Medieval times

The mouse that squeaked – or the story of a VERY short siege

There’s something about sieges, isn’t there? An encircled fortress—or city—and it is all one long waiting game as the cat outside wonders just how long the mouse will stay in its hole before lack of food and water forces it to venture beyond the safety of its walled haven. Mind you, I don’t think the …

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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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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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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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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 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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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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