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 an illustrious Portuguese family. 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 with England all her life.

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War Paint (Part 8): Battle of Grunwald

Part 8 in a 10 part series. To view other entries into the War Paint Series, follow the link.

The Battle of Grunwald, as it’s most commonly known, was one of the largest in Europe’s medieval history, was a deciding event in Eastern Europe’s history and saw the rise of a great regional power, yet often flies under the radar. The battle was fought in 1410 by the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania against the Teutonic Order near the modern Polish village of Grunwald in the country’s north.

The battle was born out of a series of events known as the Northern Crusades, in which the Teutonic Order and Scandinavian monarchies attempted to Christianize the pagan tribes of the Baltic Sea. The Teutons had seized land belonging to Lithuania, but with the Grand Duchy’s conversion to Christianity in 1385 and their union to Poland, the tides turned back in favor of the Slavs. Fought between upwards of 70,000 participants, it forever changed the landscape of the Baltic and saw the Polish-Lithuanian Union, and later the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, become the largest state in Europe. The Teutonic Order would maintain relevance for some time, but the financial burden placed on it following its defeat would lead to a series of internal struggles that would eventually see its demise.

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Croatia, between a rock and a hard place.

In the next installment in our 1014 series, Robert Horvat gives the history of the medieval Kingdom of Croatia. Stuck between the Holy Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire and the Kingdom of Hungary, Croatia was going to have a tough time of it. Robert details some of the struggles they faced around the turn of the millennium. In 1014, the kingdom was ruled by Krešimir III, who would sit on the throne for 30 years. Check out more of Robet’s blog if you haven’t already!

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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War Paint (Part 6): Battle of Clontarf

Part 6 in a 10 part series.

The Battle of Clontarf took place on April 23rd, 1014. It was fought between the forces of Brian Boru, Ireland’s greatest figure of the Middle Ages, and a rival king in rebellion, Máel Mórda. Máel Mórda’s side was aided by the Dublin Vikings, long a power in the area, while Boru had various other kings in support. The battle resulted in a rout of Mórda’s forces, the eventual diminishing of Viking influence in Ireland and, perhaps most importantly, the death of Brian Boru, High King of Ireland.

Ireland was a very fractured place at this time. There were numerous Kings and endless clan politics dominated life. Mórda had risen up a few years earlier, but a tentative peace had been agreed upon. He began enlisting the aid of numerous clans who would like to see Boru deposed. He also enlisted the aid of Sigtrygg Silkbeard and the Dublin Vikings, who then called in help from Orkney and the Isle of Man. The battle would go back and forth over the course of the day, Good Friday. Brian’s forces eventually got the upper hand and the Vikings fled. Their retreat was cut off and nearly all of the Viking leadership was killed in the process.

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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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