Disclaimer - Some of the ladies we've chosen have
less than perfect reputations. We initially named our jewelry after them to highlight their importance in history - not necessarily to
honor them. When we began to remodel the site, we moved the bios and book and movie reviews to this page. Nancy
The first book I read about Queen Esther
is lost to the mists of time - and the Erie, PA library - but I always felt she had a lot on her
plate since she was dragged out of her normal life and into
royal intrigue. The Gilded Chamber by
Rebecca Kohn is an adult version of a compelling story of religion, romance (in a graphic sort of way) and heroism.
After her first husband died, Adelaide was kidnapped,
imprisoned and tortured. Holy Roman Emperor Otto I rescued and
married her, but when he died young, she acted as regent for their son and
later their grandson. The grandson, Otto III, "helped" Adelaide retire
to a convent when he was 14.
Agrippina the Younger - Roman Empress, sister of Caligula, mother of Nero,
and wife of Emperor Claudius, whom she poisoned. Her son attempted to murder her several times until he succeeded.
scroll down to Livia Augusta for books and DVDs on this period
Amina - Queen of Zaria (Zazzua) in today's Nigeria was a military leader and able administrator. She died in 1589.
Anna Comnena - Byzantine princess and historian during the Crusades. Born 1083.
Anna Ivanova - Czarina of all the Russias
Empress Anna was the niece
of Peter I the Great and became czarina in her own right after
the death of Peter II. Once she came to power, Anna put
imperial autocracy back in place and then left things to her
lover and some advisors. This meant the people lived with
an oppressive government and sent their sons to war while Anna
had a very good time until her death in 1740. Tsk. Tsk.
I have readneither Chronicle of the Tsars nor A Forgotten Empress.
They are, of course, on my list.
Anne - Duchess
of Brittany, twice queen of France. Everyone wanted to marry Anne, who was a duchess in her own right. She was a good administrator, a lover of gemstones, and the first bride of note to wear white. She died in 1514, and Brittany promptly became part of France.
Anne Boleynand her sister, Mary, both slept with England's Henry VIII. Mary ended up a poor widow, but Anne wore a queen's crown until Henry had her beheaded.
To Die For is Sandra Byrd's fictional look at the sad life of Anne Boleyn. It's a fun (could that be the right word?) and easy read.
was married to Hephaestus (Vulcan), she had many lovers, including
the father of Aeneas as well as
Ares (Aries / Mars), the god of war.
As the goddess of both prostitution and
marriage, Aphrodite walked an interestingly fine line. And
since she was born from sea foam, even sailors felt she was their
Aphrodite was also responsible for the Trojan
War because she bribed Paris with Helen of Troy when he was acting as
judge for a contest the Greek goddesses were holding. Paris
didn't know he was a prince of Troy at the time, but his kidnapping
of / elopement with the queen of Sparta (Helen) upset her husband
and his brother, the king of Mycenae. The Greeks had been
looking for an excuse to get a piece of the lucrative trade that Troy
controlled. Helen was it.
I have not read Heroes and
Monsters - yet. And if you like classical music, don't forget to listen to John Blow's Venus & Adonis, the very first English opera.
Athens in the early '90s may have
been lovely, but curmudgeonly Inspector Haritos sees only things he
can grumble about - and murder. I love Petros Markaris clever
style (in a David Connolly translation), and look forward to the next
volume in this very real novel.
There are lots of books set in - more or
less - contemporary Greece. Here are a few more you should consider. They're
listed by time frame from earliest to most recent along with the
movies they inspired.
Fortunes of War: I fell totally under Olivia Manning's spell when
I saw Fortunes of War and read her series, The Balkan Trilogy and The Levant Trilogy,
from which the film was taken.
Thompson and her then hubby, Kenneth Branagh, were superb as the
displaced English couple living in Athens and then Egypt as World War
II closed in. Don't expect a military history - this is
the story of a relationship.
The Moonspinners, by Mary Stewart,
made me yearn for a visit to Crete. It's a great romantic adventure
that became a Disney film (The Moon-Spinners) when Hayley Mills still got the acting roles.
1964, Hayley Mills
Fit for Fate, by Eugene Aubrey
Stratton, began well and then introduced a heroine I took an instant
dislike to. Regardless, Stratton has pulled together a
political intrigue / historical-cultural lesson in good order.
I definitely didn't see the end coming.
Arwa - Queen of Yemen, also known as "Little Bilquis" after the Biblical Queen of Sheba. Queen Arwa, a widow, ruled for 55 years, focusing on peace, prosperity and the education of women. She died in 1138, owing much of her success to the upbringing her mother-in-law, Queen Asma, provided.
Barbara Villiers, Countess of Castlemaine, was the long-time mistress of Charles II and mother of at least four of his children.
Berengaria - Queen of Richard the Lionheart
Berengaria never set foot in England until
long after the death of her husband, Richard the Lionheart, who
didn't spend much time there either. Actually, he wasn't a big
fixture in Berengaria's life since he was busy with the Third
Crusade (and perhaps his boyfriends - although Richard's sexual
preferences are shrouded in the mists of time) during their seven
years of marriage.
I have to admit I've always had a soft spot
for Berngaria, a pawn in Medieval politics. She was said to have
been beautiful, kind and intelligent - like all princesses.
She deserved better, even if she was just a regular gal.
The good news is Berengaria had a life
after Richard. She founded the Abbey of L'Epau near Le
Mans, France, perhaps giving her a stronger position as an independent
woman than that of a mere widow of an English king living in
Richard Paschal was kind enough to
point out the flaws in the earliest edition of my bio of
Berengaria. He also sent me some material from John
Gillingham's Richard the Lionheart, a book that sheds
some clarity on the relationship of Richard and Berengaria.
Richard recommends Ulrike Kessler's book on
King Richard as well as Queen Without a Country by
Rachel Bard.He said, "It is a historical novel where
Ms Bard spent years researching Berengaria. There are very few
historical errors. She has [King] Richard as bisexual,
however, there is no evidence to support this view either."
In addition, Richard said, "The name 'Plantagenet'
was not applied to the Angevin kings and their issue until several
hundred years after Richard and Berengaria."
Mr. Paschal noted, "Berengaria's skeleton was
rediscovered and analyzed by French scholars. The shape of her
skull is not exactly like the head on the effigy. The skull
does not have the heavy brow lines of the effigy. It certainly
appears that the shape of the face is correct. People look at
the effigy, see the heavy brow lines and conclude she was not
attractive. This is a serious mistake."
Research assistance provided by Richard Paschal,
an individual interested in Angevin history, particularly the
lives of Richard and Berengaria. He can be reached at RBPaschal@aol.com.
to Mr. Paschal's comments, Manuel Sagastibelza of Berengaria's
homeland in Pamplona-Navarre wrote:
"As Jean Flori has demonstrated, Richard the Lionheart was
probably bisexual or homosexual. The Gillingham's arguments
are refuted clearly."
just when we felt secure about the contents of this page, Rachel
Bard, author of Queen without a Country, wrote,
author of Queen without a Country, I question
the statement in the Bio that she never set foot in England
until long after Richard's death. I believe this "fact," which I've seen in other places too, is based on the historical
record of King John's sending her a safe-conduct so she could
come to England to discuss her inheritance with him. But there's
no evidence that she went. Surely there would have been some
record, if she'd indeed met with King John. I interpret this
to mean she was afraid to go because she feared he'd imprison
her. She saw the safe-conduct as a lure.
I love history!
Queen without a
Country is a deceptively gentle read.
While it's always easy to accept the plots of novels as the
whole truth and nothing but the truth, when I finished
the book, I had a whole new perspective on Berengaria.
My husband and I love
old movies even though their historical inaccuracies outrage me, but
what's new? We were pleased to discover The Crusades (1935) video starring Loretta Young as Berengaria.
I haven't read James Reston Jr's book, Warriors of God, but the reviewers agree it's interesting and
pro Saladin, which isn't surprising because both Christians and
Moslems held him in high regard. Richard, apparently, doesn't
come off so well.
I've always wanted to write a book
about the women in Napoleon's family, but these pages may be
the closest I get. In the meantime,
you'll want to know about Elizabeth Patterson, who married Napoleon
Bonaparte's handsome baby brother Jerome.
Elizabeth, called Betsy, was the most
beautiful girl in Baltimore at the beginning of the nineteenth
century. When Jerome Bonaparte came to the United States as a
representative of the French government, Jerome and Betsy fell madly
in love and married. Sadly, Emperor Napoleon had the dumpy
Princess Catherine of Westphalia in mind for Jerome and arranged an
annulment for Betsy's marriage. Betsy never really accepted
Jerome's new wife and ended her days back in Baltimore. Too
sad for Betsy, but Catherine's family connections helped Jerome
survive Napoleon's final military defeat and end his days in royal
detail of sculpture by François Rude, Napoleon Awakening to Immortality, inMusée d'Orsay
The very good A&E series, Horatio
Hornblower featured Betsy and
Jerome Bonaparte in the episode, "Duty."
Börte - Married, kidnapped, raped and returned to Temüjin, she was rewarded with the title of Grand Empress of the Mongols when her husband became Genghis Khan.
Boudicca (Boadicea / Victory) - Queen of the Iceni
"I am not fighting
for my kingdom and wealth now. I am fighting as an ordinary
person for my lost freedom, my bruised body and my outraged
as quoted by Tacitus
Boudicca was a British (Iceni) tribal queen
when the Romans decided to claim her late husband's kingdom and rape
her daughters. She led a rebellion that the historian Tacitus
claimed cost 70,000 Roman and pro-Roman lives before her defeat and
death, probably by self-administered poison.
Dio Cassius said, "She was huge
of frame, terrifying of aspect, and with a harsh voice. A great mass
of bright red hair fell to her knees: she wore a twisted torc, and a
tunic of many colours, over which was a thick mantle, fastened by a
brooch. Now she grasped a spear, to strike fear into all who watched
her." Now that's a woman.
The ancient Romans
were brutal, but time has sanitized our vision so now we see
glorious legions on the march and marvels of civic
Rome was downright greedy and had a manifest
destiny view of the world that explains why very few
people were eager to hand over their lands, gold or
children. Nevertheless, many of us can't get enough Roman history,¬ especially the doctored kind we enjoyed
in Gladiator. (See Empress Lucilla bio for more on this).
Fortunately, a nicely
realistic series by Simon Scarrow takes us back to the
conquest of Britain with plenty of authentic detail AND
engaging stories. Begin with Under the Eagleand you won't be disappointed. Boudicca is introduced as
a major character in the third book in the series, When the Eagle Hunts.
statue of Boudicca on the Thames Embankment, diagonally across from Parliament, in London (gray and rainy March afternoon)
The Viking Queen is actually a loose take-off on Boudicca's story.
Think of it as a fun way to spend a stormy evening.
Roman Britain was a better place for bathing
after it was subjugated due to installation of many Roman baths, but
there was enough unrest to power many a novel. Jane Finnis has
given us the first of a great series in Get Out or Die.
Guess who picks up a Roman soldier in a tavern?
Vanessa Collingridge wrote Boudica to flesh out the legend of Boudicca with the latest research (2005) into the myth and fact surrounding the legendary queen of the Iceni. Serious students of British history will find it well researched and patriotic.
Antonia Fraser's The Warrior Queens is a scholarly but readable look at warrior queenliness in terms
of actions, events, culture and the place of women in history. I
met more than one of our chosen
ladies in its pages - and learned a thing or three.
Jeannine Davis-Kimball's Warrior Women is a fascinating account (with Mona Behan) of her archaeological
finding that nomad societies from China to Ireland were not the
patriarchal societies we've been led to believe.
Brigantia - Celtic
goddess of fire and healing
were an important British tribe that flourished despite the Roman
invasion of their island. Brigantia was the tribal goddess
who was honored by an eternal fire - harder to do in the days
before natural gas was used as a fuel.
Brigantia was known by many names including Brigid and, most interestingly, Bride in Scotland. The veneration of St. Brigid originated with Brigantia.
Briseis (Briseus) - Queen of Lyrnessus, slave of Achilles at Troy
Of all the characters in the Trojan War, I've
always preferred Cassandra (Kassandra), Trojan princess and
sister to the hero, Hector, and the handsome but useless Paris. She was given
the gift of prophecy by Apollo, who hoped to become her lover,
but when Cassanda turned him down, Apollo said she could keep
his gift, however no one would ever believe her.
Years before, Queen Hecuba of Troy, had a dream
her son Paris would destroy Troy.
The queen convinced King Priam to have a servant leave baby
Paris out for wild animals to kill. Of course the servant
had a soft heart so Paris was raised as a shepherd.
later, three goddesses got the gorgeous young man to judge among
them. Aphrodite bribed
him with the promise of the world's most beautiful woman and won. Paris returned to
Troy despite Cassandra's warnings about him - their parents
welcomed their long lost son back to the
family - and sent on
a voyage to various Greek city-states where he met Helen, the
unhappy wife of Menelaus, the king of Sparta and brother of King Agamemnon of Mycenae.
Helen, by the way, was the
heir to Sparta because her older sister was already Agamemnon's
queen and her brothers had gotten themselves killed.
Menelaus got his throne when he married Helen, and they had at
least one child, a daughter, Hermione.
Helen and Paris eloped. The
Greeks under Agamemnon's leadership, were eager for an excuse to get their hands on the wealth of
Troy. They declared war and summoned all allies. Achilles dressed like a girl to
avoid the war, but was unmasked and drafted.
Briseis was the queen
of Lyrnessus, a small city state near Troy. Her husband,
King Mynes, was killed by the Greeks (maybe by Achilles) during
the Trojan War, and she was taken prisoner by Achilles, whom
Iliad calls, "the best of the Greeks"
and "doer of deeds and speaker of words."
Another version suggests Briseis was
living in Troy as an engaged woman and given to Agamemnon by the
king of Troy because her father thought it was a good idea.
Agamemnon, as the leader of the Greeks, demanded
that Achilles give Briseis to him. Although Achilles was
the Greeks' greatest hero, he gave her up and went on strike in
protest. Without Achilles, the Greek army began suffering
defeats, and Briseis happily went back to Achilles, whom she
called her "master, husband, brother." [Ovid]
When Achilles died after Paris shot him in the
heel, Briseis was the chief mourner.
Dead, Achilles had his revenge on Cassandra's
family. His son, Neoptolemus, killed her father, King
Priam of Troy. Later, Neoptolemus dreamt Achilles appeared to him and demanded Cassandra's sister,
Polyxena, as tribute. Naturally, Neoptolemus sacrificed
Polyxena on Achilles tomb.
Cassandra ended up as a slave to jolly old King
Agamemnon. He begun the war by sacrificing his daughter to the gods at the
start of the war. Agamemnon's wife, Helen's sister, loved
her daughter and had been seriously annoyed with her husband for
10 years. When he finally got home from war, she killed
him and Cassandra, too, for good measure. Or not. In a very few
versions, Cassandra survives.
Helen lived happily ever after with
Menelaus. But there
are no more mentions of Briseis so we can only assume she ended
her days in slavery and despair.
There is way more to this story, of course.
We have Brad Pitt and company to thank for our renewed interest. The DVD of Troy is entertaining despite the many liberties the movie makers took with
Heinrich Schliemann excavated
Troy. He discovered the "Treasure of Priam"
[aka the "Treasure of Helen"] in 1873 and
photographed his wife wearing it. The gold disappeared
from Berlin during World War II. In 1993, it turned up
in Moscow's Pushkin Museum. Turkey, Greece and Germany
all claim it.
There is lots of controversy about his
work, but Schliemann remains a founding father in the field
of archaeology. The simplest way to learn a little more
about Troy is to find a good children's book with lots of
pictures and drawings. My favorite to date is In
Search of Troy by Giovanni Caselli.
Inside the Walls of Troy,
by Clemence McLaren, is an easy-read, fictionalized account
of the lives of Helen and Cassandra for teens.
David Gemmell gave us a different look at Troy with his series that begins with Troy, Lord of the Silver Bow. Here, Aeneas is the great hero and his love is Andromache, wife of Hector. The series is very readable and quite violent. Surprisingly, well known author Ben Bova introduced his take on Helen of Troy with the slightly less readable The Hittite. I am hooked just enough to want to continue reading this series.
There are tons of novels that attempt to bring that long ago time to
life. One of my favorites is The Firebrand is Kassandra's
story with a look at the conflict between the old Mother Earth religion versus the patriarchal Sky Father that
dominated Greek beliefs.
Margaret George serves up Helen's story in Helen of Troy. It's a good read.
Amanda Elyot's The Memoirs of Helen of
Troy is another good version of Helen's story. Briseis
gets a mention, but Helen shines.
Candace - Queens of Nubia
Queens of Kush were tall, full figured African women. The
... Kushites saw beauty, wealth and power reflected in the size
of their queens." Joyce
and David Mollet, Social Studies Review, Journal
of the California Council for the Social Studies
There have been enough Nubian
queens called Candace so that historians finally decided "Candace" was a title, Kandake (mother of the king), rather than a name. These strong women resisted
invasion and helped keep Egyptian culture (which
the Kushites had refined and made their own)
alive long after the Egyptians had lost the power to do so.
is the land of the Biblical queen who fascinated Solomon.
She is also the legendary ancestor of the Ethiopia royal family.
Perhaps she too held the title of Candace although many place
her in today's Yemen, where you can visit the Shrine of Bilqis.
Others say she never existed (which I think is unlikely given
that Biblical history is constantly being verified by archaeology).
I love Tahir Shah's books. He is a modern
adventurer in search of the bizarre and entertaining - just like me,
only richer and better traveled and a man and ...
The Nubian Pharaohs, Black kings on the Nile, by Charles Bonnet and Dominique Valbelle, is a history in photos of the treasures discovered at Kerma on the third cataract of the Nile and what the people who left them behind meant for Egypt. A two bears book.
Solomon and Sheba are part legend and part
Biblical history. In Wisdom's Daughter, India
Edghill gives us an outstanding look at real people who could have
inspired timeless passion.
the Great - Empress of Russia. A poor German princess, Sophie of Anhalt-Zerbst married the grandson of Peter the Great, Peter II. Shortly after Peter became czar, his wife, who was baptized Catherine in the Russian Orthodox Church, and her favorite officers, led a coup.
You don't often get to be called, "the Great." Catherine II of Russia gave her country a massive shove into world power and earned her place in history, but it's amazing to think how she got there. Eva Stachniak's The Winter Palace is a fictionalized look at that story.
d' Medici - Queen of France
Catherine, the orphaned sole heiress to the riches of the Medici family of Florence, Italy, was married off to Henri d'Orleans, a prince in love with his mistress. Catherine became an unpopular foreign queen and served as a strong anti-Hugennot regent during the the reigns of her three sons.
Catherine de Medici has had nothing but bad press. When you read the novel, The Confessions of Catherine de Medici, by C. W. Gortner, you'll find it hard not to to feel sorry for someone who had to cope with so much pain, infidelity, war and intrigue. No wonder she turned to astrology and carried poison around.
Catherine Parr - Last queen of Henry VIII of England. Married four times herself, Catherine, an intelligent and compassionate woman, was only happy with her last husband, Thomas Seymour, who had a thing for the future Elizabeth I.
Christina - Swedish monarch
as a prince, Christina became queen at age six (1632) when her
father died in battle. She was responsible for the first
Swedish newspaper, invited scholars to her court and helped end
the Thirty Years War. However, she was unhappy in Lutheran
Sweden and abdicated to become a Catholic.
Still not content, Christina unsuccessfully
attempted to rule firstNaples
and then Poland. She supported the arts and inquiries
into philosophy throughout her life, and died in Rome.
She is buried in St Peter's Basilica.
the last independent ruler of ancient Egypt. She was the
surviving sibling of a voracious brood; executing / assassinating
her sister and brothers to secure the throne of the Ptolemies, the Macedonian dynasty founded
in Egypt by one of Alexander the Great's generals.
Even though the family was
Greek and ruled mainly in Alexandria, they took on the customs
of Egypt. Cleopatra's father married both her mother and her
half sister. Maybe. The records on the women in her family are a little confusing.
Cleopatra married two of
She was a good mother to Julius Caesar's son, Caesarion or
Ptolemy Caesar, and to the three children she had with Marcus
Julius Caesar married
Cleopatra under Egyptian law, but he already had a wife in Rome,
and Cleo wasn't a Roman citizen, so the marriage was not legal in
He never quite
acknowledged their son who was killed by order of Caesar's
nephew Octavian (later Augustus Caesar - husband of Livia Augusta). Octavian didn't want any cousins getting in the way of his own control
of Rome. The surviving
children were raised by Antonius' Roman wife, Octavia, who
happened to be Octavian's sister!
Cleopatra ruled Egypt well for the most
part, but like so many of her contemporaries, she couldn't hold
her country against the Roman need for land, slaves and grain.
In allying herself with Marcus Antonius, she
backed the wrong wanna be successor to Julius Caesar. After
a military defeat, Marcus Antonius fell on his sword. Cleopatra
heard the news and also committed suicide. Or not.
The Discovery Channel said she might have been poisoned on orders
Cleopatra's Needle in Londonwas originally erected in honor of Thutmose III - Cary Kamp took this photo along the Thames Embankment on a rainy March evening
The definitive biography of Cleopatra is that of Stacy Schiff. It's an easy read and doesn't speculate or embellish an already fascinating story. Don't miss Cleopatra, a Life.
Cleopatra's Daughter, by Michelle Moran, is very entertaining, slightly fictionalized story about Cleopatra Selene, the only daughter of Cleopatra and Marc Anthony. You will enjoy it. A magical approach to Selene's story is Stephanie Dray's Lily of the Nile.
Hand of Isis, by Jo Graham, comes at Cleopatra's story from the point of view of her servant/slave/half sister, Charmian. There's clairvoyance and reincarnation, but otherwise this is an excellent historical novel.
The October Horse is not the first book in Colleen
McCullough's highly readable series about the men (Sulla, Marius,
Julius Caesar) who ruled Rome
in the last days of the Republic, but it is the one that features Cleopatra. You'll enjoy them all.
Kleopatra (series) and The Memoirs of Cleopatra are both good
reads as is an excellent series about Caesar that begins with Emperor The Gates of Rome. .
Judith Tarr always gives a good read. Check
out Throne of Isis.
All beautiful actresses seem to
want to play Cleopatra. Of these, the
film performances of Elizabeth Taylor, Vivien Leigh and Claudette
Colbert are the most famous.
Cleopatra Selene, Cleopatra's only daughter is popping up in new books. My favorite is Cleopatra's Moon, by Vicky Alvear Shelter. It's a juvenile book, but you will enjoy it.
Dahia - Berber leader
first encountered Dahia's story in an old movie about the French
Foreign Legion. I don't remember much of the plot except
there was conflict over the tomb of a North African warrior
queen. I discovered very sketchy details about a woman
who led the resistance to the Arab invasions of North Africa
that grew out of the explosive growth of Islam at the end of
the seventh century.
Dahia, called al-Kahina (think Cohen),
may have been the descendant of Carthaginians or Alexandrian Jews who fled the
collapse of the Byzantine Empire. She's also claimed by
Mauritania (though I suspect her territory was more the Mediterranean
North Africa of the Roman province of Mauretania). In any
case, Dahia committed suicide rather than convert to the new
The Serpent's Daughter, the third and least volume in Suzanne Arruda's post WWI African series, focuses on the legend of Dahia as Arruda's plucky New Mexican heroine battles bad guys and seeks a treasure in Morocco. I recommend the books in general, but begin at the beginning with Mark of the Lion.
It's very easy to forget that somewhere out there,
people may be experiencing terrible pain and suffering. Why would
anyone hurt the innocent? How can some have such great power over
others? The true story of Stolen Lives screams injustice.
Deirdre - Irish legend
was so lovely she was called "Deirdre of the Sorrows."
When she was a child, a druid prophesied her beauty would destroy
kingdoms so King Concobar (Conor) hid her away to keep for himself.
Naturally, Deirdre fell in love with another. Tragedy followed for her love and his family.
Deirdre finally killed herself by beating her head against a rock.
James Michener used to write fictional stories
about a single location tied together by the history of that place - think Texas or Poland. Edward Rutherfurd
improved on the concept and has given us London and Russka as well as The Princes of Ireland,
a series that features Deirdre.
Critics don't always like these books, but
When a work of historical fiction is well
researched, it can be a great way to get a look at another place
and time. Peter Tremayne's fascinating series about a 7th
century Irish nun, lawyer AND princess, is a detailed trip to a
world I haven't encountered anywhere else. Begin with Absolution by Murder and you won't be sorry.
Désiréé Clary - Queen of Sweden
As young men, Napoleon and his brother,
Joseph, became engaged to two sisters. Julie Clary married Joseph
Bonaparte and became his queen when he (briefly) ruled Spain.
After Napoleon fell for Josephine, Désirée was dumped and married off to one of his officers, the well thought of French Marshall, Jean Baptiste Bernadotte. In 1810, the Swedish parliament elected Bernadotte as crown prince of Sweden. Désirée and her king were crowned in 1818. They ruled well and
founded the current Swedish royal family. Napoleon,
of course, died in exile. Josephine was divorced and died alone.
The current Swedish Crown Princess, Victoria Ingrid Alice Désirée, is named for Désiréé Clary (and a few others).
Years ago, I read and enjoyed Annemarie
Selinko's historical novel Désirée.
There was also a romantic movie starring Jean Simmons, Marlon
Brando and Merle Oberson. You'll want to look for both.
Didda - Queen of Kashmir
Didda Rani was a ruthless tyrant who controlled her country even before she formally held power, becoming empress in 980.
Dido (Elissa) - Queen of Carthage
are two versions of Dido's story:
When Dido's husband is killed by her brother,
she leaves Greece [Carthage
was originally a Phoenician colony] for North Africa and founds
Carthage. She escapes a local suitor, who is no doubt
after her wealth as well as her lovely self, with a public suicide.
There is another sad version to Dido's
tale in Virgil's Aeniad. This time Aeneas (son
of Aphrodite) loves and dumps
Dido on his not very direct route from the fall of Troy to his founding of Rome.
Virgil wanted to connect Rome's founding with Homer's Greek
gods and heroes. He also wanted to keep the emperor of
Rome, Caesar Augustus (Octavian), happy.
In the Jo Graham's novel, Black Ships, she says Carthage wasn't founded until well after the fall of Troy, so the Dido character is an Egyptian princess! The book is good anyway.
Historical fiction puts a human face on history that's too often
full of dry facts and dates. David Anthony Durham's Pride of Carthage (great title with numerous meanings)
takes us back to the Punic Wars when Rome challenged the might of Carthage and Hannibal was the new Alexander the Great. Durham's
novel is excellent. The end was never in doubt but the
journey was compelling.
If you never had to read The Aeneidin school,
now's a good time to improve your mind. It's not only a genuine
classic and a great story (Aeneas and his son escape Homer's Troy only to find
adventure AND contribute to the founding of Rome), but a nice piece of Roman propaganda. Virgil wrote this
and other works at the behest of the Emperor Augustus who wanted to give
Romans a better and finer image.
of Aquitaine - Queen of France and England
Elizabeth Fitzgerald - Survivor of Henry VIII's court
Henry behead six of her uncles and left her father to die in the Tower of London, but his cousin Elizabeth not only kept her head and prospered during the reigns of his three children, but also managed to do her bit for Ireland.
Morgan Llywelyn's novel, The Horse Goddess, is a good story
that explains Epona's legend as well as or better than any other
novel I've found.
For a details on the equally good White Mare's Daughter by Judith Tarr, click here.
This series doesn't mention Epona by name, but you'll like it
Galla Placidia - Roman Empress
Aelia Galla Placidia had an adventurous
She was a Roman princess, captured when the
Goths sacked Rome in 410.
She married Visigoth (West
Goth) chieftain Ataulphus, and they
were happy together until his murder five years later.
Then she was married to Constantius III who became
Roman emperor in 421 and died
several months later. With the death of her brother
in 423, Placidia was Empress (Augusta)
of the Western Roman Empire in her own right. She ruled very well considering
that the Roman world was collapsing, and is noted for the churches
she built in Ravenna, Italy. (Click on the link to see Placidia's tomb.)
The only book I've read
that was specifically about Galla Placidia is Heaven's Only
Daughter by Kathleen Robinson. It's entertaining
historical romance. However she does rate mention in William Dietrich's The Scourge of God, an enjoyable novel about Attila the Hun. It reminded me of Thomas Costain's The Darkness and The Dawn.
Guinevere - Legendary Queen of Britain
(Gwenhwyvar / Guenevere)
everyone is familiar with the tale of King Arthur and Guinevere
and Sir Lancelot and Mordred. But it may surprise you
to know this legend has more versions than I can discover or recount
Suffice to say Arthur
and Guinevere were married, and one or more gentlemen carried
her off - with or without her consent. I like the stories
where Guinevere is a strong Celtic queen. You may prefer
the helpless heroine.
up for something completely different, consider reading Rat
Scabies and the Holy Grail. Rat Scabies (a genuine
punk rocker - ok, I didn't recognize the name either, but he's
quite famous in punk circles - think The Damned) and the author,
Christopher Dawes, were neighbors who spent several years searching
for the actual Holy Grail.
Wolley's Child of the Northern Spring and
Rosalind MilesQueen of the Summer Country are
more Celtic-queen-does-her-heroic-best. I like this
approach, which typically pits Guinevere against the heavy-handed,
unwashed, anti-woman monks who were trying to convert Britain
to Christianity without regard for its customs and traditions.
have not yet read Sharan Newman's trilogy that begins with, Guinevere,
but it gets great reviews and her other books are very good.
grew up loving Mary Stewart's books. If you've missed
any of them, you're in for a treat, but do start with the Merlin Trilogy.
Twain's wonderful classic, A Connecticut Yankee in
King Arthur's Court, has been made into tons
of movies that the kids might like. But they'd like
the novel more if they gave it a chance.
Whyte's fantastic series is logical and realistic - you can
almost believe things could have happened the way they unfold
in these hard-edged novels. This very Roman approach
to the Matter of Britain / Arthurian legend begins with The
Marie and I both like Lerner and Lowe's light-hearted
and disturbing, but Excalibur is one of the
best films about Arthur and friends. Ever.
Knight, starring Sean Connery and Richard Gere,
had the dumbest knight suits I've ever seen, but Jane
Marie loved the colors so here you go.
Also, Richard Gere was hot. What more can I say?
Arthur is a total departure from the ordinary fair
lady and courtly gesture legend we think of when the story
of Arthur and Guinevere comes to mind. That's fine by
me except when things we know to be facts are trampled on.
For example, woad is a plant related to indigo that produces blue
dye. It's not a tribe! The Picts
used woad to color their skins.
the Woads in the movie just be Picts?
On the plus side
for King Arthur script, the Sarmatians, men and women
both, were fearsome warriors from the steppes of western
Asia. They were defeated by the Romans and many were
sent to Britain.
I thought the
concept that Arthur's knights were in fact Sarmatians was
one of the most innovative approaches to the story.
I can say is the film is interesting, a must for Arthur
fans and just ok for the rest of us.
of the Round Table is a 1953 colorama (my word) production.
Robert Taylor and Ave Gardner are the stars. Watch it
for the kitsch.
Merlin was a 1998 TV movie starring Sam Neill.
Not too bad.
you love Monty Python, you'll love Monty Python and the Holy Grail. If you've
missed Python's era of silliness, this is a good place to
Quest for Camelot was made in 1998 and stars Jessalyn
Gilsig and Cary Elwes. I know absolutely nothing about
it except that it's animated.
Sword in the Stone is Disney's 1963 animated
version of the boyhood of Arthur. I've only seen bits
of this, but it gets great reviews.
The Sword of Lancelotis lame, but why not?
Haseki Hurrem - Wife of Suleyman
Magnificent - Roxelana of Galicia (Poland) was captured on a raid by Crimean Tatars and sold into the Ottoman sultan's harem in Istanbul. She excelled at harem politics, becoming the favorite concubine and ultimately the wife of Suleyman, and was responsible for the deaths or exiles of her rivals and their sons. She sponsored major building projects and inspired artists, writers and musicians.
Hatshepsut / Hatshepsu - Pharaoh / Queen of Egypt - Hatshepset was the daughter of Pharaoh Thuthmose I of Egypt's 18th Dynasty. She was married to her half brother, Thuthmose II, who was the father of her daughter as well as a son, Thuthmose III, by another wife. When her husband died young, Hatshepset became regent and finally assumed the title of pharaoh. She was deposed or killed after 20 or so years in power. Hatshepset built temples, including the incomparable Deir el-Bahri, sent an expedition to Punt (present day Somalia), fought a war with Nubia and ruled very well.
In Treasures of the Pharaohs
by Delia Pemberton, the author lists a number of women
who held the power or claimed the title of pharaoh:
Sobekneferu (reigned 1799 -
Hatshepsut (reigned 1479 -
Neferneferuaten / Smekara
Taurset / Towosret (reigned
1188 - 1186 BCE)
Sumerian goddess of heaven and earth and love and war
(she was busy)
is often associated with Ishtar, the Babylonian Queen of Heaven
whose cult took over the Middle East in the pre-Christian era.
Inanna was married to Dumuzi (Tammuz). They shared the fertility
cycle that the people of ancient Sumer felt was necessary for
Inanna's name means Lady of the Date
Clusters, which goes back to the fertility thing since dates were,
and are, an important food source in the Tigris-Euphrates (Iraq)
To get a get a feel for that remote
period of history, about 3000 BCE (BC), read the poems in praise
of Inanna that
were written by Enhednana, a woman of ancient Sumer.
I have read neitherSumerian
MythologynorInanna, but they got good reviews.
Irene - Byzantine Empress - Emperor Constantine V married Irene for her beauty, but he disliked her religious inclininations. She became a saint for restoring the veneration of icons when she came to power after her husband's death, but she had her son's eyes gouged out so she could retain control of the empire.
Isabelle d'Angoulême was 12 when she jilted her fiancé and married King John of England. Five children and 16 years later, she was free to go back to her original man, Hugh of Lusignan. They had nine children. But wait there's more! She also plotted against the king of France and ended up in an abbey.
When I was just discovering historical fiction, I read tons of books about famous women of history. Obviously, they struck a cord, so I was delighted to read Isabella, Queen Without a Conscience by Rachel Bard. It's the story of the wife of nasty King John of England - the one who plagued his brother, King Richard the Lionheart, (and Robin Hood), lost the royal treasury on the English coast, and was forced to sign the Magna Carta.
Isabella was engaged to another man when John caught a glimpse of her and made her his wife. If ever two people were born for each other, it was those two. Now, Bard has given us an enticing glimpse into their greed and selfishness, set against the tapestry of the late Middle Ages.
This is just the kind of historical novel I've loved for years.
Isabella I - Queen of Castilla
Isabella and her husband, Fernando II of Aragon, are known as Los Reyes Católicos, the Catholic Kings, because they completed the reconquest of Spain and expelled all the Jews and Moslems on advice of the Inquisition. Isabella also sent Columbus off on his voyages of discovery.
C. W. Gortner's The Queen's Vow is a fictionalized version of Isabella's story. While it sets her up as a kind monarch, anyone who allowed the excesses of the Spanish Inquisition, couldn't have been all good.
Isabelle (Isabella) - Queen of England, Princess of
Wolf of France"
Little girls often have the mistaken
idea that being a beautiful princess sets one up for a life of
joy and bliss. Things didn't work out for Diana, Princess
of Wales, and they certainly didn't for Isabelle of France.
Isabelle, daughter of Philip the Fair (think
handsome, not just) of France, was married off to Edward II of
England. Edward was an example of inheritance triumphing
over the best man for the job school of government. As king, Edward showered his buddies with wealth, honors and
power - a big mistake.
After years of neglect, Isabelle went back to France, got Edward to
send their son - also Edward - to join her. She fell in love, raised
an army and took over England in her son's name.
King Edward II was imprisoned and eventually
Isabelle and her lover held power for several
years, but young Prince Edward followed the example of his grandfathers, Philip of
France, who destroyed the Knights Templar, and Edward I of England,
who ruled his country with an strong hand. The prince,
now King Edward III, took over, executing his mother's lover and
putting her in a luxurious prison. She was buried in Christ Church in London, and her tomb was destroyed in the Blitz of WWII.
For good measure, young King Edward claimed the
throne of France in his mother's name, but the French changed
dynasties rather than crown Isabelle or her English son.
Edward didn't accept this, and the Hundred Years War began.
aka the She Wolf of France, in a wonderful series of novels by
Maurice Druon that detailed the fall of her family. The
plot, and a long-standing historical legend, blamed this on a
curse from Jacques de Molay, the much-tortured head of the Knights
Templar. Isabelle's father, King Philip IV of France, disbanded
the Knights Templar to get his hands on their vast wealth.
Begin with The Iron King for a fascinating look
at this beautiful and ultimately sad woman and her family, the
House of Capet.
Isabella and the Strange Death
of Edward II, (non fiction) by mystery writer P C /
Paul Doherty, carefully examines Isabelle's relationship with
her husband, King Edward of England, her lover, her attempt
to rule in her own right and the actual fate of the deposed
king - tradition says a hot poker was inserted into his rectum
so his body would not show scars! No wonder they write
novels about Isabella. And aren't you glad you didn't
live in the 14th century?
Alison Weir is an eminently
readable historian whose biography of Isabelle, Queen
Isabella, places the blame for the queen's infamy squarely
on her infidelity. These days, living for four years with
a lover is tabloid fodder - especially if you were married at
12 to a less than manly man.
Weir quotes Edward as
describing his wife as "Isabeau the Fair" because
of her great beauty. Clearly, this wasn't enough for the
king for he soon bestowed some of Isabelle's dowry jewels on
his dearest friend, Piers Gaveston. Edward didn't even
sit next to his new wife at their coronation banquet, choosing
Gaveston's company instead.
Weir has produced a
fascinating chronicle of the queen's rise and fall. If
the 13th century captures your imagination, you will certainly
need to read her definitive book.
Every once in a while, I improve my brain with an
historical text. And what with all the interest in the Knights
Templar, Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code and even the entertaining filmNational Treasure, I could hardly help but read James Wasserman's The Templars and The Assassins.
Wasserman's details the histories of the
two orders in great detail and their interrelationship to a
lesser extent. While he inserts a few personal opinions
into his text, overall, I found it to be illuminating.
Iseult / Yseult -
Irish Princess, Legendary Queen of Cornwall, Lover of Tristan
Richard Wagner celebrated the tragic
love story of Tristan (Tristram / Tristran / Drustan), and Isolde
in opera. His is one of many versions of the story of King Arthur's knight who escorts a bride to his uncle, King Mark of Cornwall,
only to fall in love with her himself. Since some of the
stories continue the tale with Tristan's journey to Brittany to
marry Isolde's niece, also named Isolde, we can only assume being
a beautiful princess might not be a good life plan.
PS Tristan's character in the movie King
Arthur has nothing in common with the legendary hero
except his prowess as a warrior.
PPS I finally saw the DVD of Tristan and
Isolde. It's better than the reviews, but the classic story is altered a bit.
Isolde, Queen of the Western Isle by Rosalind Miles is fantasy historical fiction for those who
like Ireland, Arthur, Guinevere and
Avalon. Miles has come up with an interesting, nicely
written take on this legend of tragic love.
Isolde and Tristan (Esseilte and Drustan)
aren't exactly historical characters so authors sometimes go the
fantasy route as does Diana L. Paxson in The White Raven.
As I generally like druids, this works for me.
Jacquetta - Duchess of Bedford. She was a noble from Luxembourg, most well known as a witch and more importantly for history, as the mother of Elizabeth Woodville, the queen of Edward IV of England.
Philippa Gregory's The Lady of the Rivers is a well written, fictional look at the amazing life of Jacquetta, aka Lady Rivers through her second marriage.
Jane Seymour - Queen of England. As the third wife of England's Henry VIII, Jane Seymour's life expectancy probably wasn't long, but she died shortly after giving birth to their much hoped for son. And she was the lucky wife who was buried next to Henry at Windsor Castle.
Carolly Erickson's The Favorite Queen is a sympathetic look at good Queen Jane.
Joan Plantagenet - Princess of England, Queen of Sicily, Countess of Toulouse. Joan was the daughter of Henry II of England and his queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine, so you know she had a turbulent life. Her first husband was William II of Sicily. After he died, the usurper held her prisoner until Joan's big brother, Richard the Lionheart, came to the rescue. He took Joan crusading and may have tried to marry her off to the brother of Saladin. Eventually, she married Raymond VI of Toulouse and had several children - though she fled to a convent during her last pregnancy. And died.
Joanna - Princess or Lady of Wales, illegitimate daughter of England's King John. Joanna or Joan was married to Llywelyn, prince and leader of the Welsh resistance to English control. Llywelyn hanged their daughter's fiancé, William de Braose, after catching him with Joanna.
Juana - Queen of Castile. Known as "Juana la Loca, " Juana may have been pushed toward insanity by her husband, Philip the Handsome, Duke of Burgundy, and her father, Ferdinand of Aragon. They both wanted her title to Castile, which she inherited from her mother, Queen Isabella. They won.
I'd always thought of Juana as the crazy queen who wandered through Europe with her late husband's body in tow. C. W. Gortner's The Last Queen is fiction, but I started delving deeper into Juana's life and OH MY.
Meticulously researched, Sister Queens, by Julia Fox, is a very readable look at the sad lives of Juana and her sister, Katherine of Aragon.
Judith - (Queen) Lady of Wessex, Princess of the Franks, Countess of Flanders
was the granddaughter of Charlemagne, the great Frankish
(French / German) king and first Holy Roman Emperor, and the
daughter of Frankish (French) king Charles the Bald.
She was married off to Aethelwulf, king of
the West Saxons / Wessex in England, who already
grown family. Aethelwulf's
children included his youngest son who went on to rule Wessex and
save England from the Danes as Alfred the Great. Alfred's
daughter married Judith's son!
Aethelwulf's oldest son, King Aethelbald,
married his stepmother, Judith, shortly after his father's death. Aethelbald
only reigned for two years.
her second husband's death in 860, Judith was free to
follow her heart and marry the heroic Count of Flanders,
Baldwin I, aka Bras de Fer (Iron Arm).
PS The Saxons did not
refer to their king's wife as "queen."
Alfred Jewel -
A gold and enamel ornament inscribed with the words "Alfred
ordered me to be made." It was found in 1693 near Athelney
in Great Britain. It now belongs to the Ashmolean Museum,
Oxford, UK, The entire medieval wing of the museum that
houses the Alfred Jewel and other goodies was closed when we visited
in March 2006.
Tomb of King Saeberht - A tomb found at Prittlewell in the
UK may be that of a seventh century Saxon king.
I first ran across Judith in a
juvenile fiction gem I can't even begin to track down. She's a minor character in Joan Wolf's Alfred
the Great novel, The Edge of Light. It is - as
always with Wolf - a very nice read.
Though Judith is not mentioned in Bernard
Cornwell's The Last Kingdom, it is one of Cornwell's
better books. The Last Kingdom looks at Alfred the Great from
an interesting point of view.
I strongly recommend
the movie The Warlord with Charleton Heston and Richard
Boone. The time frame is a bit later, but the harshness of
life and a good love story make it worth watching.
Bhai / (BAI) (Manubai) - Queen (Rani) of Jhansi
Lakshmi Bhai was queen of the small Indian state of Jhansi.
She was born in
1835 as Manubai and married to the Raja of Jhansi in 1842.
(Do the math.) It was a time of great expansion
by the British East India Company at the expense of the numerous
Indian royal states.
In 1853, Lakshmi and her ailing husband adopted a son, Damodar
Rao, according to Hindu law. When the old raja died, the
Company rejected both Damodar Rao and Lakshmi Bhai as his regent.
The British instead decided to merge Jhansi into the British
provinces of India.
Lakshmi Bhai became a magnet for leaders of the anti-British
movement that culminated in open rebellion against the British
known as the Sepoy Mutiny. Although the rebellion failed
and many lives were lost on both sides, notice was served that
the people of the Indian subcontinent would ultimately regain
Lakshmi was a strong
military and political leader who could not beat the odds.
She died of battle wounds at the age of 22. British General
Hugh Rose said, "Of the mutineers, the bravest and the
greatest commander was the Rani."
I don't think I've ever seen a more beautiful or useful coffee table book than India, which comes from several editors at DK Publishing. It contains wonderful photos, history and quotations that evoke this incredible country. If you never get to visit India, at least take yourself there via the pages in India.
India has always been a
land of many peoples and religions, and while the Taj Mahal
was built by the Mogul emperors as a tomb complex that
includes a mosque, it surely belongs to all Indians.
Beneath a Marble Sky, by
John Shors, is a novel about the family who commissioned the
Taj - it's highly readable fiction based on love, hatred and
pain. Who could ask for anything more? But for another take
on this story, check out the series that begins with The Twentieth Wife
The rulers of India were known for their incredible jewels. Get a glimpse into their world in Maharaja'sJewels. Yum.
TheSiege of Krishnaour is part of a trilogy by J. G. Farrell. This book is a fictional account of a British outpost in India during the Sepoy Rebellion, and it's clever, amusing and a direct hit on the mores and policies of British colonialism. I loved it.
The history of the British occupation of
India is romantic, exotic and filled with greed doing what greed
There is also the racist
element, which White Mughals, by William
Dalrymple, illustrates as the author explores the love stories
of Englishmen who chose the Indian way of life when they fell
in love with Indian women.
There's something about growing up in a
different culture that brings wisdom, knowledge and high comedy
to life. All the Fishes Come Home to Roost is Rachel Manija Brown's very entertaining story of her
childhood in an Indian ashram and something more.
Brown is a great writer, who not only
makes us long to visit the back roads of India, but also allows
us share the love and consequences of living with her extended
family. Great book.
Li Qingzu - Chinese
Li Qingzu was a noble who lived in 12th century China (Sung
Dynasty). She was married to a scholar, Zhao Mingcheng,
who encouraged her interest in lyric poetry. She is considered
to have been the greatest tz'u (song) poet in Chinese history.
Her subjects were nature and politics.
royalty was doing fine (except
for the occasional human sacrifice)
when Captain Cook showed up in the islands and European influence
started to change things. By the time Liliuokalani's
brother became king, American settlers were arriving in ever greater
Liliuokalani assumed the
throne in 1891 amid American agitation for annexation of the
kingdom. She was deposed in 1894 and arrested in 1895 by the
new Republic of Hawaii. US annexation took place 1898.Liliuokalani was a good
woman who did her best against unstoppable forces. Her people
loved her, which is more than many monarchs can claim.
We went to Hawaii on our
honeymoon. There I dragged my wonderful husband Cary to the
Bishop Museum, which was exhibiting the red plush upholstered
royal thrones while Honolulu's Iolani Palace was being renovated. Liliuokalani's
American husband probably sat on the second throne when she wasn't
looking - it apparently wasn't a happy marriage.
I have not read Liliuokalani's
book, Hawaii's Story orThe
Betrayal of Liliuokalani, but they're
on my list.
Hawaii, the movie, is based on part of James
Michener's classic - don't miss it
Livia Drusilla, Julia Augusta - First Roman Empress
Drusilla was married, pregnant, and the mother of a small son
(later the second Roman emperor, Tiberius Caesar) when she caught
the eye of Octavian. He was also married and the nephew
and adopted son of the assassinated Roman dictator, Julius Caesar.
Divorces were obtained on both sides, and Livia became the wife
of Rome's first emperor (imperator), known
to the world as Augustus Caesar.
agree Livia was domineering and strong-willed. She has been
accused of the deaths of several imperial relatives (although her husband supported her so strongly he adopted her, his wife of 50 years, in his will, which gave her the title of Julia Augusta) and remained
a thorn in Tiberius' side until her death. Her grandson
Claudius, the fourth emperor, to whom she'd been unkind and unloving, had her deified.
Livia comes out quite well in Augustus, the well written biography by Anthony Everitt, despite the fact that Everitt feels Livia quite probably poisoned her husband to ensure a neat and tidy succession. Everitt says if Livia had killed anyone else, Augustus wouldn't have been so devoted.
Livia certainly rates her own bio, Livia, Empress of Rome, by Matthew Dennison, who didn't have tons of source material to work with, but still turned out a very readable book.
Robert Graves' wonderful novels about
the imperial machinations of the Julio-Claudian family were made
into an outstanding BBC / PBS Masterpiece Theater series, I Claudius, that starred Derek Jacobi.
I've discovered a series of mysteries by David Wishart that
gives a different - if irreverent - version of events. I
believe the series begins withI, Virgil. but you'll
enjoy reading them in any order if you like mouthy Roman detectives.
Lozen - Chiricahua Apache Leader
was the sister of the great Apache chief Victorio and a famous
warrior in her own right at a time when the Apache needed all
the strong leaders they could muster. Although Lozen had
once urged her fellow warriors to eat Victorio's body if he
fell in battle, her skills as a medicine woman finally cost
him his life because she delivered a baby instead of performing
pre-battle rituals. She was finally captured by the US
Army and died in prison.
Years ago, we knew a
woman who was proud to have met Hitler as a child. She and
her mother had been flown to Berlin to accept one of the first
homes seized from Jewish families as they were sent off to concentration
camps. I'd pushed that story from my mind until I read Pushing
the Bear and The True Story of Hansel and Gretel back to back.
Diane Glancy's novel, Pushing the Bear, about the Trail of Tears, the 1838
forced winter march of thousands of Cherokees from the North Carolina
area to Oklahoma (then Indian Territory), made me look out my Oklahoma window with new eyes. Who lived on this land before
we did? And how did they lose it?
When I began Louise Murphy's
new version of Hansel and Gretel, the fairy tale we all grew
up with, I discovered a brilliant interweaving of a classic with
a gripping novel of the horrors of Hitler's Final Solution.
novels are must reads. Together, they set a new standard
James L. Haley's Apaches is an in depth, scholarly look at the history
of the Apache people, but Lozen only rates one sentence.
An older child might likeApache
no mention of Lozen. Click
You may have seen and
loved the movie Gladiator and wondered
how much of it was accurate. Sadly, it was about (mostly)
real people in real places and times doing things they (mostly)
didn't quite do.
Lucilla was married to Lucius Verus, who
was co-emperor* ofRomewith her father, Marcus Aurelius. Verus died before
Marcus Aurelius. Her second husband was old and not an
emperor so Lucilla plotted against her brother, Commodus (the
bad guy in the movie).
He had her exiled and later strangled.
Commodus, by the way, was crazy about
gladiators. He ruled alone for 12 years until he was
Movie facts: Marcus Aurelius was Rome's philosopher
emperor, but he never wanted to turn the empire back into a
republic. And sadly, Russell Crowe's character did not
There's another movie version (not as good,
but watchable about these
same people. Sophia Loren played Lucilla in The Fall
of the Roman Empire. It's inaccurate, but I liked it anyway.
had to have co-emperors because the Romans had conquered too much territory for
one person to easily control.
Marcus Aurelius, was a
philosopher as well as an emperor. His Meditations are still in print, but he couldn't sacrifice his son for his
country, so perhaps talk is cheap.
I recommend Ron Burns' Roman
Nights. It's a a fictionalized look at the
transition of power to Commodus from the viewpoint of a knight
(upper middle class Roman) with a lot to lose if things don't go
smoothly for the empire. There are also orgies and
murders - good stuff for a series.
Lady MacBeth - Queen of Scots and wife to the guy in the play. Historians are beginning to believe she, Gruadh, and her husband got a raw deal from Shakespeare, but he was writing to please descendents of King Malcolm Canmore who was married to Queen/St Margaret of Scotland.
Lady MacBeth is great fiction by Susan Fraser King. It's a different look at one of the great villains of the theater. The follow up novel about Queen/St Margaret of Scotland, Queen Hereafter, is interesting. It's not as good, possibly because Margaret was too holy to be much fun, even if she was pivotal in dynastic history.
La Malinche is not well loved in Mexico. She was the
mistress of Hernando Cortez, the Spanish conqueror of the Aztecas,
the Aztec Indians, so you can hardly blame their descendants for
not having warm feelings toward her - even though she apparently
wasn't an Aztec. Nevertheless, she used her considerable
influence on Cortez to help the Mexican people whenever she could.
When Cortez remembered the woman who
had saved his life more than once and given him a son was not
his legal wife, he married her off to one Don Juan Zamarillo and
made them rich.
Since one could hardly write a detailed biography of someone whose
life has become a controversial legend, I was delighted to
discoverFeathered Serpent, a novel of the conquest of Mexico by Colin Falconer, one of my
favorite authors. Malinali (Malinche) emerges as
a real woman in a time of world-changing upheaval.
I strongly recommend Gary Jennings series of
novels about the conquest of Mexico from the Indian's
point of view. They are well-researched and a pleasure to
read, but all have very explicit language. Begin
PS The series ends with Aztec Rage, completed by others after Jennings' death.
Margaret - Queen of Denmark, Norway and Sweden (Margrethe I)
started out as a Danish princess, but she married Haakon, king
of Norway, with whom she had a son, Olaf. She had Olaf crowned
king of Denmark and became regent of both counties when Haakon
died in 1380. In 1389, Margaret defeated the king of Sweden
and became queen. Margaret was a strong ruler whose union of
Denmark and Norway lasted until 1814.
The reconstructed golden gown of Queen Margaret is on display -click here.
There is surprisingly
little material available about Queen Margaret in English - lots of books out
of print - but if you haven't discovered Sigrid Undset's Nobel
prize winning Kristin Lavransdatter, which is set in
14th century Norway, you're in for a treat. It's a trilogy
that makes you wish for a fourth volume.
Margaret Beaufort - Margaret's great great aunt was married to the poet Chaucer, the weird guy in the fun film A Knight's Tale. Margaret herself was Henry VIII's grandmother, who made it her mission to help her son, Henry VII, to the English throne. She is hard to like, but probably wouldn't care what we say about her.
I have no idea if Margaret Beaufort had the Joan of Arc obsession that author Phillippa Gregory built her novel around in The Red Queen. It doesn't add to the main character's charm. Neither do the repeated references to Elizabeth Woodville, the main character in the author's previous book in the series, The White Queen, and her daughter, Elizabeth of York, as witches. Still, those of us who are War of the Roses fanatics are grateful for a fresh approach to that turbulent time in England's history.
Marie Antoinette - Austrian Archduchess, Queen of France
Maria Antoinette was married to a kind man who bored her. He had the tragedy to be totally inept at his job as king. It cost him and his wife their lives, but he wore the Hope Diamond and it's supposed to be cursed.
Marie Antoinette spent the last days of her life in prison in the Conciergerie on the Île de la Cité. There's a dressed dummy in her bleak little room you can view when you tour the place.
I liked the Kirsten Dunst film, Maria Antoinette, though it's more of an art piece than anything else.
The Lost King of France, by Deborah
Cadbury, concerns the fate of the Louis XVII, the
son of Marie Antoinette.
Did he die in prison, alone and ill cared for, or did he join the
ranks of pretenders who never got their thrones back?
(Huck and Jim meet an obviously phony Louis XVII in Mark
Twain's Huckleberry Finn.)
Cadbury combines a well-written history of a
tragic queen and her family with a scientific whodunit.
Maria Theresa - Holy Roman Empress, mother of Marie Antoinette. Maria Theresa had 16 children, but managed to rule her empire with great ability and wisdom.
Mary, Queen of Scots - Mary, Queen of Scots, was first crowned queen of France. When her young husband, King François II died, she returned to Scotland and took up a tempestuous reign in the country of her late father. Her second husband was murdered, and her third was so disliked by Scotland's nobility that his presence helped lead to Mary's abdication in favor of her son, James VI of Scotland / James I of England. Mary fled to England and took refuge with her first cousin, Elizabeth I of England. After 19 years of religious rumblings and plots, Elizabeth had Mary beheaded.
Mary Todd Lincoln - Mary Lincoln married the ugliest man she could find and helped him become the most beloved US president ever. She was born into a slave owning family and supported abolition. She survived three of her four sons, her husband's assassination and very possibly exploitation by her oldest son.
I always thought Mary Todd Lincoln was the wack job who married Honest Abe, but after I read Janis Cooke Newman's excellent novel, Mary, I did some research and discovered a woman I could like and even admire.
Empress Matilda - Would be queen of England in her own right (her father made the nobles swear to support her - they didn't) and mother of St Thomas à Becket's nemesis, Henry II.
Melisende - Queen of Jerusalem
was the heir of the Frankish (crusader) king of Jerusalem.
In 1131, two years after her marriage to Fulk V of Anjou, Fulk
took control of the kingdom. He later accused Melisende
of having an affair, which led to civil unrest.
Melisende regained her power and held it until 1152 when her son, Baldwin, claimed half the
kingdom. Ultimately, Baldwin, who was king in theory from
1145, took over completely, but Melisende was kept on as an
Kingdom of Heaven: The Orlando Bloom character, Balian of Ibelin, was never a
blacksmith, but rather a noble of the Crusader States. He
took part in the defense and surrender of Jerusalem in 1187,
securing the freedom of his wife and child in the process.
At the conclusion of the Third Crusade, Balian helped negotiate with Saladin for unmolested
passage of Christian pilgrims to Jerusalem.
and her brother Baldwin IV, the Leprous or le Mesel, were
Melisende's grandchildren. Sibylla's son from her first
marriage was crowned Baldwin V in 1185, while her second
husband, the much disliked Guy of Lusignan, served as
regent. Baldwin V died, perhaps from poison, and Guy became
king of Jerusalem in 1186. Sibylla died in 1190, and Guy
remarried and spent the last four years of his life trying
to be king of something.
goblet scene in the movie actually took place.
Balian is a minor character in The Widow of Jerusalem, volume 4 of Alan Gordon's very good series about a jester who roams Europe solving mysteries. In real life, Balian was the stepfather of Sibylla's sister, Isabella, who holds the title role in the book.
The Crusades were a dirty, nasty, murderous
business so a mystery series set at the beginning of the 12th
century seems appropriate.
Beaufort has given us two unlikely heroes in the form of Sir
Geoffrey Mappestone and his friend Roger. They fight, wench
and solve crimes from Jerusalem to England - just what we need. Begin with Murder
in the Holy City.
Queen of Swords is one of Judith Tarr's entertaining historical novels that make for
great escape reading and a little dose of might-have-been history.
Murasaki Shikibu - Japanese noble and author
She was well educated and went to the
Japanese imperial court after the death of her husband where she
not only completed her novel, but also wrote a diary about
court life. The novel, about the Shining Prince, Genji, was
wildly popular, but perhaps Murasaki's real legacy is that diary.
It gives details of shallow court life in Japan about a hundred
years before the samurai revolution in 1192 that established the Shogunate - and relegated the emperors to figureheads.
I started to read The Tale of Genji and actually enjoyed it, but it is very possibly the first novel ever written as well as one of the very longest. And so, I gave up. (Well, I did like War and Peace.)
However, I discovered Laura Joh Rowland's wonderful
mystery series that brings the later period of feudal Japan to life. The
detectives are husband and wife nobles who draw us into the beauty
and grace of the age of the Shogunate while solving brutal crimes.
Swords and poetry. Love and blood.
These books sound too good to be true, but here they are.
Nandi - Mother of Shaka Zulu. Nandi and her son were exiled by other wives of the Zulu king. When Shaka came to power, he expected everyone to worship his mother as he did. When she died in 1827, Shaka lost it and thousands were massacred.
Shaka Zulu was a great mini-series.
Nefertiti -Queen of Egypt
Nefertiti is famous because
we know what she looked like - she was beautiful. Her famous bust is on display at the Neues Museum in Berlin though the Egyptians want it back.
She was married to Akhenaton, Egypt's heretic
pharaoh who overthrew the established gods and set up the
worship of one god, the Aton (Aten), an aspect of the sun.
Akhenaton weakened Egypt, and like so many pharaohs, married
at least one of his daughters. Nefertiti, whose title
was Great Royal Wife, couldn't have been thrilled with this,
but she had other co-wives to contend with as well as her
place in the power hierarchy.
As soon as Akhenaton died, the priests
who supported the old gods of Egypt (like Amon) made sure
Akhenaton's name was erased from every public inscription
they could find.
King Tut, Tutankhamon (Tutankhaton)
became king sometime after Aknenaton (there may have been
another pharaoh, Smenkare, in between) and Nefertiti vanished
from history. Tut died at 19 and his wife,
a daughter of Nefertiti and Akhenaton, didn't last
long - but she's another story.
The Discovery Channel produced a very
interesting program about Nefertiti, Nefertiti
Resurrected, which showcases the
possible discovery of Nefertiti's mummy. Because of
the Aknenaton heresy, his family was not officially buried
in the Valley of Kings, and the whereabouts of their final
tombs and remains is unclear.
Though I can remember
almost falling asleep at my 93rd reading of books about a
certain family of bears my kids loved, I generally like to read children's
I picked up Casting the
Gods Adrift by Geraldine McCaughrean and
found an interesting take on the Nefertiti story I hadn't
encountered for years - a reminder that her husband, mad,
ill or bad ruler that he was, was also one of the first
monotheists in history. McCaughrean's book is
sympathetic to Akhenaton, and though I've come to loathe him
myself, I thought the storyline was clever. It will
appeal older readers with an interest in Egyptology.
I have not yet read Nefertiti or Pharaohs of the Sun, but they are on my list.
A quick click will take you to another
mention of Elizabeth Peters' delightful
series about Egyptologist-detective Amelia
Peabody. That woman, her parasol and her family
never fail to intrigue against a background
of turn of the century (19th to 20th) turmoil
and ancient marvels.
Peters also wrote an interesting history of Egypt, Temples, Tombs & Hierogylphs, under her real name of Dr. Barbara Mertz. Be sure to get the revised edition. But Peters and Kristen
Whitbread have also produced Amelia Peabody's Egypt: A Compendium,
which takes us back to Amelia's era and
the early days of archaeology. It's
Egypt, 4000 Years of Art, is
the kind of eye opening book I love to leaf
through. It's a chronological history
of some of the masterpieces we all recognize
interspersed with many new (to me) treasures. There's
also interesting commentary. Did you
know there really was a Scorpion King?
Similarities between the guy in the prequel
to The Mummy series probably
end with the name, but ...
PS You will
also like Egyptian Treasures from
the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
Two interesting novels about Nefertiti bear her name. Nick Drake looks at the story from the eyes of a Egyptian investigator working to save the lives of his family, while Michelle Moran fictionalizes the life of Nefertiti's sister, Mumodjmet, who became queen of Egypt as the dynasty that brought us King Tut was ending. Both cry out for sequels, which Moran has provided in The Heretic Queen, a novel about the Great Royal Wife of Ramesses the Great.
It's no secret I adore mysteries and review
them all over the pages of this website.
If you are a fan, make sure you check
out Lynda S. Robinson's Egyptian series, which features
a detective who muses about the fate of Nefertiti.
The first volume is Murder in the Place of Anubis.
Judith Tarr's Piller of Fire,
about Akhenaton, is fiction at its most entertaining.
One of my favorite mystery writers, P.
C. Doherty, has given us a serious and scholarly investigation
into the death of King Tut in The Mysterious Death of
Tutankhamun. Tut, perhaps Nefertiti's stepson
and definitely her son-in-law, wouldn't be at all well known
except for his borrowed grave goods that screamed Egypt's glories
since their discovery. His skeleton reveals extreme physical
weakness and well, read the book for yourself.
Nur Jahan - De facto ruler of Mogul India
Nzingha / Ana Nxingha
/ Jingha / Gingha -Queen (King) of Ndongo and
When the Portuguese attempted to
harvest slaves in the territory of the Ndongo, now Angola, the
people resisted under the leadership of the King, Ngola Ndambi
Kiluanji. In 1623, his daughter, Nzingha, became queen
and continued the struggle.
Nzingha led her armies personally and choose
the title of king. By 1659, she was forced to sign a treaty
with the Portuguese. But despite this ultimate diplomatic
defeat, Nzingha remains a symbol of freedom.
"I love jewelry,
but I don't have much good to say about snakes." Patricia McKissack, Nzingha
There are very few books available about Nzingha. Patricia McKissack's Nzingha,
Warrior Queen of Matamba, is juvenile fiction, but
interesting all the same. His Nzingha makes a good role model
for girls from all countries.
If you love the purity of African
art, you'll want to take a look at The Tribal Arts of Africa by
Jean- Baptiste Bacquart. It's a comprehensive look at the
artistic vitality of the sub-Saharan peoples.
Mama Oello (Ocello
/ Oqlyo) Huaco - Legendary co-founder of the Incas
According to tradition,
Manco Capac and his seven siblings announced they were the
Children of the Sun (god), conquered the Cuzco region of Peru
(or simply stuck a golden spike into the ground and made it their
own), and founded the Inca empire.
Mama Ocllo Huaco was Manco Capac's
sister-wife. Together they produced children who became
the Incan royal family. Then Manco Capac turned into
Clive Cussler's novels are the
adventure equivalent of romance novels so if action and romance
are appealing, you'll want to read Inca Gold.
Queen of Epirus and Macedon, mother of Alexander
Pulcheria - Byzantine Empress
was the sister of the weak and ineffectual Byzantine Emperor,
Theodosius II. She was named regent at 15 and spent the
rest of her life advising and / or ruling. In 450, Pulcheria
selected her brother's successor, Marcian, and became his nominal
wife since she and her sisters had taken vows of celibacy as young
Unless you're a scholar, the abbreviated
version of John Julius Norwich's multi-volume work on the subject, Short History of Byzantium, is the book for you.
Razia (Raziyya) (Radiyya) - Ruler of Delhi, India. Raziyya was chosen to succeed her father as Sultan of the Mamluk Dynasty because she was the most worthy of his children. After four years on the throne, she was ousted from power because of her sex and defeated by the army of Ikhtiyar al-Din Altuniyya, whom she married. Escaping the battlefield after another military defeat, Raziyya fled and fell asleep in a farmyard. The farmer killed her.
Roxanne / Roxanna / Roxane) of Bactria (Afghanistan), wife of
Alexander the Great (Iskander)
Roxanne was the daughter or sister of Oxyartes, a prominent
citizen of Balkh in Bactra.
Think Mazar-i-Sharif in northern Afghanistan.
In 327 BC / BCE, she was married to Alexander
the Great who had spent several years conquering the land
between his native Macedonia - just north of Greece - and India.
Alexander married two other women in 324,
Parysatis and Startira / Stateira (Barsine), both
daughters of Persian kings. They have faded from history
as has a possible mistress, also named Barsine.
Despite the consensus that Alexander was gay or
at least bisexual - which was expected
in the Greek army in order to strengthen bonds between the men -
Roxanne had a son, Alexander Aegus (Aegeos). Alexander the
Great became ill, or was poisoned, and died in 323 without ever seeing the boy.
While the Macedonian generals divided up Alexander's empire,
Alexander Aegus nominally reigned as Alexander IV of Macedonia
until he, Roxanne, Barsine and her son, Heracles, were murdered in 309 BCE (BC).
Roxanne and her son had been imprisoned and later poisoned at Amphipolis in Macedonia. We don't know what happened to their bodies,
but Alexander the Great was entombed in Alexandria, Egypt*
by his general and successor there, Ptolemy**.
Ptolemy married Alexander's sister, Cleopatra (not the famous one), who was later murdered by Cassander, that good friend of Alexander who had ordered the deaths of the rest of his family as well.
Cleopatra VII, the last
Ptolemy and the last Macedonian (Greek) ruler of Egypt, must have visited Alexander's tomb to pay her
Delia Pemberton's Treasures of the Pharaohs, the
author states the Egyptians said Alexander was really the son of
Nectanebo II, the last Egyptian (African) pharaoh. This
sounds a bit like propaganda as does Cleopatra's claim her
was the half brother of Alexander the Great.
I haven't found any books about
Roxanne herself. If they exist, these would be fiction as
there probably isn't enough scholarly material on which to base
However, for a look at Alexander from the
viewpoint of Bagoas, the Persian eunuch, make sure you read Mary
Renault'sThe Persian Boy. It's historical
fiction at its best.
Prolific authorP. C. Dohertycovers the
story of Alexander in a mystery series from the point of view of Alexander's
physician. Begin with The House of Death.
Doherty has also written an interesting non fictional
investigational book calledThe Death of Alexander the
Alexander, the movie
starring Colin Farrell, didn't get great reviews but if you
like epic movies, you won't want to miss it. I believe
a better script, better acting and fewer (ugh) snakes*** would have made a huge difference.
Roxanne was played by Rosario Dawson. Many of the
props for this film were furnished by Egyptian Dreams ↑, our
own affiliate partner.
were cultivated for religious purposes by worshipers of
Dionysius and other cults.
Don't forget the Richard Burton version
of Alexander's life. This movie is pretty tame and got
so-so reviews, but I'm a sucker for historic epics on all
levels so you be the judge.
"A volunteer was sought for the hazardous mission of taking a dispatch through the siege lines, and it was a woman, Harsharan Kaur, who ... disguised herself as a dog, and set out ... walking on all fours."
Paddy Docherty subtitled his book, The Khyber Pass, A History of Empire & Invasion. Docherty went back to the beginning of recorded history to detail the conquerors who've led their armies through this gateway to India or Afghanistan. Not much progress, people.
Alexander the Great gets a lot of ink because he
was amazing. If you want to learn more, including the fact
that his mother claimed to be a descendant of Achilles, I recommend Alan Fildes and
Joann Fletcher's Alexander the Great: Son of the Gods.
It has a very interesting text and wonderful photos.
Alexander's Tomb, by Nicholas J. Saunders explores the quest to find the mummified body of Alexander the Great. Roxanne's fate and that of her mother-in-law, Olympias (stoned to death on orders of the same guy who did in Roxanne) are a small part of the story.
For something completely different, you might
like Judith Tarr's Queen of the Amazons. It's a
fantasy approach to Alexander the Great and his relationship with,
well naturally, the Amazons. Other reviewers were lukewarm, but after I got
into the story, I enjoyed it.
Salamasina - Queen of Samoa
Samoa was united under the rule of
Queen Salamasina in the 15th or 16th century. There
is very little readily available information about her, but
we'll keep digging.
Semiramis / Sammuramat - Queen of
Semiramis, generally considered to have been the Biblical Whore of Babylon, has gotten a lot of bad press for
declaring she was a goddess, but that's what rulers did until
1945 when the emperor of Japan announced he wasn't divine.
There is a lot of conjecture as to who exactly she was and to whom she was married. It is safe to assume Semiramis married a king who ruled in Babylon and after his death, took power into her own hands.
Sondok - Queen of the Silla kingdom of Korea. Sondok inherited the throne from her father in 632 and reigned for 15 years. She allied herself with China and supported education.
Sorghaghtani Beki - Mongol ruler and daughter-in-law of Chinghis (Genghis) Khan and mother of a daughter and four or five sons including Kublai Khan. A Nestorian Christian, she was very influential in Mongolian politics and was given the title of empress.
TatianaRomanova - Grand
Duchess of Russia
never could understand why a being a grand duchess was better
than being a princess, but it seems Russian grand duchesses were
royal children while princesses were more distant descendants
of rulers. In any case, Tatiana and her siblings had connections
to almost every other royal family in Europe. This did them
no good on the day they all were sent to a basement and shot during
the Russian Revolution.
Though sister Anastasia
has gotten most of the publicity because of the rumors of her
survival, all four of Czar Nicholas II's daughters were pretty
and charming. The older girls, Olga and Tatiana, worked
in military hospitals during the early days of World War I.
Perhaps in a different world they would have continued
to contribute to their people.
In September 2006, the body of Tatiana's grandmother, Czarina Maria Fyodorovna (born Princess Marie Sophie Frederikke Dagmar of Denmark) was returned to Russia for reburial with her husband, Czar Alexander III, Tatiana and the rest of the family. Tatiana, two of her sisters and her parents were buried at the Peter and Paul Fortress in St Petersburg in 1998. The remains of Anastasia and brother Alexei were found later and buried with the rest of the family.
The Czarina Maria was the surviving grandmother depicted in all the films about would be Anastasias who rejected each contender for Romanov riches after the Russian Revolution.
What-if history really wanted Anastasia and
her family to survive. Sadly, they did not, but enjoy the
books and movies listed below anyway - I did.
Britain's Queen Victoria, like the Grand Duchess Tatiana, were
sometimes cursed with hemophilia, women were carriers and men
Born to Rule by Julia P.
Gelardi, traces the lives of five of Victoria's grandchildren -
queens all. Victoria Eugenia of Spain and Tatiana's mother,
Czarina Alexandra, were carriers and paid a heavy price for their
genetic heritage. Sophie of Greece and Marie of Romania did
not pass hemophilia to their children, but their lives were also
touched by sorrow. Only Maud of Norway completely escaped
Born to Rule is a highly
readable account of the intertwined lives of these women.
On principal, I don't like translations
because the translator not only has to be able to comprehend every
nuance, but must also be a gifted writer. Fortunately, I read
Boris Akunin's The Winter Queen anyway.
It's a mystery set in 19th century Russia,
wherein the young, naive hero survives perils much like an ancestor
of the children in the Lemony Snicket
books might. I adored it and was pleased to discover
it's the first book in a series.
Stella Duffy's Theodora: Actress, Empress, Whore is a good maybe-it-happened-this-way novel about the early days of the one of the most powerful women of the ancient world, the Byzantine Empress Theodora.
of Salerno (Sicily) was a physician and university educator
in the days when no one knew anything about germs or sanitation.
She wrote several medical books that were famous for centuries
and suggested that men as well as women could be infertile.
I wasn't very far into Ariana Franklin's excellent medieval novel, Mistress of the Art of Death, when I realized I was reading about Trotula. But I wasn't - or not exactly. The hero is a female doctor from Salerno, but the only reference to Trotula uses the word as a title rather than a person. Never mind. You'll want to read the book anyway and enjoy the sequels.
The same goes for Ken Follett's very good follow up (but stand alone) sequel to The Pillars of the Earth (also a DVD). World Without End takes place in the 1300s, 200 years later, and features a female healer in a very troubled time.
I have not read any of the
books listed below, but TheTrotula is medieval
medicine in Trotula's own words and Women Healers should be fascinating.
Trung Trac - Liberator Queen of Vietnam
Trac was a noble widow in Vietnam whose husband was killed on
the orders of the Chinese governor. She and her younger
sister, Trung Nghi (Nhi), led a rebellion against the occupying
Han Chinese Empire in the years 39 - 43 CE / AD. The
sisters' army was victorious, but their independent kingdom only
lasted for a few years. Though the Trung Sisters ruled together as queens, they were unable to overcome their lack
of disciplined forces and supplies. Threatened with defeat
in the face of overwhelming Chinese imperial power, the sisters
Temples were built in their honor, and they
are remembered with a national holiday as heroes
who resisted oppression
Every online source I found about the Trung
Sisters quotes this poem without listing an author:
"All the male heroes bowed
their heads in submission;
Only the two sisters proudly stood up to avenge the country."
I also found this quote, which
was attributed to Trung Trac. The Hung lineage apparently refers to the Trung family name as it was changed in
"Foremost, I will avenge my
Second, I will restore the Hung lineage,
Third, I will avenge the death of my husband,
Lastly, I vow that these goals will be accomplished."
I have not yet read by Nghia M. Vo's book, The Trung
Sisters. It's on my list.
lots of movies about the Vietnam War. None of them mention
the Trung Sisters to my knowledge, but I've listed a few favorites
Tzu-hsi - Empress Dowager of China. She was born Yehenara and was later known as Xiao Qin Xian or Cixi. She held power for 48 years, mismanaging the last days of the Chinese empire.
Virginia Dare -
First baby born to English colonists in the Americas
Walladah - Moorish poet and princess, the daughter of the caliph of Córdoba. She had her poetry embroidered on her clothes.
Empress Wu - Emperor (not a typo) of China
began life in a noble family and was sent off to become a concubine
of Chinese Emperor Tai Tsung at 13. At 27, she was the concubine
of the new emperor, Kao Tsung, and the mother of his sons.
Wu accused the empress of murder and got the
job, but once Kao Tsung had a stroke, her real power began.
When Kao Tsung died, Wu had her youngest, weakest son declared
emperor and kept control of China. In 690, Wu was declared
emperor in her own right. She didn't abdicate until the
year of her death in 705. By then she had encouraged
scholarship, Buddhism, public works, farming and the secret
I first met the Empress Wu in a
novel long out of print. I haven't read Empress,
but it's on my list.
In the meantime, I'm going to
check out the entire T'ang dynasty Judge Dee mystery series in case I missed
If you loved the grace and
beauty of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,
you will also be entranced by House of Flying
Daggers and Hero (based on a true
story). I can't wait for the next masterpiece
of color and movement from China.
Zawditu - Empress, or Queen of Kings, of Ethiopia, married four times, she became empress in her own right to solve a dynastic mess. Her cousin Ras Tafari, better known as Haile Selassie, was named regent during her reign and took over the throne in 1930. One story relates that she died several days later after being immersed in holy water to cure diabetes or typhus or ...
Zenobia - Queen of Palmyra
Zenobia, widowed queen
of Palmyra (now in Syria), attempted to hold out against Roman
aggression in her country. She won several military victories,
but was finally defeated and led off in golden chains. Surprisingly,
the emperor ofRomelet her live
the rest of her life as a Roman matron. The word is Zenobia
married a Roman senator and ended up with a villa inTivoli.
Zenobia may well have been a direct descendant of Cleopatra and Mark Antony whose daughter, Cleopatra Selene, married King Juba II of Numidia in North Africa.
Zoe - Byzantine Empress known for her beauty and the strangling of her first husband.