More on Aerys and the Mad Kings

Aerys II Targaryen, the mad king who commanded his pyromancer to set King’s Landing ablaze (before Game of Thrones began), may be inspired by a couple of kings: Charles VI of France and his grandson, Henry VI of England. This article explores some nuances to their madness, possibly hereditary sources, and how Charles VI’s madness worked its way into the CW drama Reign, which is about Mary Queen of Scots. Like King Aerys, Charles VI of France’s reign began benevolently…

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Broken Promises and Shattered Bonds

The Tully family’s motto is Family, Duty, Honor. While Catelyn Tully perfectly embodies these virtues, her fate seems to be a slap in the face to these ideals. In a turbulent time like that in ASOIAF, doing the right thing can get you killed — a recurrent theme of the series. George R.R. Martin’s body of work suggests that  he is not a cynic. But, in the ASOIAF series, Martin is brutally honest about the gap between perception and reality: following…

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Nothing like a little human sacrifice for the holidays…

It’s widely known that Christmas has its roots in the blood-soaked pagan traditions for the winter solstice. What may be less well known is the origin of the delightful gingerbread people. At a symbolic level, these sugary snacks may be no more than a proxy for human sacrifice. The tradition of backing cookies in human form dates back to the grandfather of modern-day Christmas, the Roman winter celebration of Saturnalia. At this time, Romans honored the god Saturn. His name stems from…

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Was Being a Medieval Queen Hazardous to Your Health?

Was being a medieval queen was hazardous to your health? Given the push for queens to have many babies, did most medieval queens die in childbirth? To find out, I put 139 years of late medieval and Tudor English queens — from 1400-1503 – in a table to compare their causes of death. Depending on how you slice and dice it, the answer is: Yes. (But, the usual disclaimers apply.) Baby machines It is no secret that medieval queens and…

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Harald Bluetooth & Black Friday’s Bastard

On Black Friday, the day after US Thanksgiving, American retail shops unleash legions of deals upon consumers. As retailers attempt to milk more profits from consumers, a new tradition has arisen to induce people to shop online the Monday after Black Friday: Cyber Monday (or Cyber Week). This year, online retailers like Amazon, “celebrated” Cyber Week from December 1st to December 7th – and the sales totals are now in ($2.68 billion). So, in honor of Cyber Week – or simply…

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Richard III, a Royal Bastard? An Illegal Queen? The King’s DNA & Signs of Adultery

Recently, University of Leicester announced that with nearly 100% certainty the skeleton in the car park is Richard III — and they discovered evidence of adultery somewhere in Richard III’s family tree. Now newspapers are leading with headlines questioning Queen Elizabeth’s right to the throne. Regardless of whether there is illegitimacy in Elizabeth’s line, it doesn’t matter. She’s been anointed. Monarchs can legitimately claim the right to the throne in several different ways, including by right of conquest. As soon as a monarch is…

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