October 2016 saw the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings, the event in history during which England gained a new King and a new Royal family. English Heritage led the way with a series of Twitter accounts set up to reveal the thoughts and actions of a collection of people affected by the invasion. One of those accounts was for Matilda of Flanders, the wife of William the Conqueror. I was incredibly relieved that English Heritage included her from the start, not just because history should show the perspectives of women as well as men, but because without Matilda, William’s reign as King of England probably wouldn’t have lasted very long. Continue reading Matilda of Flanders
Who was Catharine Montour? No one really knows. We know that she was an Iroquois woman with a white great-grandfather. We know that she lived in what is now Upstate New York sometime between 1710 and 1804. After that, the stories get confusing, but her legacy lives on.
Her grandmother was also named Catharine Montour, and history often conflates the two. Not to mention all the Noble Savage, or just plain savage, tales that grew up around the younger Catharine. Continue reading Catharine Montour
Agrippina the Younger was the first Roman empress, but you will almost never hear anyone call her that. She is best remembered as the mother of the emperor Nero, but she was also the wife (and niece) of his predecessor Claudius, and the sister of Caligula, Claudius’s predecessor. She was much more than a companion for male rulers, however. Although women were forbidden from having any official power in the Roman world, Agrippina ruled the Roman empire in everything but name. Continue reading Agrippina the Young
Margaret was born on 31st May 1443 during a period of instability known as the War of the Roses. Her father was the great-grandson of Edward III and she was a wealthy heiress. She was well educated and highly religious.
To help secure his fragile reign Henry VI proposed the marriage of Margaret to his half-brother Edmund Tudor. While girls could legally marry at the age of twelve, it was usual for them to remain with their parents until they were old enough to safely have children. However, Margaret became pregnant at the age of thirteen and six months later Edmund died of Plague. Margaret fled to her brother-in-law Jasper Tudor. At Pembroke Castle she gave birth to Henry Tudor but both nearly died in labour and Margaret was unable to have more children. Continue reading Lady Margaret Beaufort – Mother of the Tudor Dynasty
Theodora (c.497-548) was born in Constantinople – modern day Istanbul. In her remarkable life she became probably the most powerful woman in Byzantine history. Little is known about her early years, and it is hard to sort fact from fiction in such a colourful story.
The daughter of a bear keeper at Constantinople’s hippodrome, Theodora was put to work there herself at an early age as an actress, dancer, mime artist and comedian. Performing for hundreds of spectators, by the age of 15 she was a successful performer. She was also (as most actresses of the time were) prostituted, and gave birth to her first child aged just 14. Continue reading Empress Theodora
Zenobia was a 3rd century warrior queen who claimed she was descended from none other than Cleopatra. She is known for conquering Egypt and thwarting the Roman Empire.
Born in Palmyra in Syria, Zenobia’s given Roman name was Julia Aurelia Zenobia. It’s reported that as a child she learnt the riding skills which would serve her well in her warrior future. Continue reading Zenobia – Warrior Queen
At the base of Tamworth Castle can be seen the statue of an armed woman protectively holding a child. The child is Athelstan but the woman is not his mother. Her name is Aethelflaed (Æthelflæd), and she was one of the greatest warrior-leaders in Anglo-Saxon history. Continue reading Aethelflaed, Lady of the Mercians