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


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Thursday, August 22, 2013

Bishops Behaving Badly (In Medieval Times) by Lana Williams

Today I'd like to welcome Lana Williams to History Undressed! I had the pleasure of meeting Lana in person this summer at the RWA Conference. I do hope you enjoy her post about naughty medieval bishops!

Bishops Behaving Badly (in Medieval Times)

by Lana Williams

I’ve just released my third historical romance, Believe In Me, where the villain of the story is...you guessed it...a bishop. Why? Well, I came across some delicious research that discussed the challenges the Church faced during medieval times and found it fascinating. Needless to say, the ideas started flowing.

During this period, many nobles chose to leave their estates (or part of them) to the Church with the hopes of receiving a material or spiritual benefit (on earth or in heaven). As the Church gained more and more land (aka wealth and power), their method of managing it had to change as well. About this same time, it became law that the eldest son would inherit, which left the other sons (and daughters) at loose ends. Many ended up in the Church as abbots, cardinals, or bishops not because of a religious calling but because those positions had a similar status as that of nobility.

Can you see where all of this is going? An entity with an abundance of wealth and people in charge of it who
saw no reason not to spend it as they saw fit - the perfect storm in many ways. Obviously there were many monasteries and abbeys that managed their wealth wisely and did a lot of good for the general population. And just as obviously, there were some who built lavish cathedrals and holdings filled with valuable objects. A few religious leaders lived like kings.

Some historians point to the early tenth century as being the low point. Entire books have been written on the subject, but I’ll just share some of the more interesting tidbits I found.

Elections for positions in religious houses caused great conflicts in towns. This was very political and the families of those being considered often got involved. The office of the Bishop of Rome served as a platform for opposing noble families, each vying for control. This power struggle continued for centuries.

In London, the Brothels called ‘stews’ in medieval times were controlled by the Bishop of Winchester, where the women were known as the ‘Winchester Geese’. These women were denied a holy burial despite being allowed (some might say encouraged) by the bishop to ply their trade. The bishop made a lot of money from fines and sharing in their earnings. Seems like a conflict of interest, don’t you think?

This sort of behavior was not limited to bishops. Prior Gilbert de Ponteburgh of Thurgarton Priory was accused of adultery with two local women in 1284. John Rastle, a canon at St. Augustinian’s in Bristol was a ‘public player of dice’ and other unlawful behavior. Apparently this behavior followed him from his time as a student at Oxford.

Pope Formosus was convicted after his death in 856 of having illegally seized the papal throne. His body was dug up and put on trial. After being found guilty, his body was stripped of any priestly vestments, the fingers of his right hand were cut off (the hand that gives benediction) and his body was thrown in the river.

The abbot of the Benedictine house at Milton was criticized for lavish expenditures on his living quarters, but he also founded a free grammar school for the townspeople’s sons. The man was obviously not all bad. In Sherborne, 1437, the townspeople were so displeased with their religious leaders that they set fire to the abbey church! In 1528, Dame Eleanor Carey was being considered for abbess of a large and wealthy nunnery, but under much competitive pressure, she confessed to having had two children during her time at the nunnery.

The granting of indulgences, which became generally accepted with the first Crusade and grew from there, was a fundraiser of sorts. A person who committed a sin was granted forgiveness and a payment of money or service could be made to eliminate the debt of forgiveness. As you might imagine, this was taken advantage of by both parties involved. In some areas, indulgences were sold on a large scale. People feared purgatory and were willing to pay handsomely to avoid it. A Dominican friar in the early 16th century, Johann Tetzel, offered indulgences for the dead with a clever slogan: “When a penny in the coffer rings, a soul from purgatory springs.”

Hope you found these stories as interesting as I did!

One lucky commenter will win an ebook version (Kindle, Nook, or Kobo) of Believe In Me. Simply share whether you’re surprised or not at some of the behaviors I shared. (Please be sure to leave your email address!)

Believe In Me is Book III of The Vengeance Trilogy. Here’s a little something about the story:

A knight determined to honor his vow.
A lady set on vengeance.
Only love stood in their way.

Lady Cristiana’s plan to seek revenge against her mother’s murderer is cut short when a world-weary knight arrives to escort her to her new guardian, a powerful bishop. Cristiana refuses to become a ward of the bishop whom she suspects was involved in her mother’s death, but the knight leaves her no choice.

Sir William de Bremont hopes to earn a second chance at the life he was given but believes he doesn’t deserve. Serving the bishop seems the perfect solution, except Lady Cristiana thwarts him at every turn, captivating him body and soul.

Cristiana has the unique ability to heal the sick through her touch. Accustomed to hiding her gift, the wall she’s built to protect herself crumbles under William’s passionate regard. Honor-bound to deliver her despite her protests and his own doubts, William reluctantly fulfills his vow only to realize the depth of his mistake.

As William and Cristiana’s love grows, they realize the bishop plans to use her ability to fulfill his own destiny with little concern for the life of others, including Cristiana’s. The bishop’s treachery comes to light, forcing Cristiana to choose between revenge or the love of a lifetime.

Available on:
Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/14C3caW

Lana Williams writes historical romance filled with mystery, adventure, and a pinch of paranormal to stir things up. Her medieval romances begin with A Vow To Keep, the first in The Vengeance Trilogy, followed by Trust In Me and Believe In Me.

Filled with a love of books from an early age, Lana put pen to paper and decided happy endings were a must in any story she created. She writes in the Rocky Mountains with her husband, two growing sons, and two dogs.

Connect with her at:
Twitter @LanaWilliams28

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Video of the Week: Bet You Didn't Know -- Prohibition

Happy Wednesday! This week's video is a bit of history about prohibition... Maybe something you didn't know about the ban on alcohol. Just fascinating. Raise your glass!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Video of the Week: Drunk History - Elvis Meets Nixon

And we're back with the video of the week! I discovered Drunk History last night actually, and was consumed by it for at least an hour! I'm excited to share these with you! From the Drunk History website... Enjoy!!!

"Drunk History is a weekly, half-hour series where historical reenactments by A-list talent are presented by inebriated storytellers. Based on the award-winning and wildly popular web series, the show follows the drunken and often incoherent narration of our nation's history. Host Derek Waters, along with an ever-changing cast of great actors and comedians, travels from town to town across the country, presenting the rich history that every city in this land, both great and small, has to offer. Booze helps bring out the truth of our nation's history. It's just that sometimes that truth involves hitting on airport bar janitors or eating cheese fries at 4 a.m."

Thursday, August 1, 2013

When Blacksmiths & Farriers Were One & the Same By Nancy Lee Badger

Welcome back to History Undressed, guest blogger, Nancy Lee Badger! She's written a fascinating piece today on the history of blacksmiths in Scotland. Enjoy!

When Blacksmiths & Farriers Were One & the Same
By Nancy Lee Badger   for History Undressed Aug. 1, 2013

The moment I decided that the hero in my third book in my Highland Games Through Time series was a blacksmith/farrier, I was in trouble. Research would only get me so far, so I found some help (thanks Brooke McIntosh!) Why the two terms today? A blacksmith is a metalsmith. He/she uses heat to make objects out of steel or wrought iron that is hammered, bent, or cut, to create railings, light fixtures, furniture, sculpture, tools, or weapons. A farrier specializes in hoof care; trimming and balancing a horse’s hooves, and fitting them with metal shoes. A farrier combines blacksmith skills and veterinarian’s skills, since they know the anatomy and physiology of a horse’s lower limbs.

Historically, the jobs of farrier and blacksmith were practically synonymous. I decided not to use the term farrier in my books as many people have never heard the term. My hero, Jake Jamison, is a modern day farrier who also works with wrought iron to make decorative household items. When he volunteers at Scottish Highland games and festivals, he plays the part of a 16th century blacksmith. Jake makes horseshoes and nails with a coal-fired furnace, or forge. Forging is actually the process in which metal is shaped by hammering, and the techniques employed are called drawing down, bending, shrinking, upsetting, punching, swageing, and forge welding. These operations generally employ hammer and anvil.

Tools used in caring for a horse’s limbs that are in use today, and mainly machine-made, are the punch, clinch cutter, shoeing knife, nipper, nailing hammer, rasp, clincher, and the shoeing apron. Items used today that are still very similar to those used historically are the hammer, hoof knife, fire tongs, and hand-cranked forges.


Blacksmith at work


Here is an excerpt from MY RELUCTANT HIGHLANDER where Jake is shoeing his horse in his barn in present-day New England:

The barn door creaked open.

He glanced up. Dust motes floated in the slight breeze created by the open door. A shadow walked toward him with slow, careful steps.

“Jake? May I enter?”

“Sure, but why are you out of bed?” Reluctantly, he shook away the image of her wet, naked body and straightened. Balfour’s partially nailed hoof hit the barn floor with a thud.

“Ye see before ye, an early morning riser. As such, I wanted to meet yer beasts.”

Feigning checking on his horse, he followed Skye’s slow progress from the corner of his eye. She walked closer, and he stifled an urge to tell her she ought to rest. She would refuse to listen to his opinion about anything, so he bit his tongue.

The early morning sunlight illuminated her like a halo. The bright light painted the outline of her black hair with silver tips. With her face in shadow, he was unable to read the weariness or pain she might still suffer.

Instead, he turned his attention back to Balfour. He shoved the animal’s hip, cradled his hoof between his thighs, and listened.

Her steps crunched across the hay-littered wood floor. He knew the moment she stopped at Dara’s stall.
“A magnificent garron. What be his name?”

Her name is Dara. Careful. She bites.” As if to emphasize Jake’s warning, the animal’s dark brown mane shook as Dara threw her buff-colored chest against the stall gate.

Jake peeked under Balfour’s chest. Amazingly, Skye laughed and patted Dara’s nose. Relief washed over him, when she backed away and continued toward him.

Silence filled the sturdy barn, except for the snips of the grooming scissors, as he trimmed Balfour’s fetlock. The elderly gelding snickered as he begged his owner for attention from someone other than its owner.

“You are a spoiled brat, Balfour,” he whispered, leaning against the horse for balance.

Skye walked closer, and the aroma of wildflowers and fresh grass replaced the familiar smell of horse, hay, and brisk morning air. His body tightened, and his thighs tensed. The horse whinnied.

“Easy, Balfour. Almost done, big boy.”

Her laugh reached his ears like a low, sweet sigh of pleasure.

Jake’s body hardened to stone so fast, he dropped the horse’s hoof on his boot.

In contrast, here he is when Jake finds himself in a 16th century Scottish castle:
Smoke rose from a center hole, filling Jake with the familiar scent of a blacksmith’s coal-fired furnace. When he glanced at the stone building’s thatched roof, he shuddered. Memories of the castle’s huge barn, going up in smoke in record time, stole his breath.

I almost lost Bull.

The young lad started to introduce him to the smithy’s assistant, a boy no more than thirteen, then glanced up at Jake. “I doona’ know yer name, my lord.”

“I’m Jake Jamison,” He told both youngsters.

“Are ye not a lord? Ye live at the castle.”

He chuckled, then grabbed a pair of thick gloves and a crude apron he spied on a workbench.

“I’m a blacksmith. I feel right at home,” Jake said. Slamming a hammer against red-hot iron would go a long way, to help him forget.

The boys stood, open-mouthed, as the iron morphed into the semblance of a rustic sword. When sweat poured down his face, he threw off his shirt, adjusted the apron, and continued. After he thrust the hot iron into the water barrel, memories of his work at the Highland games made him hesitate.

The first excerpt shows his farrier talents, and the second is more representative of a blacksmith. Hope this helps.

My Reluctant Highlander Book Blurb
Skye Gunn has spent the last five years trying to forget the blacksmith who followed her back to 16th century Scotland, to help fight evil. Sending Jake Jamison home against his will was a disastrous mistake. Stealing his heart was not part of the plan. Jake must share his secret, Skye must give her heart fully, and both must dare to love in the time they have.

For more information:

More About Nancy Lee Badger
She loves chocolate-chip shortbread, wool plaids wrapped around the trim waist of a Scottish Highlander, the clang of broadswords, and the sound of bagpipes in the air. After growing up in Huntington, New York, and raising two handsome sons in New Hampshire, she moved to North Carolina where she writes full-time. Nancy is a member of Romance Writers of America, Heart of Carolina Romance Writers, Fantasy-Futuristic & Paranormal Romance Writers, Triangle Area Freelancers, and the Celtic Heart Romance Writers. Nancy and her family volunteer each fall at the New Hampshire Highland Games, surrounded by…kilts!

Connect with Nancy:
Goodreads    http://bit.ly/Vd1Usg
Amazon Author Page    http://amzn.to/13ICHLq

Buy Links for My Reluctant Highlander
NOOK   http://bit.ly/16a7lim  
Barnes&Noble PRINT http://bit.ly/10UQa3Z
AllRomance  http://bit.ly/19aBsI6
Smashwords  http://bit.ly/11DtTDE

Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway! Click on the link below. Nancy is giving away for 3 prizes (3 winners) a $15 Amazon or B&N GC; free ebook of older books; Dragon Window sticker. Drawing ends Aug. 15th.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Gwyn Brodie Shares Her Pictures of Scotland

Welcome guest author, Gwyn Brodie to History Undressed! Today she's written a post along with pictures from her travels to Scotland -- in particular Dunnottar Castle. Enjoy!

Long before becoming an author of Highland Scottish Romance, I fell in love with the Scottish Highlands. One of my favorite castles in the Highlands is Dunnottar, a medieval fortress located on a stony outcropping of land, in Stonehaven. In fact, it was Dunnottar I used as the template for Ravenskull castle, where Kade MacLachlan, the hero in "Beneath a Highland Moon," was laird. William Wallace burned down the abbey to remove an English garrison, and the castle was visited by Mary Queen of Scots and many other well known people. But its most famous place in Scotland's history was when a Scottish garrison of 70 men stood their ground against Cromwell’s army for eight months and saved the Scottish Crown Jewels.
Dunnottar is mostly ruins, with extensive restoration having been done on the drawing room.  The medieval architecture is amazing and the view of its surroundings, breathtaking. There is something about this ancient place which gives one the impression they have just taken a step back in time.  It seemed even more so when we ended up seeking shelter inside the castle during a sudden gale. While waiting out the storm pressed against the ancient stone wall, listening to the howl of the wind, feeling its strength and power as it slammed against the stones behind me—I closed my eyes and imagined myself as a resident of centuries past.
 There are so many things I love about the Scottish Highlands—the pink and lavender heather, the black-faced sheep, the wooly Highland cattle, the cascading waterfalls spouting from out of nowhere, the wisps of mist hovering around its majestic mountain peaks, the herds of red deer, the lush green grass of the glens and meadows, the mist rising from a still loch, the breathtaking view from a mountaintop—I could go on and on.  But I think Robert Burns may have said it best:

My heart's in the Highlands, my heart is not here;
My heart's in the Highlands a-chasing the deer;
Chasing the wild deer, and following the roe:
My heart's in the Highlands, wherever I go.

Dunnottar Castle 

Sea View from Dunnottar

View of the sea from inside the Dunnottar Castle

Black faced sheep.

Waterfall at Glencoe

View from Blair

Mist on the Mountain

Mist on the Loch


Gwyn Brodie is the author of Scottish historical romance. Visit her blog--A Little Piece of Scotland or friend her on Facebook.

After her clan's castle falls under siege, the fair-haired Lady Jillian MacRae finds a way to escape with her four-year-old brother, seeking help from the handsome Kade MacLachlan, laird and master of Ravenskull Castle. Four years past their love had been strong—until her father betrothed her to another man who was later killed. Now, it is Kade she turns to for help in regaining control of her own castle from the wicked man who has taken over and intends to marry her. Once she is again face-to-face with Kade, she realizes the love she thought she'd put aside is alive and thriving.

Kade is speechless when the beautiful Jillian offers herself to him in exchange for protecting her young brother and banishing the intruders from her castle—an offer he is more than willing to accept. He has no intention of allowing her to slip through his fingers again. And when her life hangs in the balance, he will not let anything—or anyone—stop him from saving her, even as his own life dangles by a thread.

Read it! 

Beneath a Highland Moon (The Highland Moon Series 1)

Barnes and Noble:
Beneath a Highland Moon (The Highland Moon Series 1)