Friday, September 28, 2007

September News

Well ... actually not much in the offing at the moment.

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.
I will keep posting biographies of some of history's more fascinating women as I have time ... but who to chose and who to leave out. I may add some of a later time period (ie: 19th-20th century) - but that's still under consideration as I prefer that medieval period.
That's all for this month.
Take care on life's great journey!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Seeking Eleanor's "Ladies"

I posed this question back in 2005 with little response - so I will ask again:
I am seeking information of Florine de Bourgogne - specifically the woman who is listed as accompanying Eleanor of Aquitaine on the Second Crusade.

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.

Just about every book I have read on Eleanor of Aquitaine lists five "great noble ladies" who accompanied her on the Second Crusade. They are variously listed as: Mamille of Roucy, Sybilla of Flanders / Anjou, Faydida of Toulouse, Florine de Bourgogne and Torquiri de Bouillon.

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?

Sunday, September 9, 2007


Queen of Neustria

Fredegunda started out from humble beginnings. She was a slave-girl at the court of Neustria, and it was in this capacity that she came to the attention of Chilperic I, Merovingian King of Soissons (Neustria). Fredegunda became the mistress and then eventually the third wife of Chilperic I. As the influential and ever conniving mistress of Chilperic I of Neustria, Fredegunda persuaded Chilperic to repudiate his first wife Audovera.

Fredegunda was said to be the driving force behind the murder (568) of Chilperic's second wife Galswintha, daughter of Spanish Visigoth King Athanagild and the sister of Brunhilda, wife of Sigibert of Austrasia. Ever ambitious and eager to secure her own position, Fredegunda engineered the murders of Audovera's three sons (c.575). Continuing on her quest to the top, Fredegunda arranged for some hirelings to murder Sigibert of Austrasia, Chilperic's brother (575). In keeping with the bloodythirsty theme, Fredegunda's husband Chilperic I himself was murdered or assassinated, not really that much difference, shortly after the birth of their son Lothair (584).

Not stopping to find out whether or not she was next on the Murder Inc. hit-list, Fredegunda seized her late husband's wealth and fled to Paris with her remaining son Lothair (Clotaire II). From such a safe distance away, Fredegunda persuaded the Neustrian nobles to recognize her son as the legitimate heir to the Neustrian throne. Having accomplished this, Fredegunda took upon the role of Regent. In this capacity, Fredgunda continued her longtime power struggle with Guntrum of Burgundy (d.593) and Brunhilda, Queen-Mother of Austrasia (d.614), whom she defeated (c.597). Fredegunda died (598) at Paris.

~~~ Melisende (first pub: 1998 Women of History)

Mary Read

Soldier and Pirate

Mary was born England. her widowed mother had moved to the country with Mary's young brother so that her in-laws would not know that she was pregnant. Mary and her mother returned to London when she was aged 4yo in the hopes that her mother's in-laws might provide for them - for this deception to work, Mary was disguised as a boy, or rather, was posing as her dead brother. By the age of 13yo, Mary and her mother were forced to fend for themselves, and soon found employment as a boy-servant to a French Lady.

Mary then gained employment aboard a ship, remaining there until she headed for Flanders and joined the armed cadet in the foot-regiment. Mary acquitted herself bravely in the Spanish war of Succession (1701-1704) but was unable to gain a commission. She quit the infantry and joined the horse-regiment, gaining the esteem of her fellow officers. But Mary fell in love with handsome Fleming and grew negligent in duties and in service till her fellow troopers considered her to be mad - remember she was supposed to be a man. Mary would not allow herself to become his mistress - she was a modest, reserved young lady - so they married, easily obtaining their discharge and set up an eating-house "Three Horseshoes" near the castle of Breda.

They did good trade via fellow troopers. But then Mary's husband died, and the Peace of Ryswick was concluded and trade slowly vanished. Once again, Mary was forced to don men's clothing, She went to Holland and re-enlisted in the infantry, but there was little work for a soldier so she deserted at end of war. Mary then signed aboard merchantman bound for West Indies. When the ship was attacked by pirates, Mary joined them and soon settled in New Provedence Island. Mary signed the King's pardon, but that didn't last, and when money grew short she joined a group of privateers setting out against the Spanish. The crew mutinied, she among them. Though she abhorred piracy, she found it a useful way to make a quick buck. For all intents and purposes she was still a man and no-one thought any different till a rather immodest Anne Bonney took a fancy to her. Anne was disappointed to find that her handsome fellow was another woman - the gallant but jealous Captain Rackman had threatened to cut the throat of Anne's new lover so he had to be let in on the secret.

However, it was not long before love once again penetrated her disguise. From among the ships taken, many craftsmen were taken into service by the pirates, and it was one of these craftsmen that she fell for in a big way and soon revealed herself to him. This young fellow had quarreled with another pirate and was forced to meet and fight him according to the pirate code. Mary was afraid that he might be killed so she also quarreled with the same pirate, met him prior to her lover's appointment and fought him with sword and pistol, killing him. Then Mary entered into a sort of marriage agreement with her man. It was a short-lived marriage as Mary and the other pirates soon captured, imprisoned and brought to trial (1720). Her husband, whom she refused to identify, was acquitted for he was essentially an honest man with no previous piratical tendancies. Her fellow pirates, on the other hand, dropped her right in it, saying how pleasurable and rewarding she had said she found piracy. Mary was found guilty and given the death sentance. But luck was with her, and Mary was given a reprive from execution when she was found to be pregnant. Shortly after her trial, she succumbed to a violent fever and miscarried, dying in prison.

~~~ Melisende (first pub: 1998 Women of History)

Sybilla of Anjou

Countess of Flanders

Sybilla was the daughter of Count Fulk V of Anjou by first wife Arenberga of Maine. She was the sister of Geoffrey of Anjou, who married Empress Maud, daughter of King Henry I of England. She was initially betrothed (1113) to William the Aetheling, heir to King Henry I - they were not married as he was drowned off the coast of Normandy (1120). Her father Fulk undertook his first visit to the Holy Land (1120) - on his return, he abdicated and handed over control of the County of Anjou to Geoffrey (who had married Maud by now).

Sybilla married Thierry of Alsace, Count of Flanders - whom she bore a son Philip. Meanwhile, in the East, her father had married a second time, to Melisende, daughter of King Baldwin II of Jerusalem (1129) and was soon crowned King of Jerusalem (1131). Her husband Thierry visited her father Fulk in Jerusalem (1139), and took part in the Second Crusade (1147/1148) - as part of the entourage of King Louis VII of France. There is no evidence to suggest that Sybilla also accompanied her husband on this journey East.

Sybilla was the stepdaughter of Queen Melisende of Jerusalem (who was the second wife of her father Fulk). Her husband Thierry covetted the fief of Damascus but this lead to quarreling among the crusaders and effectively put an end to the crusade. Thierry returned to Flanders. Her husband made a third trip to Palestine (1157) - gained some lands near Antioch. Sybilla accompanied her husband back to Palestine - she refused to return to Europe with husband (1158). Instead, she stayed on as a nun in abbey of Bethany at Jerusalem.

On Melisende's death (1161), Sybilla succeeded to her influence in royal family and the Church till own death. Her husband Thierry made his fourth pilgrimage to Jerusalem (1154/1165) - he even appealed for a new crusade (1169). By the time her son Philip of Alsace, Count of Flanders reluctantly came East (1177) as a crusader, both she and her husband were dead.

~~~ Melisende (first pub: 1998 Women of History)

Morphia of Melitane

Princess of Armenia and Queen of Jerusalem

Morphia was the daughter of Gabriel, Lord of Melitane. Morphia married Baldwin II, King of Jerusalem (c.1102) when he was Count of Edessa. They were happily married. After the defeat of the Frankish crusaders at Hanun (1104), her husband was captured and imprisoned at Mosel. Edessa was governed by Tancred of Antioch (brother of Bohemond, Prince of Antioch). Baldwin was released from captivity (1109).

The following year (1110), Edessa was besieged by Tancred at the same time the Muslims were invading the county territories. When Baldwin went to Jerusalem to be crowned king, Morphia remained in Edessa (c.1118 - 1119), which was in the process of being handed over to Joscelin of Courtenay. After the threat from attacking Muslims was gone, Morphia eventually made the journey south to Jerusalem with her daughters (Melisende, Alice, Hodierna and Jovetta) and was crowned queen at Bethlehem (Xmas 1119).

Morphia's husband, King Baldwin II journied north to Antioch (1120) where he concluded a peace treaty with the Muslims (1121). He was on his way to Edessa, when he was attacked by Turks (1123) and taken prisoner. Morphia journied north to be near husband during his captivity (c.1124) and was responsible for arranging the terms of his ransom. Her daughter Melisende was married to Fulk of Anjou, and Alice was married to Bohemond II of Antioch.

Morphia died some time before 1129, and was buried in Our Lady of Josaphat, Jerusalem.

~~~ Melisende (first pub: 1998 Women of History)