The Queen’s Mother: Marie de Guise

Marie de Guise

Marie de Guise

Known as the mother of the tragic Mary of Scotland, Marie De Guise was the daughter of a powerful French family. Married once, and widowed soon enough, Marie De Guise would marry a second time, making her the Queen of Scotland. Strong and dignified, it was Marie De Guise who would rule Scotland for years after the death of her husband, holding the country in line for her infant daughter. She was a woman to be reckoned with who showed her royal dignity.

A French Catholic Childhood

Marie was born in the castle of Bar-le-Duc in France on November 22, 1515. She was the child of Claude, Duke of Guise, and Antoinette of Bourbon. Marie was the oldest child of her parents union and was an only child for the first four years of her life. She was followed by Francis. Marie would go on to become one of twelve children. At the age of eleven Marie was sent to live with her grandmother, Philippa of Guelders at Pont-à-Mousson, where she received a very religious upbringing. Marie was immersed into the selfless lifestyle of a Poor Clare: cooking, cleaning and gardening. Speculation has been made that Marie may have been destined for a convent, but when her uncle Antony, Duke of Lorraine, was visiting he met Marie and was impressed by her. At fourteen Marie was tall and attractive, with a regal manner. Her uncle decided instead of shutting Marie away she should be removed from Pont-à-Mousson and prepared for a life at court. She possessed the qualities necessary for a successful career at court and most likely the Duke of Lorraine was looking to promote his own success by taking his young attractive niece under his wing.

Groomed for Royalty

Marie’s uncle hoped to boost the Guise family by using Marie to make a good match. Marie was striking with her reddish-gold hair, broad cheek bones, and small blue-grey eyes. Initially the Duke of Lorraine hoped that Marie may be able to make a match with one of the King’s sons. The King of France, Francis I, had three legitimate sons at the time that could all be considered possible suitors for Marie. To prepare Marie for such an honor Antony whisked her away to his magnificent palace in Nancy and began grooming her for her launch into French society. In 1511, the coronation of Eleanor of Austria seemed like a perfect opportunity for Marie’s appearance in society. Marie rode with her aunt and uncle to the large public event. Marie was later presented to the royal couple and greeted warmly, even being invited to ride in the royal train.

Eleanor of Austria

Eleanor of Austria

For the next three years Marie would live out her life in the extravagant court of Francis I. She would become a great favorite of the King, who treated her as if she were his own child. She also was favored by his daughters, Madeline and Margaret, who became Marie’s close friends. At the age of seventeen Marie was widely liked and the issue of her marriage became a pressing issue.

Duchess of Longueville

It is believed Marie’s parents took time in arranging her marriage because they secretly hoped she would be wed into the royal family, however, after Prince Henri’s marriage to Catherine de Medici Marie’s parents abandon that idea. After the royal marriage it was only a matter of weeks until Marie was engaged to one of three of France’s dukes. Though it was not a prince, it was the next best thing for their oldest child.

Louis II d’Orleans, the Duke of Longueville, was only five years older than Marie. He had inherited his title at a young age, due to the death of his brother. The negotiations for the marriage proved difficult, and after some back and forth the wedding took place on August 4, 1534. The royal family was present at the wedding, and it soon became clear the couple was very happy in the marriage. Just a year after their marriage Marie gave birth to their first child. A son, Francis, was born October 30, 1535. With an heir born there seemed nothing but joy between Marie and Louis. In their life they split their time between court and their estates. Marie was known for her generosity and care of those less fortunate on her lands. She exuded all virtuous qualities of a noble lady.

On January 1, 1537 Marie was honored as one of the guest at the marriage of her friend, Princess Madeline of Valois to her future husband, King James of Scotland. The royal couple remained in France until May and Marie attended them during this time. She was pregnant again and when the royal couple finally departed for home, Marie retired to Chateaudun Castle to give birth to her second child. Marie’s husband was on his annual progress during this time. An unfortunate misdiagnosis led to the death of the Duke on June 9, 1537. At twenty-one Marie was now a pregnant widow.

Chateau Chateaudun

Chateau Chateaudun

Queen of Scotland

Marie, despite the worries of her family, sailed through the rest of her pregnancy fine. On August 4, 1537 she gave birth to her second son and named him after his father, Louis. It was around this same time that Marie learned she was not the only widow. News arrived from Scotland that Madeline of Valois had dies on July 7, 1537 from her tuberculosis. The new widower, King James, grieved for his bride, but he did not waste time in seeking a replacement. Wanting to maintain his alliance with the French, James wrote to his father-in-law, King Francis, in search of a new bride.

Francis was happy to oblige James. He quickly wrote to the King that he believed the Duchess of Longueville, recently widowed herself, would make a fine match. James was thrilled and dispatched an ambassador to bring back his soon-to-be bride at once. Marie, on the other hand, was not so thrilled. Having only been widowed for two months Marie was appalled at the idea of another husband. Besides this, the reality that she would have to leave her oldest son tore at her. But Marie was born a woman, and though she was a mother twice over she was not in control of her future. Francis called her father Claud to court to arrange the marriage and Claud agreed to the match, despite his daughter’s hesitation. Marie would be the next Queen of Scotland whether she wanted to be or not.

The arrangements were messy, to say the least. The King of Scotland demanded a rather large dowry. Rather than pay for it all himself, Francis arranged to have some of it come from Marie’s jointure lands from her widowhood. The problem with this though was that her new marriage was robbing her son (now her only son, for Louis died at four months old) of his inheritance. Marie, her mother, and her father all wrote furiously to each other and eventually the King let it be known he would take no further steps without first consulting Marie. Thankful, Marie proved to be quite an adept business woman. She created what would now a days be called a prenuptial. She arranged for a return of part of her dowry if her husband should die before her and she would be able to reclaim all her possessions in his death. In exchange, she agreed not to seek out any share of James’s property or goods on his death. Marie would also be settled with several jointure lands. Overall, Marie would become a very well off widow in the event of her new husband’s death. Best of all, her son’s inheritance would not be compromised.

Marie and James

Marie and James

As was tradition of the time, the bride and groom did not really know each other and love was not at play in their match. A letter James wrote to Marie however revealed his feelings towards his position and his desire for a strong woman to stand beside him. This must have moved Marie, for she pushed the wedding plans forward and was married by proxy on May 9, 1538.

Marie and her Scottish escorts stayed in France a few more weeks before setting off for Scotland on June 10. Besides her Scottish escorts Marie was also joined by her sister Louise and her uncle Duke Antony. The voyage went smoothly and she arrived in Scotland on Trinity Sunday. She then travelled to St. Andrews where her new husband was waiting for her, and a service was held to confirm their marriage. The court stayed there for 40 days to celebrate the marriage before travelling through Marie’s jointure lands. After an enjoyable summer progress, Marie finally made her entry into the capital, Edinburgh, on November 16, 1538.

A New World

Marie adjusted well to her new life and was easily liked. She formed a relationship with her difficult mother-in-law and with many of her husband’s illegitimate children. Her primary task though was to produce an heir, and after a year of marriage and no pregnancy Marie began to worry. James had not yet had her crowned and many of Marie’s family feared he may set her aside if she did not prove fertile soon. Around September of 1539 Marie discovered she was pregnant and all fears were set aside to make way for the joy and anticipation of the royal couple. James immediately began planning Marie’s coronation, not caring if the child was a male or a female. At six months pregnant Marie was crowned on February 22, 1540.

As Marie prepared for the birth of her child her husband, James, set off to the West Isles to deal with unrest. He had barely set off when news arrived from his wife. On May 22, 1540 a son was born. The heir was baptized James and immediately given his own separate household and the title Prince of Scotland.

Despite the joy of an heir Marie still had worries. Her husband was often ill and taken to fits of depression. To make matters worse, she received news that her son James was ill. The one piece of happy news during this time was that Marie was pregnant again. She conceived just two months after giving birth to James. On April 24, 1541 Marie gave birth to another son, Robert.

Joy at a second heir was short lived. A week after Robert’s christening news arrived that Prince James was gravely ill. He died before his father could reach him. Mourning the death of their heir, news soon came that Prince Robert too was deathly ill. Robert died hours after his father received the message. The King and Queen buried their sons together and wept for their extreme misfortune.

The Queen’s Sorrow

Things were rocky for a short while between the King and Queen, as can be expected after the death of both children. After a year of mourning their relationship seemed to clear up and they had good news finally. Once again, Marie was pregnant. Her joy was overshadowed though by a threat from England. Henry VIII had sent troops to kidnap James so that Henry could claim Scotland. The English troops were defeated at Kelso, but fear of further attack had set in. James, from the urging of his councilors, decided play offense and invade England himself, rather than wait for another attack.

Mary of Scots as a child

Mary of Scots as a child

On November 24, 1542 the Scots met the English on the battlefield, this time suffering a humiliating defeat. The King was not present at that battle and was safe from harm, however many of his nobles were captured. The King left the field and rejoined his wife, who was in her final weeks of pregnancy, but he couldn’t stay long. James rode on to another castle where he was overcome with a fever. At the same time, Marie went into labor and delivered a daughter, Mary, on December 8, 1542. On December 14 James died and Marie was widowed for a second time, only this time her child was now Queen of Scotland.

The Game of Regency

-With the new Queen only days old the question of regency of Scotland came in to play. Marie believed she would become regent; mothers often took on that role, however her circumstances made this impossible in the beginning. Having just given birth, Marie could not be among society for a month. Instead she had to watch from the sidelines as Cardinal Beaton and the Earl of Arran (first in line to the throne now) struggled for control over the infant Mary and control of Scotland. Marie decided to support Cardinal Beaton only because she believed he would act in French interest. When the nobles met to choose a regent though they appointed the Earl of Arran regent with Cardinal Beaton made Lord Chancellor. The bitter rivals would now be forced to work together.

They had their work cut out for them too. Henry VIII had ceased his war with the death of King James, but now he saw a new opportunity to gain Scotland. Instead of waging war, Henry wanted a diplomatic solution: marry his son Edward to the new Queen of Scotland, Mary. Henry sent letters hinting at disaster should Marie refuse his offer. He even went so far as to release his Scottish prisoners on the promise that they too work to secure this marriage.

Marie was aware of the constant danger her daughter was in, not only from abroad but also at home. It became even more evident when Lord Arran had Cardinal Beaton seized. Marie, afraid now for her daughter, hurried to the castle where the young Queen was stationed. No sooner did she arrive before a large retinue of Lord Arran’s men came, claiming the Queen needed a larger retinue. Marie knew that if she continued to allow Lord Arran to surround her daughter then the danger would increase and young Mary may at any time be handed over to King Henry VIII. Marie tried to move her daughter to a safer castle, but Lord Arran forbid it, arousing the dowager Queen’s fears even more. She and Mary became virtual prisoners in the castle.

The Threat of England

England continued to threaten Scotland and knowing that they were not in a position for war, Scotland agreed to a treaty. The treaty would have Mary move to England at age 11 to marry Edward. Lord Arran would remain in control of Scotland at that time. Marie did not like this idea. She was not the only one either. When the treaty was announced the people rebelled and even shot at the announcer. Marie knew she would need to get out of this treaty, but she would have to be patient.

The tension between Lord Arran and Marie was building as well. When French ships arrived at the Scottish coast Lord Arran flew into a panic, believing they had come to take the Queen away, and he increased the guards and soldiers there. Marie was appalled and appealed to Beaton. It was agreed among the Scottish Lords that Lord Arran should not have control of the Queen’s person anymore, and instead her care was transferred to four Lords. Finally Marie had some freedom and her life was beginning to take a turn for the better.

Her daughter was crowned Queen of Scotland. At the same time two Lords, Lord Bothwell and Lord Lennox, were competing for Marie’s hand in marriage. Marie had no interest in marrying either, but she did wish to keep both on her side. Marie still harbored hopes of becoming regent for her daughter; she just needed the opportunity and support. She also still needed to free her daughter from English rules and support. This was accomplished on December 15, 1543 when the treaty to marry Mary to Edward was declared null because of Henry VIII’s seizure of Scottish ships. Although happy to be able to renew her strong alliance with France Marie feared the repercussions of breaking the treaty with the King of England.

Those repercussions arrived in the form of English ships in May of 1544. The Earl of Hertford led English troops with orders from Henry to destroy Edinburgh. Arran and Beaton mustered troops to defend the town, but they proved ineffective and fled. Instead, the defense of the city came from the citizens who fired handguns out their windows. They were so effective that the English began firing at random and killed more of their own troops than anybody else. However, when the English began to use their artillery, the town was no match. The Earl of Hertford set Edinburgh aflame and moved on to destroy Fife. The Earl burned several cities, ships, and homes and Scotland was devastated by the damage it sustained. Marie was particularly upset, for the Earl had also burned Holyrood Abbey where her infant sons and deceased husband lay.

Power Play

With the devastation came opportunity. The time had come for Marie to attempt to seize power. The destruction of Scotland was blamed on Lord Arran on June 3 and regency was handed over to Marie. Lord Arran fled and began fortifying Holyrood house to prevent parliament from holding their meeting to formally strip him of his power. This postponement was successful for in the end parliament revoked their original decision, leaving Lord Arran as Lord Governor, but Marie became a member of a special council that would guide the Lord Governor.

Though the issue of power had been resolved for the time being, the issue of England remained. Lord Arran led another set of troops, this time defeating the English. After the victory more good news followed and the King of France sent a legion to help the Scots against the English. The combined forces attacked the North of England and burned some towns, but all this did was provoke an English retaliation and once again Lord Hertford came to destroy. He burned the town of Melrose.

A small break for the Scots came when news arrived that Henry VIII was dead. Joyed at this news, Marie would be saddened four months later when news arrived that King Francis had also died. However, the new King was Marie’s childhood friend, Henri. She felt confident that her alliance with France would now be stronger than ever.

She would need this alliance too, for the English came in full force this time and were drawing ever closer to the infant Queen. Marie decided it would be best to send her daughter to the secluded island of Inchmahone to keep her safe. She was kept there for a short while, but when Somerset’s army moved south the Queen was brought back to her mother at Sterling. The situation was still dire for Scotland. They did not have the manpower nor the heart to take on the English. As a solution, King Henri II proposed that Mary marry his son Francis, the Dauphin of France. This would solidify the alliance and guarantee French aid in the war with England. Though Marie had her reserves she agreed in order to protect Mary’s country. The English were not pleased and attacked Scotland once again. Marie could do nothing but wait for French reinforcements to come to her aid.

A Visit to France

When the French finally did arrive they followed Marie’s orders as if she were their King. In the first skirmish with the English they killed many and took many English hostages. While the French were laying havoc to the invading English, the time came for Marie to hold up her end of the bargain and send her daughter to France to be married to Francis. Marie watched her daughter board a ship on July 29, 1548. Unfair winds however kept the ship in port for a week, but Marie could not stand to witness it so she returned to Edinburgh. Marie would receive news two weeks after her daughter sailed that Mary had arrived safely. It was a bittersweet joy.

Military fighting continued between the English, French, and Scottish. The Scottish began to win several victories, but it wasn’t until the Treaty of Boulogne on March 24, 1550 that all the fighting ceased.

Marie was no stranger to tragedy after victory, and the treaty was no exception. After the fighting ended Marie received sad news. Her godfather had died, and just weeks later her father died. Marie decided it was time to travel to France to see her family. She also hoped to gain Henri II support in her bid for regent of Scotland. In August ships came to take Marie to France, but she would not actually set sail until early September. Marie landed safely in France on September 19, 1550. Marie enjoyed her time in France with her children and felt confident that Henri would support her in her bid for regency. However, she knew she could not linger for too long and began planning her return trip in April of 1551. A threat to her daughter though caused her to delay her departure until September. Marie took her son with her, but he fell ill and died in her arms. Marie left France in October in the deepest of despair.

Marie, instead of heading straight to Scotland decided to visit the monarch she had been at war with for so long, Edward VI of England. Marie was entertained by a number of prominent lords before finally being presented to the King. They enjoyed a fine dinner together before Marie set out the next day to make her way back to Scotland, where she was greeted by a retinue of Scottish Lords.


With a rumor that Lennox planned to seize control of the government the time finally came for Marie to act. With several financial promises Marie was able to convince the Lord Governor to resign his position and promote Marie as regent. Finally, on April 12, 1554 Marie was made Queen Regent of Scotland. Marie promptly began her regency by replacing the former Lord Governor’s men with her own and seizing the property of those who opposed her and redistributing it to her supporters.

Marie spent much of her time reintroducing and reinforcing laws which had been utilized during her husband’s time. Her dream was to make Scotland a modern country.

Mary and Francis

Mary and Francis

The Lords were not so keen to back Marie up. Many of them harassed Marie about the fact that though the contract was in place the marriage between the Dauphin and the young Queen had still not taken place. Marie wrote a tactful letter to Henri to explain the concern, but it had no effect. In fact, Henri replied that he was at war with Spain, England’s ally, and he needed Scotland to distract England. Marie did not have the forces needed, but she knew she must comply with Henri’s request. She led a small force to raid the border. The raid was unsuccessful, but Marie’s brother led a successful campaign that allowed France to recapture the town of Calais and as a reward Henri pushed the marriage of Mary of Scots and his son, deciding there was no further need for delay. The two were married on April 24, 1558. The marriage was the final solidification in the friendship between France and Scotland and it greatly satisfied Marie, who was still in her heart a Frenchwoman.

New Threats

Marie soon faced a new threat. Although the fighting between Scotland and England had ceased with another treaty the English invasion had caused a Protestant upstart. Many people were converting and it was causing unrest. In one situation a statue of a saint was stolen, dragged, and burned. Marie was shocked by the demonstration. Protestants began to put their petitions before the Queen Regent, but she dismissed them claiming they were orchestrated for nonreligious reasons. Further demonstrations and debauchery would be caused by the Protestants. The more they demonstrated the stricter Marie became.

Marie was now in an unofficial war with her subjects. The Protestants grew more and more bold, and now the English were unofficially supporting them too. The Protestants seized the coining irons. Meanwhile Marie waited for help from France that would not come, for news arrived that Henri had had a fatal accident. Marie had no choice but to order her army to march even though she was greatly outnumbered. When the two armies met they were forced to negotiate and an agreement was forged. The Protestants returned the coining irons while Marie agreed to allow the Protestants their worship free of persecution. For now there was peace.

The End

The Protestants continued their rebellion and Marie could not continue to fight. She was growing ill. She wrote desperately to her son-in-law to send aid. While waiting again for French aid the Protestants marched on the castle Marie was staying in and she barely slipped away. The Lords wrote Marie attempting to deny her of her regency, but they soon discovered they did not have as much power as they supposed. Marie was soon reentering the capital and remained regent. Her illness however had grown worse. Marie didn’t have time to rest though. Elizabeth continued to send reinforcements to remove French soldiers from Scotland. Things grew worse by the hour and Marie attempted to keep things in control. She came to the conclusion that the best thing for Scotland would be to get rid of all foreigners, French and English. Marie attempted to negotiate, but the Congregation refused her terms.

On May 25 Marie’s health once again took a turn for the worst. She wrote her last letters to her brothers. By June 1 Marie was unable to eat anything. Marie knew she was dying and sent for the Lords of the Kingdom on June 7. Marie begged the Lords to maintain an alliance with France and cease their dealings with England. She also urged them to follow her daughters rule. Many of the Lords left her room weeping. On June 8 Marie drew up her will, and finally, on June 11, 1560 Marie de Guise died.

Despite all her hardship and battles with the English Marie had maintained Scotland for her daughter, though Mary of Scots herself would lose control of the country to the Protestants. Marie was remembered by many, loved by the French, disliked and admired by the English, and tolerated by the Scots. She ruled an unruly kingdom during time of unrest and managed to hold her daughter’s inheritance until her dying day.

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Her Holiness, Joan

birth joanPeter was the rock on which Christ built his church, and from that crown has sprung a string of Popes, both worthy and unworthy of the title. The vicar of Rome is a crown which can only grace the head of a male, as tradition throughout the years has dictated. And yet somewhere among the bells and cathedrals is a tale that has been passed on throughout the years of a woman pope who defied the laws of the Church and ruled for just over two years. Regarded as fable or legend by the Catholic Church, the tale of Pope Joan has survived thousands of years. A woman, disguised as a man rises through the ranks to become Pope, only to have her true identity revealed through her delivery of a child. It seems far-fetched and false, but what if Joan really did exist? What if a woman was able to disguise her sex and allow her mind to prove her worthiness? Whether or not Joan did truly live, her tale has intrigued us and caused us to ask the question ‘what if?’.

A Humble Beginning

Because very little is known about Joan, her beginning in life is just speculation. In fact, we don’t even know what her real name was. Joan was given to her because it was a version of John, her name as Pope. However, her true name has been recorded as several different names, including Agnes, Gilberta, Margaret, and even Jutt. It is recorded that she was English, but from the German town of Mainz. Most likely her parents were English missionaries serving in Mainz, and Joan was born there around 818. All research confirms that Joan was a bright child and most likely encouraged to learn from her parents. Growing up in Mainz she was not far from Fulda, a town which hosted a monastery with a decent library. No doubt she spent much time visiting Fulda and the library there to increase her learning. The library would have been opened to her until the age of twelve. At twelve, the monastery would have forbid her entry, on account of her sex. It is at this time that it is believed Joan decided to become John and conceal her sex in the ambition of expanding her mind and possibly even gaining a position of power and learning. Whether or not the idea of Pope crossed her mind at this time is unknown.

Becoming John

pope joanBeing educated and having missionaries as parents Joan would have been schooled in the history of Catholicism. Saints like Saint Pelagia, Saint Euphrosyne, and Saint Theodora may all have inspired Joan with the tales of their cross-dressing in attempts to escape gender roles for one reason or another. These women’s’ tales would have been the stories of Joan’s childhood and may have been the spark that led to the idea of escaping a lifetime of household chores and childbearing by dressing as a man. Joan’s deception began at twelve, the age she would have crossed from being seen as a child to being seen as a woman. The myth is that she fell in love with a monk and followed him into a monastery. The idea of this however contradicts the belief that Joan would want to escape her gender. Further, during this time priest were allowed to be married. If Joan was truly in love with this man, and he with her, she would have had a greater chance of being with him by maintaining her femininity and convincing her lover to become a priest and marry her. More likely Joan entered the monastery with a male who was willing to help her hide her true identity; potentially this was a man who saw Joan’s intelligence and potential and also did not wish it to be squandered because of her sex. The myth says that somehow Joan was found out and fled to Athens in 830. Whether she found out or simply realized she had learned all she could from her current location Joan journeyed to Athens. It is debated whether or not she had a companion at this time, but it is entirely possible that the same monk who helped Joan to enter into the monastery also went with her to pursue an education in Athens. In Athens Joan learned both Greek and Latin, a skill that would help her surpass her peers in the future. She also progressed greatly in the realm of sciences and was said to have no equal. All of these qualities would help her to stand out when she journeyed to Rome.

Rome: Land of the Pope

Joan ventured to Rome in the late 840s, most likely again realizing she had learned all she could in Athens. Joan is believed to have taught in a school in Rome and had many men of high influence as students. Word of a learned monk eventually made its way to the ears of the highest man in Rome, Pope Leo IV, and Joan soon became a favorite of his. Leo made Joan a cardinal and when Leo died in 855 Joan was unanimously made his successor. Joan’s reign is said to have lasted two years, seven months, and four days. Joan is recorded as writing the most prefaces to mass since Saint Ambrose. Besides this, little is recorded of her time on the papal throne. What is recorded is her death.pope joan 2 The legend says that while enthroned Joan became pregnant by a companion. While travelling through the city of Rome she went into labor and delivered a child. Her demise and that of the baby is recorded in different manners. Some say she was stoned to death for her deception and her child along with her. It was said she was buried where she died. Other have Joan dying from childbirth but her son going on to live with monks and rising within the church himself. However she died, Joan’s reign was ended and her deception revealed for all to know. The Catholic Church was appalled and shunned the Via S Giovanni, the street the woman Pope gave birth on. via s giovanniYears later the statue of Joan was destroyed, her reign erased, and mention of her practically forbidden.

How was it possible?

Many wonder how a woman could impersonate a man for so long and not be discovered. The profession Joan chose made it easy to conceal her true sex. The outfits of the churchmen at the time, similar to current times, hid most of their body. Long sleeves would have concealed Joan’s feminine write and a hood would have hidden much of her face. At twelve, when Joan first entered the church, she may not have yet had a woman’s bodies. Females’ maturation of the body can occur as late as sixteen. Further, depending on how well fed Joan was she may never have really developed. If Joan did not eat regularly, as may have been encouraged with being in the church, her body’s development and her menstrual cycle may have been affected. It could be that Joan had a very irregular period with months where she did not have a period, which could explain how she could give birth in the street. She may not have realized she was pregnant, or more likely, not known when her child was due. One historian has even suggested that Joan’s situation and mental state may have caused a change in her hormones and suppressed her menstruation. If this was the case it would have been easy to disguise her sex, for no one would have reason to question it. There are many possibilities for how this woman hid who she truly was from a plethora of men, the easiest explanation being that the men had no reason to believe she was anything other than a man. After all, how could a woman ever devise such a nefarious plan? They were after all believed to be the weaker sex in all things, including intelligence.

Lasting Legacy

Though the story of Pope Joan is still debated to this day and denied by the Catholic Church, the story has managed to survive the years. Joan lives on as an inspiration to novelist, movies, plays, and most importantly, women who wish to step out of the traditional role of their sex and aspire for something more.


Blackwood, Gary L. Legends or Lies? New York: Marshall Cavendish Benchmark, 2006. Print. Pardoe, Darroll and Rosemary. The Female Pope: The Mystery of Pope Joan. Great Britain: Crucible, 1999. Print. Stanford, Peter. The Legend of Pope Joan. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1998. Print.

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Tragedy’s Queen: Jane Grey

yKnown famously as the Nine Days’ Queen, Lady Jane Grey was the tragic pawn of family ambition. Beautiful and intelligent, Jane would not live past sixteen. Jane was raised as a Protestant and was the daughter of Henry VIII’s niece. It is through this connection that Jane’s cousin, Edward, would be able to bequeath Jane the throne of England. This gift would become a Pandora’s Box that eventually led to Jane’s death warrant, signed by her own cousin, Mary. Widely popularized in literature and entertainment, Jane Grey is forever remembered as a royal causality in the fight for the English crown.

A hopeful beginning

Jane Grey was born in May of 1537. The daughter of Francis Brandon and Henry Grey, Jane’s birth was a hopeful event. After four years of marriage nineteen year old Francis was giving birth, and though the couple was upset to learn they did not have a son, the promise of a healthy child excited them. It is known that Jane was not her mother’s first birth and she would have had an older brother if he had lived. Jane was immediately christened after birth and named after her godmother and the new queen of England, Jane Seymour.

Jane was raised at her family home of Bradgate Manor in the Midlands. She would eventually be joined by two sisters, Katherine and Mary. From an early age Jane was recorded as an intelligent and sharp child. Educated in all subjects viewed as vital to a girl’s education (sewing, cooking, music, dance, etc.), Jane excelled in her academic studies and impressed her tutor John Alymer. Jane would enjoy the beginning of her life in a quiet study, but when the ailing King Henry VIII died, Jane’s life would turn to one of intrigue.

The compromising wardship

ywoAfter the death of Henry VIII and the coronation of Edward, Jane moved closer to the spotlight of English politics. Upon reading the will of Henry VIII it was discovered that Jane was closer to the throne. Henry had skipped the Stuart line, the line of his older sister Margaret, but chose to include the line of his sister Mary, Jane’s grandmother. Jane was now fourth in line to the throne.

With the increase in importance came an increase in visitors to the Dorset House. Starting in January, John Harrington, the representative of Thomas Seymour, came often to visit Dorset. The visits were in the hopes of forming a friendship with the leader of the Grey home. The friendship was cultivated and eventually used to move Thomas Seymour one step closer to the throne. After marrying King Henry’s widow, Catherine Parr, and acquiring the wardship of the princess Elizabeth, Seymour saw the value in acquiring the wardship of Jane Grey. Jane’s father was less than enthusiastic about the suggestion. At ten, Jane was a little young to be placed in another home. Further, since Seymour’s marriage to the King’s widow had caused such a scandal, it was compromising to Dorset to place his young daughter in this home. However, Seymour anticipated this reluctance, and reassured Dorset by ensuring he could find Jane an advantageous marriage. This was the hope for all girls during this time. Dorset was no fool though, and questioned who Seymour had in mind for his daughter. Countering in a way no father could refuse, Seymour’s representative claimed that Seymour could ensure the marriage of Jane to King Edward. Seeing the advantage, Dorset entertained the idea of Jane’s wardship and eventually agreed to place her in the home of Thomas Seymour and Catherine Parr.

At ten years old Jane found herself living in Seymour Palace with Thomas Seymour, Catherine Parr, and the Princess Elizabeth. This would be one of the happiest times of Jane’s short life. Jane would often spend time at Chelsea, the home of Catherine Parr. Jane flourished under Catherine’s influence and continued to improve her mind, while also advancing her music and religious studies. Jane was also able to spend more time with her cousin Elizabeth, who was under the care of Catherine Parr. Unfortunately for Jane, Elizabeth had no interest in getting to know her cousin. Nonetheless, the time was pleasant for Jane, until events changed.

ywSeymour, ever ambitious, took a special interest in the Princess Elizabeth. They were often rather friendly and several incidents occurred that were questionable. The servants of the household began to gossip about the relationship developing between the princess and her stepmother’s husband. In May, after Catherine found her stepdaughter in an embrace with her husband she sent the princess to stay with another household. Jane alone would then accompany the sixth month pregnant dowager to Gloucestershire estate for the summer.

In August of 1548 Catherine went into labor and delivered a daughter, Mary. Jane rejoiced with her guardians for a few days, until Catherine became delirious and was diagnosed with puerperal fever. Jane read scriptures with Catherine while she lay in bed dying. On September 5, 1548 Catherine died, leaving Jane heartbroken. Jane would serve as the chief mourner at Catherine’s funeral. After the funeral Jane was sent back to her parents for it was too compromising for her to live with only Thomas Seymour. It was a blow and added to her sorrow over the death of her mother-like figure.

A Return Home

Jane had some difficulty returning to her mother’s home. After being largely independent under Seymour, Jane rebelled against her mother’s strict regimen. Her mother, Frances, was angered by her daughter’s defiant nature. Frances was not pleased by the way Seymour had handled her daughter. Seymour, on the other hand, begged to have Jane returned to his household. With the death of his wife Seymour had fallen in status as well as in wealth and was desperately looking for a way to regain what was lost. Seymour even went so far as to write Jane in an attempt to appeal to her emotions and levy her influence with her parents. Jane replied politely but revealed nothing in her letter. Her mother, however, was not willing to surrender her daughter again. Dorset and Frances agreed that Jane would remain at home.

Jane's Family Home

Jane’s Family Home

Seymour would continue in his attempts to convince the Grey’s to return guardianship of their daughter. Seymour kept his wife’s maids of honor for Jane and entreated his mother, Lady Seymour, to come live with him so Jane could return.

Making a trip to the Grey’s home, Seymour, along with the help of William Sharington, was able to finally convince the family to return Jane to his keeping. Jane returned to Seymour palace in 1548, but life was different from what it had once been.

Without Catherine and Elizabeth, Jane was the main female of the house. At twelve, and highly intelligent, Jane took notice of some peculiar things happening. For one thing, Jane no doubt noticed a servant of Princess Elizabeth at Seymour Palace. Jane could only have speculated the reason for his visit, but no doubt understood it was important. In truth, Seymour was attempting to make plans to marry the princess Elizabeth. Had Jane known this she may have anticipated the danger coming his way.

Things were steadily declining. In 1548, Thomas Seymour was called to a Privy Council meeting to explain himself. In January of 1549 Seymour, along with the princess Elizabeth and much of her household, was placed in the tower. Jane was returned to her family home and would later learn the fate of her guardian. Her father was also questioned during these interrogations, due to his close alignment with Seymour. Dorset however would come out of the situation rather unscratched. Thomas Seymour was not so lucky. He would be tried and executed. One again, Jane returned to life under her mother’s rule.  This time she had no hope of leaving.

Marriage Plans

Guilford Dudely

Guilford Dudely

Despite the disaster of her stay with Seymour, Jane’s parents still had high hopes for her marriage. It became very apparent to them that Seymour had not progressed at all in an attempt to marry Jane to the King, but it did not discourage her parents from seeking some type of advantageous marriage for their eldest daughter. After all, they would still have two more to marry off after Jane. For some time the prospect of Edward Seymour, the son of the Lord Protector, was toyed with. However, when the Protector was arrested shortly after his brother was executed it was decided the match would not be beneficial at all. Though some argue the Grey’s still hoped to marry Jane to the King; Edward it seemed had no inclination to marry an English woman. In fact, Edward was seeking a foreign bride to ally against the Holy Roman Emperor. No marriage would be possible, for it soon became evident that Edward was gravely ill. His councilors had to make plans for what would happen in the case of the King’s death. With Jane fourth in line to the throne at the King’s illness she became an even more desirable mate. It came about the John Dudley’s son, Guilford Dudley, was suggested as a husband. The Grey’s were not opposed to the match seeing that John Dudley had risen highly under King Edward’s reign. On May 25th, 1533 Jane was married to Guilford Dudley at Durham house. It was a triple wedding in which Jane’s sister was married too. After the wedding Jane remained at Durham house to live with her new husband under the watchful eye of her father-in-law. At this time plans had been put in motion to move the crown to Jane after Edward’s death, but Jane was unaware of these treasonous plans.

A Reluctant Queen

July 6th, 1533 King Edward died in his chambers. His death was kept a secret by his councilors, for news of his death could spark their enemy to act. The councilors, along with Edward, had ignored the will of Henry VIII, Edward’s father, and created a new will for the succession. In this new plan Edward had passed over both his sisters, Mary and Elizabeth, and bequeathed the crown to “Lady Jane and her heirs male”. Jane was unaware of this arrangement, but the councilors knew and were keeping the King’s death a secret to prepare for Jane’s ascension. In order for Jane to ascend the councilors knew they would need to have control of the Lady Mary, for if not she could easily launch the country into civil war and claim the crown as her own. Lady Mary was a devout Catholic and the councilors had no interest in her ascending the throne. Jane on the other hand was a staunch Protestant and the councilors falsely believed she was malleable and would be easy to control in the throne.

The King’s death was kept a secret for two days. During this time John Dudley sent his son, Robert, to apprehend the Lady Mary. Robert would be unsuccessful due to a tip Mary received from a supporter. Without Mary it would be difficult to ensure Jane could hold the crown. Nonetheless, the Dudley’s and Grey’s planned to try.

LadyJaneDecliningJane was brought to Northumberland’s house at Richmond by Mary Sidney. It is possible that by this time Jane had deciphered what was going to happen. She waited in the home as the King’s councilors poured in. Jane’s mother was also called in to attempt to comfort her daughter. Here Jane was given the news that the King, in worry for the religious state of his country, had named Jane as his heir. The assembly then knelt before Jane and swore allegiance. Jane however was not overjoyed, as would be expected. She fell to the ground and wept. Eventually the councilors convinced Jane was the rightful heir and she rose, accepting the kingdom and delivering a speech to showcase her piety, the very reason why Edward had named her heir. Though many say Jane was reluctant to take the crown, it appears that though reluctant, she agreed with Edward in the sense that it was best for the kingdom to be ruled by a firm Protestant.

Queen of England

The next day began early for the new Queen of England. Jane travelled to the Tower to prepare for her coronation while throughout the streets Jane was proclaimed Queen by the royal heralds. Most of the citizens did not respond or cheer, no doubt confused by the sudden jump in succession. Despite Mary’s staunch Catholic views she was very beloved of the English people at the time of Edward’s death. Jane was not aware at the time of the people’s cold reaction to her person and was greeted at the Tower by a gun salute. Jane then proceeded through the Tower with Guilford by her side. The procession was another formality in which Jane was to take formal possession of the tower. During this splendid affair there was only a minor hiccup: Lady Mary had taken matters into her own hands and proclaimed herself Queen and sent a letter to the council and Jane proclaiming her right to the crown. Jane was calm towards the letter and paid it little heed outwardly.

janeAs Queen, Jane’s life seemed to change very little. She did not sit in on the council meetings, and instead was informed later in the day of decisions made in her name. Jane would sit under a canopy of state during dinner. The only major decision she had made was to refuse her husband, Guilford the crown. She had angered him, as well as her mother, when she determined he would become a duke but the crown was hers alone. Nonetheless, Guilford did sit in on the council meetings and help make decisions.

A mutiny afoot

While Jane played the part of Queen, Mary continued to gather support and the council knew they would need to face Mary if they had any hope of maintaining Jane as sovereign. On July 14th Jane’s army set out to East Anglia. On the 15th Northumberland and Northampton also left, in an attempt to cut off Mary’s support from the Midlands. Jane soon learned that five of her ships had mutinied and declared for Mary. Jane responded by having a strong guard placed around the Tower to protect her person.  What Jane did not learn was that many of her councilors had already turned against her or were about to. On the 19th the short war for the crown would be over.

Throughout England Mary was being proclaimed Queen, and finally the supporters of Mary arrived at the Tower. Jane’s father knew his daughter’s cause was lost and had his men lay down their weapons. To save himself from arrest Suffolk proclaimed Mary Queen on Tower Hill, then he returned to his daughter to inform her of the news. Jane reacted calmly to the fact that she was no longer queen, and simply retired into an inner chamber in the Tower. Though Jane may have not seen an immediate shift in her position, she was now in fact a prisoner of the tower.

A Treasonous Queen

Jane was moved out of the royal apartments. The tide had turned quickly, as had people’s demeanor towards her. The guards were less than kind and often mocked Jane. Almost all of her servants were dismissed. She was however given some of her books and writing material.

Jane’s mother, meanwhile, was pleading for the life of her daughter and husband. At the time Mary agreed to spare Jane’s life. After all, Jane was her cousin and still only a girl. Jane herself was not permitted to plead her own course, even when Mary visited the tower on August 3rd. For now Mary was content to let Jane live, but not to let her go.

On August 21st Northumberland, Jane’s staunch supporter and father-in-law was beheaded. Jane was able to witness the event from her room in the tower. Her trial was still to go forth, but Mary claimed it was just a formality. She had no intentions of beheading her cousin. On November 13th, 1533, Jane, Guilford, two of his brothers, and Archbishop Cranmer were tried for treason. All five were charged with high treason and all five were found guilty. The men were sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered. Jane on the other hand was to be burned or beheaded at the Queen’s pleasure. No date was set for carrying out Jane’s sentence at this time.  Mary would change her mind soon enough though.

The Protestant’s Rebel

With Jane locked in the tower, Mary falsely believed everyone had accepted her rule. However, factions of Protestant’s were discontent with their Catholic monarch and many were proposing uprisings. One revolt, in which Jane’s own father was involved, finalized its plans in December. The rebellion was set to begin in March, on Palm Sunday. Jane was unaware of these plans. The goal was to put Elizabeth on the throne and free Jane from the tower. The loose lips of Carew however revealed the plot and eventually the entire plot was extracted from the lips of Edward Courtney. One of the plotters, Thomas Wyatt, had no plans of abandoning his plot though, despite that it had lost the element of surprise. Instead, Wyatt just decided that the date to carry out his plot would have to be moved up. Wyatt raised his standard on the 25th of January.  He raised 3-4,000 men. Wyatt gained supporters as he moved towards London, and he led an army of around 7,000 strong. However, this was not enough to counter the large army the Queen had managed to obtain with a moving speech.

Thomas Wyatt, leader of the rebellion.

Thomas Wyatt, leader of the rebellion.

By February 7th the rebellion was over and Wyatt was captured and imprisoned. His rebellion however terrified the Queen and made her question her subjects’ loyalty. She was also now fearful of revolts to place someone else on the throne. After all, Mary had won her throne through raising an army, why couldn’t someone else do the same and take the throne from her? With some pushing from her Spanish Ambassador Queen Mary agreed not only to swiftly execute the rebels, but also to execute the Lady Jane and her husband Guilford. They were to be executed two days later, on the 9th.


Mary however, after signing the death warrant, could not leave her cousin to die without the true faith. She therefor sent Benedictine John Feckenham to attempt to convert Jane to Catholicism. After the first interview Feckenham begged the Queen for more time, three days. It was granted, though to no avail. For three days Feckenham and Jane debated matters of religion, but to Feckenham’s horror Jane remained adamant about her Protestant faith. In the end Feckenham was forced to admit failure. Jane would not convert. She would die a follower of the Protestant faith.

On February 12th, 1554 Jane was set to be executed. In the morning a panel of matronsexecution came in to examine Jane and ensure she was not pregnant. If she was then her execution would have been postponed, but she was not pregnant. Jane was then left to watch from her window as Guilford was executed first. Some historians claim Jane wept for the death of her husband, while others claim she was composed. In keeping with her faith, Jane must have been proud that her husband died a Protestant, like she herself would. After dispatching of Guilford the executioner waited for Jane. At ten o’clock Jane was escorted to the Tower Green to be executed. She was calm and composed as she mounted the scaffold. Jane made a speech as was typical, what was not typical was Jane’s recital of prayers in English. With the return of Catholicism prayers were to be said in Latin. Jane, even in her final moments, wanted to defy the Catholic religion and showcase her belief that the Protestant religion was the true faith.

Jane did not become frantic until the end. After placing the blindfold over her eyes she reached for the block and could not find it. She cried out in panic, shouting “Where is it?” At first no one moved to help her and she groped around blindly. Finally a bystander moved forward to help her and guided her hands to the block. She then laid her head down, waiting to receive the blow from the axe. Jane’s head came off in one stroke in what was described as “a fountain of blood.”

Jane’s death left Mary at peace, for the time being. Though she was only Grey sister to die, her other two sisters would always live with the threat of death because of their proximity to the crown. Jane, though young, saw herself as a martyr for her cause and was willing to die in the name of her religion, which was how she viewed her death. In the end, Jane was able to die at peace.



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Queen of the Nile

The last ruler of the Macedonian dynasty, Cleopatra’s name has crossed history as the great temptress of the Romans. She captured the love of not one Roman leader but two. cCleopatra used her womanly charms and cleverness to maintain her kingdom and outwit her enemies. The Greek Queen of Egypt was ruthless and determined, winning wars against siblings, conquering countless Greek rulers, and in the end, dying by her own hand through the poisonous asp.  Cleopatra’s story and character has been twisted throughout the years to make her many things, but one thing she was not, was boring.

Child of the Nile

Cleopatra was born in 69 B.C. She was the third daughter of the ruler of Egypt, Ptolemy XII. Her mother is believed to have been Cleopatra V Tryphaena, Ptolemy’s half-sister.  Little is known about Cleopatra’s childhood. She had two older sisters, Cleopatra VI and Berenice IV, as well as a younger sister, Arsione IV. She also had two younger brothers, Ptolemy XIII and Ptolemy XIV. It is believed that Cleopatra’s oldest sister died as a child.  Cleopatra spoke Egyptian and Greek as well as at least six other languages and she had a great love for music. It is also known when Cleopatra was twelve she fled to Rome with her father, who took refuge in Rome from his angry people who were plotting against him. While Ptolemy was gone his second daughter, Berenice, seized power. The Roman’s however assisted in placing Ptolemy back on his throne and his first act was to have his daughter beheaded for her betrayal. This moved Cleopatra up in line for the throne.

cwIn 51 B.C, when Ptolemy XII died, he named his eighteen year old daughter and ten year old son as joint heirs. The two were married, as was typical during this time. However, co-ruling did not prove their strong point. Ptolemy’s advisors disliked Cleopatra and worked against her. Besides the advisors, nature seemed to also be working against Cleopatra. The Nile failed to rise high enough to flood the lands and therefore the harvest was poor. Food shortages caused discontent among the people with their new rulers. Many peasants deserted their villages to avoid paying taxes.

Cleopatra’s initial handle over foreign affairs did not raise her people’s hopes for a good ruler either. Cleopatra believed strongly in the ties with Rome her father had established. As a result she ordered Egyptian troops to help the Roman governor of Syria in fighting against the Parthians. The soldiers refused, unconcerned with the problems of Rome. Cleopatra, fearing an uprising, fled to Rome and her brother’s supporters seized control of the government.

The Roman Savior

c3As Cleopatra fled Egypt the Roman leader Pompey, who was engaged in a civil war with Caesar, fled to Egypt. Pompey sought refuge in Alexandria but quickly learned how soiled his reputation had become in Egypt. As he stepped on shore he was murdered on September 28, 48 B.C. by rule of young Ptolemy XIII. Four days after the murder of his adversary, Caesar arrived in Alexandria, bringing with him thirty-two hundred legionaries.

Cleopatra, in the meantime, had raised an army of mercenaries to attempt to wrangle power and control from her brother. Caesar, having arrived, took up residence in the palace in Alexandria and quickly inserted himself into the siblings’ feud. Caesar called forth a peace conference, but Ptolemy ordered his forces to block the return of his sister to the palace. Cleopatra, paying no mind to her brother’s order, had every intention of gaining an audience with Caesar. Cleopatra convinced her servant Apollodoros to wrap her in a carpet and smuggle her into the palace to meet the Roman leader.

Cleopatra’s delivery into Caesar’s arms is a well-known tale.  Cleopatra pleaded her case and wooed the Roman leader, charming him and quickly taking him into her bed. The next morning, when the peace conference was to begin, Ptolemy noticed immediately that Caesar and Cleopatra had developed a relationship. He stormed out screaming about his betrayal in order to arouse the people. His ploys were unsuccessful; Caesar’s guards soon captured him and brought him back to the palace. It was Caesar’s plan to make Cleopatra the sole ruler of Egypt and use her as a puppet for Rome.

The War

Ptolemy was not willing to surrender his power to his sister, despite the Roman leader backing her. Ptolemy XIII rebelled against Caesar and entered into a civil war. The Alexandrian Wars began in November and Ptolemy’s soldiers surrounded Caesar in Alexandria. The war that ensued destroyed many warehouses and part of the famous Alexandrian Library. Caesar’s forces were outnumbered, but he captured Pharos lighthouse and therefore was able to control the harbor. After four months of fighting Roman reinforcements arrived and Ptolemy was forced to flee Alexandria.

During his flight Ptolemy XIII died, supposedly drowning in the Nile River. Some believec4 he was murdered in the Nile, under the orders of Caesar and Cleopatra, but there was no proof to indicate Ptolemy’s death was anything less than an accident.  With the death of her brother Cleopatra was now the sole ruler of Egypt, at least for a short time.

Roman Mistress

Immediately Caesar restored the throne to the rather unpopular Cleopatra. To maintain Egyptian traditions and please the priests and people of Alexandria Cleopatra married her younger brother Ptolemy XIV. Though married again, Cleopatra maintained her relationship with the married Roman Lord. Caesar remained with Cleopatra for a short while and during this time she became pregnant.

Around June 47 B.C. Cleopatra gave birth to a son. She named him Ptolemy Caesar and it was widely believed that he was Caesar’s son (this may have been Caesar’s aim all along). The child was known to the Egyptian people as Caesarion, meaning Little Caesar. However, despite his suggestive name, Caesar never acknowledged Caesarion as his son.

In 46 B.C. Caesar left Cleopatra and returned to his duties and wife in Rome. His return was marked with honor and he was granted a ten-year dictatorship. He celebrated for a month, pleased at his rise in power.  Cleopatra was also travelled to Rome during this time. It is said that her sister, Arsinoe was taken to Rome as well and displayed as a war captive from the Alexandrian war. Cleopatra’s presence was offensive to many of the Romans. Caesar was already married to a Roman woman, Calpurnia, and yet Cleopatra also claimed to be his wife. When Caesar established Cleopatra in his home the conservative Republicans were outraged.  Besides Caesar’s offensive actions, Cleopatra herself caused a stir by comparing herself to the Goddess Isis and living in luxury within Caesar’s palace. The Roman leaders were outraged and growing weary of Caesar’s power and his Egyptian concubine.

Return to Egypt

Though both Cleopatra and Caesar were unaware of it, trouble was brewing in Rome. In 44 B.C. Caesar was assassinated by the other Roman leaders. With her lover and protector gone Cleopatra returned to Egypt. Cleopatra and her son had not been mentioned in Caesar’s will and therefore they were left with nothing from her longtime lover.

Soon after Cleopatra’s return her husband in name, Ptolemy XIV, died. Still needing to maintain Egyptian tradition of having a male co-regent Cleopatra named her three-year-old son co-regent making her sole ruler in all but name.  With her power secure from competition Cleopatra now turned her eye back to Rome to determine who her new ally would be.

After Caesar’s brutal death a power war ensued. Brutus and Cassius, part of the conspiracy, were killed and Antony, Octavian and Lepidus emerged triumphant. Egypt had been asked to aid in the fighting and eventually Cleopatra had supported the three men. After their triumph in 42 B.C. Octavian and Antony divided power in Rome. Cleopatra, still wanting Rome’s support, looked to the new rulers to decide who to associate with.  Octavian, ill, went back to Italy which left Cleopatra to deal with Antony.

Antony and Cleopatra

c5Marc Antony soon summoned Cleopatra to Tarsus, in 41 B.C. Cleopatra was summoned to answer questions and explain her role in the aftermath of Caesar’s assassination.  Cleopatra agreed readily, already conniving to place herself back in alliance with Rome. Cleopatra sailed in an elaborate ship and made a lavish entrance, maintaining her reputation as the new Isis as well as playing on Antony’s weaknesses. Antony, like his predecessor, was captivated by the tempting queen and pledged to help protect Cleopatra’s crown. The two also began their love affair around this time and when Cleopatra left to return to Egypt Antony followed her. The romantic couple spent the winter of 41 B.C. together in Alexandria. At some point Antony agreed to assassinate Cleopatra’s sister, Arsinoe, erasing all threats to her claim on the throne. During this time, Cleopatra became pregnant as well and in 40 B.C., after Antony had left Cleopatra to return home, Cleopatra gave birth to his twins, Alexander Helios and Cleopatra Selene.

The Separation

Antony had left around April to meet the Parthians. He did not get far before his wife called him up to Greece. During Antony’s time away his wife, Fulvia met her end, the cause being unclear. With her passing Antony mended a broken relationship with the Roman leader Octavian. Though Antony was now free to be with Cleopatra his newfound friendship with Octavian would not allow him to remain so. To seal their friendship Octavian offered his twenty-nine year old sister Octavia to Antony to replace the empty place in his bed and Antony accepted, recognizing the political advantages. Octavia, besides being a political pawn, was also hoped to sway Antony away from his love for Cleopatra. Though Octavian was a skilled politician, in matters of the heart his tactics would prove worthless. Antony remained under the spell of the foreign queen.

It would be four years before the lovers would meet again. During this time Octavia bore Antony two daughters and Cleopatra raised her twins alone. Cleopatra had not been thrilled at Antony’s alliance with Octavian, who was committed to destroying her. Nonetheless, Cleopatra lived her life outside of the drama occurring in other countries. Cleopatra received news, from 40 B.C. to 37 B.C., of the political goings of her neighbors, allies and enemies.

After three and a half years Antony become rather tired of the intrigues of his political life; he recognized that he was being controlled and even played by his wife and brother-in-law. The ambitious leader set off towards the east, arriving in Syria and sending a message to Cleopatra in Alexandria. He wished for her to meet him in Antioch and Cleopatra set sail to meet the father of her children. After the couple arrived together coins began to circulate with the portraits of the lovers and it became clear that they were a team once again. With his return to his smoldering passion Antony ensured that he would never again see his wife.

The Ambition of Egypt 

On her trip Cleopatra had two very important attendants in tow, her children. Antony was able to meet his twins for the first time as he prepared for battle. Cleopatra secured for Antony much needed funds and in exchange Antony showered on her the authority she possessed over Cyprus. He also granted her Coele-Syria (Lebanon), Cyrene (Libya), Cilicia (part of Turkey), and portions of Crete. The additional land made Cleopatra ruler of a vast kingdom that stretched over the entire eastern Mediterranean coast. Besides expanding her land, Cleopatra also expanded her resources. The regions she had gained were rich in timber and would allow Egypt to build ships from the Cilician coast, creating a powerful naval fleet. While Cleopatra was expanding her empire through Antony, Antony was expanding his legacy through Cleopatra. In 36 B.C. the Queen was once again bound herself pregnant, making for Antony’s third royal child.

In 36 B.C. Cleopatra gave birth to another son, Ptolemy Philadelphos. Cleopatra returned c6home while Antony continued his fights and diplomacy. In the winter Cleopatra received an urgent message from Antony imploring her to join him and bring provisions and gold. Cleopatra was slow in arriving but she brought with her gold and clothing for the men. Antony meanwhile was in despair; despite his hopes for victory he had a disastrous campaign against Parthia that resulted in a hasty retreat. Antony made his way to the Syrian coast, a third of his army gone. Antony and the rest of society would blame the defeat at Parthia on Cleopatra.

Cleopatra remained with Antony for several weeks while he plotted his next move. He made efforts to ally himself with the Median king. At the same time, his wife, Octavia, began travelling towards her husband with fresh supplies. Cleopatra was not looking forward to a reunion between husband and wife and was adamant about holding Octavia off. Cleopatra took to a tactic of proving her love to Antony and showing her deep despair at the idea of him leaving. She began a fast, swearing off food. She acted depressed and in despair, and her courtiers egged the idea on by chastising Antony for his terrible treatment of their mistress. Antony was drawn like a moth to the flame, he believed Cleopatra’s entrancing act and sent Octavia back to Rome as a woman scorned.

Antony and Cleopatra returned to Egypt, seeming more in love than ever. Eventually Antony would launch another campaign, this time venturing into Armenia. Antony was successful in this endeavor and rewards financially. When Antony returned again to Egypt, victorious at last, he took with him not only his riches but also the disgraced royal family of Armenia. Antony paraded through the city of Alexandria and Cleopatra put on a lavish ceremony to celebrate the victory. She also accepted the tribute from her lover, which added to her treasury. At this assembly Cleopatra, by Antony’s command, was to be henceforth known as “Queen of Kings.” Besides Cleopatra’s new title, her children also received titles. Caesarion became co-ruler with Cleopatra. Alexander Helios became Great King of the Seleucid empire and his twin, Cleopatra Selene, was called Queen of Cyrenaica and Crete. Ptolemy Philadelphos, Antony’s youngest son, was made King of Syria and Phoenicia, and Cilicia. Some of the lands bequeathed had yet to be conquered, but Antony did not seem concerned. Cleopatra’s rule was extending and her power grew each day.

The Power Struggle

Though Cleopatra and Antony were pleased with the changes in power, Rome, particularly Octavian, was not. The insult of Antony’s actions enraged the Roman Lord. The power of Cleopatra had grown too much for Rome, and Octavian resented the gifts being lavished on a woman he viewed as a harlot. Further, it had been made clear that whatever plans the lovers had in store for the East, Octavian was not included in them. Antony and Octavian battled verbally, both trying to discredit the other. Their insults ranged and covered a broad spectrum of topics.

In 32 the Senate was visited by a hostile Octavian who insisted that Antony was a threat to Rome. Octavian threatened the Senate members and following dismissal many of them fled to Ephesus, where Antony and Cleopatra were now staying. Antony’s colleagues pleaded with Antony to dismiss Cleopatra so he would not jeopardize his position. Antony followed their advice and told Cleopatra to return to Egypt, but she refused. Though Antony and Cleopatra argued about the issue, Cleopatra, with assistance from Antony’s general, won the battle.  Cleopatra was the monetary provider for much of the war, it was essential she remain nearby. This would soon seem a small issue compared to larger ones brewing.

The Queen’s War

Antony seemed to feel invincible with his victories and his Egyptian Queen by his side. In May of 32 B.C. Antony took the final step in separation and divorced Octavia. Antony went further and instructed her to leave their home; salt to the wound. Octavia was in disarray and packed in tears, taking her children and Antony’s son by Fulvia with her. The two men, Antony and Octavian, both seemed overjoyed. The lynch pin their relationship had been ripped out and there was now nothing standing in the way of a full out war.

With the break Octavian first launched a war on Antony’s reputation, painting him as a man controlled by the evil heretic queen. Antony was the victim of his passion and bewitched. His love blinded him to his own downfall. A terrible reputation however was not enough for Octavian to go to war over. He added another twist to the tale of one-sided love. Cleopatra, he asserted, demanded Rome from Antony, in return for her favor. The tale was so widely believed that Antony was stripped of his titles and power and, in October, Octavian declared war on Cleopatra.

The war would take battle at sea. The battle occurred near Actium in Greece. Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa led Octavian’s forces, planning out his victory and blockading his enemies in. Antony, meanwhile, faced defections from his soldiers and resentment with the presence of the Egyptian Queen.  Antony, after sixteen weeks of blockade, opted for a naval campaign. He was met with opposition and found he could not withstand the assaults of Octavian’s force.  Cleopatra fled from defeat and Antony followed her is a single ship, leaving the rest of his fleet to be destroyed.

Star-Crossed Lovers

As Cleopatra and Antony both fled to Alexandria Octavian celebrated his victory. However, Cleopatra knew he would not stop at defeating her at sea. Upon returning to Egypt she had all her detractors arrested and killed. Cleopatra found wealth wherever she could, preparing for Octavian’s descent. Cleopatra fished for allies to help her. She was readying herself for a battle at home.

The battle would arrive with Octavian launching an assault on land and sea. Octavian waited outside the gates of Alexandria while his fleet waited beyond the harbor. Antony watched his forces row out to meet Octavian, only to be despaired when he saw them surrender and join forces. Antony flew into the palace, convinced Cleopatra had betrayed him, only to be met with a messenger that reported Cleopatra had died.

Sources say Antony cried out “O Cleopatra, I am not distressed to have lost you, for I shall straightaway join you; but I am grieved that a commander as great as I should be found to be inferior to a woman in courage.”  Whether or not he said this, Antony did proceed to brandish his sword one final time and turn it on himself, running it straight through his ribs and into his abdomen. Not dead, Cleopatra, hearing of his attempted suicide, called to have Antony brought to her, where he died in her arms.

The war was quickly lost, and though grieving, Cleopatra was still Queen of Egypt. She now faced Octavian head on, for he was victorious. Octavian made sure all means of death were removed from the Egyptian Queen. Octavian wanted Cleopatra alive. Eventually Cleopatra was made aware of her role. Octavian intended for Cleopatra to be displayed as a slave to the cities, to show Octavian’s victory.

Conniving and cunning, Cleopatra refused this bargain through her actions. A basket of figs was brought to the Queen, with a deadly escape inside.  Cleopatra wrote a letter to Octavian, having his guard deliver it. While gone, Cleopatra’s maidservants prepared her for death. When Octavian arrived, having read the letter that asked to be buried with Antony, Cleopatra was already dead, the poison of the cobra having done its work. At 39, Cleopatra joined her lover in death and ended the rule of her dynasty.

Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, has become a woman of legend. Her greed, ruthlessness, beauty, and cunning led her to rule Egypt almost entirely alone. She immortalized herself in life and death and rose to be greater than the Egyptian Goddess Iris, who she claimed to be incarnate of. Even today, the legend of Cleopatra still entices us.


Cleopatra. (2013). The History Channel website. Retrieved from

Crawford, A. (2007). Who was Cleopatra? Retrieved from

Schiff, S. (2010). Cleopatra: A Life. New York: Little Brown and Company.


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eva'What happened after Beauty fell in love with Beast? Certainly the fairytale could not be further from the truth for Eva Braun, who loved Adolf Hitler for more than twelve years and in the end met her happily ever after in a suicide pact with her new husband. For a woman who was the partner of such a well-known man, Eva Braun, for most of her life, was unknown. It was only after her death that the woman who dared to marry a monster became truly known to the public. So who was Eva Braun? And why was she so unknown? The woman who practically lived in a gilded cage was the force behind the most villainous man history has ever known and according to those who knew her, the unhappiest woman in Germany. 

“The worst feature of marriage is this creating of rights. It is wiser to have a mistress. Then there is no burden to carry and everything is simply a beautiful gift. This, of course, only holds good in the case of exceptional men.”- Adolf Hitler

A Convent Girl

After almost four days of labor Franziska Braun, wife of Friedrich Braun, gave birth to a daughter on February 6, 1912. It was their second daughter, and they were slightly disappointed by the birth of another girl. Friedrich chose the name Eva Anna Paula Braun for his new daughter. Eva would be joined later by a younger sister, Gretl.

Eva grew up rather comfortably. Eva’s father was in the military and was often away from home due to work.  Eva’s mother raised her daughters with love and lavished toys on them. The girls enjoyed entertainment such as the theater and operetta. Eva was educated in elementary school from 1918 to 1922 then at a lyceum. Eva’ s schools reported her as a terror, but intelligent and capable of independent thought. She got very high marks in school. In 1928 Eva was sent to a convent in Simbach on the banks of the Inn River to complete her education.  Eva spent one year here, miserable, and studies home economics,, bookkeeping and typing in preparation for office work. Eva would leave the convent in July of 1929 and returned to Munich to stay with her parents. She first went to work for a doctor, like her older sister Ilse, but Eva could not bear it and quickly quit. In September she answered an ad in the Munich newspaper. A photographer, Heinrich Hoffman, was hiring, and employed the pretty seventeen year old.

The Beginning of the End

hoffmanEva’s official position was bookkeeper. In reality she sold films, copied out the accounts, dealt with the bills, and worked in the darkroom.  Though many political figures came in and out of the studio Eva paid very little attention to them, not having developed an interest in politics. After working for Hoffman for over three weeks though Eva would meet a politician who would change her life. Eva descried her first meeting with the man that would become her husband to her sister Gretl. On a Friday in October Eva had stayed at the shop late. Hoffman entered the shop with a man who sat opposite of Eva. Hoffman introduce the man as ‘Herr Wolf’. Eva was sent to fetch beer and sausages and returned to sit, eat, and chat with her boss and the interesting stranger.  After she went home after refusing a ride from ‘Herr Wolf’, who Hoffman informed her, was actually Adolf Hitler, Eva began making inquiries into the man who had caught her interest.

A Quiet Affair

In the beginning there was very little between Eva and Hitler. Hitler would return to Hoffmann’s studio on rare occasions, but when he did he would ask for “Frӓulein Eva Braun”. Hitler was showed chivalry and drama in his actions towards Eva, kissing her hand and bowing down to her. He would bring her flowers and sometimes even sweets. Despite all these actions no one thought much of it, knowing that Hitler had shown these same actions with other girls before. In 1930 it seemed that Eva was pursuing her own interest, but in late 1930 the romance seemed to resume.  Hitler invited Eva out, taking her to the opera sometimes or dinner.

The two avoided being seen in public together. Hitler would invite Eva to picnics, the cinema, or often a secluded Café, but the two never rode in the same car. The two were in mutual agreement to keep the romance quiet; Hitler because of his growing position and Eva for fear of reprimand from her father.

Another Woman

geliEva Braun’s relationship with Hitler did not become serious until another woman met an unfortunate fate; a fate that in the future Eva Braun would share. Angela “Geli” Maria Raubal, born June 4, 1908 was Hitler’s step niece. She lived with Hitler in Prinzregentenplatz for two year after moving to Munich in 1929. Hitler was very affectionate towards Geli. Speculation has been made as to the nature of their relationships, hinting at a physical romance. Hitler admitted to his friend Hoffman “I love her but I don’t believe in marriage. I make it my business to watch over her until such time as she finds a husband to her taste.” Hitler had Geli closely watched and she was never able to venture out alone. As long as she was in his life he kept his relationship with Eva chaste and shallow. The relationship changed though in 1931. On September 18, 1931 “Geli” shot herself in the lung in her own room. Her suicide devastated Hitler. Only after Geli’s suicide and Hitler’s grieving did Hitler begin a more serious relationship with Eva. It was speculated that Geli killed herself because of Hitler.

A Private Affair

eva and hitlerTo help his friend in his grieving state Hoffman arranged a number of intimate dinners for Hitler, to which he invited Eva. Eva listened to Hitler grieve about his niece while slowly she began to replace her. Their intimate relationship truly began in 1932. Eva began to visit Hitler in his apartment at 19 Prinzregentenplatz. It was then, in the beginning of 1932, that Eva Braun became Hitler’s mistress.  Overall however there was not much time for the affair; Hitler was far too concerned with politics and elections.  Hitler was fickle, seeing Eva sporadically and sending her brief and infrequent messages.  Eva became very unhappy, especially upon seeing photographs of Hitler with pretty women, and decided on a course of action. On the first of November in 1932 Eva waited until she was alone in the house, aimed a pistol at her heart, and fired. Her sister, Ilse, returned home to find her sister lying on the bed covered in blood. Eva had aimed for her heart but missed very badly and hit near her neck artery instead. The doctors had no difficulty removing the bullet. The doctor who removed the bullet was Hoffman’s brother-in-law and it is assumed he was chosen in the hopes that he would relay the events to Hitler.

Upon hearing the news Hitler, who had been in Munich, rushed to the clinic in the morning with a bunch of flowers for his wounded lover. Hitler stressed the event be kept a secret. In the political eye he was already under scrutiny, another scandal only a year after Geli’s suicide could ruin Hitler’s career. Upon hearing that Eva had aimed for her heart Hitler said “Now I must look after her; it mustn’t happen again.” This event solidified the relationship between Hitler and Eva. Though it may have begun as an affair, after the attempt Hitler was as bound to Eva as she was to him. The relationship was to be permanent.

Bismarck’s Successor

For the next sixteen years Eva would spend her life as the secret mistress of Adolf Hitler, who rose to power through the years. On January 30, 1933, Eva would learn some exciting and frightening news. She was told that her lover had become Bismarck’s successor and would now be in power. Eva’s first reaction was to acknowledge she had won her bet against her sister Ilse. Eva’s second thought was worrying that now she would see Hitler even less.

Eva still had to work, extra hours in fact, to cover the recent events. Eva took charge of Hitler’s photographic file at Hoffman’s and waited to see her lover again. When able to Hitler returned to Munich and went out with Eva again. Eva pretended to be working when her family asked and waited to be picked up on the corner of the Turkenstrasse nearby. Hitler and Eva took every precaution to avoid their relationship being known.

A week after Hitler’s accession to power Eva’s twenty-first birthday occurred. Hitler gave her jewels, the first set he would give her, consisting of a matching ring, earrings, and bracelet. For Eva this reassured her of Hitler’s growing affection. Hitler travelled to Munich often after his election, continuing his affair with Eva Braun, who was often at Hitler’s residence. But her parents were less than pleased with her nocturnal affairs. The Braun’s were unaware of who their daughter was seeing, but they did not like the hours she was keeping. Eva’s father would often make a scene when his daughter returned. Growing irritated, Eva declared that she would be moving out.

On Her Own

Eva moved into an apartment in Wiedermeyestrasse on August 9, 1935. Hitler indirectly paid the rent, using Hoffman as his middle man. Despite her own apartment Hitler visited very rarely, not wanting to be seen by neighbors or servants. Eva began playing the waiting game, as she had before; waiting by the telephone day and night for a word from her lover.

Eva, for the most part, was isolated. She attended one political event, the 1935 Party Convention in Nuremberg. Eva did not attend with Hitler but rather with Hoffman and his family. Eva’s presence at the convention was met with resistance from other political leader’s wives. Even had there not been resistance, Hitler was still attempting to keep his relationship with Eva a secret.  Eva moved in Hoffman’s circle during this time, but for her it still marked yet another change in her relationship with Hitler.

A year after being given her apartment Eva and her sister moved to a Villa in Bogenhausen. When Hitler built his refuge on the Obersalzberg he made Eva mistress of the house, though she did very little managing it. Still, the sentiment was another testimony to the relationship.

Life in Waiting

hitThough Eva had achieved what she believed she wanted her reward was no as fulfilling. Hitler wanted to maintain his image, leaving Eva alone often. When they were together in public she was often with Hoffman, never next to Hitler.  Eva spent much of her time waiting for Hitler. She did little for enjoyment for she was forbidden the smoke, dance, or be in the company of other men.

Eva spent her time watching films, especially American films, exercising, and reading. She remained loyal to Hitler, despite her irritation and humiliation.

War Torn

In 1939 when war broke out in Germany Eva stood faithfully by Hitler, afraid for his wellbeing.  Now Eva was forced to wait even more, spending hours in the hotel room waiting for Hitler’s appearance. During the time Eva documented the war, taking pictures of the events she saw. Eva, along with her sister Ilse, witnessed when Hitler declared war on Poland. Life was changing.

Hitler was rarely in one place for long during this time. Eva stayed between her house in Munich and Obersalzberg. When Hitler was in Berline Eva would sometimes stay in her small apartment in the Old Chancellery.

Eva threw parties and brought in entertainment when Hitler was away, choosing to ignore the war going on in her country. Eva was no doubt aware of the rounding up on the Jews and probably shared Hitler’s sentiments, like much of Germany.  None of it affected her, other than to take her lover away. In the end of 1941 Eva would only see Hitler twice in five months. In 1942, while Hitler left for several months to command an offensive against the Soviet Union Eva Braun took her last trip to Italy to take her mind off of it. She did anything she could to occupy herself.

The Assassination Attempt

chancellorTensions in Germany were building up in 1943 and 1944. The tension came to a head on July 20, 1944 when an assassination attempt was launched against the Führer.  Lieutenant Colonel Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg left a briefcase with explosives in the headquarters with the intent to kill Hitler. Hitler survived and was only slightly wounded. Stauffenberg and three other conspirators were shot that day. Others involved, around a hundred, were rounded up and hanged after a trial.

Eva Braun was informed of the events by her chauffeur that day. Hysterical, she tried to reach Hitler at his headquarters and she had a nervous crisis when she could not reach him. When she finally got through she cried tears of joy.  Hitler had already attempted to prepare Eva for the case of his death, though Eva felt that if he were to die there would be only one thing left for her to do: die.
Hitler sent Eva his uniform from the explosion. Upon receiving the gift Eva nearly fainted. Hitler was showing the sacrifice he was making.  The attempt did not leave its mark though. Hitler seemed to have aged with the war and even more with the attack. He complained of stomach pain and had high blood pressure.  Two months after the attack Hitler suffered a physical collapse. Hitler stayed in bed a whole day, news that shocked many.

Foreshadowing the End

Around the time Hitler became very sick Eva Braun created her will. On October 26, 1944 drew up her will, dividing up her property among her family and friends.  The will was just one hint to Eva’s impending end. Eva had planned to end her life when Hitler’s ended, and with his proximity to the front and his increasing illnesses Eva did not hope for the best.

In November Hitler had surgery on his vocal cords. Eva stayed by his side. Eva was proving her loyalty, and after the assassination attempt and the growing number of traitors in Hitler’s mist he came to appreciate this gesture more and more.

The war raged on and Germany was losing. Eva and Hitler had moved to spending their time in an air-raid bunker.  Berlin was being attacked by America and the couple was hiding from the aerial attacks. Fires raged everywhere and Berlin fell into ruins. Eva would leave the city after three weeks only to return a month later to stay with Hitler. She had already said goodbye to her friends in family. Eva seemed to sense that the end was near.

Wife of Death

Hitler and Eva lived out of the bunker, attempting to remain cheerful in the face of defeat. Eva Braun, to all those around, seemed rather joyous, and why shouldn’t she have been? After years she had accomplished what she wanted, to be by Hitler’s side.

On April 22 Hitler had a psychological breakdown and claimed that the war was lost. He ordered everyone to leave, claiming he would stay, but Eva refused to leave. Hitler ordered those around him to burn everything, while he seemed to contemplate the end. It seems Hitler had decided to end his life and Eva, understanding his will, penned a quick note to her friend describing how the end was “drawing dangerously near”. Eva seemed resigned to their shared fate, but her words would be inconsequential for Hitler postponed his death. Instead, he placed his hopes, once again, on his military efforts. Nonetheless, Eva knew what was occurring and instructed her sister in putting some last minute affairs in order.

Trapped in the bunker, Hitler and Eva made one more try at life before death. On the night of April 28-29 Eva and Hitler were married after years of bondage. Only the Goebbels, Bormann, and the registrar Walter Wagner were at the wedding. There was a brief champagne reception after the ceremony. It was a night of celebration before a morning of despair.

On April 29th Hitler had his favorite German shepherd poisoned to test the poison Eva planned to use. The dog collapsed immediately and was dead. The next day, on April 30th, while the Soviet’s moved to take the bunker Hitler and Eva prepared for the end. Between three and four o’clock Hitler and Eva committed their double suicide; she by her cyanide capsule and Hitler, just after, taking a poison capsule and then shooting himself in the right temple.

The wedding guests, who were still at the bunker, discovered the bodies after the shot. They carried the two outside and placed them beside a concrete mixer. They poured gasoline over the two bodies and Kempa threw a flaming torch onto the gasoline. The flames consumed them violently and slowly, burning for hours.

Eva Braun was a woman of her own making. She resigned herself to be mistress of Hitler and played her part of loyalty up until the bitter end where she made good on her promise to stay by his side always.

Görtemaker, Heike B. Eva Braun Life with Hitler. New York: Alfred A Knopf, 2011.

Gun, Nerin E. Eva Braun Hitler’s Mistress. United State: Meredith Press, 1968.

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The myth of Melusina.

The myth of Melusina.

The myth of Melusina tells the tale of the water goddess Melusina. Melusina was one of three daughters. She was born half fay and half human. When her mother punished her for wrongdoings against her father, Melusina was cursed to become a serpent from the waist down until she met a man who would marry her under the condition of never seeing her on Saturday and keeping his promise.  The Luxembourg’s claimed their ancestor, Siegfried, married this Goddess. He became enchanted with her when he met her in the forest and asked her hand in marriage, agreeing to not see her on Saturdays under any circumstance. She made their castle of Bock appear the morning after her wedding, as if by magic.

Melusina bore him many children and he kept his promise, until one day his father and brothers began teasing him about his wife’s strange behavior. Growing curious, Siegfried went upstairs and opened the door to his wife bathing, seeing that from the waist down her body had been transformed into a serpent’s tale.

Melusina, realizing her husband had broken his promise, departed from him. Upon leaving she said, “But one thing will I say unto thee before I part, that thou, and those who for more than a hundred years shall succeed thee, shall know that whenever I am seen to hover over the fair castle, then will it be certain that in that very year the castle will get a new lord.” Melusina’s cry would haunt her descendants with the tragic news of impending death, and it was from this misery that Jacquetta’s line sprang.  Jacquetta would share the magic of her ancestor and would be haunted for life with the sad song of impending death and doom to her house.

A Woman in a Man’s World

Jacquetta of Luxembourg was born in the year 1416 to Peter of Luxembourg and Margaret de Baux. She was their second child. Jacquetta spent her childhood in different castles, unaffected by the war raging on in the kingdom around her. Very little is known about her youth. It is possible that she may have seen Joan of Arc. Jacquetta’s uncle, John of Luxembourg,  held Joan of Arc for four months from the English. Though John was tempted to turn her over, his wife, stepdaughter, and great-aunt all claimed that this would send the girl to her death. When John’s great-aunt died however he turned over Joan of Arc and she was burned at the stake for being a witch. Whether or not Jacquetta actually met Joan of Arc, she would have been made aware and seen the consequences for women who rise high in a man’s world.

A Royal Duchess

Jacquetta, like most women of her age, was a pawn in her family’s ambitions. Marriage would be Jacquetta’s destiny. Jacquetta’s groom was John, Duke of Bedford. The Duke had been married previously, to Anne of Burgundy. When his wife died in November 1432, John was deeply grieved and quick to arrange a new marriage. Five months later the Duke was married to seventeen year old Jacquetta, who was twenty-six years younger than her husband.  Gaining an old man for a husband had its perks though. Jacquetta, with her new marriage, became the first lady of France, second only to the king’s mother in England.

Jacquetta, after the ceremony, travelled with her husband to Paris. It was in this journey that the war finally came to Jacquetta. On their way the couple was forced to stop in Calais, for the Duke of Bedford had to put down a mutiny. He handled it by executing four of the ringleaders and expelling eighty of the mutinous soldiers. Jacquetta would have no say in these events, but she would begin to understand the tense relationships between France and England and how war worked.

Upon reaching Paris Jacquetta was installed as the lady of the palace of the Hotel de Bourbon. She discovered her husband’s library and his alchemy lab. These luxuries were rare, and through them Jacquetta would be exposed to new religious ideas and the mystical realm. This introduction would later lead to a rumor that would result in grave accusations and actions.

Though Jacquetta would naturally have been curious about her new home she would have very little time to adjust. Two months after her wedding her husband swept her away to England to meet his nephew, the King of England. The king was only twelve years old and his palace was full of intrigue and royal games of power and control. The young Duchess entered to the greetings of the London people. The Duke and Duchess would remain in London for over a year, during which time they would be gifted the Penhurst Place in Kent and news would come of the death of Jacquetta’s father.

After a year the Duke needed to return to France and resume his duties. Jacquetta journeyed back to Paris and returned in 1434 in time for the feast of Christmas.  They would not remain here for long.

Country at War

Though England was occupying France, the French were rebelling. French troops were advancing and the French peasants were constantly uprising. The safety of Englishmen in France was no longer guaranteed. In the spring of 1435 the Duke and Jacquetta left for the safer city of Rouen, an English held French city.

The Duke struggled to keep trade routes open and his former ally, and former brother-in-law, The Duke of Burgundy switched allegiance, choosing to no longer aid the English. The Duke was growing weaker and with the loss of his strongest ally he found it difficult to maintain English territories. He installed a new lieutenant, Richard Woodville, in Calais in an attempt to fortify the port.

While the Duke’s health continued to diminish and he began to make his will, Jacquetta grew close to the new captain. The relationship was chaste at this time, and the Duke made no known objections. When he died, on September 14, 1435, he made his wife his sole heir; leaving her all his lands except one estate, and his famous library. Jacquetta was now nineteen, widowed, and rather well endowed.  Despite all this Jacquetta was not a free woman; upon the death of her husband she was now under the control of the King of England. She was granted a widow’s pension in February 1436 on the condition that she did not marry without royal permission. The King, no doubt, had plans to arrange a marriage for the widow, but this would not be the case. Young and in love Jacquetta would make her own future as the King struggled with his country and the English-held capital of Paris fell to the French.

Marrying for Love

There is no official record of the marriage between Sir Richard Woodville and Jacquetta of Luxembourg, however the couple travelled to England and confessed their marriage in late 1436 or early 1437. The couple was forgiven, but Jacquetta was order to pay a fine. The couple was official pardoned in October of 1437, just before the birth of their first child, Elizabeth.

Though they could have stayed at court the couple moved to Grafton in Northhamptonshire. William de la Pole sold his manor of Grafton to Sir Richard as a favor to the young couple and they established house.

The couple was blissful, splitting their time between their country estate and the court. In 1438 Jacquetta gave birth to their first son, Lewis. The joy in his birth would be short lived for Lewis would die in infancy. He was followed however by another child, Anne, born in 1439. Before giving birth to another child Richard and Jacquetta inherited more land in 1441 from the death of Richard Woodville’s father. In 1442 Jacquetta gave birth to another son, Anthony Woodville. She would give birth to ten more children, from 1443 until her last daughter in 1458. Richard and Jacquetta would have eight living daughters and five living sons from their happy marriage.

A New Queen of England

To end the war between France and England a marriage was proposed between the king and the fourteen-year old Princess Margaret of Anjou in 1444.  When an English party went out to honor and receive the princess Jacquetta and Sir Richard were among them. Margaret and Jacquetta became friends immediately and Margaret chose Jacquetta to be one of her chief ladies-in-waiting. Margaret of Anjou

The Woodville’s would benefit greatly from the royal attention paid on them. Jacquetta received many gifts from the Queen, and in May of 1448 Richard was promoted to the title of baron.  However the Queen’s favoritism had an effect on her popularity; the people of England believed her an agent of France and her constant meddling in politics would have a negative effect on the royals.

A Country Changing

With the growing unpopularity of the royals many people began to rise up and rebel. The King rode off with an army in May of 1450 to put down the rebels. The rebels led the army into a trap and many men were lucky to escape with their lives. When the King returned he and the Queen waited only a couple of days before fleeing London. Jacquetta, and other royals, prepared for siege in the Tower of London.  The rebels held the city for a few days before the people of London turned on them and drove them out. The aristocrats exited the tower and the King and Queen returned to London, but it would not be the end of the fighting.

The English now faced the French Army yet again. Their newest target was the rich lands of Gascony, which England had acquired with Eleanor of Aquitaine. King Henry appointed Richard Woodville as Seneschal of Gascony and Jacquetta went with her husband to Plymouth.  While they waited to sail the soldiers grew restless. There was no money to pay them and they were given no orders. They waited for the date of sailing, only for the town of Bordeaux to surrender before the expedition even left port.  The loss, though great, was ignored, as the English prepared for another attack. Richard Woodville was ordered to Calais and Jacquetta again went with him.

With all the unhappiness there would be one short moment of peace for the Woodville family. Jacquetta and Richard arranged a marriage for their oldest daughter, Elizabeth. She was to marry Sir John Grey, a Lancaster loyalist. Elizabeth was fifteen and her husband was twenty. For Jacquetta, this was seen as a good match, but it would not override her daughter’s second marriage, which would change history.

The Fisher King

When the English lost the lands around Bordeaux the King was struck. It is said he took a fright, complained of feeling sleepy, and went to bed early. In the morning he did not stir, and slipped into a catatonic state. Queen Margaret was seven months pregnant at this time and chose to conceal the King’s lifeless state. Jacquetta was aware of this development, and been aware of the secret movements of the King. While the news leaked and the people grew worried, Margaret would go into her rooms for her royal confinement. Jacquetta would join her for this time, and await the birth of a new King. On October 13,1453 Margaret gave birth to a son, named Edward, and all Lancaster supports, including Jacquetta, were overjoyed.

Complications were presented though. For a baby to be heir he must be recognized by the King. When the baby was presented to the King and put in his arms the King did not respond. As a result, the baby could not carry the title of Prince of Wales because he had not received formal recognition from the King.  The Queen had her son christened anyways and Jacquetta watched as the Queen would fight, unsuccessfully, for power.

A Change

Without a King, England was lost. The privy council decided a leader needed to be put in place. Margaret of Anjou suggested she be made regent, but was refused. Instead, Richard, Duke of York, was made leader, and Margaret, along with her ladies, was ordered to Windsor. Jacquetta was in terrible danger, under house arrest with the queen.

In December of 1454 a miracle happened, the king woke up and was reinstated. Jacquetta and her husband received recognition for their loyalty. With the King back in place power shifted again, and the duke resigned.

After only a few months the king and queen called a council meeting. They excluded Richard, the Duke of York, as well as other Yorkist supporters. The Duke, knowing he was being humiliated, gathered his followers. When the king’s party demanded they lay down their arms the Yorkist refused. Jacquetta stayed with the queen in Westminster during this time while the king moved north. Richard and the King battled it out.

Miles away, the Queen would soon hear the alarming news. The King was defeated. Jacquetta fled with the queen and her two-year old son into the Tower of London to prepare for siege. Jacquetta would remain with the queen for some time, emerging from the tower with her and following her to Windsor Castle, and later to Hertford. Eventually Jacquetta left the queen to attend her daughter, Elizabeth, as she gave birth to her first child.

The war of roses

Jacquetta would continue to be loyal to the Queen as leadership changed hands repeatedly. She endured several sieges and fights between the Lancaster line and the Yorkist. Her own kidnapping would be a changing point for her life.

The Kidnapping and Impending War

Lord Rivers and Jacquetta, along with their seventeen-year-old son Anthony were sent to reinforce the port of Sandwich.  Warwick’s captain, who was now part of a war against the King, came with 800 men one morning and landed at Sandwich, marching into the tow. Richard and Jacquetta were awoken and as Richard exited the house he was captured. Jacquetta and Anthony were also seized and the three were bundled on board a ship and taken to Calais. The Yorkist waited until nightfall to bring the family in to avoid the people of Calais protesting against the capture of their former commander. Richard protested fiercely against their capture, calling it treason, and he roused the anger of the Yorkist lords. The Yorkist would insult the Rivers, but they would not be harmed. Jacquetta was sent back to England within a few weeks. The Lord Rivers and Anthony, however, were held prisoners for sixth months.

After the release the Rivers returned to their home at Grafton and remained quiet. There is no record of them in 1460, when large purges of Lancaster loyalists were occurring. The Rivers also stayed within their home when Richard, Duke of York, claimed the throne of England. Though they were not party to the going on at court, it is clear Jacquetta would have known what would come next. Having been friends with Margaret of Anjou for fifteen years Jacquetta was well aware that the queen would not give up her sons claim to the throne.

Margaret made agreements with the Scots and returned to England with an army. Lord Rivers and Anthony joined the army while Jacquetta went to once again serve her mistress. During the battle Richard of York was beheaded and it seemed the war would be over, but his eighteen year old son Edward pressed on in his father’s stead. As the battle pressed on the Lancastrian army held the upper hand. During this battle John Grey, Elizabeth’s husband, perished. However it looked as if the Queen would be triumphant. The Queen was reunited with her husband and the royal party, including Jacquetta, stayed at the Abbey of St. Albans.  The royal army looted the city and the people prayed to be rescued by Edward, Duke of York.

The lord mayor, in an attempt to save his city, chose Jacquetta, Anne Neville, and the Lady Scales to represent the city and negotiate with the queen to get an assurance that the Scottish army would not be allowed to loot the city.

Jacquetta and her party negotiated with the citizens of London and then reported back to the Queen. The Queen was unsatisfied and sent the ladies back to have the citizens proclaim Edward of York a traitor. While the Queen sent her ladies she also dispatched two bands of soldiers, confirming the citizens fears. They barred her from the city and Jacquetta left the city. The Londoners now began to raise money for the Yorkist armies. Edward was brought to London a hero and proclaimed King.  The Queen retreated back North. Edward won one more major battle, and the Lancaster forces surrendered. Lord Rivers and his sons turned over their swords and accepted a new King.

A New King and Queen

The Rivers were pardoned by the King. He was attempting to befriend and reunite the divided nobility. Anthony, now nineteen, was married off by Jacquetta. While they were overjoyed at one marriage, their daughter, Elizabeth was now struggling. With her husband dead she had two sons to take care of. Though she was meant to receive an income her mother-in-law had no intentions of allowing the young widow to live off of her. Elizabeth went to her parents at Grafton to seek help.

A year later, in the early summer, King Edward made his way north to recruit men. When stopping at Grafton he was met on the road by Elizabeth, who appealed for help in support of her claim for her dowry lands. The King was besotted with the twenty-seven year old widow. The two were married in secret within weeks of first meeting. Elizabeth Woodville

With Elizabeth’s rise, Jacquetta rose as well. She now would be the Queen’s mother. Once again Jacquetta was one of the highest ranked women in England. With this rise however, rumors spread. It was said that Jacquetta and Elizabeth trapped the King with witchcraft, and this rumor would haunt both for life. There is no certainty of this, however, whatever power willed the King to marry her daughter, Jacquetta was well aware of the powerful position her family had just been granted. Edward would admit the marriage in September of 1464 to the horror of his councilors.

Jacquetta’s family was overjoyed though. Richard Woodville became Earl Rivers in 1446 and was appointed to the post of Constable of England. Jacquetta used her new position to arrange advantageous marriages for her children, marrying them to heirs and heiresses.

A Brother’s War

Though the cousin’s war was now over, a new war would ignite. The Earl of Warwick was unhappy with Edward’s choice of a wife and married his own daughter to the King’s younger brother, George. Warwick then, with his allies, invaded England against his former ally. The King lost, his first defeat, and knowing his wife’s family would now be in danger sent Richard Woodville and his son John to Grafton where Jacquetta already was. The men then left from there to make their way to Wales. Father and son were captured by the Earl of Warwick’s men. Sir Richard and his son would be beheaded on the orders of the Earl of Warwick. Grafton was the last time Jacquetta would have seen her husband. Their heads were displayed on the walls of Coventry. Warwick then sent a guard to Grafton and had Jacquetta snatched from her home. He intended to try her as a witch.

There was a formal trial for Jacquetta. If found guilty Jacquetta would be burned at the stake as a witch. Witnesses were called to present testimony of Jacquetta’s unholy practices. The evidence was enough to execute the Duchess. Warwick however, for whatever reason, changed his mind and released Jacquetta. It is possible Warwick feared the retribution that would come if he executed such a well-connected lady. Whatever the reason Jacquetta was freed and she fled to join her daughter at the Tower of London.

Warwick soon found he could not hold the country without a King and Edward was released. He joined his wife, who left the tower, and an agreement was reached. Edward then helped Jacquetta formally clear her name of witchcraft.

A Dreadful Conclusion

Warwick and the King’s peace was short lived and Warwick invaded again. The King fled with Jacquetta’s son Anthony. Jacquetta fled into the safety of Westminster Abbey with her pregnant daughter Elizabeth and Elizabeth’s three young daughters. In Westminster Abbey Jacquetta assisted her daughter in delivering another child, a son and heir to the House of York. Jacquetta and her family remained in the Abbey, where they were safe from arrest. Meanwhile, Edward’s brother George turned on his father-in-law Warwick and joined Edward when the invaded England. As they paraded successfully through London Jacquetta and her family were liberated, and went to the Tower for safety while Edward took his army to meet the invasion of Margaret of Anjou. Edward was successful again, killing Margaret of Anjou’s son and capturing Margaret, but his success did little to help his own family. While the King was fighting the Lancaster heir, Lancaster supporters attacked the Tower of London. Anthony Woodville returned from battle to protect his mother and sister and led a counterattack that defeated the Lancastrian forces.

Jacquetta saw many things after this battle. Her friend Margaret Anjou became a prisoner of England, and was eventually released to her family. Edward and Elizabeth were restored to their throne. She would live just long enough to see her family returned to glory. Jacquetta died a year later in 1472, leaving behind a legacy of children and an English queen.

Little is written of Jacquetta of Luxembourg but it is clear that she was a forward thinking woman during a regressive time. She was a woman who ventured outside of the traditional role of women and chose to forge her own destiny in the world.

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The Hapsburgs once said: Bella gerant alii, tu felix Austria nube! The best way to expand an empire was not always to wage war, but more often it was to marry, and marry well. The saying means, “Let others make war. You, fertile Austria, marry!

Maria Carolina did marry well, with a match made by her mother that would make her queen of Naples and Sicily.  She would go on to rule Sicily and Naples as a forward thinking ruler. Her reign would end when chaos from France and their revolution spread across Europe. Nonetheless, she was a woman with a mind of her own and she went to her grave as a true ruler and queen.

Another Maria

Maria Carolina was born on August 13, 1752 in Vienna to Francis I and Maria Theresa of Austria. She was the thirteenth of sixteen (although five died) children.  She was the third child of her parent’s marriage to receive the name Maria Carolina but she was the first to survive infancy.  Maria Carolina formed a very close relationship to her little sister Maria Antonia (who would grow to be the ill-fated Marie Antoinette). The girls shared their governess, Countess Lerchenfeld, and often were so close they would even be sick at the same time.  They girls behaved very badly together and their mother, displeased with their actions, separated the girls in August of 1767.

While the girls were getting into mischief and being separated their mother spent some time contemplating matches for her daughters. Maria Theresa was quite a politician and knew that alliances through marriage would benefit and increase her own power.  Maria Theresa arranged a match; her daughter, Maria Josepha, to marry Ferdinand IV of Naples, as part of an alliance with Spain. Maria Josepha died of small pox though and with so many daughters to choose from, Maria Theresa just replaced the bride. At first she offered Maria Amalia, but it was determined she was too old, being five years older than the groom. As a result, it was decided that Ferdinand IV would marry Maria Carolina.

Maria Carolina was not excited, saying that no good ever came to those who married into the House of Naples. Despite her objections, the marriage went forward and Maria Carolina was married on April 7, 1768 to Ferdinand IV by proxy.

A Married Woman

Young Maria Carolina

Young Maria Carolina

Despite their mutual disdain for each other, Maria and Ferdinand had a royal duty to fulfill and they fulfilled it. Maria would have eighteen children, seven of which would grow to adulthood.  Maria did not rule out right in the beginning.  Instead she followed her mother’s instructions and feigned interest in her husband’s favorite activity-hunting. This allowed her to gain access to the politics of the country, although her power would not be formally recognized until 1775.

An Heir To The Throne and A New Queen

Maria Carolina and Family

Carolina’s marriage did not make her happy in the least. Of course, this wasn’t the point of royal marriages. Ferdinand retreated into his joys and acted rather uncivilized. Nonetheless, the Queen maintained public appearances.

With full rule of the kingdom, Maria Carolina appointed John Acton to aid her in her duties. It was rumored that Acton, besides being the Queen’s right hand, was also her lover. Whether or not this was true, the two were able to make some great accomplishments in their country. One such accomplishment was to revamp and reorganize the Neapolitan navy.  They opened four marine colleges and commissioned 150 ships.  With the reorganization Acton became commander of the Navy. He also acquired the title of minister of finance and prime minister.

Patron to the Arts

Painted by Angelica Kauffman.

Painted by Angelica Kauffman.

However, that all changed of course when the monarchy was abolished and seeing the results of the ideas she had once championed, she totally reversed herself. It became worse when poor Marie Antoinette was executed and forever after Maria Carolina carried a portrait of her sister with her and vowed to avenge her death. It was due to her influence that her husband put the Kingdom of Naples in the First Coalition of European powers against the French republic. Maria Carolina also had quite a circle of intellectuals, including Vincenzo Cuoco, Vincenzo Russo, and Gaetano Filangieri.

Maria Carolina even procured Mozart to come to the palace and play. Maria Carolina supported the arts throughout her appointment as queen.

The Great Tragedy

When Maria Carolina first heard news of the alarming developments in France she immediately ended her experiment in enlightened absolutism and started instead on a reactionary course. She, of course, rejected the French Revolution and attempted to prevent the same ideas from spreading to Naples. She sub-divided Naples into twelve police wards that became controlled by government-appointed commissioners.  Maria Carolina also created a secret police force.

When the King and Queen of France (Maria Carolina’s beloved younger sister, Marie Antoinette) were arrested on August 10, 1792, the Neapolitan government refused to continue to recognize the French diplomats legation.  The queen was tempted to break off relations with France completely.  When her sister was beheaded by guillotine in October 1793 Maria Carolina was prepared to go to war. However, when France started making their own preparations for war in November Maria Carolina and Ferdinand reconciled with Mackau and the new French Republic, not truly wishing to go to war.

During this time Maria Carolina’s popularity with her own people had decreased. They did not enjoy the restrictions on their freedom and Carolina’s use of a secret police. Throughout the Neapolitan state revolutionary ideas were spreading. In 1794 a Jacobin plot to overthrow the government was discovered, as a result Maria Carolina tightened up security.  She ordered Medici to suppress the Freemasons. The army was kept perpetually mobilized in preparation for an attack. To do this, Maria Carolina issued a huge increase in taxation, lowering her popularity even further. She even employed food-testers for her family and switched the royal families apartments daily to confuse would be assassins.

Fighting Revolution

In August of 1793 Naples had joined the First Coalition, an effort by Britian, Russia, Austria, Prussia, Spain and Portugal against France.  In 1795 the aggressions between France and Spain ended and Napoleon, the new leader of France, turned his attention (and army) towards Italy. Bonaparte was successful in Northern Italy and Maria Carolina petitioned for peace, a move that was to cost 8 million francs. Maria Carolina had no plan of maintaining peace though. When her son married the Archduchess of Austria in 1797 Carolina entered into a secret defensive alliance with Austria on May 20, 1798. She was responding to the French occupation of the Papal states, which was very worrisome since these states shared a border with Naples.

The Queen, still in alliance with Great Britain, helped them to win the Battle of the Nile, which was fought August 1-3 in 1798. With this victory came a renewed vigor towards returning France to a monarchist state and the Queen decided to ally her country again in the Second Coalition against France.  War council meetings were held in the Palace of Caserta and it was decided that the Neapolitan army would invade the Roman Republic, which was currently a French puppet state.


Naples attempted to take the Roman Republic and failed. Napoleon’s counterattack did not fail and The French took Naples in 1798. Maria Carolina and her family fled to Sicily and the French created the Parthenopean Republic in Naples. From Sicily the royal family continued their opposition and the British Royal Navy helped to protect them during this time.  The royalist forces were finally able to retake Naples after sixth months and Maria Carolina took the lead role in bringing down the republic and giving out strict punishment to the revolutionaries. 1,000 were charged with treason and 100 of the ringleaders were hanged or beheaded.  Finally, in 1800, Maria Carolina was able to relax for a short while. Carolina travelled with her three unmarried daughters and youngest son to Vienna. She stayed in her homeland for two years and arranged advantageous marriages for her children. It was the last opportunity Maria Carolina would be able to focus her mind on something other than the ongoing war with France and the growing revolutionaries.

The Final Hour

Maria Carolina returned to Naples on August 17, 1802. In 1805 Napoleon again turned his attention towards Italy. Napoleon did not hesitate in his campaign against Naples and once again the royal family was forced to flee to Sicily in February of 1806. The King and Queen of Naples again relied on the help of Great Britain but after the death of Admiral Nelson, who had advocated for the Neapolitan Queen, the British developed an aversion to Maria Carolina.

Maria Carolina retained her status in Sicily until 1812 when her husband abdicated and appointed their son Francis as regent. This left Maria Carolina powerless and she returned home to Austria. She arrived in Vienna in January of 1814 and began negotiating to be restored to the Neapolitan throne. This however never happened. Maria Carolina died on September 8, 1814 as a result of a stroke. Her maid found her lying dead on the floor among scattered letters and she was buried in the Imperial Crypt in Vienna with her parents.


Queen Maria Carolina died a changed woman, whose odyssey had decimated her original vision of monarchy and leadership.  Beginning her reign invested in the ideas of “Enlightenment”,  the brutality and violence of the Revolution deterred her from earlier beliefs and created a fear that led to her transformation as an ardent counterrevolutionary. She was a zealous queen who spent her last minutes fighting for her divine right.


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A Rose Without A Thorn: Catherine Howard

The young and spirited sixteen year old Catherine Howard would be the fifth wife of the playboy Henry VIII. Though Catherine Howard has been portrayed as a bit of a ditz on TV, The Tudors, the young girl was not as ignorant as people believe. She did however make one fatal mistake. When your husband is the most powerful man in the country and incredibly jealous and vain, it is not a good idea to cheat on him, or if you’re going to, you may want to avoid being caught. Queen for only eighteen months, the young teenager would end her life at the receiving end of an axe, claiming she would rather have lived as Culpeper’s wife. Henry’s great rose would die after a short life that made very little of an impact on English history.

A Less Than Perfect Early Life

Very little attention has ever really been given to Catherine’s early life. Catherine is believed to have been born in either 1521 or 1525. If she was sixteen when she married the King, as many say she was, she would have been born at the later date. Catherine was one of many children to Edmund Howard, youngest son of the Duke of Norfolk, and Joyce Culpeper.  Catherine was sent at an early age to live with her step-grandmother, the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk, to learn proper behavior for court. This also freed up Edmund from having to raise and provide for his daughter.

Catherine was raised in a dormitory type of setting at Lambeth Palace with many other girls whose parents were attempting to improve their children’s chances at court. Catherine’s education for the most part was neglected. She learned how to read and write and enjoyed music lessons.

As Catherine grew up she became a vivacious girl and rather flirtatious. She was childish and immature and enjoyed pleasure and entertainment above all things. She had very little self-control and this would be the leading factor that got her into trouble.

A String of Lovers

Catherine wasn’t known for her strong interest in education, but she did seem to enjoy her music lessons. This was due to the keen attention of her music teacher, the young Henry Mannox. They first met in 1536  (This is conveniently the year her cousin Anne Boleyn was executed for adultery).  Mannox was hired to teach Catherine the virginal and lute and soon began teaching Catherine the art of seduction.  Catherine swore that her relationship with Mannox was never consummated. Instead, she insisted she only allowed Mannox to touch her, claiming, “… I suffered him at sundry times to handle and touch the secret parts of my body….” Mannox admitted to the same.

Mannox would follow the duchess’s household to London in 1538, but Catherine soon lost interest in him. Instead her attention turned to a man named Francis Dereham, who was a gentleman in her grandmother’s household.  This relationship, unlike the last, was consummated. Catherine viewed Dereham as her betrothed and husband and even addressed him as such.  There was an engagement between the two, privately formulated that would come back to haunt Catherine later.

Dereham left towards the end of 1538 for Ireland and Catherine’s attention again turned elsewhere. In 1539 she moved closer to court, staying at her uncle’s house, and there met Thomas Culpeper. Catherine was attracted to him right away and fell in love with him, but as fate would have it, her life would take a different turn.

Another Lady in Waiting Turned Queen

Catherine joined court in late 1539 as a lady-in waiting to Anne of Cleves, Henry VIII’s fourth wife. Henry, by all accounts, fell in love (lust) with Catherine upon first meeting her. The King made his affection known publicly in April of 1540. Catherine was given lands on the 24th and later received other gifts. The King’s marriage to Anne of Cleves was ended on July 13, 1540, making room for a new queen.  Henry during this time lavished Catherine with extravagant gifts, spending more money on Catherine Howard than any of his four preceding wives. Catherine, enjoying fine things and pleasure, responded positively and encouraged the aging King’s affection.

Henry married Catherine on July 28, 1540 at Oatlands Palace in Surrey. The wedding was beautiful but Catherine was not crowed queen. The next year the King enjoyed his new wife. Catherine spent much time amusing the King and distracting from his more depressing matters, such as the loss of the love of his people and the losing war he was fighting with France.

The Queen during her time enjoyed the masque, banquets and gifts besotted on her. She entertained Henry and for the most part avoided politics. She did assist two prisoners in the tower, with her husband’s permission, and showed careful attention to her cousin and now stepdaughter, Elizabeth, but for the most part acted the part of a newly made heiress rather than a true queen.

The Past Catching Up

Henry, in his love for his wife, was not aware of her questionable past. In fact, Catherine has seemed innocent to the King and he had not imagined the lovers she had formerly had. Catherine did nothing to encourage his curiosity either, nor was she open about this past. The past did catch up to Catherine though. It began with Joan Bulmer, a young woman who Catherine had lived with at Lambeth and knew more of the old Catherine. She requested Catherine bring her to court, subtlety blackmailing her into bringing her. Then, in August of 1541, Dereham showed up with a request to be Catherine’s secretary. Catherine agreed to avoid a truth becoming public knowledge.  Even agreeing though did not save her from a complete scandal. Dereham was overly familiar with Catherine and he aroused the jealousy of those around them at court.

A New Lover

Catherine was affectionate with the King and very caring of him, but it was clear she was not romantically in love with him. When he fell ill in the spring of 1541 the King sent Catherine away in order to keep her safe.  Catherine was already somewhat acquainted with Thomas Culpeper from her stay at her uncle’s house. However, it was in the spring of 1541 that Catherine and Thomas began their affair. Catherine wrote to Thomas, expressing her undying love. She used one of her lady’s in waiting, Jane Boleyn (the wife of George Boleyn) to help her conduct her affair. Jane would stand watch while Catherine and Thomas met in secret.

For quite a long time Henry was ignorant of Catherine’s affair. He knew nothing of her young lover. He continued to visit his wife’s bedchamber and dote on her with lavish gifts. Catherine became boulder in her affection towards Culpeper, becoming careless.  It seemed everyone was aware of the relationship except Henry. However, his ignorance could not last forever, especially in a gossiping court. When the court returned to Hampton Court in November of 1541 Catherine’s past and current affairs caught up to her.

Fall From Grace

Catherine’s indiscretions became known to the King through Cranmer, John Lascelle and Mary Hall, a woman who had lived with Catherine before she became Queen. Initially the King did not believe it, but the evidence and confirmations could not be ignored. Catherine’s fall from grace was swift.  Henry ordered an investigation after learning this and after a few days everything came tumbling down.

Several female servants were arrested along with Dereham. Dereham was tortured and in this torture confessed his former relationship, along with giving new information. Dereham named Culpeper as Catherine’s current lover. Culpeper was arrested, tortured, and confessed as well.  Catherine was confined to her room during this time. When Henry was given the news of the truth he wept. Henry’s sorrow quickly turned to anger; he even demanded a sword to slay Catherine himself.

Catherine was arrested on November 12 and she pleaded so see the King. Her pleas were denied. Two days after her arrest Catherine was taken to Syon House and was interrogated by Cranmer.  Catherine was hysterical and confessed her relationship with Dereham but did not mention the pre-contract, instead making Dereham out to be violent. Catherine was demoted from her position as Queen on November 22 and she remained at Syon house for two more months.

On December 10, Dereham was executed by being hung, drawn and quartered. Culpeper was also executed, being beheaded.  While these men were being executed members of Catherine’s family was sent to the tower.

Another Dead Howard Girl

Henry passed an Act of Attainder on February 11. This made it so Henry could punish those who intended to commit treason, which sealed Catherine’s fate. Catherine was taken to the Tower of London on February 10, 1542. Two days later they informed her she would be executed the next day. Catherine requested a block so she could practice placing herself upon it. Her wish was granted.

On Monday, February 13, 1542 several privy councilors arrived to take Catherine to the block. Catherine had to be helped up the stairs to the scaffold and Catherine made a quiet speech.  After asking for God’s mercy Catherine lay down on the block and her life was ended with the swift executioner’s axe. Catherine was not yet eighteen. She was queen for eighteen months and is remember for little, other than her dramatic affair and sad end

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Spain entered England through one queen, Catherine of Aragon. The daughter of Isabella of Spain, sister of Juana of Castile, she was raised to be queen of England. Docile, religious, sweet tempered, Catherine would defer to her husband in all things. All things but one: The woman raised to be queen would die in a battle to maintain her title. Alone and separated from her daughter Catherine would die as queen of nothing, replaced by another woman and scorned by her husband. She, like many of the women in her family, would be destroyed by the wills of a man.



Catherine of Aragon was the last child of Isabella and Ferdinand of Spain. Her mother spent most of her pregnancy on a battlefield, waging war against the blasphemous moors.  Isabella finally gave up her war in September for the birth and Catherine was born Catalina of Spain in December of 1485. Catalina was destined for great things her parents decided and at three years old she was betrothed to Arthur of Wales, future King of England. It was decided then that Catalina would be the future queen of England and she grew up with this in mind.




Catherine left her home in Spain at sixteen, in 1501, to make the perilous crossing to England toward her new life and role.  The journey was treacherous and took three months to make. When Catherine arrived she had very little time to freshen up; King Henry and his son journeyed to where she was staying and demanded to see the Infanta. For the Spanish this was a large insult and it was the beginning to what would become a rocky relationship between the two countries.

Catherine and Arthur were married on November 14, 1501. It was decided the couple would not consummate the marriage right away, seeing how both were very young. The couple moved to Ludlow Castle to take up their positions as Prince and Princess of Wales. They were barely married six months before both became sick with the sweating sickness. Catherine survived. Arthur was not so lucky. The young prince died, leaving Catherine a widow and her fate undecided.



With the death of the prince King Henry had two options, send Catherine and her dowry back to Spain, an option he was not willing to consider, or find a new match for her. Henry had a younger son, Henry, so after 14 months he made another match. Catherine would be married to Henry. The betrothal was set and Catherine reassumed her position as future Queen of England. The match was not that simple though.


Catherine waited maybe a year before her father- in-law began to let it be known he was not so keen upon a Spanish alliance. After all, he already had Catherine’s dowry in England and his son was eligible to marry any woman, and bring in more foreign money. Henry VII was nothing if not a greedy man and he desired more money for his growing treasury. Catherine spent nine years waiting for her husband. It was not until Henry VII died that Catherine was finally married to Henry VIII and made queen of England. She had fulfilled her destiny  it seemed, but her fight would never been over.




Right after marriage Catherine became pregnant, a fact that roused Henry’s joy. In 1510 Catherine gave birth prematurely to a stillborn daughter. The joy was short lived. Catherine became pregnant again and this time gave birth to a living male heir. Henry. The castle was alight in the future promise of another king, but again Catherine would disappoint. The baby died after 52 days, leaving Catherine drowning in sorrow. After that Catherine would have pregnancy after pregnancy, followed by disappointment after disappointment. Catherine gave birth to one living child, a daughter, Mary I, who would go on to be a terror long after her mother was gone.




Henry grew out of love with his wife, no surprise. The king was younger than his wife and rather lustful. A string of unsuccessful pregnancies had left Catherine heavy and tired, older looking. The king turned his attention towards other women, always returning to his wife afterwards. Catherine endured the string of mistresses; after all she was still queen. One woman would change this. Anne Boleyn came into the picture in 1526, catching the king’s eye and refusing to give in to him. This was a new game Catherine had never seen before and though she held onto hope that the King would grow tired, as he normally did, she was in for a rude awakening call.




In 1526 Henry began to separate from Catherine.  He made inquiries to the Pope about an annulment, claiming that taking his brother’s wife had been a sin. Catherine did not know at first, and when she discovered she was beyond upset. An annulment would mean she was no longer Queen of England, further it would mean her daughter was illegitimate and would have no right to the throne. For the first time in her life Catherine would defy her husband. Instead of disappearing to a convent quietly, as Henry had hoped, Catherine put up a fight. Though at a disadvantage, Catherine wrote to the Pope and to her Nephew, the Holy Roman Emperor, pleading her case.

The fight continued for six years, with Catherine adamant in her claim that she and Arthur had never consummated their marriage. In 1533 however Anne became pregnant, and Henry was forced to make a decision. He proclaimed himself head of the Church of England and granted his own annulment. Catherine refused to acknowledge the change, but it did not matter, paper said they were divorced.

To hurt Catherine more, Henry made her leave court and took away their only child. She was forced to live in seclusion for three years at Kimbolton Castle until her death on January 7, 1536. She was not even allowed to say goodbye to her daughter.


Catherine was born on a battlefield in a war and died fighting her own war. In the end she was granted one wish, her daughter would become queen one day, but she would shame her mother with the acts of horror she would commit while on the throne.


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Bloody Mary

Bloody Mary

The Queen known as Bloody Mary, Mary Tudor, was the only child of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon. Raised with the belief she would one day be queen, abandon by her ruthless father, and lost without her pious mother, Mary made history for being one of the most violent monarchs in history.

The Spanish Infant


Mary was born February 18, 1516. She was the first living child of her parents union. They had been trying for an heir for fifteen years with little success and plenty of heartaches. Henry was tired of waiting for an heir and Catherine was worrying about her ability to carry a child to term. Mary was a joy to her mother and hope for her father, but it was short lived, for she would remain their only living child. For the most part Mary had a wonderful childhood, bull of love and attention, until 1533, when her mother’s marriage was annulled her father married a new queen, Anne Boleyn.

The Lady Mary


After the rise of Anne Boleyn Mary’s position changed drastically. Anne, who felt Mary was a threat to her future children, did everything in her power to belittle the princess. Princess Mary became the Lady Mary and she was forced to wait as a servant on her half-sister, Elizabeth. Though Mary was strong willed, the threats on her life and continued mistreatment became too much. Eventually she submitted to her father’s will and declared herself a bastard, making her life no easier, but somewhat pleasing Anne. Her life would not improve until 1536, when Anne was beheaded.

The Succession


Mary had a succession of stepmothers. The second stepmother, Jane Seymour, gave birth to Mary’s first brother, changing the line of succession. Now, Mary was second in line for the throne, a fact that upset her. Jane soon died though and Mary was given another stepmother, Anne of Cleaves, who she liked greatly. However that marriage was short lived and her next stepmother, Katherine Howard, was six years younger than her.  Mary was angry about this, but the marriage was short lived and her final stepmother was wonderful, despite the fact that she was a heretic in Mary’s eyes. This would be Mary’s final stepmother, for her father died , 1547, leaving her nine year old brother to rule.

Two Monarchs to Live Through


Edward, also a Protestant, set into motion an Act of Uniformity, which Mary defied and she continued to celebrate Mass. Edward would struggle with his sister over this issue for the rest of his reign, but he would not win.

Edward however, did intend to make a change. Knowing he was growing sick, and being manipulated by his advisors, Edward changed the succession so his crown would pass over his half-sisters and fall to his cousin Jane, who was also a Protestant.

When Edward died, in 1553, the crown passed to Jane and she became Queen of England. Mary at the time was growing an army of supporters, knowing she would have to take her crown by force. When Mary received news that her brother was for sure dead, she sent proclamations throughout her country to declare herself as the rightful queen. Her number of supporters increased during this time, all believing she was their rightful queen.

The Privy Council, realizing what they had done and the error they had made (along with the price they would pay) announced Mary the true Queen of England and she left to claim her throne in London.  Mary executed two conspirators right away and later executed her own cousin, Jane. This was the beginning of her bloody reign.

False Pregnancies and a Bloody Terror


Mary soon married her Spanish cousin, Phillip of Spain. Mary fell in love with his portrait and thought the marriage would strengthen her attempts to return England to Catholicism. Shortly after her marriage, a physician announced the Queen was pregnant. With the hope of a child, Mary felt a renewed rigor to restore her country to the true faith.  Mary returned land to the monasteries her father had destroyed and restored heresy laws that allowed killing heretics.

Mary arrested several holy men and put them on trial, then burned them at the stake. Mary burned 275 people during her reign, only causing more people to grow to hate her.

While her country began to despise her Mary retreated to give birth to her child. She waited for her labor pains but they never came and by July 3rd, a month after her due date, Mary grew very worried.  With embarrassment, Mary exited the chamber and signs of pregnancy disappeared, though no one pointed out the lack of a child.

Mary came out of confinement with a new vigor for burning heretics. She continued on her rampage until discovering she was pregnant again in 1557. She entered confinement and February of 1558 only to discover in April that she was again mistaken.

A Sick Queen


After her second false pregnancy the queen became incredibly ill. She drifted in and out of consciousness and made her will for succession, naming her sister as the heir. On November 16, 1558 Mary died, leaving behind a legacy of blood and destruction.

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