Showing posts with label badass ladies. Show all posts
Showing posts with label badass ladies. Show all posts

Friday, July 7, 2017

Damn, Girl-Artemisia I of Caria

Artemisia really pissed off the Athenians. Why? Because she led attacks against Athens, and won. How much did the Athenians hate Artemisia? Ten thousand drachmas worth of hatred. That's about a quarter million US dollars in today's currency.

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Our girl
Artemisia was the queen of Caria, a region in the north of today's modern Turkey. Like many ancient queens before her, Artemisia was never meant to rule. She became queen when her husband died, and her son was too young to rule. She took to her role of queen regnant like a fish to water. She took advantage of the Carians previous alliance with the Persians to do a little conquering

It was 480 BCE, and King Xerxes of Persia was going after the Greek city states, specifically Athens. Artemisia gathered a fleet, and sailed out to help him. When she got there she joined King Xerxes' war council, where she became one of his most trusted and valued advisers.

Artemisia is well known for two really big moments in this war, and after that she more or less disappears from history. The reason we know about her at all is because of her #1 fan, Herodotus, who wrote so much about her in his record of the battle of Salamis (one of the two really big moments), that he's been accused of leaving out important parts of that battle, because he was too busy fangirling over Artemisia. Honestly though? #relateable. After reading about her, I'm fangirling too.

Why? You ask. What are these big moments? You demand. Why the hell haven't you gotten on with telling us what she actually did? You further inquire. I was looking for a good transition okay, shut up, I'll give you what you want.

Artemisia I's two big moments both came during this invasion of Greece. Though she was named after Artemis, she should have been named after Athene, because she demonstrated both great wisdom, and great skill in battle.
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King Xerxes
  1. So our bud Xerxes had destroyed Athens, and he was trying to figure out if he wanted to go for the rest of Greece, or nah. Partially as a test of his advisers, and partially because he was indecisive, Xerxes had his buddy, Mardonius, go around to each of his advisers, and ask them what they thought he should do, should he engage the Greeks in a naval battle, or pull back. All of Xerxes' advisers told him he should engage the Greeks in naval battle, except for Artemisia, who pointed out that the Greeks had a better navy than the Persians, and that it would be a much better strategy to simply starve the Greeks into submission. Everyone thought she would be executed for cowardice, boy were they surprised when Xerxes conceded that she was right. However, Xerxes also decreed that majority ruled, and proceeded to start the battle of Salamis.                                                                            
  2. The Battle of Salamis was a naval engagement between the Persians and the Greeks, and, as Artemisia predicted, it wasn't going so well for the Persians, because, as might be expected for a nation made up entirely of small islands, the Greeks had a damn good navy. Despite the fact that her advice had been blatantly ignored, Artemisia brought her men to the party anyways. Things were proceeding as normal, men falling overboard, ships going up in flames, utter carnage as per usual, when Artemisia found herself caught between the advancing Greek forces, and the ships of her Persian allies. There was no escape, and it might have been the end for her, except for the fact that she had the foresight to have a greek flag in her hold as well as a Persian one. She had her men take down the Persian colors, and hoist the Greek ones. Then, to make sure the Greeks really thought she was one of them, she attacked the ships of the nation of Calynda, a fellow Persian ally whose king, Damasithymus, Artemisia particularly disliked. The Greeks were deceived, convinced that she was either a Greek or a Persian defector. Artemisia made it out of the battle alive, and though Damasithymus was upset, Xerxes thought she was brilliant, and honored her by having her take his two sons to Ephesus, because nothing says thank you quite like a royal order to babysit.
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Following this, Artemisia isn't mentioned again. She passed out the rest of her life if not in peace, then not in particularly memorable unrest. Presumably, her son became king after her, though there is no record of his reign, just as there is no record of Artemisia's husband.

It should be noted that some of the deeds of Artemisia II are sometimes assigned to Artemisia I. It is generally agreed upon that Artemisia I's fame ends here, and Artemisia II has her own set of illustrious accomplishments. 


Friday, June 9, 2017

Damn, Girl-Tarenorerer, the Amazon of Van Diemen's Land

Tarenorerer, also known as Walyer, was an aboriginal freedom fighter who refused to take shit from anyone. She fought everyone who crossed her, but she mostly fought the white settlers, whalers, and sealers that were enslaving and murdering her people. She so thoroughly terrorized Tasmanians of the 1830s that she was the subject of a huge manhunt (or womanhunt), and G.A. Robinson, Lieutenant governor of the area, remarked that she and her band of warriors were one of the biggest dangers in Tasmania.

Image result for tarenorerer1800s Tasmania (Van Diemen's land) was not a safe place for anyone, but especially not for aboriginal people. Whalers in the Bass Strait were known for kidnapping women and children, and tribes fought with white settlers over land. As might be imagined, things weren't going well for the aborigines. It was into this environment that Tarenorerer was born.

Tarenorerer was only a teenager when whalers stole her from her tribe, the Tomeginee. She was held as a slave by them for several years. Conditions were already harsh for aboriginal captives, but for Tarenorerer conditions were much worse. The men who enslaved her would beat, rape, and torture their women to force them into submission, but Tarenorerer refused to submit. her defiance made her captors angrier, which in turn caused them to be crueler to her.

Around 1828 Tarenorerer escaped. With rage in her heart, and a spear in hand, she gathered local men and women around her, and started attacking white settlers. She taught her warriors how to use firearms, and how to use guerrilla warfare to effectively defend against the settlers' tactics. She instructed her people to kill livestock and, in battle, would taunt the white men, telling them to come be speared by her. She was the biggest menace in the neighborhood.

Enter G. A. Robinson. Robinson was a local official, and religious devotee determined to Christianize and make peace with the locals. He was searching for an effective way to make peace with the aborigines, but part of his duties as lieutenant governor of the area meant keeping the peace and protecting white settlers first, so when Tarenorerer and her warriors came on the scene, he went after her.
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Robinson chased Tarenorerer for two years, and it was he that gave her the epitaph 'Amazon of Van Diemen's Land'. With a price on her head, Tarenorerer fled, but was again captured, this time by sealers, who took her and two of her sisters to Bird Island to catch seals and (you'll never guess it) birds.

As you might imagine, Tarenorerer was non too pleased with this arrangement. She killed a man trying to escape, but in the process her identity was discovered, and she was arrested. She was carried off to prison, and died of influenza not long after.

Today she is remembered as a brave fighter who embodied the cause of the aboriginal fight for freedom. There are no official memorials to her, but she is still held up as an example for young aboriginal people, who are still fighting the injustices perpetrated by the Australian government.

George A. Robinson
Australian Women's Register

Friday, June 2, 2017

Damn, Girl-Sojourner Truth

Image result for sojourner truthSojourner Truth is one of the legendary activists that America all too often forgets about. Active during the nineteenth century, Truth was a respected abolitionist and feminist, whose public speaking skills were absolutely legendary. She was a 'radical' of the time, and lobbied for not only abolitionism and women's rights, but prison reform and an end to capital punishment. Not only that, Sojourner had guts. She escaped her cruel master, and successfully sued a southern family to get her son back from slavery. She repeatedly protested segregation of Washington DC streetcars by sitting in a section reserved for whites, despite having been thrown from the streetcar. This woman worked tirelessly her whole life to see positive changes in the world.

Sojourner was born Isabelle Baumfree to a Dutch speaking couple who belonged to a Dutch speaking white man in New York state. Her date of birth was not recorded because racism, but it's guessed that she was born in the late 1790s. She was bought and sold a grand total of four times, and had five children before leaving* her master with the help of a local abolitionist family. This same family later helped her with the law suit that would return custody of Sojourner's son, Peter, to her.

After her escape Sojourner moved to New York City where she joined a cult and worked as a domestic servant. This inspired her to go west and become an itinerant preacher, and at age 52 she changed her name to 'Sojourner Truth'. As a preacher, Truth was introduced to Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison, who convinced her to speak out about abolitionism. She soon began championing women's rights as well.

Image result for sojourner truthSojourner spoke at hundreds of gatherings. She was a charismatic and persuasive speaker. She's best know for her moving 'Ain't I a Woman' speech given at a women's conference in Akron, Ohio. This speech is the first example of inter-sectional feminism--showing how women were not equal to men, and how black women were not equal to white women.

To appropriate a lyric from Lin Manuel-Miranda, Sojourner was non stop. She started her activism career at 52, and in the time between that and her death forty years later she not only lobbied for an end to slavery, but she:

  • Recruited young African-American men for the Union army
  • Provided supplies for said army
  • Consulted with the Freedmens' Bureau in Washington DC 
  • Lobbied for an African-American colony in the west so that freed slaves could become self-sufficient  
  • Protested segregation
  • Assisted in helping freed slaves get settled on lands in Kansas
  • Continued to fight for women's suffrage 
She eventually settled in Battle Creek Michigan with her daughter, and continued to fight for equality until she died of old age. 

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Bust of Truth located in the US Capitol. She
was the first African American woman to be
honored in this way.
Sojourner Truth was the inter-sectional feminist we all wish we were. She fought bitterly with Frederick Douglass to make suffrage for black women, as well as black men, a priority. She pointed out the discrepancies in how white women versus how black women were treated. Sojourner Truth didn't pull punches, and that's one of the reasons she was such an influential woman. She said what she meant, no matter if white or male feelings would be hurt. She understood that racism and misogyny were closely related, and she did her utmost to correct both of those problems.

*You'll notice I said 'leaving', not 'escaping'. Sojourner left in 1827, when, by New York law, she should have been emancipated. Her then master, John Dumont, claimed that she still owed him work. Sojourner wasn't having that, and she walked off one morning with her infant child Sophia.

Sources Biography
National Women's History Museum
National Parks Service Biography
Sojourner Truth Memorial
Architecture of the Capitol

Friday, May 26, 2017

Damn, Girl-Boudicca of the Iceni

It is a fact, universally acknowledged, that the Romans were dicks. And that the Romans, if given an inch, will take your entire hecking country. It's also a fact that the Romans had very little respect for the traditions of the lands that they conquered, so is it really a surprise that in 60 CE the fiery Queen Boudicca had to take the Romans to task?

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There are no surviving pictures of the queen,
but this statue of her stands on the banks of
the Thames near the Houses of Parliament
Boudicca was queen of the Iceni, a tribe of Britons living in what is now modern Norfolk. Her husband, Prasutagus, was a client king under the Romans, a sort of half ally-half subject, and when he died he left half of his stuff to his daughters--Isolda and Siora--and the other half to Emperor Nero. The Romans, who didn't believe in letting women inherit property*, gave the Iceni the middle finger, and took everything that Prasutagus left behind, as well as the lands and possessions of several other members of the British nobility. When Boudicca protested the Romans had her flogged and her daughters raped to put them in their place. Big mistake.
As you might imagine, Boudicca was a little pissed off, and so she rallied not only her own forces, but also the forces of the Trinovantes of the south, as well as other local tribes. Army behind her, Boudicca decided to take on the Roman Empire.

She chose an advantageous time to attack. The Roman governor, Gaius Suetonius Paullinus was off fighting the Welsh when Boudicca led her troops south. They took the cities of Camulodunam (Colchester), Londinium (London), and Verulamium (St. Albans), looting and putting the entire population to the sword. 

This, as you might imagine, freaked out the defending Romans just a bit. Most of the legions were off in Wales, and the Romans were spread thin. Not only that, but the Iceni were brutal. Cassius Dio, one of the two surviving primary sources from Boudicca's rebellion, wrote of the Iceni gathering the noble ladies of the city, stripping them naked, hanging them, cutting off their breasts, sewing said breasts to their mouths, then driving a spear through them all kebab style. According to Dio, this didn't phase the Iceni at all. So you can understand why Paullinus was a bit worried when he got back.

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Dio described her as being tall, with a flinty
gaze, a loud voice, and waist-length red hair
Even with Paullinus' forces returned from Wales, the Iceni still outnumbered the Romans by quite a lot, so Paullinus chose to engage the tribes in a narrow area where their greater numbers would be a disadvantage. The overconfident Iceni cut off their own escape route with wagons, and could not flee when the Romans fell on them. The Romans slaughtered every Briton they could, but Boudicca and her daughters escaped.

However, Boudicca refused to be taken captive by the Romans. She and her daughters drank poison, and died shortly after the battle.

Boudicca was a smart and fearless woman. She managed to unite groups of Britons who traditionally did not work well together, and led them into battle personally. That she was a woman greatly embarrassed the Romans, who couldn't conceive that a female could lead. Though her rebellion failed the Romans let up on some of their restrictions; they'd seen what the Britons could do when angered.

*If you had to be a woman in the ancient world, it was pretty good to be a Briton. Women were not only allowed to inherit, but were educated, trained as warriors, and enjoyed more protections under law than their counterparts in the rest of Europe. The Romans, who treated their women abysmally, couldn't quite wrap their heads around this.


Friday, May 19, 2017

Damn, Girl-St. Adelaide, Empress of Italy

Empress Adelaide was quite the lady. And by 'quite the lady' I mean she was a hecking badass. Her life reads like a Dumas novel met Game of Thrones, except with significantly less sex, violence, and dragons. She was crowned Holy Roman Empress in her own right, co-ruled said empire along with her second husband, Otto I, and exerted enormous political influence over Otto's successor, all while supporting religious orders, and bringing the German church further under the Pope's control.

Image result for adelaide of italyAdelaide was born in Burgandy, France, and was married to Lothair, King of Italy, when she was fifteen. She reportedly helped Lothair rule Italy, and was quite popular with the Italian people. However, in 950 Lothair was poisoned by his adviser Berengar, who decided that a vicious coup was in order. Berengar ignored Adelaide's claim to the Italian throne, and imprisoned the widowed Adelaide when she refused to marry his son, Adalbert. Adelaide wasn't super keen on being imprisoned, so with the help of her maids she started to tunnel a hole in the castle wall. Meanwhile her priest bro, Warinus, was tunneling from the outside of the castle walls. The two teams kept digging until they were able to escape. Very Count of Monte Cristo, no?

Adelaide escaped, and with Warinus' help got a letter to the German king Otto I, promising to marry him if he helped her reclaim her lands in Italy. Otto jumped at this opportunity, 'cause who can say no to becoming King of Italy? In 951 they were married, and, surprisingly enough, liked each other, despite a 20 year age difference. It took them eleven years, but they were able to reclaim Adelaide's lands in Italy, and fuse Germany and Italy together, creating a Holy Roman Empire.

Pope John III crowned Adelaide Empress (and Otto Emperor, but we're not talking about him), and she proceeded to co-rule the Empire from Saxony with Otto. They had five children, four of whom survived birth. Adelaide was extremely popular with the people, and well known for her charitable works and support of religious reform. She was also popular with her son, and when her husband died her son, Otto II leaned on her as his closest adviser.

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Adelaide and Otto I
Until Theophano came along, that was. Theophano was a Byzantine princess, and more than a match for Adelaide. The power struggle between the ladies combined with Adelaide's excess donations to religious orders led to Adelaide leaving court, and returning to her childhood home of Burgandy to live with her brother, King Conrad.

A few years later the two reconciled, and just in time, because Otto II soon died, leaving his three year old son, Otto III as king. Theophano and Adelaide joined forces, and kept the Holy Roman Empire intact until Otto III came of age. Otto III wasn't as appreciative of Adelaide as his to predecessors, and so Adelaide retired to a nunnery. She died on December 16, 999.

To this day Adelaide is remembered as one of the greatest ladies of the middle ages. She exercised enormous power, and her religious works saw her canonized nearly a century after her death. She was an exceptional woman who ruled her dowry lands in her own right, and enabled her husband and son to successfully run an empire that would gradually become a world power.

New World Encyclopedia
Women in World History
Encyclopedia Brittanica

Friday, May 5, 2017

Damn, Girl- Medici: Lucrezia Tornabuoni

So I've already talked about Medici: Masters of Florence a little bit, but the more research I do into the historical background of the Medicis of this era the more I feel compelled to write about them, particularly about the one of the two leading ladies of the show--Lucrezia Tornabuoni, because honestly, talk about a role model. This lady kicked ass in the political arena, provided significant services for the people of Florence, and was a major artistic patron, as well as an artist herself.

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Lucrezia in her youth painted by Piero Benci
Lucrezia was born into a powerful family, and married into another. Her husband, Piero, was later the head of the Medici bank, and was basically the ruler of Florence from 1464-1469. However, Piero was bedridden, so Lucrezia did most of the legwork--literally. That wasn't all she did though, Lucrezia was known for her charitable works and her writing as well.

As mentioned, Lucrezia did a lot of the legwork during her husband's time as leader of Florence. She settled disputes between citizens, received petitions, and acted as ambassador for the city, not something a woman of her era typically did. Her father-in-law, Cosimo de Medici, openly valued her advice, and admired her decision making skills. Lucrezia fostered good relations with her children and grandchildren, so when her son, Lorenzo the Magnificent, came to power she was able to advise him politically.

Lucrezia did a large number of charitable things during her lifetime. She was known for helping fund convents, particularly for donating cloth for nuns to use for their habits. She provided dowries for impoverished women so they could marry*, and took care of widows and orphans by seeing that their relatives were given church positions so that they could support their families.

She was also a keen businesswoman. Lucrezia owned several properties, and collected rents on shops, farms, and homes. Most notably, she purchased a defunct thermal bath in Bagno a Morbo, and refurbished the dump into a profitable business venture. In addition to this, she managed many of the Medici financial affairs while her husband Piero was bedridden with illness. She was known as a shrewd money manager, and her sons often looked to her for advice in this matter.

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Lucrezia in her old age painted by Domenico
But the talents of this amazing woman don't stop there, Lucrezia was also a writer! Her fictional work is almost entirely religious in nature, comprising retelling of bible stories as well as sonnets and lyrical poems on religious topics. Her letters also survive, and can be found here.

Lucrezia was an incredible woman far ahead of her time. She's the sort of woman that I would want my daughters to be like, and the sort of woman that would be incredibly successful and popular today. One can only imagine what she might have accomplished politically if allowed to run for office!

*On a side note, completely unsupported by historical fact (as far as I know), I really like the idea of Lucrezia being a sort of love vigilante, providing dowries for girls so they could marry their true loves, and helping set people up. (Her mother-in-law, Contessina di Bardi, was known for arranging marriages, and she and Lucrezia were very close, so it's plausible that Lucrezia could have done the same, right?) Just imagine- Lucrezia Tornabuoni de' Medici-- political badass and Cupid's handmaiden. If I was going to write a historical fiction novel about her, this would be the premise.

Monstrous Regiment of Women
Oxford Bibliographies
Medici Dynasty

Friday, April 28, 2017

A Brief Overview of the Wives of Henry VIII-Catherine Parr-Survived

It is very likely that Henry's final queen was named after his first. Catherine Parr's mother, Maud, was a lady in waiting to Catherine of Aragon, and the then queen was named godmother to Maud's baby.

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Catherine Parr
Royal associations aside, Catherine was destined to live the first part of her life in obscurity. She was married a grand total of four times, with Henry as her third, and most prestigious, husband. We'll focus on her other marriages in the series 'The Four Husbands of Catherine Parr', but for now we're going to focus on her relationship with the ageing and ailing Henry VIII.

The year was 1543. Henry had just ended his disastrous fifth marriage, and Catherine's second husband, Lord Latimer had just died, leaving her widowed for the second time, this time with two young stepchildren. Being the resourceful woman she was, Catherine decided to call upon the Princess Mary, and use her connections with the late Catherine of Aragon to secure a place in Mary's household. It was there that she caught the eye of both the King and Thomas Seymour, brother to the late Jane Seymour.

Catherine was in her early thirties, which was a bit like the Renaissance equivalent of today's mid forties, but she was still quite the catch. She was very intelligent, speaking four languages (in addition to English), and by the time of her marriage to Henry had already published one religious book anonymously, and was on her way to publishing a second. She was also, as all of Henry's wives were, reportedly quite beautiful. Smart and beautiful, two of the top things that Henry looked for in a woman, is it really any surprise that he proposed?
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A surviving copy of
Catherine's book Lamentations of a

The couple were married in July of 1543, and Thomas Seymour, Henry's rival, was discreetly sent on a diplomatic mission to the continent. Henry had already had enough brushes with adultery.

Henry and Catherine were only married for about two and a half years, but during that time Catherine managed to accomplish some pretty big things, like:
  • Finishing the work of Jane Seymour, and restoring Mary and Elizabeth to the line of succession.
  • Publish another book
  • Act as Queen Regent, one of only two of Henry's queens to do so, while Henry fought another fruitless war with France. That entailed:
    • Raising troops and money
    • Managing the situation with Scotland. As history shows, managing the Scots is never easy.
    • Signing at least five royal proclamations 
  • Personally overseeing the education of the young Elizabeth
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The original of this portrait hangs in Sudeley
Castle, where Catherine died and is buried.
Most importantly, she managed to bring the Tudor clan into a sort of semblance of a family, building trust and goodwill that would come in very useful to Edward and Mary at the beginnings of their reigns. 
If you've ever taken a history class, you've most likely heard the rhyme, "Divorced, beheaded and died; divorced, beheaded, survived.". Well, Catherine 3.0 survived. She outlived Henry by an entire year. (Anne of Cleves survived by more than that, but Henry divorced her, so she doesn't really count?), and this, in itself, is a miracle, because like so many of Henry's wives, at one point Henry grew tired of her, and tried to have her arrested.

You see, Catherine was not only a very intelligent woman, but a woman extremely interested in religion as well. The three books she published were all religious in subject. She was a staunch devotee of the Church of English, but the Church of England straddled a fine line between Catholic and Protestant, and her views tended to swing too far Protestant for the tastes of both Henry and the Catholic faction at court. The fact that she liked to argue religion with Henry didn't help her either. It didn't take much coaxing from Henry's Catholic counselors to convince him to have Catherine arrested on the grounds of being a Protestant sympathizer. After all, rumors were flying that Henry had his eye on a new wife...

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Catherine Parr's tomb at Sudeley castle.
Lucky for both Catherine and anyone else who has ever undertaken the task of documenting Henry's marital exploits, Catherine got wind of the warrant for her arrest before it was put into action. She immediately humbled herself before the king, and in the biggest move of catering to fragile masculinity in the history of womankind, she managed to convince Henry that she was merely arguing with him to distract him from his pain, and so that she could be instructed by his wisdom. This thinly veiled bullshit put Henry at ease, and spared Catherine's life.

It wasn't long after that that Henry died. He left Catherine the title of Queen Dowager, and 7,000 pounds a year. But most importantly, he left Catherine free to marry once again, this time to a man she loved.

Part One  Part Two  Part Three  Part Four  Part Five  Part Six  Part Seven  Part Eight


Friday, April 14, 2017

A Brief Overview of the Wives of Henry VIII- Anne of Cleves-The King's Sister

Anne of Cleves and Henry had a very inauspicious start, and the romantic part of their relationship went from bad to worse. They were married for only six months, but Anne outlived Henry and all his other queens. Why? Because despite her reputation to the contrary, Anne was really fricking smart.

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The Hoblein painting of Anne
The story of how they first met is one of my favorites, so I'm going to tell it. Anne had just arrived in England, and Henry, in typical Henry fashion, decides to dress up with a bunch of his dudebros, and surprise Anne and her ladies. Henry and his men crept into Anne's rooms, and while Anne was distracted watching some bull-baiting, Henry grabbed her from behind, and kissed her.

Now, you have to understand, Henry was a great lover of courtly romance, he was something of a LARPer, and liked to dress up and act out the tales of chivalry. He'd pulled this stunt before with his previous wives, but they had recognized him, and submitted to him willingly, making the experience romantic, if not 100% consensual.

Anne, on the other hand, didn't know Henry from Hans Christian Andersen. She pushed him away, and started cursing him in German. Henry didn't like that. Combine his hurt pride with the fact that he wasn't too thrilled with her appearance, well, the royal couple was off to a bad start.

A note about Anne's person, there's a popular myth that Henry once called her a "Flander's Mare", and complained of her body odor and sagging breasts. Two out of these three things are true. There is no proof that Henry ever compared Anne to a horse, and in fact, this phrase was coined by Bishop Gilbert Burnett in the late 1600s, long after Anne's death.

Additionally, there's no real proof that Anne was ugly at all! While she certainly wasn't a fair English Rose like Jane Seymour, or a dark beauty like Anne Boleyn, contemporary accounts describe her as being tall and large boned, but also mention her as being a beauty. Even Henry himself admitted that she was 'semelye'.

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A sketch of either Anne or her sister
And then there's the portrait. Hans Hoblein the younger, arguably the most famous English painter of Henry's reign, was dispatched to Europe to paint pictures of all the ladies Henry was considering. Henry was used to marrying for love, and he insisted on a pretty bride. Henry liked the portrait enough that he chose Anne. Now, it's often said that Hoblein misrepresented the lady, but this seems unlikely, primarily because Mr. Hoblein kept his head. Henry had a hot temper, and if his friend and closest adviser Thomas Cromwell fell from grace and lost his head over the Cleves affair, there's no doubt that Hoblein could as well. But Hoblein remained in the king's employ until his death of the plague, so he couldn't have messed up too badly.

In addition to lack of physical attraction, there were also some cultural differences. Henry was used to sophisticated, educated women, who were talented at art and music. In the court of Cleves it wasn't deemed proper for a young lady to train in those things, and Anne's education focused more on needlework and household management. She, like Henry, liked to play cards, but that was really the only interest the couple had in common.

Despite Henry's complete and utter revulsion to his bride, he married her anyways, unwillingly albeit. He reportedly could not bring himself to sleep with her, though if that was because of his aversion to Anne or his own impotence is anyone's guess. Anne confirmed that the most they ever did was kiss, which was very convenient when annulment time came around.

And annulment time did come around, before Henry had even married Anne, he was looking for a way out of his marriage, and, as per the usual, he found it. The marriage was annulled on grounds of non consummation and pre-contract. It's what comes after that distinguishes Anne from Henry's other wives.

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If I may digress, one of the MANY things that
bothers me about the Showtime series The Tudors
is that this beautiful woman plays Anne of
Cleves, but Henry spends like three episodes
stomping around calling her ugly? Like, is
he blind? Where the producers blind? This
woman is gorgeous!
See, unlike Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn, who both went down unwillingly in a blaze of glory, Anne simply stepped aside. She said 'sure bro, whatever you want', and retired to the countryside. Henry was so grateful that he gave her several castles, a large income, and complete freedom to live independently in England or return to Cleves as she saw fit.  Anne stayed in England, and despite any lack of physical attraction, she and Henry became friends. Henry referred to her as 'my royal sister', and gave her precedence over any woman in the kingdom excepting his daughters and his flavor of the month.

Henry wanted his way, and Anne was smart enough to give it to him. Be that because she had no objection to an annulment (which wouldn't be surprising given how unpleasant and unattractive Henry was), or because she'd learned from her predecessor's mistakes. Out of that, she gained a friend, substantial wealth, and something that few women of her era had-complete freedom. I think it's very telling that she never went back to Cleves, or married after Henry.

Out of all of Henry's wives, Anne of Cleves is the stable one, the rock in the giant Tudor storm. She was never in danger of execution through the reigns of Henry, Edward, or Mary, and though she fell from favor somewhat towards the end of her life, she was considered family, and held in high regard by both the people and the Tudor family. She outlived all of Henry's wives, and, was reportedly, very happy.

Part One   Part Two   Part Three  Part Four   Part Five   Part Six   Part Seven   Part Eight


Henry VIII: The Charismatic King Who Reforged a Nation by Kathy Elgin

Friday, April 7, 2017

A Brief Overview of the Wives of Henry VIII- Jane Seymour, the One Who 'Got It Right'

Good Queen Jane looked a bit like Mrs. Nunez, my eighth grade algebra teacher. There, I said it. I've been thinking that for nearly ten years now, it's about time someone knows. Everyone says I'm crazy, but if it wasn't seriously uncool, I'd put pictures of them side by side to prove it.
Image result for jane seymour queen
Mrs. Nunez had the same shaped nose,
same chin, same sort of eyes. Jane was
reportedly a strawberry blond, so that's
different, but other than that, they could
be twins.

Aside from looking like my eighth grade algebra teacher, Jane was also Henry's favorite queen. Not only was her meek and amiable nature a refreshing change from the tempestuous Anne Boleyn, but she stayed out of politics, and gave him the thing he craved the most, a son.

Where Anne was passionate, witty, and outspoken, Jane was quiet and mild. Like Anne, she had an ambitious family who used her to rise socially; unlike the Boleyns, however, the Seymours were lastingly successful at it. During Edward's minority Jane's brother, Edward Sr., basically ran the country. But where Anne and her family were pushy and obnoxious, Jane and the Seymours were more laid back. They had the benefit of watching the Anne's catastrophic marriage, and Jane definitely learned from her predecessor's mistakes. Her motto as queen--Bound to Obey and Serve-- really says it all. If she had any strong political opinions she kept them to herself.

Image result for jane seymour queen
Family portrait of Henry, Edward,
 and Jane painted after Jane's death
Jane's tenure as Queen Consort was short, just seventeen months, as opposed to the 24 and 10 years Catherine and Anne had respectively. Arguably, her biggest non-childbearing achievement was reconciling Henry with his eldest daughter Mary. Jane didn't get involved in Henry's affairs much, and she didn't try to push him places he didn't want to go (after Anne's demise, can you blame her?), but on the point of the Princess Mary she remained firm. She pushed for a reconciliation, and she got it, paving the way for Catherine Parr to restore Mary and Elizabeth to the succession.

All in all, Jane's life was very short. She died at only 29 after complications from the birth of her son, Edward. Most historians speculate that she died from puerperal fever, not from a suicidal cesarean section as popular rumor claims. But for such a short lived queen, she had a deep impact on Henry. She was the only queen to be given a queen's funeral, she was painted into family portraits long after her death (even when Henry had remarried), and Henry is buried next to her.

Part One  Part Two  Part Three  Part Four  Part Five   Part Six   Part Seven   Part Eight

The Anne Boleyn Files

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Flora MacDonald Was a Badass, And I Want a Romance Novel About Her

The year is 1746, and the Scottish countryside is in turmoil. Bands of British soldiers scour the countryside for Jacobite supporters, while ravens still circle the field of Culloden. People hide their bagpipes and their swords wherever they can, and the Hanovarians brook no resistance.
Related image
Meanwhile, a young, handsome prince trailed by a few of his exhausted, but devoted followers flee through the Scottish highlands for their lives. Prince Charles Stuart is weary and heartsick. His brave rebellion, once so noble and optimistic has come to a screaming, bloody halt. The screams of the fallen still haunt him, and he knows it's his fault. 

Yet, the Highlanders do not condemn him. They offer shelter and safe passage, despite the bounty on his head. He would have been dead a thousand times over if not for their help.

It's the dead of night when they dock at Benbecula. The sea is dark and inscrutable, the scent of salt drifts on the breeze. Charlie and his remaining followers hide in the craggy rocks of the coastline while Captain O'Niell scouts the land. 

Charlie can feel every dull pounding of his heart as he wraps his arms around himself to try and get warm. Why does it still beat when so many others have been stilled? It was his pride, his arrogance, after all, that brought death to so many bright young men. The people he strove to protect, to liberate, he'd decimated them instead. The name of Stuart had once meant hope to so many people, now it just stood for death. 

A sharp call pierced the air. Prince Charlie stirred. Captain O'Niell was back.

The Captain poked his head around the weathered rock, "I've found a place, my prince." he said, "A Miss MacDonald said that she would hide us."

Bonny Prince Charlie is perhaps one of the best known Scottish folk heroes. Right along side him is Flora MacDonald is a Scottish heroine best known for assisting Bonny Prince Charlie escape to the Isle of Skye. Obviously, the above is fiction, but you cannot deny that Flora's encounter with the Young Pretender had more than a touch of romance to it.

Image result for Flora MAcdonald
Flora MacDonald was born on the Isle of South Uist in the outer Hebrides. She was educated and most likely wealthy, the ward of the Chief of Clan MacDonald. At the time she met Charlie she was engaged to an Allen MacDonald, a soldier in the Hanoverian army.

Despite her fiance's affiliations, and the fact that her step-father was also a part of the Hanoverian army, Flora was persuaded to help the Prince escape to the Isle of Raasay. She used her influence over her step-father to obtain a travel pass to mainland Scotland. She took the Prince with her, disguised as her maid. Once out in the water, Flora changed course for the Isle of Raasay.

The Young Pretender disembarked there, leaving her with only a locket containing his portrait, and the crime of treason. Once word of Charlie's escape spread, Flora was imprisoned in the Tower of London.

Luckily for her, her story doesn't end there. She was released from the tower, and married her Allen. She then went on to fight on the British side of the American Revolutionary War, and stand up to French Privateers. She was a remarkable woman in no way defined by the men she loved. But I still really want a historical romance novel about her and Bonny Prince Charlie.

Because it would be the perfect story. They had two days, maybe three together. She was saving his life, and he was the handsome, rakish ladies man. It would make for a fantastic story, and I will make brownies for whoever writes it for me.

Historic UK
North Carolina History

Friday, March 31, 2017

A Brief Overview of the Wives of Henry VIII-- Anne Boleyn, the Face that Launched a Reformation

Anne Boleyn was ambitious and smart, could probably have run England all by herself, and she knew it (But more about that later). Is it really a surprise that she was the first of the egomaniac Henry's wives to be executed? Anne was beautiful, refined, and skilled at political maneuvering. She played a major part in ushering in the English Reformation. If anyone can say that they were 'born in the wrong time', Anne Boleyn certainly could. Had she been born in an era where women could hold office and run a country, she would have been the Hilary Clinton of her age, except sexier. She's a sexy Hilary Clinton. Keep that image in your mind as you read the rest of this. ;)

Image result for anne boleynAnne was born sometime between 1501 and 1507 to Thomas and Elizabeth Boleyn. Thomas was a favored and talented diplomat, and because of that Anne received her formal education in the court of Margaret of Austria, and her not-so-formal education in the court of Queen Claude of France. She served as a maid of honor to both of those women, spending nearly eight years in Europe before returning to England.

Following her stay on the continent, Anne went through two engagements, which were later broken off. She was sent to the English court to be a maid of honor to Queen Catherine, and this is where she met Henry.

From there the story plays out just as how you remember. Boy meets girl. Boy falls madly in love with girl. Boy is already married, and embarks on a seven year journey to divorce his wife. Boy divorces his wife and marries girl. Girl had a baby. Boy becomes disillusioned. Boy comes up with reasons to behead girl. It's all terribly romantic, no?

No, it's really not romantic at all. Even if it didn't end with Anne being beheaded, there's several reasons why her and Henry's relationship was cringe worthy:
  • Henry was somewhere between nine and fifteen years older than Anne.
  • Henry had done the do with Anne's sister, Mary Carey nee Boleyn. Most historians agree that they even had a child together, Henry Carey, though King Henry never acknowledged his legitimacy.  
  • Both Anne and Henry's treatment of the respected Catherine of Aragon from the time they first became an item until Catherine's death was absolutely terrible. Catherine was slowly forced from her place of prominence, as Anne eclipsed her. Both Henry and Anne were cruel to Catherine, and Catherine was, once again, forced into poverty and cut off from her friends and family.
  • Anne used her position at court to secure political positions for her family and friends, to the point where the Boleyns were practically running the country. The Boleyns were not particularly magnanimous about this turn of events. 
Between her treatment of Catherine, quick temper, and open support for Evangelical ideas, Anne made a lot of enemies. And when Henry started to get irritated with Anne, those enemies pounced on the opportunity to discredit and replace her. Enter Jane Seymour, homewrecker. The Boleyn faction was slowly replaced by the Seymour faction, and Anne was put on trial and beheaded.

Anne's real legacy survives in not only the reign of her daughter, the famous Glorianna, but in the formation of the Anglican church. There's a big chance that Henry would have stayed a devout Catholic had he never met Anne Boleyn. Anne placed pressure on Henry to marry her, and, it is said, placed pamphlets in his hands that promoted reformation ideals. She and her family schemed and maneuvered until she was queen, and unintentionally brought in a reformation that would change England forever.  

Part One     Part Two     Part Three    Part Four  Part Five   Part Six   Part Seven   Part Eight

A Tudor Treasury by Elizabeth Norton
Henry VIII by Kathy Elgin
The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Alison Weir
The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Antonia Fraser
Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII by David Starkey
The Other Tudors by Philippa Jones

Friday, March 24, 2017

A Brief Overview of the Wives of Henry VIII- Catherine 'The Badass' of Aragon

Catherine, or Katherine, Kathryn, Katerine, of Aragon was Henry's first wife, as well as the wife of his elder brother Arthur. She was also one helluva queen of England.

Fun fact, Catherine was a ginger. This is
probably a painting of her.
Catherine was born to the illustrious monarchs of Spain-Ferdinand and Isabella of Christopher Columbus and Moorish Genocide fame. At age three she was betrothed to Arthur, the crown prince of England, and at age sixteen she married him. Unfortunately, after only a year of marriage, he died.

An alternative title for this article was 'Catherine 'Deserved Better Than This' of Aragon', and here's why. If Catherine returned to Spain, her dowry, a substantial 200,000 ducats, which was only half paid, would have to be returned as well, and Henry VII, the King, just wasn't down for that. He wanted to keep the Spanish money, and by extension the Spanish princess, in the family, so finding a suitable second husband for Catherine was a must. Initially, Henry proposed that he marry Catherine, given that Elizabeth of York had died, but seeing as how that was a bit skeevy, he decided to bestow her on Junior, despite the fact that she was five years older than him, and had been married to his brother, which is only slightly less skeevy than marrying her father in law.

It took a while for Catherine to get married for the second time. Her father, King Ferdinand, was being difficult about paying the rest of her dowry, her mother died (meaning that half of her father's kingdom went to her debateably insane sister Juana), and she ended up virtually imprisoned in some English countryside hell hole (a recurring theme throughout poor Catherine's life.)

Eventually though, Papa Henry died, and Junior got to have his way. He married Catherine, and they had a double coronation shortly before Henry's eighteenth birthday. By all accounts, they were happy, and Henry loved his wife.

From here you might know the story. Time passed. Catherine couldn't have sons, only one daughter, Mary. Enter homewrecker Anne Boleyn. Divorce. Reformation. Banishment. Death by poison. (She actually died, most likely, from cancer. But cancer wasn't really a known quantity in renaissance England.)

Catherine in her later years.
It's a sad ending to a promising story. This is also my first piece of evidence in my arguments that Henry VIII was an asshole. Catherine wasn't just a victim and a martyr though. Like I mentioned, she was one helluva queen. The middle parts of her story, the parts we don't usually focus on, are pretty badass, leaving me with no doubt that she was quite the lady. Thomas Cromwell, a contemporary of hers, said "If not for her sex, she could have defied all the heroes of History", which is the exact sort of backhanded, misogynistic compliment that you would expect from a Renaissance dude. That being said, Cromwell wasn't wrong. Catherine accomplished quite a bit as Queen, far more than most of Henry's other wives. She did a lot for England and the English people in her own right. You could probably write a book about the 'middle years', but I don't have time, so here's a brief, in no particular order, list.

Badass things that Catherine did
  • Acted as Spanish ambassador to the English Court. She was the first female ambassador in Europe.
  • Rode to the front of her armies in the Battle of Flodden in full armor to deliver a rousing speech Tilbury style, while pregnant. (this raises a lot of questions about what sort of armor one wears while pregnant. Did she just borrow some really big armor? Did they make special pregnancy armor for her?)
  • Nominated for the title of 'Defender of the Faith' for tearing apart Luther's arguments (ironically, her husband later got the title.)
  • Was a member of the Third Order of St. Francis, and Queen. At the same time. She esteemed her faith more than power, and was motivated personally and politically by it.
    • But not like, in a expel and kill Jews and Muslims way like her mother. I feel that is important to mention.
  • Continued to insist upon the validity of her marriage, her virginity upon her marriage to Henry, and called herself queen until the day she died, despite significant pressures from Henry and other members of court. 
  • Openly defied the King and Ecclesiastical Court on several occasions.
  • Raised armies to suppress rebellion while acting as Queen Regent when Henry was out of the country.
  • Fought for and popularized education for women. She also helped fund universities.
  • Survived the physical horrors of six pregnancies.
  • Survived the emotional trauma of having five of her children predecease her.
  • Pleaded for the lives of rebels to spare their families.
  • Created welfare programs to benefit the poor. 
What a lady, right? The only problem with Catherine (as far as we can really tell), is that she couldn't have the son that Henry so desperately wanted. Also, she was stubborn, which may not be a problem depending on how you look at it.

Part One     Part Two     Part Three     Part Four    Part Five    Part Six    Part Seven   Part Eight

True Stories From English History by Maria Elizabeth Budden
The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Alison Weir
The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Antonia Fraser
Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII by David Starkey

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Oops, I Started A Civil War.

So I started watching the documentary series Roman Empire: Reign of Blood on Netflix, and in the very first episode we come across a character that very much intrigued me. Her name was Annia Galeria Faustina, also known as Faustina the younger. She was, by all accounts, a loving wife and devoted mother. She also started a civil war. But, in her defense, it was an accident.

Faustina Minor Louvre Ma1144.jpg
Faustina, lookin' fly.
See, the Roman Empire was a pretty dangerous place to be in any sort of political power, and Faustina was the wife of Emperor Marcus Aurelius. Marcus spent most of his time fighting in Germany, leaving Faustina back at home. It wasn't at all unusual for Emperors and their families to be brutally killed in a power grab, so is it any surprise that when reports of Marcus' death reached Rome, Faustina took action?

Faustina was the daughter of an emperor, and she had known power all her life. Her son, Commodus, was set to be the next emperor, but he was only thirteen, and much too young to rule. She needed to keep the throne in the family, so she made a risky move; she visited a family friend.

Enter Avidius Cassius.  The year is 175 CE, and Avidius is an experienced political leader, having served as Prefect of Egypt under Hadrian. He was considered by Marcus to be the second most powerful man in the empire, and he was perfect for Faustina's purposes. She encouraged him to proclaim himself emperor, and start his own bid for the throne. Avidius was moderately successful too, taking Egypt, where the Romans got their grain.

Things seem like they're going well for Faustina. Her husband, whom she was reportedly very close to, may be dead, but it seems like she and her children aren't about to be brutally murdered by their political rivals, so all in all, everything's pretty okay. Then they receive news from the north. Marcus Aurelius dead? Bitch, you thought.

And since it seems that the real emperor is actually alive, Avidius was promptly murdered by a centurion, after being 'emperor' for only three months.

Image result for faustina the younger coin
And here's our girl on a coin
This leaves Faustina in the extremely perilous position of having accidentally started a civil war. Albeit, it was fairly minor as far as civil wars went, nothing like the Caesar-Pompey-Crassus debacle of the early '40s (BCE), but it still couldn't have been easy to explain to her husband. so is it really unsurprising that she died in the winter of that year?

A lot of historians like to paint Faustina as a femme fatale. There are numerous accounts of her taking many lovers, and ordering executions. But while that may have been the case, there are also many contemporary accounts of her closeness with Marcus, and their loving relationship. They did have thirteen children.

And like so many strong historical females, you can't take any account of Faustina without a grain of salt. Misogyny is still alive today, so it follows that it was around in Faustina's time as well. She was most likely vilified after her death. She was well loved by the Roman soldiers, who referred to her as 'Mother of the Camp', and Marcus deified her after her death, not exactly something you'd for someone who was unfaithful to you.