Hidden historical heroines (#38: Black Agnes)

Agnes, the Countess of Dunbar and March, (1312 – 1369) nicknamed “Dark Agnes” for her dark hair and swarthy complexion, was a descendent of Robert the Bruce, of whom famed Scottish novelist Sir Walter Scott once said: “From the record of Scottish heroes, none can presume to erase her.” Despite a thorough trouncing by Robert […]

Hidden historical heroines (#37: Gertrude Bell)

Gertrude Bell, CBE (14 July 1868 – 12 July 1926) was many things throughout her relatively short life; she was predominantly a writer and archaeologist, but she was also involved in Middle Eastern politics and espionage, and was critical in the mapping and drawing up of the boundaries of modern Iraq. She has been described […]

Hidden historical heroines (#36: Eormenburg)

Saint Eormenburg (late 7th century) is a mythohistorical figure from Kentish royal legend, a granddaughter of the great Kentish king Eadbald (616-640). She is also known as “Domne Eafe”, which is probably a vernacular corruption of the Latin Domina (Lady) Æbbe. Eormenburg’s two brothers – Æthelberht and Æthelred – were fostered by their elder cousin, […]

Hidden historical heroines (#35: Sophia Dorothea of Celle)

Sophia Dorothea of Brunswick and Luneburg (15 September 1666 – 13 November 1726) was Queen of England as the wife of George I, however never set foot in that kingdom as her husband had her imprisoned for over half of her life. Doomed by the tension and mutual hatred of her arranged political marriage, she […]

Hidden historical heroines (#34: Edith Swanneck)

Edith Swannesha (Ealdgȳð Swann hnesce – “Edith [the] Gentle Swan” – c. 1025 – c. 1086) – also known as “Edith Swanneck” or “Edith the Fair” – was the first wife and consort of Harold Godwinson, a famous beauty known for her gentleness and the pleasing paleness of her skin. Edith was Harold’s common-law wife […]

Hidden historical heroines (#33: Mary Grey)

Lady Mary Grey (c.1545 – 20 April 1578) was the youngest daughter of Henry Grey, Duke of Suffolk, and Frances Brandon, herself the daughter of Charles Brandon – great friend and confidante of Henry VIII – and Mary Tudor, his younger sister. An unfortunate figure, Mary was described by an ambassador as ‘little, crook-backed and very ugly’ – it […]

Hidden historical heroines (#32: Eleanor Cobham)

Eleanor Cobham, Duchess of Gloucester (c.1400 – 7 July 1452), was the mistress and then second wife of Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, the youngest son of King Henry IV. Eleanor was convicted and imprisoned for ‘sorcery’ and ‘treasonable necromancy’ in 1441 and forced to make a public penance in the streets of London – all […]

Hidden historical heroines (#31: Saint Margaret of Scotland)

Margaret of Wessex (c. 1045 – 16 November 1093) – known posthumously as Saint Margaret of Scotland – was an English Princess who was born in exile and became queen-consort of Scotland. Known for her piety and praised for her charitable works in life, she was canonised as a saint of the Roman Catholic Church […]

Hidden historical heroines (#30: “James Barry”)

James Miranda Barry (c. 1789-1799 – 25 July 1865) – aka Margaret Ann Bulkley – was a military surgeon in the British Army, the first British woman to become a qualified doctor. Margaret Ann achieved this unprecedented honour by concealing her true gender her entire adult life. Although almost everything about “James’” childhood and subsequent life is speculation and […]

Hidden historical heroines (#29: Helena von Snakenborg)

Helena von Snakenborg (c.1549 – 10 April 1635) was a Swedish noblewoman who was highly favoured by Elizabeth I. She was taken into Elizabeth’s household and eventually became Marchioness of Northampton by her first marriage, which made her one of the senior peeresses of the realm. Helena was born Elin Ulfsdotter of Fyllingarum, a younger […]