Sticks and stones…


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Goes to show you that name-calling and bullies have been around for a LONG time.

Margaret, not-so-fondly known as Margaret Maultasche (translates to whore), was the last Countess of Tyrol. Her father, Duke Henry of Carinthia, had no surviving male heirs, so he reached an agreement with Emperor Louis IV that allowed Margaret to take over his estates.

At the time, there was quite a feud going on for control of Tyrol. Duke Henry arranged for Margaret to Marry John Henry, Margave of Moravia, in a typical-of-the-times move to ensure his political power. The two were married in Tyrol. Margaret was 12 and John Henry was 8. This decision proved to be a mistake for many reasons. One of which was that John Henry was a tool. Everyone in Tyrol despised him.

After a hunting trip, the haughty John Henry returned to Tirol Castle (where the two resided). Margaret refused to let him in! Forced to find a place to live, John Henry was turned away at almost every door. He eventually found shelter in Italy as a refugee.

Now, here’s where things get fishy.

From what I gather, Margaret was a smart and strategic woman. Yes, she played to both sides of the rivalries going on between the Wittelsbachs and the Hapsburgs, and yes she “technically” married her second husband while still married to her first… but it all seems to be fueled by the need to survive and to protect her lands. Maybe I’m wrong. Reading through the articles is like reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo- I get a little hung up on pronunciations.

As I mentioned, Margaret married a second husband- Margrave Louis I of Brandenburg, the eldest son of Emperor Louis IV. She had not been granted a divorce from John Henry. As you can imagine- this was the ultimate scandal. Louis and Margaret were excommunicated by Pope Clement VI- however, Louis, with the support of the Tyrolean nobles, declared her first marriage null and void under the pretense that the marriage was never consummated. Louis seems like a cool guy.

John Henry’s brother, Charles IV, didn’t take the news well, and tried to siege Tirol Castle, he failed, and in a total temper tantrum, burned down a few cities nearby. Brat.

There’s a lot more to this story, but in the end, the noble’s disdain for Margaret’s second marriage and shifting loyalties spurred horrible propaganda to destroy her reputation. Although she was described as exceptionally beautiful by some, she was nicknamed the Ugly Duchess, amongst other things. There were supposed affairs with peasants and rumors of witchcraft, tales of her “gaping” mouth, and poison bottles but methinks these were all lies about a woman who was treated like a pawn by misogynistic vultures. Just my humble opinion.

Tirol Castle is pretty fascinating. Check out the website- I want to go visit!


Snake in the grass.


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Another creepy fairy tale! This is my take on Biancabella and the Snake by Giovanni Francesco Straparola. Giovanni (1480 – 1557) was an Italian fairy tale collector from Caravaggio. Funny tidbit about him- Straparola was most likely not his real last name, as it translates to “babbler”.

So the story goes like this (snarky summary). A woman gets pregnant after a snake crawls in her womb (ahem… so many jokes, so little time). She gives birth to a girl with a snake wrapped around her neck. Snake eventually slithers off into the garden. They name the girl Biancabella. As she becomes a young woman, the snake- named Samaritana speaks to the her and orders her to follow the snake’s instructions carefully to ensure her happiness in life. Blah blah blah… Biancabella is the most beautiful girl in all the lands and ends up marrying the King of Naples. There’s a jealous stepmother, eye-gouging, hands are cut off, bodies in a furnace… all the usual happy jolly fairy tale stuff- including a very strange ending where the main character dies after finally getting the vengeance she so deserved.

You can read the full story here:

Rapunzel, you ignorant slut.


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Sorry for the headline, but it DID get your attention, right?

RapunzelSure, we all know the DISNEY version of Rapunzel- beautiful girl with long hair and a cute lizard, but the original version, by the Brothers Grimm, is a bit darker.

Rapunzel’s mother wanted a baby so bad, she went a little nuts and demanded that her husband steal herbs (Rampion) from a witch’s garden. The witch casts a spell that allows the mother to get pregnant, but takes the baby away due to her parents’ thievery.

There are booty calls with the prince- not the innocent visit that we see in Tangled, which leads to teen pregnancy… and as punishment, she is forced to give birth in the desert.

As if all of that isn’t bad enough… the prince has his eyes torn out, suffers from depression, and spends his days wandering through the forest crying for his new wife (they get married along the way).

Rapunzel gives birth to twins and eventually they all reunite with the prince (After several years) and her magic tears cure him of his blindness.


You can read the full, original story here:

The Wonderful Birch


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Happy New Year!!!

Kicking off 2016 with a FAIRY TALE!

This is a painting inspired by the story of The Wonderful Birch by Andrew Lang (1844-1912). It was included in The Red Fairy Book, published in 1890. Also in that book: Rapunzel, The Golden Goose, and Jack and the Beanstalk. The Red Fairy Book was one of 12 books, known as Andrew Lang’s Books of Many Colors.

Lang repeatedly explained in the prefaces that the tales he told were all old, and not his, and that he found new fairy tales no match for them:

“But the three hundred and sixty-five authors who try to write new fairy tales are very tiresome. They always begin with a little boy or girl who goes out and meets the fairies of polyanthuses and gardenias and apple blossoms: “Flowers and fruits, and other winged things”. These fairies try to be funny, and fail; or they try to preach, and succeed. Real fairies never preach or talk slang. At the end, the little boy or girl wakes up and finds that he has been dreaming.

Such are the new fairy stories. May we be preserved from all the sort of them!”


Back to the Wonderful Birch…

The quick version is that this is a tale VERY similar to Cinderella. There’s a witch, a black sheep, a reindeer, a prince, an evil step-sister, magic shoes and a fairy-ish mother. I highly encourage you to read the entire story- it’s fascinating. I especially like the part where the step-sister is gnawing on bones under a table and then gets her arm broken, her leg broken, and her eye gouged out.





This is the beautiful Constance of Castile (1354 – 1394).

She was the daughter of Peter the Cruel (I’m going to start calling my brother that) and Maria de Padilla. Peter and Maria were married in secret- they were forced to have the marriage repudiated, but he still kept her as his mistress. Weird.

Constance married the notorious John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster on September 21, 1371. She was his second wife.

As a political power play, Constance entered London with loads of pomp and circumstance as the not-so-official Queen of Castile. She was escorted by Edward the Black Prince and a bunch of other dignitaries. Gaunt wanted a kingdom of his own since Richard II stood in his way from claiming England. This didn’t work. He did not get any crown.

John and Constance had one daughter- Catherine of Lancaster. She became a true Queen of Castile when she married Henry III of Castile (also known as Henry the Sufferer or Henry the Sick).

John married his mistress, Katherine Swynford, after Constance passed away at the age of 40. Katherine, gave birth to four of John’s children while he was still married to Constance. That had to be a fun household.

Constance was the great grandmother of Catherine of Aragon.

More on Constance here:

Henry’s second choice




This is the lovely Louise of Lorraine (1553 – 1601). She was Queen Consort of France from 1575 to 1589.

Her childhood sounds miserable as it is well documented that her father and stepmother (Nicholas, Duke of Mercoeur and Catherine de Lorraine-Aumale) did not care for Louise, which resulted in her being a very quiet and pious adult.

Henry III of France chose her as his wife, against his parents’ wishes. His first choice had been Marie de Cleves- but she died of a lung infection. Louise was not even considered as a good candidate for Queen, so it came as quite a shock to her family when Henry’s councillor arrived to deliver the news. They were married on February 15, 1575- two days after Henry’s coronation as King of Poland.

Louise eventually won over her mother-in-law, Catherine de’ Medici, with her calm and obedient personality (perfect for Catherine’s powerful son!)

She was devoted to her husband, however, the marryage was considereda failure because they were unable to have children. Sigh. Rumors spread that the two would divorce, but this did not happen. The pressure about killed her and their relationship but they stuck it out. She became thin and suffered from bouts of depression. Who wouldn’t?

Louise was always by Henry’s side and participated in ceremonies, parties, receptions, received ambassadors, and presided over the opening of parliament.

When Henry was assassinated in 1589, she fell into a deep depression. She wore mourning attire for the rest of her life. In France, the mourning color is white- so she was often called “the White Queen”.

Louise spent her final years fighting to clear her late husband’s name.

the hidden one



Zēb-un-Nisā (1638 – 1702) was the Imperial Princess of the Moghal Empire. She was the eldest daughter of Emperor Aurangzeb and his wife Dilras Banu Begum. She was a very smart girl, and by the age of 7 had memorized the Qur’an- making her a Hafiza (a muslim term for “Memorizer”). She also studied science, philosophy, mathematics, astronomy, literature, architecture and languages. 

Her father, the emperor, was incredibly proud of his daughter (As he should be!) however, he did NOT approve of her true passion in life… poetry. So she wrote poems in secret under the pen name “Makhfi” (which means “hidden one” in Persian).

Zebunnisa never married, despite many suitors. Eventually her father caught wind of her extensive writing (and her sympathies towards Prince Akbar’s rebellion), and had her imprisoned. After twenty years in isolation, she passed away in 1702. Her tomb is in the garden of “Thirty thousand trees” outside the Kabuli gate of Delhi.

“No moth am I that in impetuous fashion
Fly to the flame and perish. Rather say
I am a candle that with inward passion
Slowly and silently consume away.”

-translated from “Makhfi’s” book Wisdom of the East.

There is a book on her life and captivity by Annie Krieger Krynicki and Enjum Hamid. I was able to find it here:

but you may want to surf the web for other sources.

More of her poems here:




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I am fascinated with this story. Doing the research, I found myself in a wormhole of Mongolian culture, history, and more importantly… the textiles!

Khutulun (1260 – 1306) was the favorite child of her father, Kaidu (she was also Kublai Khan’s niece). Kaidu was the most powerful ruler of Central Asia.

Marco Polo described Khutulun as a superb warrior, one who could ride into enemy ranks and snatch a captive as easily as a hawk snatches a chicken.

Aside from being a fierce warrior, she was also quite brilliant. Khutulun insisted that anyone that wanted to marry her, must defeat her in a wrestling match. If they lost, they hand over their horse. Rumor has it, that she acquired over 10,000 horses. HA! Too bad, so sad.

Eventually she did marry (without a wrestling match.) His identity is questionable, as various sources have conflicting information. Some say her husband was a follower of Kaidu, others say he was an enemy, trying to take over his lands.

Kaidu tried to name Khutulun as his successor, but this was forbidden, due to the fact that she had so many brothers. Guess they didn’t take into consideration her GIANT ARMY OF HORSES.  When Kaidu passed away, Khutulun spent the rest of her life guarding his tomb.

There is a fabulous and more in-depth article on Khutulun here:

Dangereuse Liaisons


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Dangeruese de l’Isle Bouchard (1079-1151) was the maternal grandmother of Eleanor of Aquitaine. And what a FABULOUS name she had! actually, her birth name was most likely Amauberge. Dangereuse was a nickname that sort of stuck. I like it.

She married Viscount Aimery I of Chatellerault sometime around 1100. They had 5 children: Hugh, Raoul, Eleanor (mother of Eleanor of Aquitaine), Amable and Aois. But alas, this marriage must not have been a happy one. Dangeruese left Aimery to become the mistress of William IX, Duke of Aquitaine. Cool fact on William- his greatest contribution to history (although a successful warrior) was his poetry. William was a troubadour, one of the earliest whose work still exists.

William was ex-communicated from the church for “abducting a married woman” but that’s not exactly what happened- she went very willingly. Dangeruese stayed in the Maubergeonne tower of the castle in Poitiers. When his wife, Philippa of Toulouse returned from Toulouse, she was horrified to find another woman living in her home.

When the powers that be told William to bring Dangeruese back, his response was “Curls will grow on your pate before I part with the Viscountess.” Philippa, defeated, retired to an Abbey.

This controversial liaison produced three children: Henri, Adelaide, and Sybille.

Odd little tid bits:

• Dangereuse is the maternal grandmother of Eleanor of Aquitaine. William X was her paternal grandfather. Confused? I know I am.

• William’s first wife spent years avenging the dismissal and death of his second wife, Philippa.  Her name was Ermengarde of Anjou. The marriage was dissolved due to her a. inability to produce a child. b. mood swings and c. she nagged her husband. WTF?


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