Isabel of Portugal, Duchess of Burgundy

The following post comes from Susan Abernathy and her great site, The Freelance History Writer. Isabel of Portugal was the Duchess of Burgundy at a time when her native Kingdom of Portugal and her adopted home of Burgundy were becoming major players on the scene. If you haven’t spent any time on Susan’s blog, you should check it out.

The Freelance History Writer

Isabel was born into the Portuguese royal family known as the Illustrious Generation.  Her parents were renowned rulers and they were to raise several celebrated children. Her older brothers were King Edward of Portugal, Peter, Duke of Coimbra and the famous Henry the Navigator, patron of Portuguese navigation. Isabel was to make a brilliant match to the Duke of Burgundy but not until she was into her thirties, very late for a Renaissance princess.

Isabel was born on February 21, 1397 in Evora. Her father was King John I of Portugal of the house of Aviz. Her mother was Philippa of Lancaster, the daughter of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster and granddaughter of King Edward III of England. Isabel’s father had become King with the help of John of Gaunt and cemented his alliance and friendship with Gaunt and England by marrying Philippa. Isabel was to value friendship…

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Lope de Aguirre: You Have to Earn the Nickname “El Loco”

Etching of Lope de Aguirre, date and artist unknown.

Etching of Lope de Aguirre, date and artist unknown.

This is the first post in the Age of Discovery Series lasting throughout March.

Lope de Aguirre is one of the more infamous conquistadors of the many thousands of men from all over Europe who set out in service of the Spanish Crown in search of adventure, fame and, most importantly, wealth. His biography ticks all the boxes for adventure and exploits. He went down in a blaze of glory after failing to achieve every conquistador’s dream of getting wealthy. His unstable nature, paranoia and numerous murders earned him the nickname “El Loco”, Spanish for the madman.

Aguirre was born in the early 1500’s in the Basque region of Oñati. Born of a minor noble family, but not being the firstborn son and, thus, not expecting much of an inheritance, Aguirre did what many men of that age did, he agreed to go to the New World. He would spend the rest of his life there.

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Jenny Bennett’s Fab Five: An Amateur Who Changed The Skies, The Definition of Incompetence & More

Luke Howard, by John Opie, date unknown.

Luke Howard, by John Opie, date unknown.

This is the sixth part in our weekly Fab Five Series, where I ask other bloggers, writers, podcasters and friends to give their five favorite historical figures. The criteria is up to them…so is the work!

Hello, I’m Jenny Bennett. A long-time blogger, I’ve just launched a new blog called “1870 to 1918”. This gives me the chance to delve into a fascinating period when the world’s major European empires swelled to their largest expanse, only to come to crisis and cataclysm in the First World War. It takes off from posts about the Boer War on my eclectic “Endless Streams and Forests” blog, which veers wildly from hiking to history and many other topics.

As you’ll see, my Fab Five people are not all people I admire. There are so many I could name that I have to admit the following five are simply ones that popped into my head this morning.

Luke Howard (1772 – 1864): Amateur meteorologist known for coming up with the classification of clouds into cumulus, stratus, and cirrus in his work Essay on the Modification of Clouds. Why is this so interesting to me? Because it was based on gazing at the sky, not performing any rigorous experiment, and yet his categories have such a rightness about them that they will likely be used indefinitely. His observations about the shifting shapes in the sky were an inspiration to the poet Goethe.

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Aethelred the Unready

The following post is reblogged from Susan Abernathy’s the Freelance History Writer. It’s the first in a long line of reblogs I’ll be doing in conjunction with our 1014 series. Aethelred the Unready was unseated as King of England by Sweyn Forkbeard just before Christmas in 1013. As we’ve seen, Sweyn passed away in February, paving the way for Aethelred’s return from exile, which he’ll do sometime in March.

If you haven’t checked out Susan’s blog, you should do so. Some of us write funny or interesting pieces about the things we like. Susan writes posts that can be used as a resource. Enjoy!

The Freelance History Writer

Image of Aethelred the Unready A thirteenth century chronicler recorded Aethelred as being named “Un-raed” which has come to mean Unready in modern terms. The name Aethelred is a compound of two words: Aethel meaning “prince” and raed meaning “noble counsel”. Un-raed means “no counsel” so the chronicler was basically making a pun on Aethelred’s name. But this pun had overtones and alternative meanings including “evil counsel” or “a treacherous plot”. Calling Aethelred “Unraed” could mean he was given bad counsel, he did not take advice from his counselors or that he himself was unwise. Perhaps all were true. Let’s look at the story and see.

Aethelred was the great-great grandson of Alfred the Great and born c. 968. His father was Edgar the Peaceable, King of England and his mother was Queen Aelfthryth. Edgar died in 975 leaving a young Aethelred and an elder son by a previous…

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Amazing Women Who Inspire Us ! (Part 3)

ImageRobert Horvat gives us a series called Women Who Inpire Us. It’s a response to my Fab Five Series. Neither of us listed any women in our lists of historical figures, and Robert is atoning for both of us. This installment features Eleanor of Aquitaine, one of my favorite figures from my favorite era as well as Empress Pulcheria, who I’ve just learned about. I think you’ll be as fond of her as I now am. You’ll find the rest of the series on his blog. Enjoy!

Amazing Women Who Inspire Us ! (Part 3).

An excerpt…

Empress Pulcheria 

One might wonder what the early fifth century Byzantine world would have been like if Aelia Pulcheria was not around and her younger brother Theodosius II was led by other ambitious men ? Sometimes, strong Byzantine women like Pulcheria aren’t given enough credit for the role they play in the Byzantine State and society.

Richard Shephard’s Fab Five: The First Computer Programmer, The Father of Science Fiction & More

Watercolor portrait of Ada King, Countess of Lovelace (Ada Lovelace). By Alfred Edward Chalon, 1840.

Watercolor portrait of Ada King, Countess of Lovelace (Ada Lovelace). By Alfred Edward Chalon, 1840.

This is the fifth part in our weekly Fab Five Series, where I ask other bloggers, writers, podcasters and friends to give their five favorite historical figures. The criteria is up to them…so is the work!

My name is Richard Shepherd. I’m interested in history in general and the Victorian age in particular. I chose my 5 historical figures because they were not typical of the society they lived in. Some rebelled against racism, sexism or the religious views of the time. Others were concerned with what wonders the future might bring, and how to make it happen. I can be found on Twitter as @rshepherd1964.
Ada Lovelace (10 December 1815 – 27 November 1852) worked with Charles Babbage while he was developing his analytical engine. He saw it as a replacement for the inaccurate tables used by the financial system. She predicted that in the future similar devices would be useful not only in finance but also science and the arts, possibly even being used to create music. Today she is often thought of as the world’s first computer programmer. If Babbage had built his engine using Ada Lovelace’s operating system, what technology would we be using today?

That’s No Beggar, That’s Gaudí, or A Street Car Named Expire

Sagrada Família in Barcelona. Photo by  Marek Holub via Wikimedia Commons.

Sagrada Família in Barcelona. Photo by Marek Holub via Wikimedia Commons.

On June 7, 1926, a ragged beggar crossed the street in Barcelona, the bustling Catalan metropolis on the Mediterranean coast. Perhaps he was lost in thought, or perhaps the street car was somehow at fault. The man was struck and lost consciousness. Due to his ragged condition and lack of identification, he was left to his fate by the passersby.

Eventually, a police officer reluctantly decided to do something about the situation and took the bum to a nearby hospital where he received the most basic treatment. The following day, the chaplain of the Sagrada Família church, the beggar’s life’s work, recognized him, but it was too late. His previously untreated condition had deteriorated and he would go on to die on the 10th of June.

If you couldn’t gather from the title (apologies for the horrible pun), the beggar was no beggar at all, but was indeed Antoni Gaudí i Cornet, one of the most famous, if over-the-top, architects known to man. He was already in his 70’s at the time, but seemed otherwise healthy, was still working on his all-consuming life’s passion, the aforementioned Sagrada Família, and there really is no telling how long he would have carried on.

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On This Day in 1014: Henry II Crowned Holy Roman Emperor

Holy Roman Emperor Henry II. and his Wife Kunigunde, 15th century.

Holy Roman Emperor Henry II. and his Wife Kunigunde, 15th century.

One thousand years ago today…

…Henry II, King of Germany and Italy, former Duke of Bavaria, was crowned as the Holy Roman Emperor by Pope Benedict VIII. The HRE had gone 12 years without an emperor following a power struggle to fill the void created by the untimely death of Emperor Otto III in 1002 at the age of 21.

Henry II had a rather remarkable run to power after a troubled upbringing, which saw him moved about by his father, exiled after a succession dispute over the Duchy of Swabia. Young Henry was given an ecclesiastical education at Hildesheim Cathedral and he would become known for his inclusion of many church officials in his administration.

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Eustace the Monk: A Black Magic, Double-Crossing Pirate Soldier in the Service of the King(s)

Eustace's death at the Battle of Sandwich (13th century illustration by Matthew Paris). Via Wikispaces.

Eustace’s death at the Battle of Sandwich (13th century illustration by Matthew Paris). Via Wikispaces.

In case you haven’t noticed, Medieval history is one of my favorite historical periods. It happens to be one of the eras that I know the most about. I guess I find it fascinating because once you start to get a depth of written records and knowledge about the period, after little recorded history during the ‘Dark Ages’, you find some truly bizarre stuff is taking place and being noted.

The Age of Exploration and Age of Enlightenment have so much intrigue and a massive amount of detail, but much of the mindset and motivation and the actions of the main players makes sense. That’s not necessarily the case with Medieval Europe. You’re often left thinking, ‘I recognize the world this is taking place in, but what in the hell are these guys doing?’

If the Middle Ages is one of my favorite eras, Eustace the Monk is one of my favorite characters.

Not a lot is known about Eustace Busket’s early life. He is France’s version of Robin Hood, though we know, without a doubt, that Eustace existed. He is in official records having served the King of England, King John. He entered the monastery as a young man, but gained a reputation for foul language and gambling. His monicker of the black monk may be owed to this. His father was murdered and he abandoned the monastic life to either seek revenge or claim his inheritance, setting in motion a chain of events that would lead him to black magic, piracy and, ultimately, his head on a pole.

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On This Day in 1014: Sweyn Forkbeard, King of Denmark, Norway and England Dies

Sweyn Forkbeard, possibly being murdered in his sleep by St Edmund. 13th century, artist unknown.

Sweyn Forkbeard, possibly being murdered in his sleep by St Edmund. 13th century, artist unknown.

One thousand years ago today…

…Sweyn Forkbeard, son of Harald Bluetooth, father of Cnut the Great, died of causes yet to be agreed upon. By the time of his death, he had set the groundwork for a great maritime power known as The North Sea Empire, to be ruled by his son. He ruled over Denmark, his territorial homeland, Norway, and for a period of five weeks, England (becoming the first Viking king of that country).

The cause of death is uncertain. Some say he fell from a horse. Others say he was murdered in his sleep by St. Edmund. He died in Gainsborough in Lincolnshire. As if being a Viking king weren’t epic enough, he may have been murdered by a ghost saint!

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