Hearts Through History Romance Writers

What’s in a Name?

medieval pigOk, I admit it, I was a history teacher.  I taught American History and Western Civilization at the college level.  I think being a history teacher was great preparation for being a story teller.  After all, that what history is, the story of who we are and where we come from.  It’s the story of us.


You want to make the history personal to the students.  One of my favorite lectures to do this was talking about surnames in the Middle Ages.  Once the population began to grow there had to be a way to tell all the Tom, Dick and Harry’s from one another.  So surnames were added.  Names came from a variety of way.  Many from attaching the patronymic ‘son of’.  Examples: Leif Ericson (Eric’s son), George MacDonald (son of Donald), John O’Reilly (son of Reilly), Ivan Petrov (son of Petre), John Williamson (son of William). OK, you get the idea.


Some names came from where you lived.  Woods, Fields, Rivers, Bridges.  Or if your French instead of English, DuBois (the woods), DuPont (the bridge).  Who you worked for such as King (Reyes, Reyna, Roi/Roy), Bishop, Priest, Mayor, etc.


Surname also came from occupations.  Farmer, Cook, Butcher, Clerk/Clark, Fuller, Dryer, Miller, Taylor/Tailor, Cooper, Butler, Fletcher, Wright (depending on what you built – Boatwright, Wheelwright, Cartwright), etc.  All these occupations exist in languages other than English, such as the German Snyder (tailor).  And of course, the most common surname, Smith.


Some other ‘Smith” German: Schmid, Schmidt, Schmitt

 French: Lefebvre, Lefèvre, Lefeuvre, Lefébure,

Spanish: Herrera, Herrero, Ferrero,

Portuguese: Ferreiro, Ferreira

Italian: Ferraro, Ferrari  (Yes, that fancy sports car the guys always wanted is a ‘Smith’)


One of my family names is Palmer – which means at one time, some of my ancestors made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.


Do any of you have great stories of your family names?

Omens That Changed History

by Anna Kathryn Lanier 

For this week’s The Friday Record, I’m turning once again to Michael Powell’s book CURIOUS EVENTS IN HISTORY. It’s a fascinating little book with dozens of interesting historical facts. On page 36, Powell has an chapter on Edward IV’s Magic Vision

Edward IV

Edward IV

Now here’s my disclaimer….I don’t know much of the War of the Roses, but here’s a brief history to set things up:

Edward’s father, Richard, Third Duke of York. and his brother, Edmund, Earl of Rutland, had been killed in the Battle of Wakefield, leaving Edward as the head of the House of York and fighting for the throne of England in the War of the Roses. Margaret of Anjou was the wife of Henry VI and mother to the man who would be king (unfortunately, the son died in the battle of Twekesbury at some point in the war). Owen Tudor, Earl of Pembroke was the leader of the Lancastrians. (more…)

The Trial of the Pig

By Anna Kathryn Lanier

For today’s blog, I’m turning back to Michael Powell’s book CURIOUS EVENTS IN HISTORY. It’s a small book, but it’s chockful of interesting historical events. “The Trial of the Pig,” page 40, is about more than just one event. It’s about several that took place during The Middle Ages, the prosecution of animals for, well, acting like animals. Powell explains that “Humans were trying to work out their place in God’s scheme and were uncertain about the roles of animal”. They would put the animals on trial to help “exert control over the uncertainties of life and symbolically restore order to their chaotic world”.


Jacques de Molay, Last Grand Master of the Templar

 By Anna Kathryn Lanier 

Jacques de Molay

Jacques de Molay

When I had to choose a day to do my monthly blog on Seduced by History, I choice the 19th, because March 19th is my birthday…so in honor of that, I’m going to give away a prize to one lucky commenter, an ebook copy of one my books (winner’s choice and format).  So, please leave a comment and your email so you can win! 

On March 19, 1314 Jacques de Molay, the last Grand Master of the Templars was executed.  Now, I do not proclaim to be an expert on the Templars…I know just little enough to get myself in trouble, so I’m relying on 365: GREAT STORIES FROM HISTORY by W.B. Marsh and Bruce Carrick and what I found on the internet.  Feel free to add more details or corrections if you know better than me.  But here’s the low down – by the late 1200’s, the Templars had become too powerful and too rich for their own good and the King of France wanted the booty for himself.  (more…)

Religious Life in the Middle Ages

So what do you do if you’re a Medieval lord with twelve children and not enough land to divide between them all?  You give your kids away, of course.  And who do you give them to?  The Church.

One of the areas of medieval history that we in the modern world might find it the hardest to identify with – particularly as romance novelists and enthusiasts – is that of the life of the Church.  How could people stand to live cloistered lives, praying all day and at the mercy of a Pope you would probably never see?  Chances are it was a life that wasn’t chosen freely either.  About 80% of the monks and nuns of the Middle Ages had been given to the Church as children.  These children, also known as oblates, had no say in the life they were given to. 

But before you are tempted to think that this was horrible and cruel of Medieval parents, let’s take a look at exactly what these lucky few could expect from their lives. (more…)