Wednesday, 10 December 2003 

  noblewomen a primer for girls


Queen Juana was the daughter of Isabel, one (generally considered the greater) of the famous Catholic Kings of Spain.

Juana became famous too, due to mental illness. Her passion for her blond King was overfed by her illness and undernourished by his philandering

Here we see Queen Juana, reunited with her husband as she could never have him while he was alive and kicking.


Queen Catherine of Aragon, Juana's little sister, did not outlive her husband. However, she did have 20 happy years with him before they got a divorce.

Here she is just after beating off invading Scots from the border of her adopted homeland. Her husband was out of the country on business at the time

Oddly enough both sisters, Catherine and Juana, were pregnant when these portraits were taken.

Poor Queen Elizabeth I, to have her mother taken from her at an early age and in such a barbaric way. Then to spend adolescence in fear as a political enemy to an older, more powerful sister, Queen Mary. One might be excused for perpetually feeling on shaky ground.

Maybe these are the reasons Elizabeth has for signing this execution order for her cousin, who would seem intent on taking everything our Queen worked so hard to achieve

Still, what can be rolling through her mind at the moment?


Isabella d'Este, Marchesa of Mantua, was often left in charge while her husband (a professional soldier) was away.

On this particularly stressful occasion, the Signor d'Este has been captured by the Venetians. Isabella is deciding, as Acting Head of State, to ignore his command to send her little boy to Venice as hostage in exchange for the father's freedom

The State of Mantua can rest easy in the knowledge that their current leader has enough horse sense to see that giving up a young son in exchange for a syphilitic husband who is in love with a blonde named Lucrezia Borgia is a bad trade.

Mme. Junot, as Napoleon's ambassadress in Portugal, is trying to adjust to the idea of donning formal court dress. Putting on stiff bodices and complex hooped skirts (not seen in France since the revolution) when one has been used to up-to-the-minute Parisian fashions structured along soft, simple neo- classical lines, it is a physical peril - to say nothing of the insult to aesthetics.

Laure Junot herself reports the argument she had with her husband over this issue:

"I declared that my name should not mark an epoch in the annals of diplomatic presentations, and that people should not have to say: 'Oh! You recollect, it was the year when the French Ambassadress fell down at Court... don't you remember her ridiculous exhibition?'"


...And speaking of Hellenism (which we weren't quite but almost), circa 42 BC found recessionary times in Alexandria.

The Nile didn't overflow for some time, in fact it didn't even rise above the Cubits of Death. Apparently Cleopatra felt responsible for the well-being of her citizenry and was flexible with the tax laws, but there was little she could do against famine and disease and people were desperate

One papyrus shows a woman contracting herself out as a servant for the next 99 years, because in those days, it was illegal to sell oneself into slavery.

Chuqui Huipa is the Coya, co-ruler in the Sun Kingdom of the Incas. She is divine, that is to say, a direct descendant of the sun.

She has just received the good news. Huascar, her brother/husband has won a battle against an enemy's commander. The unfortunate's severed head is on its way to the capital city to be made into a royal drinking cup

The bad news is that tomorrow, Huascar will lose the war against ursurper Atauhuallpa. The divine royal couple will be chopped up and thrown into the river, only shortly before Atauhuallpa himself is put to death by Pizarro of Spain

Into each civilization, a little rain must fall.


noblewomen a primer for girls
written and illustrated by Raquel Rivera
adapted from the book originally
designed by Cheah Wei Chun

©1995 Raquel Rivera. More illustrations by Raquel or...
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