Tag Archive | History

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.

 

Teaching in the SCA: the class that taught me how to write the Legendary Women of World History Series

Many of you know that for over 20 years I was a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism, a medieval recreation group mostly centered in the United States and Canada that focuses on the time period between 600 and 1600 CE.  I was known at first as “Anne de Lyons” when I played as a student at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln (SCA chapter: Shire/Barony of Mag Mor, Calontir), but quickly shifted to a nuzhen persona once I took Asian history courses at UNL.

sands point demo 2009

As my life took shape I eventually took up my passion for birds and made it part of the SCA in 2006 while living in Brooklyn, New York. Now known as “Biya Saman,” I focused my research on both falconry and aviculture in medieval China, engaging in a four year long research project asking “what happened to the Derbyan parakeet” that were often talked about in some of the great poems of the Tang Dynasty.

In 2010 I completed my research and had the opportunity to present it in Chicago at the November “Royal University Midrealms” event.  Here is that course entitled “Talons and White Crests.”

Talon and White Crest class handout

Why is the class important?  Because ultimately it taught me how to organize my research into a smooth, easy to understand narrative.  It is the beginning of my narrative history approach and the way I approach and write each Legendary Women of World History book.

Not everything from my research made it into that class of course.  There was much I could not do. But the point was to teach students who had no background in Chinese history, language or culture; no background with parrots or the quirks of living with them; and no background in falconry as practiced in either medieval Europe or Asia.

When teaching students with absolutely no experience or background in your subject, I find it helpful to use a narrative method, to make it all about the story which is exactly what you find in the above course and in each Legendary Women of World History biography.

As I came to do with the appendices of my books, I deferred technical information to my class handout.  Open up the handout from the above link and you’ll find I really explain how parrots and birds of prey are different (and yes, people often don’t know even the most basic differences between them).  Deferring the technical stuff allows me to focus on the story and maintain clarity.

 

Talons and White Crests was an important step in learning how to write the Legendary Women of World History.  I hope you will enjoy it.

November New Releases

Good morning!  My apologies for not posting since August. But when you see the results, I’m sure you will forgive me.

Hypatia of Alexandria webOn 1 August I took up a challenge I honestly did not think possible:  write “Hypatia of Alexandria” and release it before the first week of December.  Why did that seem so difficult?  Consider this:  it took nearly a year and a half to research and write “Empress Matilda of England” (LWWH book 7). And while it’s true I wrote Boudicca in less than a month (still my best-seller), Boudicca had ONE appendix in its initial release.  Hypatia has THREE.

And so I put aside the blog and really focused on writing.  In the middle of that I was a guest on the “Condensed History Gems” podcast hosted by Jem Duducu (@historygems) and Greg Chapman (@CondensedHist). Those interested can listen to my guest episode.

Persistence pays off and thanks to a lot of long days and nights, I succeeded in finishing Hypatia in September, allowing me to focus on the editorial and promotional work so essential to a successful book launch.

arban saman webIn the middle of that I had a bit of an attack of life, both personally and spiritually. Rather than blog about it, I decided to express what was in my mind in the form of historical fiction.  “The Arban and the Saman” takes me back to my roots in Chinese/East Asian history. The story begins in the year 1211, just five years after Temujin becomes Chinggis Khan when the Mongols first invaded the nuzhen (Jurchen) homeland. This is roughly the time period I played when I was a re-enactor in the Society for Creative Anachronism when I was known as “Biya.”  Biya means “the moon” in nuzhen/Jurchen/Manchu and it’s one of the few characters from the original nuzhen language used in the Jin dynasty that survived decades of warfare against the Mongols.

“The Arban and the Saman” explores the subject of soul mates and soul family. It’s a deeply spiritual historical romance that takes you far more intimately into my own life experience than really any other book I’ve written to date. In the book I take you into what it was like during some of my “near” death experiences and what I experience when I meditate.  I take you into Asian medicine. And yes, I challenge you intellectually to think about the subject of soul mates, soul family, and reincarnation and our assumptions about them.

It’s a beautiful story and one I hope you will enjoy.  And yes, that model on the cover is me.  The photo was extracted from a musical performance I gave near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the winter of 2006.

To my great surprise I finished and published “The Arban and the Saman” on 1 November, 2017 and released it immediately with the promotional blog tour scheduled for February 2018 in celebration of Chinese New Year: the Year of the Dog.

Hypatia of Alexandria launched on 10 November 2017. The promotional blog tour for Hypatia begins on Sunday 19th November, 2017.

Defend the light candle 2Prizes will be given during both blog tours.  For “Hypatia,” three lucky winners will “defend the light” with special votive candles, plus one grand prize winner will receive a signed paperback copy.

rose quartz pendants

To celebrate the magic and mysticism of “The Arban and the Saman” three lucky winners will each receive a beautiful rose quartz pendant. The grand prize winner will receive a selection of Chinese teas from http://www.enjoytea.com.

Happy holidays! Thanks for reading! And don’t forget to always DEFEND THE LIGHT of knowledge and wisdom.

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.

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.

trump

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:

stephen

“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.”  

empress-matilda-of-england-web

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.

 

 

 

Early Fifteenth Century Costuming: General Guidelines for “Catherine de Valois: A Play in Three Acts”

 

Isabeau of Bavaria

Queen Isabeau of Bavaria in her royal houppeland.

As a historian, history is my passion.  I love few things better than seeing a period-correct drama where the costumes are accurately rendered.  But what do you do if your budget is small or you are playing scenes from “Catherine de Valois: A Play in Three Acts” or Shakespeare’s “Henry V?” What if you don’t have years of expertise researching medieval gowns?

The following is a general guide for productions of “Catherine de Valois: A Play in Three Acts” and for general re-enactment of  early 15th century characters/personae:

WOMEN:  A cotehardie.  Over her cotehardie she wears either a side-less surcoat or a floor length houppelande. In adults, hair is typically kept up and under a veil or period headpiece.  Wimples are sometimes worn under the chin.

MEN:  Knee length doublets over a white shirt. Over this men also sometimes wore houppelandes cover the upper body.  Hose covers lower body in all cases.  Indoors men wear simple leather shoes or ankle-length boots. Men wear hats.  Outdoors men wear knee length boots.

Additional examples of cotehardies,  houppelands, and hairstyles can be found across my many pinterest boards.

cotehardie-with-sideless-surcoat

Cotehardie with sideless surcoat.  Note that cotehardies may be either back laced (as in this example) or side-laced.

Special costuming for “Catherine de Valois: A Play in Three Acts”and for general reenactment of early 15th century characters/personae

PROLOGUE/EPILOGUE: Margaret wears a wedding veil on her head which is secured by a wreath of flowers.

Act I, Scene VII: Queen Isabeau is richly dressed in a velvet houppelande.  Catherine wears a white cotehardie.  Fleur-de-lys adorn Catherine’s royal blue velvet side-less surcoat.  Mother and daughter are dressed to impress as they wait to meet King Henry of England.

Act I, Scene VIII: Catherine wears a Christmas green houppelande.  In her hair she wears a circlet of holly and berries.  Queen Isabeau wears exactly the same dress as she wears in act one, scene two.

Act II, Scene II: The duke’s clothes are noble, but showing some wear.

Act II, Scene III: Catherine wears a loose houppelande to cover her slightly pregnant belly.

Act III, Scenes I, II: Catherine wears a bright white gown, veil, and wimple in accord with medieval mourning customs.

Act III, Scene III: Catherine wears the white cotehardie and blue side-less surcoat that she wore in

Act I, Scene VII. On her head is the crown given to her at her coronation as queen of England.

History Profile: King William II (Rufus)

270px-William_II_of_EnglandDate of Birth: circa 1056

Place of Birth: Normandy

Date of death:  2 August 1100

Spouse: none

Issue: none

Successor:  Henry I

Openly homosexual and sceptical of the church in a time where questioning Church doctrine was almost unheard of, King William II was the favourite son of his father, William I (the Conqueror).  In 1087 William inherited the throne of England from his father; his elder brother Robert received Normandy while his younger brother Henry received money. A warrior like his father who stammered when he spoke, William worked to extend his father’s conquest of England into Wales and Scotland.  He forced King Malcolm Canmore of Scotland (of Shakespeare’s “MacBeth” fame for his death at MacBeth’s hands) to swear fealty to him and acknowledge him as overlord.  In Gwynedd Wales he retained King Harold Godwinson’s puppet King Bleddyn ap Cynfyn, using him to displace King Gruffydd ap Cynan and force him into exile in Ireland.  In 1093 in Deheubarth, William II’s knights killed King Rhys ap Tewdur at the Battle of Brycheiniog, forcing his four sons into exile, including Prince Gruffydd ap Rhys (the future husband to King Gruffydd ap Cynan’s daughter, Princess Gwenllian).

William Rufus ordered the construction of some of the most famous and infamous castles in all of Wales including Chepstow Castle (1087, the year of his coronation) in Carmarthanshire and Pembroke Castle (birth place to Prince Gruffydd ap Rhys and Princess Gwenllian ferch Gruffydd’s descendent, King Henry VII) in Pembrokeshire in 1093.

In England William Rufus was a passionate hunter who continued his father’s cruel Forest Laws (of Robin Hood fame) and extended them.  It was his love of hunting that opened the door for his younger brother Henry.  On 2 August 1100 under mysterious circumstances King William was struck in the lung by an arrow.  Walter Tirel is given the blame for firing the deadly arrow; many believe it was done on Prince Henry’s orders as a way of getting rid of a violent, impious, and almost universally hated king.

 

Though most people consider Henry I’s descendent King John the most hated king in medieval history, the prize rightfully belongs to King William Rufus whose wars and violent nature not only made him the bane of most English women and men but set the stage for the challenges still experienced forging a united kingdom out of England, Scotland, Wales, and northern Ireland.

History Profile: King Henry V of England

330px-King_Henry_V_from_NPGDate of Birth: 16 September 1386 at Monmouth Castle, Monmouthshire, Wales.

Date of Death: 31 August 1422 — dysentery contracted while on campaign near Paris, France.

Spouse:  Queen Catherine de Valois (married 6 June 1420)

Issue: King Henry VI of England — House Lancaster

King Henry V of England is one of the most celebrated of English monarchs.  Immortalized by Shakespeare in “Henry V,” the myth created by the play conceals the real person whose short life was characterized by bloody warfare, a ferocious temper, and vindictive violence.

King Henry was thirteen years old when his father, Henry Bolingbroke successfully wrestled the throne of England away from his cousin King Richard II to become King Henry IV.  Very soon after his father’s coronation, Owain Glyndŵr declared himself Prince of Wales and commenced one of the most successful wars of independence against English colonization in Welsh history.

Schlacht_von_Azincourt

The Battle of Agincourt. 26 October 1415.

Not surprisingly, King Henry IV sent Prince Henry to Wales to crush the Glyndŵr revolt, suffering personal injury when a Welsh arrow struck him in the face.  Prince Henry responded with brutal vengeance in a pattern seen throughout his life, especially in his campaigns in France while king.  King Henry V did not believe taking prisoners of war; those who surrendered after a defeat could expect to be executed. Henry believed that any person who challenged his authority, even when forced into military service against him, was a threat to his life and his crown. This included the women and children living in the towns and cities Henry laid siege to.  It was a bloody reign.

Learn more about King Henry V through the eyes of his relationship with his queen consort in “Catherine de Valois.”  Available in digital, paperback, and audio editions.

History Profile: Queen Boudicca

Date of Birth:  circa 30 CE

Place of Birth:  unknown — likely Gaul

Date of death: 60 or 61 CE — suicide

Spouse: King Prasutagus of the Iceni

Issue: none surviving

Queen Boudicca is the national heroine of England for a reason:  she united rival British tribes and won several military victories against the Romans in a time when that was deemed impossible.

Often depicted as a vengeful warrior out for blood on a personal vendetta, the real Queen Boudicca ruled as her husband’s co-sovereign over the small but technologically advanced and religiously devout Iceni nation.  In 60 or 61 CE King Prasutagus died mysteriously.

Though often assumed to be old age by many, the timing of his death relative to the Roman military campaigns on the Welsh island of Ynys Môn coupled with the terms in Prasutagus’ last will and testament suggest otherwise.  Prasutagus was worth more dead than alive to the Romans, especially as the Romans did not recognize Celtic laws and customs which granted women near complete equality to men.  With his family members all female, the Romans were eager to remove Prasutagus and fully conquer the Iceni.  This suggests to me his death was violent and at Roman hands.

When the Romans invaded her lands, Boudicca did what any sovereign or co-sovereign would do:  she mounted a defence.  After losing the first battle with the Romans in her own community at which she and her daughters suffered outrageous torture and injury, Boudicca struck back, determined to prevent the Romans from harming her people again.

It worked better than she could have expected.  Other tribes, especially her southern neighbour the Trinovantes joined with her, forming a rare confederation that eventually spread across several tribes.

Boudicca achieved unity from within the boundaries of her free and very individualistic society, proving that liberty and unity can exist when we put aside what divides us and choose to work together.

 

Read more about Boudicca in “Boudicca, Britain’s Queen of the Iceni” in your choice of English, Welsh, Welsh-English, Chinese, and Spanish.  Audio edition narrated by Richard Mann.

Introducing History Profiles

I am pleased to announce a new column is coming to this blog:  history profiles.

On a regular basis you will be treated to a short (200-500 word) profile exploring the life of a single person from history — female or male — from across world history.

So who would you like to see me profile?  Leave your suggests in the comment box below and I will endeavour to fulfill your request and answer whatever questions I am able to.

Meet Boudicca in new youtube videos.

Since 2014 Boudicca, Britain’s Queen of the Iceni has informed and inspired you in digital, paperback, and audio editions.  First in English, then in Chinese, and this spring in Italian, Spanish, Welsh, and Welsh-English editions with French and German language editions releasing on or about Labour Day weekend.

Just for fun here are three brand new videos (all of them created in May 2016) celebrating this new global approach to biographical history.  Can you name what language each of these videos is in?

 

 

 

More videos coming this summer exploring more lives from the Legendary Women of World History biography series. Stay tuned!

In Her Own Tongue: “Buddug” Brings Boudicca’s Story To Wales | NFReads.com

Boudicca Welsh webBuddug, Brenhines Iceni Prydain is the first Legendary Women of World History biography available in the Welsh language and one of the few biographies

Source: In Her Own Tongue: “Buddug” Brings Boudicca’s Story To Wales | NFReads.com

Discussion: Is Jesus’ birth worth celebrating?

manger-620x412This morning I found this fascinating article entitled “Is Jesus’ birth worth celebrating?”  In it Valarie Talerico takes us beneath the surface of the Christian celebration of Jesus’ birth and looks at the inherent messages about female sexuality.

“A woman used is a woman soiled. A woman raped is a woman ruined. A girl who explores her body with a boy is a licked lollypop.  A divorced woman shouldn’t get married in white. Only an unbedded and so unsullied female—a virgin—could be pure enough to birth a perfect child, the son of God.”

The article goes into depth into the cultural and religious history behind these ideas that a woman who has never been sexually touched is superior to all other females.

Looking deeper than the article does, I must point out that these same cultures and religions often employ rape as a sort of weapon:  once used by the rapist, a woman is considered wholly unsuitable for marriage.

Though rape is a traumatic experience for the girl or woman, in societies and religious traditions where female conduct reflects on her male owners, the intent of the rapist is revealed to be more an attack on the men in her life, a way of dishonouring them through her.

Boudicca artist concept chariotThat is, in fact, the primary reason why Roman soldiers raped Queen Boudicca’s daughters:  they were sending a terrorist message that just as they ruined and shamed the Iceni (to rape their princesses is to shame the entire tribe), they were perfectly prepared to shame and terrorize any Briton daring to stand up to them.

And so we must examine in our own hearts what our values are and what we really want them to be.  Do we want to continue to measure a woman’s worth based on how many male genitals have touched her body and in what fashion?  Do we want to continue to weigh a person’s worth based on another person’s behaviour or experiences?  Do we still want to confuse service/nurturing with subservience and demand women treat themselves as inferiors to men?

Libby bird iconOr do we want something better for ourselves, our families, and our societies?  Do we truly believe in the equality of all people and the rights of every person to act according to her or his own conscience and convictions or will we persist on judging and condemning others for choices and circumstances that differ from our own?

Will we take the dark road of hate and judgement or will we take the harder road of love, acceptance, and peace?

I cannot answer that question for you; only for myself.  I choose love and peace.  I choose to accept you just the way you are — free of judgement.  You are wonderful just because you are you.

 

Merry Christmas!

–Laurel A. Rockefeller

 

Five Facts about Queen Mary Stuart of Scotland You Probably Did Not Know

Mary Queen of ScotsMerry Christmas and Happy New Year!  As the holidays begin to wind down a bit (Yule was Monday Night/Tuesday) I thought I would share five things about Queen Mary Stuart of Scotland (1542 -1587) you probably did not know which I learned researching and writing “Mary Queen of the Scots” for the Legendary Women of World History Series.

  1. Queen Mary was born in December. The 8th of December to be exact.  Upon learning of his daughter’s birth, King James V predicted the ruin of his dynasty because she was a girl instead of a boy.
  2. Queen Mary’s love of her life (as evidenced in the poetry she wrote in French), King Francis II of France was incapable of having children.  As much as Mary loved him, too many generations of close marriage resulted in birth defects making children impossible for the happy couple.  As dangerous as the political situation turned out for Mary after Francis’ death in 1560, had he lived longer the situation would have likely become far worse for Mary and for Scotland as a whole.
  3. Lord Darnley was the healthiest suitor to Queen Mary–but not her first choice.  Understanding her duty to remarry following Francis’ death, Mary actually considered many possible suitors from across Europe.  The 16th century royals however were especially plagued with health issues (including King Edward VI of England whom Henry VIII tried to force Mary to marry).  Unwilling to marry beneath her class, Henry Stewart (also descended of Queen Consort Margaret Tudor) was Mary’s best chance at producing an heir.
  4. Protestant reformer John Knox was both her dangerous enemy and her friend.  True to the complexities of Mary’s court and her life as a whole, Queen Mary found John Knox to be an amiable companion when hunting or shooting her bow despite his efforts to impose radical Protestantism onto Scotland and depose Mary as queen.
  5. Queen Mary’s return from France transformed Edinburgh Castle into the bright and beautiful place it is today. Prior to Queen Mary’s reign Edinburgh Castle was a cold, dark, and dreary place.  This was in sharp contrast with the glittering palaces of Paris where she grew up and eventually reigned (briefly) as queen.  Partially to make Edinburgh Castle a proper and comfortable home for herself, Mary commissioned numerous improvements, adding beauty and glamour that was previously absent in Scottish courts.

 

Mary Queen of the Scots

Learn more about Queen Mary Stuart in “Mary Queen of the Scots, the Forgotten Reign,” book three of the Legendary Women of World History Series.  Available for kindle, Nook, iBookstore, and in paperback on Amazon, and at a retailer near you.

Biography includes comprehensive bibliography, extensive timeline, and translations of Roman Catholic prayers from Latin to English.  Also available in French, German, Italian, Chinese, and Spanish. See https://bit.ly/2IWJeOB for links to non-English editions.

Donald Trump and What “Conservative” Really Means

trump-768x512If you live in the United States you are probably already sick and tired about hearing about the campaign deciding who will be the next president of the United States.  As a matter of fact odds are good you have now heard the name “Trump” even more times than you have heard another name I never want to hear again — KARDASHIAN.  Yes we are over-saturated with reality TV stars — which is exactly what “The Donald” actually is.

Across 2015 we’ve been treated to a renewed and very vocal outcry of white power, anti-immigrant sentiment (let’s include Britain’s UKIP party here).  Trump’s obstinate rudeness in the name of not being “politically correct” has ended all pretenses of civility and human decency as thousands flock to hear and echo his race baiting and misogyny, messages that are designed to put the rest of us in our “proper” place.

Respected journalist Jorge Ramos confronting Trump on his immigration policies on 26 Aug 2015.

Respected journalist Jorge Ramos confronting Trump on his immigration policies on 26 Aug 2015.

Sadly Trump is not alone in his spiteful and scapegoating rhetoric.  As reported this week in The Guardian, other GOP contenders including Ben Carson have joined the racist Trump bandwagon, railing against racial minorities.  Those that have not expressed blazoned racism have joined Trump in their sexist, including many recent remarks by Jeb Bush.  All of this designed to appeal to their conservative vote base.

Which begs the question, “what exactly are they trying to preserve?”

Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines conservative as

“Believing in the value of established and traditional practices in politics and society : relating to or supporting political conservatism. of or relating to the conservative party in countries like the United Kingdom and Canada: not liking or accepting changes or new ideas.”

What are these ideas then?  What is Trump trying to take us back to in order to “make America great again?”

June Cleaver on Leave It To Beaver was the ideal 1950s woman.

June Cleaver on Leave It To Beaver was the ideal 1950s woman.

Sadly I think what he wants is to bring America back to the 1950s, a time when women were fired from the jobs they held in support of the war effort of the 1940s in order to return to their “proper” place as wives and mothers.  The 1950s were a time when racial segregation and Jim Crowe was the law and racial mixing, especially in the bedroom, was explicitly forbidden.  It was a time when arbitrary laws denied the “wrong people” (meaning racial minorities) their rights to vote.  The few women who worked outside the home were demeaned and paid pennies on the dollar compared to their male counterparts. University education for women was rare and typically focused on home economics and the skills they would need to be successful wives and mothers.

DonDraperMadMenThe 1950s were a time where white, affluent men literally ruled the western world, where the rest of the society was expected to serve their interests without question and without deviation from their desires.  It was a time of de facto slavery and where failure to serve the white male masters was punished viciously.  It was a time where women and minorities were considered too intellectually inept to make decisions about their own bodies and incapable of being educated past the most remedial of vocational skills.  In nearly all respects except technology, it was a time where Plato, Aristotle, Julius Caesar, and dozens of famous and infamous Roman leaders would have felt perfectly at home.

In many ways it is easy to understand why these conservatives want us to live in the 1950s again.  To be conservative is to resist change, change that works against the interests of the same men who are asking for our consent to become the next American emperor.  They intrude into women’s bodies because women are presumed to be incapable of managing them — we are too stupid, too poorly educated to make good choices for ourselves.  They undermine the voting rights of racial minorities, the poor, and the elderly because such votes express opinions different from theirs — utterly intolerable in their mindset.  They demean and dismiss everyone that is not them because they are living in their 1950s paradise and want to keep it forever. And they genuinely think that we are all too stupid and afraid to speak up for ourselves, that we will continue to tolerate them and obey them.  What are we but their slaves, slaves who do not want to be free?

Therefore I ask you all to join with me in standing together.  Their 1950s conservative paradise is built on the enslavement of 99% of the population. Through extreme wealth inequities they have convinced us to fight each other for crumbs, to become moochers killing each other in zero sum scenarios of their creation — much like gladiators fighting each other for their amusement.  They have convinced us that they are our friends and it’s other people who are different from us that are the problem.

Bernie Sanders

That is a lie, folks, classic divide and conquer.  Because they know that when we stand together, they lose their power.  For centuries they’ve convinced us that everything is “win-lose,” that success only comes at the expense of someone else. Except that success actually comes by taking on a “win-win” mindset — something I learned in my months in the Law of Attraction movement.  Cooperation and teamwork is “win-win.”  The more we cooperate and help each other, the stronger we become and the less power they possess.

I for one will not play their economic and social gladiatorial games anymore.  Who’s with me?

What being “Liberal” means to me.

Being a liberal to me (Democrat for USA and Labour for UK) means I believe in fairness and equality for everyone. After learning a great deal about ancient northern Europeans and ancient British (in the larger sense of the group of islands) in particular as part of the research on my books “Boudicca: Britain’s Queen of the Iceni” and “Mary Queen of the Scots” I really came to appreciate how completely different our ancestors’ cultures were from their conquerors.

Boudicca artist concept chariot

An artist concept of what Boudicca might have looked like.

For example, they didn’t believe the land, let alone living beings could be owned. Leaders were usually on the community level and either directly elected or inherited their authority from their parents — but completely impeachable by the druids if they proved incompetent or unethical. The whole of those ancient societies was built on fairness, empathy, and cooperation. And when you consider how difficult life was, especially in Britain, it only makes sense. They were so incredibly individualistic and while scrappy (think what you see at football matches today), they really didn’t organize armies and go war. Most of the time they brawled it out a little or went to the druids or their appointed/elected leaders to sort it all out. And when someone was hungry, they were taken care of.

In my opinion, THAT IS THE WAY SOCIETY NEEDS TO BE. So for me, being a liberal means doing everything I can to bring back the values and the social structures that our ancestors had 2000 years ago. People tell me it’s impossible — you cannot undo the damage done by Roman conquest. And while I confess on a language level, we really might be stuck with that legacy, I do believe that the rest is our birth right. Because it’s the right thing to do. We need to stop being calloused towards the suffering of others and resolve ourselves to work together again rather than letting the fat cats pit us against each other. You are my friend and ally — not my rival.

Why some book series should be read in the order written

Goodbye 3D

Good-bye A672E92 Quintus is chronologically the first book in the Peers of Beinan Series. However it was actually written FOURTH of the six books.

I love a great book series.  From the JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings to Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Avalon Series, I find it satisfying to stay within the same world, getting to know characters, places, and events intimately.  It’s one reason why serialized fiction is so popular and entertaining.

Like both my aforementioned literary mentors, I do not write in chronological order.  With the Legendary Women of World History series this makes sense:  each biography is a stand alone book.  The series designation signals consistency in theme and approach to historical data.  But the books themselves are not necessarily strongly connected (the exception:  Mary Queen of the Scots and Journey to Gloriana).

By contrast, the Peers of Beinan Series is much more traditional with the same cultural, historical, and environmental setting across the books.  The books were written in the following order:

  1. The Great Succession Crisis (along with its companion Data Files, now out of print).
  2. The First King
  3. The Ghosts of the Past
  4. Good-bye A672E92 Quintus (most editions integrate The First King into the text)
  5. The Poisoned Ground
  6. Princess Anyu Returns

This means that the bulk of the world building and explanations of the world building are achieved in The Great Succession Crisis and The Ghosts of the Past — much like George Lucas establishes his world building in Star Wars (A New Hope) and The Empire Strikes Back.  Viewers of Return of the Jedi and of the three prequel films are expected to know ideas like Jedi Knights and Sith Lords before viewing these films.

And so does the Peers of Beinan Series.  The result:  a chronological reading of the series as the first reading of the series is a little bit confusing.  Especially with the novellas (Good-bye A672E92 Quintus and The Poisoned Ground) I found myself not re-describing the wheel already built.  And, to risk sounding pompous, I honestly did not expect to need to do so.  These books are for young adults and adults, after all — not middle grade children like the biographies.  So I expect a higher level of education and deductive reasoning/critical thinking skills from Peers of Beinan Series readers than I do with the biographies.  After all, science fiction readers are some of the smartest and best educated of literary audiences.  As lovers of science fiction we expect our books to be factually accurate, imaginative, and thought-provoking.   We expect to be challenged intellectually and emotionally.  As a life-long science fiction fan, I wrote the books that I most want to read myself.

And so the series best makes sense when you read it in the order that I wrote it in with a chronological reading (such as you find in The Complete Series) best for the second and subsequent readings.  In that, I continue to follow the greats I love:  JRR Tolkien, Frank Herbert, George Lucas, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Dorothy “D.C.” Fontana,  J. Michael Straczynski, and Stan Lee.

Read these in the order I wrote them and i know you will love them too!

Owen and Catherine: the Love Story that launched the Tudor dynasty

romanc blogfest 2015 small banner

Just then a scream echoed in the forest.  Drawing their swords, Linet and Boudicca charged towards the sound.  By the time they reached the source all that could be seen was Prasutagus, his blood spilling into the ground – as if a year-king killed as an offering to the gods for his people.  Prasutagus looked up, his eyes blurring, “Boudicca?”

Boudicca knelt, weeping, the blood from his chest wound soaking her dress, “I am here.”

“A Roman – scout – I – surprised him.” gasped Prasutagus, trying in vain to tell his wife what happened, knowing the moment he died rage would fill her – rage against Rome.

Boudicca kissed him tenderly, “My love, do not leave me!”  Prasutagus kissed her repeatedly, his eyes fixed on hers until they saw no more.  Feeling his spirit leave his body, Boudicca wept, as if her entire life suddenly passed with him – at least for this moment.  Finally, she rose, helping Linet carry him to their chariot.  With a gentle nudge of the reigns the horses turned for home and the sad work ahead.

—————

Welcome to RomanceFest 2015!  I hope all month long you’ll discover many amazing books from some of the top independent authors in the world.

Complete Series 3D

My contribution to RomanceFest is a bit different.  Rather than offering you the thrilling paranormal science fiction romance of the Peers of Beinan Series, I decided to take a different, much more risky approach.  I decided to make my RomanceFest books CREATIVE NON-FICTION HISTORY for young readers and family audiences.

In the excerpt you just read above and audio excerpt you just heard on the youtube video, you experienced the powerful love between King Prasugasus of the Iceni and his wife, Queen Boudicca.  Boudicca is remembered every year in King’s Cross London for destroying the Roman cities of Camulodunum (originally the capital of the Trinovantes, the southern neighbour to the Iceni in what is now Essex), Londonium, and Saint Albans in the year 61 CE.  Typically she is portrayed as a vengeful shrew getting back at the Romans for publicly flogging her and raping her two daughters (aged 10-12 years old).  I took a different approach with the biography, one intensely grounded in archaeology and one taking a broader look at the cultures of ancient Britain.  Boudicca:  Britain’s Queen of the Iceni is creative non-fiction history for young readers and families at its absolute finest, one benefiting immensely from the dynamic artistry of British voice artist and actor Richard Mann (easily the best English actor you probably never heard of — yet!).

Now I would like to introduce you to Queen Catherine de Valois.  Shakespeare immortalized Catherine in “Henry V,” a play very much taking King Henry’s point of view.  The real Henry and the real Catherine were very different.  In my biography for younger readers and families, you meet the real Catherine de Valois: bright, educated, and religiously devout.  You see her in her historical context as she navigates her father’s mental illness, the French civil war between house Valois and the Duchy of Burgundy, and her brother Charles’ struggles to become king of France — with a little help from Joan of Arc.

But more importantly, you explore her relationships with King Henry V of England, their son King Henry VI, and the true love she found in Owen Tudor.  It is a beautiful, romantic tale to inspire generations of girls and women.

I am pleased to announce that in May or June 2015 Richard Mann and I will release the audio edition of Catherine de Valois on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes.  So take a listen to the above audio book excerpt, then download your copy of Catherine de Valois on Amazon.com, Barnes/Noble, Smashwords, or Ibookstore.

 

Enter to win a free copy of Catherine de Valois! Winners announced 31st of May 2015

Music & Theatre: the Picture Emerging as I Research Gloriana

Hello everyone. I hope everyone is finally getting some warmth and beautiful spring weather.  I know it’s been a while since I wrote more personally and especially since I wrote anything about history, my life-long passion.

Complete Series 3DSince publishing Catherine de Valois (coming to Audible in May or June) in June, I wrote and published two non fiction books and finished the Peers of Beinan Series with “Princess Anyu Returns” followed by a trilogy edition of “The Legacy of Princess Anlei” and “The Complete Series” which is one volume for all six Peers of Beinan Series books.  Now my heart returns to history.

As I research “Journey to Gloriana” about the life of Queen Elizabeth I and “Mary Queen of the Scots” I have found some intriguing information about music and theatre that I would like to share today.  The information I found was not in some aggressive search nor acquired by consulting experts (for which I am known), but almost by “accident” if there is such a thing as I seek to discover who Elizabeth I and Mary of Scotland really were.

Here is the picture emerging before me:

  • Music, theatre, and dance originally served as key conduits for communicating the culture, religion, and especially history of ancient societies.
  • As Christianity spread into Europe, secular music, theatre, and dance yielded to church-controlled forms.  The performing arts became the domain of Roman Catholicism to be used for its particular religious and political agendas.
  • The English Renaissance and the reign of Queen Elizabeth I saw church controls over music, dance, and especially theatre break down.  This brought a surge of secular music (especially for dancing) and construction of the first theatres (starting in the 1570s) in London such as The Globe.
Royal Oak Bartshill

The Rolling Stones Now tribute band to the Rolling Stones perform in England.

We all take it for granted that music, dance, and theatre exists outside of the Church.  But the reality is that for many centuries, these were essentially forbidden.  We owe it to Queen Elizabeth I’s own love of secular music, theatre, and dance for the wealth of choices and freedoms we have today.  No longer does religion define and limit how we express ourselves culturally.  We can write, perform, and enjoy a limitless number of songs, dances, plays, and films of our own free choosing.

Though the Church may always wish to control the message (that has not changed in nearly 2000 years), I find it a great blessing to live in a free society where free expression in the performing arts reigns supreme, where each of us can enjoy whatever we like whenever we like.

May we always safeguard and protect that freedom whenever in the world we live.

Saint Patrick’s Day: Celebrating the Myth, Not the Man

Saint Patrick’s Day is a festive day celebrating Irish heritage and culture and Irish-Diaspora around the world. It’s a day when everyone wants to be Irish and wears Irish green. Yet the holiday itself is named for an English Bishop who hated the Irish and did everything he could to destroy and undermine the same Irish culture and heritage most of us today celebrate in his name.

I am 1/8th Irish. As I became more and more interested in my Irish blood, Saint Patrick became of historical interest to me personally. Who-and what-are we celebrating? I’d heard the myths of course about Saint Patrick and serpents, but know from my science background that snakes were never indigenous to Ireland-they are absent from the fossil record and Common Era accounts (see ancient and medieval Irish texts on the subject at sacred-texts.com). So who-or what-were these serpents?

The aforementioned discussion on serpents in Irish culture and history makes that answer plain: it’s a reference to ancient Irish culture, to Irish clans, Irish religion, and Irish heritage. To drive the serpent out of Ireland actually, in its proper historical and cultural context, therefore means “to obliterate Irish culture, religion, and customs from Ireland.” This is hardly a new idea in world history; the Americans did the same thing to the Cherokee, Lakota, Iroquois, and countless other native peoples.

So then why would Saint Patrick, a man so tightly associated with Ireland, wish to, at least mythologically, destroy everything Irish? The answer comes from an examination of the historical person. Brigette de Silva’s paper, “Saint Patrick, the Irish Druids, and the Conversion of Pagan Ireland to Christianity” (strangehorizons.com), provides a fascinating glimpse into the man that lived-as best as we can redact from period sources.

Born and raised to his teenage years in England among the land-owning upper class and grandson to a priest, Patrick was not a religious man at all-until captured by Irish raiders and made a slave. His conversion to Christianity came out of his resentment towards his new life and his master. When he finally escaped from his master, he begged some traders to take him back to England. The traders refused him at first, but then agreed. However, it is unlikely they went to England. De Silva tells us the historical consensus is that he was taken to Gaul where he was either re-enslaved or made part of the group while they raided in Gaul. Regardless which way it happened, it is clear that Patrick was 26 by the time he returned to England to his family. At that time, he decided to return to Ireland to convert them to Christianity. Not long after his return, Patrick was appointed bishop of Ireland and began his work to convert the Irish to Christianity.

Myths on both sides depict Patrick as both more successful than he was and far more brutal. One story speaks of his returning to his former master to force him to convert. However, the story says, the local king recognized Patrick for the threat he presented and, per Irish custom, burned himself alive rather than be force-converted. Other stories credit Patrick with converting large numbers of Irish. Yet de Silva’s research shows none of these claims as historical. Bishop Patrick died in obscurity until others, at the end of the Christianization of Ireland, revised his history and created his mythos.

What we can say for certain is that Bishop Patrick was motivated far more by vengeance and disdain for the Irish in his missionary work in Ireland than we typically associate with Roman Catholic clergy. He is canonized as the Saint of Ireland, yet was a wealthy Englishman. And of course, that most of what we associate with Patrick is myth created decades and centuries later. Like his contemporary, King Arthur, Patrick remains more myth than man in our imaginations. Bishop Patrick was truly no saint and was, ultimately, one of the first missionaries driven by racist impulses.