Tag: notorious women

JOAN OF ARC ‘S HAIRCUT – a quick quiz

Today is Joan of Arc’s birthday. Happy 605 Joan! You don’t look a day over 300.
She may have died six centuries ago, but she lives on in the spirit of an entire nation. Her name has been immortalized all over the country in street names, in village squares, on churches and on monuments. Even today, both sides of the political spectrum are locked in a battle to hijack her appeal for electoral gain.
Yet her life is shrouded in myth and mystery. How much do you know about her? Here’s a quick quiz.
I’ll start with an easy question first.

1. Which hairstyle did Joan of Arc inspire?

 a. the Donald Trump comb-over
b. the bob
c. the Sarah Palin pouf
d. the buzz cut
Photograph: Mila Zinkova
Actually it was (b). In 1909, a Paris hairdresser created the bob, citing Joan as his inspiration. These days it’s just another hairstyle; back then it was a revolution, ending centuries of taboo against women wearing their hair short. 
It became a symbol of rebellion among women in the nineteen twenties, and was adopted in the US and Britain by the ‘flappers.’ The haircut is still known in French as coupe à la Jeanne d’Arc (Joan of Arc’s haircut)

2. Which of the following did she survive in the course of her military career?

a. a stone cannonball blow to the helmet
b. a crossbow bolt through the thigh
c. a glancing blow from a mace to her bob
d. An arrow wound to her shoulder
Her entirely military career only lasted a year but in that time she had a cannonball dropped on her head, and was shot with an arrow and a crossbolt. In each case she continued to fight on until the action was over. This was one very, very tough and courageous young woman.
She claimed to have been divinely inspired, having been visited on many occasions by the Archangel Gabriel, and Saints Catherine and Margaret. The Catholic Church now claim these two saints never existed; whether they did or they didn’t, they moved Joan to do the impossible.
Oh and in case you were wondering re (c) : As far as historians can tell, her bob was never damaged in combat.

3:  Where was she born?

a Arques
b. Orleans
c. Paris
d. Domremy
She was born in Domremy, the daughter of Jacques d’Arc and Isabelle Romée in modern day Lorraine. Her father was a farmer, who supplemented his income by collecting taxes for the king. 
Her life, from the age of seventeen, is preposterous; ‘a peasant girl experiences divine visions telling her to lead the French armies against the hated English, in defiance of every limitation placed on a woman of the late Middle Ages.’ If that was your pitch for an historical fiction novel, you’d get thrown out of the publisher’s office.
Yet that’s what she did; lopped off her hair, put on armor and roused an exhausted and demoralised army into a string of victories that changed the course of the Hundreds Year War and of history. How she did it beggars belief.

4. Which of the following actresses never played Joan of Arc on the screen?

(a) Ingrid Bergman
(b) Jean Seberg
(c) Vanessa Redgrave
(d) Whoopi Goldberg
Ah-ha! You thought I was going to say Whoopi, didn’t you; in fact, Whoopi played Joan in a 2010 TV campaign for Poise adult underwear. Vanessa Redgrave was the red herring there.

5. Why was she put to death at the stake?

a. Because she was a witch
b. Because she was a heretic
c. Because she was a virgin
d. Because she voted for the Euro
Her trial was staged; the Duke of Bedford had claimed the French throne for his nephew Henry VI. Joan had given her imprimatur to his rival, Charles, so he wanted to burn her as a witch to undermine the reigning king’s legitimacy. It was a politically motivated smear campaign (How medieval. Thank God those days are behind us!)
Unfortunately, the Duchess of Bedford inconveniently confirmed that Joan was as a virgin and virgins cannot be witches (the Church’s position was that a real witch had real intercourse with the Devil). So they had to think of something else.
Her show trial dragged on for over a year. Uneducated as she was, Joan was too smart for the best the Church could bring against her. In the end they resorted to falsifying documents, convicted her of heresy and then burned her at the stake.
Their verdict was overturned thirty years later but vindication came a little late for Joan.  
No post about her would be complete without this: I think it is one of the most beautiful songs ever written, and was composed by Canada’s national treasure, Leonard Cohen.  It is sung here in duet with Jennifer Warnes.
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historical fiction, colin falconer. authors

Not Joan of Arc! That looks like …


America’s most loved novel


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In a 2014 Harris poll, women in the United States voted it their second most favourite book, and their most loved novel.

(Number #1 spot is still held by the Bible.)

The novel was: ‘Gone with the Wind’.

It is the one they give a damn about the most.

But who was the woman who wrote it – and what was her inspiration?

Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell, bestsellerWell, her name was Margaret Mitchell – and she was bored.

She had broken her ankle and it was taking a long time to heal. All she could do was read.

Her husband was fed up with bringing home stacks of book from the library every day.

Why don’t you write your own book? he said and bought her a Remington Portable No. 3 typewriter.

So she did.

Continue reading



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“I awake full of you. Your image and the memory of last night’s intoxicating pleasures has left no rest to my senses.”

NOT TONIGHT JOSÉPHINENapoléon Bonaparte will be remembered as one of history’s greatest generals; yet the one victory that seemed always to elude him was the battle for the affections of his own wife.

She was born Marie Josèphe Rose Tascher de La Pagerie, the daughter of a wealthy Creole sugar baron in Martinique.

But after hurricanes destroyed the family plantation, she was married off to the Vicomte de Beauharnais in Paris in October, 1779, in order to preserve the family fortune.

It was an unhappy marriage, but it produced two children, Eugène and Hortense.

During the Reign of Terror, in 1794, her husband was arrested as an aristocratic ‘suspect’ by the Jacobins; Joséphine herself was imprisoned a month later. Continue reading



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History will say that Hernan Cortes conquered Mexico.

Yet he couldn’t have done it without a woman named … Malinali.

Aztec, Cortes, MalincheHernan Cortes  was probably one of the greatest of the conquistadores – which is in itself a back-handed compliment, like being the best of the Nazis or Suicide Bomber of the Year.

He was a man of ruthless genius, a Christian crusader possessed of unparalleled greed, even for those times – but his achievements were breath-taking.

He conquered what is now Mexico with an army of less than 500 Spaniards, not all of them soldiers and not all of them loyal, while ostensibly on a simple scouting mission from Cuba.

He did not defeat the Aztecs with Spanish force of arms – they were a nation of a million people – but with an astonishing bluff.


http://colinfalconer.wordpress.com/2012/12/28/el-promo-or-how-to-sell-your-book-in-latin-america-and-have-a-blonde-in-a-black-bikini-pin-you-to-a-psychiatrists-couch-on-national-television-2/Through astonishing good fortune, steely determination, and the help of a Mexican slave girl he achieved the impossible.

The story of the invasion is one of the great epics of history, a triumph of human endurance and determination.

It was also an unmitigated disaster for the indigenous population and resulted in unimaginable misery for hundreds of thousands of people.

The story of Hernan Cortes and Mexico is also the story of a woman named Malinali.

Guillermo Marín

source: Wolfgang Sauber

Her exact origins are unclear –she was thought to have been a Mayan princess by some – but her place in Mexican history is unparalleled.

Without her, Cortes would have got no further than a Yucatan beach.

Her name was corrupted by history to Malinche; and five hundred years later her name is still reviled. Even today the word malinchista is shouted across the floor of the Mexican parliament as a deadly insult – it means a traitor to the Mexican people.

Yet was she the monster that history make her out to be? 

Aztec, Malinche, CortesThere is only one person who ever knew the truth and that was Malinali Tenepal herself – La Malinche. She was Cortes’ concubine, but that was not why she is important.

She was also his translator, the only one who ever knew what was being said by both sides, the only one who spoke both Spanish and nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs.

Her motives, what she said, how she said it; these things will always be a matter of debate – it is what makes hers such a gripping and intriguing story.

What is certain is that in almost every contemporary drawing and painting of Cortes’ entrada, she is at his side, whispering in his ear.

Aztec, Malinche, Cortes

And every night she shared the conquistadore’s bed.

Did she love him? No one can say.

Did he use her for his own purposes and then cast her aside? Of course he did.

He was only ever interested in gold and glory. 

Aztec, Malinche, CortesFittingly perhaps, Cortes’ life after the conquest was one of frustration and humiliation. History has not been kind .

These days his ancient bones molder in a walled-up in a casket by the altar in the Church of Jesus Navareno close to the place where he first met the Aztec emperor Motecuhzoma.

Aztec, Malinche, Colin Falconer

Romanian translation

And Malinali?

No one knows what became of her. It is believed she died an old woman in Spain. Cortes showed his gratitude by marrying her off to someone else.

Foreign authors who dare write her story still get assaulted with man bags (see previous post.)

But for all that, her tale, and that of the conquistadores, remains one of the most intriguing and tragic sagas in history.

The story of Malinali – it was worth getting attacked by a man bag …


aztec, historical romance, adventure, romance, historical fiction

The most extraordinary love story never told.


Colin Falconer, romance, adventure, bestseller, historical fiction

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Her mother is remembered by history as a modest and heroic woman.

Caligula, Nero, Rome

photograph: MrArifnajafov

Agrippina the Younger isn’t.

She was born at a Roman outpost on the Rhine, near present day Cologne.

She came from a line of Roman bluebloods; her father was a popular general and politician, while on her mother’s side she was great grand-daughter of the Emperor Augustus (the one who defeated Cleopatra) and the adopted grand-daughter of the Emperor Tiberius.

When she was 13 she married her second cousin Domitius who, although wealthy, was – according to Suetonius – “a man who was in every aspect of his life, detestable”

 When she was 21 the emperor Tiberius died and her only surviving brother, Caligula, became the new emperor. A man who was, in every aspect of his life, degenerate. Continue reading

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