I am NOT a leper!


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Eleanor of Woodstock (1318 – 1355) was the daughter of Edward II of England and Isabella of France. She was originally betrothed to Alphonso XI of Castile, but that fell through, and then Philip VI of France… but THAT fell through too. It seems her dowry was not acceptable. Yikes.

She eventually married the Count (and later Duke) of Guelders. Reginald II the Black, who was a widower with four daughters (that could NOT have been an easy family to jump in to.) “the black” was added to his name due to his sinister ways- he had his own father locked up for over six years.

Eleanor had two sons with Reginald (thank goodness), Reginald the Fat and Edward, Duke of Guelders. I happen to love these titles- my title this week would be Lisa the Grumpy (it really needs to stop snowing in New England.)

She was very eager to please her husband- but he grew tired of her and sent her away by saying she had leprosy! WHAT?!?! Reginald tried to have the marriage annulled, but Eleanor showed up in court to contest the annulment. She stripped down to her birthday suit to prove she was NOT a leper. Reginald was forced to take her back. He died from a fall off his horse in 1343.

Poor Eleanor died in complete poverty in a convent. She never asked her brother Edward III for help. She is buried in Deventer Abbey, but there is an image of her and her husband (ick!) in Westminster Abbey.

There is a good article about Eleanor and her sister Joan, here: http://edwardthesecond.blogspot.com/2008/11/edward-iis-daughters-eleanor-and-joan.html

beauty and the boat.


Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte (1785 0 1879) was the first wife of Jerome Bonaparte (brother of Napoleon I of France.)

“Betsy” was born in Ireland, but came to the US before the American Revolutionary War. Her father, William Patterson was the wealthiest man in Maryland.

Jerome and Betsy met when he was visiting the US as a lieutenant in the French Navy. They married on Christmas Eve in 1803 and the gossip began IMMEDIATELY! She became well known for her very risqué taste in clothing (french styles of sheer fabrics and low-cut bodices), including her wedding dress! Zut Alors!

Napoleon, was less than pleased with the marriage and ordered his brother back to France WITHOUT his wife. In 1804, they both left by boat and headed for France. A very pregnant Betsy was not allowed to disembark in France or the Netherlands, per her brother-in-law. She was forced to give birth to her son in London. Jerome gave in to his brother’s demands soon after and ditched her to married a German princess (despite the divorce not being final.)

She returned to Maryland with her son “Bo” and lived with her father. She was well known for her royal connections, and used those connections to mingle in some very exclusive social circles.

In 1815 she finally got her divorce papers. Having independent financial and legal status was extremely rare for women in that time. Betsy never withdrew from society- but flaunted her fashion choices and lifestyle. Bravo! She spent her final years in Baltimore, building her estate, and getting sued by the state- they were trying to tax her out-of-state bonds. The supreme court eventually decided in favor of Maryland. Boo.

She never remarried, but was known as “Madame Bonaparte” until she died.

There is a historic fiction novel about her life, you can purchase here: http://www.amazon.com/Ambitious-Madame-Bonaparte-Ruth-Chatlien/dp/1937484165

and a great article here: http://www.brainpickings.org/2014/03/06/wondrous-beauty/

hurry up dragon, I just murdered my husband’s new girlfriend.


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Definitely a scorned lover! Murder, dragons, kings and princesses… this is a good one.

Medea is an enchantress in Greek mythology. She was the daughter of King of Colchis. She fell in love with Jason and enabled him to slay the sleepless dragon that guarded the golden fleece (I imagine this is today’s equivalent of letting a man kill a spider in your bedroom “Oh you’re SO brave!”). The two were married, and went to Greece and helped King Peleus regain his youth suggesting he bathe in Medea’s magic cauldron. But the cauldron boiled him alive, a trick to help Jason claim the throne.

However, Jason grew tired of Medea, and began to pursue Glauce. Medea befriended the young princess and sent her a dress that killed her instantly. Medea also murdered her own children and then fled to Athens in a chariot led by dragons!

Don’t mess with the dress.

There is a full article on the stories of Medea and various interpretations here:


Her Majesty


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Screen shot 2014-08-01 at 9.56.56 AM

Very excited to announce that my new book, Her Majesty, is officially available for purchase.

“This illustrated guide to famous (and infamous) queens tells us that power isn’t everything.

Each of the extraordinary women featured in this book have impacted world history. Featuring the bold and beautiful style of Lisa Graves’ Women in History series, this book is sure to become a classroom, library and household favorite for parents and educators who want to show that being a princess or a queen means much more than fancy dresses and fairy tale endings.”

Available here: http://tinyurl.com/pn44p8t

the girl got around.


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Elizabeth “Jane” Shore (1445 – 1527) was King Edward IV of England’s mistress. She was also Edward’s stepson’s concubine along with Thomas Grey and William Hastings. The girl got around. The role of this beautiful harlot within history is quite complicated.

She was born in London, received a good education. At the age of 22, her first marriage to William Shore was annulled due to impotence. heh. She had caught the eye of the King and quickly became a very powerful woman in the court.

Then there was that tricky war of the roses thing going on.

Richard III  became King after the marriage of Edward and Elizabeth Woodville was declared invalid and their children illegitimate. Richard took aim at Jane as a sexual offender. Her later affair with Hastings was what really caused the problems.  Richard accused Hastings, Jane Shore, and Elizabeth Woodville of conspiring against him. Jane was sent to the Tower and accused of sorcery and witchcraft.

The witchcraft case was dropped, but Jane was forced to walk through London in public penance for her sins. She was then put in Ludgate Prison- but managed to marry Thomas Lynom while in that prison. Huh. I’d say she was rather resourceful.

She was eventually given a pardon and spent the rest of her life with Lynom. She died at the age of 82 and is buried in Hinxworth Church (which looks SO beautiful).

Not necessarily a “scorned” lover, Jane made it out of some pretty dramatic times almost unscathed (minus the prison and public humiliation part).

You can read more about this very complicated woman here:


boxer’s demise.


Belle Schreiber was a prostitute at an all-white brothel in Chicago in the early 1900’s. She had come to Chicago to be a secretary, but ended up at the exclusive Everleigh Club located in the Levee District. Not a lot is known about her life, mainly due to the fact that most prostitutes went under various aliases.

In March of 1909, the famous (and first black) heavyweight boxing champion, Jack Johnson, visited the club. Despite it being “all-white” Johnson was permitted to take several girls for a “ride” in his car. One of these women was 23 year old Belle. She was fired by the madame for sleeping with Johnson, but it didn’t matter- at this point, she was Jack’s favorite and began traveling with him. She was soon replaced by another prostitute by the name of Etta Duryea. Belle and Jack had violent fights and despite her efforts to leave him, she could not find work at other brothels because it was well known that she was Johnson’s lover.  In October of 1910, Johnson helped Belle open her own brothel. He paid for everything- rent, furniture, expenses, etc. But it failed.

When Johnson moved on to marry not one, but two white women, Belle’s jealousy got the best of her. She had always referred to herself as Mrs. Jack Johnson, so the news did not go over well. Strung out on absinthe and drugs- she agreed to testify for the US Government in prosecuting Johnson for violating the 1910 Mann Act (this prohibited taking a woman across state lines for prostitution.) Her testimony sent him to prison, ruined his career, and forced him into exile in Canada. The charges were most definitely motivated by blatant racism- so resorting to a strung-out, jealous whore seemed reasonable. WHAT? *face palm*

There is a more in-depth article here: http://host.madison.com/lifestyles/a-real-knockout-milwaukee-prostitute-was-jack-johnson-s-downfall/article_af87971b-51e0-5a40-b672-b9fe74c414ab.html

candy from a stranger.




February is “Scorned Lovers” month on History Witch! And here’s the perfect profile to kick this theme off. And by “perfect” I mean really creepy, disturbing- and it involves chocolates.

Cordelia Botkin (1854 – 1910) was born in Missouri and moved to California with her family. She married a man named Welcome Botkin (that’s right… Welcome) and had a son. While married, she met a man named John Preston Dunning while hanging out at Golden Gate Park. They were both married, and she was 9 years older than he was (she was 41 at the time). Dunning was the Superintendent of the Associated Press’s Western Division bureau in San Francisco.

Dunning’s wife found out about the affair, took their daughter, and moved back home to Dover, Delaware. Dunning and Botkin continued their affair- but John was a heavy drinker and it ended up costing him his job. After three years, he was re-hired and transferred to cover the Spanish-American war. He broke up with Cordelia and told her he had reconciled with his wife. He was leaving for Cuba. Botkin was devastated to say the least.

Hell hath no fury…

Mrs. Cordelia Botkin sent horrible letters to Dunning’s wife, detailing the affair. And then… hoo boy, and then she sent (anonymously) a box of chocolate candies to Mrs. Dunning. The note only said “With love to yourself and baby. Passionately fond of candy.” Well, as you can guess, the candies were poisoned with arsenic. Mrs. Dunning and her sister suffered a horrible death. Four additional victims (family members- all sitting on the porch enjoying the candy together) managed to survive.

Cordelia was brought to trial but denied her guilt. She was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. She died in 1910 in San Quentin. John Dunning’s career was destroyed as the case made national headlines.

Be sure to check the return address on those Valentine’s Day deliveries!!!!

There is a quirky little trailer for a movie about this case here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NxqgKVEnK74

More in-depth article here: http://www.historicalcrimedetective.com/candy-from-a-stranger-the-cordelia-botkin-case-of-1898/

a tortured soul.


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Camille Claudel (1864 – 1943) was a French sculptor and the mistress of Auguste Rodin.

She had very little formal education, but by her teens – was recognized as a very talented sculptor. When her family moved to Paris, she attended the Colarossi Academy.

In 1883 she became a student (and girlfriend) of Rodin’s, but the relationship went sour. After the break-up, she worked non-stop (to the point of obsession), became very reclusive and lived in complete poverty. She did exhibit many of her pieces, but was also known to destroy everything in her studio. Paranoia followed, as she blamed Rodin for blackballing her and her work.

She was committed in 1914 to an asylum where she stayed until her death. So sad.

You can see some her work here: http://www.cs.wustl.edu/~loui/camille.html

14th Century Cinderella


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Another follower request: Katherine Swynford. The Duchess of Lancaster (1350 – 1403).

Katherine was born in Hainaut and came to England with her family in 1351. She married Hugh Ottes Swynford, a knight, and had 3 children with her first husband. Soon after, she became the governess to John of Gaunt’s children. When John’s wife Bianche passed away, Katherine and John began having a heated love affair! They had four children out of wedlock! Mon Dieu!

They eventually married and their children were legitimized, but only with the stipulation that neither they nor their descendants could ever claim the throne.

Katherine went from being somewhat of a commoner to being the highest ranked woman in England. It was extremely rare for the times for royalty to marry anyone with whom premarital relations had occurred. Zut alors!

And speaking of their descendants…

John and Katherine had 4 children: John, Henry, Thomas and Joan Beaufort. The provision in their legitimacy barring them to seek the throne was later revoked- their eldest son John was Henry VII’s great grandfather. Joan Beaufort married James I of Scotland and was the grandmother of Edward IV and Richard III.

So essentially, almost the entire royal line of England descends from John and Katherine. Almost every monarch in Europe carries their blood as did five American Presidents and even Winston Churchill.

On John of Gaunt’s tombstone described Katherine as eximia pulchritude feminism. Which means “exceedingly beautiful woman”.

I plan on picking up this book soon so I can read more about this incredible Cinderella story. http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/mistress-of-the-monarchy-alison-weir/1013110058?ean=9780345453242

out for scalp.


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This follower request came from a friend of mine, Shelley Grambley.

The story of Hannah Dustin (1657 – 1736) is not for the faint of heart.

Hannah was a Puritan living in Haverhill, MA. She had nine children and her husband, Thomas was a farmer. In March of 1697, their farm (and the village) was raided by Abenaki Native Americans who had come down from Quebec. At the time, many were coming down from Canada due to King William’s War. Sidenote: it was the number of people that fled from this war and headed for Salem/Danvers that began to overcrowd the town, deplete the resources and cause enough tension to fuel the Salem Witch Trials.

So the Abenaki killed 27 colonists during that raid. Thirteen residents were taken hostage. Thomas escaped with 8 of the Dustin children, but Hannah, her 6-day-old daughter Martha, and her nurse Mary Neff were forced into captivity and dragged through the woods towards the Merrimack River.

The accounts of her captivity say that Hannah was forced to watch her captors slam her infant into a tree, killing the baby instantly. Horror show, if it’s true.

Six weeks later Hannah, along with Mary and a 14 year old prisoner from Worcester, MA (Samuel Lennardson) used tomahawks to attack the sleeping Abenakis, killing 2 men, 2 women and six children. They escaped by canoe (grabbing the scalps as proof) and eventually made their way back to Haverhill where they were rewarded.

One should take into consideration that Hannah’s story only became famous 100 years after her death, thought to be an effort to defend the slaying of Native Americans. If everything is true- I think it’s safe to say, watching your baby be murdered 9 days after giving birth would cause a psychotic break. NOT justifying her actions, just trying to understand.

She lived for another forty years. but little is known about her life after she returned home.

Oddly enough, of all the amazing women who lived in this country, Hannah is the first to get a statue. The statue still stands and depicts Hannah with her tomahawk and a fist full of scalps.

More in-depth article here: http://people.usm.maine.edu/jdustin/hannah/hannah-story.html


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