was a patron of the arts - her interest in architecture was demonstrated in the building of a new wing of the Louvre Museum, in initiating construction of the Tuileries gardens, and in building the chateau of Monceau. Her personal library, containing numerous rare manuscripts, was renowned in Renaissance France.
Saturday, October 20, 2007
Lost and Found
I have been looking into the genealogy of King Harold II or more specifically, his father Wulfnoth, this week. I have managed to find out quite a bit about the ancestry of Wulfnoth - however, much was speculative and I didn't have the primary sources at hand which I needed to shed light on the matter. All roads came rather haltingly to a dead end, so to speak.
And then I checked my email. And what do you supposed I had sitting there in the Inbox for the past week, which I filled, unread, into a folder marked "Anglo Saxon Geneaology" - yep - Wulfnoth's pedigree.
One might be forgiven for thinking that my own "research" into this (which covered barely one week) was rather half-arsed. Well, maybe it was; and then again, maybe it wasn't.
Anglo-Saxon genealogy is a newish area for me - at least as far as creating a line of descent going back more than one or two generations. When dealing with my "medieval women" I have tended to focus on their immediate parentage to within, as I said, one or two generations back. Going back further, say eight or nine generations, was not something I had considered - it would, I felt, make their story too long in the telling.
So, there you have it - well, rather - I had it sitting there in front of me for the best part of a week.
I think my temporal lobe is on vacation .....
Monday, October 8, 2007
Death of William Rufus
I have just been writing a rather lengthy article - "The Death of William Rufus".
I enjoy a good mystery, espcially a medieval one and just couldn't resist adding my two cents into this rather curious event. So many suspects and still so many unanswered questions.
I have posted it on the "Women of History" website as it is rather lengthy.
As I said, this is my own personal take on the events of 2nd August 1100.
Monday, October 1, 2007
Kosem finally lost her grip on power (1651) when Constantinople slipped into complete anarchy. She was eventually hunted down in her private apartments, where she hid. However, she was discovered after a lengthy search, hiding under a pile of quilts. Kosem was assaulted and stripped of her clothes and jewels. She was dragged into the "Cushana" by her feet, where she was strangled by a piece of rope (which had to be found). Kosem was over 80yo, but fought back. It took four men quite a while to manually strangle her. It was only when she was completely still was her death proclaimed to the Sultan. Kosem was not dead but still alive, and so once again she was strangled and killed.
Wu Chao was a young Chinese woman who, at the age of 14, became a 5th-grade concubine to the Chinese Emperor. The Emperor's heir fell in love the Wu Chao, and after the death of the Emperor, he rescued her from a convent (where all the late Emperor's concubines were supposed to end their days). Wu Chao was installed by the Emperor as his 2nd-grade concubine. She bore the Emperor a son but became such a threat to the Emperor's son-less wife and his favourite concubine (who had borne a son) that these two women conspired against Wu Chao.
But Wu Chao turned the tables on them - she succeeded in getting these two women imprisoned and later murdered. Aged 31, Wu Chao achieved, by manoeuvre and bribes, the position of Empress, whereupon she promptly had the late concubine's son sent away. The Emperor, mentally inferior to his intelligent wife, sufferd a paralytic illness (660) and for the next 45 years she was virtual ruler of all China, ruthlessly removing or executing all who threatened her. But Wu Chao had other achievments - she raised the intellectual level of the bureaucracy, was patron of literature, introduced freedom of religion (for all religions), and via a plan of her own devising, conquered and annexed Korea.
Following the death of the Emperor (663), Wu Chao spend the next seven years in complex political wrangling before she was proclaimed Emperor Wu Hau Huang-ti. On ascending the imperial throne, Wu Chao greatly increased her patronage of the arts, built temples, founded Buddhist hospitals and dipensaries; she ensured that the mentally ill were provided, and created a lay organization to administer the sick through state hospitals (701). Wu Chao also reformed and strengthened the government by loosening the control of the old aristoratic families. Women in China enjoyed greater freedom throughout the 50 year reign of Wu Chao, and her rule over the vast Chinese Empire paved the way for the supreme T'ang Dynasty, famed for it's culture.
~~~ Melisende (first pub: 1998 Women of History)
Friday, September 28, 2007
I am working on a couple of articles - one doesn't pertain to women's history, but rather to events in the aftermath of the death of William the Conqueror; and the other concerns a text written in the Tudor era.
Monday, September 10, 2007
Seeking Eleanor's "Ladies"
My problem is - I can find no trace of her historically as a "living" person at the time in any of the medieval genealogies / lineages.
The first three, Mamille, Sybilla and Faydida, are actual "historical" women of the time. I can detail their parentage and lives (to an extent). Of the other two women, Florine and Torquri, I can find no trace of their extistance. Are they just figments of one author's imagination, which the rest of us have taken for granted - and transposed into our own research. So is this a simple mistake that is being revisisted by scholars time and again. Which probably makes me just as guilty as the next.
Florine de Bourgogne did exist - but died aged 14yo in 1097AD. Had this Florine's date of death been a misprint, she would have been aged 65yo at the time of the Second Crusade, and would hardly have constituted as a "contemporary" of Eleanor and her "amazons".
Similarly, I would also like any information on Torqueri of Bouillon - another woman who does not seen to have "historically" existed. I have scoured the genealogies of both Bouillon / Lorraine and Bourgogne / Burgundy to no avail. Any thoughts - suggestions?