Toward the beginning of her recent biography of Cleopatra*, Stacy Schiff comments on how little specific information about Cleopatra is extant. What did she look like? “Only her coin portraits–issued in her lifetime, and which she likely approved–can be accepted as authentic.” Most of the Roman accounts of her were written long after her time. “No papyri from Alexandria survive.” The historians conflated her stories with those of others. “To restore Cleopatra is as much to salvage the few facts as to peel away the encrusted myth and the hoary propaganda.”
I empathize. The situation’s little better for the women about whom I’m writing–Alice Perrers, Joan of Kent. I’ve more information about Joan than I did about Alice, but I’ve also a great deal of conflicting mythology, some positive, some negative. In fact, that last quote from Stacy is spot on for Joan.
Just coming up for air and appreciating Schiff’s lovely prose….
*Cleopatra: A Life, Stacy Schiff (Little Brown 2010)
While reading you book “The King’s Mistress” I so wanted a real pictorial image of her, like I found of King Edward III. She must have been very beautiful to be taken to such depths by ‘His Grace’. I can not stop thinking about them and what life must have been like. A beautiful book and one I will remember always. Thank you.
Oh, how I wish we had an image of her as well. I see from your blog that you share a talent with Alice for design and sewing. Love it.
Thank you for writing!