lunes, 20 de febrero de 2017

Todo esto te daré de Dolores Redondo

Recomiendo esta espléndida novela de Dolores Redondo, Premio Planeta, que destacó con su trilogía del Baztán. Empezó a estudiar la carrera de Derecho en la Universidad de Deusto, aunque no lo acabó. Estudió Restauración en San Sebastián y trabajó en varios restaurantes y tuvo uno propio, antes de dedicarse profesionalmente a la literatura. Reside en la localidad de la Ribera Navarra de Cintruénigo desde el año 2006. Comenzó en la literatura escribiendo relatos cortos y cuentos infantiles. En 2009 publicó su primera novela, Los privilegios del ángel y en enero de 2013 publicó El guardián invisible, primer volumen de la Trilogía del Baztán, seguido en noviembre del mismo año por la segunda parte titulada "Legado en los huesos", y terminada en noviembre de 2014 con "Ofrenda a la tormenta". La trilogía ha conseguido vender más de 700.000 copias y ha sido traducida a más de 15 idiomas.
El productor alemán Peter Nadermann, responsable de la películas de la Saga Millennium de Stieg Larsson, adquirió los derechos para su adaptación al cine casi inmediatamente después de publicarse la primera novela y en 2017, se estrenará la película El guardián invisible, basada en la primera de las novelas de la trilogía, dirigida por Fernando González Molina. Es ganadora del Premio Planeta 2016 por el manuscrito de Todo esto te daré, presentado a concurso bajo el seudónimo de Jim Hawkins bajo el título falso de Sol de Tebas.

Sinopsis de Todo esto te daré:
En el escenario majestuoso de la Ribeira Sacra, Álvaro sufre un accidente que acabará con su vida. Cuando Manuel, su marido, llega a Galicia para reconocer el cadáver, descubre que la investigación sobre el caso se ha cerrado con demasiada rapidez. El rechazo de su poderosa familia política, los Muñiz de Dávila, le impulsa a huir pero le retiene el alegato contra la impunidad que Nogueira, un guardia civil jubilado, esgrime contra la familia de Álvaro, nobles mecidos en sus privilegios, y la sospecha de que ésa no es la primera muerte de su entorno que se ha enmascarado como accidental. Lucas, un sacerdote amigo de la infancia de Álvaro, se une a Manuel y a Nogueira en la reconstrucción de la vida secreta de quien creían conocer bien.

La inesperada amistad de estos tres hombres sin ninguna afinidad aparente ayuda a Manuel a navegar entre el amor por quien fue su marido y el tormento de haber vivido de espaldas a la realidad, blindado tras la quimera de su mundo de escritor. Empezará así la búsqueda de la verdad, en un lugar de fuertes creencias y arraigadas costumbres en el que la lógica nunca termina de atar todos los cabos.

viernes, 10 de febrero de 2017

Agnes Sorel, la amante favorita de Carlos VII, rey de Francia

Agnes Sorel, Mistress of the French King Charles VII 

Agnes Sorel has the dubious distinction of being the first officially recognized French royal mistress. Agnes would exert a great deal of influence over King Charles VII and his government at the expense of his Queen, Marie of Anjou, cultivating many allies and making a great deal of enemies along the way before dying a mysterious death. There is little factual information about Agnes but we can gain some intriguing insight into her life from what we do know.
Based on recent evidence, the best guess for the year of Agnes’ birth is 1422. Her father was Jean Soreau or Sorel and her mother was Catherine de Maignelais, both of whom were part of the provincial nobility. Jean was a squire of Charles of Bourgon, an ally of the Duke of Anjou. Little is known of Agnes’ upbringing. It was probably the connection with the Duke of Anjou that led to Agnes’ first recorded position as a lady-in-waiting to Isabelle of Lorraine, the wife of René of Anjou.
While it is possible the relationship between Agnes and Charles began in 1435 when she was a teenager, the most likely date of the first meeting was 1443. The King had captured Toulouse and René of Anjou and his wife set out to greet the king. It was the first meeting for King Charles and Isabelle and Agnes was probably part of her entourage. Records show Agnes was paid wages of ten livres, indicating she was of lower rank than some of the other ladies. The king was probably dazzled by Agnes’ beauty.
She must have had a magnificent presence as many commented on her exceptional beauty, cementing her reputation as the most beautiful woman of the fifteenth century. She had blond hair, blue eyes, was pale and thin, and had a narrow waist and high round breasts. She was the epitome of the contemporary ideal of beauty.
It is hard to determine when Agnes’ relationship with King Charles started as they were initially very discreet. One chronicler mentions that Charles never touched her below the chin in public. We know for certain Agnes was with the King on April 8, 1443. On that date, Charles made it public knowledge he had abandoned his wife Queen Marie who was pregnant with her twelfth child to follow Agnes. Charles gave her the chateau of Beauté, a place once inhabited by Charles’ Valois ancestors. The chateau was the most beautiful in the Ile de France. Agnes was officially appointed to the position of lady-in-waiting to the Queen, thus making her part of the court and giving Charles easy access to her.
Prior to Agnes, the position of king’s mistress yielded a small pension but did not include a role at court or allow for any great impact on French history. In the case of Agnes, her elevation made her more important and more secure but didn’t necessarily include any enduring financial benefits. After the birth of her first child, Charles would create the position of official mistress or maîtresse en titre for her at the court of Nancy in 1444. Official favorite was a new role for women and a new practice for French kings. This gave Agnes more prominence than previous mistresses and a quasi-official status. This position was uniquely French.
Agnes reveled in cultivating luxury and engaging in conspicuous consumption, appearing in sumptuous clothing and exquisite golden necklaces. She enjoyed wearing dresses that exposed her perfectly rounded breasts. She favored wearing long veils hanging down to the ground. She purchased large quantities of silk and cloth woven with gold. The trains on her dresses were so long they were remarked upon. She had the best bedcovers, tapestries, jewels and dishes. She lived in the Queen’s apartments where her accommodations were better appointed. The estimated worth of her jewels was 20,650 ecus, an extraordinary sum.
Queen Marie managed to remain on good terms with Agnes, despite the fact that she had to endure Agnes’ every day presence in her household. Marie had to manage Agnes’ household in addition to her own. Agnes appeared at court with the lords and nobility, dressed more magnificently than the queen and with better jewelry. Agnes always dined at a better table than the Queen too.
Agnes was pious and engaged in charitable activities, giving many gifts to the poor. Pope Nicholas V granted her the special privilege of having her own portable altar so she could hear mass anywhere she pleased. The Pope also gave her papal absolution to be used at the hour of her death. She donated a statue of Mary Magdalene to an abbey.
With the birth of each child, Charles would give Agnes more properties. Agnes was bold, young, sparkling and cheerful. She surrounded Charles with high spirited young people and fostered the careers of young men at court. Charles in turn showered them with gifts and honors and always sought their company. Her place was always at the king’s side. She resided in the royal chateau of Loches and appeared at court frequently and traveled with the king. Charles’ love certainly granted her unusual access and unprecedented power.
Agnes created an entirely new role on a different model. She wasn’t just a fleeting sexual fling but became a central player at court from the time of her elevation as chief mistress until her death. She didn’t just challenge the king’s marriage, she outright replaced Queen Marie in her principal duties, leaving the queen to a mostly maternal role. Her approach was innovative, defining for the French monarchy a new status of official mistress. From this point on, other women would exploit this new function with the mistresses of King Henri IV, King Louis XIV and Louis XV taking it to new heights.
Charles was not an appealing or handsome man and appears to have been ruled by one powerful woman after another. Important women in his life included his mother Isabeau of Bavaria, his mother-in-law Yolande of Aragon, Joan of Arc and later Agnes. After Agnes’ elevation, Charles became a most proficient and capable king. The powerful barons acknowledged his authority. Peace with England was finally signed, ending the Hundred Years War and the French crown regained lost territory.
Charles became effective in carrying out significant administrative accomplishments. He reinvigorated the court justice system, reformed the state’s finances and reorganized the entire administration of his government. Because of this, by the end of his reign, he left a larger and more powerful France to his heir. All of this indicates Agnes had considerable influence in transforming Charles’ character and politics and in initiating and advancing this new tradition of politically significant French royal mistresses.
Agnes aligned herself with the Norman lord Pierre de Brezé who was now the king’s first minister and may have originally introduced Agnes to Charles. Brezé made an attempt to take over the King’s government. In an effort to get the king’s eldest son the Dauphin Louis’ endorsement for the change in authority, the king promised Louis a campaign in Italy. The Dauphin sought Agnes’ help in this and gave her a magnificent set of tapestries which he had appropriated from the castle of the Count of Armagnac. Despite this generous overture, Agnes always viewed Louis as an enemy. Louis never did get his command or campaign.
When de Brezé went on trial for treason and financial malfeasance, Agnes appeared at the trial signaling her explicit endorsement and the king’s expectation for a favorable outcome. Brezé avoided being found guilty of treason, perhaps due to her support.
Agnes was highly criticized by her contemporaries. She was blamed for societal and economic disruption and for appropriating positions traditionally occupied by men. Increases in her influence provoked hostility and intrigue. All this eventually led to a confrontation between King Charles and Louis. Louis was highly resentful of Agnes’ displacement of his long-suffering mother in her role at court. One chronicler reported that Louis confronted Agnes and berated her. He then drew his sword and chased her into his father’s bed. Another chronicler reports that one day in 1444, Louis ran into Agnes and exclaimed “By our Lord’s passion, this woman is the cause of all our misfortunes”. He then reportedly punched her in the face.
Eventually, Charles drove Louis into exile. Although this banishment may have been caused in part by his resentment of Agnes in the short term, Louis did feud with his father long after Agnes’ death. By 1449, Agnes was at the height of her powers. She had been official mistress for five years, given birth to three daughters, she was at the top of the social hierarchy and her influence was overtly unmistakable.
Also in 1449, the peace between England and France had been broken when England allied with Brittany against France. Charles prepared to besiege the English possession of the city of Rouen in Normandy. Agnes went to visit Charles there in an advanced stage of pregnancy with her fourth daughter. There are conflicting reasons for this visit but whatever the motive, Charles was not happy to see her. He installed her at the abbey of Jumièges which was close to his military headquarters. Agnes was weary from her trip and went into labor at the abbey. A few days later, she began to complain of stomach pains which became increasingly severe. She died on February 9, 1450.
She bequeathed all her worldly goods to the Collégialle Saint-Ours of Loches in return for masses for her soul. After her death, Charles elevated her to the title of Duchess so she could have a splendid ducal funeral. Charles ordered a monument be built at Jumièges. Her heart was stored at the abbey and her body was buried in the abbey church along with her newborn daughter.
In 1777, the canons of Loches moved her tomb to a side chapel, perhaps out of embarrassment. In 1793, French revolutionary troops destroyed her tomb. Each time her tomb was disturbed, some of her remains were removed. Pieces of her bones and hair are currently on display in a reliquary in the Museum of Chinon. In 1809, her mausoleum was restored and then transferred to the turret of the king’s lodgings at Loches.
It was assumed she died from complications of childbirth and rumors of poisoning, as was the case with any early, unexpected death, have circulated down through the centuries. Her skeletal remains were unearthed in 2005 and examined. Forensic tests confirmed enormous amounts of mercury were in her body at the time of her death. Evidence also suggested Agnes suffered from roundworms and mercury was a common treatment for this problem. Additionally, mercury was used to treat women in labor in the case of a difficult delivery. But the evidence of a massive dose hints at foul play. She could also have contracted dysentery. Was her death deliberate or accidental? If it was deliberate, who poisoned her remains a question which cannot be answered six hundred years later.
After her death, the Queen once again reigned over a lively court at Chinon and cultivated a major role in supporting the arts. Charles replaced Agnes with her cousin Antoinette de Maignelais as his mistress. Antoinette also served as procuress of beautiful young women for the king. She was eventually married off to a compliant and handsomely rewarded husband.
There is an interesting postscript to Agnes’ story. One of Charles’ chief ministers was a man named Jacques Coeur. He was a member of the king’s council, a diplomat, Keeper of the Royal Purse as well as a highly successful merchant. He was rich beyond belief and many at court borrowed money from him with his primary debtor being the king. Coeur was also one of the Dauphin’s foremost supporters. Five months after the death of Agnes, the king had Jacques thrown in prison for poisoning Agnes. In May of 1453, Coeur was found guilty of lèse-majesté, fined 400,000 crowns, deprived of all his possessions and remitted indefinitely to prison. A year later he escaped and made his way to Rome where he was welcomed by the Pope. He would die fighting the Turks on November 25, 1456.

La interesante historia de Paul Pindar, comerciante inglés

Paul Pindar : Merchant of the Levant Company
By Katie Hickman
Paul Pindar, an obscure Levant Company merchant, was sent in 1599 as Secretary to Queen Elizabeth I’s embassy to the Great Turk in Constantinople. His mission was one that would change the course of British trading overseas – and ultimately the course of British history - forever
Along with his fellow merchants, including the Queen’s ambassador, Henry Lello, Pindar’s task was to renew English trading rights in the Ottoman-controlled parts of the Mediterranean. In order to do this the etiquette at the Sublime Porte was very clear. A wonderful gift had to be presented to the Sultan. A gift, moreover, that was better than anyone else’s gift - most especially that of their trading rivals, the Venetians and the French.
Four years previously Paul Pindar and his fellow Levant Company merchants had commissioned a renowned Yorkshire craftsman named Thomas Dallam, to create a wonderful mechanical toy: part clock, part musical instrument. Contemporary narratives describe it as having an organ-like structure at the base; crowned by a marvellous timepiece. This clock was a marvel of sixteenth-century technology: devised so that when the hour struck, a chime of bells sounded, two angels played on silver trumpets, the organ played a tune, and, most marvellously, a holly bush full of mechanical birds – blackbirds and thrushes – shook their wings and sang. The Sultan, Mehmet III, was known to have an extensive collection of watches and clocks, but the like of this marvellous automaton – the merchants were gambling - would never have been seen before.
The Hector, the ship bearing both Thomas Dallam and his extraordinary creation, finally arrived in Constantinople in August 1599, four years the English merchants first commissioned it. The crates were taken to the ambassador’s residence in Pera, the foreigners district of the city, where they was opened – only for them to find, to their consternation, that their gift been almost entirely destroyed on the six month voyage.
Seawater had seeped into the packing cases, and much of the wood was not only wet but had completely rotted away. The ambassador was furious: the gift “was not worth 2d” he is reported as saying. There was only one thing for it; Dallam would have to rebuild the organ in situ in the Topkapi, the Sultan’s Palace.
Dallam’s narrative of how he did this, An Account of an Organ Carryed to the Grand Seignor, and Other Curious Matter, 1599, is a famous document amongst Ottoman scholars. It recounts how Dallam and his men went every day for several weeks into the Topkapi Palace to rebuild the Sultan’s gift, during which time he alleges that the Janissaries who were put in charge of him gave him the chance to see through an opening in a wall into the Sultan’s harem.
“… than crossinge throughe a little squar courte paved with marble, he poyneted me to a graite in a wale, but made me a sine that he myghte not go thether himselfe. When I cam to the grait the wal was verrie thicke and graited on bothe the sides with iron verrie strongly: but through that graite I did se thirtie of the Grand Sinyore’s Concobines that were playinge with a bale in another courte… that sighte did please me wondrous well.”
Dallam’s narrative lays claim to be the only true first hand account by a foreigner into the mysteries of the Sultan’s harem, tales of which – almost all of them fabricated – had an extraordinary allure for English travellers to the Sublime Porte. But Dallam was not the only Englishman with a tale to tell. Paul Pindar, a soberly dressed but handsome young merchant, described in Dallam’s narrative as a most ‘gentleman-like’ man, was detailed to present another, equally important gift. It was he who presented an English carriage and horses – also brought out on the Hector, but which luckily seem to have survived the journey - to the Sultan’s mother.
This extraordinary woman, Safiye Sultan, who began life as an Albanian peasant in the hills near present day Scutari, was the favourite slave concubine of the Sultan’s mother, Murad III. Through her incredible intelligence and abilities, as well as her allure, she rose through the harem ranks to become, as the Sultan’s mother, one of the most powerful women in the world (later, she would correspond personally with Queen Elizabeth I).
Although details about almost all the women in the Imperial Harem were ‘haram’, that is to say ‘forbidden’ (in most cases we do not even know their names) Safiye’s life is unusually well documented. Her liking for the handsome young merchant Paul Pindar – even though they would only have talked through a screen – was observed and recorded by both the Ottomans and the English. Thomas Dallam recounts how:
“the sultan did Take greate lyking to Mr Pinder, and after wardes she sent for him to have his private companye, but there meetinge was croste.”
The meeting was probably ‘crossed’ by the sultan, who could not have permitted such a breach of moral as well as political etiquette.
Nonetheless, Safiye Sultan had great influence. The gifts – and who knows, perhaps Paul Pindar’s charms - succeeded brilliantly. The patience of the English merchants was well rewarded, and their trading rights secured. Whereas before they had only been able to trade under the auspices of either the French or the Venetians, who previously had the trading monopoly in the Ottoman controlled parts of the Mediterranean, from now on they were able to do so independently (without incurring heavy taxes).
During the next half century the Levant Company merchants went on to trounce both the Venetian and the French, their former trading rivals. Paul Pindar and his fellow merchants made fortunes. By 1607, as one Venetian commentator of the period noted sourly, several of the English at Constantinople had amassed fortunes ranging from 100,000 to 500,000 crowns.
For an obscure ‘Turkey merchant’, Paul Pindar’s life and accomplishments are also surprisingly well documented. In 1602 he returned to Venice, where as a very young man of 19 he had been for many years a ‘factor’ for an English merchant, where he was said to have acted as a banking agent for Secretary Cecil. In 1609 he was appointed as the Levant Company Consul to Aleppo, the principal trading depot in the eastern Mediterranean, where he remained for two years. Some years later he was himself appointed ambassador to the Sublime Porte, and was knighted by King James I in 1620. (A better appointee, one hopes, that Henry Lello, nicknamed ‘Fog’ by his less-than respectful retinue.)
Today historians write with easy authority about the great success of the Levant Company, but in 1599, when Paul Pindar was cooling his heels in Constantinople, waiting anxiously for the Sultan’s gift to arrive, it was by no means certain. The ‘Turkey merchants’ made their living by buying and selling goods from Aleppo. When the route around the Cape of Good Hope came into greater use, their fortunes were in jeopardy. The goods they depended on – principally spices such as cloves and pepper, but also dyes and drugs – were no longer transported along the ancient overland route through Persia to Aleppo, but now made their way back to Europe by the new sea passage which bypassed the eastern Mediterranean altogether (although it took many months longer to complete, the sea route was considered safer, since it was not at the mercy of the brigands who routinely attacked and robbed the overland caravans).
All this had an unforeseen knock-on effect. The success of the new sea route meant a big reduction in the price of eastern commodities, which had formally been imported, to Europe across the Mediterranean. For example, in Aleppo pepper had cost 2s per pound, but the same amount could now be bought directly in ‘the spice islands’ for just two and a half d. The same with cloves: from 4 shillings, they could now be sourced at just 9d. In addition to the tin, lead, furs and cloth that the English merchants had always exported from England (mostly purple and crimson in colour), it now became lucrative not to import spices from the Levant back to London, as they had always done in the past, but to re-export them from London back to Aleppo. Despite the odds, the Levant Company merchants continued to prosper.
The suppleness and ingenuity of traders such as Paul Pindar was at least in part responsible for the later creation, in 1600, of the Levant Company’s then insignificant off-shoot, The East India Company, which over the next few centuries went on to dominate trade in the sub-continent, and gave rise, ultimately, to the British Raj.

Sir Paul Pindar

miércoles, 1 de febrero de 2017

En tiempos del Papa Sirio de Jesús Sánchez Adalid

Jesús Sánchez Adalid; Escritor español, nacido en 1962, pasó su infancia y juventud en Villanueva de la Serena (Badajoz). Se licenció en Derecho por la Universidad de Extremadura y realizó los cursos de doctorado en la Universidad Complutense de Madrid. Ejerció de juez durante dos años, tras los cuales estudió Filosofía y Teología. Además es licenciado en Derecho Canónico por la Universidad Pontificia de Salamanca. Sacerdote católico, actualmente ejerce su ministerio en Mérida, como Párroco de la Parroquia de San José y como delegado episcopal en la Pastoral Universitaria. También es profesor de Ética en el Centro Universitario Santa Ana, adscrito a la Universidad de Extremadura. Nombrado académico de número de la Real Academia de las Artes y las Letras de Extremadura, hoy dirige la biblioteca de dicha institución. Es considerado un escritor polifacético y original, que ha conectado con un amplio público lector gracias al peculiar tratamiento de sus personajes, a la intensidad de sus experiencias y a los apasionantes periplos que emprenden, verdaderos viajes iniciáticos en busca de su verdad interior. Ha publicado con éxito La luz del Oriente, El Mozárabe, Félix de Lusitania, La Tierra sin Mal, El Cautivo, La Sublime Puerta, En compañía del sol, El caballero de Alcántara, Los milagros del vino, Galeón, Alcazaba, El camino mozárabe, Treinta doblones de oro, Y de repente Teresa, La Mediadora y En Tiempos del Papa Sirio. En 2007 ganó el premio Fernando Lara por su novela El alma de la ciudad, en 2012 el Premio Alfonso X el Sabio de Novela Histórica por Alcazaba, en 2014 el Premio Troa de Literaturta con Valores, y en 2015 el Premio Abogados de Novela convocado por el Consejo General y la Mutualidad de la Abogacía Española por su novela La mediadora. El año 2013 fue galardonado con el Premio Internacional de Novela Histórica Ciudad de Zaragoza, el premio “Diálogo de culturas 2013” y el Premio Hispanidad 2013. Su novela Treinta doblones de oro obtuvo el año 2014 el III Premio Troa de Literatura con valores, por su calidad literaria y los valores humanos que encierra. En Extremadura ha sido distinguido con la Medalla de Extremadura, el premio Extremeños de Hoy, los premios de cultura Grada y Avuelapluma y los institutos de enseñanza media de la región, en los que se leen ampliamente sus obras, le galardonaron en 2009 con el premio Más de 2016 lectores. Actualmente sus novelas están publicadas y difundidas en toda Hispanoamérica y traducidas y publicadas en Portugal, Grecia, Holanda, Polonia, Hungría y próximamente en Italia, Francia, Alemania y Turquía. Sánchez Adalid colabora en Radio Nacional, en el diario Hoy y en las revistas “National Geografic Historia”, “La aventura de la Historia”, “Marca Extremadura” y “Vida nueva”. Participa asimismo en documentales del prestigioso “Canal Historia”.Su amplia y original obra literaria ha conectado con una variada multitud de lectores, gracias a la veracidad de sus argumentos y a la intensidad de sus descripciones, que se sustentan en la observación y la documentación. Sus novelas constituyen una penetrante reflexión acerca de las relaciones humanas, la libertad individual, el amor, el poder y la búsqueda de la verdad. Frecuentemente es invitado a las ferias del libro de España y el extranjero: Chile, Méjico, Argentina, Grecia, Holanda, Bruselas, etc. La obra de Sánchez Adalid se ha convertido hoy en un símbolo de acuerdo y armonía entre Oriente y Occidente, entre las religiones, razas y pueblos que forman la humanidad. Porque su ideario se sostiene sobre la base de que cualquier cultura necesita de la mezcla de muchas influencias. Sobre todo, en un mundo desgarrado por la intolerancia y el fanatismo. En la actualidad, la obra de Jesús Sánchez Adalid sirve de base a un interesante conjunto de proyectos novedosos siguiendo el ejemplo de lo que desde hace años constituye una práctica habitual en las universidades anglosajonas: la utilización de la literatura histórica de calidad como elemento complementario para extender el interés por la historia. En tal sentido, la Universidad de Granada viene liderando un proyecto en el que ya más de cuatrocientos alumnos universitarios han leído las novelas de Jesús Sánchez Adalid y desarrollan a posteriori trabajos de investigación y análisis para la comprensión de los periodos históricos que sirven de escenario a los relatos.