Page 1. " the child took after her father with his fair skin and long nose. But she had her mother's coal-black eyes. "
Page 6. " a woman-devouring Bluebeard "

The story of Bluebeard, La Barbe bleue, is a French folktale by Charles Perrault, first published in 1697 in a collection entitled Histoires ou Contes du temps passe.

Bluebeard tells the story of a wealthy aristocrat who has married several times, but all his wives have mysteriously disappeared.  His last wife, a local girl, eventually discovers his secret: the bodies of her predecessors hang from hooks in a blood-soaked room her husband has forbidden her to enter.  Upon discovering she has entered the forbidden room, he is about to kill her too when she is rescued by her brothers.

Page 7. " daughter of the 'Catholic Kings' of Spain, Ferdinand and Isabella "
The kingdoms of Castile and Aragon
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeThe kingdoms of Castile and Aragon - Credit: Corona de Castilla
 Ferdinand and Isabella, the Catholic Monarchs, reconciled the two warring kingdoms of Castile and Aragon and formed a united Spain with their marriage in 1469.  Both were monarchs in their own right, Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon. 

 

The title 'Catholic King and Queen' was bestowed upon Ferdinand and Isabella by Pope Alexander VI in 1496, and they reigned together until Isabella's death in 1504.  Credited with the establishment of modern Spain, they are also renowned for their use of the Inquisition.

 

Catherine of Aragon. Artist unkown. 16th century
Public DomainCatherine of Aragon. Artist unkown. 16th century - Credit: Wikimedia Commons

  Ferdinand and Isabella's fifth and last child, Catherine, married Prince Arthur, eldest son of Henry VII and heir to the English throne.  After Arthur's premature death, she married his brother Henry VIII and became Queen Catherine of England, Catherine of Aragon.

Page 9. " seemed another Oberon and Titania "
The Marriage of Oberon and Titania by John Anster Fitzgerald. Date unknown
Public DomainThe Marriage of Oberon and Titania by John Anster Fitzgerald. Date unknown - Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Oberon and Titania were King and Queen of the Fairies. They appear in a range of medieval and renaissance literature, most famously Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream  

 

 

Page 17. " Eltham, which had been her father's principal boyhood home "
Eltham Palace today. Author Rob Farrow
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeEltham Palace today. Author Rob Farrow - Credit: Rob Farrow
Five miles from Greenwich, Eltham Palace is now owned by English Heritage and is open to the public.  Given to Edward II in 1305 by Anthony Bek, Bishop of Durham, it was a royal residence throughout the 14th-16th centuries.

 

Google Map

 

Page 17. " Finally, Henry cut the Gordian knot. "
Alexander Cuts the Gordian Knot. Artist Jean Simon Berthelemy (1743-1811)
Public DomainAlexander Cuts the Gordian Knot. Artist Jean Simon Berthelemy (1743-1811) - Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The term Gordian Knot is used as a metaphor for resolving an intractable problem by dramatic means.  It stems from a legend from Phrygia involving Alexander the Great

The story begins at a time when Phrygia was in need of a king.  A prophecy was made that the next man to enter the capital would be crowned.  This happened to be a peasant by the name of Gordias, who was driving an ox-cart.  In celebration, the ox-cart was ceremoniously displayed in the city and fastened in place with an intricate knot.  It was still there in the fourth century BC when Alexander arrived. By then it was said that any man who could untie the knot would become King of Asia. Alexander, impatient with the knot's complexity, drew his sword and sliced it in half: the 'Alexandrian solution'. He duly went on to conquer much of Asia.

 

 

 

The Knot was later referred to by Shakespeare:

Turn him to any cause of policy,
The Gordian Knot of it he will unloose,
Familiar as his garter

Henry V: Act I, Scene 1 

Page 22. " And he had fallen for another woman, Jane Seymour "
Jane Seymour. Artist Hans Holbein the Younger (1498-1543)
Public DomainJane Seymour. Artist Hans Holbein the Younger (1498-1543) - Credit: Wikimedia Commons

 Jane Seymour (1508-1537) became the third wife of Henry VIII on 30 May 1536, eleven days after her predecessor Anne Boleyn was executed for high treason and adultery.  She died within two weeks of giving birth to Henry VIII's son Edward, later to become Edward VI. 

Page 22. " like the adulterous Guinevere in the Morte d'Arthur, she would be sentenced to be burnt at the stake and with no Lancelot to rescue her "
Arthur's Tomb - The Last Meeting of Lancelot and Guinevere. Artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882)
Public DomainArthur's Tomb - The Last Meeting of Lancelot and Guinevere. Artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882) - Credit: Wikimedia Commons

 Thomas Mallory's Morte d'Arthur recounts how Lancelot, the most trusted knight of legendary King Arthur, and Guinevere, Arthur's wife, are discovered in an adulterous affair.  Lancelot flees for his life and Arthur is forced by his own laws to sentence Guinevere to death by burning at the stake. 

Lancelot rescues Guinevere at the last moment, but in so doing divides the loyalties of the Knights of Camelot.  He flees to France,  and Arthur follows seeking revenge, leaving Guinevere in the care of Mordred, who then attempts to marry Guinevere himself.  Hearing of this treachery by a trusted knight, Arthur returns to do battle with Mordred, but he is fatally wounded in the process.  The last time Lancelot and Guinevere meet is at the tomb of the dead King Arthur, after which Guinevere takes herself off to a nunnery.