So many of my readers have told me how much they enjoyed C.W. Gortner’s The Last Queen.  I am very happy to report that he has a new novel out, The Confessions of Catherine de Medici, one of history’s most controversial and little-known queens.   I was fortunate enough to read this book in galley form and I am sure that fans of The Last Queen will find it as compelling and surprising as I did.  But before reading the new book, which will be published on May 25th, you’ll want to read the following interview.   


I’ve always been fascinated by Catherine de Medici. Initially, I was attracted to her because of her legend. I figured, if she has such a bad reputation there must be more to her story. I wanted to know more about who she was, to search beyond the lurid hyperbole for the person she may have been. Of Italian birth, Catherine was the last scion of her legitimate Medici blood; she dominated France in the latter half of the 16th century, a contemporary of Elizabeth I and mother-in-law to Mary, Queen of Scots. Left a widow with small children and confronted by one of the most savage conflicts of the time, she fought to save France and her bloodline from destruction. As I researched her, I realized that, as with most dark legends, there was far more to her than popular history tells us. I thought how interesting it would be if Catherine herself could tell the story of her life. If she had the chance to explain herself, what would she say? I believe that all stories have two sides and Catherine de Medici’s is no exception.


What are some interesting facts you discovered about Catherine that is not widely known?

I found it amazing to discover how much she loved animals. In a time when bear baiting by dogs was a common entertainment, when hunting was a bloody pastime enjoyed by both genders and people rarely kept pets, Catherine was known for caring deeply about the welfare of her own animals and those at court. For example, she had the lion cages at Amboise completely restored, after she discovered how run-down they were; she also insisted that her bears not be used for any baiting and hired special attendants to look after them. When Catherine traveled about France, her bears were often seen lumbering behind her carriage! She also kept a menagerie of parrots, monkeys, and other exotic creatures; this was a time of plunder in Africa, New Guinea, and the Americas, with explorers capturing breeds which were often traumatized and ill equipped to survive transplant from their native habitats. Catherine tried her best to ensure those animals presented to her were treated well, not abused, exploited or killed for their parts - a very common practice in those days. The little dog she has in the book – Muet – is fictional, but represents this little-known aspect of her personality. In reality, Catherine had several lapdogs, in addition to the animals already mentioned.


I was also surprised to find out how religiously tolerant she was, particularly for an era of such savage intolerance and for someone of her fearsome reputation, who allegedly orchestrated a massacre to wipe out her Protestant subjects. This was a time when Catholics and Protestants were engaged in a very brutal conflict that spanned generations and divided families; popular history tends to bundle it under the titles of ‘Reformation’ and ‘Counter Reformation’ but the truth is, thousands of people lost their lives or fled their homes over the issue of faith. Catherine was the product of an ultra-Catholic upbringing; her family was intricately linked to the Vatican and her relative Clement VIII was a pope. She had every reason to fear and even despise Protestants, much as Mary Tudor did; however, Catherine showed a pragmatism toward doctrinal digressions that was actually very enlightened for her times. I do not believe she was a fanatic; I believe she honestly thought that there was a peaceful solution to the conflict tearing her son’s kingdom apart. It was her misfortune that so few around her shared her belief.


What kind of research did you do? Did you take any special trips?

I spent several years on this book to get it into its current form. I had written the original manuscript many years before that and it went through several re-writes before it was sold. Besides the over 40 biographies I read on Catherine and the important people in her life, as well as many other books on her era, I also read contemporary eye-witness accounts of the events that transpired under her reign, some written by her intimates. I don’t read French well and most of these accounts are not translated, so I had to enlist the help of friends who do speak the language. Catherine’s letters, too, provided invaluable insight into her thoughts; while many of these letters are formal in tone, as befits the time, a careful scrutiny of them does offer startling emotional information, such as the time when she wrote: “It is a great suffering to always be fearful.”


I traveled to France several times to see extant places associated with Catherine and to get a sense of the landscape. Though much has changed between now and then, I strongly believe the physical places where our characters lived offer unmatched glimpses into the past that can spark momentous changes in our work and during my first trip to Chenonceau, the chateau that Catherine embellished and loved, it happened to me. I was having trouble getting into Catherine’s “skin”, so to speak. Over half the book was written and I still felt she eluded me; there was something intrinsic missing. While touring this magnificent palace that sits on the river Cher, with its intricate gardens and honey-comb galleries, I understood what eluded me: I had made the mistake that so many of her detractors did: because she was so firmly entrenched in politics, I’d forgotten she was also a woman with a keen appreciation for beauty, a Medici to her fingertips, with all the passion that family had shown for centuries for the arts. This realization helped me immensely to re-cast her in my book, to find that flesh-and-blood person she might have been.

When combining fact with fiction, how do you balance history with story?

Very delicately! I think that as historical fiction novelists, we often walk a fine line between the facts and the fiction, in that we must adhere to the latter while staying true to the former. I always tell readers in my author’s afterword where I’ve altered or re-shaped events to fit the narrative flow; unfortunately, history can be inconvenient for a novelist, in that certain events do not match our story’s timeline and we finds ourselves confronted with editorial constraints, such as word counts, maintaining a manageable cast of characters, keeping up the pace of the story, etc. My golden rule is to never deliberately alter something if I can avoid it, and if I do alter it, make note of it so readers can know.


Do you think issues Catherine faced in her era still resonate today?

Absolutely. Religious divisiveness was a brutal part of life in Catherine’s world, with Catholics and Protestants willing to martyr themselves for their cause. This is something that many of us, much like Catherine, may find difficult to comprehend. Yet that very type of extreme righteousness remains very much a part of our modern landscape, as evidenced by acts of terrorism and genocide in several parts of the world. While we are in many ways a more enlightened society, we still carry vestiges of the past with us, and leaders throughout the world grapple with many of the issues that Catherine did, in terms of placating anger and restoring harmony among people whose lives have been devastated by conflict. 


What is one of the secrets that Catherine “confesses” in this novel?

The truth about her relationship with the Protestant leader, Coligny. I find it intriguing that so few of Catherine’s biographers have looked more closely at their enigmatic association. Coligny was at court when Catherine first arrived from Italy as a teenage bride; he was the nephew of the Constable of France, a very important man, and she and Coligny must have met long before they assumed their individual political roles. They were close to each other in age; they probably witnessed to a certain extent each other’s trials and triumphs, before circumstances arose for them to join forces. Coligny and Catherine could not have been more different, both in upbringing and outlook, yet they shared for a time a united response to the upheaval in France and a mutual desire for accord. In my novel, Catherine tells us what brought them together, and what eventually led to the definitive tragedy between them. 



Thank you so much for inviting me to your blog, Sharon, and thanks to all your readers for spending this time with me. To find out more about my work, please visit:

Thank you, C.W., for agreeing to do this interview.  I am sure that anyone who enjoys well-written historical fiction is going to be facinated by “your” Catherine de Medici.  

May 18, 2010


140 Responses to “INTERVIEW WITH C.W. GORTNER”

  1. Joan Szechtman Says:

    Your book sounds fascinating and I’ll be putting it on my wish list immediately. I find it quite interesting how harshly history treats some people while white washing others.


  2. Priya Parmar Says:

    This sounds marvelous! I love the way you describe your piecing together process for finding her character.

  3. Michelle Moran Says:

    What a great interview (to go with a great book!).

  4. Stephanie Cowell Says:

    Fascinating interview and a super book!

  5. Kate Forsyth Says:

    This was a wonderful interview, thank you so much for posting it. I just know I’ll love the book. And it has a gorgeous cover!

  6. Joyce Moore Says:

    I found this a fascinating blog read. I watched The Medicis film, and found all of the episodes fascinating. It’s great to see one of the Medici women being fleshed out in such capable hands! I was especially delighted to see that even then, there were women who were nuts about animals.
    Great interview. I’m looking forward to reading this book.

  7. Brenna Says:

    I’m so excited to read this book. I loved the Last Queen, so I’m positive that this book will be just as thrilling. I’ve noticed there have been several books published recently on Catherine, I’m curious if Mr. Gortner has read them and if so, his thoughts on some of them. There were several I had considered buying until I read the reviews on Most people didn’t seem to be that impressed. Thank you for another great interview Sharon!

  8. Koby Says:

    A very interesting interview, Sharon. You and Miss Moppet cause me no end of grief, making my anti-library and my backlog grow endlessly - but I love it.
    On other matters, Today was Shavuot, the Jewish holiday of Receiving the Torah and the holiday of reaping the wheat. It is also the traditional date of the Birth and Death of King David.
    Also, today Stephen of Blois, King Stephen’s father died.

  9. C.W. Gortner Says:

    Thank you, Sharon, for this interview and thanks to all the readers who have commented so far. I see some friends here, too :) I’m delighted this interview has provided some insight. Catherine was such a fascinating woman; I hope you’ll enjoy spending time with her as much as I did.

    In answer to Brenna’s question, I’ve read Jean Plaidy’s trilogy on Catherine de Medici, many years ago. However, there’s a lot of room for interpretation, so every writer can bring something different to the mix when writing about her.

  10. Britta B. Says:

    Greyt interview, thanx for posting it. Added to my wishlist, as with any recommendation by Sharon.

    What’s with the recent rash of beheaded book covers? Is there a guideline among publishers that historical fiction needs to have a person w/o a head on the cover? ‘-)

  11. Sharon K Penman Says:

    And it is always a woman, too, Britta. I am utterly baffled by this myself, but I’ve been told that books sell better with these covers.

  12. Susan Higginbotham Says:

    A great interview! I’m really looking forward to this one.

  13. Blair Hodgkinson Says:

    Perhaps the headless cover phenomenon is successful because it allows the reader to view the main character as him or herself without contradiction of the supermodel face on the cover? Or maybe it’s successful because we would rather envision the face of the person as we see fit without the publisher’s preconceptions… which on the covers often contradict the author’s descriptions anyway. I can think of a couple of male examples too: The Greatest Knight by Elizabeth Chadwick does sever William Marshal’s head above the jawline I believe, and though it’s not a novel, Marc Morris’ Edward I: A Great And Terrible King, treats ol’ Longshanks as Wallace would have liked to have done unto him.

    Revisiting one of our recent fave subjects from your last blog, I saw this article on about historical inaccuracy on film and couldn’t resist adding the link:

  14. Britta B. Says:

    That was quite educational Blaire, thanx for that link. While movies obviously are not real history, it is amazing how much is botched. Some of these errors are quite blatant and with a little research could’ve been avoided. Perhaps the real thing wouldn’t have made good theater the powers that be thought.

    P.S.: So far Sharon’s books haven’t had lopped off characters on the cover - does an author have any say in the design of the book cover or the overall look of the book at all?

  15. james watson Says:

    just a Thought,! “did Anyone do a portrait of Elenor ??”.. or was Art Not That Good in the Medevil Days………were Paints Not Availabel

  16. Koby Says:

    Victory! Today The Royalist English Army under William Marshal defeated the French under the Count of Perche in the second Battle of Lincoln. Lincoln was then pillaged by the victorious army, in an event called the Lincoln Fair

  17. Sharon K Penman Says:

    Portraut art didn’t start flourishing until the 15th century, James. We have portraits, for example, of the Yorkist kings and the Tudors. Nothing before that, though. The chroniclers didn’t even bother to note the color of Eleanor’s eyes and hair, just saying she was beautiful–not at all helpful for future historical novelists.
    Britta, it depends. I have some input with my publishers, but I certainly don’t have the final say. Some writers have veto power, those who nest regularly on the best-seller lists, and some are not even asked.
    Very interesting article, Blair. But they didn’t even mention the two worst offenders in my book, the ones tied with Braveheart for making a mishmash out of history….Becket and Kingdom of Heaven.

  18. Sandy Says:

    Any idea of when the effigy on Eleanor’s tomb was made and whether or not there is reason to believe it’s at all an accurate representation? I do think there is some similarity between it and the sculpture at Chatres that’s supposed to be her.

  19. james watson Says:

    Thank-you Sharon,…….Between The Fair Rosamund!…….and Elenor “Its a pity Henry Did;nt Commission Some Artist” He Was proberly…Too Busy Eh??.

  20. C.W. Gortner Says:

    Thanks for all the interesting comments. When it comes to covers, as an author I do have some say but I can’t override the creative department or the all important accounts, which decide so much. The current “half-head” or “beheaded” phenomenon started with the success of The Other Boleyn Girl and is driven by buyers. I know for example that when my book The Last Queen was picked up for a big multi-item discount retailer (the kind that can sell thousands of copies) they specifically said they liked the cover because “faces don’t sell.” Evidently, they believe consumers can more easily project their own fantasy onto a cover that does not have a full face. That said, the trend appears to be slowly fading out.

    Still, I like my semi-headless Catherine: she reminds me of Catherine Zeta-Jones and I have to say, after all the “eternally beautiful” hyperbole that the real Catherine endured concerning Diane de Poitiers, it’s nice to see her get a little fantasy touch-up herself for a change :)

  21. Sharon K Penman Says:

    Many of you know The Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale is my favorite bookshop. They are having their annual conference June 24-26; it sounds like great fun and it is free! Unfortunately I can’t attend this year, but there are some wonderful writers who’ll be there, including Diana Gabaldon, Dana Stabenow, and PF Chisholm. I am going to post the information in a separate entry. Cindy and George, I am sure you’ll want to attend! And I’d urge anyone lucky enough to live in Arizona or with some free time and a bit of extra money for travel expenses to go. I love going to The Poisoned Pen, am so sorry I’ll be missing it this year.

  22. Sharon K Penman Says:

    June 24-26 2010

    Thursday and Friday events at The Poisoned Pen from 7:00 pm
    (Possible Georgette Heyer mini-conference Friday June 24 1:00-5:00 pm)
    Saturday at the Arizona Biltmore Resort and Spa from 6:30 pm
    includes programs and at 9:30, Late Night Readings and Pajama Party

    The conference is free, no registration required (Heyer fee: $25).

    A raffle for all those buying books by attending authors—one entry per book—has a $100 Poisoned Pen Gift Certificate prize.

    Hendricks, Juliet Blackwell, Sophie Littlefield, Michael Koryta, Jeanne Matthews, Gary Phillips, Stefanie Pintoff, Zoe Sharp, Dana Stabenow, Lauren Willig…and others to be announced.

    To reserve a room at the Arizona Biltmore Resort and Spa
    At the Poisoned Pen Rate: $89/night

    Victoria Strubbe:
    or 602-954-2569 | F: 602-954-2571
    Or use the Arizona Biltmore’s on-line Registration

    2726435 is Poisoned Pen’s online booking code. When you go onto the Arizona Biltmore’s website
    When checking availability, you will find a spot below to enter your number into field titled “Corporate Account Number.”
    Friday June 25 1:00-5:00 pm Arizona Biltmore Resort and Spa

    Fee: $25. Registration required. Email . You
    Will not be billed until we can confirm the event. Discussions with various authors, audience participation. It will be a celebration of her Regency novels and her mysteries. We’ll vote for her best lines (Regency) so come prepared to lobby for your favorite.

  23. Ken Says:

    Sharon, I’m sure you and your fans will enjoy this!

  24. Koby Says:

    And today, the First Battle of Saint Albans took place, where the Yorkists under Duke Richard defeated the Lancastrians, capturing King Henry VI (VII, by my count), killing Edmund Duke of Somerset, and killing Henry Percy 2nd Earl of Northumberland and Lord Thomas Clifford during the rout.

  25. Sharon K Penman Says:

    I have mentioned Watermark by Vanitha Sankaran before, set in Narbonne, France in 1320 during the Inquisition, and many of my readers have told me they liked it as much as I did. Vanitha is doing an on-line chat about Watermark on June 5th. Here is the link for more information.!/event.php?eid=120620264634534

  26. judith Says:

    re: the “headless cover”. Those are interesting points - imagination is possibly the best course.

    That said, my original 1950’s copy of Seton’s Katherine displayed a portrait which, to a 14-yr-old girl was immensely evocative. I have traced the artist to the early 20th C portraitist, de Lazlo. But have not found that specific portrait on the Internet, alas.

  27. michelle Says:

    Thanks for a great interview, now I am even more impatient to read this. I absolutely loved “The last queen” and know this one will be just as fascinating. I pre-ordered it from the book depository and recieved word from them that it’s now on the way!! I am so excited, I’m like a child waiting for christmas! Do other readers feel like this when waiting for new books? It’s quite an enjoyable sensation that I have experienced quite a few times, and certainly every time Sharon brings out one of her wonderful books :)

  28. Kristen Elizabeth Says:

    Thanks for this interview, Sharon and CW! With all the amazing historical fiction writers out there, my shelves are *very happily* groaning under the weight of the books they bear! Sounds like this is another I will be adding when it’s released! And I’m hopefully fostering a new generation of historical ficiton lovers–I read all the novels I’m reading out loud to my baby. We’ll see what she likes when she’s born! :)

    RE: The Poisoned Pen conference. OMG I was so excited when I saw this posted on Sharon’s FB page. And then I saw the dates and there was much gnashing of teeth and rending of garments. That is graduation weekend for the university I work at, the ONE weekend a year that I am expected to work! *wail* I hope those of you who get to go have a terrific time, though!! :)

  29. Brenna Says:


    I always feel like a child at Christmas when I’m waiting for books to arrive! Alas, I’ve requested several of Elizabeth Chadwick’s books from book depository that are sold out. I’ve added my name to some list to be alerted when it arrives, but that was 2 months ago. My feelings of wonderment and anticipation are starting to wear off.

  30. Sharon K Penman Says:

    Fortunately the trend seems to be in our favor on this side of the Atlantic; that is, more of Elizabeth Chadwick’s books will be available here, too. Both her newest, To Defy a King, and A Time of Singing will be available by the end of the summer; the latter has had a title change to For a King’s Favor. Brenna, have you tried This is an excellent on-line bookshop based in the US, a good source for books you can’t find elsewhere. Unfortunately, they do charge a shipping fee, unlike the Book Depository, but sometimes the book’s price is a bargain even when you factor in the mailing costs.

  31. Koby Says:

    And today, David I of Scotland, Matilda’s uncle and supporter died, and the ten-year-old Lambert Simnel was crowned in Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin, Ireland with the name of Edward VI.

  32. Monica Says:

    thanks for the link.
    So funny (I love Wales and if not for healthproblems I would have been there next week), and some of the other that come up on the right hand side :o
    I have four books out there on the way, I have exactly the same antisipation as you. Well, I think this is better than Christmas.

  33. Janet Mullin Says:

    Very interesting interview, and his approach jives with yours, Sharon! I loved _The Last Queen_ - Juana’s always been such a shadowy figure - and am looking forward to reading _Confessions_ very much.

    On CW’s site, there’s a note about a trilogy on Isabella la Catolica that he’s working on - it sounds as tho’ he’s still at work on the first instalment. I’ll watch for that as well.

    Cheers - and Sharon, what’s next for you?

  34. Sharon K Penman Says:

    Hi, Janet. Yes, Christopher is working now on a novel about Juana’s mother, Isabella. He hadn’t told me it was to be a trilogy; I’ll have to find out more about that!
    I am working now on what might be called the fourth book in my trilogy about Henry and Eleanor! I realized when I finished Devil’s Brood that I wasn’t ready to part company with the Angevins yet, so the new book is Lionheart, which will pick up where DB ended, with everyone still alive at the end of that book. Wer’re looking for a 2011 publication date.

  35. cindyash Says:

    Sharon, thanks for the info re Poison Pen. Unfortunately we will be on the road; we have a trip planned to Vancouver, Seattle and Portland next month.

    Ooo, I love it when I see the possiblity of a date on your books! And its only six months to 2011…. no rush, no pressure :)

  36. Sharon K Penman Says:

    It won’t be till the autumn of 2011, Cindy–sorry! I’m sorry, too, that you’ll miss the Poisoned Pen fun, but a trip to Vancouver, Seattle, and Portland is one any of us would love to take. Have a wonderful time.

  37. C.W. Gortner Says:

    Hi all,
    Thanks for the great comments! I sincerely hope you’ll enjoy The Confessions of Catherine de Medici. I share your love of books and have equally over-weighted shelves, plus random piles beside my desk which my corgi Paris delights in knocking over. I read voraciously, and of course my preferred genre is historical fiction. As a longtime fan of Sharon’s, I’m eagerly awaiting Richard the Lionheart’s tale.

    Regarding my works-in-progress, The Princess Isabella is actually a stand-alone historical novel about the youth and early reign of Isabella of Castile; it will be published by Ballantine Books (Random House). My trilogy is The Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles, to be published by St Martin’s Press; the first book, The Tudor Secret, will release in 2011. All of these books have been acquired by my UK publisher Hodder & Stoughton and will be available in the UK. I don;t have firm publication dates yet, but you can always check my website where I update information as soon as I have it.

    Thanks again :)

  38. Anna Elliott Says:

    What a great interview! Can you share more about the context of Catherine’s quote “It is a great suffering to always be fearful.”? That’s such a poignant voice from the past, I’d love to know more about the situation she was in that brought that out.

  39. Anna Elliott Says:

    P.S. HUGE congratulations on the debut yesterday! Hope you got to celebrate the launch with something special!

  40. Koby Says:

    And today, Malcolm ‘The Maiden’ IV of Scotland was crowned king. He was the (somewhat distant) cousin of Henry II, and is commonly said to have been knighted by him.

  41. Ken Says:

    Sharon, Not sure if you are aware that EC has just lost her new pet Jack-Jack in a road accident. You can read about it over on HFO.

  42. Sharon K Penman Says:

    Hi, Ken. Yes, she contacted me about it. So sad, for Jack-jack was such a sweetheart. I think it is harder to lose a young dog, too; at least with Cody, I knew he’d had a long and happy life, but Jack-jack was cheated of so much, and so were Elizabeth and her family.

  43. Sharon K Penman Says:

    Anyone with a few spare moments ought to check out Dave O’Shea’s Artistik website here. Dave is a brilliant photographer and my house is decorated with his wonderful photos of Wales. He also took the jacket photo for the American edition of When Christ and His Saints Slept, which we did at Dolwyddelan Castle. And yes, he does ship worldwide!

  44. Koby Says:

    I have it written here that today, Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry VII (VIII) was born. Also, Cecily Neville, mother to Edward IV and Richrd III died, as well as Isabelle of Angoulême, wife to John and mother to Henry III (IV).

  45. Koby Says:

    And i bleieve that today, Philip Augustus of France conquered Rouen.

  46. Sharon K Penman Says:

    Thanks, Koby. I love your postings about medieval history dates.

  47. Christy English Says:

    Sharon and Christopher, thank you both for the wonderful interview. I really loved this novel. I will never see Catherine the same way again…thanks for a marvelous book.

  48. Brenna Says:


    I’m sure through the various blog postings, you’ve explained how your number of Henry’s is different than historians, but I would love it if you would share again. I also notice when you put VIII in () when talking about Henry VII and so my curiousity is getting the best of me. Please?

  49. Sharon K Penman Says:

    Koby, this puzzles me. Henry I aka Beauclerc, was the son of William the Conqueror. Henry II, Henry Fitz Empress, “my” Henry. Henry III, the son of John and Isabelle d’Angouleme. Henry IV, the first Lancastrian King. Henry V, his son, aka Harry of Monmouth, victor of Agincourt. Henry VI, the Lancastrian king who died of “melancholy” according to the Yorkist kings, likely murdered according to everyone else. Henry VII, the first of the Tudor dynasty, a bleak day in English history. His son Henry VIII, a royal Bluebeard when it came to wives. This is the lineup by historians; I’ve never seen it given in any other way. At first I thought maybe you were counting Henry II’s son, the young king, Hal in my Devil’s Brood, since he was crowned. But historians don’t include him since he never ruled alone. But that would have given you an extra Henry, and you seem to be missing one :) Which one of the Henrys listed above aren’t you counting?

  50. Koby Says:

    Actually, Sharon, you’re right. I do count Henry the Young King. I don’t see how historians can overlook him because he never truly ruled, but do count Edward IV’s (Ned’s) son Edward as Edward V. Edward ‘V’ was never crowned, never proclaimed as Edward V, and didn’t rule either - Richard was his Protector, and Edward was declared a bastard before he was ever crowned. So if historians count him as Edward V, I don’t see why they don’t count Henry the Young King, who was crowned.
    Anybody with a different opinion, or with a counter-arguement?

  51. Sharon K Penman Says:

    I’d be okay with counting Henry’s son, Koby! From what I’ve read, historians discount him because they see his coronation as meaningless since it didn’t confer any real power on him, Henry Senior planning to rule until his last mortla breath and maybe then from the grave. But your argument about Edward IV’s son certainly makes sense. I’d guess that the young Edward was counted by the Tudors as a way of emphasizing what they saw as the illegitimacy of Richard III’s reign, and subsequent historians simply followed suit.
    Brace yourself, though–now I’ve found mention in Baha al-Din’s chronicle about the extreme heat in September 1191!

  52. Koby Says:

    Feh! It was obviously a one-time fluke, similiar to the great cold wave of ‘92.

  53. Koby Says:

    Today Adèle of Champagne, Louis VII’s wife and the mother of Dieudonné, Philip Augustus died.

  54. Koby Says:

    Re. the heat: In fact, Sharon, the mere fact that Baha al-Din sees fit to mention extreme heat, when he lived in this area and was used to it, implies that the heat was greater than usual, and so worth a mention.

  55. Sharon K Penman Says:

    Not really in this case, Koby–though that was imaginative! He reported that Salah al-Din had left camp while it was still dark because he was concerned for the effect of the heat on his health. He wasn’t well at this point; actually his health seems to have been deteriorating slowly. I think both he and Richard exhausted themselves physically and mentally during the war. Have you ever read Baha al-Din’s chronicle? Utterly fascinating since he was a member of Salah al-Din’s inner circle. I have two other Saracen chroncles, one by al-Ithir, who was a contemporary, and a French translation of one by Imad al-Din, who was also one of Salah al-Din’s men. But I find myself most intrigued by Baha al-Din, who had been a teacher and who lived to be 89, not bad for the MA.

  56. Koby Says:

    I am still doubtful, for soem reason. Science tells us that the past was cooler, and this spring was supposdebly the hottest in the world since people began to measure this circa 1880. And despite this, it wasn’t that hot here in Israel. I’m still going around with my long sleeved shirts! It seems weird to me that it could be so hot. Perhaps they were used to cooler weather, and so when it reached the heat of today (which isn’t that hot to us) it was very hot for them?

  57. Sharon K Penman Says:

    But Koby, that wouldn’t be true of Saladin. He was more accustomed to hot weather than the crusaders from Europe, and even he talked about the heat. I think you’re tilting at windmills. And brace yourself, for when I start talking about the snow! Having such amazing sources in these chronicles from both sides has really spoiled me for future books. They even give me the names of men killed in particular battles.

  58. Koby Says:

    Aha! See? This is the proof that it was a year of wacky weather! Real Snow? In Israel other then the Hermon? An occurence that happens possibly once in 50 years.

  59. Brenna Says:

    Re: Weather-

    Not completely outside the realm of possibilities when you consider the fact that 2009 was once of the coldest years on records and 2010 has been one of the hottest. Back to back years of extremes is irregular, but in the words of a character of The Little Giants “It can happen.”

  60. Koby Says:

    In other matters, I hvaeit written here that today Richard I arrived in Acre, beginning his crusade, and that George Neville, Archbishop of York and brother of Richard Neville died today.

  61. Koby Says:

    And today, Frederick I Barbarossa drowned on his way to Jerusalem. This is relevant, of course, to the Third Crusade. How it might have changed if not for that heart attack!

  62. Koby Says:

    And today, Henry (III) the Young King died, and Anne Neville was born.

  63. Sharon K Penman Says:

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