This portrait of Madame de Senonnes is my second favorite work of art. It is also painted by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (who painted our previous historical fashion post).
Before our sitter was Madame de Senonnes, this lady was Marie-Genevieve-Marguerite Marcoz. Marie was born to a wealthy family and in 1802, she married a merchant draper named Jean Marcoz. In 1803, the couple moved to the eternal city, Rome and had a daughter that same year.
But the marriage was an unhappy one and by 1809, the couple separated. During this time, Marie mixed in artistic circles and she met Alexandre de la Motte-Barace, Viscount of Senonne. They married in 1815 and returned to France.
In France, the Bourbon Restoration had occurred first in 1814 when Napoleon was defeated in Russia and the Peninsular War. Even though in June 1815, Napoleon had escaped from Elba and again, raised an army. He was defeated at Waterloo and exiled to the island of St. Helena where Louis XVIII of France once again claimed the French throne.
This time period was experiencing a Romantic movement as well as a Neoclassical one. Both influences are very much on display in this portrait. The Grecian style dress silhouette and hairstyles were fashionable until the mid-1820s. But the romantic movement that was at its height and can be seen in the gown’s details.
Before we deconstruct her gown, let’s determine what she has underneath it all. Beneath her gown, she would be wearing garments that every woman would have don. First she would have put on her chemise. That garment would have be constructed of linen or cotton. Then she would have had put on stays. This undergarment would have been stiffened to support her breast. And she would have slipped on her stockings (not seen in the portrait). These could have been of silk or wool and held up by a garter.
The Romantic movement looked to the past especially the middle ages and the renaissance. Madame de Senonnes is wearing an afternoon dress. This is determined by the lower neckline with long sleeves and made of silk or fancier fabric than a morning dress would have been made of.
Madame de Senonnes’ dress is made of red or maroon velvet. It has long sleeves with attached dove blue silk slashes to simulate the historical Renaissance fashion of the sixteenth century. In 1815, the fashion was for heavier fabrics than a couple of years before. The silhouette of the garment would have had a flatter front and would be fuller in back of skirts (that cannot be seen in portrait). Another style choice of the romantic movement is the white lace cuff that imitates the ruffs of the sixteenth century. Her neckline is square and constructed of fine white sheer fabric and finished with a three tier lace neck ruff. Her high-waisted gown has a matching dove blue silk or satin sash.
Madame de Senonnes accents her gown with her accessories. She has donned numerous gold necklaces with charms that include a cross and another that resembles a hourglass. She has a brooch of jade and perhaps ruby pinned just below the sash. She is wearing stacked jeweled rings on four fingers while the middle finger of the right hand has one ring. Clutched In her hand is a white handkerchief. On her ears, she is wearing ruby earring that might be silver or white gold. And tucked in her twisted up hair is a hair comb made of gold and red jewels most likely rubies. These accessories reflect an afternoon style through in a portrait the sitter would wear their best garments and jewels.
Another accessory that I just love is her shawl that drapes behind her and wraps around her to the left of her. It’s is made of ivory cashmere with a wide embroidered edge. The designs reminds me of something found in an illuminated manuscript from medieval times or a design from India or another foreign country whose styles centers on a natural design. The embriodery is of a red, blue and mustardy-yellow floral print and accented with scrolls.
Madame de Senonnes died in 1828. This is what remains of her.
Now in the Royal Castle, Mary gathered her loyal supporters. Days laters, those men invovled in Rizzio’s death fled. By now, Mary’s army numbered 8000 men, she rode at the head of army into Edinburgh. She regained control of her realm. She pardoned some conspirators who were not directly involved with Rizzio’s murder. Her plan was simple, drive a wedge between these group of men.
Darnley signed a declaration that he was not a part of the murder. This fit Mary’s needs because she couldn’t have doubts about her unborn child’s legitimacy. In April of 1566, the Earl of Moray (Lord James Stewart, bastard half-brother to Mary and Protestant) arrived at Edinburgh Castle, where Mary was residing.
She gave Moray permission to stay at the imposing castle to keep a close watch on him. She knew that Moray held the support of Protestant lords as well as England and had to play it this way to keep support for her. This time Mary wouldn’t trust her half-brother but she knew that she needed him. The Protestants of Scotland looked to him as their leader. And Scottish lords had no problem rebelling against or killing their monarch. They had done so before.
Before the Scottish court, Mary gave the appearance of marital happiness but Darnley had been shut out from her graces and the seat of power. On 19 June 1566, Mary gave birth to James, the Duke of Rothesay (future James VI of Scotland and James I of England). Scotland had an heir to the throne and they rejoiced. Mary soared to great heights.
Darnley, though, was leading “a very disorderly life. Every night, he left the castle and went out vagabonding and drinking heavily with his young male friends in the streets of Edinburgh. He would return at all hours of the night, so that the castle gates had to be unlocked for him, which left Mary feeling ‘there was no safety, either for herself or her son.'”
Mary decided to keep James with her. She was fearful her enemies make steal him away and rule in his name. (Spoiler: That would happen) It didn’t help Mary that Darnley was still plotting to become king. The man was far from Mary’s good graces. He knew nothing of the Queen’s actions, daily life and certainly knew nothing of her affection. Mary seeking someone she could trust, she was turning more and more to the Earl of Bothwell.
Sadly for Mary, the men in her life sucked. And Darnley’s intrigue wasn’t the only on occurring. Moray and Bothwell, both had their own separate plans that would lead to death and the loss of the Scottish crown.
In October 1566, Mary gathered her Border lords for a justice eyre (a circuit court to hear legal cases). Darnley requested to accompany her and he was refused. Not pleased, Darnley starts to throw what I call hissy fits. One fit was his threat to sail away from Scotland. Mary could not allow such a thing. That posed a threat to her, her son and realm.
In the lowlands, during the eyre, Lord Bothwell had been attacked and injured. On 15 October, Mary learned on this and rode from Jedburgh to Hermitage Castle (The Earl of Bothwell’s, James Hepburn, holding) then rode back to Jedburgh. A sixty mile round trip that would be come to bite her in the ass.
The rest of 1566, Mary was ill and rested at Craigmillar Castle. During her recovery, Darnley appears again only to disappear to Mary’s relief. Her husband was a necessary nuisance. Her lords were trying to find a way to divorce her from her wastrel of a husband. He was a danger to her yet she couldn’t risk the standing of her son–a divorce would have James declared illegitmate. Yet, Mary knew that her husband wanted her dead. Her death would lead to a regency and Darnley wanted to be appointed Regent. Scotland had had a regency since 1393 and Mary, Queen of Scots (Scotland would have another under Mary’s son).
But many wanted Darnley dead too.
In 1567, (According to testimony made in 1573) a bond was drawn up to kill Darnley. No record exists and no one saw this written bond. But that didn’t stop the English and Cecil and Walingsham from using this testimony)
At the end of 1566, Darnley became ill with pox, syphillis as the Diurnal of Occurents’ stated. The sixteenth century cure wasn’t an easy one. It was mercury baths. He was at his father’s stronghold near Glasgow. That wasn’t necessary a good thing for Mary.
In the beginning in 1567, Mary had proof of two conspiracies: Lords against Darnely with plans to kill him and Darnley against Mary. With no other choice, Mary rode to Glasgow to confront her husband and bring him to Edinburgh to watch him.
Now the queen had her husband and Bothwell had recovered from his injuries and journeyed to the royal burgh. The plan was to lodge Darnely in Craigmillar. But he feared being locked up and killed so he went to Kirk o’ Field. Later many would say that Mary had set up the house in order to kill him. But that choice was Darnley’s.
The house “lay to the south of Edinburgh, on a hill overlooking the Cowgate; it stood just inside the city wall and three-quarters of a mile from Holyrood Palace, in a semi-rural location, ‘environed with pleasant gardens, and removed from the noise of the people.'”
Mary saw that her husband had all the luxuries the husband of the queen could want or need. As he recovered, the queen “visited her husband daily.” According to Alison Weir’s book, Mary, Queen of Scots and the Murder of Lord Darnley, she spent two nights at Kirk o’ Field, sleeping in the bedroom below his. They sat up late, sometimes until midnight, talking, playing cards or listening to music, and ‘many nobles’ came with the Queen to divert the convalescent.
Though, Mary might have shown kindess to her husband, she didn’t trust him and continued to learn of all his undermined plans against her.
On 9 February 1567, the last day of Sunday before the beginning of Lent, the queen had a full schedule. She had a wedding of her favorite servants, attended a banquet and around 7, she rode to Kirk o’ Field in the company of Lords Bothwell, Argyll and Huntly. They spent the time playing dice and chatting. The group including the Queen were dressed for the wedding masque that they would be attending later that night.
At midnight, Mary and the lords departed. This night has many stories depending on who you believe and when the story is told. Whatever you believe, Mary returned to Holyrood, attended the masque and took part in the bedding ceremony of the newlyweds then returned to her apartments.
There she held a meeting with the Captain of her Guards and Bothwell. The captain left Bothwell and the queen alone where they talked in private for some time then Bothwell left and Mary went to bed. Another act that would be used against Mary.
Shortly before 2 a.m. Mary was woken by an explosion. She thought it might be cannon fire and sent messengers to learn what was happening. They returned with the news of an explosion of Kirk o’ Field and the belief that Darnley was dead.
Lord Bothwell was the Sheriff of Edinburgh and the duty to investigate fell to him. His servant had to wake him. He sent his men then returned to bed.
Bodies of servants were discovered in the rubble remains of the house but Darnley had not been find. “At last, at 5 a.m., three hours after the explosion, someone thought to look in the south garden and orchard, beyond Flodden Wall, and it was there that they found the bodies of the twenty-year-old king and his valet.” Both men were dressed in short nightshirts and neither body had a mark on their flesh. “Darnley was stretched out on his back, under a pear tree, with one hand draped modestly over his genitals.”
Near the bodies was a chair, rope, and a dagger. The clothing weren’t burned, scorched or black from powder.
Mary learned of the news. She fell into deep grief and stayed in her chamber all day. Weir writes, “There is no doubt that Darnley’s murder left Mary grief-stricken, emotionally shattered and fearful for her own safety. For several months afterwards, she seems not to have functioned normally, and her judgment, never very good at the best of times, utterly failed her.”
This was the beginning in the end for her as Scotland’s queen and her life.
I love fashion. In case, you didn’t know, I studied fashion design. I can make a dress out of a scrap of fabric. So, it’s natural that I blend the things I am passionate about fashion, history and writing.
This is a new feature of my blog that focuses on historical costume or historical fashion (depending on what term you wish to use).
For this blog, I chose to focus on my favorite portrait. The portrait of Josephine Eleonore Marie Pauline De Galard De Brassac De Bearn, Princess de Broglie painted by Ingres in 1853. This work of art is located in the Metropolitan Museum of Art–the MET– in New York City. If you get to see it in person, you will be hypnotized and enchanted by both the skill of the artist, Ingres and by the sitter herself, Princess de Broglie.
Before I get into the costume, let me tell you the Princess’ story. Josephine was known for her beauty. Look at the portrait, you can also see that she appears shy. The princess was known to be profoundly shy. Though, her exterior form is striking (possessed the fashionable figure of that time with her sloping shoulders), there was more to this woman. She was deeply religious and highly intelligent. During her life, she published three volumes of essays on religious history.
Josephine was married to Albert de Broglie on 18 June 1845. She was the mother of five sons. Born in 1825, she would not live to an old age. She contracted tuberculosis and was died in 1860 at 35 years old. Her husband lived into 1901 and heartbroken, he never remarried.
Her portrait was completed when she was 28 years old. Her beauty and personality were captured in oil in the most beautiful garment I have ever seen. So, let’s get to what she’s wearing.
Princess De Broglie is wearing a blue satin evening gown embellished with a lace bertha and dangling blue satin ribbons. Lace trims the ruched ribboned neckline and sleeves and down the center front of the bodice is a row of matching blue satin ribbons.
The princess is dressed for an evening probably to attend a ball. The dress follows the fashion of the early 1850s France. This French time period is called the Second Empire. Fashion was having a Rococo Revival. The details of this style was a short-waisted bodice and dome-shaped skirt as well as the bow detail and the lace on the neckline and sleeves that mimic 18th century fashion.
What is she wearing beneath the gown? In order of dressing, she has donned a chemise, cotton or linen, tucked into pantalettes and a corset over that. The support garments would be additional petticoats.
Now for the finishing details, her hairstyle. Her thick, black hair is parted down the middle and pushed back and pinned and finished with pearl-laced maribou feathers attached to matching blue ribbons pinned on both sides of her head.
Her accessories include a white or ivory cashmere shawl finished with a border of gold embroidery. She has a matching gold and white or ivory face and white silk gloves. I believe just on the edge of the chair is a velvet black cloak she would have donned before heading out. These items are located on the chair.
The accessories she has on her person are gold and pearl strand earrings. She has a simple gold necklace with a gold pendant. On her wrists are two braclets. On the left arms is a pearl braclet that loops around her wrist five times and is clasped with a metal detail–most likely gold. And on her right wrist is a gold and ruby bracket.
Are you as hypnotized by this portrait as I am? What do you love about it?
Mary’s second marriage held all of Europe enthralled. Many European countries had a political interest in the man Mary would walk down the aisle with. No country more than England and its queen, Elizabeth I and her most trusted advisor, Sir William Cecil.
Elizabeth even offered her favorite, Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester. But Mary refused her cousin’s rumored lover. But Mary did marry an Englishman. The Englishman that Elizabeth and Cecil didn’t want her to bind herself to.
Her second husband was Henry Stuart known as Lord Darnley, his courtesy title from his Scottish father, the Earl of Lennox. Now this is a crazy intersecting blood line.
So here we go: Lord Darnley’s mother was Lady Margaret Douglas. Her mother was Margaret Tudor who was Henry VIII sister. Mother Margaret (let’s call her to distinguish her from her daughter) had married the King of Scotland James IV (Mary, Queen of Scots grandfather) who died. Mother Margaret then married the Earl of Angus, Margaret’s father. Lady Margaret Douglas had a claim to the English throne as the granddaughter of Henry VII and as niece of Henry VIII. Both Margarets ended up in England and Henry VIII’s court because of some very crazy Scottish in-fighting (too long and soap opera-esque to explain here).
Now Lord Darnley’s father was the Scottish lord, Matthew Stuart, the 4th Earl of Lennox. His estates were located near Glasgow. He fled Scotland in 1534 then married Margaret Douglas.
Both mother and father had grand plans for their son and that plan was to wear a crown and the Scottish crown would do nicely.
Lord Darnley was the second of eight children (the eldest had died). He was born in December of 1545 or 1546. He was reared a Roman Catholic but would follow any religion if it gained him what he wanted.
Darnley was considered handsome even being described as “most handsome”. He stood between 6’1 to 6’3 so he was taller than Mary’s 5’10 to 5’11. He had a slim, strong and athletic physique that was desirable. He had fair, close-cropped curly hair. Darnley was the perfect courtier. He played instruments like the lute, played games and danced. Yet, this boy had his faults. He was spoiled, immature, and a drunk.
In 1565, Darnley was presented to Mary at Wemyss Castle then they parted ways. But they were soon reunited. Darnley charmed all the Scottish lords whose support he needed to marry Mary. He attended church with Lord James Stewart, a Protestant, as well as Mary. As stated before, anything to get the crown.
During this time, Mary’s talks with Elizabeth to be named as her heir fell apart. This was Darnley’s chance to gain Mary’s hand and Mary’s chance to get back at Elizabeth.
In April of that year, Darnley fell ill and Mary rushed to his side and cared for him herself. After that, Mary lavished him with gifts. She decided to wed Lord Henry Darnley. She believed herself in love but it was most certainly infatuation. As an English subject, he was required to gain Elizabeth’s consent. She did not give it but that didn’t stop the marriage from occurring.
Lord James Stewart, now Earl of Moray, was against this union and refused to sign a document in support of the marriage. This is the start when Lord James turned against his half-sister. Yet, the wedding date was set for July 29, 1565. The day before, Mary proclaimed Darnley King of Scots.
In August, Lord James and some other lords rebelled. It is called The Chaseabout Raid. This rebellion got its name because both sides just rode about, chasing (in Mary’s case) and fleeing (Lord James’ case). It ended because Lord James fled to England.
As Mary was at the height of her reign, her marriage was at its lowest. Darnley was a drunk. He spent his time carousing in taverns and brothels. Worse, the so-called King believed the hype (when he was king in name only). Meanwhile, Mary began spending time with Rizzio, her Italian secretary. Naturally this sparked talk of an affair between the queen and the upstart who came to Mary’s court as a musician and rose to secretary and close confidant of the queen.
People have said that she was foolish to do this but Henry VIII liked to appoint “lower classes” to high positions because they would know where their lives hung. After all Cromwell and Worsley were sons of a blacksmith and a butcher.
Now, this royal couple lived very separate lives. During this time, a conspiracy began with Darnley being played by the lords. It is believed that this started so the rebel lords could return to Scotland. The Earl of Ruthven played a part along with the Earl of Morton, the Earl of Lennox and other Scottish nobles along with Sir William Cecil. It was decided that Rizzio had to die and the now pregnant queen must be detained until her child was born and Darnley given the Crown Matrimonal (which would have made him King of Scotland).
The plan to murder Rizzio happened as Darnley wished. In March 1566, the pregnant Mary hosted a few close courtiers for supper in her closet (a small room). During the night, Darnley made an appearance, playing the charming husband, when Lord Ruthven burst in, demanding Rizzio be handed over to him. Rizzio cowered behind the queen.
The other conspirators rushed in to the small room that could hold a dozen and was now crammed with at least thirty people. The men grabbed at Rizzio. Mary was thrown into Darnley’s arms and he was told to take his wife away. Darnley pulled Mary from the closet into the large space and Rizzio chased after her. Just then the men attacked, stabbing Rizzio. He cried out and clutched at the queen’s skirts as they stabbed him. Darnley bent back his fingers and the assassins dragged Rizzio away.
If you visit Holyrood Palace in Scotland, there is a plaque that states that this is the spot Rizzio died. People claim that they can see the blood stain on the wooden floorboards but those board had been replaced. Rizzio laid died in the queen’s rooms and Darnley’s dagger was demanded. His dagger was “embedded in Rizzio’s side to proclaim the King’s invovlement in the deed.”
The queen proclaimed that these lords planned to kill her and her unborn child. According to Alison Weir in Mary, Queen of Scots and the Murder of Lord Darnley, “that Fawdonside (a member of the conspiracy) had held a loaded pistol to her womb and would have killed her had not his gun refused to give fire.”
She could be right because “one of Ruthven’s followers…told James I (Of England and James VI of Scotland and son of Mary and Henry) that he had saved his life and that of his mother.”
That night, the queen was locked in her rooms with “Dowager Countess of Huntly and a few female servants with eighty Douglas men standing guard outside the palace gates and her bedchamber door, preventing her from communciating with the rest of her household.”
The next day, Darnley went to the queen in terror and begging her forgiveness. He swore that Rizzio’s murder was not his plan.
Mary replied, “Sire, within the last 24 hours you have done me such a wrong that neither the recollection of our early friendship nor all the hope you can give me of the future can ever make me forget it. I think you may never be able to undo what you have done. You say you are sorry, and this gives me some comfort. Yet I cannot but think that you are driven to it rather by necessity than led by any sentiment of true and sincere affection.”
She demanded Darnley reveal all and he did. He told of the plan to imprison her in Stirling Castle until she died. Mary can up with a plan.
Together, the royal couple escaped through the back stairs and through the wine cellar. They had to make their way through the cemetery and there two men waited with four horses. Mary heavily pregnant mounted her horse and rode away to Seton Castle then onto Dunbar Castle. After five hours in the saddle, Mary arrived safely.
You may not know this but I love–and I mean love Mary Stuart, Queen of Scotland. I first learned of her when I was a little girl about nine or ten years old. And I must confess that I was heartbroken when I learned of her execution. When I say heartbroken, I mean that I mourned her as I have never mourned a person I did not know personally let alone one who had been dead for hundreds of years.
So when the Mary, Queen of Scots movie was released I was thrilled. I must confess something else that is very shameful. I haven’t seen the film yet. Every time I plan to go something comes up and I’m unable to go to the movies.
Naturally, I had to write Mary Stuart and the men she married. First is Francis, the Dauphin of France and her first husband. Their love story doesn’t start with their marriage. The story begin in Scotland.
Mary Stuart was born on 8 December 1542. About a week old and this tiny infant became Queen of Scotland. Her father, James V died days after the defeat at the Battle of Solway Moss. She was crowned September 9, 1543.
Henry VIII, the king of England, decided that the Scottish Queen should marry his five-year-old son, Prince Edward and that the young queen be reared in the English court.
Well her mother, Mary of Guise, didn’t agree with that. So started the Rough Wooing. At this time, the future Dauphin Francis (The title for the French heir to the throne) was not yet born so to Henry’s thinking who else but the future king of England for the Scottish queen. That would bring England and Scotland under one crowned couple. Henry’s attitude to Scotland was burn it to the ground. During this time, the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh was fought. The queen was moved from castle to castle, home to home in order to keep her safe and far from English hands.
In 1548, her mother made a marriage agreement with France (her home nation) for Mary to wed Francis. In July, she sailed to France.
Francis of Valois was born in 1544 to the King of France and Catherine de Medici. He was sickly from birth. The cause was believed due to all the concoctions Catherine took to get pregnant. It took her ten years before she had Francis.
Mary met her future husband and these two got along from the start. Mary was raised in the nursery alongside Francis and his sister Elisabeth as royal children. There she lived in luxury and in the splendour that is France and its castles. She learned to speak French, her preferred tongue, but this Queen of Scots never lost the Scots tongue.
The time came for the young royal couple to wed. On Sunday, April 24, 1558, Francis and Mary wed in the Cathedral of Notre Dame. Mary–according to Antonia Fraser’s biography Mary Queen of Scots— “was dressed in a robe as white as lilies, so sumptuous and rich that the pen of the contemporary observer fell from his hands at the thought of describing it.”
White was a favorite shade of Mary since she looked best in that color. But it was also the traditional color of mourning for the queens of France. The wedding celebrations were a three-day affair.
These two seemed to have a very caring, loving relationship with reports of them sitting in the corners of the court, apart from everyone with their heads together and giving kisses to each other. Though, they were different in nature. Mary was fearless and Francis was timid.
Now whether their marriage was consummated is up for debate. Francis had a delicate nature as well as a deformity–undescended testicles, which lead to his stunted height and lacking physique. Mary towered over him as she did with most people.
Yet, Mary says that it did. However, people say that as an untried miss ignorant of such things, she would think that sleeping together in the same bed and some petting and such would mean that the royal couple had sex.
On July 10, 1559, King Henry II of France died and now Francis was king and Mary was Queen of France and Scotland. They were just teenagers with the king fifteen and Mary sixteen. The French court went into mourning.
Francis was crowned in September but Mary wasn’t since she was already Queen of Scotland there was no need to confirm her royal state. The court returned to mourning.
It was during this time her mother died. Then in 1560, Francis complained of a ghastly ear-ache then a few days later he fell down in a faint. He had a large swelling behind his left ear. Mary and her mother-in-law, Catherine de Medici nursed him themselves. Mary left his side once to go to church to pray for Francis’ recovery. Other than that, she was at his side.
Francis died a month before his seventeenth birthday. At eighteen, Mary was a widow and Dowager Queen of France. Her and Francis had never been apart for longer than a few months. He had been at her side since she was a girl of five. Mary must have felt lost. No doubt, that they loved each other. But I believe that their relationship was a love that didn’t burn with a passion but was warm and sometimes brotherly and sisterly but was a partnership for them both.
Mary grief was heavy and she wrote a poem (as she did and there is a book of her verses.)
Wherever I may be In the woods or in the fields Whatever the hour of day Be it dawn or the eventide My heart still feels it yet The eternal regret... As I sink into my sleep The absent one is near Alone upon my couch I feel his beloved touch In work or in repose We are forever close...
Now, Mary could no remain in France so to Scotland, she was to go. Where she will meet the English Lord Henry Darnley.
Fraser, Antonia (2001). Mary Queen of Scots. New York, New York: Bantam Dell.
I have fibromyalgia and my memory is garbage. I used to know weird facts that I couldn’t forget. I could spell any word and remember lines from any movie from just watching it once.
Now, I forget how to spell the very simple word the. I can’t recall what day it is and have struggled with many more things but I just can’t remember what all that is.
Which makes writing historical romance a difficulty when I’m trying to remember a historical fact that has flown from my mind. So I’m looking up things a great deal and repeatedly.
But I have a memory from my childhood that is my first one. In case you don’t know I am an Air Force brat. When I was about three years old, the Vietnam War had ended. And the soldiers were returning stateside. If you are old enough, you may remember that some American people treated these soldiers–let’s say badly. People spat on them, called them baby killers, and sneered at these men at the very least.
Anyway, I was in Hawaii and the men were landing at Hickman Air Force base and my family–my dad, mom, brother and I–went to welcome them home. I remember sitting on my father’s shoulders with a small American flag in my hand that I waved about with glee. A helicopter landed and downtrodden, war-weary men stepped out. They hung their heads and on each of these men’s faces was a look of pure sadness, defeat, and something that I can only describe a crushed soul. They gave a half-smile and a nod of greeting as the adults said, “welcome home” and gave them supportive cuffs on the shoulder or back.
These many years later, I can never forget those men or those looks. It was seared into me. I didn’t understand the reasons for their demeanor but I knew that they were hurt–not physically but somewhere deep inside where some many who serve this nation have packed away their memories and emotions of fighting a war.
No matter that fibromyalgia is moving around the marbles in my head, I can never forget this memory. It is a part of me. And I’m thankful for it.
What is your first memory? Come on, tell me. After you do that don’t forget to check out the other blogs taking part in the #MFRW 52 week blog challenge.
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History remembers him as William the Conqueror, the first Norman King of England and the creator of the Doomsday Book. But before he defeated King Harold of England, he was known as William the Bastard, Duke of Normandy.
In 1051 or 1052, William married Matilda of Flanders. Matilda was the niece and granddaughter of Kings of France. Viewing their status through that lens, Matilda certainly married down.
Matilda was considered beautiful and wealthy. And not as short as we learn. She stood 5 feet tall, the average height for her time and William was 5’10 not the giant proclaimed.
Now the story of their courting. William sent his representative to ask for her hand in marriage and she turned him down. William not satisfied with that. William rode from Normandy to Bruges and found her riding to church. He tackled her in the street, pulling her off her horse by her long braids. He threw her in the street, beat her and then rode off. After that, she agreed to marry him.
Some people say the story is true others say that it is not. I guess it depends on who you read. In 1053, William and Matilda married even though Pope Leo IX banned it on the grounds of consanguinity (being closely related). Luckily for their children, in 1059, the royal couple received a Papal dispensation by Pope Nicholas II.
And William and Matilda would have children–10 to be exact who all would live into adulthood. A great feat at a time when children died.
In 1066, William would transform from the bastard to the conqueror when Edward the Confessor (King of England) died without issue. So, William prepared to invade the isle nation since he was a cousin to Edward and stated that Edward promised his throne. Matilda outfitted a ship named Mora with her own funds. While William went off to England, Matilda was regent of Normandy for her young son, Robert II.
In 1066, William won the Battle of Hastings but not all in England was peaceful. The Danes were fighting in the North for control and there were rebellions from the local nobility and people. Historians put the number of dead at 100,000. That is a large number when one thinks about how much smaller the population was.
Now the King of England, Matilda had to be crowned. On May 11, 1068, she became the Queen of England. But she was still in Normandy. It would take more than a year for her to visit her new nation. Only one child was born in their new realm–Henry I who would become one of the two English kings this union produced.
In the summer of 1083, Matilda became ill and died on the 2 of November 1083. Four years later, William followed on September 9, 1087. Both are buried in France.
England now a great amount of Williams. But history never recorded William having bastards. This couple changed Europe and the world and this is just some of their historical romance.
*Since I write Scottish Romance novels, I naturally had to write about Robert the Bruce and his second wife, Elizabeth de Burgh. More so after I watched Outlaw King on Netflix. In truth, I didn’t like it and my love for Chris Pine couldn’t even save it. I felt that the flick only touched on the man who became King of Scots.
No matter the movie, Robert the Bruce captured my interest years ago. I even included a Bruce relation in my upcoming Scottish historical romance novella The Chieftain’s Secret and now is the time I can write about this historical couple.
Robert the Bruce or Robert de Brus was of Anglo-Norman and Gaelic nobility as well as the Earl of Carrick. He was the fourth great-grandson of David I, King of Scotland. As the saying goes, his blood ran blue. Through this line, he had a claim to the Scottish throne after the death of Alexander III. He wasn’t the only one though.
The Scottish nobility and Edward I of England bestowed the Scottish crown on the head of John Balliol though he wouldn’t remain king for long. Robert had been married before to Isabella of Mar who died birthing their daughter, Majorie Bruce.
During William Wallace and Andrew Moray’s battle against Edward I, Robert was among those that battled the English for Scottish Independence. In September 1298, when William Wallace resigned as Guardian of Scotland, Robert the Bruce as well as John Comyn, Lord of Badenoch another claimant to the Scottish throne as well as William Lamberton, Bishop of St. Andrews were appointed to that rank.
Bruce wouldn’t hold the position for long. He resigned in 1300. It seems that he and Comyn couldn’t get beyond their differences or most likely dislike of each other.
By 1302, Robert and his family made “peace” with Edward I as they were rumors that John Balliol would reclaim the Scottish throne. It was also this year when he would wed his second wife—Elizabeth de Burgh.
Elizabeth de Burgh was born in 1284 in Ireland and was the daughter of one of the most powerful Irish nobles—the 2nd Earl of Ulster, Richard de Burgh and his wife Margarite de Burgh. Much is not know about her life but she was about eighteen and Robert twenty-eight when they wed.
Most likely their marriage was not a love match but one of politics. Robert’s father was an ally and friend to Edward I as well as Elizabeth’s own father. The marriage was most likely also arranged to help Edward retain an ally in Scotland. Don’t think that peace existed between Scotland and England during these times. There was still unrest and bloodshed and much distrust on both sides.
Four years after their marriage, Robert slain John Comyn in the Chapel of Greyfriars Monastery in Dumfries. Now Bruce was excommunicated for his crime. However, he was given absolution from the Bishop of Glasgow. Now, Bruce claimed the crown of Scotland.
On the 25 of March 1306, Robert the Bruce had the Scottish crown placed on his head. Elizabeth became his queen consort. But this couple couldn’t have a quiet time, there were still English to be fought and banished from Scottish lands.
In June of 1306, Bruce was defeated at the Battle of Methven. Robert placed his wife, his sisters and his daughter’s protection to his brother Niall Bruce who journeyed to Kildrummy Castle. Robert fled and went into hiding.
At Kildrummy, the English laid siege. The Bruce ladies escaped while every man including Niall Bruce was hanged. Elizabeth along with the others took protection at St. Duthac at Tain. But the Earl of Ross imprisoned them and informed Edward.
Elizabeth was imprisoned in harsh conditions in England. She was moved from castle to castle.
Meanwhile, Bruce was waging war against the English. It would take eight years for Elizabeth and Robert to be reunited. During this time, Edward I died and his son Edward II became King of England.
Bruce waged war and on the 24 of June 1314, the Battle of Bannockburn was fought. The Scottish and Bruce won their independence.
In November of that year, Elizabeth was finally reunited with her husband in a prisoner exchange.
Elizabeth and Bruce would have four children together—Matilda, Margaret, David II of Scotland and John of Scotland. All their children but John (died in infancy) grew to adulthood.
How their relationship was? I imagine that they grew to have tenderness and perhaps love. Elizabeth withstood eight years of harsh imprisonment. Robert must have known that and had a respect for her at the very least.
At around forty-three years of age, Elizabeth died on 27 October 1327 at Cullen, Banffshire. She was buried at Dunfermline Abbey.
Eighteen months later, Robert followed his queen to the afterlife at the age of fifty-five.
*This post was meant to upload in early November but I got sick so it’s late.
When I first saw Braveheart, I got hooked on Scotland. Naturally, I had to learn the true history. As I read about the War for Scottish Independence and the time before the death of Alexander III and his granddaughter, the Maid of Norway, stories started swirling about my head. That history led me to write my Highlander romance novels, The Marriage Alliance, Claiming the Highlander and The Laird’s Right.
During my learning spree, I discovered Edward I of England and his wife Eleanor of Castile. History remembers Edward as a king that changed the English government and legislation, conqueror of Wales and as the Hammer of the Scots. There were many facets to this couple that as we look back with modern eyes is not very nice or to be truthful—he was a right bastard—sometimes.
As a husband, history remembers him differently.
On November 1, 1254, Edward married Eleanor of Castile in the monastery of Las Huelgas in Burgos, Spain. Their marriage much like others royal ones was a political alliance. Eleanor was better educated than most medieval queens and was considered a keen businesswoman.
But when they first married, they were nothing more than teenagers and Eleanor soon became pregnant. Sadly, her daughter was stillborn. However, she went on to survive sixteen pregnancies.
This royal couple was rarely apart. She even accompanied him on military campaigns. When Edward went on Crusade, Eleanor went with him and gave birth to her daughter known as Joan of Acre. A tale about that time shows their love. Edward was injured they say with a poison dagger and that Eleanor sucked out the poison. Sadly that tale is false but it shows how their contemporaries viewed their relationship. In fact, Edward was not known to have had extramarital affairs and fathered no children out of wedlock.
In November 1290, Eleanor was traveling to Lincoln when she became ill. Seven miles from Lincoln, they halted at Harby, Nottinghamshire and took up residence a house nearby. Word of the Queen’s illness reached Edward. He rushed to her side. Three days later, with Edward at Eleanor’s side, she died. It was the 28th of November and Eleanor was 49. They were married for 36 years.
For most of way back to return to London, Edward accompanied his wife’s body to Westminster Abbey. Edward ordered memorial crosses to be erected at each site that was an overnight stop between Lincoln and Westminster. They were known as Eleanor’s Crosses. Only three survive. The best is located in Geddington, England.
In a letter from Edward, he wrote about his wife, “whom living we dearly cherished and whom dead we cannot cease to love.”
Edward remarried nine years later because his sons were young and could die. The son Edward, the youngest of Eleanor’s children and the first to hold the title Prince of Wales, was about six years old and survived to become Edward II. His second wife gave birth to a daughter who they named Eleanor.
Henry VIII has now divorced Anne of Cleeves. A wife he did not pick but married for the state of England. Cromwell lost his head because of it and Henry’s eye was caught by his fifth wife—a maid of honor to Anne of Cleeves.
Young Catherine’s age range from fifteen to seventeen years of age when she married the king. She was a niece to the Duke of Norfolk and cousin to Anne Boylen. You think Henry would have stayed away from her. Instead, he married the teenager in 1540. At this point, Henry was obese, with a festering leg that had to be drained. It couldn’t have been a married a young miss desired.
Historians claim that she wasn’t as smart as her cousin and had been raised by the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk who was lax in her caring. While Catherine resided in the household, Catherine and the other girls entertained the household boys in their quarters and played games such as husband and wife, which was a nice way of saying having sex.
By all accounts, Catherine sounds much like other teenagers, loving dancing, animals and was playful as most are at that age.
In about 1541, she began an affair with Thomas Culpepper. She was loose with her words and actions by writing love letters to Culpepper and having Jane Boylen, widow of George Boylen, brother to Anne, deliver them. The treasonous affair was soon discovered.
Near the end of 1541, Catherine was stripped of her title as queen and imprisoned. She was found guilty and sentenced to death for treason. The night before she was executed she requested the chopping block and practice how to lay her head upon it.
The last words associated with her were “I die a queen but I rather have died the wife of Culpepper.” That is false. She said a speech and begged for mercy. Then she laid her head upon the block. And with a single strike, she ceased to exist.
The last wife of Henry VIII was twice-widowed when she married the king in 1543. In my opinion, Henry married Parr for companionship. He was an old man and the shine of his youth had dulled very much indeed.
Catherine was raised a Catholic (she even was one of Catherine of Aragon’s ladies-in-waiting) but she held to the Protestant faith and even published two books while Queen of England—Psalms and Prayers and Prayers or Meditations, which bore her name and made her the first book published by an English Queen.
Her Protestant leanings brought her enemies and she even had an arrest warrant drawn up against her. But she was a smart woman and was able to turn the king to her side when they came to arrest her. Henry died in 1547 and left Catherine a widow for the third time.
She wasn’t alone long. Catherine married her old love Thomas Seymour, uncle to the Edward VI and brother to Jane Seymour. The marriage brought political trouble but she continued to write and published Lamentation of a Sinner.
Soon after that Lady Elizabeth (future Queen of England) and Lady Jane Grey (Queen of England for 9 days) resided in her household and received an education. In 1548, at 35, Catherine Parr became pregnant. She had not conceived during her other marriages. And at her age in Tudor times, it must have seemed like a blessing. Sadly, Catherine died eight days after giving birth to her daughter, Mary Seymour. Just a year later, her husband was beheaded and Mary is sent to live with the Dowager Duchess of Suffolk. Her child is gone from records by 1550.
In my opinion, Catherine Parr’s greatest influence can be seen not with Henry but her stepdaughter Elizabeth. Both educated women of Protestant faith with inner strength and depth that still intrigues us.
History has simplified these women to divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived. But each of these women from a time where women lacked power and control in fact show what women can do. And each one is much more than what history remembers.