Cartimandua: Queen of the Brigantes

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“Women hold up half the sky.”  – Mao Zedong.

Queen Cartimandua. First-century leader of the Brigante tribe of northern Britain. She ruled for nearly a quarter of a century, from approximately 43 AD to 69 AD, and she was a formidable force for her time. Roman historian and writer Tacitus names her as the only native regina, or queen, in Roman Britannia. Not even the great female Celtic Iceni leader Boudica is given this title in his writings.

Cartimandua ruled the Brigantes by inherited right, rather than through marriage. She did eventually marry, but later divorced her husband and ruled alone. Making a treaty with the occupying Romans during a time of great Brigante tribal upheaval, she was defended by the fabled Ninth Legion Hispana – an honor in and of itself that showed her significant importance to the male-dominated hierarchy of Rome.

Things did not end well for Cartimandua – nor, it must be said, for the Brigantes. In 69 AD, a Brigante revolt during a time of Roman political unrest led to the downfall of the queen and to a long period of Brigante rebellion in the north of Britannia. Cartimandua disappears from the record at this point. The Brigantes themselves were eventually defeated by the Romans, and their culture, like most native British tribes, absorbed by the invading Anglo-Saxons following Rome’s departure from the island in the fifth century.

But she was there for twenty-six years, leading her people in a time of occupation, a time of great social and political upheaval in ancient Britain. At a time when the forces of Rome were transforming her island into yet another defeated province of the empire, Cartimandua remained proudly Brigante while balancing a solid peace with the very Romans who had come to bring a change of politics, language, and social fabric. Indeed, the Romans found her so valuable that they defended her from her enemies with one of their greatest legions.

Cartimandua. Queen of the Brigantes. Regina.

Forgotten now, like her people. But remembered, perhaps, for a moment or two, today.

Her life has been fictionalized in Daughters of Fire by Barbara Erskine.

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For a more scholarly read, try Cartimandua: Queen of the Brigantes by Nicki Howarth.

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“Remember the Ladies”

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“Remember the ladies.” Abigail Adams wrote these words in a letter to her husband John Adams on March 31st, 1776 as he and the other men of the Continental Congress set out to establish a new nation. “If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies,” she wrote, “we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.” It took 150 years after Abigail wrote these words for the United States to pass the 19th Amendment allowing women to vote, but we did it, and it all started with her, in a letter to her husband.

Women have long been forgotten in history. And women have long been characterized in the Classics and historical writings as hysterical, weak, and the downfall of men (think Guinevere). As a writer of historical fiction, I seek to represent women as they have always been: strong, tough, integral parts of society — the backbone upon which all of society was built. “Remember the ladies,” for they are the mothers of us all.

Some book recommendations:

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant. The life and experiences of Dinah, a minor character in the Old Testament.

The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. The Arthurian legend told from the perspective of the women, particularly Morgaine (Morgan Le Fay). A must-read for anyone interested in the tales of King Arthur.

Ahab’s Wife by Sena Jeter Naslund.  Una, a minor character in Melville’s Moby-Dick, is given her own voice and tale in this wonderful novel.  Read a terrific New York Times review here.

May 6th, 2016

 

Remember the Ladies

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“I should be writing …”
― Mur Lafferty

And I suppose I am writing. Here. Now. The keyboard is laid at before me, the screen blank white. But what I should be writing is fiction — my love, my passion. There is nothing like it in the world. Creating characters from nothingness, giving them hopes and dreams and foibles and a enumerable challenges to overcome and grapple with. As someone on the internet once said, “life is so much more interesting in my head.”

And so I write. Historical fiction. Usually with an ancient bent, but sometimes I venture into the 11th or 15th or even 20th centuries. I write about women, about the lives they lived, the struggles they faced, and the obstacles they overcame. I love what I do. It makes me feel alive.

So welcome to my little world. Cruise around the site, make yourself comfortable. Stop by just this once or follow me if you wish. I’m glad you’re here.:)