Olympias

Talk about tough love!

We all love our mums dearly, and this Sunday (which we hope you already know is Mothering Sunday!) we plan to show this in spectacular form with roast dinners, posh chocs and tulips aplenty. While they may have cradled and protected us since we were babes in the crib, no one is denying that Mums can be battle axes when they want to be – prime examples: when we put the teaspoon back in the sugar after we’ve stirred our tea, or when we forget to take off our muddy boots when we call in after a hard days digging (well really… who ever thought cream carpets would be a good idea?) But we’d rather face a fire-breathing dragon than come home to any of history’s most militant mums!

militant mums1.  Sammu-ramat – Mesopotamian Queen

Sammu-ramat was a queen from Mesopotamian history who rose to prominence during the reign of her son Adad-nirari. As this was a time when we barely heard a peep out of women, royal or not, she really was doing it for the ladies. A boundary stone erected helps paint a picture of her military responsibility and prowess. The stone describes how mother and son crossed the Euphrates River together to successfully defeat the king of the Kummuhites. It seems to show a remarkable amount of authority on the part of Sammu-ramat and perhaps gives us a glimpse of just how far a capable queen could take her power.

2.  Olympias – Mother of Alexander the Great

We can definitely see where Alexander the Great inherited his ambition from, along with his thirst for blood. His mum Olympias was quite a force to be reckoned with.  She certainly was a committed mother, so wanting Alexander to take the throne after the death of his father Phillip II of Macedonia that she went as far as to orchestrate the death of his new wife and their infant son in order to secure it. When her grandson’s time came, she stepped up her game and executed Alexander’s half-brother Phillip, his wife Eurydice and hundreds of Macedonians who were loyal to the regent Cassander. Now that’s motherly love!

3.  Isabella I – Unifier of Spain

When she wasn’t busy cooking for her six kids, Isabella I spent her time instituting criminal reform and bringing down the debt left by her brother who was the previous ruler of her inherited kingdom of Castile. Not to mention playing a large part in the unification of Spain! Though she was known for being a bit ruthless, you don’t get all that power that from being nice. Catholicism was compulsory and all other faiths faced the ultimatum of convert or flee. This culminated in the launch of the Spanish Inquisition by her and her hubby in 1480.

4.  Wu Zetian – China’s only ruling empress

Wu Zetian really was the epitome of an independent woman. Her early days were spent doing all manner of un-girlish things, reading and learning about politics (fancy that!) She became consort of the emperor and, when her baby was strangled to death, accused the empress of murder – though many suspect she did it herself. When Wu’s son was named heir, and the emperor started to fall increasingly ill, Wu took over making many important political decisions in his place. On the emperors death, Wu’s son took the throne and she became regent. However he didn’t follow mummy’s orders and she quickly had him deposed and replaced with another son. Soon Wu realised, as many mothers do, that if you want something doing properly you’d better do it yourself. She had her son abdicate the throne and declared herself the founding empress of the Zhou dynasty – ruthless yet efficient.

5 . Emmeline Pankhurst – suffragette

You would dread asking the five Pankhurst kids ‘how are your mum and dad?’ if you ever bumped into them in the street. ‘Well mum’s back in jail again. They let her off for the protests and window smashing but the arson was just a step too far. She’s on a hunger strike at the moment so the prison guards are having to force feed her by a tube through her nose’… ‘right… well send her my love.’ Radical Emmeline may have been, but, due to the efforts of her and her fellow suffragettes, she lived to see women granted the vote in 1928. Now that is one militant momma.

So, next time you’re going round to the mother-in-law’s for Sunday lunch, just remember… it could be much, much worse!

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Aisling Serrant

An all round museum educator and enthusiast, Aisling's the Family Festival Coordinator at the Museum of London Docklands.

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