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!

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.

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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Tabula Rogeriana: The First Great Atlas

Tabula Rogeriana - upside-down with north oriented up, by Muhammad al-Idrisi, 1154

Tabula Rogeriana – upside-down with north oriented up, by Muhammad al-Idrisi, 1154

The history of the relationship between Muslims and Christians in Europe and the Middle East during the Middle Ages is well documented. From the Crusades for Jerusalem to the shining cities of Al-Andalus, the two religions frequently inhabited the same spaces, sometimes clashing while other times intermingling at ease. One oft-forgotten region where a near-flawless co-existence occurred is Sicily during the rule of the Hauteville counts and kings, most notably under Roger II.

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