Five Fun Facts about Sally Hemings (1773 – 1835)

In her lifetime, Sally Hemings was a controversial figure, the center of one of the biggest scandals of the early years of the American republic. In being a biracial slave, her life confronted many with the uncomfortable reality of racial mixing in a time where blacks and whites having children together was an unconscionable taboo. Here are five more things you probably did not know about her:

  1. Sally Hemings was only 1/4th African. Her mother Elizabeth was the daughter of Captain John Hemings and an African captive slave named Susannah. Her father was another white man: plantation owner John Wayles.
  2. Sally Hemings was a younger half sister to Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson. John Wayles fathered her after the death of third wife Elizabeth Lomax Skelton.
  3. While still a toddler, Sally was moved to Monticello in 1774 and almost immediately given responsibility for caring for Thomas and Martha Jefferson’s children.
  4. In 1787 Thomas and Martha’s Jefferson’s daughter Mary took Sally to Paris to help her. In Paris Sally worked to improve herself by studying essential skills for a proper ladies maid.
  5. Freed by French law, Sally refused to return to the United States until securing key concessions from Thomas Jefferson, knowing full well that returning to Virginia would re-enslave her. Jefferson kept his word to Hemings for the rest of his life.

Learn more about Sally Hemings in “Founding Mothers.” Available at a retailer near you, including AppleKoboBarnes/Noble, and Smashwords. Paperback edition available at Barnes/Noble and Amazon.

Why my newest releases are not available for kindle on Amazon.

I used to love Amazon. Most independent authors do! Kindle Direct Publishing is a solid platform for authors to publish to Amazon with and though it’s undergone many changes since I first published with them in September 2012, these updates have proven to be relatively painless to adjust to.

When I first started, kindle editions, paperbacks, and audiobooks each had a separate division of Amazon to publish through. About 4 years ago (my date might be off), Amazon merged their paperback publishing (called “CreateSpace” for those of you looking at the paperback editions on my older books) into Kindle Direct Publishing. Meaning that you publish the paperback through the same login and most of the same screens as for the kindle.

As an author, this change was not entirely a good thing. CreateSpace allowed you to update book descriptions and pricing without the entire book going through a full review with an agent. It was, simply, easier to temporarily discount your books and then restore the prices after your promotion. This is something desirable to authors. And though the previewing process is better post-merger of the paperbacks to KDP, the overall experience for me as an author is not as pleasant.

In 2014 and with CreateSpace still separate I decided to publish to audio using Amazon’s ACX audio production platform. It’s a good platform overall and I prefer it to KDP any day. Information about audio production with them can be found throughout this blog; it’s a subject I write about regularly as new experiences happen and I find new information to communicate.

But back to KDP …

ISBN listing for “His Red Eminence” as seen on Amazon website.

In late September, 2022 I made a minor edit (fixing a broken link) to one of my biographies, specifically one published in 2015. So well established! Paperback created in CreateSpace which provided it with a clear date stamp on it locked in with the ISBN.

But kindle books are not given ISBN – but ASIN – that’s the alpha-numeric identifier for the retail page on Amazon store sites. My guess is this makes all the difference in the world. Because when you publish through Smashwords (merging into Draft2Digital), you ARE given an ISBN for the book which, as with paperbacks, have an embedded date stamp.

AISN do not have embedded date stamps.

Date stamps matter on books because they establish your copyright. What I learned the hard way: no date stamp, no copyright!

Now let’s get back to my book. I updated the link on the paperback – which has a date stamped ISBN – proven copyright. Book went through their technical checks and no issue – why should it? I changed a website in a single entry in my bibliography. The paperback republished fine.

A few minutes later, I uploaded the corrected kindle edition with the fixed link. But upon that review, the agent at Amazon decided that my book violated the fine print of their Terms of Service (TOS) despite the original publication date in early 2015. The email said I had NO COPYRIGHT ownership of the book (which remember, has dated ISBNs on all other editions). Whatever information I sent to them was essentially ignored and their replies repeated the same information. I violated their TOS and was not the author of the book. Book is banned permanently from all Amazon sites. No discussion. No appeal. The ruling is final. Any further violations of the TOS (the emails warn) could (could being the operative word) result in further disciplinary actions including the unpublishing and banning of all existing and future books I author.

It’s an email designed to frighten authors. When I received it, the message certainly created the expected emotional impact.

With so much emotion involved, it took me weeks to realize what I just shared about the ISBN and the date stamps. It also took me some time to realize the one area where I likely did violate the very fine print of their TOS. Namely OVERLAPPING CONTENT.

Amazon does not like overlapping content in your books – recycled content if you will. When the pandemic hit, I made a textbook version of the book in question. Same story, but with the addition of study questions. 2020 publication date for the textbook (which is presently available on Amazon in both paperback and kindle editions). That edition too was updated with the new link in the bibliography. My best guess is that the textbook went through the book review before the original version of the book and that the same agent ended up looking at both. She sees the same basic content and concludes the 2015 book is derivative of the 2020 textbook. that i copied the textbook to make the 2015 book.

This is where the ASIN likely comes in. With the paperbacks, the dating is clearly marked. But kindle editions don’t have those same, immutable dates. Therefore the agent cannot establish that the 2020 book was published after the 2015 book.

With ASIN, you do not have a provable copyright. To get a provable copyright, you need an ISBN – which Amazon will not give you for kindle books. Without an outside source confirming your copyright to the kindle edition (they would not accept the ISBN’s on the paperback or non-Amazon digital editions used at competitors), you don’t own your book.

There are two ways around this: purchase your own ISBNs which you then provide when you publish your kindle edition initially or you can spend the money to file your book with the Library of Congress. I personally cannot tell you how to do this because when I looked at it, the process was both expensive and complicated.

Adding to all of this: my audiobooks. I have thirty two audiobooks published through ACX. When the incident happened, I phoned their customer service to ask and they were especially nice. What they told me is that Amazon has complete control over anything published through any of their platforms: kindle, paperback, or audiobook. If they decide, for whatever reason, to unpublish your books, fully or partially, they can do so: it’s in that fine print most of us don’t read. Including audiobooks if that’s what someone decides. Absolutely nothing ACX can do about it, as much as they try to provide authors with the best possible experience.

What then to do about all this? I can’t convince anyone to restore that book. But I can insulate myself from further scrutiny by not editing the books I have and by not publishing new books and audiobooks through Amazon platforms.

Fortunately you can still publish paperback books and audiobooks without using an Amazon company and still have your books and audiobooks sold on Amazon.

Draft2Digital (which recently acquired Smashwords) publishes paperback books using the same extended distribution as KDP. That includes Amazon retail sites. Yes, it’s a different platform that takes time to get used to – but it’s an option.

Find Away Voices is affiliated with Draft2Digital/Smashwords for audio production. Upon completion of each production, FAV audiobooks can distribute to Audible – same as ACX does – as long as you enter in the Amazon retail page link. FAV prefers that link be a kindle link, but will accept the paperback link on Amazon. Case in point: American Patriarchy is on Audible.

On the surface, Kindle Direct Publishing seems like a very effective self publishing platform. But hidden in the fine print are rules that often work against creative content creators and can be used, perhaps arbitrarily, against independent authors. As a private company, Amazon has complete control over what is sold on their sites. As authors, it is important we remain aware of this so we can make the best decisions for ourselves, our work, and our careers.

Spoilers! Doctor Who Easter Eggs Revealed for Cleopatra VII: Egypt’s Last Pharaoh

Since 1963 November 23rd, Doctor Who has delighted and sometimes frightened audiences with its science fiction adventures. The main character is called The Doctor, a nobleman from the planet Gallifrey who one day stole a time-travel capable spaceship to go on adventures in space and time. The full name of the ship is Time and Relative Dimension(s) in Space. TARDIS for short.

As everyone who has ever watched the show for very long knows, the TARDIS has a chameleon circuit that allows the exterior of the ship to appear as anything. The aim: to blend in with the local area and not be conspicuous. After it landed on Earth in England in 1963, the TARDIS took the shape of a police box – then got stuck in that design and has looked like a blue police box ever since. It is this blue police box that everyone recognizes it by.

In July 2016 I discovered Doctor Who thanks to the show’s availability on Amazon Prime Video. Though I didn’t take to it at first, the casting of Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor kept me watching until the stories themselves became interesting enough for me to watch the show on its own merits.

At the end of season one, Christopher Eccleston regenerates into the Tenth Doctor as played by David Tennant. During season four (Tennant’s third year as the Doctor), Ten takes new companion Donna Noble on an adventure back to Pompeii in the year 79 CE – just hours before Mount Vesuvius erupts on August 24th. The 2008 episode is called “The Fires of Pompeii” and it features guest stars Peter Capaldi as Caecelius and Karen Gillian as one of the priestesses of the Sibylline.

The guest appearances are notable previews for Doctor Who. In 2009 Peter was cast as John Frobisher in the Doctor Who spinoff “Torchwood” before being cast as the Twelfth Doctor for Doctor Who (2014 – 2018 with cameo in 2013’s “The Day of the Doctor.”) Karen Gillian was cast as Amelia Pond, companion for two seasons (2009 – 2012) to the Eleventh Doctor as played by Matt Smith.

In “Cleopatra VII: Egypt’s Last Pharaoh” readers are asked to find two Easter Eggs, “The first Easter Egg is a character named for someone who travelled inside the TARDIS.  The second is a phrase repeatedly used by Twelfth Doctor.  Using your knowledge of The Doctor (as played by David Tennant, Matt Smith, and Peter Capaldi) and series 2 through 10 of Doctor Who, go find them!”

What then does The Fires of Pompeii have to do with any of this? When you know the history, it all makes sense.

Let’s begin with what happens in the Doctor Who episode. As mentioned before, the Doctor and Donna arrive in Pompeii on the eve of Mount Vesuvius’ eruption on August 24th, 79 CE. After figuring out where they are, they rush back to where the TARDIS is parked only to find out that a merchant has sold it to “old man Caecelius” (Peter Capaldi). Through the rest of the adventure they discover an alien race is messing with the mountain, preventing its scheduled eruption which is a “fixed moment in time.” The Doctor and Donna go about putting history back to where it should be so that Pompeii is destroyed – right on schedule.

This is the part everyone knows. But what most people do not know is that Caecelius, Matella, and their son Quintus are names that Russell T. Davies took from the 1970 Cambridge Latin course in which Caecelius is a banker. Davies of course was not overly concerned with history when he made his characters for the episode. What I found out working on Cleopatra VII is that Caecelius was actually a historical person whose house you can visit in Pompeii.

The historical Caecelius was named Lucius Caecelius Lucundus. He lived from 14 CE to 62 CE – the year of the earthquake mentioned in “The Fires of Pompeii.” That he had three names is significant. In the Roman Empire, when a man has three names like that, it indicates he was a Roman citizen. Free persons had two names. Slaves had one.

Cleopatra committed suicide on August 12th, 30 BCE – long before Lucius Caecelius Lucundus’ birth. But as a matter of storytelling I decided to make Caecelius one of Cleopatra’s trusted diplomats, showing how the historical Caecelius became a Roman citizen. Given that fathers and sons often had the same names (the Gaius Julius Caesar most of us know about is actually son of another Gaius Julius Caesar), it is logical that a father or grandfather of Lucius Caecelius Lucundus could have served Cleopatra in her court and through that service attained Roman citizenship.

Do we know for certain how the family became Roman citizens? No. But in inserting Caecelius into the narrative for Cleopatra, I create a plausible explanation.

Except … my Easter egg teaser speaks about travelling in the TARDIS — how does that work?

What messes people up is the expectation that traveling in the TARDIS means travelling on multiple trips. At the end of Fires of Pompeii, Donna urges the Doctor to “save someone.” After a bit, the Doctor rematerializes the TARDIS back into Caecelius’ home and brings the family aboard for a short trip outside of the city, therefore sparing them.

As for the phrase: it’s the Twelfth Doctor’s favorite: “Be Kind.”

Now you know what the Doctor Who Easter egg is, it’s time to find it! Find Cleopatra VII: Egypt’s Last Pharaoh on Amazon, Apple, Kobo, Smashwords, and Barnes/Noble.

Five Fun Facts about Matoaka aka Pocahontas (1596 – 1617)

In the 1990s Disney gave us a lavish fiction allegedly telling us the story about Pocahontas, the teenaged girl who saved explorer John Smith from certain death at the hands of Native American warriors out to destroy Jamestown. The music was beautiful and it seemed to have a very politically correct message about taking care of the environment (“Colors of the Wind” especially).

But the Disney movie was FICTION. Fiction based on John Smith’s accounts given at the end of his life and from the relative safely of London. The girl whose reputation he slandered confronted him about the injuries done to her, her family, and her people among the Powhatan Confederacy. The English (including John Rolfe) called her “Pocahontas,” but her real name was Amonute to strangers and Matoaka to those who knew her best.

My chapter on Matoaka in “Founding Mothers” is extensive and should be read in full to properly understand the great Powhatan princess. In preview, here are five fun facts about her:

  1. Matoaka was born in Jamestown – before the English arrived there and built their fortress on the island in the “James River.”
  2. The Powhatan Confederacy gave considerable political power to women. As daughter to Chief Wahunsenacah, Matoaka’s words carried considerable weight across the 32 tribes in their confederacy.
  3. Chief Wahunsenacah’s response to the 1607 arrival of the Susan Constant, the Godspeed, and the Discovery was to fire upon the ships and try to prevent any of the English passengers and crew from disembarking. This was in response to Spanish atrocities in Florida against the First Nations there.
  4. In 1613 despite many acts of friendship over the years, Matoaka was captured by the English in hopes of trading her for English prisoners and weapons. After good faith on the side of the Powhatan, the English refused to return Matoaka to her family and people.
  5. In 1616 Queen Anne of Denmark invited Matoaka to her court in London. With no hope of ever seeing her family again, Matoaka accepted the queen’s invitation and was well received as the princess she was.

Learn more about Matoaka in Founding Mothers. Available at a retailer near you, including AppleKoboBarnes/Noble, and Smashwords. Paperback edition available at Barnes/Noble and Amazon.

Lyrics: Chester (1770, 1778)

In Massachusetts Bay colony, as with Pennsylvania, church music was considered papist and rarely heard except on special occasions. But as the Crown and Parliament passed increasingly severe laws designed to cripple Massachusetts industry and trade, music became a form of protest against these injustices. Nowhere do we see that more clearly than in the hymn”Chester.”

In the book “Founding Mothers” the song Chester is associated with congregationalist Abigail Smith Adams. Available at a retailer near you, including AppleKoboSmashwords, and Barnes/Noble. Paperback edition available at Barnes/Noble and Amazon.

Chester

William Billings (1770, 1778)

from “The New England Psalm Singer” (1778)

Note: Verse 3 of “Chester” was written in 1778 about the Siege of Boston in 1776 and was inserted into the song for the 1778 printing of the hymnal. All other verses appeared in the 1770 edition.

Let tyrants shake their iron rod,

And Slav’ry clank her galling chains,

We fear them not, we trust in God,

New England’s God forever reigns.

Howe and Burgoyne and Clinton too,

With Prescot and Cornallis join’d,

Together plot our Overthrow,

In one Infernal league combin’d.

When God inspir’d us for the fight,

Their ranks were broke, their lines were forc’d,

Their ships were Shatter’d in our sight,

Or swiftly driven from our Coast.

The Foe comes on with haugty Stride;

Our troops advance with martial noise,

Their Vet’rans flee before our Youth,

And Gen’rals yield to beardless Boys.

What grateful Off’ring shall we bring?

What shall we render to the Lord?

Lord Halleluiahs let us Sing,

And praise his name on ev’ry Chord.

Five Facts about Cockatiels You Probably Didn’t Know

I love my cockatiels. Since 1996 when I brought home my first cockatiel and until I die I will love and likely live with at least one cockatiel. But cockatiels are not for everyone. Here are Five Facts I recorded in a video in 2018 that everyone should know about cockatiels.

Excerpt: The Arban and the Saman

In honor of Chinese New Year (春节) this week’s excerpt is from “The Arban and the Saman. “The Arban and the Saman is a historical romance set in the early years of the Mongol conquests, beginning in the year 1211 CE. It is a war time romance. The “arban” is a low level Mongol officer on a quest to find a woman he knows only in his dreams. When his arbatu is sent to subdue nuzhen (Jurchen) villages in Liaoning Province (north of Yanjing – capital to the Jin Empire and precursor to the modern Beijing) he finds the woman in his dreams: the village saman (shaman priestess). Find The Arban and the Saman for kindle, Apple, Barnes/Noble, and other favourite retailers near you. Audio edition available on Audible and Apple.

Trivia: that’s me on the cover! The original photo was taken in 2006 when I was singing Chinese music at an event in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Chinese on the side is the book title.

Excerpt from Chapter 4 of The Arban and the Saman

Mukden, the gleaming jewel of Liaoning province shined upon the light autumn snow. Though barely more than lingering frost, the snow reminded Biya of the urgency of her mission.  Quietly she passed through the city gates, mindful that the watchmen guarding the gates wore the Mongol deel and not the Jurchen long tunic and trousers. Slowly, steadily worked her way through the city until she came to a small compound surrounding a well-tended garden.

A young woman emerged from the front door with a smile, “Ni hao, wode pengyou!”

“Ni hao, Mei Niang!” smiled Biya as she handed Gufan to her. Dismounting from her horse she embraced her friend warmly. “It has been too long!”

“Far too long! Gufan is bigger than I expected.  Almost a young lady!”

“And fortunately, still very much a child.  No signs of any spiritual talents yet. I tell her the stories of our people of course. But I’ve never seen her fall into a trance or be haunted by strange dreams as so many of religious calling do. Perhaps she will never develop the gift and be able to live an ordinary life.”

“No one has an ordinary life, not anymore,” remarked Mei Niang as she signalled for her and Gufan to come indoors.

“We can still try,” answered Biya as she and Gufan sat down in Mei Niang’s living room as Mei Niang darted into the kitchen to fetch some tea.

Five minutes later Mei Niang returned to the living room with a teapot and cups. Pouring tea into each cup she handed one first to Gufan and then Biya before filling her own, the sweet aroma filling the air, “Ganbei!”

“Ganbei!” echoed Biya as she took a sip before helping Gufan drink from her cup. “Do you like the tea, Gufan?”

“Yes, thank you,” nodded Gufan politely before taking another sip, “it is very good!”

“I have many more kinds of tea, Gufan.  Would you like to stay here a while and try all of them?” asked Mei Niang.

“That’s not why I’m staying.  I’m staying because aja needs to go find ama!”

“You are very smart, Gufan.  Yes, your mother needs to find your father. But that doesn’t mean you and I cannot take advantage of that to become good friends and learn new things!” suggested Mei Niang.

“Like what?” asked Gufan.

“Well to start how about I teach you to speak my language? You heard your aja speak to me in my language, but did you understand any of it?”

“No.”

“Would you like to?”

“I don’t know,” answered Gufan honestly.

“That’s okay.  We will figure that out.  For now, how about we get all cleaned up and warm, maybe have more tea and have some snacks before dinner?”

“Okay!” agreed Gufan.

“Okay!” agreed Mei Niang.

The next morning Biya set out quietly out through Mukden’s western gate. With little more than a general direction to guide her, she hoped for more clarity from the spirits as she travelled yet knew this might not come at all. Doubt set in.  Was she truly worthy of the title “saman” or was she a fraud? She’d taken the tests, studied as best she could, but was that enough? Was her soul really connected to the divine as it needed to be in order to heal her people?  And if it were not, was it not time to give up all pretences and take up a different profession instead?

Biya felt confident she knew her herb lore. She knew how to set broken bones and how to safely remove arrows with minimal damage to the patient. She knew how to stop bleeding from both wounds of war and from surgery and how to keep wounds from becoming infected. And she understood how to properly use opium to dull pain –unless it was her own.

But was this enough to call herself “saman?”

In any other religious tradition, it would be enough. But not hers. In her faith healing was more than drugs and bandages. It involved fighting the spiritual components of disease, driving away whatever was unhealthy in the patient so that all the person’s energies were restored to health and vigour.

But could she?  Did she really have what it took to heal another?

As if in answer a snow storm swirled up around her. Biya reined her mare to a stop and dismounted.  Spotting a sheltered grove, she loosely tied the reins to a low branch and made a modest camp for waiting out the storm, making sure to unfold her saddle blanket and spread it across her horse to protect her as best she could. Hunkering down in her modest shelter, Biya allowed herself to drift off into a dreaming trance.

Lyrics: Defence of Fort M’Henry (The Star Spangled Banner)

Dolley Payne Todd Madison is most famous for her efforts to protect the portrait of George Washington that hung in the presidential mansion (White House) from destruction during the 12th August 1814 burning of Washington DC that was part of a much larger British offensive. From the 12th-15th September, the Battle of Baltimore raged, with lawyer Francis Scott Key witnessing the attack of Fort McHenry. His poem about the battle was set to the song “Anacreon in Heaven.” In 1931 Key’s poem replaced “Hail Columbia” as the national anthem for the United States of America.

Learn more about Dolley Madison, the burning of Washington DC, and the Battle of Baltimore in “Founding Mothers.” Available at a retailer near you, including Apple, Kobo, Smashwords, and Barnes/Noble. Paperback edition available at Amazon and Barnes/Noble.

The Star Spangled Banner

Music by John Stafford Smith (1773) as “Anacreon in Heaven.”

Lyrics by Francis Scott Key (1814) as “Defence of Fort M’Henry.”

O say can you see, by the dawn’s early light,

What so proudly we hail’d at the twilight’s last gleaming,

Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight

O’er the ramparts we watch’d were so gallantly streaming?

And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,

Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there,

O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep

Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,

What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,

As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?

Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,

In full glory reflected now shines in the stream,

’Tis the star-spangled banner – O long may it wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore,

That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion

A home and a Country should leave us no more?

Their blood has wash’d out their foul footstep’s pollution.

No refuge could save the hireling and slave

From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,

And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O thus be it ever when freemen shall stand

Between their lov’d home and the war’s desolation!

Blest with vict’ry and peace may the heav’n rescued land

Praise the power that hath made and preserv’d us a nation!

Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,

And this be our motto – “In God is our trust,”

And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Repost: How to Freeze Potatoes

Reposted from All Recipes.

How to Freeze Potatoes

The best way to freeze potatoes depends on what kind of potato you’re working with. Here’s how to freeze whole, mashed, French-fried, and shredded potatoes:

Whole or Cubed

Potatoes in wire basket
ANNICK VANDERSCHELDEN PHOTOGRAPHY/GETTY IMAGES

It’s not hard to freeze whole or cubed potatoes, but you do need to follow a series of simple steps.

  1. Peel. This step isn’t required, but it’s helpful because blanching works best without the skin. If you think you may mash your potatoes after they’re thawed, now would be a good time to cube them.
  2. Blanch. Fill a pot with water and season it with salt. Place the pot over high heat and bring to a boil. Once it’s boiling, drop the potatoes into the water. Blanching time depends on how large your potatoes or potato pieces are — it can take anywhere from three minutes for baby potatoes or small cubes to 10 minutes for whole russets. Remove the potatoes from the boiling water and immediately plunge them into an ice bath to stop the cooking process.
  3. Dry. Transfer the potatoes to a colander to drain after they have completely cooled. After they’ve drained, place them in a single layer on a kitchen towel. Pat with paper towels to absorb excess moisture.
  4. Flash freeze. Arrange the potatoes in a single layer on a lined cookie sheet. Freeze at least four hours or up to overnight.
  5. Freeze. When the potatoes are frozen, you can transfer them to freezer-safe storage bags labeled with the date.

1/4 cup, 4 tablespoon measuring cup: the kitchen tool you didn’t know you needed

I am a very bad cook. Cooking and baking is simply not intuitive to me. If there is a way to mess up something, I will find it and render the food the opposite of delicious.

When I find something that makes cooking more “me proof” I love to talk about it. Which is why I just have to share this new little measuring cup I recently found at Walmart.com and had delivered to me as part of my weekly grocery order.

This little measuring cup is for liquids between 1 tablespoon and 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) or in metric, between 10 ml and 60 ml. It’s the best thing ever for halving recipes, which can be tricky when using conventional measuring cups and spoons. Much more precise than measuring spoons and easier to use with less risk of spilling the liquid between when/where you measure it and the bowl you are putting the ingredient into.

Just to be extra clear and easy, the imperial side labels the tablespoon measurements as both tablespoons and fractions of a cup. Need even more precision than that? the metric side helps you there if you simply remember that 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml. On this particular cup, there’s also a strip on the inside part of the spout that is labeled in ounces and tablespoons. 4 tablespoons equals 2 ozs which is 1/4 cup. EASY!

When I bought mine, the price was less than $3 but your store may have it at a different price. Also one key caveat: this is a plastic cup that is not dishwasher or microwave safe! It’s for ROOM TEMPERATURE or COLD liquids only! Hand wash only if you don’t want it to melt.

Lyrics: Ach Gott vom Himmel sieh darein/O Lord Look Down from Heaven Behold (1524) by Martin Luther

Ach Gott vom Himmel sieh darein is one of the Lutheran hymns featured in my biography, “Katharina von Bora: First Lady of the Reformation. Available in digital and paperback at your favorite retailer, including Amazon, Apple, Barnes/Noble, Kobo, and Smashwords. Audio edition available on Audible and Apple. Music expertly performed by Steven Vox.

Ach Gott vom Himmel sieh darein/O Lord Look Down from Heaven Behold (1524) by Martin Luther

German

Ach Gott vom Himmel, sieh darein

Und laß dich des erbarmen:

Wie wenig sind der Heilgen dein,

Verlassen sind wir Armen.

Dein Wort man nicht läßt haben wahr,

Der Glaub ist auch verloschen gar

Bei allen Menschenkindern.

Sie lehren eitel falsche List,

Was eigen Witz erfindet;

Ihr Herz nicht eines Sinnes ist,

In Gottes Wort gegründet.

Der wählet dies, der ander das,

Sie trennen uns ohn alle Maß

Und gleißen schön von außen.

Gott wollt ausrotten alle Lahr,

Die falschen Schein uns lehren,

Darzu ihr Zung stolz offenbar

Spricht: Trotz, wer wills uns wehren?

Wir haben Recht und Macht allein,

Was wir setzen, das gilt gemein;

Wer ist, der uns soll meistern?

Darum spricht Gott: ich muß auf sein,

Die Armen sind verstöret,

Ihr Seufzen dringt zu mir herein,

Ich hab ihr Klag erhöret.

Mein heilsam Wort soll auf den Plan,

Getrost und frisch sie greifen an

Und sein die Kraft der Armen.

Das Silber, durchs Feur siebenmal

Bewährt, wird lauter funden;

Am Gotteswort man warten soll

Desgleichen alle Stunden;

Es will durchs Kreuz bewähret sein,

Da wird sein Kraft erkannt und Schein

Und leicht stark in die Lande.

Das wollst du, Gott, bewahren rein

Für diesem argen G’schlechte,

Und laß uns dir befohlen sein,

Daß sichs in uns nicht flechte.

Der gottlos Hauf sich umher findt,

Wo diese lose Leute sind

In deinem Volk erhaben.

English

Lord, look down from heav’n, behold

And let Thy pity waken;

How few are we within Thy fold,

Thy wretched saints forsaken.

Thy Word is nowhere kept aright,

And faith is quenched and veiled in night

Among all Adam’s children.

They teach a false and idle word

Which their own wits have founded;

Their hearts are not with one accord

On God’s pure doctrine grounded.

Each seeks in his own way to guide,

And so Thy people they divide,

Though fair be their appearance.

God surely will uproot the ones

Who with their lies enclose us

And who with bold and haughty tongues

Say, “Who would dare oppose us?

We have the right and might alone,

What we determine shall be done,

Who then shall be our master?”

Therefore saith God, “I must arise,

The poor see devastation

And unto Me have come their sighs,

I’ve heard their lamentation.

My saving Word upon the plain

Shall fight My foes with might and main,

The poor with strength upholding.”

As silver sev’n times tried by fire

Is found right purely shining,

So doth God’s Word our trust require

Until its full refining.

When through the cross it shall be tried,

Then shall its strength and light abide

As in all lands it shineth.

Preserve Thy Word e’er pure and free

From this vile generation,

And keep us subject unto Thee,

Safe from their infiltration.

The godless ev’rywhere abound,

Where’er such wicked men are found

Exalted midst Thy people.

Recipe: Blueberry Simple Syrup

Reposted from All Recipes.

Blueberry Simple Syrup

This blueberry syrup is a flavored simple syrup that is very versatile and goes with so many things. I especially like to put it on top of French toast or in pancake or waffle batter. It’s also very yummy in cornbread or biscuit batter. This can be made in advance and stored in a glass jar in the refrigerator.

Recipe by Vanessa Fregoso 

Updated on May 31, 2022

Prep Time: 15 mins

Cook Time: 20 mins

Total Time: 35 mins

Yield: 1 1/2 cups

Ingredients

  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Directions

  1. Mix blueberries, water, and sugar together using a whisk in a small saucepan over low heat until sugar is dissolved, about 5 minutes. Increase heat to medium and bring a gentle boil, stirring often, until syrup is thickened, about 15 minutes.
  2. Whisk lemon juice into syrup; serve immediately or cool.

Tips

This recipe works nicely with other berries as well, such as strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries. If using raspberries and blackberries, the seeds can be strained out for a smoother syrup.

To make a thicker syrup that you can use on top of pancakes, stir in a mixture of 1 tablespoon cornstarch and 1/2 tablespoon water into the syrup just before bringing it to a boil.

Nutrition Facts

calories72
sodium 1mg 
total carbohydrate 19g 
dietary fiber 0g 
total sugars 18g 
protein 0g 
vitamin c 1mg 
calcium 2mg 
potassium 10mg

John Quincy Adams Recalls the Battle of Bunker Hill

The American War for Independence was very personal for those who lived through it. Though Abigail Adams’ letters to her husband John are very famous, she was not the only Adams to write about the war.

In 1846 (https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/04-01-02-0150) John Quincy Adams recalled, “The year 1775 was the eighth year of my age. Among the first fruits of the War, was the expulsion of my father’s family from their peaceful abode in Boston, to take refuge in his and my native town of Braintree…. For the space of twelve months my mother with her infant children dwelt, liable every hour of the day and of the night to be butchered in cold blood, or taken and carried into Boston as hostages, by any foraging or marauding detachment of men, like that actually sent forth on the 19th. of April, to capture John Hancock and Samuel Adams on their way to attend the continental Congress at Philadelphia. My father was separated from his family, on his way to attend the same continental Congress, and there my mother, with her children lived in unintermitted danger of being consumed with them all in a conflagration kindled by a torch in the same hands which on the 17th. of June lighted the fires in Charlestown. I saw with my own eyes those fires, and heard Britannia’s thunders in the Battle of Bunker’s hill and witnessed the tears of my mother and mingled with them my own, at the fall of Warren a dear friend of my father, and a beloved Physician to me. He had been our family physician and surgeon, and had saved my fore finger from amputation under a very bad fracture….”

Lyrics: Suscipe me Domine (from Psalm 119)

Suscipe me Domine is a musical rendering of Psalm 119 popular during the Catholic Mass. You can find it as part of the initiation scene in “Hildegard von Bingen” and in the music appendix for “Katharina von Bora.”

Find “Katharina von Bora” in digital and paperback at your favorite retailer, including Amazon, Apple, Barnes/Noble, Kobo, and Smashwords. Audio edition available on Audible and Apple.

Find “Hildegard von Bingen” in digital and paperback at your favorite retailer, including Amazon, Apple, Barnes/Noble, Kobo, and Smashwords. Audio edition available on Audible and Apple.

Music expertly performed for both audio books by Steven Vox.

Suscipe me Domine (from Psalm 119)

Latin:

Suscipe me Domine,

secundum eloquium tuum et vivam;

et non confundas me,

ab expectatione mea

English:

Sustain me O Lord,

as you have promised,

that I may live;

and disappoint me not in my hope.

Le siège de Meaux. Extrait de «Catherine de Valois : princesse française, matriarche Tudor»

J’adore Shakespeare. En grandissant, ses pièces d’histoire m’ont fasciné, en particulier “Henri V.” Il ne faut donc pas s’étonner que j’aie presque immédiatement voulu m’attaquer à l’histoire de la reine consort d’Henri, Catherine de Valois. Ce que j’ai découvert en écrivant son histoire est fascinant. Voici ma scène préférée de cette biographie. Catherine arrive à Meaux où son mari conduit le siège décidé à obliger son père à lui livrer la France. Ce qui vient ensuite offre un aperçu de leur mariage.

« Votre Majesté, ce n’est pas une place pour une femme ! » s’écria le palefrenier du roi précipitamment alors que Catherine arrivait à Meaux, une ville à vingt-cinq miles à l’est et nord-est de Paris.

« Je suis fille du roi Charles VI et de la reine Isabeau de Bavière.  C’est moi, et non pas vous, qui suis parfaitement sûre en France, » déclara la reine de manière pragmatique.

Réprimandé, le palefrenier baissa les yeux : « Oui, Votre Majesté. »

« Vous allez m’amener auprès de mon époux,  » commanda la reine.  S’inclinant, le palefrenier prit les reines du cheval de Catherine et la mena près du pavillon royal d’Henri, aidant la reine à descendre de son cheval.   Catherine inclina la tête et lui donna un shilling avant d’entrer.

Alors que les yeux de Catherine s’ajustaient à la faible lumière, elle trouva Henri penché sur une carte et des plans de bataille.  Henri leva le regard avec surprise : « Catherine ? »

« Oui. »

« Qu’est-ce qui vous amène ici ?  Je pensais que vous étiez à Londres. »

« J’ai fait un rêve.  La Sainte Mère vint à moi et m’avertit que vous n’alliez pas survivre à ce siège. »

Henri cessa ce qu’il faisait et courut vers elle, l’embrassant chaleureusement et tendrement : « Je vais bien, Catherine !  Je ne pourrais aller mieux maintenant que vous êtes ici !  Voyez, le siège touche à sa fin !  Je peux marcher sur Paris d’un jour à l’autre ! »

« Pourquoi faites-vous ceci, Henri ?!  Vous aurez la couronne de France aussitôt que mon père mourra. »

« Ai-je vraiment la couronne, Catherine ?  Au moment où je retournerai à Londres, votre cher petit frère Charles se déclarera lui-même roi de France et tout cela aura été pour rien ! » dit Henri, renfrogné.

« Peut-être que cela devrait vous indiquer quelque chose, Henri.  Ceci est une guerre que vous pouvez mener – mais jamais gagner.  Tout ce que cela peut faire est d’apporter un support populaire à la cause de Charles.  Comment pouvez-vous ne pas voir cela ? »

« Souhaitez-vous voir votre père ? »

« Qu’est-ce que cela a à voir avec quoi que ce soit ? »

« C’est une question, maintenant répondez clairement.  J’ai peu de temps pour vos jeux de cour. »

Catherine le regarda : « Je n’entrerai pas à Paris à moins que vous ne le fassiez. Ce qui veut dire que je ne m’attends pas à le revoir. »

« Vous êtes une créature sans foi, n’est-ce pas ? »

« Pas vraiment.  Je sais où est ma demeure – et qui sont mes alliés.  Ma mère m’a bien enseigné. »

« Les femmes ! » s’exclama Henri, frustré.  « Vous pensez toutes que vous régnez sur le monde et tous les hommes qui s’y trouvent ! »

« Pardonnez-moi, Henri, roi d’Angleterre – mais qui a commencé cette guerre et qui la mène ?  Aucune femme n’a été consultée à ce sujet.  Non, Henri d’Angleterre – ceci est votre guerre. »

Henri s’effondra sur une chaise : « Devons-nous nous disputer de nouveau, Kate ? »

« Devez-vous faire la guerre à la France ? »

Les yeux d’Henri se remplirent de lassitude : « Ancienne dispute ! »

Catherine s’assit à son côté : « Vous ne m’avez pas posé de questions sur notre fils. »

« Vous avez raison.  De mauvaises manières, comme d’habitude, je suppose.  Trop soldat, pas assez roi.  Le bon roi Richard II, auquel une de vos sœurs était jadis mariée je crois et de la couronne duquel mon père s’empara – ça, s’était un roi avec de bonnes manières.  Il savait comment tenir une cour, mais bien sûr pas son

trône, » remarqua Henri.  « Catherine, contrairement à vous, je ne suis pas né dans cette condition.  Je ne suis pas né royal.  Il est vrai que je l’embrasse plus que tous ceux nés dans cette condition, mais ne pouvez-vous pas me comprendre sur ce point ?  J’ai passé la plupart de ma vie en guerre, luttant contre une personne ou une autre, en premier au nom de mon père et maintenant tout ceci. »

« Alors, comme c’est tout ce que vous avez connu vous pensez que vous devez continuer jusqu’à ce que cela vous tue ? »

« Peut-être, » admit Henri.

« Alors vous condamnez Henri à grandir sans son père, peut-être même à ne jamais le voir. »

« J’aimerai le tenir, Catherine. »

« Il vous attend à Londres.  Tout ce que vous avez à faire c’est de laisser tout ceci.  Maintenez le traité de Troyes – plus d’effusion de sang. »  À ce moment Henri grimaça.  « De quoi s’agit-il ? »

« Ce n’est rien. »

« Je vous connais mieux que cela, Henri.  Qu’y a-t-il ? » répéta Catherine.

« Mon estomac me fait mal – une crampe soudaine lancinante.  Je suis sûr que ce n’est rien. »

« Bon, peut-être que vous devriez vous allonger, Henri. »

Henri caressa doucement son visage : « Peut-être avez-vous raison. »

En savoir plus sur «Catherine de Valois : princesse française, matriarche Tudor». Disponible chez un détaillant près de chez vous, y compris Apple, Barnes/Noble et Amazon. Édition audio disponible chez Apple et Audible.

Excerpt: Gwenllian ferch Gruffydd: the Warrior Princess of Deheubarth

Gwenllian ferch Gruffydd is the national heroine of Wales. Also called the “Welsh Maid Marian” she is a likely historical model for the fictional character in the Robin Hood tales, successfully defending the south-central kingdom of Deheubarth for nearly 20 years at the side of her husband, Gruffydd ap Rhys. As I share in my youtube video, Gwenllian became foremother to the Tudor dynasty through her descendant, Owain ap Tewdur (Owen Tudor).

Learn more about Gwenllian in your favorite language (including Welsh) in paperback and digital editions at your favorite retailer, including Amazon, Apple, Barnes/Noble, Kobo, and Smashwords.

Excerpt from the end of chapter 2 and the start of chapter 3:

Three nights later Prince Gruffydd found himself unable to sleep.  Dressing himself in the dark he put on his warmest cloak and headed into the main courtyard for some fresh air.

The sky above him glistened with stars that seemed especially bright after the storm that greeted him before.  In the starlight stood a lady with red hair neatly braided down her back and covered only with a simple circlet.  Gruffydd approached her, “Noswaith dda, f’arglwyddes.”

The lady turned to him, “Noswaith dda, f’arglwydd.”

“You do not cover your hair like most ladies do,” observed Gruffydd.

“Cymraes ydw i.  I have no need for English fashions.”

“They say even the great ladies in Scotland wear the veil.”

“The nobles of Scotland care more about money than they do honour.  The Normans bought them.  You cannot buy me.”

“Spoken like a true lady of this land,” smiled Gruffydd.

“Aberffraw is my home.  I need no other.”

“Well said, f’arglwyddes.”  Gruffydd took a step closer to her, “May I beg your indulgence and inquire of your name?”

“Gwenllian ydw i,” she smiled. “Gwenllian ferch Gruffydd ap Cynan.”

Gruffydd fell to his knees, “F’arglwyddes!”

“Gruffydd ap Rhys ydych chi?” asked Gwenllian.

“Ydw.  How long have you known my name, Your Highness?”

“It is not hard to guess who you are, Gruffydd.  And since your brother’s gait is impaired by his injuries it is only logical that you would be the heir to Rhys ap Tewder’s throne.”

“The English are a cruel enemy to fight,” affirmed Gruffydd.

“Do you think I know nothing of warfare?  My mother is a daughter of the king of Dublin.  My father has fought his entire life to free Gwynedd from English control. Do you think only my brother Owain studies the arts of war?  Nay, my lord.  I am Welsh, not some Norman lady who lives to breed at her father and husband’s pleasure.  When it is time for me to marry it shall be of my own choosing!”

“Of that I have no doubt, Your Highness.”

“Why do you call me that?”

“Why not?  You are a princess and if I may be so bold, a very beautiful young woman.”

“Perhaps it is the starlight.  Perhaps in the light of day you will think otherwise.”

“I am willing to find out.  Are you willing to let me see you by daylight?”

“Before or after you touch me as King Henry touched your sister?” asked Gwenllian astutely.

“I swear to you my lady I shall not touch you in such a manner short of binding myself to you in accord with the laws and customs of this land.”

“So be it then,” agreed Gwenllian as she turned to return inside.

“May I see you another time?  By daylight or starlight or candle?  I care not how I see you, my lady.  Please, I ask you, may I see you again?”

“You are our guest.  If it pleases you for me to join you when you dine, you need only ask my father and I will come.”

(chapter three)

The next evening Princess Gwenllian glided down the stairs into her father’s banqueting hall in a pale blue gown edged with embroidered white roses and yellow daffodils.  Seated next to King Gruffydd in a place of honour Prince Gruffydd smiled at her, his eyes widened with appreciation for both the beauty of the princess and her choice of gown. The prince turned to the king, “Might I ask a favour of you, f’arglwydd?  Please kindly permit your daughter to dine in the seat next mine?”

King Gruffydd looked at him keenly, “You have already become acquainted?”

“Not by candlelight, no.  Only by starlight!” replied Prince Gruffydd distantly, his thoughts fixated upon the princess.

Princess Gwenllian reached her father and hugged him warmly.  The king kissed her cheek, “Do you know this man, Gwenllian?”

“I am still a maid if that is what you are asking,” teased Gwenllian.  Straightening up she looked her father in the eye, “We spoke briefly in the courtyard.  I was studying the stars and our guest came out in pursuit of fresh air to calm restless limbs.”

King Gruffydd nodded, “You may dine next to him if you desire.”

Smiling Gwenllian sat in the empty seat next to the prince. Prince Gruffydd turned to her quietly, “You look beautiful tonight, Your Highness.  Did you wear this gown to please me?  I could not help but to notice the cenhinen pedr embroidered among the roses. A most beautiful flower.  Oh but to show you the cenhinen pedr in Ceredigion!  There is one special field I know in Aberystwyth where they bloom like a carpet of gold.  The ladies of Aberystwyth have taken to wearing them in their hair on Saint David’s Day.  Did you know that?”

“Saint David was born in Ceredigion was he not?”

“Yes.  The leek is his symbol.  Legend has it he bade those fighting for Welsh freedom against the Saxons to mark their allegiance by wearing a leek in their hats.”

“What is Ceredigion like?”

“It is on the shores of the Irish sea.  It rains a great deal.  In Aberystwyth the stormy tide sometimes reaches higher than the walls around your castle.  It is best to not be too close to the beach when the weather storms like that,” laughed Prince Gruffydd playfully.

“The storms get pretty bad here too sometimes, especially with one wall of the castle on the cliff above the sea,” agreed Gwenllian.

From across the table Prince Hywel eyed his brother, “What are you two whispering about, Gruffydd?”

Prince Gruffydd turned his attention to Hywel, “The weather if you must know.”

“The weather?” asked Hywel incredulously. “Why would you whisper about the weather?” Princess Gwenllian looked at Hywel.  Infectious laughter burst from her heart. Prince Gruffydd joined her.  Queen Angharad shook her head gaily as the entire table, including the king’s oldest son Prince Owain, fell into mirth.

Lyrics: Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort/Lord Keep Us Steadfast in Thy Word (1542) by Martin Luther

Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort/Lord Keep Us Steadfast in Thy Word (1542) is one of the Lutheran hymns featured in my biography, “Katharina von Bora: First Lady of the Reformation. Available in digital and paperback at your favorite retailer, including Amazon, Apple, Barnes/Noble, Kobo, and Smashwords. Audio edition available on Audible and Apple. Music expertly performed by Steven Vox.

Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort/Lord Keep Us Steadfast in Thy Word (1542)

German

Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort,

Und steur des Pabsts und Türken Mord,

Die Jesum Christum, deinen Sohn,

Wollten stürzen von deinem Thron.

Beweis dein Macht, Herr Jesu Christ,

Der du Herr aller Herren bist,

Beschirm dein arme Christenheit,

Daß sie dich lob in Ewigkeit.

Gott Heilger Geist, du Tröster wert,

Gib deim Volk einrlei Sinn auf Erd,

Steh bei uns in der letzten Not,

Gleit uns ins Leben aus dem Tod.

Ihr Anschläg, Herr, zu nichte mag,

Laß sie treffen die böse Sach

Und stürz sie in die Grub hinein,

Die sie machen den Christen dein.

So werden sie erkennen doch,

Daß du, unsr Herr Gott, lebest noch

Und hilfft gewaltig deiner Schar,

Die sich auf dich verlassen gar.

English

Lord, keep us steadfast in Thy Word,

And stay the Pope’s and Turks’ cruel sword,

For Jesus Christ, Thine only Son,

They fain would cast from off His throne.

Lord Jesus Christ, Thy pow’r make known,

For Thou art Lord of lords alone;

Defend Thy Christendom, that we

May evermore sing praise to Thee.

O Comforter of priceless worth,

Send peace and unity on earth.

Support us in our final strife

And lead us out of death to life.

Destroy their counsels, Lord our God,

And smite them with an iron rod,

And let them fall into the snare

Which for Thy Christians they prepare.

So shall they then at last perceive

That, Lord our God, Thou still dost live,

And dost deliver mightily

All those who put their trust in Thee.

Excerpt from “Empress Matilda of England”: Christmas at the White Tower of London

Good morning and merry Christmas! To celebrate, I would like to share my favourite scene from “Empress Matilda of England.” In this scene, Matilda is spending her first Christmas back in London since leaving England at the age of 8. Now widowed, she begins in prayerful song in the Chapel of Saint John only to be confronted by her father, King Henry (I) of England.

This is my favourite pair of scenes and the ones you hear on the audio editions in both English (Audible, Apple) and German (Audible, Apple). You can also find Empress Matilda in digital and paperback editions at your favorite retailer, including Amazon, Apple, Kobo, Barnes/Noble, and Smashwords.

Excerpt from chapter three: the Death of Princes

“Veni, veni Emmanuel captivum solve Israel, qui gemit in exsilio, privatus Dei Filio.  Gaude! Gaude! Emmanuel, nascetur pro te Israel!” sang Imperatrix Matilda in the Chapel of Saint John on the second floor of the White Tower. Wreaths and evergreen garlands decorated the aisles and the upper gallery, many with the small German touches Matilda specifically requested for the chapel.

Still clad in mourning white Matilda gazed at the chapel around her with both sorrow and quiet resignation. This was her first Christmas without Heinrich and her heart ached for it. Tears fell from her eyes.  Matilda knelt at the altar, “Salve, Regina, mater misericordiae: vita, dulcedo, et spes nostra, salve. Ad te clamamus exsules filii Hevae. Ad te suspiramus, gementes et flentes in hac lacrimarum valle. Eia, ergo, advocata nostra, illos tuos misericordes oculos ad nos converte. Et Iesum, benedictum fructum ventris tui, nobis post hoc exsilium ostende. O clemens, O pia, O dulcis Virgo Maria. Amen.”

As Matilda prayed King Henry quietly slipped into the chapel, “You are still in mourning, Matilda.”

Matilda turned to him and bowed her head respectfully, “Mein König!”

“You are not empress and this is not Germany.”

“Ja, mein König.”

“Stop calling me that and speak English, Matilda,” growled King Henry sternly.

“Pourquoi?”

“Parce que je suis le roi d’Angleterre et vous êtes ma fille!”

“Oui, sa est ta fille, Henri,” confirmed Queen Adeliza as she strode out from behind one of the chapel’s many columns. Adeliza curtsied to Matilda, “Guten Morgen, meine Kaiserin. Fröhliche Weihnachten.”

“Fröhliche Weihnachten,” smiled Matilda before switching to English, “You must be my step-mother.”

“I am. Adelheid van Leuven; the English and French call me Adeliza de Louvain. I am pleased to finally meet you, Matilda.  Please do forgive that I was not here when you first arrived.  I spent much of the autumn at Arundel castle.”

Leuven? Are you the daughter of Count Godfried?”

“Ja, meine Kaiserin.  My father wishes me to tell you that he voted in opposition to Lothar in the Kurfürstenkollegium. If you were not my step-daughter—or precisely because you are my step-daughter—I would see you rule the empire until it is time for you to join the Kaiser at the side of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Your father and I quarrelled over your recall to England.”

“For that I am grateful,” smiled Matilda.

“And here I thought you were on my side, Adeliza,” pouted Henry.

“Must you and your daughter be on opposite sides, Henry?”

“I am king. No one dares disagree with me!”

“As die römisch-deutsche Kaiserin, your daughter feels the same way. The election of Kaiser Lothar does not change that for her.  She is Imperatrix, Henry and always shall be in her heart, if not the hearts and minds of others,” explained Queen Adeliza. “Come now, both of you! Today is not a day for quarrelling or strife, but for feasting and celebration! Fröhliche Weihnachten! Joyeux Noël! Happy Christmas, one and all!” Adeliza turned to Matilda, “Your voice is so beautiful.  Will you not sing for us?”

Matilda smiled, “Avec joie, ma reine.”  Switching to Latin, Matilda raised her voice in song, “Veni, O Sapientia, quae hic disponis omnia, veni, viam prudentiae ut doceas et gloriae. Gaude! Gaude! Emmanuel, nascetur pro te Israel!”

Three hours later King Henry, Queen Adeliza, and Imperatrix Matilda processed regally into the noisy banqueting hall to begin the official court celebration of Christmas. At Adeliza’s request, Matilda was given a seat on the other side of her from the king instead of sitting on his right as was proper for the presumptive heir to the throne. Matilda raised her eyebrows at the change but said nothing as Adeliza smiled in response. As servants brought food Adeliza turned to Matilda, “I have gifts for you to welcome you back to England.”

“Oh? What sort of gifts does the queen wish to give to her husband’s heir?”

Adeliza motioned to a servant who brought a tray containing four chalices, each containing a different coloured liquid, “A taste of home. The finest beers and ales of the empire—two casks from each principality and each province in the empire—including Italian wine.”

Matilda picked up the chalice containing the wine, “A kingly gift.”

“Well deserved.  When your heart yearns for home, may these bring you comfort and fill your spirits with joy once more,” smiled Adeliza.

“Danke. I can think of another touch of home I would like if it pleases Your Majesty.”

“Oh?”

“Do you know the country dance der Landler?” inquired Matilda.

Adeliza laughed, “I do but the king does not.  He prefers the Quadrille.”

“I’ve seen the Quadrille but never danced it,” confessed Matilda.

“I can teach it to you if you like –after a few rounds of der Landler—that is assuming Your Majesty gives us leave to dance?” hinted Adeliza as she turned to the king. Henry nodded in reply. Adeliza rose from the table and motioned to Matilda, “Now let us find you a bel homme to dance with.  Ah! Voila William Fitzgerald! Shall we ask him?”

“A Welsh baron dancing an Austrian country dance with the Anglo-Norman heiress to the English throne recently returned to London after ruling as Kaiserin,” considered Matilda as she navigated the crowd towards the baron. “God must have a sense of humour.”

Adeliza laughed gaily, “Fröhliche Weihnachten!”

“Nadolig Llawen!” replied Baron William as the ladies reached him.

“Nadolig Llawen!” answered Matilda. “Rydw i’n dysgu Cymraeg, f’arglwydd.”

“Da iawn! You look beautiful this morning, Your Highness.”

“I still wear the white of mourning,” pointed out Matilda.

“A sign of your love and devotion.  May I bring you some comfort in your sorrow?” offered William.

“Der Landler.  Do you know it?”

“Yes, actually I do.  You are not the only one who has been studying since your return to England,” winked William with a glance to the queen. “Would you do me the honour of the next dance?”

“Avec plaiser!” laughed Matilda as she took his hand and lost her sorrow in the dance.

Cantique de Noël – Original French Lyrics for “O Holy Night”

First written as a poem in 1843 by Placide Cappeau, Adolphe Adam added lyrics in 1847. We know the song as “O Holy Night.”

Minuit, chrétiens
C’est l’heure solennelle
Où l’Homme Dieu descendu jusqu’à nous
Pour effacer la tache originelle
Et de Son Père arrêter le courroux
Le monde entier tressaille d’espérance
En cette nuit qui lui donne un Sauveur
Peuple a genoux, attend ta deliverance
Noel! Noel! Voici le Rédempteur
Noel! Noel! Voici le Rédempteur

Le Rédempteur
A brisé toute entrave
La terre est libre et le ciel est ouvert
Il voit un frère ou n’était qu’un esclave
L’amour unit ceux qu’enchaînaient le fer
Qui Lui dira notre reconnaissance?
C’est pour nous tous qu’Il naît
Qu’Il souffre et meurt
Peuple debout, chante ta deliverance
Noel, Noel, Chantons le Rédempteur
Noel, Noel, Chantons le Rédempteur

Excerpt: Christmas in Wittenberg

Merry Christmas! To help celebrate, I would like to share one of many Christmas scenes in my Legendary Women of World History biographies. This one comes from “Katharina von Bora: First Lady of the Reformation.”

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Christmas at Wittenberg. From “Katharina von Bora: First Lady of the Reformation.”

Christmas arrived bright and merrily. As they did the year before, Lucas and Barbara Cranach hosted a lavish Christmas party for their friends and family filled with music and dancing.

“The boar’s head in hand bring I, Bedeck’d with bays and rosemary. And I pray you, my masters, be merry. Quot estis in convivio. Caput apri defero Reddens laudes Domino. Caput apri defero Reddens laudes Domino,” sang Katharina in front of a processional of servers from the kitchen with heavy platters of food. Just behind Katharina marched Georg Spalatin in a place of honor and carrying the boar’s head upon a silver platter and with an apple in its mouth.

Spalatin placed the boar’s head upon the centre of the high table ceremoniously as Lucas Cranach, Martin Luther, Nikolaus Von Amsdorf, and Philipp Melanchthon sang the second verse of the song together, “The boar’s head, as I understand, Is the rarest dish in all this land, Which thus bedeck’d with a gay garland. Let us servire cantico.”

Katharina von Bora and Barbara Cranach joined the men in singing the refrain, “Caput apri defero Reddens laudes Domino. Caput apri defero Reddens laudes Domino.”

“Our steward hath provided this In honor of the King of Bliss;” sang Martin Luther alone.

“Which, on this day to be served is In Reginensi atrio,” sang Katharina.

With a wave of his hand Lucas signalled everyone in the room to join Katharina and Martin on the final refrain, “Caput apri defero Reddens laudes Domino. Caput apri defero Reddens laudes Domino.”  As the final note faded everyone at the party applauded loudly.

Martin and Katharina took turns making polite bows to acknowledge the applause. Taking her hand, Martin lead Katharina to a quieter part of the banqueting hall, “Frohe Weihnachten, Katie.”

“Frohe Weihnachten, Martin,” echoed Katharina. “I’m glad you sang with me.  I like singing with you.”

“How are you feeling?”

“About what?”

“Hieronymus Baumgartner. Is it finally and completely over now?”

“I have no money.  His parents are rich and demand a rich bride for him. What else can I do? I lost whatever resources I might have gained from my family the moment I took my vows to the Cistercian order. I am a bright, highly educated woman with a talent for music, theology, and mathematics. If I were a man, my skills would be lauded and I would be able to work and support myself instead of relying on the Cranaches’ good graces. I can’t even inherit if my parents wanted to give me some basic support after they are gone. Not like they would anyway.”

Martin grinned, “I know all about the disapproval of one’s parents. My father was furious when I dropped out of law school in favour of the Church. Nothing I do ever seems to please him.”

“Have you told him about our friendship?” asked Katharina.

“He wouldn’t understand. I’m not sure I understand either.  As a rule I prefer the company of men. But you, you are different. You’ve read my books and pamphlets and you actually understand them. Without a masters of arts let alone a doctorate in theology, you actually hold your own in discussions that would befuddle most men, my best students included. I do not claim to understand God’s mind in this matter—but I do know it’s not the Devil at work when it comes to our relationship.”

“No, no it’s not the Devil at work. Far from it, Martin.”

“Look at us!  It’s Christmas and we are back to intellectual pursuits!” guffawed Martin.

“Well who else am I going to talk about these things too?” justified Katharina.

“I have a better idea more certain to win our hosts’ approval. I hear a Landler starting up among the musicians… would you care to dance it with me?”

Katharina took his hands, “I would love to.”