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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Cleopatra V!I

The woman we think of when we think of Cleopatra is a georgeous vixen who played the role of UN from her bedroom. Err not exactly.

Cleopatra was the daughter of her mother and uncle, incestous marriage was common then as it was believed royal blood was to be untainted. She co ruled with her father Ptolomy III, but her throne was challenged by others who sought power in Egypt. She married her brother Ptolomy XIV, while her older brother (Ptolomy XIII) usurped her throne. Rome was becoming an ever increasing threat as its power grew. Julius Ceasar became so popular he was voted to become sole ruler of the empire.

The Egyptian army was no match for the Romans, and Cleopatra decided to make an alliance.
She arranged to have a huge carpet delivered to the 54-year-old Caesar. When he unrolled it, he found the 22-year-old former queen wrapped inside. She asked for Caesar's help against her brother. Caesar and Cleopatra became lovers, and Cleopatra got what she wanted from him. The Roman general led his army to capture and kill the people who removed her from power. Ptolemy XIII drowned in the Nile while trying to flee.

Julius Caesar was very popular with the Roman people. They named him dictator. Cleopatra was not popular with the Romans, however. She had called herself the "new Isis" and she didn't worship the Roman gods.
The senators of Rome were threatened Julius Caesar's popularity and power. Caesar used his power to make many changes in Rome, often without approval from the Senate. A year after his election as dictator, the Roman people elected Caesar "dictator for life." The Roman senators were outraged. On March 15, 44 B.C., Caesar was met by a mob of sixty senators who stabbed him to death.

Cleopatra left Rome with her son in fear of their own lives and they returned to Egypt. There she murdered her husband (and brother) Ptolemy XIV and named her four-year-old son as the new king. She thought that she was once again in control of Egypt.
After Caesar's murder, Rome was in turmoil (confusion, chaos, civil war). Several armies competed for control. The two greatest generals were Mark Antony and Octavian. Octavian was the adopted son of Julius Caesar, but Mark Antony led a larger army.
When Antony asked Cleopatra to meet with him, Cleopatra decided that she had another opportunity to return to power both in Egypt, and in Rome. She had made one ruler of Rome fall in love with her. Could she conquer another Roman leader's heart? She agreed to meet with Mark Anthony in 42 B.C. and her royal ship was prepared to take her to him.

A legend says that Cleopatra dressed herself as Venus, the Roman goddess of love. She filled her ship with so many rose petals that the Romans knew of her fragrance before they could see her ship. The boat was sailed by her maids, who were dressed as sea nymphs (fairies in Roman mythology). She reclined under a gold canopy, fanned by boys in Cupid costumes.
At their first meeting, Antony was immediately love-struck with the Egyptian queen. Forgetting his responsibilities, he accompanied Cleopatra to the Egyptian city of Alexandria and spent the winter with her there.

Mark Anthony and Cleopatra became lovers.The Roman people were disgusted by the way Antony had treated Octavia, his Roman wife. They were also angry to hear that Cleopatra and Antony were calling themselves gods, new Egyptian gods! Worst of all, in 34 B.C. Antony gave away large chunks of the Roman Empire as gifts to Cleopatra and her children. He made one of his children with Cleopatra the king of Armenia, another the queen of Cyrenaica and Crete, and the third the king of Syria. Caesarion, her child with Julius Caesar, was proclaimed the "King of Kings," and Cleopatra was the "Queen of Kings."
Angered by all of this, Octavian convinced the Roman Senate to declare war on Egypt. Cleopatra and Mark Anthony had gone too far!

Ceasar's assasins Brutus and Cassius were bested by Mark Anthony and Ocativan. In the settlement followng Mark Anthony took the eastern section of the roman empire and Octavion the westmark divided his lands between Cleopatra and kids, this gave Ocatavian a chance to run a propaganda campaign against them.

In 32 BC, Rome declared war on Egypt. In 33BC Octavian bested Mark Anthony in a battle at sea, Cleopatra's ships departed and Anthony comited suicide when all was lost, some say, he mistakenly thought Cleopatra wsa dead. Cleopatra followed suit days later preferring death to the humiliation of a Roman triumph. Cleopatra's son by Ceasar was named pharoh, but Octavioan had him captured and executed. After thriving thousands of years, Egypt became a province of the eastern roman empire.

Cleopatra was the last great leader in Egypt before it fell to the Roman Empire. Her beauty, in the words of one of her contemporaries, was in her charm, wit and sweetness of voice. She was however, highly intelligent and charismatic. The Cleopatra of legend.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Query Letters and Books, Oh my!

Historical Fiction was Queen of the Day in Chicago this past weekend. I attended the Historical novel Society conference, an international gathering of novelists who talked historical fiction for three days. I was in heaven. Our keynote speaker was none other than Sharon Kay Penman (The Sun in Splendour and other great books).
Our welcoming tote bags held 9 (you read that right—nine) free historicals. As if that weren't enough, anyone who took part in the Costume Pageant Saturday night received three more, from the likes of Phillippa Gregory and other famous authors. (That's me to the right in my medieval tunic, complete with alms purse). On Sunday morning we were scrambling to mail our books home, but the bookstore kindly offered boxes, saving the day.
The workshops were awesome, as always. I moderated a panel of two agents and two other authors, titled Query Letters that Worked. The room was filled, and we had an overflow that spilled into the hallway, all authors intent on hearing how to craft a query letter that would succeed.
Now I have to come back to earth and finish revisions on my next book, The Tapestry Shop, due out in 2010 from Five Star.
Wishing all of you good reads and great writing.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The London Season

The Season Season grew from the need for titled lords to attend Session of the House of Lords, which coincided with Parliament since it is the upper house. Often the men came alone, but many probably preferred to bring their families, who needed entertainment, and thus the season came into being.

Parliament comprises the Sovereign, the House of Commons (which is the lower house of Parliament and referred to as "the Commons"), and the Lords. Membership of the House of Lords was once a right of birth to hereditary peers. Each titled man was expected to serve in the House of the Lords. They typically met in October, November, December and then again in January through about April or so. There was really no set schedule, as far as I can see although the Queen held her birthday ball in January.

Since London was an undesirable place to live year-round, many would not come to London from their country houses until after Easter when the weather was
better. The London Season was generally from after Easter to June or July after which most of those who could would return to their country estates. Some people lived in London all year round, except for brief visits to other houses. Later under Queen Victoria, the season became more definite and the whole debutante thing was formalized.

During the Regency Era, the Season usually included lavish balls, parties, dinners, musicales. London also offered many other attractions; the zoo, many parks, museums, shopping, and other entertainment. The Season grew into an important part of meeting and marrying eligible gentlemen and ladies.

The season became a much bigger production after the Regency Era and really came into prominence in the late Nineteenth century, or the Victorian days. Still, the season figures prominently in many Regency-set novels, including mine!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Early Roman weaponry

Roman armor was pieced together in strips for better manuverablity in the arms. Think of a football player's shoulder pads, this is the way the armor fit across the shoulders, the rest of the arm was exposed.

Metal armor covered the back and chest. Roman muscle armor was molded in the front and back to the fit the shape of the wearer. There was no armor over the shoulders. This looked more like a bullet proof vest.
The shoes were often open toed with multiple leather straps woven closely together and attached to a sturdy sole with hobnails on the sole.

They were armed with two spears, a throwing spear, which was lighter, and a javelin with a long iron head along with a short sword and dagger. The shields were made of wood covered with leather and iron boss.

Roman centurion helmets (centurions held higher rank in the army) had the decorative, red fringe along the top, its reminiscent of a rooster's crown. The helmets for all military had a small visor and strips to protect the ears. Unlike Alexander the Great, Roman commanders stayed in the back lines.

The front line in a legion was armed with spears, they would rush the enemy while thier own men manuevered themselves for battle. The phalanx was replaced with a new strategy. Men were sectioned off in maniples. This enabled them to fight independently, in small groups or as a whole. Advancting to attack, the legioaires would throw javelins into the enemy ranks and then close in to use short swords to deadly effect.

The soldiers were trained rogorously, harsh discipline occured if embarassment was caused, including the execution of the tenth man by his peers. The poor were frequently made into career soldiers, a hard life yielded good soldiers. Moving up in rank gave the soldier honor, prestige and more money.

Roman expansion threatened the Greeks living in Italy. Pyrrhus, king of one of the Greek states was asked to help fight the Romans. He amassed an army of 20,ooo infantry, 3,000 calvalry, as well as war elephants. The Romans met them in a town called Heraclea, by the Siris River.

The elephants scared the Roman calvalry, and the Greek phalanx drove the Romans back across the river. No quarter was given on either side. Losses on both side were so great, Pyrrhus allegdly said, "One more such victory and I am lost." Hence the term "Pyrrhic victory."

Monday, June 8, 2009

A Real Historical Hussy

If you looked in the dictionary under Historical Hussy, I have no doubt you would find a picture of Princess Nest of Wales.

During the Norman invasions and conquest of Southern Wales, war and upheaval was an everyday part of life. Had her father lived, Nest would have been a common noblewoman, married to a prince of a neighboring land. But the death in battle of Rhys ap Tewder, the last true king of South Wales, changed the fate of his young daughter and also the path of the History of three countries. 

The Normans realized the value of holding the kings children as their hostage. Her brothers were captives of Norman invaders in Ireland and England and at the tender age of ten or eleven, Nest was sent to live at under the rule Arnulf of Montgomery. 

Arnulf was one of the most powerful Normans in Southern Wales, so young Nest found herself in the company of men who would change the history of Wales. She was a very pretty child and caught the eye of Prince Henry, the brother and probable heir to England’s king, William Rufus.

Henry had himself appointed her protector and, as Nest grew into a great beauty, of course he fell in love with her. The only problem was the future king could not marry a low-level Welsh princess. Nest was smart enough to realize that the mistress of a prince and possible king, had nearly as many advantages as being his wife. She bore Henry a son, also named Henry and the FitzHenry line was born.

After Henry became king in 1100, he undertook to make sure that Nest and her son were provided for by marrying her to a favored vassal, Gerald of Windsor. Gerald was Henry’s steward of south Wales, so Nest became the most powerful woman in the territory.  She bore him several and so we have the FitzGerald’s.

In 1109, the beautiful Nest, caught the eye of Owain ap Cadwgan, the leader of the Welsh resistance to the Normans. He kidnapped Nest from Gerald’s castle and carried her off to his own lands. She reportedly had a child by him and so Nest added her royal blood to the FitzOwain’s line as well. King Henry had to eventually intervene to send Nest back to Gerald. Rumor has it that she was not happy about it, but to maintain the peace, she went back to Pembroke Castle.

Nest managed to outlive Gerald and married twice more. She had a son by Hait, the sheriff of Pembroke and two more children by her last husband, Stephen, the Constable of Cardigan. So the Hay’s and the FitzStephens’ can lay claim to being of royal blood as well.

Quite a busy woman was Princess Nest of Dyfed. In her lifetime, she managed to be the mother of five prominent families. Many of her children rose to importance in Wales and England. Placed as a hostage with the Normans as a child, Nest could have been merely a pawn in the politics and intrigue of the times. Instead she used her beauty and brains to become an astute manipulator of men, English and Welsh.


If you’d like to know more about Nest of Dyfed and her times, I recommend, Princess Nest of Wales: Seductress of the English, by Kari Maund.


Hanna Rhys Barnes is one of those people with an evenly balanced right and left brain.  She has a BA in English, but recently finished her final year as a high school math teacher.  She loves to cook and was a pastry chef in a former life.

A member of RWA’s national organization and of several local chapters, she currently lives and works in Portland, OR, but occasionally visits her retirement ranchette outside of Kingman, AZ

Hanna’s Debut Novel, Widow’s Peak, is due to be released September 23, 2009 from The Wild Rose Press. She is currently working on Book 2 in the series, Kissed By A Rose.


Saturday, June 6, 2009

Alexander the Great

Weapons stayed the same until the time of Alexander the Great. Only sixteen when he began commanding armies, he mangaes to conquer most of the known world.

So effective were his campaings that Alexander believed himself to be a god like hero, certain of achieving god hood in the after life.

After conqering Persia, he was criticized for adopting Persian customes thus " orientalizing" the Greek armies.

At age 23, Alexander was on his death bed. With no heir to inherit his empire, history says his last words were " to the stronger". This brought three of Alexander's generals in bloody conflict for domination. These generals may have shared the desire for power, but none posessed Alexander's skill at strategizing.

While they fought, Rome watched, waiting to pick off the last standing.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Knights Code of Chivalry

Recently I watched The First Knight starring Richard Gere and Sean Connery.
What is it about the tales of Excalibur, King Arthur and Knights of the Round Table, Sir Lancelot, and Lady Guinevere that keeps us watching the reruns of the movies on television? Perhaps it’s the romance of the time period, or even the chivalry which is part of the romance.

A knight was expected to have not only the strength and skills to face combat in the violent Middle Ages but was also expected to temper this aggressive side with a chivalrous side to his nature. While there was no exact written Knights Code of Chivalry, it was a moral system which went beyond rules of combat that idealized knighthood.

The Knights Code of Chivalry was part of the culture of the Middle Ages and was understood by all. This Code dates back to William the Conqueror who ruled England from 1066.

The Knights Codes of Chivalry was described in the Song of Roland (8th century). Roland was a loyal defender of his liege Lord Charlemagne.

Even during the Middle Ages and Medieval era, these sacred oaths of combat were combined with strict rules of etiquette and conduct. These ideals were publicized in poems, ballads, writings and literary works of Knights authors. The wandering minstrels of the Middle Ages sang these ballad and were expected to memorize the words of long poems describing the valour and the code of chivalry followed by the Medieval knights. The Dark Age myths of Arthurian Legends feature King Arthur, Camelot and the Knights of the round further strengthen the idea of a Knights Code of Chivalry.

The Knights Code of Chivalry and vows of Knighthood were often described as:

* Faith *Charity *Justice *Sagacity *Prudence
*Temperance *Resolution *Truth *Liberality *Diligence
*Hope *Valour

Knights were to:

* fear God and maintain His Church
* serve the liege lord in valour and faith
* protect the weak and defenseless
* give succor to widows and orphans
* refrain from the wanton giving of offense
* live by honor and for glory
* despise pecuniary reward
* fight for the welfare of all
* obey those placed in authority
* guard the honor of fellow knights
* eschew unfairness, meanness and deceit
* keep the faith
* at all times speak the truth
* persevere to the end in any enterprise begun
* respect the honor of women
* never refuse a challenge from an equal
* never turn his back upon a foe

While I am quite certain I would not have enjoyed living during the Middle or Medieval era, it behooves me to under as to why down through the ages, society has allowed the Code of Chivalry to die.

P.S. I am excited to announce that not only is today June 5th, but today my new Western Romance officially releases from The Wild Rose Press. Lawmen and Outlaws is an anthology that features my novella, McKenna's Woman, on page 175. Although McKenna Smith was an outlaw, and although he did kidnap the heroine, McKenna had his own code of chivalry. I invite to you view the booktrailer at YouTube or at The Wild Rose press. Lawmen and Outlaws is available at &

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Center of Roman life

Continuing with elements of life in ancient Rome, today I'm writing the first post about their houses, and the subject is so interesting that I'll divide my posts into possibly three. Most of what we know pertains to larger homes, but we can suppose smaller houses were built along these lines, though with less costly materials and fewer rooms.
Roman homes had no windows until much later. Instead, the air and light came from openings in the roof. The main room, the Atrium, was the center of domestic life. It was reached by passing through a vestibule. Other rooms opened off the atrium, and I'll discuss those later.
Three elements important to the atrium were the hearth, a symbolic bed, and a place to display the family lares, which are the ancestral spirits and representations of the pagan gods and goddesses the family worshipped.
The hearth may be burning or not, and might even contain a fire brought directly from the Vesta fire tended by the Vestal Virgins.
The bed, originally used for the oldest esteemed member to sleep on, later became a symbol of family continuity. For a wedding, it was decorated with flowers and costly bedding in hopes the symbol would promote fertility and many sons.
The lares were displayed on an altar, the spot where ceremonies took place, like this picture.
Other furnishing, beyond the specified three, might be couches and a marble bust of the owner or distinguished family members.
In the middle of the room was a sunken pool which caught rainwater and distributed it to an area below the floor. In cooler climates north of the Mediterranean, pipes carried heated water beneath the floor to warm the house. The early Romans were engineering geniuses, not only with their aqueducts and underground storage facilities, but also with their home construction.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Being Presented to the Queen

Despite what Regency authors often write in their  novels, it was not a requirement that any one be presented to the queen before dancing at Almack's or being considered "out." Some of the patronesses of Almack's felt they were more exclusive than court, giving and denying permission almost at whim only young ladies of spotless character and connections. A girl could have any number of seasons before being presented to the queen. Some never were presented until after they married. Of course, not attending a drawing room could imply that if the family had money problems; those gowns combining the feathers and hoop skirts of the Georgian era with the high waists of the Regency era thereby making a lady's figure look as terrible as possible were expensive and couldn't be worn anywhere else!

Only the daughters of peers would have been presented at Court when the queen held her "drawing room" for that specific purpose. There's a great book about this topic, "GILDED BUTTERFLIES: The rise and fall of the London season" by Philippa Pullar. By the way, the term debutante is Victorian, so it was never used during the Regency period.

The girls could attend social gatherings before being presented. When a young lady was about the right age, normally about 17 or 18, her mother sent in a notice to the Chamberlain that she wished to present her daughter at the next “drawing room.” The chamberlain sent her the date and a list of requirements as for dress and number of feathers.

In Gilded Butterflies, Pullar says that court required feathers as soon as society decided they didn't want them any more. The girl went with her mother on the proper day. The queen kissed the daughters of the peers. She often spoke to them as well. All brides of peers and men who attended court had to be presented as well, even if they had been presented before marriage. Also the wives of the diplomatic corps were presented.

April 30.1812 “The Queen held a drawing room at St. James's Palace. It being the first which her Majesty has held since the King's birth day in 1810, and there having been no Court for the ladies during a lapse of nearly two years, great preparations were made by the higher ranks for their appearance on this occasion.”

Though Queen Charlotte scheduled drawing rooms fairly frequently up until 1811, after that date they were irregular and spread apart. The sponsor-- the female who was sponsoring the girl -- the sponsor had to have already been presented herself, of course-- inquired as to the next drawing room and asked permission to present the girl ; she had her name and the name of the girl listed with the Lord Chamberlian's office. This office would send out the invitations and the information as to what people were supposed to wear to those who had requested permission for a presentation. At the presentation the girls went forward as called out. She knelt to the queen. The queen kissed the daughters of peers on the forehead but gave her hand to be kissed by anyone else. The girl then stood and backed away from the queen. She could not look behind her and could not turn her back on the queen. Then they usually went home.

Queen Caroline never gave drawing rooms. It was always Queen Charlotte who did it until her death in 1818. Then the Prince Regent/George IV had his sisters hold the drawing rooms.