Historical People

A wish, a wish – a kingdom for a wish

In 1328, Charles IV of France died. He left behind a pregnant wife and many spent the following months praying that the widowed queen be delivered of a son, thereby ensuring a continuation of the Capet dynasty. One person who definitely did not pray for a boy was Philippe of Valois, cousin to Charles—and second …

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A mystery lady with bad taste in hats

Some months ago, I visited Nationalmuseum in Stockholm. Even those with no Swedish can probably work out that Nationalmuseum means National museum—somewhat of a misnomer, IMO, as a lot of the stuff on display comes from other places than Sweden. That’s what happens when an ambitious up-and-coming military nation sweeps through a broken Europe in …

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A murder unpunished -of having a friend in high places

In 1271 or so, Roger de Mortimer and his wife Joyce de la Zouche welcomes a son to their home. For those who know of my fascination with the Roger Mortimer, the man who ruled England for four years or so and was hanged in 1330, I must hasten to clarify that this namesake belonged …

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W + W – a story of chance and love

We’re in the summer of 1864. Wilhelmina Kempe is presently at a German Spa, Bad Homburg, recovering after her third season. Yup. Her third season. An endless sequence of balls and other social events, of waltzing the night away, and she is still unwed. Not good. She is fast approaching twenty and is therefore the …

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The life and loves of a Spanish señorita – meet Isabel of Castile

In 1355, Pedro I of Castile, a.k.a. Pedro the Cruel (or Just, depending on your take on things) and his long-time mistress, Maria de Padilla, welcomed their third child into the world. Yet another daughter, and I imagine Pedro would have preferred a son to the newborn Isabel that lay at her mother’s breast. Things …

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The ultimate sacrifice – of a man, his honour and his son

Remember my recent post about Fernando IV? I began by describing just how tumultuous the reign of his father was, Sancho IV being plagued by one rebellion after the other. Why? Because very many felt Sancho had usurped the throne, thereby setting aside the rights of his little nephew, Alfonso de la Cerda. I bet …

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The mysterious death of a summoned king

In early September of 1312, Fernando IV of Castile died alone. Medieval kings were rarely alone. Even when they slept, there tended to be someone close at hand, sleeping on a pallet or standing guard. Not so in the case of our Fernando. Even more suspiciously, Fernando was a young man in his prime. All …

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Snatching crowns from princes

Today, we’re going to spend some time with two little Swedish boys. They happen to share a couple of things: both of them were named Gustav. Both of them belonged to the Vasa dynasty (in the case of prince number two, he was really surnamed Holstein-Gottorp, but would become known as a Vasa prince). Both …

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Of horses, crusades and premature death – a short medieval life

As part of the research for my latest series, I have had the pleasure of spending some time on the Iberian peninsula in the 13th century. And once there, I seem to have got stuck, intrigued by the constant conflicts between Christians and Moors, Castilians and Aragonese. Strong women, powerful warrior kings – Eleanor of …

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The Great Matter of a Medieval King

Say “the king’s great matter”, and everyone thinks “Aha! Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn.” Okay, okay: not EVERYONE. After all, there are peeps out there who have no interest whatsoever in this Tudor king and his determination to rid himself of one wife to wed another. I know: somewhat incomprehensible to us history buffs, but …

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