While we know her as the ‘Nine Day Queen’, Lady Jane Grey would probably have passed into history as an irrelevant, albeit intelligent, Tudor cousin had it not been for the ambitious machinations of John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland. Having schemed his way to the position of Lord Protector during the reign of young Edward VI, Northumberland spied an opportunity to increase his power base when the young king fell ill with no signs of recovering, and it extended slightly further than sending Mary Tudor a fruit basket. Aware that his power would have been severely curtailed if the Catholic princess Mary succeeded to the throne, the fervent Protestant Northumberland executed a coup to place Jane Grey on the throne. The coup was short lived (lasting only nine days in fact) though Jane Grey is still included as a monarch of Britain despite her brief tenure. Continue reading
The Golden Age of Piracy was an entirely male dominated affair for a number of reasons. On the most practical level women generally lacked the physical strength to endure the brutal back breaking labour men participated in, daily, while at sea. While Gibbs of Pirates of the Caribbean might declare that having a woman aboard a ship would bring bad luck in reality their presence would simply encourage jealousy and fighting among the crew, not to mention the personal danger posed to the women themselves from sexually frustrated sailors.
To Mrs Arabella Hunt
–Not believe that I love you? You cannot pretend to be so incredulous. If you do not believe my tongue, consult my eyes, consult your own. You will find by yours that they have charms; by mine that i have a heart which feel them. Recall to mind what happened last night. That at least was a lover’s kiss. It’s eagerness, it’s fierceness, its warmth, expressed the God its parent. But oh! It’s sweetness, and it’s melting softness expressed him more. With trembling in my limbs, and fevers in my soul, I ravish’d it. Convulsions, panting, murmurings shew’d the mighty disorder within me: the mighty disorder increased by it. For those dear lips shot through my heart, and thro’ my bleeding vitals, delicious poison, and an avoidless but yet a charming ruin.
I have a lot of time to catch up on films and television series at the moment, so there’s that at least. Recently I watched Katherine of Alexandria (or Decline of an Empire depending on which part of the world you are from). I was really looking forward to watching this as female hagiography (saints’ lives) was the focus of my thesis and St. Katherine had a chapter all to herself as one of the most influential and prominent female saints of the middle ages. That and Peter O’Toole was in it so I was hyped.
The position of royal mistress, even a recognised maîtresse en titre was fraught with difficulties. The lucky, or perhaps more aptly, unlucky woman would have to work tirelessly to maintain the king’s interest. She would have to dispose of rivals without reducing herself to nagging the king or displeasing him in any way lest she herself be dismissed. Her political adversaries would be constantly trying to replace her and this was without the most basic demand of satisfying the king’s every whim. It is no wonder that some mistresses made bids for the throne, some successful others less so. At least as queen she was, in theory, unassailable or at the very least granted a measure of security her previous position would not have allowed her. Here we take a look at some of the women who tried to make the leap from first lady at court to first lady of the land, some of whom succeeded, others however were less than successful. Continue reading
In an ambitious project, Dawn B. Sova put together The Encyclopedia of Mistresses in 1993, which as you might expect is a collection of encyclopaedic-esque entries for women who have gone down in history as ‘the other woman,’ covering an impressive time period; from the early Greek age to the 20th century. Although I bought this book for my first thesis (a look at the position of the ‘mistress’ in Medieval England up to Anne Boleyn) it is in no way academic and very accessible to any reader. Continue reading
‘The Merry Monarch’ was very merry indeed. Known for his love of partying and women Charles II brought fun back to England in a big, big way. Even before his return to England however, Charles was having fun in his own way, mostly with women. He acknowledged over a dozen illegitimate children with several mistresses, though he had several others with whom he had no children. Unlike many monarchs Charles maintained a number of mistresses at any one time rather than a single maîtresse en titre (official mistress at court). Unsurprisingly, considering the larger than life personality of the king, the women who captured his heart were also strong characters in themselves and as most of them were in ‘service’ to the king at the same time there was plenty of opportunity for conflict. Continue reading