INTERVIEW WITH PRIYA PARMAR

     When one of my new Facebook friends happened to mention that she was a writer, too, I was naturally curious.  Much to my delight, she said she was working on a novel about Nell Gwynn, the most famous and most appealing of Charles II’s mistresses.   Charles has always been my favorite non-medieval king and what little I knew of Nell was all to the good, so I asked Priya if I could have an ARC (advance reading copy) of Exit the Actress.    All I can say is that Priya’s writing career is off to a roaring start!  I loved this book.   Nell is a wonderful character and Priya manages to capture Charles in all his charming complexity.  Her Restoration England is so vividly drawn that I truly felt as if I were an invisible eye-witness to one of the most interesting eras in English history.    Exit The Actress was published this week and is already attracting attention–just as Nell herself did.    So….may I present Priya Parmar and Nell Gwynn.

INTERVIEW WITH SHARON KAY PENMAN

 

SKP: How did you happen to choose to write about Nell Gwyn and the Restoration period? 

 

PP: I really fell in love with Nell Gwyn and moved to Restoration London because it was her period but once I got there I was fascinated by the setting.  It is an extraordinary period of shift and innovation.  Charles II returned to England and rather than seeking to punish the country that revolted against and ultimately killed his father, he did everything he could to foster peace and unification and tolerance.  Of course he also dug up the long dead Oliver Cromwell, the man personally responsible for murdering his father and held an execution for his dead body in Hyde Park.

            It was an exciting time to be in London.  Charles II brought ideas and clothes and customs and architecture from continental Europe and set about building a new and wonderful country.  Unfortunately he had plague and fire and raging prejudice to deal with but he handled it all brilliantly.  He invited women to perform on the stage for the first time, founded the Royal Society and he and his gardener, John Rose, grew the first pineapple in England.  He was a thrilling king and his rowdy circle of libertine friends were wild and extreme but all gifted, brilliant people.  And Nell was at the center of it all.

 

 

SKP:  This book is not written in a straight narrative style but rather a collection of documents, diaries and letters of the period.  How did you come to write the novel in this format?

PP: The style just sort of presented itself and refused to budge.  I tried to coax it into narrative prose but it was so stubborn.  I think because I had been studying primary documents for so long, first as an undergraduate and then during my doctorate, that I just became fascinated  by stories in their elemental forms; before all the strands of ribbon get woven into a single braid.

            I first met Ellen Gwyn when I was researching my Ph.D.  I read: her bills for shoes and lace and clothes and a bill for a fantastic silver boat shaped bed and her will as well as all the diaries of the period.  A complicated, contradictory, whimsical, genuine, talented, compassionate, layered woman emerged from those bits of paper.  All the contradictions can coexist happily at that level and a real person steps forward.  She can be a woman who leaves huge amounts of money to charity in her will, scolds her son for spending too much money on hats and then goes hopelessly into debt over a Venetian mirror.   

 

SKP: It is interesting that as a reader, we get accustomed to the writing style immediately and forget it is even there.

 

PP: Oh good.  I wanted it to feel really natural and not intrusive.  I wanted it to be a fall down a rabbit hole sort of reading experience but I had no idea if it would work or not.  It was a huge gamble!

 

SKP: And you never second guessed it?

 

PP: Actually, the first agent I sent it to said she loved the writing and the story and wanted to take it on if maybe I would change the format.  It was the scariest thing I ever did to say no! 

 

 

SKP: I am always interested in what parts of characterization or plot an author chooses to fictionalize and what to keep purely factually based.  How closely did you stick to the history?

 

PP: I kept to the history as much as possible.  Even the bits that seem far fetched are often rooted in fact.  John Wilmot actually did have a servant called Alcock and Charles had a spaniel called Dot.  Even Ellen’s shoes are actually based on her surviving shoe orders!  I really enjoyed tracking down the obscure stuff like the names of the footmen who carried her sedan chair and exactly what the remedy for a cold was circa 1665.  I like when all the small details are right but at some points friends got tired of my beginning conversations with “Did you know that in 1660, ground fox lung was thought to cure a fever?”

            I did have a section from the plague year that listed the people who died near Ellen’s home.  It did not make it into the final book but it was so interesting and heartbreaking to research.  All these people, young women especially, of just her age died; mostly because they were often ones who stayed to nurse their families.  Ellen must have known some of them.

            The most glaring bit of history I chose to dispute was the idea that Ellen was illiterate.  I just didn’t see how it would be possible for her to keep the company she kept and be unable to read.  Also she often had three plays to memorize in a week!

 

 

SKP:  Your Nell Gwyn cuts a very different figure from the bawdy, cockney, flirtatious Nell Gwyn we normally meet in popular culture.  You have Oxford rather than London as her birthplace and she is called “Ellen” in your book.  Was that her name?

 

PP:  No one is sure where she was born.  There are strong cases for Hereford, London and Oxford.  I chose Oxford as it seemed the most likely given her Grandfather’s association with Christ Church and her father’s military history.  There is no evidence that she had a cockney accent at all.  Her looks, dancing, acting and singing were all widely commented upon during her life.  It was said she had terrific feet and a lovely voice but no one ever mentioned a London accent.  Home county accents were very popular at the time, so it was possible she had what was a trendy Oxfordshire lilt. 

            She only signed her name to a few documents and when she did, she used the initials “E.G.” and then her dear friend Aphra Behn dedicated her play to “Ellen Guin” so I decided that Ellen must have been the name she used in her personal life.  As for being flirtatious, she most likely was, but more than anything, she was a woman ruled by loyalty.  After Charles II died, she never took another lover.  I really love that about her.

 

 

SKP: First lines always intrigue me because so much hangs on them.  How did you find your first line?

 

PP: The first line of the Prologue arrived very early and never changed.  It is a moment about collecting yourself and leaping forward, which is exactly what I was doing in writing the book, and so I just wrote the moment I was living.  The first line of the diary was much trickier and kept changing.  I was giving it too much weight and it would not settle.  Finally it told me to go away and just let it be and so I did.

 

SKP: It sounds like you began at the beginning and wrote straight through.  Did you?

 

PP: Surprisingly, I did.  I would go back and constantly revise, but I never wrote a scene I had not reached yet.  I am sure it would have saved time if I had but I sort of had to live the book with Ellen and think through what was happening to her as  it was happening in the story.  She sort of moved in and would tell me all about what was going on with her eccentric family and her day at the theatre and her love life.  It felt like having your best friend over for coffee every morning.  I couldn’t write ahead because I could not see that far.  It hadn’t happened yet.

 

SKP: Do you have a writing routine or any rules for yourself that you follow?

 

PP: I turn on the computer at the same time every day and only let myself write four pages—however long that takes me.  And then, even if it is going really well, I stop and go off and research.  It is terrible when it falls in the midst of an exciting scene but I know if I leave it alone, I will have something fun to come back to tomorrow…

 

 

SKP: And are you working on a new book now?

 

PP: Yes.  My second book is looking for a title at the moment but is set just before and during WWI.  It is extraordinary to be writing about the last moments during the twentieth century when a world war was unimaginable.  They thought it would be over by Christmas. 

      Thank you, Priya.  I think this was one of my best blog interviews.  Nell has been waiting a long time for someone to tell her story. 

February 4, 2011

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

142 Responses to “INTERVIEW WITH PRIYA PARMAR”

  1. Valerie L. Says:

    Great interview! I will definitely look for this book.

  2. Beth Says:

    Thanks so much for the interview! Although I’ve said in the past that an an historian I really don’t like anything post-1603 apart from a few exceptions, the reign of Charles II is definitely one of those - as Priya said, it was such an uncertain and new time, but at the same it looked backwards to try and recapture the best of the old days under the monarchy. Charles’ collection of women in his life… they were all such different individuals. Charles indulged his French mistress even though he knew she had been placed in his way by the French with the instructions to run up debts as she wished and try to bend Charles to her suggestions. And he steadfastly refused to divorce his wife when she proved barren, despite thinking her to be bat-like upon their first meeting! I think he genuinely loved Catherine of Braganza, not in a passionate way, not in the same way he loved his mistresses, but inasmuch as he was devoted to her and loyal to her, and always kept her well, treated her kindly and would never hear suggestions of divorce due to her barrenness.

    Did anyone see a few years ago on the BBC, “Charles II: The Power and the Passion” with Rufus Sewell in the title role? That’s probably what got me interested in Charles’ reign. I must say I’m sorely tempted to get this book, and the format sounds really interesting!

  3. Priya Parmar Says:

    I also think that he loved Catherine of Braganza. Even when it would have solved so much to divorce her, he did not. I really liked that about him.

  4. Brenna Says:

    Beth-

    I watched “Charles II” a few weeks ago because I was reading three books at one time about Charles II and all three of them said different things. I was very confused so I watched the movie. I thought it to be very well done although certainly not as “entertaining” in the general sense as something like “The Tudors.” (I can feel Sharon shudder as I write that!).

    I already had this book on my TBR list that I sent to my mom (she keeps a running list of books I want for birthdays, holidays, just because days). I hope to receive it soon!

  5. Paula Says:

    Another one to add to my wish list.

    Beth, I also enjoyed watching Rufus Sewell play Charles. What first interested me in the period was the earlier BBC television series ‘By the Sword Divided. It mostly covers the war between the Roundheads and the Royalists, but the last episode of the second series is titled ‘Restoration’.

  6. james watson Says:

    Give me Oliver Cromwell ..Anyday!……Rufus Can Play Oliver?.

  7. Beth Says:

    If there’s one thing I don’t like about the Restoration period it’s the gaudiness. The fashions and styles seem to be very garish and not exactly what I would consider tasteful! I think that was a trend though that came about because it was a counter-reaction to the austerity of the Interregnum.

    Glad to know I’m not the only one who watched and enjoyed that programme.

    I’ve got to say I love that about Charles too, Priya! It was a surprise to most people that he didn’t just divorce her, especially when everyone knew that he wasn’t a one-woman man, and Catherine herself seemed to expect it and felt like she had failed in what was seen as her primary duty as queen. But I think that Charles appreciated her dignity and her quiet nobility, and probably realised that this made her ideally suited to be queen - for him there seems to have been no question of replacing her with one of his mistresses.

    Priya, I hope you don’t mind if I ask a question? Since this is your first published book and you’ve recently gone through the process of writing that first novel and trying to find an agent etc, and many of us here are aspiring writers… It sounds like you wrote and researched at the same time. How long did that take you? And was it hard to get a hold of historical documents that you needed to look up? Oh, and how did you find success in getting published? That’s three questions, I know, but I’m dying to know and I think others here would love to know that sort of thing too as those are the kind of challenges we are coming to grips with ourselves, and you’ve gone through it and succeeded in getting past all those obstacles.

  8. Marilyn Says:

    Sharon: You are determined to break my bank account! Not only am I going on the Eleanor trip with you (I am so excited, I can’t wait), but I keep buying all the books you recommend. Keep it up, you haven’t steered me wrong yet. Right now I am finishing up Legacy. It is riveting, but I’m getting a little weary of Elizabeth’s histrionics and overwhelming selfishness - so typical of those blankety-blank Tudors. It will be a nice change of pace to read about Charles II, although I’m not a Stuart fan either.

  9. Sharon K Penman Says:

    I’m not a Stuart fan, either, Marilyn, but I have always had a soft spot for Charles. I find a man with wit very seductive and Charles would have made his ladies laugh.

  10. Emilie Says:

    Thank you Sharon and Priya! Looks like another great book to add to my ever expanding collection. It will definitely be on my next book order. I am running out of space on my bookshelves and there is practically no space left underneath my bed. I guess I’m just going to have to buy a new bookcase…fun, fun, fun!!!

    I have been wanting to watch “Charles II: The Power and the Passion” but it appears that the DVD sold in North America is 1 hour shorter than the one sold in the UK….WHY???? I find that so frustrating!!!

  11. Priya Parmar Says:

    it is funny but i was not a stuart fan either but i just fell in love with this particular charismatic king and it brought the whole period to life!

    beth, i researched for years while doing my doctorate (although i had no idea i was going to put it towards a novel later) and then researched nell solidly for two years before i started writing. gaining access to material was usually really straightforward. people genuinely wanted to help! then i just kept researching all the way through the writing as there are always bits of information (price of lace, weather, plague numbers, popular music) that you need along the way!

    in terms of being published, i followed the absolutely traditional route of submitting to agents and sitting in the slush pile and then the agent submitting to publishers. along the way i met astonishingly kind and helpful people like sharon!

  12. Beth Says:

    Thank you for taking the time to answer those questions, Priya! My goodness you spent a long time on the research, didn’t you? I’m an aspiring writer who’s feeling frustrated at the moment because I’ve got that compulsion to write, but I don’t feel like I’ve yet collected enough research to do my subject justice!

    If I might be allowed to give a shout out here? The Anne Boleyn Files, a website which has been educating the public and debunking Tudor myths for several years now, known for their excellent but accessible articles, is inviting historians, writers and researchers of all periods to contact them, as they are working on opening a new website along the same lines but which will be about all periods of history all over the world, and they need contributors. It’s a chance to get some shorter pieces published and some experience, and if you so wish you could get your own bio page where you can promote yourself, post a link to your own website if you’ve got one or your contact details if you don’t mind answering lots of history questions from the eager non-historians out there.

  13. Sharon K Penman Says:

    Thanks, Beth, for posting this. I will pass it on to writer friends.

  14. Sharon K Penman Says:

    My friend, Paul Dalen, has made available on Kindle a number of wonderful medieval classic histories at rock-bottom prices. I am definitely going to have to buy a Kindle now to read the bio. of Simon de Montfort and God Wills It, a history of the First Crusade. Here is the link so you can see the books available and the great prices. There is something to be said for being able to buy a book and start reading it in five minutes!

    http://www.amazon.com/Classic-Medieval-History-Kindle-books/lm/REUSIW2OGYWC4/ref=cm_lm_byauthor_title_full

  15. cindyash Says:

    You mention God Wills It, a history of the First Crusade, Do you mean Deus Volt? I have a copy that I got off Amazon a few years back. A bit hard to read, but very interesting. Glad to see someone bringing those all to Kindle.

  16. Koby Says:

    Interesting Interview. I’ll need to look into this.
    In other matters, Empress Matilda, Lady of the English, was born today (or around it - it says ‘circa 7th Feb’ in my calendar).

  17. Sharon K Penman Says:

    Thanks, Koby, for the reminder. The “sainted” Thomas More was also born today in 1477.

  18. Koby Says:

    And today, Mary Queen of Scots was executed, and Sir William II Longespée, Will Longsword and Ela’s son died at the Battle of Mansurah, in the 7th crusade.

  19. Sharon K Penman Says:

    I mentioned Mary’s death on my Facebook page yesterday and stirred up a very lively debate on Elizabeth vs Mary. I am happy to report that Team Elizabeth won in a landslide, but good fun was had by all. I throw it out here in case my blog readers would like to argue the vilrtues and vices of these two rival queens.
    Koby, Will Longespee is a good example of a character with a mind of his own. He was not supposed to be more than a very minor character in Falls the Shadow, but once he was on centre stage, he did not want to leave! I found he was fun to write about and so he became a good pal of Simon’s before his death at Mansurah, which was a bloody botch by the French.

  20. Koby Says:

    Well, the French botched lots of things, didn’t they? (no offense meant to anybody who’s French)
    I remember one famous piece of advice on such an issue: “If you field an overwhelming force against a paltry number of defenders, whatever you do, make sure the defenders are not English or the attackers are not French!”

  21. Priya Parmar Says:

    Sharon, I love hearing about how your characters came into being! I love that this one evaded your plans for him and had a will of his own!

  22. Koby Says:

    And today, William IX of Aquitaine, Eleanor’s grandfather died, as well as Baldwin III of Jerusalem, who was Geoffrey le Bel’s half brother through their father, Fulk of Anjou and Jerusalem.
    Interestingly enough, Lord Darnley, Mary Queen of Scots’ second husband died (probably murdered), and Robert the Bruce murdered John Comyn in front of the high altar of Greyfriars Church in Dumfries today as well. I always wondered how Robert got away with something far worse than what Henry II did to Thomas Becket with far less punishment.

  23. Sharon K Penman Says:

    A very good question, Koby. I’m not that well versed in the history of medieval Scotland, so I’d have to defer to others on this. Readers, any ideas?

  24. Ken Says:

    I post an extract from the ODNB on John Comyn, which gives a version of the event:

    ‘More contemporary (than later Scots chroniclers version of the event), though still biased, English accounts give a different angle to the murder, and the narrative of Walter of Guisborough deserves some precedence. According to Guisborough, Bruce feared that Comyn would hinder him in his attempt to gain the Scottish crown, and sent two of his brothers, Thomas and Nigel, from his own castle at Lochmaben to Comyn’s castle at Dalswinton, 10 miles away, asking Comyn to meet him at the Greyfriars Church, Dumfries, to discuss ‘certain business’. It seemed that Bruce wanted to put a plan to Comyn, no doubt involving the revival of Scottish kingship with Bruce on the throne. After initially friendly words, Bruce turned on Comyn and accused him of treacherously reporting to Edward I that he, Bruce, was plotting against him. It seems probable that their bitter antagonisms of the past were instantly revived and that in a heated argument mutual charges of treachery were made. Bruce struck Comyn with a dagger and his men attacked him with swords. Mortally wounded, Comyn was left for dead. Comyn’s uncle, Robert, was killed by Christopher Seton (d. 1306) as he tried to defend his nephew.

    According to tradition in both Scotland and England, John Comyn was killed in two stages, with Bruce’s men returning to the church to finish off the deed. According to Bower, Bruce returned to Lochmaben Castle and reported to his kinsmen James Lindsay and Roger Kirkpatrick ‘I think I have killed John the Red Comyn’ (Bower, 6.311). Bruce’s men returned to the church to make sure that the deed was done, with Roger Kirkpatrick, according to a wholly fabulous tale, exclaiming ‘I mak siccar’.(Not sure what that means!)

    The importance of John Comyn’s murder was soon recognized in both Scotland and England. Edward I’s initial response was phlegmatic, but by 5 April he had appointed Aymer de Valence (d. 1324), Comyn’s brother-in-law, as his special lieutenant in Scotland with wide-ranging and drastic powers against Bruce and the alliance between the English and the remaining members of the Comyn family continued until the battle of Bannockburn in 1314. In Scotland, Bruce was forced to follow up the murder by destroying the Comyn power base in the north before being fully assured of his kingship. A civil war thus accompanied the Anglo-Scottish war. In 1306 Edward I ordered Joan de Valence to send her son, John, John Comyn’s son and heir, to England where he was to be in the care of Sir John Weston, master and guardian of the royal children. His father’s vast landholding was divided up among Bruce’s supporters. This John Comyn lost his life, and any hope of retrieving the vast Scottish inheritance of the Comyns of Badenoch, at the battle of Bannockburn, when he fought on the side of Edward II.’

    Presumably Bruce ‘got away’ with the ‘murder’ as, some 6 weeks after the event, he was King of Scots!’

  25. Koby Says:

    Still, you’d think the church would have done something. I mean, Henry II was King of England at the time of the murder, as well as having control over practically half of France.

  26. John Phillips Says:

    Sorry to revert momentarily to the Priya Parmar Interview and Nell Gwynn, but I have come late to this thread. I thought you might be interested in an odd historical juxtaposition.

    “A new house was built about 1507 by Sir John Cutte, Treasurer to King Henry VII and Henry VIII. The house was purchased in 1668 by James Hoare, a London banker. At this time the present house was built, bringing with it associations with Charles II and Nell Gwynne, who lived in a cottage by the bridge to the Hall. Her ghost is one that is said to have been seen in the Hall.”

    Move forward to 1905 and this house became the home of Lady Randolph Churchill. Move forward again to 1937 and it became the unlikely headquarters for an independent aicraft design project by De Havilland and in a hut out the back the very first Mosquito Bomber was built and IS STILL THERE.

    http://www.dehavillandmuseum.co.uk/history.html

  27. Koby Says:

    Today, Elizabeth (Bess) of York, Edward IV’s eldest daughter and wife to Henr VII (VIII) was born and died.

  28. Sharon K Penman Says:

    What an amazing history for that house, John. I can think of many historical ghosts whom I’d rather not encounter, but I bet Nell Gwynn would be a delightful spirit!

  29. Priya Parmar Says:

    yes! the cottage at salisbury hall! it is wonderful!

  30. Beth Says:

    Speaking of anyone who’s French, I’m 1/16th French! And my French ancestor was a Napoleonic soldier from Marseille, and the family’s surname is Chevalier! :) Very exciting stuff.

    On the Elizabeth vs Mary QOS question, I’m afraid I come down firmly on Elizabeth’s side… but I don’t by any means think that Mary was a bad person as such, and her life story is very interesting also!

  31. james watson Says:

    Mebe they should Name a Gin?…after Nell ! (Spirit)Ha Ha.

  32. June Says:

    I would have never picked up a book like this ordinarily, but I’m so glad I did. It’s a great story and surprisingly funny as well! I’m really looking forward to Priya’s next literary endeavor!

  33. Sharon K Penman Says:

    On this day in 1554, one of history’s truly tragic figures, Lady Jane Grey, was executed for the treason of others.

  34. Priya Parmar Says:

    thank you june! that makes me so happy!

    i always find lady jane’s story so tragic and extraordinary. they offered her a way out (if she converted or was pregnant) moments before she went to the scaffold, and she still told the absolute truth.

  35. Koby Says:

    That was tragic. Did anyone ever see the movie? That was the one thing I really never forgave Mary for.
    As for Elizabeth vs. Mary - I changed allegiance along with Francis Crawford of Lymond.

  36. Koby Says:

    And today, Mary ‘the Rich’ of Burgundy, daughter of Charles the Bold and step-daughter of Margaret of York was born.

  37. Marilyn Says:

    I definitely prefer Elizabeth over Mary QOS. I don’t think Mary would have been a good ruler and she probably would have persecuted the Protestants just as her cousin Queen Mary did. As an aside, my ancestor William Brewster (of the Mayflower) was working for Sec. Davison when Mary QOS was executed and lost his job because of it. Elizabeth had signed the death warrant but was furious when it was carried out, so many who were involved in the execution lost their positions in the government. Good thing Wm. Brewster lost his job tho’, because if he hadn’t he probably would not have come to America and I would’nt exist.

  38. Koby Says:

    And today, George Duke of Clarence was executed by order of his brother, Richard IV. Also, Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor, signed a truce with al-Khamil which gave him Jerusalem, Nazareth, and Bethlehem, and effectively ended the 6th Crusade with no fighting.

  39. Sharon K Penman Says:

    And today is also the birthday of Mary Tudor, February 18, 1516.

  40. Malcolm Craig Says:

    Marilyn, are you descended through Jonathan, Love, Patience, or Fear? Jonathan, the oldest son, who arrived at Plymouth in 1621 on the Fortune, is my ancestor, 12 generations back. If your line goes back to the younger surviving son or one of the sisters, we would be roughly 11th cousins. If it goes back to Jonathan, the relationship is closer. It is pleasant to find a (very distant) relative among Sharon’s supporters.

  41. Marilyn Says:

    Malcolm: I am descended from Jonathan and Jonathan’s daughter Grace who married Daniel Wetherel. Which child of Jonathan’s is your line from? Yes, it is good to connect with all of Sharon’s supporters. We all share a love of history and good writing. In thinking about it, I shouldn’t have said above that Wm. Brewster probably wouldn’t have come to America if he hadn’t lost his position in the state department. After all, he came here for religious reasons, not economic ones. But who knows how his life would have been impacted differently if Mary QOS hadn’t been executed? Would he still have returned to Scrooby and become involved with William Bradford and the other Pilgrims?

  42. Sharon K Penman Says:

    I posted this on my Facebook page today, am putting it here, too, thanks to the miracle of copy and paste.

    As part of my diablolical plan to drag you all into book bankruptcy with me, here are a few new books recently published; if I ever get done with Lionheart’s loose ends and the copy edited ms, I hope to be able to actually read a few of them. Michelle Moran has a new novel out, Madame Tussaud; a novel of the French Revolution; I enjoyed her books about ancient Egypt and Rome, and this sounds like an intriguing change of time and locale. Alice Hoffman’s latest, The Red Garden, has just hit the stores; I really like the way she manages to integrate a hint of magic into the every day reality of her books. And C.W. Gortner, author of two very good novels about the Spanish queen, Juana la Loca (sister to katherine of Aragon) and the controversial queen, Catherine de Medicii, has a new one out, too.

    The Tudor Secret is a historical thriller / mystery, set in final days of Edward VI’s reign, featuring a young squire with a secret who becomes a spy for Princess Elizabeth. C.S. Harris, the author of an excellent mystery series set in Regency England has Where Shadows Dance coming out on March 1st. Elizabeth Chadwick’s To Defy a King, about the daughter of William Marshal, is now out in paperback in the US. Susan Higginbotham has a novel about Margaret of Anjou, The Queen of Last Hopes in bookstores now, and Sourcebooks has reprinted Helen Hollick’s novel about Emma of Normandy, now titled The Forever Queen. April will be a very good book month, with novels by Margaret George and Anne Easter Smith. And I am still hoping to get to read two Christmas gift books, the new biography of Cleopatra and Mark Twain’s autobiography, which he stipulated could not published for 100 years after his death.

    I might be dropping off the radar screen again as the copy edited ms for Lionheart arrived yesterday. This is never fun; by this point in the process, writers are thoroughly sick of their own books, having had to go over them so many times that the blasted books are burned into our brains. I was so tired of dealing with the 1000 page Sunne that I was almost ready to root for Henry Tudor at Bosworth Field–almost. I was usually trying to save the Angevins from themselves–No, Richard, you don’t want to offend the Duke of Austria; trust me on this. Are you sure you want to take part in that tournament, Geoffrey? You might want to rethink this rebellion scheme, Eleanor. Henry…ah, where to begin with Henry? But by the time I was struggling with the copy-edited ms, I was quite willing to let them pay the price for their miscalculations and misjudgments and fits of temper. Anyway, I’ll be occupied for the next week or two; wish me luck.

  43. Marilyn Says:

    Best of luck, Sharon. We are all waiting with eager anticipation for Lionhart.

  44. Malcolm Craig Says:

    Marilyn: My sisters and I are descended from Mary Brewster, born to Lucretia and Jonathan in Plymouth in 1627. She married John Turner and moved to Scituate, where Mary Turner was born. Onner, her daughter by Isaac Prince, born in Hull, married Francis Loud and moved to Weymouth. My great-great grandmother was a Loud from East Abington (now Rockland). Her granddaughter, and my own grandmother, Isabel Reed, grew up in North Abington and introduced me to genealogy when I was about twelve. I have always supposed that introduction kindled my interest in history, which quickly gravitated to the Middle Ages. It is a long and winding road. If you are the product of as many generations, we would be 10th cousins. One wonders how many of Sharon’s other readers carry a few drops of Pilgrim blood (we also stem from Francis Cooke, through a different line).

  45. Koby Says:

    And today, Conan IV, Duke of Brittany and Constance’s father died.

  46. Sharon K Penman Says:

    That I didn’t know, Koby. But it is also the day that Tancred, King of Sicily died in 1194. He is not that well known, but he is an important character in Lionheart.

  47. Sharon K Penman Says:

    On this date in 1173, the Catholic Church canonized Thomas Becket as a saint. The very fast canonization was clearly meant as a slap in the face to Henry and I doubt he was thrilled by the news. Though, of course, “St” Thomas would later come to his rescue after his spectacular penance before Thomas’s tomb at Canterbury Cathedral.

  48. Joan Szechtman Says:

    “I might be dropping off the radar screen again as the copy edited ms for Lionheart arrived yesterday. This is never fun; by this point in the process, writers are thoroughly sick of their own books,…” You have my empathy, Sharon. ;) It’s at this point where I have attack of the winces–as in when I see the corrected copy I wonder how I could have written that and what was I thinking?

  49. Priya Parmar Says:

    sharon, what a great list of books! good luck with the copyediting!

  50. Sharon K Penman Says:

    I am likely to be incommunicado for a while, as I am laboring to finish the copy edited ms for Lionheart, and to say it is time-consuming is like saying that Leonardo de Vinci wasn’t a bad artist or the Grand Canyon is a nice ditch. But here’s something to occupy yourselves, a fascinating website called On the Tudor Trail, and yes, I know I’m giving aid and comfort to the enemy, as a die-hard Yorkist. But it really is a great site, focusing mainly on Anne Bolyen.
    http://onthetudortrail.com/Blog/

  51. Koby Says:

    While this isn’t directly related to any of our favorite historical figures, Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, and Ruler of Spain was born today to Joanna of Castile, also known as Juana la Loca.

  52. Koby Says:

    And Today, Davydd ap Llewellyn, Llewellyn Fawr and Joanna’s son died in his home at Abergwyngregyn.

  53. Sharon K Penman Says:

    Today is the anniverary of the daath on Febrruary 1246 of Davydd ap Llywelyn, son of Llywelyn Faw and Joanna, King John’s daughter. I always had sympathy for Davydd, who did the best he could under difficult circumstances; as I had his father comment in Here Be Dragons, “Poor Wales, so far from Heaven, so close to England.” I’ve mentioned before that while I think Dragons has held up well over the past 25 years, there are a few things I’d probably do differently if I could somehow rewrite it. I no longer agree with the portrayal of Richard I, who practically had a walk-on role and so I didn’t thnk I needed to do extensive research about him–I’ve since become much more obsessive-compulsive about even bit players! At the time I wrote Dragons, we did not know the mother of John’s illegitimate half-brother, Will Longsword, or his birthdate. Fairly recently her identity was established, and we now know Will was born somewhere in the 1170’s, so he was actually much younger than the Will in Dragons and my mysteries. I think a good case can now be made that more of Llywelyn’s daughters were actually Joanna’s daughters, too–certainly Gwladys. Ken John wrote a very interesting article about this which I posted on my blog; it can be accessed through my blog archives. And when I wrote Dragons, my main geneological source was the amazing life’s work done by Peter Bartram. I went with the birthdate for Davydd that he gave, 1208, but the Welsh historian J.B. Smith now believes Davydd was actually born later than that, circa 1215. If so, that would make Davydd’s life even sadder, for he’d have been only 31 when he died instead of 38. It is no easy thing to be the son of a great man. Davydd certainly proved himself to be more capable than his loose cannon of a brother, Gruffydd. One of my favorite scenes in Falls the Shadow was when Davydd lured Gruffydd to Cricieth Castle and there imprisioned him. When the horrified Bishop of Banger reminded Davydd that he’d given Gruffydd a safe conduct, Davydd said laconically, “I lied.”

    And because those pushy Tudors are no respector of boundaries, I have to mention, too, that on this date in 1570, the religious tension in England was made worse by the excommunication of Elizabeth I by the pope, which many feared would be an invitation to assassination.

    This is my Facebook post; I am going to try to share the long, historical ones here, too, since so many of you are not Facebook afficionados. I probably won’t have a new blog up for a while as I am struggling still with the copy edited ms for Lionheart. I did finish the AN, though–12 pages!

  54. Ken Says:

    Sharon, I’ll follow suit and post my contribution on your FB page here also. I looked up the history of Isabella in a paper by Gwenyth Richards on Welsh women of the thirteenth century. The following is an extract from her paper. As usual your research was right on the button!:

    ‘Isabella was the eldest of the four daughters of William de Braose and entitled to a share of his lands. She was a minor when she was betrothed to Dafydd ap Llywelyn and when they married in 1230 she was probably very young. From 1232 Isabella and Dafydd tried unsuccessfully to claim her portion of the inheritance and possibly she was now of age. The
    Patent Rolls for 1232 and 1242 mention the assignment of Isabella’s claim but according to J.E. Lloyd her ‘claim to Builth as her dowry was never conceded by the crown’. Although Isabella and Dafydd were married for sixteen years, they had no children. After Dafydd’s death Isabella received the castle of Haverfordwest, with lands in Caerleon and Glamorgan from the estate of her mother Eva Marshal.

    Following Dafydd’s death, on February 25, 1246, Henry III commanded Brother Gregory, the abbot of Basingwerk monastery, to conduct Isabella personally from Diserth castle to ‘live honourably’ at Godstow nunnery, near Oxford.22 The constable of Diserth castle was ordered to free Isabella to the custody of the abbot and Isabella herself was ordered to enter the nunnery in the company of the abbot. In the same document the king asked the abbess to admit Isabella into her convent and ‘hold her honourably until the king shall have ordered otherwise’. In other words, Henry III made very certain that Isabella was taken under custody directly to Godstow nunnery.

    The removal of Isabella by the king to Godstow nunnery may have only been an interim measure. She could have been removed for safe-keeping because she would have been a wealthy widow in her own right, a desirable commodity indeed. The Cartulary of Godstow Nunnery makes no mention of Isabella and it is quite possible that she did not ultimately remain in the nunnery or take her vows. All I can safely say is that she did enter the nunnery at Godstow, but I have no evidence for how long she remained there.’

  55. Sharon K Penman Says:

    Ken, thank you so much for posting this–it is fascinating. I was only half-right, for I did not know that Isabella may have been coerced into withdrawing to Godstow. Sometimes I wonder how I ever managed to write books before the advent of the Internet!

  56. Koby Says:

    Wow. Thanks for those interesting thoughts, Sharon, and thanks for the intriguing history of Isabella, Ken.
    That scene was also my favorite, Sharon. I’ve always liked to think that Davydd was somewhat comforted on his deathbed knowing that his nephew Llewellyn would try to keep their legacy alive. I think you actually managed to convey that in Falls the Shadow.

  57. Koby Says:

    Today, Henry the Young King was born, and Isabella, Duchess of Lorraine, the mother of Marguerite d’Anjou died.

  58. Sharon K Penman Says:

    Beat me to it again, Koby. You have an unfair advantage, starting your day so much sooner than I do! The most interesting thing about the “young king,” AKA Hal in my books, is that he was the only one o fthe Devil’s Brood who showed no talent whatsoever for ruling. He even seems to have lacked rudientary common sense, though he apparently had enough charm to camouflage those failings. I tend to agree with Richard, who in a snarky moment in Lionheart, says that Hal couldn’t have found water if he fell into a river. England dodged a bullet when Hal’s dysentery proved fatal.

  59. Koby Says:

    Hal wasn’t a bad man, but you’re right in that he was never built to be king. What you wrote about England dodging a bullet was probably true.
    Then again, it wasn’t like it gained so much from Richard being king. True, he wasn’t as bad as people think, but the money for his crusade and ransom beggared it, and his neglect of England (even if justified in light of his Continental holdings being more problematic), probably lead to much of the rebellions during John’s rule.
    If I had to choose which of the Devil’s Brood should have lived longer, it probably would have been Geoffrey. Although Here Be Dragons often makes me wish John had lived long enough to make up with Joanna.

  60. Malcolm Craig Says:

    In a private message to Sharon some time ago, I suggested that the adjective “feckless” was created to describe young Henry. His nephew, Henry III, reminds me of the young king: handsome, charming, a good husband and father, but not at all competent as a ruler. And he wore the crown for 56 years.

  61. Koby Says:

    Indeed, Malcolm. Interesting but rather accurate comparison.
    In any case, today Gruffydd ap Llywelyn, Llywelyn Fawr’s eldest son died trying to escape from the Tower of London. Today is also the feast day of Saint David, Patron saint of Wales, who died today.

  62. Ken Says:

    Interesting article on King John in the BBC news today:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-12603356

  63. Ken Says:

    I forgot to add: Dydd Gwyl Dewi hapus, Sharon!

  64. Sharon K Penman Says:

    Koby, what would I do without you? It completely slipped my mind that this was–ironically–the anniversary of Gruffydd’s death. (Did I ever get some strange looks from other tourists when I wa measuring windows, etc. in my research for his plunge from the Tower keep.) Actually, England was not neglected during Richard’s reign; that is one of the many myths that have sprung up around him. The govt functioned very well in his absence and the King’s Peace held, for the most part, but I think the main credit for that ought to go to Henry, since he’d set up many of the apparatus of govt and Richard was smart enough to keep it in place. Henry really was a great king. There is no doubt, though, that the huge amounts raised for the crusade and then Richard’s ransom put a great strain on the economy and probably helped take the glow off Richard’s “rep” in later years for his over-taxed subjects. They didn’t get any relief with John, though. Kings never reduce taxes, do they? I agree with Malcolm, find Geoffrey to be the most intrguing of the Devil’s Brood, albeit the most neglected by historians. I think he would have been a good king. He wasn’t a military genius like Richard, but he’d proved to be a very capable battle commander, and he would not have been so insanely reckless with his own safey, thus likely to have lived long enough for his son Arthur to reach manhood. Nor does he seem to have suffered from John’s deep-rooted, crippling insecurities and paranoia. “What ifs” are so fascinating, aren’t they? If nothing else, they show how the death of an individual can truly change history.
    I agree, too, with the comments about Hal. He wasn’t a cruel or evil man by any means, just weak–well, also lazy and spoiled and convinced he could coast on his charm! He reminds me in some ways of Stephen, though Stephen was a better battle commander; Hal’s only successes came on the tournament field. He was the only one of the Devil’s Brood, though, to enjoy widespread popularity, probably because he looked very regal from a distance and was very open-handed and generous–he was spending Henry’s money, after all!

  65. John Phillips Says:

    For me the most fascinating , whether, if so how much, question is to what degree Eleanor instigated, or joined in her sons revolt against their father. Sha seemed so bright I find it very difficult to get my head round her joining in. The only way I can see her going along with it is if she had tried to talk them out of it, but when Hal blew their cover Eleanor allowed her heart to rule her head and allowed it to happen.

    However I do accept that here I may be allowing my heart to rule my head!

    The big what if question here is what if she had fought against the revolt all the way , and not got involved would it have made any difference at all?

  66. Koby Says:

    Oh, I know that England wasn’t neglected during Richard’s reign. But even if the King’s peace was kept, Richard was rarely there. That was what I meant by neglect - it seems Richard never took an active hand in England, allowing the barons to think the King wouldn’t interfere overmuch with what they do - especially if he was occupied like Richard, or seen as weak like John.
    I find it interesting that there have been no kings of England named John since John. I remember when I read Katherine, it was written that the people made comparisons between John of Gaunt and his nephew Richard II, claiming John of Gaunt would steal the throne from Richard, much like their namesakes. I think that may be the reason - nobody wants another John as king.

  67. Koby Says:

    Today, the Statute of Rhuddlan was made, incorporating the Principality of Wales into England.

  68. Dave Says:

    Sharon,

    It’s two days late, but Happy St. David’s Day. I baked Welsh cakes on the second to be sold at my local church. Unfortunately I had to work on St. David’s day itself. Did you do anything for St. David’s day?

    Dave

  69. Koby Says:

    Today, Blanche of Castile, wife of Louis VIII of France and granddaughter of Eleanor of Aquitaine was born, Joan of England, John and Isabella’s eldest daughter died, Saladin died, and Edward IV became King of England.

  70. Sharon K Penman Says:

    Thanks, Koby! I knew the latter two happenings, not the first two.

  71. Koby Says:

    My calendar also states that today, Henry II Fitz Empress/Curtmantle of England, also Count of Anjou, Count of Maine, Duke of Normandy, Duke of Aquitaine, Duke of Gascony, Count of Nantes, Lord of Ireland was born in Le Mans.

  72. Sharon K Penman Says:

    You are off by just a day, Koby–it was March 5th. Today is the birthday, though, of John of Gaunt, born March 6, 1340. I can’t believe I forgot the birthday of my favorite king–sorry, Henry! But I have an excuse; I am adopting a 9 year old shepherd from Echo White Shepherd Rescue, and he began his odyssey yesterday morning on his way from Florida to NJ. Wonderful volunteers are driving him the 1000 miles; he spent last night in Raleigh, NC, is already on the road, and I will be meeting him in Maryland late this afternoon. I’d decided that the best way to give meaning to Shadow’s life and honor his memory was to give a home to a dog who might not have gotten one, and the senior dogs are always hardest to place. He started out as Hank in Florida, but once he gets to NJ, he becomes Tristan, both Welsh and medieval–a great suprise, right?

  73. Brenna Says:

    Yay! Hopefully Tristan made it safe and sound and both of your are adapting to your new life together. You truly are amazing Sharon, I wish there were more like you!

    I did want to take the opportunity to thank you again for your book recommendations. I am reading Nan Hawthorne’s An Involuntary King and am enjoying it. I’ve also ordered Exit the Actress and it should be here soon. Very excited!

  74. Koby Says:

    I do believe I posted that on March 5th, did I not? Weird. In any case, today, William Longspee (Longsword), the bastard son of Henry II and Ida de Toesni died. While many claim it was from age and a shipwreck, Roger of Wendover alleged that he was poisoned by Hubert de Burgh.

  75. Sharon K Penman Says:

    I didn’t check the date of your posting, Koby–sorry!
    Tristan arrived safely last night, is settling in wonderfully well in his new home. Lots more about him later; I also hope to get a new blog up very soon now that I was able to finish the AN and copy edited ms.

  76. Priya Parmar Says:

    so pleased about tristan’s happy homecoming! he could not have found a better home!!

  77. Sharon K Penman Says:

    Thanks, Priya; he is settling in wonderfully well. I do wonder what he thinks of the cold weather, though!
    This is not really medieval, but the Tudors manage to infiltrate my blog and Facebook page from time to time, so I figured we might as well give equal time to Mary, Queen of Scots. On this date in 1566, Mary’s private secretary was brutally murdered.
    And I know my readers enjoy Elizabeth Chadwick’s novels as much as I do, so I want to let you know that her To Defy a King has just won the Romantic Novelist Association’s award for Best Historical Novel of the Year. Past winners include the brilliant Legacy by Susan Kay, so Elizabeth is in good company. To Defy a King is already out in the UK, of course, and Sourcebooks has just published it in the US. Elizabeth has one of the best writer websites I’ve ever seen, a marvelous place for browsing about life in the MA. You can check it out here if you haven’t visited it before. http://www.elizabethchadwick.com/

  78. Beth Says:

    Great news about the new addition to your family, Sharon! Tristan is such a lovely name too!

  79. Koby Says:

    And today, John de Vere, Earl of Oxford and staunch Lancastrian commander who commanded in the Battles of Barnet, Bosworth Field and Stoke Field died.

  80. Sharon K Penman Says:

    Thanks, Koby. You are a veritable treasure-trove for medieval information!

  81. Sharon K Penman Says:

    I am delighted to report that my editor loves the Author’s Note for Lionheart. I was a little woried because it was a very lengthy one even by my standards–12 pages! But she is fine with that, so we won’t have to do any cutting and snipping and pruning. I am also doing my first bibliography, and she is good with that, too; I am including a list of some of the books I found most useful on the Acknowledgments page. And I ought to be able to reveal the Lionheart cover in about a month, after their sales conference. IMHO, it is stunning.
    The news about Trisan is good, too. His blood work came back with no nasty surprises; all of his organs seem to be functioning normally. And best of all, it is not true that no good deed goes unpunished, for my vet believes that Tristan is younger than we first thought. Based on the condition of his teeth, he is more likely to be eight or maybe even seven, which would be giving Tristan and me a wonderful gift of two years. He was in such bad shape that the Florida vet most likely overestimated his age; it is not an exact science, after all. He is still painfully thin, only 64 lbs, so he needs to put on at least another 20 lbs or so. And since he is a very enthusiastic eater, I think he’ll enjoy that. He does have skin allergies, the bane of shepherds, but we’re treating it, and with luck, they will improve as his overall health does. He is no longer timid about climbing the stairs, and he seems to be a bit of a voyeur, for the entire time that I was taking a bath last night, he stood by the tub, peering in at me. I feel blessed to have gotten three such phenomenal shepherds in Cody, Shadow, and now Tristan, and it is chilling to think they all ended up in kill shelters. I adopted Cody directly from a shelter and they were very happy when I took him, explaining that they had trouble placing the really big dogs. Shadow was lucky enough to be rescued by Susan and the Burlington County Animal Alliance, and Joan actually claimed Tristan on his last day at that Florida shelter. As so many of you have discussed here, adoption is a very rewarding act. It is a good feeling to know you’ve saved a life and it really is true that they are so grateful to have a home and a refuge at long last.
    I know not everyone feels this bond, but it has been my experience that people who are kind to animals are usually kind to other people, too. And we can all agree that kindness is in short supply in our world. It was certainly often lacking at the Tudor court–sorry, couldn’t resist that one. I’m reading an interesting history of medieval queens, and the author won me over as soon as I read her description of Henry VIII as dying “a decaying, bloated hulk.” My version of “You had me at Hello.”

  82. Koby Says:

    And today, Marie of France, Countess of Champagne, Eleanor and Louis’ first daughter died.

  83. Sharon K Penman Says:

    Koby, that’s it–I am officially declaring you an International Medieval Treasure! You have better sources than the CIA, M-5, and the Mossad combined. Readers may remember that Marie appeared in Geoffrey’s tournament chapter in Devil’s Brood. She doesn’t appear in Lionheart, although her son Henri is a major character. But I hope to have her back for return engagement in A King’s Ransom.

  84. Sharon K Penman Says:

    Academic Travel, the company sponsoring our Eleanor tour, is offering a Tudor Tour next month. Here is the information.

    “Academic Travel Abroad is operating a Smithsonian tour next month to England called a Tudor Tapestry (April 5-14, 2011) and a few places are still available! The writers Tracy Borman, Sarah Gristwood and Siobhan Clarke will all be guest speakers. Please see the link below for more details.”

    (Please see http://www.smithsonianjourneys.org/tours/tudortapestry2011/)

  85. Koby Says:

    Does that mean I get acknowledgements and thanks? And can I claim the title of Holy Land Treasure as well?
    Also, all best wishes, prayers, and condolences for victims of the natural disasters in Japan and other places.

  86. Koby Says:

    And Today, Henry of Almain, son of Richard, 1st Earl of Cornwall (John’s son) and Isabel Marshal, who fought with the Royalists at the Battle of Lewes, was murdered today by his cousins Guy and Simon the younger de Montfort.

  87. Sharon K Penman Says:

    Definitely Holy Land Treasure, too, Koby! Here is what I just posted on my Facebook page since I know some of you stay far, far away from it.

    Thanks to my friend Koby for reminding me that on this date, Simon de Montfort’s two sons, Simon jr (known as Bran in my books to avoid of the insanity of having to write “Simon said to Simon”) and Guy, murdered their cousin Henry during Mass at the church of San Silvestro as vengeance for Simon’s death and the mutilation of his body at Evesham. Henry had not even been at Evesham, but he served as a surrogate target for his cousin Edward Some places seem closer to the past than others, and Viterbo is one of them. It was not easy to reach; we had to change trains three times, but it was well worth the trouble, for it was like time traveling. Magically remove all the cars and the town looked much as it must have the day that the de Montfort brothers stormed into the church, swords drawn. The church itself still exists, but sadly is no longer open to the public. But the piazza where Henry died after being dragged outside is still there, with a small plaque to commemorate his death, and as I stood there, I got a chill, for it was as easy as that to imagine that violent, chaotic scene so many centuries ago. This was one of the great scandals of the MA, as much for the fact that the attack had occurred in a church as for their attack upon their cousin, who–oddly–had not even tried to defend himself. Bran would soon pay a high price for his participation; Guy, the ringleader, would avoid retribution for another twenty years, but would eventually end his days in a Sicilian dungeon, his family’s ransom efforts thwarted by Edward I.

    I have to confess that I had great fun writing these chapters in Italy–talk about high drama! And the de Montfort brothers gave me the ooprtunity to make my first (and tax-deductible) trip to Italy. Because I’d always wanted to see Siena, I set a scene in a brothel there to give myself a reason for the visit. And all the research I did on malaria (tertian and quartan fever to the medievals) stood me in good stead when Richard I was stricken with a near-lethal quartan fever in Lionheart. For those planning future trips to Italy, Siena is much easer to reach than Viterbo, a quick train ride from Florence, and the Campo is truly spectacular; this is where they still run the wild, medieval races every July. But it is Viterbo that lingers most vividly in my memory–it was all too easy to imagine the piazza stones running red with blood

  88. Koby Says:

    And Today are the Ides of March. When, incidentally, Julius Caesar was stabbed to death.

  89. Koby Says:

    Today, 150 Jews committed suicide rather than convert or die at the Massacre of Jews at Clifford’s Tower, York, in 1190, following Richard I’s coronation and John Marshal failure to protect them. Also, Anne Neville, Richard III’s wife died today.

  90. Sharon K Penman Says:

    I still remember the first time I heard of the York massacre, Koby. I’d moved to York to research Sunne and came upon a plaque at Clifford’s Tower. It took me over 30 years, but I finally got to write about it in Lionheart. I wasn’t able to dramatize it as none of my characters were present, but I discuss it is some length because people need to know about it. It was the medieval Masada. Oh,for readers not as knowledgable about the tragedy as Koby, John Marshal, William’s brother, was the sheriff of Yorkshire, and bungled it badly. There has even been some suggestions made that he was in collusion with the mob leaders, whose main objective was to destroy the debt bonds held by Jewish moneylenders. At the very least, he was incompetant. Richard sacked him, but I am sorry to say that he then became John’s man.
    And Anne Neville died during an eclipse, which naturally convinced many that this was God’s judgement upon Richard.

  91. Koby Says:

    Indeed, Sharon. It’s especially horrifying considering the fact that only a few days ago, a family of five Israeli Jews were murdered in their sleep, including the 4 month old baby. I consider it a chilling commentary on the evolution and survival of hatred and evil.
    In any case, Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all who celebrate, and an easy and meaningful fas for those who’re fasting (as I am) on Ta’anit Esther.

  92. Sharon K Penman Says:

    That was a truly horrific crime, Koby; I talked about it on my last Facebook Note as an example of what happens when we lose the ability to empathzie with our fellow human beings. I am going to copy and paste that note here for my non-Facebook readers, as I went into some depth about the York massacre and recommended two books about that tragedy. So, Melusine cooperating, I’ll be back.

  93. Sharon K Penman Says:

    Okay, here is yesterday’s Facebook Note–Medieval Masada and an Unfortunate Eclipse.
    On this date in 1190, one of the most shameful events of the MA occurred in York. Anti-Jewish rioting invariably followed every call for a crusade. It occurred on Richard’s very coronation day, and he took quick steps to restore the “King’s Peace,” which prevailed as long as he was present. But once he left for Normandy, it broke out again, like a virulent plague, sweeping from city to city. Only in Winchester did sanity and humanity prevail. Eventually it reached York, where the Jewish citizens were forced to take refuge in the royal castle, Clifford’s Tower. But they did not trust the castellan, and so when he left the castle, they seized control of it, He then sent for the sheriff of Yorkshire, John Marshal–yes, the brother of the celebrated William Marshal. Marshal made the fatal mistake to assault the castle, even though a large drunken mob had massed in front of it, and were only to happy to join in, egged on by a demented hermit who told them they were doing God’s Work. When Marshal realized his mistake, it was too late; the mob was firmly in control. The Jews held out for two days, but when siege engines were brought out, they realized they were doomed. They then chose to die by their own hands rather than be murdered by the mob. Husbands slit the throats of their wives and children, and they in turn were slain by their rabbi and an influential money-lender called Josce, one of the men who’d inadvertently triggered the London rioting by showing up at Richard’s coronation, bearing gifts for the new king. It is estimated that about 150 people had taken shelter in the castle, and most of them died by suicide. A small number offered to accept Christian baptism in return for their lives, and the mob promised they’d be spared. But when they ventured out, they were brutally murdered. Richard was naturally furious, for no king could allow such a blatant breach of the King’s Peace, especially one about to depart his realm for years to come; moreover, the Jews were an important source of revenue for the Crown. The York tragedy was particiularly egregious for it had been instigated by men of rank, men who’d owed money to the Jewish money-lenders. They revealed their real motivation by forcing their way into York Minster, where they compelled the monks to give up the debt bonds and they burned them right there in the nave of the church. Richard was in Normandy, but he sent his chancellor, Longchamp, north with an army. Few were punished, though. The citizens of York swore it had all been done by “outsiders,” strangers who’d taken the cross. Those who were known to have burned the bonds had fled long before Longchamp reached the city. The castellan and John Marshal, the sheriff, were both sacked by Richard. There was suspicion that Marshal was in collusion with the men who’d instigated the riot, although it was never proven; Longchamp certainly seemed to have believed it. But although Richard dismissed Marshal in disgrace, he soon found service with Richard’s brother John, I am sorry to say. I still remember when I first learned of this terrible event; I’d moved to York to research Sunne and discovered a plaque in Clifford’s Tower. It took me 30 years to be able to write about it, although I wasn;’t able to dramatize it since none of the characters in Lionheart were on the scene. But at least I was able to discuss it in some length in the book, for this is a story that people ought to know about. There is at least one novel written about it, The King’s Persons, by Joanne Greenberg. And the most comprensive account of the tragedy is The Jews of Medieval York and the Massacre of March, 1190, by R. B. Dobson, a professor of Medieval History at the U. of York.

    The eclipse of the sun occurred on March 16, 1485, as Richard III’s ill-fated queen, Anne Neville, drew her last breath, and naturally this convinced many that Anne’s death was God’s punishment upon Richard for usurping his nephew’s throne

  94. John Phillips Says:

    It intrigues me that it has been suggested that Caesar knew his Epilepsy was getting worse and therefore by ignoring warnings, deliberately allowed himself to be murdered knowing that his aims would be fulfilled by his adopted nephew Octavian, who of course became Augustus, the first Roman Emperor.

  95. Beth Says:

    This is all so interesting, but I must say, Sharon all your talk of the author’s note being approved and the cover soon to be released - I’m beginning to get very excited for Lionheart’s release later this year - it feels so close already! I shall have to buy two copies, one for myself and one for my father who is an avid reader of all your books! I know I can never go wrong for a birthday or Christmas present if I get him a Sharon Penman novel.

    My goodness… what’s next once you’ve wrapped up Richard’s story?!

  96. Koby Says:

    Beth, I believe Sharon has mentioned that after Lionheart and it’s sequel, A King’s Ransom, she wanted to write a book about Balian d’Ibelin, a vewry influential crusader noble of Outremer when the Kingdom started to crumble, adn Richard and Philip arrived.
    Today, Frederick II declared himself King of Jerusalem, and Mary Tudor, Queen of France, the fifth daughter of Henry VII (VIII) and Elizabeth of York was born.

  97. Sharon K Penman Says:

    Beth, I’d be happy to send you a signed book plate for your father. I’m all in favor of buying my books for gifts!
    John, I’d never heard that suggestion before, very interesting. Did you read Colleen McCullough’s six book series about ancient Rome? I really liked all but the last volume; I didn’t agree with her portrayals of Antony and Cleopatra. But I found the earlier books fascinating.
    Thanks for mentioning today is Mary’s birthday, Koby. Naturally I’ll give you credit on my Facebook page! Beth, my next book after Lionheart will be A King’s Ransom, which will cover the final years of Richard’s reign, the first months of John’s reign, and–in an epilogue, Eleanor’s death, to close the circle. Koby is right–I hope after that to be able to write about Balian d’Ibelin, tentative title The Land Beyond the Sea, that being the translation of Outremer. I don’t have a contract for it yet, but fingers crossed.
    And today in 1314, Jacques de Molay, the last Grand Master of the Knights Templar, was burned at the stake in an utter travesty of justice.
    Lastly, I’ve just about finished a new blog, long delayed because I was working on the copy edited ms for Lionheart; I hope to have it up this weekend. I am quoting from several people, so I want to run it by them first.

  98. cindy ash Says:

    Re Clifford’s Tower - I remember walking with a professor around York, my first time in England. He was pointing out many places to me, when I came upon the plaque. He had tears in his eyes when he told me what happened there. Despite what I knew of the terrible Pogroms of the time period, it still shocked me, and shook me to the core. There were others as bloody and as horrible; this one I’ve never been able to get out of my head when I think about York. Think I need to go get a Yarzeit candle tonight (a day late, but its the thought that counts)

  99. Beth Says:

    Ooh, wow, I’m sure he’d love that! He and my late mother have been readers of yours far longer than I (well, I was only born in ‘88!) and built a little library in our home that has very old copies of Sunne, Dragons, Reckoning and Falls. It was from watching my father reading When Christ and All His Saints Slept when I was about 10 years old that I asked “What’s that?” and I began picking it up and reading it the second he laid it down. I remember I finished it by reading through the entire night on a school night! I was never interested in the Medieval period until I read that book. And I don’t mind paying if shipping costs are a problem! I might have to wait till Christmas, in order to give it as a gift, slipped inside a new copy of Lionheart… oooh, or, it’s his 60th birthday next February - if I can keep a secret that long, I might wait until then to give it to him.

    I have McCullough on the shelf myself - I simply must get round to reading her! I can’t say I’d ever heard of that theory before though, John. How strange! I’m not sure I buy into the idea, but it certainly is a new suggestion!

    Silly me, I had quite forgot that you had decided to split Richard’s story into two books! But yes, the spirit of my enquiry was wondering where you were going to turn next after completing the circle between Saints and Dragons. A potential book on Balian sounds great, and as I understand there’s been so little fiction written about him before. Lol, I heartily trust that the novel will be worlds away from that film, Kingdom of Heaven, which played very fast and loose with the history - Balian was barely recognisable!

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