Tag Archive | medieval

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.

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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.

 

 

 

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.

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

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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.

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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

From Resurrection Sunday to Easter: How Ancient German and Christian Celebrations Merged at Easter

Originally posted March 27th, 2012

 

From Resurrection Sunday to Easter: How Ancient German and Christian Celebrations Merged at Easter

Easter Sunday-for Christians around the world Easter is arguably the most important holiday in the Christian calendar. The message of Jesus’ act of self sacrifice by allowing himself to be crucified by the Romans as a zealous rebel to Roman authority, his preaching against the legalistic status quos of the time, and the literal or metaphorical resurrection of Jesus just days after his execution is all central to Christian belief. And yet American Christians refer to the commemorating festival associated with all of this by the name of the German goddess of spring and the dawn, Easter, also known as Ostara in High German.

Christians decorate eggs, hold sunrise services, wear new and typically pastel-colored clothing, decorate with spring flowers, and embrace Easter’s egg-laying messenger hare, all of which are part of how Germans have honored Easter/Ostara in the centuries and millennia before the Common Era. American Christians even use the German goddess’ name to refer to their holiday rather than referring to it by its proper nomer, Resurrection Sunday.

So how did this happen?

Diverse sources indicate that changes in the Church began in the 5th century Common Era (the same era as King Arthur in Britain and Bishop Patrick in England/Ireland) when Germanic tribes such as the Vandals, Visigoths, and others, in search of Roman prosperity, moved south and east into Roman lands, often seizing these territories from Roman control. The same Germanic warrior culture that produced the epic poem “Beowulf” infused these lands-just as previously the Germans and Celts had sought to adopt Roman culture and values in the centuries before. As Rome collapsed under these pressures, and the social pressures created by the oppressive policies of the elite over the vast majority of residents in the empire (seehttp://ancienthistory.about.com/cs/romefallarticles/a/fallofrome_2.htm for more on the 5th century Roman Empire), the Church found itself needing to change with the times. In “Christianizing the Germans, Militarizing the Church” athttp://atheism.about.com/b/2006/11/04/christianizing-the-germans-militarizing-the-church-book-notes-fighting-for-christendom.htm, Austin Cline explains how Christian leaders were forced to convey Christianity using native German values. Jesus became “The Lord of Victories,” and a “generous mead-giver.” Heaven was described as being similar to Valhalla, and so on. These are not terms that probably any of us have heard in modern churches, but those familiar with early English and German literature are certain to recognize the flavor of these declarations. Using these descriptions, Jesus ceases to be a part of his native Jewish culture and becomes a fellow German, someone members of each German tribe on either side of the Rhine could relate to.

But the process of Christianizing hardly came overnight. The German travel guide athttp://www.germany.co.za/christianisation.html details how slow and gradual this process was. Chlodwig (Clovis) of the Franks was the first German king baptized in 498 CE; his Catholic wife, princess Chrodechildis of Burgundy is believed to be largely behind his “conversion.” Later, in the 8th century CE, Karl der Grosse (Charlemagne) used Christianity as part of his visions of a united German empire. He first conquered Bavaria and Lombardy, and then attacked the Saxons of the north. In 800, Pope Leo III crowned him emperor, creating what became known was the Holy Roman Empire. Christianity was now the official religion of Karl’s empire.

In the three centuries between Chlodwig and Karl der Grosse, the Church adapted itself to native German culture, evolving and integrating German ideas and customs-just as the Church in Celtic societies needed to integrate Celtic culture. It is easy to see, in the light of this history, how the Church came to refer to its Resurrection Sunday by the name of the German goddess of spring. At first the German church, more likely than not, dovetailed Resurrection Sunday observances to the existing festivals for Ostara/Eastre celebrating spring, simply tacking on Christian elements to those services and rituals. This probably meant celebrating the festival when the Germans celebrated it-on or close to the vernal equinox. Later, as the Christian elements became more accepted, the celebration was moved to its “proper” date as required by the Council of Nicaea (325 CE): the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox (seehttp://catholicism.about.com/od/holydaysandholidays/f/Calculate_Date.htm), until finally the old references to Eastre/Ostara as a German goddess faded from memory. The two very distinct holidays and theologies became inseparable. Today, most Christians are fully unaware that most of observances for “Easter” they practice come from a far older German religious tradition. Easter/Ostara is evoked merely as the name of the holiday-without recognition for the goddess whose name is evoked each time.

Only recently have we come to recognize how these very different religious traditions merged. Christianity assimilated the Old Religion and, in true irony, therefore preserved it. Academic honesty requires us to recognize this history of religious joining and honor every choice-Christian or Old Religion-each individual makes for her/his own life. Likewise, it is my hope that Christians will honor the role that Jewish culture played in the early Christian church and strive to understand the beauty of Jewish society-independent of religious bias. Only by respectful learning of diverse cultures and traditions may we attain true harmony, respecting all and hating none for being different.

Excerpt: Catherine de Valois

Catherine de Valois

Catherine de Valois is a creative non-fiction biography suitable for young readers exploring the life of Henry V’s queen consort, Catherine de Valois.  Caricaturized by Shakespeare in “Henry V,” the real Catherine you meet in this biography was a woman of great intelligence, courage, and conviction.

Available  for kindle and in paperback.  Look for Catherine de Valois in Chinese language edition and in audio edition narrated by Richard Mann later this year.

In this scene from the end of chapter one, Catherine meets King Henry of England for the first time in October 1419.

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“Must we do this, Mother?” asked Catherine, pacing furiously.

“What choice do we have, Catherine?  The blood of the women and children of Rouen cry out for action.  We must meet with King Henry this day or risk further slaughter,” conceded Queen Isabeau, her heart equally furious and grieved at the same time at Henry’s atrocities in Rouen.

“I do not want to meet him!  I hate him!  I have never heard of any living  man being so vile and disgusting to me.”

“It  is  said that he is otherwise to his own English people, that he governs them kindly and with great skill.”

“But what about the  Welsh, Mother?  Was he kind to them when he slaughtered them while his father reigned?” countered Catherine.  “I know it is my duty as your daughter – but you know how I hate violence, especially against  the innocent.  How are the Welsh any different than  us?   All they wanted was to not be slaves to this conqueror.  We of all people understand this!”

Before Isabeau could respond, the door opened.  Jacques de Heilly entered with a bow, “Your Majesty, Your Highness may I introduce you to Henry, by God’s grace King of England.”

As Montjoie stepped aside to take his traditional place one pace behind the queen, King Henry emerged into the room, his eyes immediately fixing themselves on the beautiful Catherine in her embroidered cotehardie and fur-edged side-less surcoat, the royal fleur-de-lys glistening in gold thread on her gown.  For a moment, Henry found himself so moved by  Catherine’s beauty that he could not speak.  Finally after two minutes, the king took a chivalrous bow, “Good ladies, we meet at last!”

Coolly, Catherine curtsied politely,  “Your Majesty.”

Henry, normally so confident and proud stammered, “Y-y-you are more beautiful than I ever dreamed!  Truly a vision of all that flowers in France.”

“If you value the beauty of the flowers of France, perhaps you should not have killed so many along the way,” countered Catherine, her rage flaming from her eyes.

Chided, Henry turned to Queen Isabeau, “Your Majesty, you permit your daughter to speak to me like this?”

“Catherine speaks her mind. In that, she is quite her mother’s daughter – and a Bavarian,” smirked Isabeau proudly.  “That you slaughtered our people, we concede.  That we wish to end this war, we fully declare.  But do not think you can force the mind and heart of my daughter in any matter.  Though you may, through the brutality that brings us here together, compel a measure of outward obedience, if it is affection of the mind or heart you desire, it would serve you best to put aside all savage warrior ways and behave yourself like a gentleman.

Henry blinked in shock.  No woman had dared to speak to him so boldly – or venomously.  Rather, he was accustomed to fearful pandering – not the confidence of a woman seeing herself as his equal, “I – I do not know what to say.   I was not born a prince, though certainly I wear the crown more easily than my father.  I,” Henry paused, his pride hurt even as his desire to possess Catherine grew.  Marrying Catherine was his birth right; since the death of Princess Isabella, Catherine’s sister and widow to Richard II, all talk had been across his life of his marrying Catherine. Was it not his destiny to marry Catherine?  Did she not see it the same way?  As his thoughts grew more confused by Catherine’s obvious spite, the rhythm and confidence of his speech waivered, “I have wanted this alliance for many years.  I cannot imagine myself with anyone else.  Yet do  I dream of love, of your love, Catherine.  Will you not be my wife?”

“Not out of love, England, for you are my enemy.  What am I to you but a trophy to your murders?” burned Catherine.

“If I swear on my soul to end this campaign this very day and never again kill, will you not agree to  marry me?”

“If you never kill again – yes – but there are many things you must agree to in order to make this treaty one and whole,” bargained Catherine confidently.

“I SWEAR IT!”

“God will hold you to your vow, Henry of England,” warned Queen Isabeau. “If you acknowledge this and still so swear, then shall we both draw up the formal terms to be signed once they are ready.”

“God hold me to my vow and strike me down in death if ever my hand spills French blood again!” vowed Henry fiercely.

 

Content with Henry’s answer, Queen Isabeau supervised the drafting of the now agreed-to peace treaty. On May the twenty-first 1420 King Henry the Fifth and King Charles the Sixth met in the city of Troyes where they both formally agreed to and signed the treaty. As demanded by King Henry, King Charles gave Catherine to him in marriage in a grand wedding held a few days later on the second of June.

Across the summer and autumn of 1420, Henry and Catherine became better acquainted as they toured together across France over the next six months.  Towards Catherine, Henry expressed the utmost admiration and, if not genuine love, certainly an intense romantic attraction to her.

For her part, Catherine found herself more than flattered at Henry’s attention. King Henry seemed so sincere in how he treated her.  Certainly he was gentle when she yielded to him in wifely duty, despite his fiery temperament.  Still in her heart, Catherine could never forget that this man who caressed her so softly in private was the same man who killed women and children for the crime of being born Welsh or French, his eyes both tender like a baby bird’s – or fierce like a raging storm – depending on his mood.

 

 

Christmas came. Henry wisely decided  their first Christmas as husband and wife should be spent in Paris with her parents and siblings.  As familiar songs filled her ears at the traditional midnight mass on Christmas  Eve, Catherine knelt in silence, the music gone from her heart and reflected in her eyes.  Though she tried for the sake of her people to make truly merry, Catherine found herself sad instead, as if something precious to her was lost, gone forever.

Finally, at the end of January, 1421 they at last arrived at Calais for the crossing to England.