13th century

The queen that never was

In 1269, Eleanor of Castile gave birth to a little girl, named after her mother. At the time, Eleanor was some years shy of thirty years, had been married to Edward of England for fifteen years and had, so far, been brought to bed of six children that we know of. Three of those were …

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Mr Anonymous – the life of a medieval hero

Sometimes, my brain snags on the little things. Like when I am reading up on the Aragonese Crusade—an attempt by French king Philip III to claim Aragon for his younger son—and end up stuck on the fact that one of the protagonists in that ancient medieval mess is a nameless man. Obviously, our hero wasn’t …

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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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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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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 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 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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The Sicilian affair – a lesson in 13th century politics

In 1262, a very young princess named Constanza was wed to Pedro of Aragón. He was twenty-three, she was thirteen. He was a proven soldier and leader of men, having spent many of his formative years riding side by side with his father, Jaime I of Aragón, as the latter spearheaded the Reconquista. (The Reconquista …

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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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He had it all – and lost it

Some weeks ago I wrote about the very tragic life of Elisabeth de Ferrers who lost husband and all her children in the aftermath of Edward I’s conquest of Wales. In passing, I mentioned that Elizabeth had a rather unsavoury brother, and today’s post is about him, the brother. Should one write a short epitaph …

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