Sunday, October 7, 2012

The New World

    Upon my recent fascination of the nature of the relationship between John Smith and Pocahontasd I allowed myself to break down and watch the 2 hour plus movie, The New World. The movie is centered around a romantic relationship that involves handsome Captain John Smith and Powhatan Princess Pocahontas. What I discovered was although the story is not mainly told through dialog the viewer knows at all times what is going on. The love between the main characters is so sweet, natural, and lacking in any ulterior motives. It was just love.
    This a movie that people love or hate. It is filled with random shots of nature thrown in the middle of a scene. However, one has only to know the title of the movie to know the true star, The New World. Shot on location at Jamestown with actors of Native American descent to play the Powhatans, even speaking Algonquian, you feel as if what you are seeing is happening right then and there not on a film set. I was pleasantly surprised by this film. Even though John Smith and Pocahontas may not have been actually romantically involved I found myself wishing it so. I plan on doing an upcoming post that goes more in depth about their relationship.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Michelangelo's David

    This is not an art blog. I am not an artist, and I don’t claim to be. But, Michelangelo’s statue of the Biblical King David makes one take not only a look into the artists mind but also into one of the most interesting places during one of the most intriguing time periods, Florence, Italy, during the high Italian Renaissance. David is a statue of King David before the slaying of the giant, Goliath.

   The political state of Florence, Italy during the age of Michelangelo was very precarious. Florentines were split politically between those who felt that the Medici family should be rulers and those that felt that the de Medici were tyrants who should never again set foot into Florence. The names of these political parties were the 'frateschi', which means followers of the monk, and 'arrabbiati', which means the enraged ones.

   The frateschi party were followers of Savonarola, a monk who preached against the outrageousness in which the wealthy lived thier lives. Savanarola ordered huge burnings of these decadensies that included art and especially books. The members of thr arrabbiati were typically the wealthy citizens of Florence who enjoyed the decidence in which their wealth enabled them to live.

   These political parties were at each others throats, literraly. The political disputes of the Renaissance are not comparable to what is considered harsh by today's standards. People were killed on the streets due to the warring factions. If one wanted to survive they kept their political alliegence to themself.

   One may ask what all of this has to do with a statue. Well, it has everything to do with Michelangelo's David. At the time of it's creation David made quite a political statement. As mentioned earlier the statue depicts King David before the defeat of Golith. David, at the time of the battle, was just a sheppard armed with nothing more than a slingshot against an heavily outnumbered army.

   David was seen as a huge frateschi monument. To them this now instantly recignizable piece of art was political propaganda. David was the victor against an army of far supiror forces. The statue's arm was even broken in three places during a political fight that broke out while the statue was being moved from the workshop where it was made to the Piazza della Signoria where it was housed until 1873.

"All art is pollitical. Otherwise, it would just be decoration"

   -Anonyomous, movie 2011


Saturday, August 4, 2012

Changeling by Philippa Gregory

     Changeling is the first young adult novel by critically acclaimed historical-fiction by Philippa Gregory. Changeling is set in 1453 when every unexplainable thing is seen as the coming of the end of the world. I think that the best way to describe this book without giving it all away is to just introduce the major characters:
Luca Vero

Luca Vero- Luca is a handsome and intelligent young monk in training who is sent to investigate the oddities occurring all over Europe after being arrested for heresy.
Freize- Kitchen boy at the monastery where Luca lived. He is Luca's friend and constant companion.
Isolde- Is the daughter of a wealthy lord raised to believe that she will inherit her father's lands and castles. However, on her father's death her inheritance is usurped by her brother who demands she a marry a man of his choice, or become a nun. There is a growing bond between Luca and Isolde (Gasp!)
Ishraq- Is Isolde's companion having been raised alongside her. Ishraq is a Moor and so is therefore Muslim, being brought back by Isolde's father from his travels.

Changeling is the first book to be released in an upcoming quartet.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Real Elsinore Castle

      Hamlet, Prince of Denmark is perhaps the greatest play in the English language. Set in Denmark, the play tells the story of revenge as Hamlet fights to avenge his father's murder. The setting for all of the action is Elsinore Castle.

But did you know Elsinore Castle really exists?

Kronborg Castle
Called Kronborg Castle in the town of Helsingor or Elsinore, Denmark the castle is one of the most important Renaissance castles of Northern Europe and is one of UNESCO World Heritage sites. Built in the 1420's by the Danish king, Eric of Pomerania, it was created as a fortress to collect dues on all boats that were passing through the sound that the fortress is located on.

From 1574 to 1585 King Frederick II had the fortress rebuilt into one of the most unique castles in all of Europe for it's surprising size and shape. King Frederick was a patron of the theater and players performed often when he held his court there in 1579.

In 1629 two momentarily reckless workmen accidentally caused the castle to go up in flames. All but the chapel was lost. King Christian IV put a great deal of effort into restoring the castle. The exterior was rebuilt without much change in design and was once again magnificent, yet the interior never regained it's former glory. During the Dano-Swedish War of 1658-1660 many of the castles most precious works of art were stolen during a Swedish occupation. 

Statue of Ogir has been placed
in the castle
This castle however interesting it's actual history may be will forever be remembered for it's fictional inhabitants and the tragic dual that took place there. Hamlet is performed at the castle often.

The castle is also home to an Arthurian legend. Ogir the Dane was taken by Morgan La Fay to Avalon. Ogir returned to save France from danger and later returned to Kronborg, where he sleeps until needed to save his homeland

Monday, May 28, 2012

Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow

      Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow by Juliet Grey is the sequel to Becoming Marie Antoinette. Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow spans fifteen years in the tumultuous life of one of history's favorite villains, Queen Marie Antoinette. Marie Antoinette had a lot to deal with during her reign as queen from the stifling etiquette of Versailles to the rumour mill that was constantly running rampant by many so-called "friends".
      Juliet Grey does an exceptional job portraying the beautiful tableau's of Pre-Revolution France. Grey has put a great deal of research into this book as you can feel the tension, love, and sorrow as if you were there. One can just imagine the riveting trails and executions of The Diamond Necklace Affair. This book offers a look into the many different relationships Marie Antoinette had including with her husband King Louis XVI, her lover, Count Axel von Fersen, her friends, the Duchesse de Polignac and the Princesse de Lamballe. Marie Antoinette had a very loving relationship with her children the sorrow she felt at her miscarriages and during the death of two children are truly heart-wrenching.
        I would truly recommend this book because it's exceptional attention to detail and the unbelievably true story. Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow is a very apt title for this novel starting with the splendor of a glorious coronation and ascension to the throne, but at the conclusion the sorrow of losing a child and the end of their lives as they knew it with the start of the Revolution. The conclusion to the Marie Antoinette series The Last October Sky will be out in 2013.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

How did King Tut die?

In honor of Howard Carter's birthday, here is a video of how King Tut died. Nobody really knows how and it has been a center of controversy for thousands of years. This video is courtesy of

Check Out the Google Doodle of the Day!

Check out this cute and totally nerdy Google Doodle today! It's it honor of Howard Carter's, the man who found the tomb of King Tutankhamen, birthday! Happy 138th birthday Howard Carter from all of us at The History Nerd!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Juana la Loca

Juana, before the mad
I am so glad I live in a time of modern psychiatric medicine. All throughout royal family trees you see weird family members with weird epithets like "the bewitched", "the crazy", or in this case "the mad." Nowadays, a psychiatrist would just throw a handful of pills at them and who knows how different we would be now. The reason for all of this was to keep power in the family. A great way to do that? Inbreeding! The ancient Egyptians took goddess Isis and her brother/husband Osiris as prime examples. In Europe the relationship was not that close, but many times first cousins married without a word being said. Today inter-familial marriages would garner town names like Cousin-wood for example. Anyhow, mental instability was rampant in royal families. Here is the tale of just that Juana of Castile.   
       Born in 1479 to King Ferdinand of Aragon and Queen Isabella of Castile, Juana grew up expecting nothing more but to grow up and expand her parent's power and wealth. Her sedate childhood was no indication of the passionate person she would become. She was one of the most educated women of her tine speaking Castilian, Leonese. Galician-Portuguese, Catalan, French, and Latin; also, all accounts of her attest to her beauty. Juana was said to have had auburn hair and blue eyes, a trait she share with her sister-queen, Catherine of Aragon, future wife of King Henry VIII.
Phillip the "Handsome(?)"
       Unlike many other royal maidens at the time Juana lucked up. At the age of sixteen Juana was betrothed to Phillip the Handsome, Duke of Burgundy. Phillip was the son of the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I. The marriage of Phillip to Juana was to unite to lands so they could stand up to growing French power. Phillip's epithet must have been true, at first sight Juana fell madly in love with her husband to-be. The couple begged to married the night they met, both were so fond of each other. They started out in uncommon marital bliss.
      It's just to bad that Phillip didn't only have eyes for Juana. Phillip had many mistress' during his marriage to Juana, including one unfortunate lady-in-waiting who got a haircut straight from the duchess herself due to a little fling with the duke. Juana left the discarded the hair as a friendly reminder on Phillip's pillow. Despite the affairs Juana gave birth to five children in rapid succession. Juana also practiced witchcraft making love spells.
     Even after her marriage to Phillip, Juana kept loyalty to all things Spanish. Unfortunately Queen Isabella died and left Juana Queen of Castile. King Ferdinand did not like this, so he used Juana's mad behavior to try to grab Castile from her. Juana protested, she wanted to be queen. Then came the psychotic breakdown. Phillip died. Juana was pregnant with their sixth child at the time. She embraced the corpse as if it was still living. She accompanied it on the funeral procession, but insisted that they travel at night so no women would be tempted by him. Occasionally, she would even open the coffin and greet the dead body as if he still lived. 
The convent Juana was kept  at
for fifty years.
     Obviously, King Ferdinand milked this for all it was worth-after all countries were worth more than daughters. The king declared Juana insane and locked her inside a chamber in a convent in Tordesilles for the rest of her life.After her father died and her son came to rule he didn't have much mercy on his mother either. Juana died in 1555 at the age of seventy-five, she had been imprisoned for nearly fifty years.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Queen of Misrule

* This is about the sad life of Catherine Howard, who was a lot more like her cousin Anne, than many believed. Please excuse the length I just really like the subject of the wives of Henry VIII.       
Catherine Howard's birth date is unknown, there is only one portrait believed to be of her, yet she was queen.She was born to Lord Edmund Howard and Joyce Culpeper. As a granddaughter of Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk, Catherine had an aristocratic pedigree, but her father, who was a younger son, was not well-off owing to primogeniture and the large size of his family. As a result, he was often reduced to begging for handouts from his more powerful relatives. In 1531, he was appointed Controller of CalaisHe was dismissed from his post in 1539, and died in March of the same year. Catherine was also the niece of Elizabeth Howard, who was the mother of Anne Boleyn. This would make Anne and her first cousins, and later on so much more.
Catherine Howard
          Early in her life,  the orphaned Catherine was sent to live with her step-grandmother, the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk. At her estate at Lambeth the Duchess had many children of less-fortunate noble under her command. While sending young children to be educated and trained in aristocratic households other than their own was common for centuries among European nobles, supervision at Lambeth was apparently lax. An apparent effect of this was on the deficiency of Catherine's education.
          Her character has often been described as vivacious, beautiful, and buxom, but never scholarly or devout. The casual upbringing in the licentious atmosphere of the Duchess' household led Catherine's music teacher, Henry Mannox, to start a sexual relationship with her around 1536, when she was between the ages of eleven and sixteen. He later gave evidence in the inquiry against her. Mannox and Catherine both confessed during her adultery trial that they had engaged in sexual contact, but not intercourse. Catherine was even quoted as saying, "At the flattering and fair persuasions of Mannox, being but a young girl, I suffered him at sundry times to handle and touch the secret parts of my body which neither became me with honesty to permit nor him to require."
        This adolescent affair came to an end in 1538, when Catherine was pursued by a secretary of the Dowager Duchess' household, Francis Dereham. They became lovers, addressing each other as "husband" and "wife". Dereham also entrusted Catherine with various wifely duties, such as keeping his money when he was away on business. Many of Catherine's roommates among the Dowager Duchess' maids of honour and attendants knew of the relationship, which apparently ended in 1539 when the Dowager Duchess caught wind of the matter. Despite this disapproval, Catherine and Dereham may have parted with intentions to marry upon his return from Ireland, agreeing to a precontract, as it was then known. If indeed they had exchanged vows of their intention to marry before having sexual intercourse, they would have been considered married in the eyes of the Church.
         Catherine's uncle the Duke of Norfolk had found Catherine a place at Court as a lady-in-waiting to King Henry VIII's new bride, German princess, Anne of Cleaves. Being a young and beautiful lady-in-waiting to the king's wife, whom he never displayed interest in, Catherine soon caught the eye of the king.
          The Howard's who were seeking to regain the position they had had when Anne Boleyn was queen, trained Catherine to make sure she became the king's new mistress and later wife.       As the King's interest in Catherine grew, so did their influence. Within months of her arrival at Court, Henry bestowed gifts of land and expensive cloth upon Catherine.
         When Henry had his marriage to Anne of Cleves annulled on 9 July 1540, rumours swirled that Catherine was pregnant with his child. Their quick marriage a mere three weeks after the annulment, reflected Henry's lifelong urgency to secure the Tudor succession by fathering healthy, legitimate sons, especially since he only had one, Edward. Henry, nearing fifty and expanding in girth, showered his young bride with wealth, jewels, and other expensive gifts.  Catherine's motto, "Non autre volonté que la sienne", or, "No other will but his", supposedly reflected her desire to keep Henry, an ailing man three decades her senior, content. At this point in his life, the King weighed around300 pounds, and had a foul-smelling, festering ulcer on his thigh that had to be drained daily.
Possible Portrait of Catherine Howard
         Early in 1541, Catherine embarked upon a romance with Henry's favorite male courtier, Thomas Culpeper, a young man who, according to Dereham's testimony "had succeeded [him] in the Queen's affections", and who Catherine had considered marrying during her time as a maid-of-honour to Anne of Cleves. The couple's meetings were arranged by one of Catherine's older ladies-in-waiting, Lady Rochford, the widow of Catherine's cousin, George Boleyn, the brother of Anne Boleyn.
        Catherine and Henry toured England together in the summer of 1541, and preparations for any signs of pregnancy, which would have led to a coronation, were in place, indicating that the royal couple were sexually active with each other. During this time, however, a crisis began to loom over Catherine. People who had witnessed her indiscretions at Lambeth began to contact her for favours in return for their silence, and many of them were appointed to her household. Most disastrously, Catherine appointed Francis Dereham as her personal secretary, at the urging of the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk. This miscalculation led to the charges of treason and adultery against her two years after her marriage to the King. Catherine Howard was sentenced to beheading at seven a.m. on February 13.
        The night before her execution, Catherine is believed to have spent many hours practicing how to lay her head upon the block, which had been brought to her at her request. She died with relative composure, but looked pale and terrified and required assistance to climb the scaffold. She made a speech describing her punishment as "worthy and just" and asked for mercy for her family and prayers for her soul. According to popular folklore, her final words were, "I die a Queen, but I would rather have died the wife of Culpeper," although this is widely discredited. Catherine was beheaded with a single stroke, and her body was buried in an unmarked grave in the nearby chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula, where the bodies of her cousins, Anne and George Boleyn, also lay. Henry did not attend.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Peasant, Hero, Heretic, Saint: Part II

            She arrived at the siege of Orléans on 29 April 1429, but Jean d'Orléans, the acting head of the Orléans ducal family, initially excluded her from war councils and failed to inform her when the army engaged the enemy. This did not prevent her from being present at most councils and battles. The extent of her actual military leadership is a subject of historical debate. Traditional historians conclude that she was a standard bearer whose primary effect was on morale. This type of analysis usually relies on the condemnation trial testimony, where she stated that she preferred her standard to her sword. Recent scholarship that focuses on the nullification trial testimony asserts that the army's commanders esteemed her as a skilled tactician and a successful strategist. Stephen W. Richey's opinion is one example: "She proceeded to lead the army in an astounding series of victories that reversed the tide of the war." In either case, historians agree that the army enjoyed remarkable success during her brief career.
Joan of Arc
ca 1854
       Joan of Arc rejected the cautious strategy that characterized French leadership during previous campaigns. During the five months of siege before her arrival, the defenders of Orléans attempted only one aggressive move and that ended in disaster. On 4 May the French attacked and captured the outlying fortress of Saint Loup, which she followed on 5 May with a march to a second fortress called Saint Jean le Blanc, which was found deserted. The next day she opposed Jean d'Orleans at a war council where she demanded another assault on the enemy. D'Orleans ordered the city gates locked to prevent another battle, but she summoned the townsmen and common soldiers and forced the mayor to unlock a gate. With the aid of only one captain she rode out and captured the fortress of Saint Augustins. That evening she learned she had been excluded from a war council where the leaders had decided to wait for reinforcements before acting again. Disregarding this decision, she insisted on attacking the main English stronghold called "les Tourelles" on 7 May.
             The sudden victory at Orléans led to many proposals for further offensive action. The English expected an attempt to recapture Paris or an attack on Normandy. In the aftermath of the unexpected victory, Joan persuaded Charles VII to grant her co-command of the army with Duke John II of Alençon and gained royal permission for her plan to recapture nearby bridges along the Loire as a prelude to an advance on Rheims and the coronation of Charles VII. This was a bold proposal because Reims was roughly twice as far away as Paris and deep within enemy territory.
     Alençon credited her with saving his life at Jargeau, where she warned him of an imminent artillery attack.
          During the same battle she withstood a blow from a stone cannonball to her helmet as she climbed a scaling ladder.Joan traveled to Compiègne the following April to help defend the city against an English and Burgundian siege. A skirmish on 23 May 1430 led to her capture, when her force attempted to attack the Burgundian's camp at Margny. When she ordered a retreat into the nearby fortifications of Compiègne after the advance of an additional force of 6,000 Burgundians, she assumed the place of honor as the last to leave the field. Burgundians surrounded the rear guard, and she was unhorsed by an archer and initially refused to surrenderShe attempted several escapes, on one occasion jumping from her 70 foot tower in Vermandois to the soft earth of a dry moat, after which she was moved to the Burgundian town of Arras. The English government eventually purchased her from Duke Philip of Burgundy.
     The trial for heresy was politically motivated. The Duke of Bedford claimed the throne of France on behalf of his nephew Henry VI. Joan had been responsible for the rival coronation, hence condemning her was an attempt to undermine her king's legitimacy. Legal proceedings commenced on 9 January 1431 at Rouen, the seat of the English occupation government. The procedure was irregular on a number of points.
        The transcript's most famous exchange is an exercise in subtlety. "Asked if she knew she was in God's grace, she answered: 'If I am not, may God put me there; and if I am, may God so keep me.'" The question is a scholarly trap. Church doctrine held that no one could be certain of being in God's grace. If she had answered yes, then she would have convicted herself of heresy. If she had answered no, then she would have confessed her own guilt. Notary Boisguillaume later testified that at the moment the court heard this reply, "Those who were interrogating her were stupefied."
        Eyewitnesses described the scene of the execution by burning on 30 May 1431. Tied to a tall pillar at the Vieux-Marché in Rouen, she asked two of the clergy, Fr Martin Ladvenu and Fr Isambart de la Pierre, to hold acrucifix before her. A peasant also constructed a small cross which she put in the front of her dress. After she expired, the English raked back the coals to expose her charred body so that no one could claim she had escaped alive, then burned the body twice more to reduce it to ashes and prevent any collection of relics. They cast her remains into the Seine from the only bridge called Mathilda. The executioner, Geoffroy Therage, later stated that he "...greatly feared to be damned."
        Joan of Arc would later become a saint. Not only does she live on in religion but also in legend. Many movies and books have been written about the peasant that would become a hero and even later a saint that would be known for hundreds of years later.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Peasant, Hero, Heretic, Saint: Part I

             I decided to brake this post up into two because it would be really long otherwise. I hope you enjoy the first half of Peasant, Hero, Heretic, Saint, my post over Joan of Arc.
Joan of Arc ca. 1485
               "If anything could have discouraged her, the state of France in 1429 should have." That's what historian Kelly DeVries says about St. Joan of Arc. Joan was born in the Provence of Lorraine around 1412. Many battles had occurred during her childhood and on one occasion her village was even burned. The Hundred's Year War had begun in 1337 over a dispute over the claim to the French throne. Later, at her trial Joan testified that she was about 19 years old and that is where the assumption of the year of her birth comes from. She later testified that she experienced her first vision around 1424 at the age of 12 years, when she was out alone in a field and saw visions of figures she identified as Saint Michael,Saint Catherine, and Saint Margaret, who told her to drive out the English and bring the Dauphin to Rheims for his coronation. She said she cried when they left, as they were so beautiful. At the age of 16, she asked a family-member, to bring her to nearby Vaucouleurs where she petitioned the garrison commander for permission to visit the royal French court at Chinon.She said she needed to see the dauphin, to tell him her voices said she needed to unite France. She made a remarkable prediction about a military reversal near Orleans that proved her predictions true and set off for Chinon and the dauphin.
                She made the journey through hostile Burgundian territory in male disguise. Upon arriving at the Royal Court she impressed Charles VII during a private conference. During this time Charles's mother-in-lawYolande of Aragon was financing a relief expedition to Orleans. Joan asked for permission to travel with the army and wear the equipment of a knight. She depended on donated items for her armor, horse, sword, banner, and other items utilized by her entourage.Upon her arrival, Joan effectively turned the longstanding Anglo-French conflict into a religious war.But this course of action was not without its risks. Charles' advisers were worried that unless Joan's orthodoxy could be established beyond doubt – that she was not a heretic or a sorceress – Charles' enemies could easily make the claim that his kingdom was a gift from the Devil. To circumvent this possibility, the Dauphin ordered background inquiries and a theological examination at Poitiers to verify her morality. In April 1429, the commission of inquiry "declared her to be of irreproachable life, a good Christian, possessed of the virtues of humility, honesty and simplicity.The theologians at Poitiers did not pass judgment on her divine inspiration; rather, they informed the Dauphin that there was a 'favorable presumption' to be made on the divine nature of her mission. This was enough for Charles, but they put the ball back in his court by stating that he had an obligation to put Joan to the test. 'To doubt or abandon her without suspicion of evil would be to repudiate the Holy Spirit and to become unworthy of God's aid', they declared.The test for the truth of her claims would be the raising of the siege of Orleans.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Where the Broken Heart Still Beats: The Story of Cynthia Ann Parker by Carolyn Meyer

           I received this book for Christmas and read it in TWO days!!! It was wonderful with a new and interesting theme: Native American captive. For those of you who don't know the story of Cynthia Ann she was captured in a raid by 500 Comanche Indians when her entire family was raided and killed. When she was captured she was only nine years old. Cynthia Ann remained with the Comanches for twenty-five years. After years of searching for her a group of Texas Rangers heard that a nearby tribe of Comanches had some American captives. One of those captives happened to be Cynthia Ann Parker, wife to the chief Peta Nocona. The Texas Rangers realized who it was and forcibly took her back to her American family against her will. Once she was "home" she was amid strangers and a strange way of life. She did not remember living in a house and spoke very little English. Upon her recapture her family learned that she had three children two older boys, and a infant daughter, Topsannah. Her oldest son Quanah would become the last Comanche chief. Life for Cynthia Ann with her family was hard. She did not understand why she was there, and not with her husband and sons, she had been allowed to take Topsannah with her. Topsannah thrived with the English, but her mother withered. After Topsannah died of pneumonia in 1864 Cynthia Ann died of a broken heart. The book tells her story in two alternating points of view Cynthia Ann and her young cousin Lucy. The book is one that will make you cry for Cynthia never got to return to her husband and sons.


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