By Sharon Buchbinder
He was the reluctant heir to the throne of a desert kingdom.
She was a virgin queen living far away in the south.
A little bird told him of her beauty–he had to meet her.
A traveling merchant told her of his wisdom–she had to meet him.
Something greater than either of them conspired to bring them together. When they met, could there be any doubt they were meant for each other? But would duty to country prevail over their pledge to one another? Only time and love would tell.
Sound like the stuff of romance novels? Yes, this was a romance writ large because it was an affair of state and royalty. And these characters appear in no less than four holy books: the Ta Nakh, the Koran, the King James Bible and the Kebra Nagast (The Glory of Kings).
In Biblical times, he who could kill or overcome enemy tribes became king. With lots of children and careful planning, his heirs would succeed him. But not all countries had the same traditions. In some parts of the world, women ruled by might or by right to the throne. For the royals, marrying and having children was an affair of state. Right up until recent times, it was not uncommon for the royalty of different lands to marry for the mutual benefit of their countries. In our modern era, heads of state and heirs to thrones have been granted the freedom to marry whom they choose–within reason.
Millennia before Prince William and Kate Middleton’s time on the world stage, people have been royal watchers. Some watched to see if they were in favor and able to gain, others to see if they were out of favor and about to lose–their heads! Still others watched because it was simply the best show in town. So when the royalty of Israel met the royalty of Sheba, all eyes were upon them. Based on the appearance of these two royals in no less than four world religions, no one could resist watching the wise King Solomon and the beautiful Queen Makeda.
In researching my work-in-progress, Kiss of the Virgin Queen, I, too, have become a royal watcher–from a distance of over three thousand years. My historical voyeurism has taken me down a circuitous path across time and cultures to their mythic romance. Destinies entwined, some would say the Makeda/Solomon romance was beshert.
With construction on the first Temple well underway by the time King Solomon greeted the extravagantly generous Queen of Sheba,* he already had seven hundred (700) wives and three hundred (300) concubines. By marrying princesses of rival kingdoms, he had built an extraordinary alliance and ensured the safety of the trading routes. Curious about the man behind the legend, Queen Makeda traveled fifteen hundred (1500!) miles from Ethiopia to meet the wisest man on earth–and to ask him “hard questions.” When they met, the Queen was “left breathless by Solomon’s magnificence” (Coogan, Brettler, Newsom, & Perkins, 2001, pp. 508). The attraction was mutual–but there was nothing they could do about it. Or was there? The eyes of the world were upon them.
Makeda, the Queen of Sheba, while madly in love with Solomon, had to return to her country a virgin, or risk losing her throne. For his part, King Solomon was besotted with her and had to have her. In a cagy move, Solomon feasted with Makeda and made her promise never to steal from him. If she broke the promise, she had to sleep with him. Offended, Makeda pointed out that she had no need to steal from him, that in fact she had more gold and spices than she needed in her home country. However, unbeknownst to the Queen, the King had her food heavily spiced. That night, she became terribly thirsty and searched the palace for water. The only pitcher available was in King Solomon’s room. When she drank, he leaped up and demanded that she come to his bed. That night Solomon dreamed the sun travelled from Israel to her home country, Ethiopia.
Much as she wanted to stay, Makeda insisted on returning home carrying within her a very special gift from Solomon. Saddened by the loss of his true love, King Solomon gave her a signet ring and told her that if she had a son, to send him back to Israel with the ring so he would know him. Nine months later, Menelik was born just outside of Ethiopia. He grew up strong, healthy–and the spitting image of King Solomon. When he turned twenty-two, he insisted on meeting his father. Queen Makeda gave him the signet ring, but there was no need for it as everyone in Jerusalem could see he was his father’s son. King Solomon rejoiced and anointed his son, renaming him David, after his grandfather.
But the Elders and the seven hundred wives and the three hundred concubines grew worried. What if this David took over? What of the other
sons of Solomon? After a meeting of the Council of Elders, Menelik/David was sent home much to his pleasure, but against his father’s wishes. King Solomon decided that since his eldest son had to leave, so should the eldest sons of all the other tribes. Amid great noise and with many wagons and animals, Menelik/David departed. But little did King Solomon know at the time, the Ark of the Covenant went with him.
When the loss was discovered, King Solomon sent his horsemen after the travelers. To their amazement, the ark and the retinue were gone. Sped on by the Ark’s own desire to be with Menelik/David, its supernatural powers enabled it to move faster than the horsemen. To this day, the Ark of the Covenant is kept in Axum, Ethiopia, watched over by a priest for his entire lifetime.
This story, like many other wonderful legends, takes place in the space between science, religion and the paranormal. Kiss of the Virgin
Queen, the second book in my Jinn Hunter Trilogy (Kiss of the Silver Wolf was the first book) will explore that space and the effects of the epic romance between King Solomon and Queen Makeda that continue to ripple down the centuries to their descendants. Stay tuned…
*(“Then she gave the king 120 talents of gold, a great quantity of spices, and precious stones, never again did such spices come in such quantity as was that which the queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon” (Kings 10:10 in Coogan, Brettler, Newsom, & Perkins, 2001, pp. 508-509).
Sharon Buchbinderhas always been a story-teller. As a child, she got into a lot of trouble for “making things up.” Now, she is rewarded for making things up. She’s been writing fiction since in middle school and has the rejection slips to prove it. After graduating with a BA in Psychology and no job, she realized her dreams of working in the attic writing great prose would have to take a back seat to the simple pleasures of eating, drinking, and having a roof over her head. After working in health care delivery for years, she became a researcher, then an academic. She had it all– a terrific, supportive husband, an amazing son, and a wonderful job. But that itch to write (some call it obsession), kept beckoning her to “come on back” to writing fiction. When not writing she can be found reading, fishing, working out, golfing or enjoying a good meal and laughter with friends and family. Sharon can be found at the following places and loves to hear from readers.
If you are interested in reading more about this topic, here are some books for you.
Budge, W. (Translator). (2007). The Kebra Nagast (The Glory of Kings). Lexington, KY: Silk Pagoda.
Clapp, N. (2001). Sheba: Through the Desert in Search of the Legendary Queen. New York, NY: First Mariner Books.
Coogan, M.D., Brettler, M.Z., Newsom, C.A., & Perkins, P. (Eds.). (2001). Kings 10:1-13 in The New Oxford Annotated Bible. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, p. 508-509.
Fraser, A. (2004). The Warrior Queens. New York, NY: Anchor Books.
Razwy, S.A.A. (Ed.) & Ali, A. Y. (Translator). (2009). The Qur’an Translation. Elmhurst, NY: Tahrike Tarsile.