Nicolaa just makes me want to cuddle up with a castle.
Born around 1150AD, and a descendent of a lord in Lincolnshire, Nicola eventually inherited the role of "Constable of Lincoln Castle" (just think CEO of your own real estate that included battle axes).
One day the French came to invade (as they often did during the Middle Ages) and that day turned into a month-long siege.
You'd think that'd be the end of Nicolaa and her haye. But, no.
Nicolaa held out.
She went on to direct the defense against her attackers and eventually beat them out.
With the defeat of the French (which would later be known as The Second Battle for Lincoln, as part of The First Baron's War*) she basically stopped England from being invaded again. Ironically, her descendants were the invaders from the first invasion (aka the Normans) but we won't go there today.
*Side note: this is also the War that lead to the signing of the Magna Carta. Magna Carta = the founding document and basis for all human rights equality in the Western world. Just kind of important.
Anyway, Nicolaa didn't stop after saving the country. During the battle, a knight by the name of William Marshal came to help defend her castle against the French. But, as a reward for his chivalry he went back to London to try and "legally" take her rights to the castle away. Far from a wallflower, Nicolaa follows after Marshal to London, approaches the courts and re-secures the castle under her name.
More Feminist Whinging
So, why did I get only Joan of Arc when I could have had not-crazy, job-security-savvy woman?
I know this is an old complaint. But, seriously women existed as long as men have--women who were just as smart or just as capable--and yes, just as naive and asinine--as the men around them. So where are they to be found in the history books? Where are the stories that allow women to be finally more than just an exception to the rule?
Yes, we all know the names of those exceptional exceptions to the rule because they were incredible. But, I want more than just that because exceptions leave you with a huge gap of knowledge of how they got there and also what made them so exceptional in the first place. Nicolaa was exceptional yes, but she was also down to earth and still worked in a system that was fully endorsed and run by the men in power around her.
When learning about the Middle Ages in school all I remember is that guys got to hear about the politicians, scientists and inventors that defined relationships between the universe and life. Meanwhile, girls got to learn about a schizophrenic fundamentalist nutso who got burned at the stake.