Tag Archives: Andrea Cefalo

Frederick II’s 21st Great-Granddaughter

meAndrea Cefalo is a Medieval fiction author and Medieval history blogger. Her debut novel, The Fairytale Keeper,  was a quarter-finalist in Amazon’s 2013 Breakthrough Novel Contest. Her second book in The Fairytale Keeper series –The Countess’s Captive—debuted earlier this year.  She regularly posts about Medieval history on Facebook and Twitter.

20140520_205112After retiring in 2009, my mom became an ancestry.com-aholic. Her hobby/compulsive disorder has taught me four things.

  1. The Irish didn’t keep good records.
  2. Welsh people have funny names.
  3. My great, great, great grandfather was hanged for trying to murder his wife.
  4. I have absolutely no German in me.

That last one was a bit of a disappointment. I’ve spent the last five years researching the Holy Roman Empire, especially the region that would later become Germany. Our lineage is a sprawling list of Western European nationalities, most of them ending in –sh. Not one of them German. Not one.

We writer people are a strange bunch.  Many of us believe in muses. We sit around at Starbucks sipping our lattes hoping our characters talk to us so the writing will be a little faster and more poignant today than it was yesterday. I guess a part of me thought I was a distant relation to some semi-important person who lived during The Great Interregnum, and, in some way, that person was bringing me this story. Well, ancestry.com poo-pooed all over that. Or so I thought.

Three days ago when my video, The Great Interregnum: A Thirteenth Century Game of Thrones, went live, I pulled it up for mom. We’re both dorks for European history, so I knew she’d appreciate it. After spending forty hours working on a five-minute video, I was in desperate need of mom-praise, which she gladly gave.

Tangelshe name Hohenstaufen sounded familiar to her. Later that day, she told me she found a Hohenstaufen in our line: Margaret Hohenstaufen. Born in 1241. Daughter of Emperor Frederick II.

The sky opened and angels sang.

No, not really, but I did get a case of goose bumps.

So not only am I part German, I am a descendent of the man who was emperor at the time of The Great Interregnum, the setting of my medieval fiction series. The man who ran the place that I have researched for the last five years is my 21st great grandfather.

I’m no mathematician. Maybe this isn’t so odd. I’m certainly only one of thousands of people who are Hohenstaufen descendants—but a part of me hopes that wherever and whatever Frederick II is now, he’s proud of his 21st great granddaughter who strives to tell the story of his reign. In honor of this discovery, I’d like to dedicate a week of posts to a man few know now, but who was a Renaissance man to the Middle Ages: Frederick II.

Using History to Guess Who Will Win The Game of Thrones

meAndrea Cefalo is a Medieval fiction author and Medieval history blogger. Her debut novel, The Fairytale Keeper,  was a quarter-finalist in Amazon’s 2013 Breakthrough Novel Contest. The next three books in The Fairytale Keeper series –The Countess’s Captive, The Baseborn Lady, and The Traitor’s Target—will debut later this year.  She regularly posts about Medieval history on Facebook and Twitter.



George R. R. Martin says A Song of Fire and Ice is loosely based on The War of the Roses.  I believe the series more closely resembles The Great Interregnum: a twenty year Game of Thrones taking place in the 13th century Holy Roman Empire.  My five minute documentary, which compares The Great Interregnum to the Game of Thrones, posits who will end up on the iron throne.  (Take a guess who it is before you watch it.)


Telling Time in the Middle Ages: 5 Things You Didn’t Know.

As I am typing these words, my clock reads 9:34 p.m.  Like most modern humans, when I want to know the time, I can check my laptop, cell phone, or (God forbid) one of those archaic orbs on the wall with an hour and a minute hand.  It wasn’t until I began penning medieval fiction that I realized how little I knew about the history of time measurement and what inventions have made it so precise today.  Days of research followed. But for my readers, I narrowed down my fascination with the evolution of time to five facts.   I hope you find them as fascinating as I do.


  1. The minute, as a measurement of time, didn’t exist. 

Portrait of Jost Burgi, inventor of the minute handDuring the Middle Ages, people used a combination of water clocks, sun dials, and candle clocks to tell time though none of those could tell time to the minute.  While the best water clocks told time to the quarter hour, it wasn’t until the wide use and improvement of mechanical clocks that people could tell time to the minute.

Even though the minute hand may have existed as early as the late 15th century, Jost Burgieven (pictured left)  is credited with inventing it in 1577.  Still, it took over a century for the technology to spread as the minute hand wasn’t widely added to clocks until the 1680s.


2.       For most of the Middle Ages, clocks rang seven or eight times in a day, not twenty-four.

Since most Christian monks adhered to a tight schedule of work and prayer, they were some of the first timekeepers in Medieval Europe.  For most of the Medieval period, a 24 hour day was divided into eight liturgical designations: Vigils (currently called Matins and was also referred to as Nocturns), Matins (currently called Lauds), Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, and Compline.*

Strangely, the only mention of the bells ringing for Vigils that I have found comes from David Ewing Duncan. In his book, Calendar: Humanity’s Epic Struggle to Determine a True and Accurate Year, Duncan suggests that medieval cities weren’t always consistent in recognizing the first hour of the day and a medieval traveler “might end up at his destination at midnight to hear the…first hour rung.” Considering most historians accept the theory that medieval people participated in segmented sleep, this seems odd.** How did people wake up without the sound of a bell? Did people rise naturally on their own? Or, since the term Matins replaced the term Nocturns, is there some confusion about when the bells actually rang? I’d love to know.


Historian Robert Ekirch considers this engraving from 1595 to be evidence of segmented sleep during the Renaissance.

By the end of the Middle Ages, wide use and improvements in mechanical clocks changed the way people kept time. I’ll discuss that in another section.

*It’s worth noting that most cities’ bells rang for other events, announcing the opening of markets, beginning of curfews, and start of special holidays.

**Whether Medieval laymen slept through the entire night is a hot topic. In his book, At Day’s Close: Night in Times Past, historian Roger Ekirch references over five hundred documents that suggest laymen went to bed around 9 p.m., slept for 3 to 4 hours, got up for 1 to 2 hours for prayer and possibly sex, and then went back to sleep until Prime. But even Ekirch recognizes that not all people followed the same sleeping pattern as does historian Jean Verdon. Historians refer to this sleep pattern as segmented sleep.

3.       The length of an hour depended on the time of year and where you lived.


This sculpture on the side of Chartres Cathedral shows an angel carrying a sundial, a device used to tell time during the Middle Ages.

For most of the Middle Ages, the time between sunrise and sunset was divided into twelve equal portions just like it was in ancient Rome. The time from sunset to sunrise was also divided into twelve equal segments. This worked well on the equinoxes when the length of a daytime hour equaled a nighttime hour, but by the 2nd century b.c.e., people recognized how confusing this could be to travelers during the winter and summer months.

Imagine living in Oslo, Norway during the Middle Ages. With only approximately 6 hours of sunlight on Christmas that would make a daylight hour for them only 30 minutes long.   Now travel to Naples, Italy where they have over nine hours of sunlight. A daylight hour for them on Christmas would last about 50 minutes.

Ian Mortimer sheds light on how the medieval hours related to modern time-telling in his book The Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England. Mortimer says most people rose for the Prime bells, which rang at dawn. They struck for the 3rd hour of the day at Terce (mid-morning), the 6th hour at Sext (noon), again for the 9th hour at None (mid-afternoon) and once more for the 12th hour at Compline (a little after sunset). The chart below shows how bells of London would ring at different times depending on the season.

Table 1: Canonical bells in  12th Century  London

 Equinox  Midwinter  Midsummer
Matins    5:00 a.m.    6:40 a.m.    2:30 a.m.
Prime    6:00 a.m.    8:00 a.m.    3:40 a.m.
Terce    8:30 a.m.    9:40 a.m.    7:00 a.m.
Sext  12:30 p.m.  12:20 p.m.  12:20 p.m.
None    2:30 p.m.    1:40 p.m.    3:00 p.m.
Vespers    5:00 p.m.    3:00 p.m.    7:00 p.m.
(Sunset)   (6:00 p.m.)   (3:50 p.m.)   (8:20 p.m.)
Compline 7-8:00 p.m. 5-6:00 p.m.    9:30 p.m.

Medieval coins 4.       You Couldn’t Waste Time, and Time Couldn’t Cost You Money.

People living in the Middle Ages believed time belonged to God.  Therefore, it wasn’t theirs to waste. The question arose in the 13th century on whether merchants and craftsman could charge fees for unsettled debts (i.e. late fees). The Franciscans, who were asked to settle one particular case, decided no.  Why?  Because only God owns time and charging for it seemed unethical. Some likened late fees to usury (the sinful charging of interest) which was condemned for much of the Middle Ages.

5.        Dante Alighieri made the first literary reference to clocks that struck the hours.

Dante AlighieriIn 1320, Dante Alighieri (pictured left) referred to a clock that struck the hours in his work, The Divine Comedy.  It is considered the first literary reference to that type of clock. We know that by the 1350s this technology spread to England since King Edward III used them in his palaces. By the end of the 14th century, mechanical clocks could be found in several cathedrals and palaces throughout England. The clocks didn’t show time with an hour hand but struck a bell to signify the time. Since mechanical clocks relied on mechanisms rather than sunlight to tell time, the hours became the same length year round. The reliance on clock time was not immediate and people referred to time in two ways: solar time and time of the clock. The latter of which was later shortened to the phrase o’ clock, which we still use today.

profile picAndrea Cefalo is a Medieval fiction author and history blogger. Her debut novel The Fairytale Keeper, was a quarter-finalist in Amazon’s 2013 Breakthrough Novel Contest. The sequel–The Countess’s Captive—was published earlier this year.  She is currently working on the third book in her series.

Did you enjoy this article? Well, there’s more where that came from! Check out the archives or peruse the sidebar for a list of trending posts.  To make sure you don’t miss out on my latest articles, follow this blog or sign up for the newsletter.

Further Reading and Sources:

SICK: A Memoir

Part I

Late-summer rainstorm in Denmark. Nearly black...

It’s the same dream.  Not the only dream I have, but the only one I remember.

Dad’s driving down the interstate, the sky so dark you might mistake it for dusk.  A rain drop pelts the windshield.  And then another.  Then a few more.  Not long after, the torrent comes, an army of fat droplets assaulting the windshield.  The wipers slosh waves of rain back and forth, not fast enough at even their highest speed to clear one sheet of rain before the next covers it, distorting the view.   This is how the dream always begins, and it’s always at this point in the dream that an eerie sense of calm comes over me. I realize I’ve dreamed this before, but believe with every ounce of my being that this time it’s real.

The rain halts. The sky lightens slightly.  A cone-shaped cloud forms in the distance. It’s a tornado.   I blink, thinking how much this is like the dreams I have.  I’ve always wanted to see a tornado, I think.  They look so much like cotton candy spinning in the machines at the fair, so soft and innocent looking.  You want to touch it as it forms though you know you shouldn’t.   The cloud lowers, growing bigger and darker until it barrels into the ground and stirs up the earth.  On the other side of the highway, another cloud rotates, spiraling into a tight spin, stretching until its end reaches the ground.  The larger twister splits into two that dance around each other before heading in separate directions.

I look to Dad who is more mannequin than man.  His arms rock back and forth slightly, keeping the steering wheel in position.  His gaze remains forward, unwavering.  I don’t say a word.  We ride into the storms, mesmerized, until the very last moment of the dream when the clouds aren’t so pretty and soft, but angry and moaning.  The darkness surrounds us, and I realize this is a dream and my real nightmare is about to begin.  The desperate gasping wakes me.  It always wakes me first.

Part II

“Sadie’s choking!!!  She’s choking!!”  I scream as I race toward my parents’ bedroom. My older sister stands in the middle of the hall, grasping her neck, her mouth agape, her pretty brown eyes wide with terror.  “She’s choking.  She’s choking!”

Dad bolts past me before I even enter his bedroom.  Mom’s at his heels.  I race into their bedroom, pick up the phone, dialing 9-1-1.  I don’t know why the dispatchers don’t greet me by name.  Someone in my house chokes every other night, except for me.  It’s never me.

“Hello, 9-1-1.  What’s your emergency?”

“My sister’s choking! We need an ambulance!”

“Is there an adult there with you?”

“Are you sending an ambulance!?  We live at 88 Stratton Circle. You have to send them now!  She’s choking!”  I hear her fingernails tapping the buttons on a keyboard , hopefully typing in our address  and summoning the ambulance now.  I’ve done this too many times.  Best to get the ambulance en route and allow the dispatcher to ask her twenty questions afterward.

“Is there an adult there with you?”

“Yes!  They’re helping her.  Hurry!  You have to hurry!”

“What is she choking on?”


“You mean you don’t know what she’s choking on?”  The dispatcher asks, her voice laced with confusion.

“No.  She’s choking on nothing.  They do this every night!”

“Oh.”  She says, recognition heavy in her voice.

“An ambulance is on the way, Andrea, but I need you to stay on the phone with me.”

Thirty seconds, I think to myself.  It’s been thirty seconds, and the ambulance is probably just getting on the road.   She has a minute and a half before she passes out.  Four and a half minutes before she’s dead.  But they never pass out, I tell myself.  They never pass out.  She’s not going to die.  She’s not going to die.


“I’m still here,” I say.  I look through my parents door to see my father slapping  Sadie’s back in a desperate effort to help her catch her breath.  His eyes, Mom’s eyes, and surely my eyes, reflect the same terror in Sadie’s.  She gives another horrific gasp.  I cover my ears and close my eyes tight as though that will somehow make it all go away.   Prayers race through my head.  God don’t take my sister.  Help Sadie.  Save her.  Make it stop.  And then, the squealing gasps soften, elongating into deep breaths, and I know it’s over.  At least for now, it’s over.

“She stopped.”  I tell the dispatcher.  “She’s not choking anymore.”

“Do you want me to still send the ambulance?”

“Mom, do you want them to still send the ambulance?”  I call, but I already know the answer.

“No,” she says.

The Fairytale Keeper Book Trailer!

I’m very proud to (finally) present The Official Fairytale Keeper Book Trailer.

I owe a great deal of gratitude to my very talented husband, Ken Morrill, who created this book trailer for me.

Can’t wait to get your hands on a copy of The Fairytale Keeper? Order it now @

Barnes and Noble LogoAmazon Logosmashwords1




Are you a fan of all things Medieval?  Love Grimm’s Fairy Tales?  For the latest and greatest on these topics and for up-to-date information on The Fairytale Keeper series Subscribe to our newsletter  or follow me @

facebook buttontwitter-red-webtreatsetcgoodreads-blackpinterest-logo1-300x300

The Real People in The Fairytale Keeper

medieval king

He reminds me of Conrad IV.

I love the Middle Ages, but, to be honest, most of my research time goes into my book.  I am learning more and more every day about the power players during the middle thirteenth century in the Holy Roman Empire.  I don’t recall learning much about the Holy Roman Empire when I was in school.  Most of the Medieval studies focused on England, France, Spain, and Italy.  All those kingdoms, duchies, counties, and ecclesiastical sees in central Europe just aren’t given much time.  As a former teacher, I understand that,  you can’t cover everything, and, in a way, I appreciate it.  Not having learned much about this area made me want to learn more, so I explore it every day.

I was thinking about all I’ve learned about the REAL people who I write in The Fairytale Keeper series, and I thought it would be fun for my readers to learn a little more of these fascinating people who are unknown to most of us.  I hope you enjoy what’s coming up, and that it makes you curious as to how it will all end up in The Fairytale Keeper series.

So now you know what my favorite time period in history is, what’s yours??



Can’t wait to get your hands on a copy of The Fairytale Keeper? Order it now @

smashwords logoAmazon LogoBarnes and Noble Logo






Are you a fan of all things Medieval?  Love Grimm’s Fairy Tales?  For the latest and greatest on these topics and for up-to-date information on The Fairytale Keeper series Subscribe to our newsletter  or follow me @

facebook buttonRed Twitter Buttongoodreads-blackPinterest Logo

The Fairytale Keeper: Indie Book of the Day

Indie Book Day Andrea CefaloI’m very proud to announce that The Fairytale Keeper was nominated and awarded The Indie Book of the Day Award on April 12, 2013.  To see, The Fairytale Keeper and other past award winners, visit: http://indiebookoftheday.com/past-winners/.

The Fairytale Keeper: Amazon Breakthrough Novel Quarter-Finalist

the fairytale keeperI am happy to announce that The Fairytale Keeper has been named a quarter-finalist in Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Contest!  Click the picture to read a free excerpt and give your opinion.

If you like what you read, The Fairytale Keeper is available for $0.99 until April 1st on Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com.

Star-Crossed Lovers Week: Elizabeth Woodville and Edward IV

The War of the Roses seemed to be over.  The mad King Henry and his queen, Margaret of Anjou were overthrown and Edward IV kept the crown steadily on his head for three years.  An alliance with France and a betrothal to a French princess were in the works.  And then came Elizabeth Woodville, the Capulet to Edward’s Montague.

Elizabeth Woodville (1437–92), Queen Con...

Elizabeth Woodville (1437–92), Queen Consort of Edward IV of England (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Upon entering Margaret of Anjou’s court, Elizabeth Woodville quickly became known as the belle of England.  She was a fair-faced, heavy-lidded, flaxen-haired beauty.   Letters between Richard Neville and Richard of York describe her as the loveliest and most sweet-mannered maid in court.  The two men tried unsuccessfully to marry her to a poor knight, but Elizabeth, though penniless herself, used her fair face to rise.  She married the wealthy, yet handsome John Grey.

When King Henry went mad, leaving only an infant son for heir, the York cause grew stronger.  Clashes between Richard of York and Henry’s wife, Margaret of Anjou, fueled flames between the two lines.  Battles raged again and most in England chose either the white rose of York or the red rose of Lancaster.  The Woodville’s remained loyal to the Lancasters.  Elizabeth and her mother, Jacquetta,  served Margaret of Anjou faithfully.  Elizabeth’s father and brothers fought bravely against the Yorks.  Elizabeth’s husband, John Grey, lost his life under the red rose, dying in the Second Battle of St. Albans.

With the help of his cousin, Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, Edward took the throne.  An alliance with France had been made. A marriage between King Edward and a French princess was being negotiated to secure the peace.  That marriage never happened.

Elizabeth’s sons were denied their inheritance, leaving them destitute for two years.  When Elizabeth heard the king was hunting near her mother’s castle in Grafton, Elizabeth, with a son in each arm, waited under a tree for Edward to ride by.  She dropped to her knees and begged for his mercy.  The young king fell for her immediately, but Elizabeth would not give herself lightly.  Edward was a known womanizer and Elizabeth denied him.  This only made Edward want her more. The two wed in secret in her family’s home on May 1, 1464.

Edward IV Plantagenet (1442-1483)

Edward IV Plantagenet (1442-1483) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Edward seemed reluctant to acknowledge Elizabeth as his wife.  She gave birth to their first child only five months after Edward publicly acknowledged her and it took over a year for her to be crowned.

The irony of Edward’s choosing an impoverished Lancastrian bride was not lost and never forgotten by those who helped him to the throne.  Edward must have been quite besotted with her, knowing the marriage would not only upset the truce with France, but also his English allies.  Perhaps no one was more disappointed by this union than Richard Neville, who worked diligently to secure the alliance with France.

Evidence shows that Neville tried to get along with the Woodville’s at first even though it must have been frustrating to see Edward give up a strong French alliance so he could marry a commoner.  Adding injury to insult, Elizabeth hastily married her brood of siblings into the wealthiest and most influential English families.  Edward certainly treated Neville well, too, rewarding his loyalties with land and titles, but it never was quite enough for Neville.

Eventually, Neville rebelled the Woodville influence over the king, taking up his sword. He aligned with Edward’s younger brother, George, Duke of Clarence, waging war against the king several times.   At one point, Neville even sided with his former enemy, Margaret of Anjou, marrying his daughter to her son.  Neville had Edward on the run more than once forcing Elizabeth to spend time hiding with her children in sanctuary.

All in all, Elizabeth and Edward’s marriage was a fruitful one, producing ten children.  Elizabeth rose quite high, from a low-ranking noble to the Queen of England, though the death of her second husband forced her to fall quite far.

Richard III usurped his young nephew’s throne, holding him prisoner while claiming to plan a coronation for the boy.  Elizabeth’s son and brother, who served as guardians for the prince were executed.   Elizabeth took sanctuary with her children.  Richard demanded her other son be brought to court.  Whether Elizabeth sent him or a decoy is not known.  No one knows for sure what happened to the two princes, but two bodies were found in the Tower of London in 1674.

Elizabeth’s marriage to Edward was deemed illegitimate during Richard III’s reign.    Elizabeth and Margaret Beaufort arranged a marriage contract between their children: Elizabeth of York and Henry Tudor.  Upon the death of Richard III, Elizabeth was restored to the position of a dowager queen.   The marriage between Elizabeth and Henry united the Yorks and Lancaster under the white and red Tudor rose and ended the thirty year War of the Roses.

Article written by Andrea Cefalo, author of The Fairytale Keeper: a novel of corruption, devotion, and the origins of Grimm’s fairytales.  To follow Andrea Cefalo and hear more about The Fairytale Keeper series, please visit:

Star Crossed Lovers Week: Listen to the Letters of Abelard and Heloise

Listen to the Letters of Abelard and Heloise

Lady Reading the Letters of Heloise and Abelard

Lady Reading the Letters of Heloise and Abelard (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I must admit that I’ve become swept up into the great romance between Heloise and Abelard. And so, for day three of Star-Crossed Lovers Week, I am happy to link to the reading of their letters. So if you are as enamored by these love letters as I am, click the links below.  The first is a link to a theatrical reading of the letters.  The second is a clip from the movie Stealing Heaven, about the famous love affair.