Historical People

A surfeit of brothers doth a spicy soup make

Back in the good old days, men wanted sons. Well, OK: back in the really, really old good old days, mothers wanted daughters as most early societies seem to have been matrilineal—but that all changed when our nomadic ancestors settled down and started amassing belongings. Once you have things that belong to you, it becomes …

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A lost language, a lost identity, a lost people

The single biggest tragedy to befall the native people of the Americas was the arrival of Columbus upon their shores. Over the course of a couple of centuries, a deadly cocktail consisting of slavery, disease and warfare was to reduce the native population with 40-80% (it varies substantially from area to area) and what had …

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A boring man begat a boring man who begat a dragon

Very many years ago, I read Edith Pargeter’s excellent quartet, The Brothers of Gwynedd. A sad and tragic story, featuring Llywellyn ap Gruffyd, the Last Prince of Wales and his baby brother, Dafydd (also the Last Prince of Wales – actually the Last Prince of Wales, seeing as he took over after Llywellyn was killed). …

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When the Welsh underdog bites

In 1283, the last true Prince of Wales, Dafydd ap Gruffud, was hauled up the gallows in Shrewsbury and subjected to the horrifying ordeal of being hanged, drawn and quartered. Whether he died bravely or not we do not know. Personally, I think it is unlikely any human being can be subjected to such cruelty …

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Not a sinner, not a saint – meet a lady with a helping hand!

Some weeks before Christmas, I had the pleasure of reading Tinney Heath’s latest book, Lady of the Seven Suns. If you enjoy well-written historical fiction in a somewhat unusual setting (no knights, no damsels in distress, nowhere close to the royal courts of France or England) this book is a must-read. Come to think of …

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Not every Christmas is a good Christmas – a story of treachery, vengeance and death

So, it is Christmas. Well, not quite, we are still some days away, but all the same, the holiday season is upon us. A season of love and peace, of happy family reunions and the joyful sound of children laughing in the snow. Ha! Sometimes, Christmas is much, much grimmer. Like in the year 1317, …

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St Lucy’s Day and the marking of time

St Lucy’s Day – or St Lucia as we say here in Sweden—is a celebration of light when winter is at its darkest. Prior to adopting the Gregorian calendar back in the 18th century, the Swedish calendar had St Lucia falling on the darkest day of the year, the midwinter solstice, and…What? You’ve never heard …

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Married, spurned, poisoned – not a life to aspire to

Today, we’ll be spending time with a lady named Blanca. Some of you may groan. After all, medieval history is full of ladies called Blanca or Blanche. Among the more famous is the Blanca of Castile who went on to become Queen Blanche of France and mother to St Louis of France. Hers was a …

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For fans of all things Tudor

Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure to read quite a few of Tony Riches’ books, knowing that I am guaranteed a well-researched and enthralling ride through the past. Of late, his focus has been on the rise of the Tudors, starting with a book about Owen, the obscure Welshman who married Henry V’s widow …

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A bad, bad man and his fiery exit

Today, I’d like to introduce you to a colourful if unsavoury gentleman. Well: gentleman he was not, no matter he was born under the fleur de lys on both sides, i.e. both his mother and his father were close relatives to the French king. Just goes to show that there is no correlation between royal …

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