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Topics of Discussion: Adding the Legendary Women of World History to Your Lesson Plan

Can you believe it’s been SIX YEARS since the start of the Legendary Women of World History series first went live?  Designed to improve history literacy towards women’s accomplishments, the series has grown to ten biographies with an eleventh biography outside the series in the form of Godiva Award winning “His Red Eminence, Armand-Jean du Plessis de Richelieu.”

Each of these books are perfect for classroom use, continuing education (both within and outside a university setting), home schooling, and summer reading, in addition to simply great books to read because you are interested in learning about the specific biography subject.

With lesson planning often being topical in nature, it can be hard from reading the biography book description to know which books fit best with which units.  Here then is a topical breakdown of all eleven books (plus American Poverty which is classified as American History by Audible) to guide your lesson planning.  Though these lists are extensive, they are by no means completely comprehensive:

General Eras

Ancient History:  Cleopatra VII: Egypt’s Last Pharaoh; Boudicca, Britain’s Queen of the Iceni; Hypatia of Alexandria

Medieval History: Empress Wu Zetian; Margaret of Wessex: Mother, Saint, and Queen of Scots; Gwenllian ferch Gruffydd, the Warrior Princess of Deheubarth; Empress Matilda of England

Renaissance Europe: Catherine de Valois: French Princess, Tudor Matriarch; Mary Queen of the Scots: the Forgotten Reign; Queen Elizabeth Tudor: Journey to Gloriana

Modern History: His Red Eminence, Armand-Jean du Plessis de Richelieu; American Poverty

Topics by Book

America Poverty Audio cover 72 ppi

American Poverty: American History; Occupy Wall Street; economics; American culture; 21st century.

His Red Eminence, Armand – Jean du Plessis de Richelieu: modern history; statesmen; French history; Louis XIII; Marie de Medici; Alexandre Dumas; “The Three Musketeers”; Bourbon dynasty; 17th century Europe.

Boudicca, Britain’s Queen of the Iceni: Roman Empire; Roman Britain; Celtic Britain; national heroines, warrior queens; Colchester; Londonium; 1st century Europe.

Catherine de Valois: French Princess, Tudor Matriarch: Henry V of England; Hundred Years War; War of the Roses; House Valois; French history; Battle of Agincourt; Shakespeare; Welsh history; matriarchs; 15th century Europe.

Mary Queen of the Scots

Queen Mary Stuart: the Forgotten Reign: Scottish history; Scottish Reformation; Protestant Reformation; Stewart dynasty; Stuart dynasty; Marie de Guise; Edinburgh; Earl of Moray; James Stewart; John Knox; Queen Elizabeth Tudor; House Valois; Auld Alliance; King James VI/I; French dances; French music; bransles; 16th century Europe.

Queen Elizabeth Tudor

Queen Elizabeth Tudor: the Forgotten Reign: English history; Tudor dynasty; Tudor England; English country dancing; Queen Mary Stuart; Robert Dudley; Princess Elizabeth; Queen Mary Tudor; King Edward VI of England; Tower of London; Tide Letter; second person; 16th century Europe.

 

Empress Wu Zetian audio

Empress Wu Zetian: Chinese history; Tang dynasty;  female emperors; concubines; cai ren; Chinese empresses; Li Xian; Li Taizong; Rui zong emperor; Luoyang; Chang An; education for women; women intellectuals; women authors; sovereign queens; Confucianism; 7th century China.

 

f559b-gwenllian2bferch2bgruffydd2bweb

Gwenllian ferch Gruffydd: the Warrior Princess of Deheubarth: Welsh history; medieval Wales; Gwynedd; Powys; Ceredigion; Welsh maid Marion; national heroines; Nest ferch Rhys; Henry Fitzhenry; Dinefwr; Pembrokeshire; Saint David’s Day; Aberffraw; Anglesey; north Wales; King Henry I of England; Maurice de Londres; Norman Conquest; Welsh common law; Norman Conquest of Wales; matriarchs; 12th century Europe.

empress-matilda-of-england-web

Empress Matilda of England: Angevin dynasty; medieval England; 12th century England; Salian dynasty; Empire of the Romans; Kaiser Heinrich V; Kaiserin Matilda; imperatrix; Plantagenet dynasty; The Anarchy; Stephen de Blois; civil war; King Henry I of England; King Henry II of England; Welsh common law; royal miscarriage; matriarchs; Thomas Becket; Witan; Margaret of Wessex; Gwenllian ferch Gruffydd; 12th century Europe.

Hypatia of Alexandria paperback cs

Hypatia of Alexandria: Egypt; Alexandria; late Roman Empire; Eastern Roman Empire; librarians; mathematicians; astronomers; Greek astronomy; Christianity; early Church history; Council of Nicaea; Emperor Constantine; Alexandrine Jewry; Jewish religion; Jewish culture; Passover; Hanukkah; Saturnalia; Library at Alexandria; Serapeum; Caesarium; pagan; Greek philosophy; Neo-Platonism; Athens; education for women; women intellectuals; patriarch of Alexandria; Synesius of Cyrene; Orestes; Roman government; 5th century.

Cleopatra VII web

Cleopatra VII: Egypt’s Last Pharaoh: Roman Republic; Gaius Julius Caesar; Ptolemaic dynasty; civil war; Alexandria; Egypt; Caesar Augustus; Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus; Marcus Antonius; Roman women; education for women; women intellectuals; Greek women; women authors; sovereign queens; Tarsus; Battle of Actium; Rome; ancient Rome; ancient Alexandria.

Margaret of Wessex - English

Margaret of Wessex: Norman Conquest; 1066; Battle of Hastings; Battle of Stamford Bridge; Northumbria; House Wessex; Empress Matilda of England; Edith Matilda of Scotland; Edward the Confessor; Harold Godwinson; William the Conqueror; Malcolm III Canmore; Máel Coluim mac Donnchadh Ceann Mhor; Scottish clans; Dunkeld dynasty; Scottish history; Alba; medieval Scotland; Norwegian; Danish; Norman; viking; York; Witan; Jorvik; Dunfermline; Edinburgh; Yorkminster; Westminster; London; Harrying of the North; Winchester; Anglo-Saxon; England; Principality of Hungary; matriarchs; 11th century Europe.

 

Frenemies: Queen Mary’s Most Dangerous Companions

Mary Queen of Scots“Keep your friends close and your enemies closer,” goes conventional wisdom. We’ve all heard the phrase of course. It’s the sentiment behind the new word “frenemy” – the fusion of friend and enemy. That is, someone who is both your friend and your enemy. Frenemies are common in royal courts of course where back room deals and palace intrigues characterize the reigns of even the most virtuous monarchs, female and male.

As common as these complex relationships have been, few monarchs have faced such extremes in their frenemies as Queen Mary Stuart of Scotland where her most constant male companions were also those most bent on destroying her.  Let’s take a look at her three deadliest.

 

James Stewart, the Earl of Moray

James Stewart 1st Earl of Moray 1531-1570One of Mary’s half-brothers through James V’s many mistresses, James Stewart was a leading member of the “Lords of the Congregation” in the Scottish Parliament and therefore a key figure in the Protestant Reformation in Scotland.

As a member of Parliament, self-serving nobleman, and Protestant, he tirelessly worked to contain Queen Mary and undermine her ability to govern even while operating as her de facto chief of staff.

As her brother, he helped Mary transition from her role as queen-consort of France to queen sovereign of Scotland and genuinely seemed to care for her well-being as much as any in her court could.

 

Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley

Henry_Stuart,_Lord_DarnleyQueen Mary’s second husband, Henry Stewart was Mary’s cousin through her grandmother Margaret Tudor’s remarriage to Archibald Douglas. Tall, handsome, and sharing Queen Mary’s love of riding, falconry, and hunting, he seemed a suitable match for the lonely and widowed queen.

But Darnley had a dark side.  He was vain (even by standards of the time), arrogant, and prone to drunkenness, traits that made the Scottish people hate him as fiercely as they loved Queen Mary’s generous, kind, and amiable temperament. A particularly violent drunk, Darnley readily beat and terrorized Queen Mary.

In March, 1566, Darnley’s vanity and jealousy towards Queen Mary’s secretary David Riccio led to murder in Holyrood palace as Darnley stormed the queen’s apartment, seized her person, and forced her to watch Darnley’s men stab Riccio 56 times. Darnley put a pistol to Mary’s pregnant belly, hoping to force her to miscarry their son, while he demanded the crown matrimonial –the right to become king if she died childless.  Mary refused.  Eleven months later Darnley himself was found dead at Kirk o’ Field house in Edinburgh.

 

John Knox

John KnoxThe fire-brand whose May 1559 sermon set off a bloody rebellion against Queen Mary’s throne while she was still in France, John Knox was the ultimate frenemy for Queen Mary. A staunch misogynist who did not believe women possessed the capacity to rule over men in any capacity and who openly preached against women leaders on all levels of society, Knox was nonetheless one of Queen Mary’s preferred social companions, especially when indulging in hunting, archery, falconry, and other outdoor pursuits. Like the Earl of Moray, his politics and religion clashed with his social sensibilities, perhaps in part because Queen Mary was one of the most charismatic and charming of all royals in Europe.

Mary’s charm could not banish Knox’s paranoia towards both Catholics and women nor persuade him of her benevolent intentions. In the end, he, like the Lords of the Congregation who supported him, rejoiced in Mary’s final downfall and eventual death at English hands.

 

Court intrigue, murder, and violent revolution swept through Queen Mary’s Scotland during her largely forgotten reign. Yet despite the pressures around her, Mary remained gentle, kind, and a true people’s princess, loved by all – even by some of her most dangerous enemies. Where her cousin Elizabeth Tudor hardened her heart and kept her thoughts to herself, Queen Mary remained open, trusting, and charismatic, untainted by the terrors and sorrows of her life. A grieving widow, a battered wife, a persecuted Catholic, Queen Mary Stuart was so much more than her final years as Queen Elizabeth’s political prisoner.  It is a life worth remembering and worth exploring.  I hope you will take time this summer and learn her story.

Mary Queen of the Scots

“Mary Queen of the Scots, the Forgotten Reign” and its follow-up, “Queen Elizabeth Tudor: Journey to Gloriana” are available in multiple languages at a bookstore near you. See https://bit.ly/2IWJeOB for a complete list of available languages for each volume.

Cardinal Richelieu—the Musical Hymns, Carols, and Popular Music in “His Red Eminence.”

“C’est un rempart que notre Dieu, une invincible armure. Notre délivrance en tout lieu, notre défense sûre. Satan, notre ennemi, en fureur s’est promis. D’user de son pouvoir. Pour vaincre et décevoir. Sur terre il n’y a plus d’abri,” sang Anne Rochefeuille as she played the harpsichord in the main drawing room of the Palais Cardinal, Cardinal Richelieu’s grand palace built just north of the Louvre and bequeathed to King Louis XIII upon his death on the 4th of December 1642. Though Americans rarely hear it in French, the first verse of the above hymn is well-known by Protestants around the world as “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” by Martin Luther.  It is, like so many songs in this latest biography, an unusual choice for the story of France’s greatest and most transformative first minister.

Armand-Jean Richelieu 1 small

Jean-Armand du Plessis, cardinal and duc de Richelieu transformed France into the first truly modern and secular state of the western world. Still essentially a collection of feudal states owing nominal loyalty to the king of France when he took up the bishopric of Luçon in 1608, the cardinal’s ability to put aside religious considerations in favour of complete subordination of the French people and its institutions to the king had inevitable cultural implications as well. Carefully patronizing writers, poets, dramatists, painters, sculptors, architects, composers, musicians, and other artisans, regardless of his personal opinions about their creations, his patient efforts carefully moved French culture into the celebrated baroque era we associate with King Louis XIV.

Red Eminence webIn my new biography, “His Red Eminence, Jean-Armand du Plessis de Richelieu,” I celebrate the cardinal’s life through music. Eight songs in French, Latin, and English fill these pages, helping the story to come alive. Given my habit for setting scenes during the Christmas holiday season, there are of course Christmas carols, more than any other book so far. 15th century French carol “Noël Nouvelet” makes an appearance, as does “Adeste Fideles” which was originally written by French monks in the medieval era but not translated to English as “O Come All Ye Faithful” until Victorian times.

Two decidedly English songs make an appearance: the 16th century English “Coventry Carol” is heard for the first time in one of my books as does the medieval version of the popular song “Quoth John to Joan.”

Popular French music arrives in the form of Pierre Guédon’s “Aux plaisirs, aux délices.”  Guédon’s music is very special because it’s one of the few surviving songs we have specific to King Louis XIII’s reign instead of dating to either the Valois dynasty or Louis XIV’s reign.

Aux plaisirs, aux délices, bergères,

Il faut ètre du temps ménagères,

Car il s’écoule et se perd d’heure en heure;

Et le regret seulement en demeure.

A l’àmour, aux plaisirs, au bocage

Employez les beaux jours de votre àge.

But perhaps the most poignant of the two popular music pieces in this book is also the most familiar.  “Belle Qui Tiens Ma Vie” by Thoinot Arbeau is a love song written at the end of the 16th century. Popular with re-enactors, it is slow, stately and full of quiet passion. Just the sort of song that rises to the many diverse occasions found in not only this beautiful biography, but many of the Legendary Women of World History biographies as well.

We first encounter “Belle Qui Tiens Ma Vie” in 1618 during Armand-Jean’s exile in Avignon when best friend Anne Rochefeuille sings the first two verses. Then, in 1628, facing the horrors of war and missing home and the love waiting for him in Paris, Armand-Jean sings verses three through eight for us, allowing us to hear the song in full. Drama arises when his song is overheard by Father Joseph, his “grey eminence” as history remembers him. For one of the most consistent sources of drama in this biography is the constant question by those around the good cardinal as to whether or not, and if so who, is he taking to his bed as his lover.

Historically, the question is never proven either way but rather is a matter of persistent rumour spanning his entire adult life.

My belief is that he did have a lover, a woman whom he loved and faithfully took to bed for over twenty years. But more than a vessel for his sexual appetites, she was best friend, confidant, nurse, and intellectual equal.  She was everything for Armand-Jean du Plessis that Katharina von Bora was for Martin Luther almost a century before—except of course that du Plessis could not marry her in the church without stepping down from the priesthood and his only means of supporting himself. Even after becoming a cardinal in 1622 and first minister of France in 1624, Richelieu’s economic survival depended on him keeping secret what the true nature of his relationship with his Anne really was. If the truth were ever discovered, the scandal stood to cost him not only his position (and the money he depended on to live), but his life as well.

 

With this dramatic context in mind, I invite you to enter King Louis XIII’s court with all its music and dance and courtly romance and intrigues to meet the real man you never knew from reading Dumas’ “The Three Musketeers.”

 

 

Walking in Queen Mary’s Footsteps: Palaces and Castles

Welcome to “Summer in Scotland,” our month-long celebration of Scotland and in particular the Scotland known and loved by its most famous queen, Mary Stuart, better known simply as “Mary Queen of Scots.”

Across Queen Mary’s forty-four years she lived in France, reigned in Scotland, and died in England. Though not all of the places she guested at, lived at, and/or worked from still exist (notably Fotheringhay Castle where she was executed in 1587), these six palaces and castles are not only still standing, but they are open to the public for you to visit this summer.

Linlithgow Palace

Linlithgow Palace (West Lothian, Scotland)

Built as a retreat from court life at Edinburgh Castle by the Stewarts, the peace and quiet of Linlithgow makes it the perfect getaway for royals and modern visitors alike. Overlooking Loch Linlithgow, there is scenic beauty and waterfowl aplenty to melt away whatever stress comes your way. No wonder it was the Stewarts preferred place to give birth and is Queen Mary Stuart’s birth place.

Open year round except on 25 December, 26 December, 1 January, and 2 January. Tickets start at £7.20 and are available at https://tickets.historic-scotland.gov.uk/webstore/shop/viewItems.aspx?cg=TKTS&c=WSLOTHIANS.

Chateau Blois 1

Château Blois (Loire Valley, France)

Located in the Loire Valley about halfway between Orléans and Tours, Chateau Blois was 15th and 16th century France’s preferred royal residence.  Here Queen Mary and Prince François spent countless weeks in the year at court.  Later, in 1617, it became home to Marie de Medici’s court in exile. Along with her came her very loyal chief advisor, Armand-Jean du Plessis, better known as Cardinal Richelieu (see “His Red Eminence, Armand-Jean du Plessis de Richelieu”).

Open year-round, tickets start at €12. Go to http://en.chateaudeblois.fr/EvenementChateauVisite/2040-prepare-your-visit.htm for details and tourism package options.

Chateau Chambord

Château de Chambord (Loire Valley, France)

Favoured by Queen Mary’s father-in-law Henri II and designed in part by Leonardo da Vinci, Chambord is an architectural masterpiece that takes you into the mind of its creator.  Features a unique double-helix staircase designed by da Vinci so that no one going up can meet anyone going down on it.

Open year-round except on 25 December and 1 January, you can stroll the outside grounds for free. Tickets to visit the castle and private gardens start at €14,50.  Go to https://www.chambord.org/en/plan-your-visit/opening-hours/ for more information.

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle (Edinburgh, Scotland)

At the heart of Queen Mary’s reign stands Edinburgh Castle which, appropriately, dominates the Edinburgh skyline.  Situated on a cliff high above the rest of the city, it is easy to see why King David I (son of Margaret of Wessex and brother to Empress Matilda of England) chose the site for his castle. Queen Mary and her parliament ruled from here and on 19 June 1566 she gave birth to King James VI in the same bedroom you can visit today. Queen Mary herself made several improvements to the castle which intially she found dark and cold compared to the airy grandeur of the French court, adding wall-coverings and art to warm both body and soul, especially in winter.

Open year-round except on 25th and 26th December. Tickets start at £17.50 if you purchase your tickets online or £19.50 if you purchase at the gate.

Stirling Castle

Stirling Castle (Stirling, Scotland)

Built in 1107, Stirling Castle is one of the historically most significant landmarks in Scotland’s long pursuit of freedom and independence from English conquest. William Wallace and Andrew Moray famously fought the Battle of Stirling Bridge near here in 1297 to retake the castle from England. Robert the Bruce’s 1314 victory at Bannockburn likewise returned it to Scotland. In 1503, King James IV built its Great Hall. Queen Mary held her baptism service for her son James (VI) here in 1566. When it was James VI’s turn to baptise his son Henry in 1594, he also held the baptism and its celebrations at Stirling Castle.

Open year-round except on 25th and 26th December.  Tickets start at £15 if you purchase online or £16 at the gate.

Lochleven Castle

Lochleven Castle (Kinross, Scotland)

Built in the 14th Century, Queen Mary guested at Lochleven before its tower turned into her prison in 1567.  This is where she miscarried or aborted James Hepburn’s baby, and where she abdicated her throne in favour of her son James.

Open 1 April to 31 October. Closed from 1 November to 31 March. Access by boat only. Tickets start at £9.00 which includes boat fare. Go to https://www.historicenvironment.scot/visit-a-place/places/lochleven-castle/prices-and-opening-times/ to purchase advance tickets (strongly recommended).

 

Wherever your summer takes you, I hope you will spend part of it with Queen Mary Stuart and will make “Mary Queen of the Scots: the Forgotten Reign” your first and best introduction to Scotland’s most tragic and famous queen. Available at your favourite bookstore world-wide in English, Chinese, French, Spanish, German, Portuguese, and Italian. See http//www.laurelarockefeller.com for complete links to all editions.

The Downton Abbey Effect Cottages and Palaces in “His Red Eminence”

“Downton Abbey.” Few period dramas have earned the critical acclaim and popularity as the story of its Crawley family as they navigate the dramatic changes faced in the early 20th century. Featuring lavish estates and stories centred on both the upstairs nobles and downstairs servants, it can be no wonder so many of us are excited about the September 2019 release of a theatrical film that continues the stories of these beloved characters.

Important to Downton Abbey’s appeal stems from its window into how the upper classes live and how they interact with the servants whose labours empower their lifestyle. It’s a time gone by for nearly all of us, a culture few of us experience or understand. A culture that was very much part of life in 17th century France.

In “His Red Eminence, Armand-Jean du Plessis de Richelieu” we are taken through the good cardinal’s entire adult life, starting at the age of twenty when he was a student at his beloved Sorbonne. Along the way, he lived in everything from a spartan dormitory to modest cottages to palaces. Each of these held a very different lifestyle. Each of them enlightened by watching “Downtown Abbey.”  Let’s take a look at his homes.

 

Du Plessis Manor/Château Richelieu – Poitou (1585-1594, intermittent thereafter)

The cardinal’s childhood home was the medieval manor built by his ancestors and resided at for centuries. The 16th century Wars of Religion which ultimately claimed the life of Armand’s father François in 1590 bankrupted the family, forcing Armand’s mother Suzanne de la Porte to cut what few staff they had before. Odds are the frugality Suzanne de la Porte imposed on her household meant Armand grew up with few if any of the luxuries normally enjoyed by the nobility, a simplicity in lifestyle he maintained for the rest of his life.

Upon the death of his father in 1590, eldest brother Henri du Plessis became Seigneur de Richelieu. Through political skill and the kindness of King Henri IV, Henri improved the du Plessis fortunes by convincing the king to appoint Armand as Bishop of Luçon and with it, a yearly income of 15,000 livres for his brother and, by extension, the family.

Chateau_de_Richelieu_engraving_17th_century

(engraving of the Château Richelieu before its demolition in 1805.)

 

As Armand’s career improved over the years, he invested in the family home, transforming it in the Château Richelieu built by architect Jacques Lemercier, and employing a proper household staff to attend him whenever he or other family members stayed there. From footmen to housemaids, valets, and lady’s maids, the château scenes in chapter twelve are modelled closely after those in Downton Abbey and the many adventures of those who lived there, both upstairs and downstairs.

 

Dormitory at the Sorbonne (1606-1607)

Like most students, Armand-Jean lived simply in a bedroom that served as bedroom, library, office, and beyond. He probably shared both a kitchen and lavatory with others living in the same building. It is the style of life most familiar to us today and therefore most relatable.

 

Bishop’s Mansion – Luçon (1608-1614)

More spacious than his dormitory, ordination as a priest and investiture as a bishop was a step up for His Excellency, Bishop du Plessis.  As bishop he lived in a parsonage where he lived, maintained an office complete with a secretary, and entertained. No less than a cook and a housekeeper maintained the residence and probably other servants as well, though likely fewer than ten altogether. Though the sizes of bishop mansions varied with the wealth and important of individual dioceses, the mansion in Luçon probably maintained at least five guest bedrooms in addition to the master bedroom the bishop occupied and those reserved on the top floor for residential staff.

 

Mansions – Blois and Avignon Exiles (1617-1620)

Historically speaking, we know essentially nothing about where exactly Bishop du Plessis lived during his years in exile in Blois and Avignon created by his service to Marie de Medici. As a civil servant, he most likely lived in the same home as the dowager queen while in Blois. Given Marie de Medici was essentially running a quasi-independent, rival French government, it is logical to deduce that she and her staff (du Plessis included) lived in a modest mansion sufficiently sized to accommodate a household of at least thirty and probably closer to sixty. Upon being ordered away from de Medici in the form of being sent to Avignon, Bishop du Plessis and those exiled with him probably experienced a more scaled down version of his life in Blois with a smaller mansion-prison and fewer staff, but still attended somewhat by cooks, housekeepers, and perhaps a footman or two whose real function was to enforce the house arrest while spying on the prisoners.

 

Parisian Cottages (1614-1617, 1620-1629)

In September, 1614 Bishop du Plessis arrived in Paris as a delegate from Poitou representing its clergy at the meeting of the Estates-General in Paris. Though we know nothing about how or where the bishop was housed, it was most likely a modest cottage not unlike Crawley House in Downton Abbey. The bishop probably had a cook and a housekeeper to look after him. Upon being appointed to the large stream of government positions showcased in “Eminence” that staff level would have slowed increased, but rarely exceeding more than five or ten total servants plus or minus the red guards who protected his person. These cottages probably looked and felt a great deal like Crawley House, modest but comfortable, but better suited to city life than the rural-centric Crawley House.

 

Apartment at the Louvre (intermittent, 1622-1629)

Living at the Louvre was a special honour granted as a reward to favourite courtiers. It was also given to those ministers the king wanted kept close to him—either because he wanted him closely watched and/or because he needed that minister available to him at all hours of the day and night.

As seen in “Eminence,” Richelieu most likely divided his residency between an apartment in the Louvre and a nearby cottage. While staying at the Louvre, housemaids would have kept his apartment tidy and cooks would have provided him with his meals. Footmen summoned him into the royal presence.

Following his 1628 success at La Rochelle, King Louis XIII gifted him with his own estate mere metres from the Louvre which Richelieu designed with architect Jacques Lemercier, the Palais Cardinal, a grand home that survives to this day as the “Palais Royal.”

 

Palais Cardinal (1629-1642)

In 1629 Jacques Lemercier completed the Palais Cardinal, the ultra-modern palace estate which became Cardinal Richelieu’s principle residence from 1629 until his death on 4 December, 1642. The Palais Cardinal featured Paris’ first theatre at which the many plays Richelieu penned were performed. Though the cardinal maintained the simple lifestyle one expects of a parish priest, he spent generously on a massive household staff at the Palais Cardinal. With an income exceeding two million livres per year at the end of his life, he could afford it. But as with everything else, his spending was far more about the principle than his own needs or interests. In patronizing the visual, dramatic, and musical arts at the Palais, he fostered French culture in ways he believed were essential to the longevity of the State. In offering employment to a far larger household staff than he needed, he invested in his community.

 

In the end, Armand-Jean du Plessis, cardinal and duc de Richelieu was not the mean-spirited and heartless villain of the Dumas novels, but rather the kind, extremely generous, and far-sighted statesman who invested in people, in the arts, in long-term diplomacy, and in a strong, unified France. Instead of using his income from government service for his own creature comforts and agendas, he invested in the French people, in French culture, and in the French State.

The fictional Earl of Grantham considered himself the custodian of Downtown Abbey. The very real Cardinal Richelieu made himself the custodian of France itself.  Few ministers have done more or served better than His Red Eminence, Armand-Jean du Plessis de Richelieu.

Lyrics: Quoth John to Joan (medieval)

Red Eminence webThe eighth and final song appearing in His Red Eminence is the first song I learned to sing in the Society for Creative Anachronism:  Quoth John to Joan.  Though there is a late Tudor version of this song, I prefer the original medieval version I learned all those years ago.

Quoth John to Joan

English

Quoth John to Joan wilt thou have me?

I prithee now wilt and I’se marry with thee.

My cow, my calf, my horse, my rents,

And all my lands and tenements.

O say my Joan wilt not that do?

I cannot come ev’ry day to woo.

O say my Joan wilt not that do?

I cannot come ev’ry day to woo.

 

I’ve corn and hay in the barn hard by,

And three fat hogs pent up in the sty;

I have a mare and she is coal-black;

I ride on her tail to save her back.

O say my Joan wilt not that do?

I cannot come ev’ry day to woo.

O say my Joan wilt not that do?

I cannot come ev’ry day to woo.

 

I have a cheese upon the shelf.

And I cannot eat it all myself.

I’ve three good marks that lie in rag,

In the nook of the chimney instead of a bag.

O say my Joan wilt not that do?

I cannot come ev’ry day to woo.

O say my Joan wilt not that do?

I cannot come ev’ry day to woo.

 

To marry I would have thy consent,

But faith, I never could compliment.

I can say nought but hoy gee ho!

Words that belong to the cart and the plough.

O say my Joan wilt not that do?

I cannot come ev’ry day to woo.

O say my Joan wilt not that do?

I cannot come ev’ry day to woo.

Lyrics: Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott/C’est Un Rempart Que Notre Dieu/A Mighty Fortress Is Our God (Martin Luther)

Red Eminence webThe seventh song appearing in His Red Eminence is well-known by Protestants around the world, though perhaps never heard before in FRENCH.  Watch for “C’est Un Rempart Que Notre Dieu” in chapter twelve, “Partings and Testaments” as Anne Rochefeuille receives some bad news.

 

Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott/C’est Un Rempart Que Notre Dieu/A Mighty Fortress Is Our God

 

German 

Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott,

ein gute Wehr und Waffen.

Er hilft uns frei aus aller Not,

die uns jetzt hat betroffen.

Der alt böse Feind

mit Ernst er’s jetzt meint,

groß Macht und viel List

sein grausam Rüstung ist,

auf Erd ist nicht seins gleichen.

 

Mit unsrer Macht ist nichts getan,

wir sind gar bald verloren;

es streit’ für uns der rechte Mann,

den Gott hat selbst erkoren.

Fragst du, wer der ist?

Er heißt Jesus Christ,

der Herr Zebaoth,

und ist kein andrer Gott,

das Feld muss er behalten.

 

Und wenn die Welt voll Teufel wär

und wollt uns gar verschlingen,

so fürchten wir uns nicht so sehr,

es soll uns doch gelingen.

Der Fürst dieser Welt,

wie sau’r er sich stellt,

tut er uns doch nicht;

das macht, er ist gericht’:

ein Wörtlein kann ihn fällen.

 

Das Wort sie sollen lassen stahn

und kein’ Dank dazu haben;

er ist bei uns wohl auf dem Plan

mit seinem Geist und Gaben.

Nehmen sie den Leib,[7]

Gut, Ehr, Kind und Weib:

lass fahren dahin,

sie haben’s kein’ Gewinn,

das Reich muss uns doch bleiben.

 

French

C’est un rempart que notre Dieu,
Une invincible armure,
Un défenseur victorieux,
Une aide prompte et sûre.
L’Ennemi, contre nous,
Redouble de courroux:
Vaine colère!
Que pourrait l’Adversaire?
L’Eternel détourne ses coups.

 

Seuls, nous bronchons à chaque pas
Quand l’Ennemi nous presse.
Mais un héros pour nous combat
Et nous soutient sans cesse.
Quel est ce défenseur?
C’est toi, divin Sauveur,
Dieu des armées!
Tes tribus opprimées
Connaissent leur liberateur.

 

Que les démons, forgeant des fers,
Menacent ton Eglise,
Ta Sion brave les enfers,
Sur le rocher assise.
Constant dans son effort,
En vain, avec la mort,
Satan conspire.
Pour briser son empire,
Il suffit d’un mot du Dieu fort.

 

Dis-le, ce mot victorieux
Dans toutes nos détresses,
Et donne-nous, du haut des cieux,
Ta force et ta sagesse.
Qu’on nous ôte nos biens,
Qu’on serre nos liens,
Que nous importe!
Ta grâce est la plus forte,
Et ton royaume est pour les tiens.

 

English

A mighty fortress is our God,

A bulwark never failing:

Our helper He, amid the flood

Of mortal ills prevailing.

For still our ancient foe

Doth seek to work his woe;

His craft and power are great,

And armed with cruel hate,

On earth is not his equal.

 

Did we in our own strength confide,

Our striving would be losing;

Were not the right Man on our side,

The Man of God’s own choosing.

Dost ask who that may be?

Christ Jesus, it is he;

Lord Sabaoth is his name,

From age to age the same,

And He must win the battle.

 

And though this world, with devils filled,

Should threaten to undo us,

We will not fear, for God hath willed

His truth to triumph through us.

The Prince of Darkness grim,

We tremble not for him;

His rage we can endure,

For lo! His doom is sure,

One little word shall fell him.

 

That word above all earthly powers—

No thanks to them—abideth;

The Spirit and the gifts are ours

Through him who with us sideth.

Let goods and kindred go,

This mortal life also:

The body they may kill:

God’s truth abideth still,

His kingdom is for ever.

Lyrics: Adeste Fideles (Cistercian Hymn)/Oh Come All Ye Faithful

Red Eminence webThe sixth song appearing in His Red Eminence is another very old Christmas carol that was only recently translated to English.  Adeste Fideles was written by Cistercian monks on medieval France sometime between the 6th and 12th centuries, but only recently, in 1841 came to the English language.

Adeste Fideles (Cistercian Hymn)/Oh Come All Ye Faithful (translated to English by Frederick Oakeley, 1841)

 

Latin

Adeste fideles læti triumphantes,

Venite, venite in Bethlehem.

Natum videte

Regem angelorum:

Venite adoremus, Venite adoremus, Venite adoremus

Dominum.

 

Deum de Deo, lumen de lumine

Gestant puellæ viscera

Deum verum, genitum non factum.

Venite adoremus, Venite adoremus, Venite adoremus

Dominum.

 

Cantet nunc io, chorus angelorum;

Cantet nunc aula cælestium,

Gloria, gloria in excelsis Deo,

Venite adoremus, Venite adoremus, Venite adoremus

Dominum.

 

Ergo qui natus die hodierna.

Jesu, tibi sit gloria,

Patris æterni Verbum caro factum.

Venite adoremus, Venite adoremus, Venite adoremus

Dominum.

 

English

O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant!

O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem;

Come and behold him

Born the King of Angels:

O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him,

Christ the Lord.

 

God of God, light of light,

Lo, he abhors not the Virgin’s womb;

True God, begotten, not created:

O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him,

Christ the Lord.

 

Sing, choirs of angels, sing in exultation,

Sing, all ye citizens of Heaven above!

Glory to God, glory in the highest:

O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him,

Christ the Lord.

 

Yea, Lord, we greet thee, born this happy morning;

Jesus, to thee be glory given!

Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing!

O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him,

Christ the Lord.

Lyrics: Noël Nouvelet/Christmas Comes Anew (15th Century French)

Red Eminence webThe fifth song that appears in “His Red Eminence is another Christmas carol. This time we are going back to 15th century France for Noël Nouvelet which you can hear at the end of Christmas mass at the Louvre in chapter ten, “Confessions.”

 

Noël Nouvelet/Christmas Comes Anew (15th Century French)

 

French:

Noël nouvelet, Noël chantons icy;

Dévotes gens‚ rendons à Dieu merci;

Chantons Noël pour le Roi nouvelet;

Noël nouvelet!

Noël chantons icy!

 

En Bethléem‚ Marie et Joseph vy‚

L’asne et le boeuf‚ l’Enfant couché parmy;

La crèche était au lieu d’un bercelet.

Noël nouvelet!

Noël chantons icy!

 

L’estoile vint qui le jour esclaircy‚

Et la vy bien d’où j’etois départy

En Bethléem les trois roys conduisaient.

Noël nouvelet!

Noël chantons icy!

 

English:

Christmas comes anew, O let us sing Noel!

Glory to God! Now let your praises swell!

Sing we Noel for Christ, the new-born King,

Christmas comes anew, O let us sing Noel!

 

Angels did say, “O shepherds come and see,

Born in Bethlehem, a blessed Lamb for thee.”

Sing we Noel for Christ, the new-born King,

Christmas comes anew, O let us sing Noel!

 

In the manger bed, the shepherds found the child;

Joseph was there, and the Mother Mary mild.

Sing we Noel for Christ, the new-born King,

Christmas comes anew, O let us sing Noel!

 

https://lyricstranslate.com/en/no%C3%ABl-nouvelet-christmas-comes-anew.html

Lyrics: Veni, Veni

Red Eminence web

The oldest known Christmas carol is “Veni, Veni” which started out as a sung prayer in early medieval monasteries. Can it be any wonder it is also the most popular song to appear among my ten biographies?  You’ll first find it in “Catherine de Valois: French Princess, Tudor Matriarch” (recorded with an alternate tune by Richard Mann for the audio book). Next, look for it in “Empress Matilda of England.” Finally, enjoy it in “His Red Eminence, Armand-Jean du Plessis de Richelieu.”  Here me perform the first two verses on soundcloud.

One of the most fascinating things about this song is that while it is very old in its original medieval Latin, it was not until the Victorian era that it was translated into English.  Here is both the medieval Latin and the English.

 

Veni, Veni/O Come, O Come Emmanuel

 

Medieval Latin

Veni, veni Emmanuel

Captivum solve Israel,

Qui gemit in exsilio,

Privatus Dei Filio.

Gaude! Gaude! Emmanuel, nascetur pro te Israel!

 

Veni, O Sapientia,

Quae hic disponis omnia,

Veni, viam prudentiae

Ut doceas et gloriae.

Gaude! Gaude! Emmanuel, nascetur pro te Israel!

 

Veni, veni, Adonai,

Qui populo in Sinai

Legem dedisti vertice

In maiestate gloriae.

Gaude! Gaude! Emmanuel, nascetur pro te Israel!

 

Veni, veni, Rex Gentium,

veni, Redemptor omnium,

ut salvas tuos famulos

peccati sibi conscios.

Gaude! Gaude! Emmanuel, nascetur pro te Israel!

 

English:

O Come, O come, Emmanuel,

and ransom captive Israel,

that morns in lonely exile here

until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice! O Israel,

to thee shall come Emmanuel!

 

O come, Thou Wisdom, from on high,

and order all things far and nigh;

to us the path of knowledge show,

and teach us in her ways to go.

Rejoice! Rejoice! O Israel,

to thee shall come Emmanuel!

O come, o come, Thou Lord of might,

who to thy tribes on Sinai’s height

in ancient times did give the law,

in cloud, and majesty, and awe.

Rejoice! Rejoice! O Israel,

to thee shall come Emmanuel!

 

O come, Desire of the nations, bind

in one the hearts of all mankind;

bid every strife and quarrel cease

and fill the world with heaven’s peace

Rejoice! Rejoice! O Israel,

to thee shall come Emmanuel!

http://www.preces-latinae.org/thesaurus/Hymni/VeniEmm.html

 

 

 

Lyrics: Coventry Carol (1534, by Robert Coo)

Red Eminence web

The third song you hear in “His Red Eminence, Armand-Jean du Plessis de Richelieu” might surprise you. It is the Coventry Carol, one of the earliest English Christmas carols. Unlike the very secular “Drive the Cold Winter Away,”  Coventry Carol is religious and is among the oldest religious Christmas carols in the English language.

 

Coventry Carol (1534, by Robert Coo)

English:

Lully, lullay, thou little tiny child,

Bye bye, lully, lullay.

Thou little tiny child,

Bye bye, lully, lullay.

 

O sisters too, how may we do

For to preserve this day.

This poor youngling for whom we sing,

Bye bye, lully, lullay?

 

Herod the king, in his raging,

Chargèd he hath this day

His men of might in his own sight

All young children to slay.

 

That woe is me, poor child, for thee

And ever mourn and say

For thy parting neither say nor sing,

Bye bye, lully, lullay.

 

https://www.carols.org.uk/ba11-coventry-carol.htm

 

Lyrics: Aux plaisirs, aux délices (Pierre Guédon, 1566 to 1620)

Red Eminence webThe next song to appear in “His Red Eminence, Armand-Jean du Plessis de Richelieu” is “Aux plaisirs, aux delices” by Pierre Guedon, one of the most popular song writers of King Louis XIII’s reign. In the book Anne Rochefeuille sings it as she plays it on the harpsichord, but you will most often hear recordings of it performed with baroque guitar.

 

Aux plaisirs, aux délices (Pierre Guédon, 1566 to 1620)

French:

Aux plaisirs, aux délices, bergères,

Il faut ètre du temps ménagères,

Car il s’écoule et se perd d’heure en heure;

Et le regret seulement en demeure.

A l’àmour, aux plaisirs, au bocage

Employez les beaux jours de votre àge

 

Les ruisseaux vont aux plaines fleuries,

Cajolant et baisant les prairies,

Le doux zéphir parle d’amour à Flore,

Et les oiseaux en parlent à l’aurore

 

Maintenant la saison vous convie

De passer, en aimant, votre vie.

Déjà la terre a pris sa robe verte,

D’herbe et de fleurs la campagne est couverte.

 

Ce qui vit, qui se meut qui respire,

D’amour parle, ou murmure, ou soupire;

Aussi le coeur qui n’en sent la peinture,

S’il est vivant, il est contre nature.

 

http://www.lieder.net/lieder/get_text.html?TextId=103608

Belle Qui Tiens Ma Vie Lyrics

Red Eminence web

At long last it’s here! “His Red Eminence, Armand-Jean du Plessis de Richelieu” is the latest biography by Legendary Women of World History historian Laurel A. Rockefeller. Eight songs appear in this epic tale of the most influential politician of modern France.  Here is the first song you hear, “Belle Qui Tiens Ma Vie” by Thoinot Arbeau.

 

Belle Qui Tiens Ma Vie (Thoinot Arbeau)

French

Belle qui tiens ma vie

Captive dans tes yeux,

Qui m’as l’ame ravie

D’un souris gracieux,

Viens tôt me secourir

Ou me faudra mourir.

Viens tôt me secourir

Ou me faudra mourir.

 

Pourquoi fuis-tu, mignarde,

Si je suis près de toi?

Quand tes yeux je regarde

Je me perds dedans moi,

Car tes perfections

Changent mes actions

Car tes perfections

Changent mes actions

 

Tes beautés et ta grâce

Et tes divins propos

Ont échauffe la glace

Qui me gelait les os,

Et ont rempli mon coeur

D’une amoureuse ardeur.

Et ont rempli mon coeur

D’une amoureuse ardeur.

 

Mon ame voulait être

Libre de passion,

Mais l’amour s’est fait maitre

De mes affections

Et a mis sous sa loi

Et mon coeur et ma foi.

Et a mis sous sa loi

Et mon coeur et ma foi.

 

Approche donc ma belle,

Approche-toi mon bien,

Ne me sois plus rebelle

Puisque mon coeur est tien,

Pour mon mal apaiser

Donne-moi un baiser.

Pour mon mal apaiser

Donne-moi un baiser.

 

Je meurs mon angelette,

Je meurs en te baisant.

Ta bouche tant doucette

Va mon bien ravissant.

À ce coup mes esprits

Sont tous d’amour épris

À ce coup mes esprits

Sont tous d’amour épris

 

Plutôt on verra l’onde

Contremont reculer,

Et plutôt l’œil du monde

Cessera de bruler,

Que l’amour qui m’époint

Décroisse d’un seul point.

Que l’amour qui m’époint

Décroisse d’un seul point.

 

English

Beautiful one who holds my life

Captive in your eyes,

Who has ravished my soul

With a gracious smile?

Come to my aid

Or I must die.

 

Why do you flee, dainty one,

If I am near you?

When I behold your eyes

I am lost inside myself

Because your perfection

 

Your beauty and your grace

And your divine ways

Have melted the ice

Which was freezing my bones

And have filled my heart

With a loving ardour.

 

My soul wanted to be

Free of passion,

But love became master

Of my affections

And put under its law

My heart and my faith.

 

Come near, my lovely one,

Come near, my [dear one],

Do not resist me further

For my heart is yours,

To relieve my ills

Give me a kiss.

 

I die, my Little Angel,

I die when kissing

Your mouth so sweet.

My very lovely one,

With that touch my spirits

Are completely lifted in love.

 

Sooner will waves

Flow backwards

And sooner will the moon

Cease to shine

Before the love which conquered me

Wanes a single iota.

 

http://www.users.on.net/~algernon/bellequitiens/translation.html

Twelve Conclusions From Reading Paul’s Epistles in Full

Hypatia of Alexandria - SmithsonianToday I read all of Paul’s epistles in the New Testament from start to finish, something I never did when I was a Christian. No, I haven’t “seen the error of my ways” and converted back to that religion.  Rather this is part of my ongoing research into the life and death of Hypatia of Alexandria, the gifted astronomer and philosopher murdered in 415 CE by a mob of Christians in Alexandria.  I am seeking for the roots of her murder. Why was she considered a threat to the Christian community and why did that community believe it was morally justifiable to murder her so viciously when Exodus 20:13 is so explicit on the matter?

My reading of the epistles is first and foremost looking for bias — a critical job for any historian.  Who was Paul? What did he believe? What biases and bigotries did he possess? Here are my opening conclusions and impressions from reading the epistles as a whole:

1) Paul genuinely had one or more visions that affected him profoundly.
2) Paul’s legalism from his time as a pharisee did not go away. He believes in the written “word of God” as he experienced it as a pharisee.
3) Paul believes God has inspired him to write down what God wants for everyone. Because it comes from God, it must absolutely be obeyed without question or intellectual scrutiny.
4) Paul did not believe in individual liberty.
5) Paul believed in absolute obedience to authority without question. Especially slaves must obey masters. Women must obey men. Neither groups are persons with their own human rights.
6) Philosophy (the educational systems of his time) is bad. It leads you away from God and into sexual perversions.
7) Anything that takes you away from his view of Truth and God is bad and must be avoided at all costs. That includes people who do not believe or live as you do (though Paul contradicts himself on this point at times, depending on the letter).
8) God made women and slaves inherently inferior.
9) Women are innately perverse, sinful, lusty creatures.
10) Women need men as masters in order to be saved from Satan and hell.
11) Women lack the innate morality to lead men, especially in religious matters.
12) Sex and sexual desire, especially for a woman’s pleasure or between two men is gravely sinful.
cross 3
The final point about sex is especially important. Paul spends probably more time on sex and sexual mores than any other specific topic he covers.  It is almost an obsession for him.
For example, 1 Timothy 5 verses 11 and 12 says, “11 As for younger widows, do not put them on such a list. For when their sensual desires overcome their dedication to Christ, they want to marry.12 Thus they bring judgment on themselves, because they have broken their first pledge.”

This theme continues in 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 when he writes regarding all people, “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body[a] in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God.”

Paul sees sexual pleasure as a perversion that keeps men (males) from holiness and living godly lives. Women, seducers that they are, must therefore be tightly controlled and silenced because they through their sexuality are Satan’s tools who will sabotage men at every turn.

The birth of Pandora

This belief that women are seducers and Paul’s incessant missives to control women, to keep them away from places of influence and power, may be at the core of why church leaders in Alexandria were able to ignore Exodus 20:13 and command Hypatia’s murder.

It was not the first time the Bible was used to kill an innocent.  It was not the last.  But perhaps we can chart a different future, one where religion is no longer the excuse for the inexcusable.  Perhaps then we shall have peace.

The creation of women as Zeus’ revenge: an excerpt from Hesiod’s “Theogony.”

As research continues on “Hypatia of Alexandria” I have located “Theogony” by the 8th century BCE poet Hesiod, one of just a handful of Greek poets who recorded the Greek holy stories or scriptures.

prometheus1-3804

Prometheus bound.

Significant to my research is the portion of the Theogony telling how women were created by Zeus.  Here is Hesiod’s chapter telling the story:

The birth of Pandora

The birth of Pandora

“Prometheus: Pandora and the Lineage of Women

570 Forthwith then he fashioned evil for men in requital for the fire bestowed. For from the earth the famous Hephaistos, halting in both feet, fashioned the image of a modest maiden, through the counsels of the son of Kronos. And the goddess glancing-eyed Athena girded and arrayed her in silver-white raiment; 575 and from her head she held with her hands a curiously embroidered veil, a marvel to look upon: and Pallas Athena placed around her about her head lovely garlands fresh-budding with meadow-flowers, and around her head she set a golden coronet, which renowned Hephaistos lame with both feet had made himself, 580 having wrought it carefully by hand, out of compliment to Zeus his father. On it had been wrought many curious monsters, a marvel to view, as many as in great abundance the continent and the sea maintain. Many of these he introduced, and much elegance beamed from it, of wondrous beauty, like to living animals gifted with sounds. 585 But when he had wrought a beauteous evil instead of good, he led her forth even where were the rest of gods and men, exulting as she was in the adornment of the gleaming-eyed daughter-of-a-strong-father: and wonder seized immortal gods as well as mortal men, when they beheld a deep snare, against which man’s craftiness is in vain.

590 From her is the race of tender women. For from her is a pernicious race. Tribes of women, a great source of hurt, dwell with mortal men, helpmates not in consuming poverty, but in surfeit. And as when in close-roofed hives bees 595 feed drones, sharers in bad works, the former through the whole day till sunset are busy day by day, and make white combs, while the latter, remaining within in the close-roofed hives, reap the labors of others for their own stomachs. 600 Just as to mortal men high-thundering Zeus gave women as an evil, accomplices of painful toils: another evil too did he provide instead of good; to wit whosoever shunning marriage and the ills that women work, declines to marry, and has come to old age pernicious, 605 through want of one to tend his final days; he lives not, it is true, in lack of subsistence, but, when he is dead, distant kindred divide his possessions; while to whomsoever, on the other hand, the lot of marriage shall have fallen, and he has had a good wife congenial to his heart, to him then forever ill contends with good to be with him: 610 but whoso finds a baneful breed, lives with an incessant care to spirit and heart within his breast, and it is an irremediable woe. Thus it is not possible to deceive or overreach the mind of Zeus, for neither did Prometheus, helpful son of Iapetos, 615 escape from beneath his severe wrath; but a great chain, by necessity, constrains him, very knowing though he is.”

Meet Gwenllian ferch Gruffydd, the National Heroine of Wales

“Cymraes ydw i. I have no need for English fashions,” in one simple line from chapter two of “Gwenllian ferch Gruffydd, the Warrior Princess of Deheubarth” Princess Gwenllian summarizes her entire life and legacy, a legacy that has touched billions of lives.

But who was she and if she was really so influential, why have few people outside of Wales ever heard of her?

Born in 1097, Princess Gwenllian ferch Gruffydd was the daughter of King Gruffydd ap Cynan of the Welsh kingdom of Gwynedd.  Gwynedd’s rugged mountains empowered its rulers to remain independent longer than any other Welsh kingdoms in the country. Today the county of Gwynedd remains one of the largest and includes Snowdonia National Park. But historically Gwynedd the kingdom was much larger than its modern namesake. In medieval times Gwynedd’s capital was Aberffraw Castle on the island of Ynys Môn (English: Anglesey).  Readers of “Boudicca, Britain’s Queen of the Iceni” should recognize the name Ynys Môn because the island was the center of British druidry and therefore bore the brunt of Roman aggression towards Brythonic and ancient Celtic culture and religion.  Ynys Môn has a long tradition of being a historical hot spot (and one worthy of your next visit to the United Kingdom).


So it should be no surprise that Ynys Môn would be home to Wales’ most pivotal leaders.


Turn of the 12th century Wales was turbulent.  After his victory near Hastings in October 1066, William the Conqueror (now William I of England) set his sights on conquering the entire island of Britain.  Many of the Scottish nobles were bribed into vassalage. But the north of England and the Welsh kingdoms were different.  If William I and his new Angevin dynasty wanted to control these lands, he would have to take them by force!

William I began this task immediately.  In 1067 construction began on the first Norman castle, Chepstow in modern day Monmouthshire in southeast Wales. Located approximately 32 miles north of Cardiff, Chepstow’s location in the kingdom of Gwent made it the perfect fortress for attacking the southern kingdoms of Gwent, Morgannwg, and Deheubarth which in Gwenllian’s time had expanded to include most of south central Wales, including the kingdom of Ceredigion.

Standing in the way of this Norman Conquest of Wales were King Gruffydd ap Cynan of Gwynedd and King Rhys ap Tewdwr of Deheubarth.  Though often forced to retreat into exile in Ireland, both men blocked the outright and permanent conquest of their realms, passing on their fight to their sons and daughters.

It was in this environment that Princess Gwenllian ferch Gruffydd was born.  Like her famous brothers, she was raised in a kingdom constantly under attack. Everyone — including the king’s daughter — needed to be battle ready or risk losing life and home to William Rufus’ and King Henry I’s notoriously brutal soldiers.

Gwenllian’s life changed forever in 1113 when King Rhys ap Tewdwr’s two surviving sons sought sanctuary at Aberffraw after recently escaping exile, torture, and imprisonment at Norman hands. For Prince Gruffydd ap Rhys and Princess Gwenllian it was true love almost from the beginning of his time there.  In 1115 they married and Gwenllian moved to Gruffydd’s Dinefwr castle as its co-sovereign, beginning a twenty year war of resistance against the much stronger Normans thanks to their successful use of the Welsh longbow fired from the cover of forest, the same tactics used by the fictional Robin Hood and Maid Marion against similar Norman knights. Unlike Robin Hood and Marion, Gwenllian and Gruffydd’s stakes in these battles were far greater: if they failed, tens of thousands of Welsh would be enslaved by the Anglo-Normans.  Their kingdom was at stake and it was their job to defend it — at any price.

Gwenllian paid that price in February 1136 when Maurice de Londres captured her following a desperate winter battle.  Instead of ransoming her as the code of chilvary demanded, Maurice chopped off her head, making Gwenllian the first sovereign ever executed by the English.  It was an atrocity that could no be ignored.

To this day “revenge for Gwenllian” remains a Welsh battle cry of outrage, an execution that remains well remembered.  The Welsh have not forgotten Gwenllian and never will.  To truly understand the history and culture of the British people it is vital that you discover her story as well.

“Gwenllian ferch Gruffydd, the Warrior Princess of Deheubarth” is available in English, Welsh, German, and Spanish on Amazon, iBooks, and a retailer near you.

Language Switching and why I do it so much

If you are a fan of the Legendary Women of World History biographies or period dramas, you have no doubt noticed that I tend to bounce around languages a great deal, sometimes at the expense of being directly understandable in a given point in the book.  So why do I do it and why will I not simply put the whole damn thing in English like normal people do?

In a word, PARALINGUISTICS.  Paralinguistics is a social science term for the parts of verbal communication that are not inherent in the meaning of the words we use.  Paralinguistics is the HOW of our speech: its melody, its pace, its inflection and so forth.  Dialect and specific word choice is also paralinguistic. It conveys to listeners a great deal of information about a person and in particular information about gender, ethnicity, place of birth, place of residence, socio-economic class, even race sometimes.  Different places have different names for the same thing.

soda-pop

The labels we use for objects varies greatly with our geography and our dialect. A classic example of this is our word for a sweetened carbonated beverage.

One classic example I studied in university in my “non-verbal communication” class was the word we use to refer to a sweetened carbonated beverage. No, it is not the same word everywhere.  In the southern United States, the word “coke” is used to refer to such beverages, regardless of brand (I heard this myself during my stay in Louisville, Kentucky).  In many Midwestern states such as Nebraska where I was born and raised, the word is “pop.”  In New England the preferred word is “soda” which is the word I default to. In fact I often very purposely avoid the word “pop,” much to the annoyance of my now late mother who complained that I “didn’t talk like a Nebraskan.” That’s because I had so thoroughly adjusted my dialect to what is normal in the greater New York City metropolitan area that I no longer sounded like someone from the Midwest.

crawdad crayfish

Is it a crawdad, crawfish, or crayfish?  The word you use is largely determined by where you are from.

Beyond geography, our paralinguistics tell listeners a great deal about our socio-economic status and education.  A person with a third grade education talks differently than a person with a university degree.  A person who has traveled a great deal also talks differently from a person who has never left her own town or village. The languages one speaks is a powerful communicator of this information and how that person is perceived.  As a rule, speaking multiple languages is a mark of education, travel, and often class.  It tells you very concisely who that person is and what her or his background is.

No where is this more evident than in the use of honorifics.

What is an honorific?  It’s a word we use to convey respect to another person.  A classic example is when we address a judge “your honour” and a member of a royal family as “Your Majesty” or “Your Highness.” In medieval societies it was especially important to show proper respect with these honorifics which include “your grace,” “my lord/milord,” “my lady/milady,” “my liege,” “sire,” “master,” “mistress,” and so forth.

Honorifics in the Legendary Women of World History biographies almost always follow the person’s nationality or adopted nationality.  So Princess Nest ferch Gruffydd respectfully greets King Gruffydd ap Cynan with the Welsh “f’arglwydd” which means “milord.” Use of “f’arglwydd” (or its feminine form “f’arglwyddes”) instantly tells you the speaker is Welsh. Likewise French Princess Catherine de Valois (book two) periodically speaks French, both to her family members and to the monolingual King Henry V, particularly during their many arguments.

When Matilda of England returns to London after the death of her husband, Kaiser Heinrich V, her persistent use of German and German forms of people’s names is there to tell you very concisely that she identifies herself as “empress” (German, Kaiserin; Latin, Imperatrix).  This is absolutely historical and it is a major reason why the Anglo-Norman nobility found her impossible to work with. Using German powerfully conveys how Matilda saw herself and how she insisted on being treated.

The use of language therefore tells you who the person is and how s/he self-identifies.  The actual meaning of the individual words is far less important than what the use of them says about the person as a whole and in the given moment.  Queen Elizabeth Tudor spoke at least six languages and therefore very fluently moved across them as she desired and the situation merited.  The immediate descendants of William the Conqueror spoke both English and French with the same fluency as many Canadians do today.  By necessity they used English, French, and Latin in the day-to-day administration of their vast realms.  Medieval Europeans prayed in Latin so all of the prayers found in the LWWH are in Latin as well.

Language switching in the Legendary Women of World History series is therefore essential in accurately communicating who these people were and the societies in which they lived.  It might be easier to render a prayer in English from a reader point of view, but it would not be historically accurate to do so. It might be more comfortable for some readers if all dialogue were in English, but doing so would strip out all of the paralinguistics that we all use everyday when communicating with other people.  It would be akin to writers universally using the word “coke” to refer to a soft drink without considering if that word is what a historical person or character would actually label the beverage.  A person from the southern United States most certainly would — but not all people in the United States are from the southern region nor are all English speakers from that region either.

 

Whether we realize it or not our word choices are an essential part of our daily communication.  More than simply which words we use, our dialects and use of borrowed words from other languages communicates a great deal about who we are to people.  Fluency in many languages is driven by many factors in our lives:  social, economic, educational, and professional to name just a few. How we speak is a major part of the tapestry of our lives.  Embrace that tapestry in your own life and use your understanding of it to enhance your understanding of other people.

 

 

 

King Stephen and Herr Trump: thoughts on the inauguration

Today Donald J. Trump will take the oath of office to become the 45th President of the United States. He does so as the most hated and distrusted person to ever swear that oath, an oath that he refuses to uphold and will never uphold beyond his ability to use the government of the United States for personal profit, something explicitly forbidden by the Constitution of the United States and therefore the oath he is about to take.

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Taking an oath of office you have no intention of upholding is nothing knew.  Nearly every king and queen regnant of England, Great Britain, and the United Kingdom has sworn a coronation oath.  Here is that oath and coronation ritual as King Stephen swore it on 26th of December, 1135 when he usurped the throne of King Henry I’s daughter and heir, Empress Matilda:

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“Do you Stephen de Blois solemnly swear to uphold the three duties of the king of England? Will you swear first, that the church of God and the whole Christian people shall have true peace at all time by your judgment; Second, that you will forbid extortion and all kinds of wrong-doing to all orders of men; Third, that you will enjoin equity and mercy in all judgments?” asked the Archbishop of Canterbury as he stood before the assembly at Westminster Abbey.

“I so swear!” promised Stephen.

The archbishop turned to the nobles assembled before him, “Do you, members of the Witan council consent to this man ruling as your king?”

“We wish it and grant it,” confirmed the Witan.

“Stephen de Blois, it is the will of the English people that you are to be king!  Receive now the anointing from God through me that you may be blessed in your reign!” proclaimed the archbishop as he anointed Stephen on his hands, breasts, shoulders, and arms with holy oil prepared for the coronation. In honour of the king’s duty to protect his people, he girt Stephen with a mighty sword before placing the royal crown upon his head. The royal ring he placed on Stephen’s finger. The sceptre and the rod he placed in Stephen’s hands. Finally, and at long last King Stephen sat down on his throne, his ambition fulfilled.

 

Trump’s coronation today (for there’s nothing democratic about his “presidency”) will resemble King Stephen’s in many strikingly similar ways–as will his reign. Stephen of course did not have nuclear weapons.  But like Trump, Stephen was a sort of puppet, a weak-minded monarch who allowed shrewder and even more ambitious men to use him for their personal gain — at the expense of not only the English people, but the entire island of Britain. King Stephen’s reign and its impact on England, Scotland, and Wales is an important part of “Empress Matilda of England.”  

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Empress Matilda of England tells the story of Henry I’s sole surviving legitimate child.

Matilda herself did not cross the Channel to assert her birth right upon hearing of Stephen’s treachery for she was heavily pregnant at the time and crossing the English Channel was a dangerous matter.  Stephen of course did not have nuclear weapons at his disposal.  Four hours from this writing, Donald J. Trump will.

We cannot afford delay in Resisting. We cannot afford to wait and see and hope that maybe Trump isn’t as bad as he seems.  Do not let the gas-lighting convince you to mistrust your own eyes, ears, and judgement. Do not get lulled into a false sense of security.

King Stephen inflicted eighteen years of civil war upon Britain, years called “The Anarchy.” They were among the worst years in British history.  Let us not allow history to repeat itself here.  Let us learn from history. Only our lives and liberties are at stake.

 

 

 

Gwenllian ferch Gruffydd Análisis De La Escena: Vestuario

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Ya disponible.

Traducido por Andrés Sotelo Soria:

Buen día y bienvenido seas a tu viaje como recreador, actor o productor de una de las Obras Teatrales de las Mujeres Legendarias de la Historia Mundial.
Como historiadora, me apasiona la historia. Adoro pocas cosas más que ver una obra de teatro del periodo correcto en la que se representan de forma exacta los vestuarios. Pero, ¿qué se puede hacer si tienes poco presupuesto o si vas a montar las obras de “Gwenllian ferch Gruffydd” o de “La Emperatriz Matilda”? ¿Qué pasa si no tienes años de experiencia en investigación de vestidos medievales?

La siguiente es una guía general para las producciones de “Gwenllian ferch Gruffydd: Un obra en tres actos” y para la reconstrucción general de personajes del siglo XII:

ANÁLISIS DE LA ESCENA: VESTUARIO

A menos que se especifique en algún otro sitio, los personajes usan atuendos comunes del siglo XII

MUJERES: vestidos de túnica que llegan hasta el suelo y los primeros briales conocidos, ambos usados con cinturones largos que se ajustan fijamente alrededor de la cintura. Los briales (cuando se usen) se atan de lado. Las capas se usan en la noche y durante los meses de invierno.  Las galesas usan una continuación de la antigua capa envuelta y asegurada con un prendedor llamada “brat”.

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HOMBRES:  camisas de túnica que caen hasta la rodilla y pantalones sencillos. El cinturón está amarrado fijamente a la cintura. Las capas se usan en la noche y durante los meses de invierno.  Los galeses usan una continuación de la antigua capa envuelta y asegurada con un prendedor llamada “brat” La jerarquía tanto de los hombres como de las mujeres se muestra a través del tipo de tela y los adornos con bordados elaborados a lo largo del escote, las mangas y dobladillos en los dobladillos de la ropa usada por la realeza. La joyería también establece la jerarquía con anillos elaborados y gargantillas llevadas por los ricos y poderosos.  Nota:  los collares de librea (los cuales se posan de forma plana contra el cuerpo en vez de colgar libremente en el cuello) se usaron por primera vez en el siglo XIV y, por lo tanto, están fuera de este periodo.  Vestuario especialPrólogo: el fantasma de Gwenllian usa un brial de color azul pálido con rosas blancas y narcisos amarillos bordados a lo largo del dobladillo.  Es el mismo vestido que usa Gwenllian en el Acto I, Escena VIII.

Acto I, Escena II: El lodo cubre las capas y las botas de Hywel y el príncipe Gruffydd.

Acto I, Escena VII: Gwenllian usa un bello vestido y una capa bordada.  Su cabello pelirrojo está perfectamente trenzado y cae sobre su espalda.  Una diadema sencilla de nobleza oculta su verdadera posición social como la hija del rey.

Acto I, Escena VIII: Gwenllian usa un brial de color azul pálido con rosas blancas y narcisos amarillos bordados a lo largo del dobladillo.  Lleva sobre su cabeza la diadema real de una princesa de Gwynedd sobre su cabello trenzado descubierto.

Acto III, Escena I: la dama de compañía pone una capa gruesa sobre el vestido de túnica sencillo de Gwenllian. Los sirvientes colocan una armadura pesada sobre el príncipe Gruffydd sobre la cual atan una capa gruesa.

Acto III, Escena II: la armadura del príncipe Morgan, su ropa y su cara están cubiertos de sangre, lodo y hollín.

Acto III, Escena V: los granjeros usan túnicas y pantalones viejos y en su mayoría raídos. Gruffydd ap Llewellyn usa una armadura modesta y está armado con armas de calidad. Morgan y Maelgwn llevan una armadura y armas finas.

 

“Catherine de Valois”Stage Verses Book: How The Adaptation Differs From The Biography

The following article is part of the reference materials at the end of “Catherine de Valois: A Play in Three Acts.”

 

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“Based on a true story.”  When we hear those words we know and fully expect (rightfully) that a play, teleplay, or screenplay takes certain artistic licenses that deviate from events as they really happened.

Though every effort was made to keep this stage play as faithful to the biography upon which it is based as possible, there are a few differences between book and play which make both worth reading, exploring, and performing.

As with all books, the narrative biography “Catherine de Valois” uses prose-format narrative covering events that are not readily translated to the stage.  For example, after the Battle of Agincourt, King Henry V secured an alliance with the Holy Roman Emperor and together waged a naval battle against the French and Genovese at Harfleur in 1416.  Between Act I, Scene VI and Scene VII four full years have passed.  In the book you know what happened; in the play you do not.  Likewise the book covers the entire twenty-seven months Catherine and Henry were married, including the birth of Prince Henry on 6th December 1421.  Finally the book explores Catherine’s marriage to Owen Tudor.  We are there in the book as each of Catherine’s sons are born, seeing Catherine as the loving mother that she was and why King Henry VI, Owen Tudor, and Edmund Tudor remained so close after her death in January 1437.

Though most of the events covered in the narration were left out of the play (for example, the birth of Edmund Tudor), some events that were conveyed narratively instead of dramatically are in the play.  These appear as new scenes:

  • Act I, Scene VIII: in this mother-daughter scene set fourteen months after Henry and Catherine’s first meeting in October 1419, we learn that Catherine and Henry married on 2nd June 1420 and that Catherine still despises Henry.
  • Act II, Scene IV: as the Siege of Meaux begins in earnest, King Henry confides to his younger brother John Duke of Bedford about his marriage to Queen Catherine.  Henry’s court herald arrives from London to inform him of the birth of his son, Prince Henry.
  • Act II, Scene VI: Catherine returns to Paris certain that her duties as queen of England are now over with Henry’s death. This scene was added to make it explicit that Henry V is dead.
  • Act III, Scene III: Catherine and Owen’s wedding.  Historically all we know about this wedding is that it happened in secret  sometime before 1427 and that their priest told no one.  This scene shows the wedding to make it clear that Catherine and Owen married at least three years before Edmund’s birth in 1430.

Finally one scene stealing character was all but removed from the play version on practical grounds.  That character of course is Isabelle, Catherine’s Alexandrine parakeet.

In medieval Europe, companion birds were the primary pets for most people with the type of bird kept largely controlled by wealth and access to the food and shelter needs of the bird species.  From 2006 to 2013 I researched medieval aviculture as part of my membership in the Society for Creative Anachronism.  I became society expert on parrots in the middle ages and taught seminars on both medieval aviculture and medieval falconry.  So it only makes sense that my expertise in this area makes an appearance in Catherine’s biography.  In fact nothing could be more “Laurel” than including a parrot in the narrative.

In the book Isabelle behaves exactly the way the parrots I know (mine and those of friends) behave.  From the food stealing in chapter one to the playful aerial antics in chapter three, the book showcases life with parrots as I know it.

Parrots are unpredictable; they have minds of their own; they are not domesticated creatures.  Though they can be trained, there is no guarantee at any given moment that the bird will do what you ask.  In a live environment like theatre this is asking for trouble, trouble readily avoided by keeping Isabelle confined to a single scene where she can be replaced by a hand prop if need be.

 

In summary, “Catherine de Valois:  A Play in Three Acts” is a faithful adaptation to its parent biography.  Though not everything in the book makes it to the stage, it accurately and dramatically renders the events of Queen Catherine’s life in a form so entertaining it’s hard to realize how much you are learning in the process.

Enjoy the audio edition, kindle edition, and paperback edition of the original biography on Amazon sites worldwide.  Audio edition narrated by veteran Shakespearean actor and voice artist Richard Mann.