Showing posts with label war. Show all posts
Showing posts with label war. Show all posts

Friday, January 25, 2019

Damn, Girl-Isabella, Queen of England, 'She-Wolf' of France

Militant and ruthless, Isabella of France was the sort of queen HBO and Starz make television shows about. Married at twelve, Isabella spent the early years of her reign being scorned and passed over for her husband's male favorites. Forced to stand between her husband, his aristocracy, and England, Isabella became a wily diplomat and politician, which later saw her ousting her corrupt and weak husband with the help of her lover. Though she saw real power for only four years, she saw her son onto the throne, and was instrumental in holding England together during the tumultuous years of Edward II. Deemed 'the she-wolf of France'¹, Isabella was a fierce defender of what was hers.

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Our girl Isabella, deciding the fate of her enemies.
Born sometime between 1292 and 1295, Isabella was the sixth child and only surviving daughter of King Philip the Fair of France, and Queen Jeanne of Navarre. Very early in her life Isabella was given into the care of Theophania St. Pierre, who served as her nurse and companion even after her marriage.

Despite being cared for by Theophania, Isabella was, in no way, neglected by her parents. As their only girl she was much indulged, and given several grants of land, making her wealthy even as a child. In addition to being given land, Isabella was also given a rudimentary education,being taught to read even though her father generally held the belief that only nuns should be taught to read. Isabella developed a love of books and learning that would sustain her throughout her life.

It is important to note the sort household that Isabella was raised in. While by no means normal, Isabella's family was idyllic by the standards of the times, and the modern day. Her parents were in love, and it was very likely that their marriage had been a love match. Isabella's mother ran her country, Navarre, independent of Philip's France, and Philip was a strong, if somewhat brutal, king of France. Isabella was raised by exemplary monarchs with strong relationship. This would stand in stark contrast to the men in her own future, and may have contributed to the disillusionment that Isabella would experience later in her life.

At the time of Isabella's birth France and England were, unsurprisingly, at war. Traditional enemies, England and France's latest quarrel was over the regions of Aquitaine and Gascony, regions that the two countries had been fighting over since Eleanor of Aquitaine's marriage to Henry II, and the transfer of her lands to English hands, four generations previous. Philip IV and Edward I were ready to call a temporary truce, and they decided to seal the deal with a double marriage--Philip's sister, Margaret of France, to Edward I, and Edward I's son, Edward of Caernarvon, to Philip's only daughter, Isabella.

The marriage was agreed to in 1298, and Edward pressed for Isabella to marry his son immediately, but an intervention from Pope Boniface VIII, proposing that marrying off a three year old was perhaps a little unethical, delayed the union. The couple were married by proxy when Isabella was seven, then married for real in 1308.
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Edward Caernarvon at his coronation.
Twelve year old Isabella was hailed as a beauty, and was greeted joyously by her new English public. Her husband, Edward, however, wasn't as enthused. It wasn't that he disliked Isabella, it was just that he was enamoured with another man, and he was completely indifferent to the twelve year old he had just vowed to love, honor, and obey. Edward already had someone to love, honor, and obey, his husband favorite, Piers Gaveston.

Piers Gaveston and Edward II went all the way back to 1300, when Edward was 15 (ish). Edward's father, Edward (hereafter referred to as 'Big Daddy Ed'), wasn't too terribly impressed with his son. Big Daddy Ed was a Medieval King's Medieval King. His hobbies included holding tournaments, producing heirs, and warring with the Scots. Edward, on the other hand, liked music, swimming, rowing, and thatching. Big Daddy Ed was disgusted with his son, and so he installed Piers Gaveston, the son of a poor knight, in Edward's household. Piers was the sort of fellow that Big Daddy Ed would have liked to have for a son--athletic, refined, and a great lover of warring with the Scots. He'd hoped that Piers would be an improving influence for his son, unfortunately, Piers was anything but. Piers and Edward fell in love almost immediately, and the pair proceeded to wreak havoc among the nobility and common people.

While Piers doesn't appear to have been present at Edward and Isabella's marriage, he was most notably present at their coronation (Big Daddy Ed having died a few months before). Piers had controversially been raised to the title of Earl of Cornwall², and as such had the right to wear cloth of gold at the coronation. Piers, however, decided to show up in purple silk, essentially claiming status on par with Isabella and Edward. He also proceeded Isabella and Edward in the procession, and was given several other prestigious duties during the ceremony. This infuriated Edward's nobles, as Piers was, outside of his flashy new titles, not particularly blue-blooded.

The real insults came at the banquet succeeding the coronation. Edward had been given substantial sums of money by the French for the coronation, and had spent it on lavish tapestries displaying the arms of himself and Gaveston. Edward took several of the jewels and wedding presents meant for Isabella, and gave them to Gaveston, and spent much of the evening with his husband favorite, instead of with his new bride. The French delegation was outraged, and Isabella wrote to her father that she felt like a nonentity in her own marriage.

For the first few years of her marriage, Isabella had very little political power, and much of the drama and intrigue of this time concerns Edward and Piers. Edward burned through goodwill and money quickly, and had alienated his nobility not long after his coronation. His continued indulgence and promotion of Gavestone, as well as his neglect of the kingdom and ineffectual warring with the Scots, led his barons to draw up the Ordinances of 1311, which severely curtailed his powers. He was forced to banish Gaveston multiple times, but always managed to recall him at a later date. Isabella more or less was dragged along with them, with very little power of her own. However, everything changed when Isabella turned sixteen.

There was no formal agreement about what age Isabella had to reach before she and Edward would consummate their marriage, but even in Medieval times it was generally agreed upon that getting pregnant at twelve was sheer dangerous idiocy. Getting pregnant at sixteen, however, was merely dangerous. Consequently, Isabella was pregnant by 1312.

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Map of the British Isles in 1300. Not
included are the Plantagenet lands in
southern France.
Now, at this time Edward and Gaveston were in the middle of yet another one of their power struggles with the English aristocracy. Gaveston had been exiled again in 1311, and his return to England had ruffled more than a few feathers. Additionally, the Scots were feeling frisky again, and they were making war in Northern England.

Unfortunately, Northern England was where Isabella was, and her husband's war making was so incompetent, that she soon found herself in danger. Edward marched south with his army, leaving Isabella with scant protection from the advancing Scots.

Isabella and Edward both made it safely back to London, but Gaveston was not as fortunate. He had been trapped in Scarborough Castle by his enemies, and executed, leaving Edward bitter and heartbroken. On November 13th Isabella's first child, the future Edward III, was born.

The next four years would be the happiest of Edward and Isabella's marriage. Two of their four living children--John and Eleanor--were born during this period. During this time Edward put significant efforts into repairing his relationships with his subjects, enacting reforms and reassigning lands that had been unfairly given to Gavestone. Edward seemed contrite, and for a time England enjoyed a brittle peace. However, things grew uneasy as another royal boyfriend favorite rose over the horizon.

The Despenser family were related to Edward, and Hugh Despenser the Younger (Hereafter known as 'Horny Hugh') was technically Edward's nephew. In 1318, Horny Hugh was made Edward's royal chamberlain. Horny Hugh Despenser and his father, Hugh Despenser, both had political ambitions. Unlike Gavestone, who was content to be a wealthy, lowborn, nuisance, Horny Hugh wanted to rule. He was given large swathes of the marchlands, angering the Marcherlords³ to whom the land rightfully belonged.

Furthermore, Horny Hugh and Isabella didn't like each other. It's unknown what sort of relationship Isabella had had with Gavestone, but given that Isabella was little more than a child during Gavestone's tenure as royal husband favorite, it seems likely that they didn't have much of a relationship at all.

However, with Horny Hugh, things were different. Isabella was becoming a political person in her own right, and she was painfully aware that Horny Hugh and the Despensers elevation insulted her, her French family, and the realm. She was frequently called upon by the barons to curb the king's worst impulses, and her and Edward's relationship grew increasingly tense. In 1322 Edward asked Isabella to swear an oath of loyalty to the Despensers. When she refused, he took away her lands, and gave custody of their two youngest children--Eleanor and Joan--to Horny Hugh.

Meanwhile, Isabella's brother Charles had become King of France, and he was eyeing Gascony with increasing amounts of lust. Squabbles started popping up in the region, and despite multiple attempts at diplomacy, including sending Edward and Isabella's eldest son to France, war seemed inevitable. In 1325, Edward decided to send Isabella to intercede.

Once back in France, Isabella had very little reason to be loyal to Edward. He had taken her children, confiscated her lands, and reduced her to little more than a pauper. She had been insulted and humiliated for seventeen years, and she was done. Safe at her brother's court in Paris, Isabella declared her contempt for her husband and the Despensers. She took up the garb of a widow, saying, essentially, that her husband was dead to her, and that she considered him unfit for the office he held. With the help of her cousins in the Lowlands, Isabella began plotting to remove Edward from the son in favor of their eldest son.

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Roger speaking with Isabella on a battlefield
Enter Roger Mortimer. He was a young, handsome nobleman with vast estates in Wales and Ireland. He had been exiled from England for his political policies of attempting to overthrow the Despensers, and he had a thirst for vengeance. He and Isabella had met many times before, as Mortimer had been a regular at court, but with Isabella in widow weeds, and Mortimer driven from his home, something had changed. They began to plot together, and that plotting soon moved to the bedchamber, where it is widely assumed that they began plotting Edward's overthrow in a horizontal position.

Roger and Isabella's relationship is an interesting one. It is quite obvious that she was very enamored of him. She was permissive of his bad behavior far beyond what someone using him as a means to an end would have been. However, it is difficult to ascertain Mortimer's feelings. While they had some things in common--love of art, love of Arthurian Romance--he frequently disregarded her wishes concerning their plot, and later the running of the country. After attaining the regency, he used her to gain vast lands and wealth. This may be constructed just as him being the typical medieval man, but there was also the fact that Mortimer was already married to a woman it was widely rumored to be in love with. However, he and his wife had been separated for three years, and it was possible that his ardor towards his wife had cooled, and he truly had feelings for Isabella.

Though they were nowhere near as open about it as Edward and his husbands favorites, it soon became common knowledge that Isabella and Mortimer were lovers. This enraged Edward, who swore that if he saw Isabella again he would kill her. Because of her adultery, Isabella's brother refused to help her with her coup.⁴ Luckily, Isabella's cousins in Hainault⁵ held no such compunctions, and gave them ships and Dutch mercenaries to begin their invasion.

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Berkeley Castle, where Edward died.
Isabella and Mortimer landed in Suffolk in September of 1326. Edward's few allies quickly abandoned him, and England was taken with almost no bloodshed. Horny Hugh was hanged, drawn, and quartered, and Edward was deposed and imprisoned in Berkeley Castle. Isabella and Edward's eldest son, Edward (hereafter referred to as 'Baby Edward'), was placed on the throne.

As Baby Edward was only fourteen, a regency was necessary. As queen, this position was granted to Isabella, and she, along with Mortimer, would serve as regents for about four years.

About a year into their regency, Isabella and Mortimer decided to deal with the problem of the old king. Despite imprisoning him in a dank dungeon, and throwing dead animals and rotting corpses into his cell in hopes he would die of disease, Edward stubbornly remained alive. He remained a rallying point for those who opposed Isabella and Mortimer, and in September of 1327, he mysteriously died.
There are a few stories about how Edward died. Least gruesome is that he was smothered in his sleep. Most popular is that a flaming hot poker was inserted into his anus, and run through his entrails. There are some stories as well that claim he didn't die, but instead escaped, and fled to Italy to live out the rest of his life as a monk.⁶ While neither Isabella nor Mortimer confessed to having ordered or committed the murders, it is widely assumed that they at the very least signed off on the order.

Unfortunately, their regency wasn't entirely popular. Isabella herself remained widely respected, it was Mortimer who was the problem. Like all of the other husbands favorites in Isabella's story, Mortimer was greedy and grasping; sending England to the brink of bankruptcy to enrich himself. He was very unpopular, and Baby Edward grew resentful.

In 1330 Edward had had enough. With support of Henry of Lancaster, Edward staged a dramatic midnight coup, taking a secret passage into the castle where his mother and Mortimer were living, pinning them and their advisors in an enclosed chamber, forcing them to abdicate. Mortimer was hanged a short while later, while Isabella was placed under house arrest.

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Baby Edward
There were several people who called for Isabella's execution, but Edward declined, instead spinning the narrative that she was innocent in the affair, and that the blame rested squarely with Mortimer. Her lands were seized, and she was pensioned off, placed under house arrest at Castle Rising in the Norfolk countryside where she couldn't cause any more problems.

The last years of Isabella's life saw her growing closer to her family, and finding religion. Her daughter, Joan, came to live with her after leaving her husband, and Isabella doted ceaselessly on her grandchildren. Towards the end of her life, she and Baby Edward reconciled. She became a nun in 1358, and died shortly after.

Looking at her life, it can be difficult to determine if Isabella was a plotting villainess or a woman making bloody, bloody lemonade. It is apparent that she struggled for much of her life to become an active agent in her own fate, and was met with mixed success. Today she is mostly forgotten, lost in the blinding glare of her son, Edward III, who is frequently touted as being England's greatest king. However, she should be remembered as a brilliant queen and stateswoman in her own right, who was instrumental in ensuring stability in England, even if she had to do it by force.



¹The title was borrowed from Shakespeare's play Henry IV, Part III. The original title referred to Margaret of Anjou, but has since become a byname for Isabella.
²This caused a major scandal, because the Earldom of Cornwall was then, and now, a royal title. (It's currently held as an auxiliary title of Prince Charles.) While Cornwall is no longer an Earldom but a Dukedom, it is still considered to be the right of the first born son of the monarch.
³A Marcherlord was a nobleman with holdings along the border with Wales, who was expected to defend the border.
⁴Adultery was a major crime for a Medieval noblewoman. Charles' first wife had committed adultery, and Charles had had her lovers beaten to death in a public square. It is unsurprising that he was less than permissive about his sister's liaison with Roger Mortimer.
⁵The aforementioned Lowland cousin. Coincidentally, this same cousin, Joan of Hainault, was responsible for throwing Isabella and Mortimer together.
⁶This story was later used to support the causes of people who would rebel against Baby Edward.


Sources
The Plantagenets by Dan Jones
Queen Isabella: Treachery, Adultery, and Murder in Medieval England by Alison Weir
She-Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth by Helen Castor
Isabella, the 'She-Wolf of France'
Edward II Marries Isabella of France
Isabella of France: Queen of England
Isabella of France
Edward II: King of England
Edward II:1307-1327
Edward II (1284-1327)
Edward II:1307-1327 AD
Piers Gaveston, Hugh Despenser, and the Downfall of Edward II
Roger Mortimer
Edward III

Friday, January 18, 2019

Damn, Girl-Trieu Thi Trinh

Little is known about Trieu Thi Trinh, despite the fact that she lead an incredible life. At the age of 19 she led armies against the invading Chinese, and spent four years attempting to drive them out of Vietnam before commiting suicide after a defeat. Her birthplace is unclear, even her proper name is unknown (Trieu Thi Trinh translates to something along the lines of 'Lady Trieu'). Despite the mystery surrounding her, Trieu Thi Trinh, also known as Ba Trieu, has survived to become one of Vietnam's greatest heroines, and is still celebrated today.

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Traditional Vietnamese artwork depicting Ba Trieu
Ba Trieu was likely born sometime in 225 CE. At the time, Han China had been occupying Vietnam for about 200 years, and their hold on the region had only gotten stronger. It had been more than a century since the Trung Sisters had risen up, and the Han had successfully removed Vietnamese rulers and officials from every position of power in the country. Chinese domination was so widespread that they commonly referred to the area as 'Am Nam', which, translated, meant 'conquered south'.

When Ba Trieu was the sister of the powerful southern leader, Trieu Quoc Dat. He had taken care of Ba Trieu after their parents died, and he himself was involved in a certain amount of rebellion. Therefor, it was no surprise when, at 19, Ba Trieu decided to get into the sedition game herself, despite her brother's counsel that she get married instead of cause insurrection.

Ba Trieu gathered her army of 1,000, and headed up the nearest mountain to train. Though this whole story is surrounded in myth, here is where it becomes really tricky to separate fact from fiction. According to legend, Ba Trieu was nine feet tall, with three foot long breasts which she tied back over her shoulders when fighting. She was beautiful, and had a voice like ringing bells. In battle, she lead her armies from the top of an elephant, dressed with ivory shoes and golden hairpins. She struck fear into the hearts of her Chinese enemies, and she and her army won over 30 battles.

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Ba Trieu's temple, about 100 miles south of Hanoi.
Unfortunately, Ba Trieu's army was severely underfunded, and possessed no siege equipment. When they came to a Chinese fortress, they had to wait on the Chinese to come out and meet them. Ba Trieu also had an enormous weakness--she was very fastidious, and couldn't stand the sight of filth. One Chinese took advantage of this, and sent his army of men running out of the fortress naked, kicking up dirt and grime. Ba Trieu left the battlefield, and her army panicked, leading to a massive defeat. Rather than let her enemies capture her, Ba Trieu committed suicide by throwing herself into a river. She was only 23.

However, according to legend, Ba Trieu's harassment of the Chinese invaders did not end with her death. She haunted the Chinese general who defeated her, and spread an illness among the Chinese soldiers that could only be warded off by hanging wooden penises over the doorways of rooms one wished to occupy.

There are, unfortunately, very few actual specifics on Ba Trieu, and much of what that is known about her is shrouded in legend. However, there is some proof that Trieu Thi Trinh existed. Records of the Chinese governor over Vietnam at the time of Ba Trieu's life mention a short period of resistance, and contemporary artwork featuring a lady on an elephant leading an army has been found

Mythical or not, Ba Trieu has been a popular folk hero since the 200 CEs, and is the subject of several epic works still studied in Vietnamese schools. She was cited as the inspiration of many Vietnamese rebels after her, and has a temple dedicated to her, and many streets named after her, most notably in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.


Sources
Modernity and My Mum: A Literary Exploration into the (Extra)Ordinary Sacrifices and Everyday Resistance of a Vietnamese Woman by Kim Huỳnh
Ba Trieu (225-248 CE)
Trieu Thi Trinh, the Vietnamese Joan of Arc
Vietnam Under Chinese Rule

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

The Young Pretender and the Jacobites

Charles Stuart, also known as 'Bonnie Prince Charlie' or 'The Young Pretender' is a near mythic figure, and a Scottish national hero. His 1745 uprising against the House of Hanover, culminating in the disastrous battle of Culloden is romanticized as a brave, but tragic attempt at freedom against an unwanted government. To this day, Charles Stuart is the face of the Jacobites, and he's idolized by modern Scots and people of Scottish descent.

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Charles Edward Stuart
However, the facts are that Charlie and his '45 Rebellion was the end of the militant Jacobite movement. Charlie's defeat at Culloden, and the subsequent Hanoverian crackdown on the Scottish people saw that the Jacobites would never rise again, and essentially put paid to any hopes of renewing the Stuart dynasty.

Charles Edward Louis Philip Casimir Stuart was born not in Scotland, but in Rome. Related to both the Pope and the King of France, Charlie had a privileged upbringing, despite living in exile from his ancestral home. He was a keen hunter, and was well educated in both books and courtly manners. His father, James III and VIII, also known as 'The Old Pretender' raised him as the Prince of Wales, and awarded him several honors and orders of the British kingdom. Between this and his father's obsession with regaining his throne, it is no surprise that in his early 20s Charles devoted himself to reclaiming the English throne.

In 1745 Charlie invaded Scotland with the intent of ousting George I. Accompanied by an army of French and Scottish Highland supporters, Charlie managed to retake Scotland, and parts of England. However, due to infighting, desertion, lack of funds, and poor military choices on Charles' part, the Jacobites were defeated at the disastrous Battle of Culloden in 1746, and Charles Stuart fled back to France.

Though he's hailed as a hero, the truth is that Charles Edward Louis Philip Casimir Stuart peaked at 25. After returning to France Charles tried to rally support for another invasion of the British Isles, but was unsuccessful. He had an illegitimate daughter, and at age 52 he married a 19 year old, whom he forced into a convent soon after. He died at age 63, sick, embittered, estranged from both his father (who had converted to Anglicism) and his brother.
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James II was deposed by his Protestant daughter.
James was Catholic, and his second wife was
related to the Pope of the time
Though, as mentioned above, Charlie is the face of militant Jacobiteism, he was, by no means, the entirety of the movement. Jacobiteism started in 1688 when James II, the last catholic King of England, was forced into exile by his protestant daughter Mary II, and her husband, William of Orange. The movement really got going though in 1714 when Queen Anne, the last of the Stuart Monarchs, was succeeded by German George I, the first monarch of the House of Hanover.

There were two uprisings prior to the Hanoverian take over, one in 1689, and one in 1708. The 1689 rebellion was lead by James II, the ousted Catholic King. James II's uprising was almost immediately after the 'Glorious Revolution', and was moderately successful. James II was proclaimed King of England, Scotland, and Ireland by a parliament held in Dublin, but his French-Scottish forces were ultimately defeated by William of Orange at the Battle of the Boyne. The 1708 uprising, largely French, was short lived and unsuccessful.

The next Jacobite uprising of note, 'The Fifteen', took place in 1715, directly after George I's succession to the throne. George I was vastly unpopular with a large percentage of the people. He was a foreigner, didn't speak English, and had an open disdain for England and its people. This, combined with a divided government made the Hanovers an easy target for John Erskine, 6th Duke of Mar. Erskine managed to raise a large part of the Northeast, and the Jacobite clans to the cause of James the III and VIII, and James set out for Scotland. While Erskine did progress as far as Perth, he was ultimately defeated by the Duke of Argyll, and James arrived too late to participate in any actual battling. However, though 'The Fifteen' was a failure, it was vital proof that a large scale uprising against the house of Hanover could be made. The proof remained strong in the minds of the exiled Stuarts and Jacobites even after the failure of the Highland Uprising of 1719. It was with the memories of 'The Fifteen' in mind that Bonnie Prince Charlie and his forces set out for what would become known as 'The Forty-Five'.

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Flag of Bonnie Prince Charlie
Charles was only 25 when he launched his invasion of Scotland. Backed by a modest French force, with promises of more reinforcements from France and Sweden, Charlie landed on the west coast of Scotland in July of 1745, convinced that the Scottish people would soon join him.

Charlie had been raised to believe that Britain, especially Scotland, was a hotbed of Jacobite sympathy, and that all he had to do was raise his banner, and the people would rally to his cause. In reality, while many Scots and Englishmen had Jacobite sympathies, most of them were unwilling to fight for a ill equipped king. In reality, it was largely the Highland Scots who came to Charlie's aid.

At the time, England was engaged in the Austrian War of Succession, and large parts of the English forces were fighting abroad in France and the North American Colonies. England was largely undefended, and due to a majority Whig government, many members of the Tory party were glad to support the Stuarts. Due to this support, and lack of opposition, Charles and his army were able to progress quickly through Scotland. He marched triumphantly into Edinburgh just two months after landing in Scotland, and with every victory more and more soldiers flocked to his cause. Charlie quickly took Perth, Prestonpans, and Derby before his supporters started to have doubts. Though Charles wanted to march on London from Derby, he and his army turned back to lay siege to Stirling Castle.

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William, Duke of Cumberland
As a military leader, Charlie was brash and reckless. He had a habit of ignoring his advisers, and relied heavily on the Highland Scot's favored tactic of a head-on charge. Historians speculate that had he continued his habit of ignoring his generals he may have successfully taken London and the throne, but at the worst possible moment Charlie decided to heed his adviser's cautioning.

Their retreat back into Scotland allowed William, Duke of Cumberland, to catch up with the Jacobites. George I, nervous about the Young Pretender's success had summoned his brother back to England, and the Duke of Cumberland was challenged the Jacobites relentlessly. Though the Jacobites enjoyed several early victories against the Duke, the battles began to become more difficult, and Charlie lost soldiers to desertion and death at an alarming rate.

On April 15, 1746, the Duke of Cumberland caught up to the Jacobites at Culloden, near Inverness. Ignoring the warnings of his advisers, Charlie chose Culloden as a battle site, despite the fact that the marshy ground would hinder the highlander's ability to charge, and allowed the English the better position. Charlie sent his men to raid the English camp the night of the 15th, and when the two forces met on the morning of the 16th, the Jacobite forces were tired,  divided, and hindered by the mud. Despite their best attempts, the Jacobites were defeated after only 40 minutes of fighting, and those who weren't killed fled into the highlands, pursued by the Hanoverian army.

Charlie survived the battle, spending five months on the run before with the help of Flora MacDonald, whom we've discussed before, he was able to escape back to France

The defeat at Culloden was a disaster for the Scots. Determined to quash the Jacobites once and for all, soldiers of the Young Pretenders army were hunted down, and killed without mercy. Those who weren't killed were transported, marking the first mass immigration of Scots to North America.

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Culloden
Furthermore, the tartan, kilts, bagpipes, and the Scottish language were all outlawed in an attempt to kill Scottish culture. The ancient Scottish right to bear arms was revoked, and English soldiers combed the highlands, brutally disarming the residents, and commandeering their homes.

Though there is still a Stuart Pretender to the Throne, the Jacobite movement is all but extinct today. The Hanover dynasty ended with the death of Queen Victoria in 1901, and, given the fact that Elizabeth II is widely rumored to be immortal, it seems unlikely that the House of Windsor is going anywhere soon. However, Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobite cause remain firm as a symbol of Scottish nationalism, and hope for independence.

Sources
Bonnie Prince Charlie by Carolly Erickson
The Battle of Culloden
Culloden
Battle of Culloden--English History
The Jacobite Rebellion of 1745
Jacobite--British History
The Jacobite Revolts: Chronology
Who Was Bonnie Prince Charlie
The Myths of Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites
Charles Edward, the Young Pretender--British Prince
House of Stuart Family Tree
The House of Stuart
The House of Stuart--Scottish and English Royal Family

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Damn, Girl-Tamar of Georgia, Queen of Kings

Crowned co-ruler at age 12, Tamar (sometimes spelled 'Tamara') reigned over Georgia's¹ golden age, and expanded the kingdom to its greatest height. She would reorganize the Georgian Orthodox Church, defeat multiple attempted internal coups, and send an Ottoman invasion packing. A woman of faith, Tamar credited her religion for her battlefield successes, and performed extensive charity work. She was canonized shortly after her death, and is seen as a Georgian religious and national hero. However, behind her piety was a shrewd woman more than willing to fight for her throne and people.

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Tamar
Tamar was the only child of King George III and Queen Burdukhan. George, like his daughter, had to deal with scheming relatives. When his nephew (or cousin) Demma attempted to dethrone him George had Demma blinded, castrated, and thrown into prison. George dealt with other insurrectionists in a similarly brutal manner-with breaking kneecaps as his preferred method of chastisement. Due to the instability of his kingdom, George had his 12 year old daughter² crowned co-ruler.

George's main reason for this was to ensure the stability of Georgia during his lifetime and after his death. He hoped that if the restless Georgian nobility saw that he had a stable dynasty in place to succeed him, they might calm down a bit. Additionally, he was giving the patriarchal Georgians time to get used to the fact that there next ruler would be a woman, something that had never happened in Georgia before. While many nobles protested, George quashed their protests saying 'One knows a lion by its claws, and Tamar by her actions.' While there is little known about Tamar's childhood, this praise from her father suggests that she was more than suited for her role.

George died six years after his daughter's investment, leaving Tamar to govern the country by herself. Historians disagree about the beginning of Tamar's reign. Some sources claim that she had a very smooth ascension, aided by the fact that the Georgian people had had a chance to get used to the idea of her rule. Other's claim that she was met by insurrection--insurrection that she quickly quashed.

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Tamar holding court
Following her second crowning, Tamar's first order of business was to marry in order to produce an heir. She left the choosing of a spouse up to her council. They chose a Russian prince Yuri, the son of Prince Andrei Bogoliubsky of Vladimir-Suzdal. Yuri had a reputation as a warrior, and the council believed that he would be good for their queen and country. However, Yuri thoroughly disproved them not shortly after the wedding vows were said. He was thoroughly dissolute--engaging in extramarital affairs, torturing and murdering Georgian Muslims, and abusing alcohol. He publicly berated Tamar for not bearing him a son, and was prone to violent outbursts. He was such an awful husband that Tamar divorced him after only three years. In a merciful move her father would certainly have disapproved of, Tamar sent him packing off to Constantinople with a generous allowance--kneecaps intact.

Georgia was a largely Catholic country at the time. This makes the fact that Tamar was able to obtain a divorce quite extraordinary, given that divorce is, to this day, contrary to Catholic doctrine. Tamar was able to obtain a divorce not only because of Yuri's widespread unpopularity, but because of her own special relationship with the church.

Following her ascension, Tamar convened a Synod, and set about reforming the Georgian church. She was already known for her piety, and made several changes that reflected this. In addition to this, she also saw that the bishops and clergymen who didn't like her were defrocked. Every powerful clergyman in the church was Tamar's man, and she used this to her benefit.

With Yuri out of the picture, Tamar was free to remarry, and remarry she did. her next husband was Davit Soslan, an Alanian Prince. He was chosen for her by her aunt, who reportedly told Tamar that Davit was 'Hewn from stone, and reared on wolf's milk'. Davit, unlike Yuri, lived up to his reputation. He was handsome, supportive, and an able military man. Tamar installed him as King Consort, and quickly had two children.

After the births of her children, Tamar set to conquest. This was largely to keep the Georgian nobles busy elsewhere, and not conspiring with her ex-husband to dethrone her. Despite his exile, Yuri attempted to dethrone Tamar twice, but was soundly defeated.

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Georgia at it's height
Under Davit's leadership, the Georgians were able to take parts of Armenia, Shirvan, and Azerbaijan. Tamar's success made her Muslim neighbors nervous, and they sent a unified force after her under the leadership of the Rum Sultan, Rukn al-Din. Rukn was a lovely man. In his initial letter to Tamar he informed her that all women were feeble minded, and that, should she convert to Islam, he would make her his wife. Should she retain her religion he would make her his concubine. The letter was so insulting that one of Tamar's courtier's hit Rukn's courier hard enough that the courier passed out. When the courier finally came to, Tamar sent him back with a message that she didn't care to be married to Rukn, at that she would defeat him. True to her word, Tamar sent him packing.

In addition to her expansionist endeavors, Tamar also focused on developing and reviving Georgian culture. She had monasteries and churches built, and it was under her that a monastic town was carved into the cliffs of Vardzia.

Tamar died of an unknown illness in 1213. Her final resting place is a mystery, with rumors that she is buried in Gelati or in Jerusalem. As mentioned, she was canonized shortly after her death, and she is still celebrated in the Orthodox churches. She was succeed by her son, who was later succeeded by her daughter, Rusadan, another Queen of Kings.



¹No, not the Georgia in the United States, the Georgia in Central Asia.
²Some sources say that Tamar was 18 at the time of her ascension to the throne, but most agree on 12.


Sources
Queen Tamar: the Confident Female Ruler of the Georgian Golden Age
Queens Regnant: Tamar of Georgia--the First Female Ruler
St. Tamar, Queen of Georgia
Tamar of Georgia-Queen of Kings
Queen Tamar

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Football War

Sporting events can be intense, especially when rivals meet. Large groups of highly emotional people can sometimes result in riots, but in 1969 a football match¹ ignited an all out war between neighboring Central American countries--Honduras and El Salvador.

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Newspaper announcing the start of the conflict.
Translation: Futbol War
El Salvador and Honduras looking for qualification
It is important to note that 'The Football War', or the '100 Hours War' was not entirely over football. Tensions between Honduras and El Salvador had been running high for months before they met for the pre-qualifying games for the 1970 World Cup. Football was just the straw that broke the camel's back.

In 1960s Central America, El Salvador was not doing so great. The country was overcrowded, and most of the land belonged to coffee exporters. Most citizens lived in extreme poverty, and unemployment was common. However, just over the border in Honduras, things were looking pretty swell. Large swathes of the country were uninhabited, and the banana plantations were always looking to hire. As might be expected, thousands of El Salvadorans started illegally migrating to Honduras, often settling in the uninhabited lands by the borders.

This wasn't really an issue with the Hondurans until times started to get a little less good. In 1966 the Honduran government passed a land reform bill that heavily favored the fruit corporations, and disenfranchised the smaller land owners. This lead to an economic drop, unemployment, and rapidly rising land prices. Needless to say, the Hondurans weren't too keen on this, and blamed El Salvadoran immigrants for depressing the wage rate and contributing to job scarcity.² Native Hondurans started harassing El Salvadoran immigrants, ransacking their businesses, repossessing their land, and assaulting their families. The El Salvadoran government politely asked the Honduran government to knock it off, but Honduras refused.

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Map of Central America
Cut to June 6. It's one of the first qualifying matches for the World Cup, and Honduras is hosting El Salvador in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa. Emotions were running high, especially when Honduras beat El Salvador 1-0 in overtime.

A few weeks later El Salvador and Honduras met again, this time in San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador. Things between the two countries were incredibly tense; Honduran supporters were harassed by El Salvadorans, and crowds of El Salvador supporters surrounded the hotel that the Honduran team was staying in, and spent the night shouting and banging pans together so the Honduran team couldn't get any sleep. Their tactics worked, because on June 15, El Salvador beat Honduras 3-0.

Riots happened after and during both games, but hell didn't really break loose until after El Salvador won the qualifying game in Mexico City on June 27. Shortly after the game, El Salvador announced that it would be severing all diplomatic ties with Honduras, and the borders were locked down.

After the borders closed both Honduran and El Salvadorans started making incursions into each other's countries. Both countries tried to buy arms from the United States, but the US wasn't having that, so they had to turn to European governments and collectors of WWII arms for weapons.

Things really came to head on July 14. The El Salvadoran air force attacked Honduran airports, as well as the towns of El Poy, Amapala, Choluteca, and Santa Rosa de Copán. The El Salvadoran armed forces also made incursions into East Honduras on the ground. They drove armored jeeps into the country, but only made it about 30 kilometers in before running out of gas.

The Hondurans retaliated, destroying much of the El Salvadoran air force as well as the majority of El Salvadoran oil reserves. However, El Salvador had also entered Honduras on foot from the north, and they were doing very well. They had captured the main roads, several major towns, and they were within striking distance of Tegucigalpa. However, without oil the El Salvadorans were having trouble moving forward.

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Protesters in Tegucigalpa
On July 15th the Organization of American States (OAS) got involved. They demanded that El Salvador cease fire, and return to their country. The El Salvadoran government refused unless the Honduran government made repartitions to the El Salvadoran citizens who had been displaced within Honduras. The Honduran government, predictably, refused. It wasn't until the OAS threatened El Salvador with trade sanctions that the El Salvador troops withdrew from Honduras on August 2nd.

Though the ceasefire was signed in 1969, the peace treaty wasn't ratified until 1980. Though the Honduran government passed laws protecting El Salvadoran immigrants, El Salvadorans in Honduras were still harassed and attacked by Hondurans, and things between the two countries have been extremely tense. However, in recent years, the tensions have cooled, and the two countries are making efforts to repair their damaged relationship.



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Honduras Flag

¹This is the compulsory reminder to all my American readers that football=soccer.
²Sound familiar? It should. The same thing has happened between Americans and Latinx immigrants (legal or not) in recent years.



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El Salvador Flag


Sources
Latin America: The Football War
The Real Football War! When El Salvador Invaded Honduras Over a Soccer Game
The 1969 'Soccer War' Between Honduras and El Salvador
The Soccer War

Friday, October 20, 2017

Damn, Girl-Sammuramat and Semiramis-The Woman and the Legend

Ancient Assyria was brutal. Warmongering and conquest was an enormous part of the culture, and women had no place in war or political leadership¹. Queen Sammuramat, however, had a place in both.

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Semiramis Hears of the Insurrection of Babylon
by Giovanni Francesco Barbieri
Unfortunately, there's not a lot of definitive, reliable information about Sammuramat. She lived before 1000 BCE, and it's difficult to retrieve written, official records from that era. However, it's a pretty good bet that Sammuramat was something special, because she's the basis for the legendary Semiramis, and legends don't usually spring out of nowhere.

But first the facts. We know that Sammuramat was the wife of king Shamshi-Adad V, and that after he died in battle she took the throne as regent for her son, Adad-Nirari III. She was involved in invasions of Armenia² and India, and she was a great builder. We also know that she held her throne for between 30-40 years--pretty impressive for a ruler of that time period.

And that would be about the end of the stone cold fact for Sammuramat, the rest is guesswork based off the myths of Queen Semiramis. There are enough similarities between Semiramis and Sammuramat to presume that Semiramis is based off of Sammuramat, Hellenization of her name aside.

According to the myths, Semiramis was the the daughter of Derceto, a Syrian fish goddess, and a handsome youth who served Derceto. Ashamed at having done the deed with a mortal, Derceto killed the youth, and abandoned Semiramis on the banks of a river to die. Luckily for Semiramis, the local avian community decided to keep her alive. Doves brought her food and milk, and covered her for warm. They nourished her until the keeper of the king's herds--Semmis-- found her and adopted her. All of this demi-goddess and dove nonsense later led to Semiramis being associated with Ishtar/Inanna/Astarte after her death.

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Map of the Assyrian Empire
Semiramis possessed, or course, an unearthly beauty, and so when Onnes, the governor of Syria, saw her, he immediately asked for her hand in marriage. Semmis agreed, and the pair married. According to legend, they were quite in love, and had two sons together. Legend also claims that not only was Semiramis really attractive, she was also really smart. Smart enough that Onnes consulted her before doing pretty much anything. So when the king asked Onnes to go to war, it wasn't long before Onnes asked Semiramis to join him.
The Assyrian army had been unsuccessfully attacking the city of Bactra in modern day Afghanistan when Semiramis turned up. She had been wearing long robes that covered her skin and made it impossible to tell if she was male or female³. When she arrived on the battlefield, she saw Assyrian soldiers besieging the city from every angle except at the raised acropolis, which was  undefended. Choosing a group of soldiers skilled at climbing, Semiramis led the men, and captured the acropolis, bringing down the city.

Shamshi-Adad was, understandably, intrigued to see who had captured the city he'd been going after for forever. When Onnes introduced him to his lovely wife, Shamshi-Adad fell instantly in love. He ordered Onnes to let him have Semiramis. Though the king said that Onnes could marry his daughter as recompense, Onnes wasn't too keen on that, and he went and hanged himself. Semiramis' feelings are unknown.

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Cuneiform on a rock near Van, Armenia. This writing
is sometimes attributed to Semiramis in myths
Sources disagree upon how exactly Semiramis came to the throne, but the most common story is that she convinced Shamshi-Adad to let her have power for five days. He agreed to do so, and in the biggest power move of the BCEs, Semiramis had him executed, and declared herself regent.

Next Semiramis started engaging in the traditional hobbies of kings--conquest, building, and sex. According to the legends, she was a master of all three. She lead a successful invasion of Armenia, kept stability in the restless Assyrian empire, and led an invasion of India that may or may not have gone well depending on who you ask. Semiramis for sure built the embankments at Babylon, but she's also credited with building the city of Babylon and the famous hanging gardens. (Spoiler alert, she didn't do either of those things) According to Armenian legends, she carved wisdom on the unbreakable stones near modern day Van.

And, of course, the most lurid myths about Semiramis are the myths about her insatiable sexual appetites. Wherever famous and powerful women go, myths about their voracious lust follow them. In Semiramis' case, the myths are that she never remarried in order to preserve her power, but instead took lovers from an elite regiment of guards in her army. After one night of passion, she had her lover executed to prevent endangering the political stability she worked so hard for.
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Semiramis Inspecting the City of Babylon
by Degas
Sammuramat, while definitely a colorful character, could not possibly have done all the things that the mythical Semiramis did. Historical dating of the ruins of Babylon prove that it existed long before she did, and the writing in the caves above Van, while written in Cuneiform, is not written in the Assyrian language. What is true, however, is that myths and legends grow up around powerful and exceptional people. A woman holding power, and for that long, in ancient Assyria was completely unprecedented, it only follows that myths would spring up around her, if not only to justify the status quo. By making Sammuramat a demigoddess with superhuman skills the Assyrians guaranteed that she would be the exception, not the rule. By making Sammuramat the exception, it was ensured that it would be incredibly difficult for another woman to hold the throne.

¹Enheduanna, remember, was Sumerian. The Sumerians and Assyrians, though they share a homeland and are often lumped together under the term 'Mesopotamian', are different civilizations.
²The Armenians aren't too fond of her
³Some myths attribute Semiramis with the invention of the chador.


Sources
Semiramis
Sammu-ramat
Sammu-Ramat and Semiramis: The Inspiration and the Myth
The True Story of Semiramis, Legendary Queen of Babylon
Sammuramat

Friday, September 8, 2017

Damn, Girl-Jeanne III of Navarre

Jeanne (sometimes anglicized to Joan) III d' Albret of Navarre was basically a smaller scale, likable, Henry VIII . These two are very similar in that they both brought the Reformation to their country, they were both married more than once, and they both liked making life difficult for the French. The pair were even related by marriage for some eight years. However, unlike Henry, Jeanne wasn't a dick who murdered her friends, spouses, and national economy. Jeanne was a brave and altruistic defender of her faith.

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A young Jeanne d'Albret
Jeanne was Queen of Navarre, and if you don't know what the hell a Navarre is, don't worry, I didn't know either until I looked it up. I'd assumed it was a region of northern France, much like Brittany, but it turns out Navarre was like a big Andorra. However, unlike Andorra , Navarre was a warring political entity that wasn't content to remain in their valley and go about their business. Navarre was an important part of medieval politics, and it did not take its assimilation into France and Spain quietly.

The only child of an unhappy union, Jeanne was raised away from her parents, and given a somewhat lackluster humanist education. Girls, even royal girls, weren't thought worthy of writing about very much during the Renaissance, so not much is known about Jeanne's early childhood, other than that she was raised by a family friend--Aymee de Lafayette-- and educated by Nicolas Bourbon.*

It isn't until 1540 that Jeanne really shows up in historical record. Like many royal girls of the era, Jeanne's real worth to her family was her marriageability and usefulness as a political pawn. At the ripe old age of 11, Francis I, King of France and Jeanne's uncle, decided that Jeanne should get married to the much older William de la Marck, Duke of Cleves (Anne of Cleves' brother.) 

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Map of Navarre (and other places)
Now, neither Jeanne nor her parents were too thrilled about this match. Her parents were peeved that the King of France had overridden their wishes that Jeanne marry Phillip of Spain, and Jeanne just plain didn't want to marry the man. Jeanne resisted the match and defied the french king, but it was to no avail. in 1547 she was married to William, kicking and screaming. Her dress was so heavy that she could not walk down the aisle, and instead had to be carried. Luckily for Jeanne, after a symbolic consummation of their union she returned to France to live with her family until she reached maturity.

In 1545, after eight years of marriage, Jeanne's marriage to William was annulled. The official reason was that Jeanne hadn't consented willingly to the marriage, and had been forced, but the real reason for the annulment was that an alliance with Cleves was no longer important to Francis. This was fantastic for Jeanne, because in 1548 Jeanne was able to marry Antony de Bourbon**, a man she loved, or at the very least liked. 

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Antony de Bourbon
When Jeanne's father died in 1555 she became the official Queen Regnant of Navarre, though her husband Antony was king in all but name. Despite the initial attraction, the marriage between Jeanne and Antony seemed to have been a rocky one. While they did have three children together, Antony was notoriously unreliable, and could be physically abusive when he didn't get his way.

The next historically important event of Jeanne's life happened in 1560 (or 1562) when she publicly declared herself a Calvinist. She had attended a Calvinist meeting in Paris during the wedding of Mary Stuart and Francis II, and it changed her life. She described the experience in her memoirs as being 'rescued from idolatry' and 'received in His [God's] church'. Jeanne converted, and she convinced her husband as well, because in 1862, Antony also declared himself a Calvinist.

Being a Protestant Monarch during the Reformation was a tricky affair, and Navarre had the bad luck to be sandwiched between two large Catholic powers--Spain and France. The English could get away with doing as they damn well pleased, thanks to their distance from the rest of Europe, and the German states had each other to rely on for defense, but things were tricky for Navarre. It's no surprise then that shortly after his declaration Antony recanted, and proceeded to lead Catholic forces against the Huguenots.

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La Rochelle
Jeanne was devastated by Antony's defection. In her memoirs she described herself as having 'a thorn put not in [her] foot, but in [her] heart'. She herself, however, never recanted her beliefs, even when Antony threatened her with violence, and France and Spain threatened her with invasion. Jeanne was a stubborn woman, and when Antony died later that year, she set about turning Navarre into a Protestant nation.

On the Reformation scale, Jeanne swung more towards the Puritan end of the scale, and her political reformations proved it. She made laws against gambling, prostitution, blasphemy, and drunkenness, as well as the more tradition laws abolishing Catholic ceremonies, and seizing Church property.*** Her next step was to send funds and military assistance to the embattled Huguenots at La Rochelle.

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Jeanne in her older years.
Not only did Jeanne send assistance, she went to La Rochelle herself and organized the women there. She assisted in defense strategies and peace negotiations with the French soldiers. It can be said, almost without doubt, that it was her fighting, and her beliefs that led her Calvinist raised son--Henry IV--to issue the Edict of Nantes, which granted Huguenots substantial rights in France, as well as ending the fighting between the two groups.

With much protestation, Jeanne reluctantly agreed to a marriage between her only son, Henry, and the catholic Margaret of France, sister to the French King. It was shortly after her arrival in Paris to attend the wedding that Jeanne died suddenly of tuberculosis, leaving Henry King of Navarre. 


*Incidentally, Nicolas Bourbon was also responsible for parts of Anne Boleyn's humanist education. 
**Another important fact about Antony de Bourbon, he was in line for the French throne. This enabled his and Jeanne's son Henry to become king of both France and Navarre, uniting the two nations in much the same way James VI/I united England and Scotland
***Unlike Henry VIII, when Jeanne seized the property of the Catholic Church, she didn't use it to enrich herself and her friends. She gave the funds to Calvinist ministry's and to schools. Additionally, when the staunch Catholics of her kingdom rose in rebellion, she suppressed them with force, and then used legal pressures to make them back down. She liberally pardoned rebels, and did not execute vast numbers of rebels like Henry did.


Sources
Jeanne d'Albret--Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia--6th Edition