Sunday, February 28, 2010

Women in the Crusades

Perhaps the most notable of crusading women was that formidable queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine (1120-1204), who took the cross with her first husband, Louis VII. Along with 300 of her women and hundreds of her knights, she took part in the Second Crusade, insisting the women were only there to tend to the wounded. Chroniclers, however, wrote that she took an active part in decision-making, and insisted on being included in strategy sessions.
In later crusades, women from all levels of society joined the crusade. The Church, however, took a dim view of this, and from pulpits throughout France, discouraged women from taking vows to crusade. An exception was made for washerwomen, deemed a necessary element so that clothes could be kept clean, a precaution to eliminate lice. Besides, washerwomen were sometimes older, widows and the unmarried, who were thought to be less tempting to men who had left their families behind.
Muslim chroniclers specifically mention Christian women’s involvement in the crusades, not only as camp followers and supportive wives and mothers, but also as participants for purely religious reasons.
Constance Rousseau, in Gendering the Crusades, stated that by the thirteenth century, liturgical, penitential and financial support which involved both sexes had become an established feature in the crusading movement.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Robert II of Artois

Robert II, Count of Artois, lived during the thirteenth century, and a few years into the 14th century. Robert was the nephew of Louis IX, later known as Saint Louis.
During Robert’s youth in the city of Arras, he had a reputation for initiating boyish pranks, such as bringing a falcon into church, or turning farm animals loose to cause mischief.
As he grew into manhood, he became an experienced soldier. He also participated in the Aragonese Crusade, a part of the War of the Sicilian Vespers. His shield probably blazed with the Coat of Arms on the right, that of Artois.
During Robert’s lifetime, he married three times, always to women of nobility. He was a patron of the arts, and as such, continued the family practice of supporting numerous French artists and musicians. It is generally believed that he was the patron of Adam de la Halle, on whose life my October release, The Tapestry Shop, is based. Thus, Robert and his French court figure prominently in the book.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Courtly Love

I could not resist turning my thoughts to love, on this, the day set aside in popular culture to celebrate love and lovers. On my overloaded bookshelves is a small book, titled, The Book of Courtly Love: The Passionate Code of the Troubadours, written by Andrea Hopkins. Through the classic tales of the troubadours and other literary and artistic works, the author brings us into the courts of the Middle Ages, the time of star-crossed lovers. Even from ancient Rome, we have evidence of literature that celebrated the joy and pain of love. Ballads of wandering minstrels, singing their poems as they go from court to court, have come to us through the ages. Not to be overlooked are the courtly ladies, known as troubaritz, who also composed courtly songs of love.
From my little book, I have selected ten “rules of love”, taken from a longer list found in the writings of Andreas Capellanus, a twelfth century author who wrote a treatise on love. Ms. Hopkins quoted these rules in the Introduction to her book.

1. The state of marriage does not properly excuse anyone from loving.
2. He who does not feel jealousy is not capable of loving.
3. A mourning period of two years for a deceased lover is required of the surviving partner.
4. No one should be prevented from loving except by reason of his own death.
5. It is unseemly to love anyone whom you would be ashamed to marry.
6. Love that is made public rarely lasts.
7. Love easily obtained is of little value; difficulty in obtaining it makes it precious.
8. Every lover regularly turns pale in the presence of his beloved.
9. On suddenly catching sight of his beloved, the heart of the lover beings to palpitate.
10.A man tormented by the thought of love eats and sleeps very little.

The Book of Courtly Love, besides for being an investigation of love in the Middle Ages, has much to recommend it. The illustrations document clothing and leisure time activities, even showing a marriage bed, and on another page, two lovers playing a game of chess. The book is rich with historical detail, and I heartily recommend it for your bookshelves.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Magic Flute and Freemasonry

In a follow-up to my blogs about the Templars and their demise, I could not resist blogging about Mozart, a member of the Freemasons. That there is a tie between the Templars and Freemasonry is debatable, but there are so many elements of Masonry that were found in the Templars that one wonders, if there is no connection, how did that come to be?
Setting that controversy aside, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s tie to the Masons is evident. Mozart, a musician of the Classical period, belonged to a Masonic Lodge in Vienna, and visited several other lodges in his travels. He brought his father into the lodge, and many believe he was responsible for Haydn joining the Freemasons.
One of Mozart’s most popular operas, The Magic Flute, reflects the philosophy of Enlightenment (freedom of speech, the right of citizens to own private property, and tolerance for other religions). Masonic symbolism appears in The Magic Flute as well (i.e., the number three, three ‘knocks’, three temples). Mozart composed several pieces for Masonic events such as funerals and initiation rites. It may surprise modern readers that Mozart may have been an early proponent of admitting women into the Freemasons, as in The Magic Flute, the hero and heroine are initiated together. Opponents would say, however, that because he wrote the music and not the libretto, that proposal carries no weight. I prefer to think Mozart would have enjoyed eighteenth century women to be in his lodge, considering the elegance of the gowns which women of that era wore.
Mozart’s ties with Freemasonry make for interesting reading. Besides, he was in good company, with the likes of George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson.