England’s 1st Black Queen – Queen Phillipa of Hainault 1314-1369

Michael Packe in his book King Edward III gives a delightful description of King Edward III and Queen Phillipa’s first meeting:

“He spied on the unwitting sisters, and pounced on the youngest of them, Philippa by name’, at the time eight years old and nearest in age to Edward, who was nearly seven years. He had then subjected her to a minute and terrifying scrutiny. Apart from some criticism of her remaining baby teeth (they were ‘not so white’, he had found little fault with her solid physiognomy. Her hair betwixt blue-black and brown and not uncomely’, her forehead large; her eyes blackish brown and deep, her nose though ‘somewhat broad at the tip and also flattened’, was ‘yet no snub-nose’; her mouth was wide and generous, her ears and chin were ‘comely enough’, she was of middle height for her age, well taught, and of ‘fair carriage’.

‘Her neck, shoulders, and all her body and lower limbs are reasonably well shapen; all her limbs are well set and unmaimed; and nought is amiss so far as a man may see. Moreover, she is brown of skin all over, and much like her father; and in all things she is pleasant enough to look at it seems to us.’

Queen Philippa is remembered by history as a tender-hearted woman, who interceded with her husband and persuaded him to spare the lives of the six burghers of Calais, whom he had planned to execute as an example to the townspeople.

Read her family genealogy here.

Baroness Patricia Scotland

Patricia Janet Scotland, Baroness Scotland of Asthal, PC, QC is a barrister and the current Attorney General for England and Wales, a ministerial position in the British Government.

She was appointed Attorney General in Gordon Brown’s first Cabinet as Prime Minister in June 2007. Baroness Scotland was previously Home Office Minister of State for the Criminal Justice System and Law Reform from June 2003 to June 2007, and also spokesperson for the Department of Trade and Industry on women and equality issues in the House of Lords.

The Baroness also served as Parliamentary Secretary at the Lord Chancellor’s Department from 2001 to 2003, and Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office from 1999 to 2001. She was also an Alternate UK Government Representative of the European Convention from 2002 to 2003. After graduating with LLB Hons (London), Patricia Scotland was called to the Bar, Middle Temple, in 1977, received Silk in 1991 and became a Bencher in 1997.

She is a member of the Bar of Antigua and the Commonwealth of Dominica. She is an Honorary Fellow of The Society for Advanced Legal Studies, Wolfson College, Cambridge and of Cardiff University.

Listen to an interview with Baroness Scotland.

A Look At Brenda King-Speaker at the 1st Black European Women’s Congress in Vienna

Brenda King, MBE
Brenda King, MBE

Hopefully you watched the video of Brenda King’s opening remarks at the 1st Black European Women’s Congress last week in Vienna. Brenda emphasised that when she was invited to attend the Congress she made sure that she wrote her abstract personally.

Now I want to give you a look at her role in Brussels on the EU level. Brenda is the President of the Specialised Section “Employment, Social Affairs and Citizenship” of the European Economic and Social Committee. She commutes to Brussels from the UK.

According to their website: The SOC Section covers a broad range of policy formulation including employment, working conditions, occupational health, social protection, social security, social inclusion, gender equality, combating discrimination, improving free movement, immigration/integration and asylum, education and training, citizens’ rights, and participatory democracy in the EU.

The SOC Section’s activities cover the work of several European Parliamentary committees and Commission Directorates-General, giving a comprehensive input to the social dimension of the Lisbon agenda.

Key themes recently highlighted in the SOC Section programme include job growth and quality employment, lifelong learning, training and productivity, occupational health and safety in the new Member States, healthcare for the elderly, women’s representation, people with disabilities, and EU ‘civic citizenship’.

Hearings on such themes are regularly held with experts and civil society organisations.

Brenda is the only black person in this section and leads a bureau comprised of representatives from Greece, Hungary, Poland, Malta, Austria, Spain, Czech Republic, Estonia, and France.

Here is what Brenda is up to today:

European Economic and Social Committee

Section’s 88th
2 October 2007

The draft agenda is as follows:

1. Adoption of the draft agenda

2. Approval of the minutes of the 87th meeting held on 17 July 2007 (CESE 1173/2007)

3. Statement by the President

4. SOC/275
Opinion on the Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on Community statistics on public health and health and safety at work
COM(2007) 46 final ??? 2007/0020 (COD)
Rapporteur: Mr Retureau (CESE 1176/2007)

5. SOC/265
Opinion on Credit and social exclusion in an affluent society
(own-initiative opinion)
Rapporteur: Mr Pegado Liz (CESE 858/2007)

6. SOC/268
Opinion on EU immigration and cooperation policy with countries of origin to foster development
(own-initiative opinion)
Rapporteur: Mr Pariza Casta??os (CESE 1106/2007)

7. SOC/267
Opinion on Entrepreneurship mindsets and the Lisbon Agenda
(own-initiative opinion)
Rapporteur: Ms Sharma
Co-rapporteur: Mr Olsson (CESE 892/2007)

8. SOC/279
Opinion on Abuse of elderly people
(exploratory opinion)
Rapporteur: Ms Heinisch (CESE 1156/2007)

9. Organisation of section work

10. Any other business
– Discussion of own-initiative proposals

11. Confirmation of the date of the next section meeting: 14 November 2007.

In addition to her duties in Brussels, Brenda helps youth in London. I’ll tell you more about that important work in a future post.

Uncomfortable Truths-the shadow of slave trading on art & design-200th Anniversary of the Abolition of the Transatlantic Slave Trade

2007 marks the bi-centenary of the parliamentary abolition of the slave trade. It is a landmark year, not just in British history but in human history, signalling the end of 400 years of slavery. To commemorate this the V&A is running a number of activities throughout the year.

1. A series of contemporary works in the Museum’s galleries and public spaces raise questions about the haunting and ambiguous legacies of slavery.

2. As part of Uncomfortable Truths there will be a number of activities and events including talks, tours, films, poetry and music throughout 2007.

3. Five collections-based, celebrity led trails are running throughout the permanent galleries from 20 February to 31 December 2007.

4. The Uncomfortable Truths Discussion Board is open to all and we hope that it will enable and encourage an open debate on issues related to the transatlantic slave trade and art and design.

Michelle Obama in London update for non-US residents

Amendment to the rule on non-US guests: At all price levels they are able to attend if the contributions have come from the account of US passport holders. As admission to all events will be determined by the confirmation of payment email printout, the recommendation is that you and your guests arrive together or that you send a copy of said receipt to each guest. Their names will have already had to have been registered and, for security purposes, they should bring a picture ID.

Also, after making your contribution, please check your Spam Folder if you haven’t received your confirmation as all contributions will be confirmed via email without fail.

As a reminder, the link to the $2300 and $1000 reception is:

And the link to the $100 event is:

A word of advice in relation to the $100 event: for venue and security reasons this is going to have to be kept at c.200 attendees. Notification will be going out today via Democrats Abroad UK and are expecting places to be taken up quickly.