Cleopatra (BC 69-30) was the last effective pharaoh of the Ptolemaic dynesty of Egypt. She married two of her brothers and shared power with them, but eventually gained sole rule. There were no children from the marriages. She had an affair with Julius Caesar to solidify her grip on the throne and she later allowed their child to co-rule in name.
After Caesar's assassination in 44 BC, she aligned with Mark Anthony in opposition to Caesar's legal heir, Augustus Caesar. However, after losing the Battle of Actium to Augustus Caesar's forces, Antony committed suicide. Cleopatra followed, according to tradition killing herself by means of an asp bite.
Saint Joan of Arc, french heroine, also known as The Maid of Orleans. Joan claimed to have received visions from God which told her to recover France from English dominance during the 100 years war. At the age of 17, she led her troops to victories at Orleans and Reims. Whilst attempting to recapture Paris, she was wounded but refused to leave the battlefield. She was unfortunately captured by the English and tried as a heretic. She was burned at the stake aged only 19. Centuries later her case was reviewed by the church and she was declared innocent of heresy and canonised to sainthood in 1920.
Guinevere derives from a welsh (celtic) word meaning white fairy. She was the wife of King Arthur and famous for her love affair with his chief knight, Lancelot. It was her betrayal of Arthur that led to the downfall of his kingdom. Arthur discovered Guinevere and Lancelot together during a feast and sentenced her to burn at the stake. Lancelot arrived at the burning to rescue her and a battle ensued. Arthur declared war on Lancelot and banished Guinevere to the Tower of London under the care of his brother. She eventually moved to a convent where she lived out her days.
Maid Marian was a folklore character dating from the 16th century believed to have developed from the virgin maids of May Day. Marian was a high ranking lady in waiting to Eleanor of Acquitaine during the Crusades. Although a virtuous maid, over time she became romantically linked to Robin Hood and in many versions of the story, marries him. In early depictions, owing to her virtuous nature, she does not approve of robbery but twentieth century feminism made her a more daring character who became involved in Robin's adventures.
Anne Boleyn formed part of her father, Thomas Boleyn's grand master plan to attain greater power and status. Anne spent her teenage years in France as a lady in waiting before returning to England as maid of honour to Queen Catherine of Aragon. Presenting a witty and vivacious persona at court she determined to become King Henry VIII's consort and eventually his Queen.< FONT>
Excited by his lover's feisty demeanour and witty repartee, Henry secretly wed Anne on 25th of January, 1533, and with that secured the Boleyns' status as one of the most influential families in the land. However, despite producing a healthy baby girl, Elizabeth, her failure to provide a male heir and subsequent miscarriage of a defective child signalled the beginning of the end for her and her family.
A secret commission was asked to inquire into allegations of sexual misconduct and witchcraft by the Queen. and five men were arrested under suspicion of having relations with Anne. When she finally heard about the allegations, she laughed at their absurdity. However, the court were determined to remove Anne and in May 1536 Anne Boleyn was the first British Queen to be publically executed.
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Elizabeth I, daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn was the last reigning tudor monarch. Crowned Queen in 1559 at age 25 on the death of her half sister Queen Mary. Elizabeth knew her succession was not popular with the catholic church and became a strong supporter of the protestant religion to secure her position, resulting in her ex-communication by the Pope. She was regarded as a heretic and illegal successor to the throne by the catholics. This caused much tension throughout her reign. Elizabeth never married and is known as 'The Virgin Queen', she considered suitors for political reasons but did not accept their offers. There is speculation that she had an affair with her childhood friend Robert Dudley who she made Earl of Leicester, however Elizabeth did not intend marrying Robert and their relationship became a steadfast friendship.
Elizabeth was said to be cautious in foreign affairs,though discontent with Ireland and Spain featured throughout her reign, however, the British victory over the Spanish Armada led to her being considered the ruler of a golden age. Historians have their doubts about the validity of these claims but there is no doubt that she was a charismatic survivor providing stability in a difficult time.
Born in Austria, Marie-Antoinette at age 14, married the french Dauphin who became King Louis XVI of France. Initially she proved popular with the french public but not so at court. She was a leader of fashion and was famous for her legendary excesses in clothes, gambling, parties etc. This may in part have been frustration at her marriage not being consumated by the Dauphin and her position as Queen threatened by her failure to produce an heir to the throne. Eventually though she had four children and adored being a mother. To enjoy more time with her children she had a private village built in the grounds of Versailles Palace in Paris. This consisted of 12 cottages and a mill. Marie-Antoinette and her entourage would dress in simple muslin gowns and enjoy rural life.
Meanwhile France was in difficulty. High taxation and shortage of bread were making the peasants rebellious and in 1789 revolution broke out. Peasants stormed Versailles Palace demanding bread, and the Queen was rumoured to have had so little understanding of political affairs, she said 'let them eat cake' although this is most likely folklore. Louis and Marie-Antoinette refused to leave the Palace for safety, preferring to stay behind and attend to their royal duties. The Palace was stormed once again and Louis and Marie-Antoinette were arrested for treason and executed by guillotine.
Jane Austen was born in the village of Steventon in Hampshire, one of eight children of a clergyman. She began to write as a teenager. In 1801 the family moved to Bath and there followed a dry spell in Jane's writing career. After the death of Jane's father in 1805 Jane, her sister Cassandra and their mother moved several times eventually settling in Chawton, near Steventon.
Jane's brother Henry helped her negotiate with a publisher and her first novel, 'Sense and Sensibility', appeared in 1811. Her next novel 'Pride and Prejudice', which she described as her "own darling child" received highly favourable reviews. 'Mansfield Park' was published in 1814, then 'Emma' in 1816. 'Emma' was dedicated to the Prince Regent, an admirer of her work. All of Jane Austen's novels were published anonymously.
In 1816, Jane began to suffer from ill-health, probably due to Addison's disease. She travelled to Winchester to receive treatment, and died there on 18 July 1817. Two more novels, 'Persuasion' and 'Northanger Abbey' were published posthumously and a final novel was left incomplete.
Victoria was born in London on 24 May 1819, the only child of Edward, Duke of Kent, and Victoria Maria Louisa of Saxe-Coburg. She succeeded her uncle, William IV, in 1837, at the age of 18, and her reign dominated the rest of the century. In 1840 she married her first cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg Gotha. For the next 20 years they lived in close harmony and had a family of nine children, many of whom eventually married into the European monarchy.
Victoria relied heavily on Albert and it was during his lifetime that she was most active as a ruler. Britain was evolving into a constitutional monarchy in which the monarch had few powers and was expected to remain above party politics, although Victoria did sometimes express her views very forcefully in private.
Victoria never fully recovered from Albert's death in 1861 and her withdrawal from public life made her unpopular. During the 1880s she gradually returned to public view and, with increasingly pro-imperial sentiment, she was restored to favour with the British public. After the Indian Mutiny in 1857, the government of India was transferred from the East India Company to the Crown and in 1877, Victoria became Empress of India. Her empire also included Canada, Australia, India, New Zealand, and large parts of Africa.
In 1887, Victoria's Golden Jubilee and, 10 years later, her Diamond Jubilee were celebrated with great enthusiasm. Having witnessed a revolution in British government, huge industrial expansion and the growth of a worldwide empire, Victoria died on 22 January 1901 at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight.
Manchester born Emmeline Pankhurst founded the Women's Franchise League in 1889, which fought to allow married women the right to vote in local elections. In October 1903 she helped found the more militant Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) - an organisation that gained much notoriety for its militant activities and whose members were the first to be christened 'suffragettes'. Emmeline's daughters Christabel and Sylvia were both active in the cause. British politicians, press and public were astonished by the demonstrations, window smashing, arson and hunger strikes of the suffragettes. In 1913, WSPU member Emily Davison was killed when she threw herself under the King's horse at the Derby as a protest at the government's continued failure to grant women the right to vote.
Like many suffragettes, Emmeline was arrested on numerous occasions over the next few years and went on hunger strike herself, resulting in violent force-feeding. In 1913 in response to the wave of hunger strikes, the government passed what became known as the 'Cat and Mouse' Act. Hunger striking prisoners were released until they grew strong again, and then re-arrested.
This period of militancy was ended abruptly on the outbreak of war in 1914, when Emmeline turned her energies to supporting the war effort. In 1918 the Representation of the People Act gave voting rights to women over 30. Emmeline died on 14 June 1928, shortly after women were granted equal voting rights with men (at 21).
Nb, my first ever job was for the NHS and my office was based in Emmeline Pankhurst's former home on Nelson Street, Manchester, which has now been successfully restored and acts as the Pankhurst museum.
Norma Jean Baker born in Calirfornia in 1926 became famous award winning actress, singer, model and hollywood icon, Marilyn Monroe. Marilyn grew up in an unstable family and lived in foster care for most of her young life. At the age of 16 she found work in an aircraft factory and was married to a local boy. However, by the age of 20 her potential had been spotted and she became a successful model before signing a Hollywood movie contract. Marilyn starred in many popular and award winning films, Niagra, The Seven Year Itch and Some Like it Hot and eventually opened her own production company. She continued to model for magazines such as Vogue until the time of her death and was featured as a nude Playboy Playmate in 1953. She was married three times and was rumoured to have had affairs with Robert and John F Kennedy. Marilyn sang 'Happy Birthday Mr President' to John F Kennedy, shortly before her death in 1962. She was found at her home in California with an overdose of barbiturates in her system and her death was classified as 'probable suicide'. Marilyn's iconic image is still popular today.
Mary O'Brien, better known as Dusty Springfield was a leading British female vocalist of the 60s. Also popular in America she had 18 singles in the US Billboard 100 during 1963-70. Her soulful, husky voice and emotional delivery meant she was voted top British Female Artist by NME in 1964, 65 and 68. Dusty began her solo singing career in 1963 and was known for her platinum beehive, heavy black eyeliner and evening dresses. As well as numerous hit singles and live appearances, she hosted a US TV series in 1969. However, the 1970s were not kind to Dusty and she suffered from mental health problems and drug and alcohol abuse. She made an amazing comeback in 1987 with a joint recording with the Pet Shop Boys and was enjoying the return to her music career when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She died in 1999 in Oxfordshire.
Born in 1925 in Grantham, Linconshire, Margaret Hilda Thatcher went on to study Chemistry at Oxford University before being elected as MP for Finchley in 1958. In 1970 she became Secretary of State for Education and Science and leader of the Conservative Party from 1975-90. Elected as Prime Minister in 1979-1990 she is the only UK female Prime Minister to date and the first woman to lead a political party in the UK. She is known as the "Iron Lady" for her uncompromising stance against the Russians.
She now holds a life peerage as Baroness Thatcher of Kesteeven and sits in the House of Lords.