History

…so dies the youth…

Say hello to John, today’s protagonist. This medieval gentleman had the misfortune to die young—which may be why he is mostly remembered for being a good and loyal brother. One of the (few) benefits of dying young is that generally you have not developed those less-than-stellar qualities that go under the label vices. Instead, a …

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A field unploughed – the complicated story of a medieval land dispute

Admit it: one doesn’t really expect medieval ladies to have names like Felicia or Joyce. They sound way too modern, don’t they? And yet today we will spend some time with two ladies with these names. Joyce was the mother of Felicia, but due to events I think we can safely say that there was …

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La Dame Sans Merci – oops, la Dame de Coucy

We tend to believe that medieval rulers had a lot of time for their sons, not so much for their daughters. Leaving aside the fact that medieval kings (and queens) did not exactly sit around and act the doting parents – little princes and princesses were often set up in their own household albeit frequently …

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In pursuit of the Early American Dream

I have something of a fascination with those intrepid ancestors of ours who decided to uproot themselves from everything they knew and start over, in lands they had never seen. Okay, so I must admit to these not being my ancestors – my ancestors remained very rooted to their few acres of land, complementing that …

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A baby, a baby, a kingdom for a baby – or when the bishop did his duty

In 1134, Alfonso I of Aragón died, without heirs to his body. Regular readers of this blog may remember Alfonso from a previous post about Queen Urraca—or you may not, seeing as Iberian history is infested with kings named Alfonso and it is quite difficult to keep track of all of them. Anyway: Alfonso’s marriage …

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Of Easter witches and dire death

I just spoke to one of my colleagues who asked me if I was already comfortably seated on my broomstick. “Not yet,” I told him. “Some hours to go before the annual get-together:” “Ah. And do you use GPS or a more traditional compass?” I snorted. “I just point the broom in the right direction, …

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Of golden camels and shortchanged heiresses

In 1204, a certain Marie de Montpellier married King Pedro II of Aragón. This was her third marriage, and I dare say we can safely conclude Marie was rather unlucky in love—or at least in marriages. But before we start dissecting her marital unions, we need some background. Marie was the daughter of Guillaume of …

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Is she Violent? No, she's Violante

Sometimes, I can’t help but wonder what our dear ancestors might have been high on when naming their children. Take, for example, the royal custom in medieval Castile of naming their little princesses Urraca. Urraca is Spanish for magpie, and my main objection to the name is how harsh it sounds. Urraca is an onomatopoeic …

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Margaret – a beloved wife or a victim?

Being a medieval woman came with risks – well, nothing strange there: life itself is a risk. Specifically, medieval heiresses ran the risk of being abducted and forcibly obliged to marry their abductor. Not, I imagine, a particularly pleasant scenario although there are cases where one can suspect the abductee and abductor had agreed beforehand …

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Rubbing the wrong face in the dirt – of Mortimer, King Arthur and tournaments

In the summer of 1329, Roger Mortimer invited more or less every nobleman in England to Wigmore, the hereditary home of the Mortimers. He was planning a major tournament, several days of fun and fighting followed by feasting. A veritable city of tents were pitched outside the walls of the castle as knights from all …

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