Above painting: Louis Jean Francois - Mars and Venus an Allegory of Peace


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Friday, February 25, 2011

Royal Watching with Guest Author Sharon Buchbinder

Today I'd like to welcome a new guest author to History Undressed, Sharon Buchbinder.  Sharon is a statuesque blonde, whose virbant personality shines with intelligence and wit. I think you will find her post to be very informative and entertaining as I did.  Welcome Sharon!

Royal Watching
by Sharon Buchbinder

He was the reluctant heir to the throne of a desert kingdom.

She was a virgin queen living far away in the south.

A little bird told him of her beauty--he had to meet her.

A travelling merchant told her of his wisdom--she had to meet him.

Something greater than either of them conspired to bring them together. When they met, could there be any doubt they were meant for each other? But would duty to country prevail over their pledge to one another? Only time and love would tell.

Sound like the stuff of romance novels? Yes, this was a romance writ large because it was an affair of state and royalty. And these characters appear in no less than four holy books: the Torah, the Koran, the King James Bible and the Kebra Nagast (The Glory of Kings).

In Biblical times, he who could kill or overcome enemy tribes became king. With lots of children and careful planning, his heirs would succeed him. But not all countries had the same traditions. In some parts of the world, women ruled by might or by right to the throne. For the royals, marrying and having children was an affair of state. Right up until recent times, it was not uncommon for the royalty of different lands to marry for the mutual benefit of their countries. In our modern era, heads of state and heirs to thrones have been granted the freedom to marry whom they choose--within reason.

Millennia before Prince William and Kate Middleton’s time on the world stage, people have been royal watchers. Some watched to see if they were in favor and able to gain, others to see if they were out of favor and about to lose--their heads! Still others watched because it was simply the best show in town. So when the royalty of Israel met the royalty of Sheba, all eyes were upon them. Based on the appearance of these two royals in no less than four world religions, no one could resist watching the wise King Solomon and the beautiful Queen Makeda.

In researching my work-in-progress, Kiss of the Virgin Queen, I, too, have become a royal watcher--from a distance of over three thousand years. My historical voyeurism has taken me down a circuitous path across time and cultures to their mythic romance. Destinies entwined, some would say the Makeda/Solomon romance was beshert.

With construction on the first Temple well underway by the time King Solomon greeted the extravagantly generous Queen of Sheba,* he already had seven hundred (700) wives and three hundred (300) concubines. By marrying princesses of rival kingdoms, he had built an extraordinary alliance and ensured the safety of the trading routes. Curious about the man behind the legend, Queen Makeda traveled fifteen hundred (1500!) miles from Ethiopia to meet the wisest man on earth--and to ask him “hard questions.” When they met, the Queen was “left breathless by Solomon’s magnificence” (Coogan, Brettler, Newsom, & Perkins, 2001, pp. 508). The attraction was mutual--but there was nothing they could do about it. Or was there? The eyes of the world were upon them.

The Queen, while madly in love with Solomon, had to return to her country a virgin, or risk losing her throne. For his part, King Solomon was besotted with her and had to have her. In a cagy move, Solomon feasted with Makeda and made her promise never to steal from him. If she broke the promise, she had to sleep with him. Offended, Makeda pointed out that she had no need to steal from him, that in fact she had more gold and spices than she needed in her home country. However, unbeknownst to the Queen, the King had her food heavily spiced. That night, she became terribly thirsty and searched the palace for water. The only pitcher available was in King Solomon’s room. When she drank, he leaped up and demanded that she come to his bed. That night Solomon dreamed the sun travelled from Israel to her home country, Ethiopia.

Much as she wanted to stay, Makeda insisted on returning home carrying within her a very special gift from Solomon. Saddened by the loss of his true love, King Solomon gave her a signet ring and told her that if she had a son, to send him back to Israel with the ring so he would know him. Nine months later, Menelik was born just outside of Ethiopia. He grew up strong, healthy--and the spitting image of King Solomon. When he turned twenty-two, he insisted on meeting his father. Queen Makeda gave him the signet ring, but there was no need for it as everyone in Jerusalem could see he was his father’s son. King Solomon rejoiced and anointed his son, renaming him David, after his grandfather.

But the Elders and the seven hundred wives and the three hundred concubines grew worried. What if this David took over? What of the other sons of Solomon? After a meeting of the Council of Elders, Menelik/David was sent home much to his pleasure, but against his father’s wishes. King Solomon decided that since his eldest son had to leave, so should the eldest sons of all the other tribes. Amid great noise and with many wagons and animals, David departed. But little did King Solomon know at the time, the Ark of the Covenant went with him.

When the loss was discovered, King Solomon sent his horsemen after the travelers. To their amazement, the ark and the retinue were gone. Sped on by the Ark’s own desire to be with Menelik/David, its supernatural powers enabled it to move faster than the horsemen. To this day, the Ark of the Covenant is kept in Axum, Ethiopia, watched over by a priest for his entire lifetime.

This story, like many other wonderful legends, takes place in the space between religion and the paranormal. Kiss of the Virgin Queen will explore that space and the effects of the epic romance between King Solomon and Queen Makeda that continue to ripple down the centuries to their descendants. Stay tuned.

*(“Then she gave the king 120 talents of gold, a great quantity of spices, and precious stones, never again did such spices come in such quantity as was that which the queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon” (Kings 10:10 in Coogan, Brettler, Newsom, & Perkins, 2001, pp. 508-509).

If you are interested in reading more about this topic, here are some books for you.

Budge, W. (Translator). (2007). The Kebra Nagast (The Glory of Kings). Lexington, KY: Silk Pagoda.

Clapp, N. (2001). Sheba: Through the Desert in Search of the Legendary Queen. New York, NY: First Mariner Books.

Coogan, M.D., Brettler, M.Z., Newsom, C.A., & Perkins, P. (Eds.). (2001). Kings 10:1-13 in The New Oxford Annotated Bible. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, p. 508-509.

Fraser, A. (2004). The Warrior Queens. New York, NY: Anchor Books.

Razwy, S.A.A. (Ed.) & Ali, A. Y. (Translator). (2009). The Qur’an Translation. Elmhurst, NY: Tahrike Tarsile.

Sharon Buchbinder has been writing fiction since she was in high school and has the rejection slips to prove it. After graduating with a BA in Psychology and no job, she realized her dreams of working in the attic writing great prose would have to take a back seat to the simple pleasures of eating, drinking, and having a roof over her head. Fast forward a few decades, and she had a career path that would make all but the kindest say, "What were you thinking?" After working in health care delivery for years, she became a researcher, then a professor. She had it all--a terrific, supportive husband, an amazing son, and a challenging job. But that itch to write (some call it obsession), kept beckoning her to "come on back" to writing fiction. Her genres include horror, mystery, romance and weird blends of the three. When not attempting to make students and colleagues laugh, she can be found herding cats and dogs, golfing, deep sea fishing, or writing. Visit Sharon at http://www.sharonbuchbinder.com/ to learn mor about her stories available for your reading pleasure.


Sharon Buchbinder, Romance Author said...

Hi Eliza--

Thank you for your kind words and for finding those beautiful photos to grace my blog!


Maeve Greyson said...

Wonderful post, Sharon. Over the years, I've read quite a bit about King Solomon but you summed up this event quite nicely. I look forward to reading your book.

Chicks of Characterization said...

What a wonderful & informative post! Thanks so much for sharing!!


Kara Ashley Dey said...

Great post and can't wait for the book! -Kara

Sharon Buchbinder, Romance Author said...

@Maeve--Thanks very much. Yes, only about 10 books worth of information. LOL!
@Chicks--Thanks for stopping by and reading!
@Kara--Thanks very much. This will be a magnum opus, I *fear*. Historical chapters will alternate with contemporary descendants of the two. The contemporary Heroine, Eliana Solomon, made her debut in KISS OF THE SILVER WOLF. ;)

Judi said...

Loved your post and the book sounds very intriguing.

Heather Long said...


What a magnificent tale and you're right, some of the best stories come from the places where legend and history flirt.


Sharon Buchbinder, Romance Author said...

@Judi--Thanks very much for your kind words!
@Heather--It's easy to get lost in the research on this story! LOL!

Heather Long said...

Sharon, I have that problem when I start researching, particularly when I discover those magical tales. What made them legendary are the same elements that appeal to readers today, the romance, the adventure, the cleverness and of course, the happily ever after - or at least the truly happy in the moment.


Julia Rachel Barrett said...

Fascinating! I've read a little about this - now plan to read more. I'll save your bibliography. Most legends are rooted in fact.
One of the things I find most interesting is that European royal families actually traced, or believed they could trace, their royal blood back to Solomon, and therein lay their claim to the throne and the anointing with holy oils by a priest.
Let us all know when your book comes out! Can't wait!

Eliza Knight said...

Hi Sharon,

You're welcome :) Thanks for posting!


Sharon Buchbinder, Romance Author said...

Hi Julia--

Thanks for stopping by. Yes, I think so, too. There's so many elements that are similar across cultures, that it has the ring of truth. Ethiopian royalty traced their lineage to Solomon right up to the last Emperor, Haile Selassie (with a break when ruled by Islamic rulers). The traditional Ethiopian flag has the Lion of Judah on it. It's a fascinating topic and I could read and babble about it forever!


aarbaugh said...

What a great post. Now I know who to go to for some history. Well done.

Sharon Buchbinder, Romance Author said...

Hi Ann! We have a lot of great history experts in MRW--just pick and era! =] Sharon

Kate Dolan said...

Wow, Sharon - great story. I never thought much about the relationship between those two - just figured Solomon was too impressed with himself to actually be interested in someone else. But, by that point in time, if anyone could capture his attention, it would be her. I look forward to reading this!

Sharon Buchbinder, Romance Author said...

Hi Kate--

Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Solomon used trade and marriages (700 of them!) to ensure peace in his kingdom--today he'd be called a tribal chief--but as the son of David, he learned at his father's knee what didn't work. Saul was killed by Philistines, David a warrior and poet, hated the killing. All David wanted was to build a temple to God and he was not allowed to do that. That task fell to little Solomon (he was David's youngest. Some scholars say the Queen of Sheba is symbolic and that she represents TRADE. Her country had much to offer, what could she want from tiny Israel? SAFE trading routes. So she was attracted to Solomon's wisdom and his zeal to be tolerant and have open trade. He had married so many princesses, his kingdom and the path through it were safe. I, of course, am intrigued by the personal stories and the romance between the very human actors. And their descendants...=]


Pat McDermott said...

Just fascinating, Sharon. I thoroughly enjoyed your post!

Unknown said...

Love this post!

Sharon Buchbinder, Romance Author said...

Hi Pat--Thanks for reading and commenting. So many wonderful stories associated with these two!

Thanks, oh Queen of the Nile! ;)