We got a late start leaving Paris and it was afternoon by the time we were approaching Falaise. Its castle was a very important stronghold in Henry’s time. Today the town is small—about eight thousand inhabitants—and, as we found out the hard way, it shuts down so its residents can enjoy a long, leisurely lunch. I was surprised, for the castle is a popular tourist attraction, and this was June, after all, hardly the off season. But all of the appealing little restaurants we found were closed. I’m glad the citizens of Falaise have such an unhurried, laidback life style, but it can be challenging for hungry tourists. We eventually found a small market open and had a picnic lunch on the tables of an outdoor café before going up to the castle.

Falaise means “cliff” in French and it is well named, for the fortress is perched on a crag above the town. The current castle was begun in 1123, constructed by King Henry I on the site of an earlier one. It was in that older stronghold that William the Conqueror was born. He was known during his lifetime as William the Bastard, for his parents never wed. The most popular legend has it that his father, Robert, Duke of Normandy, was standing at a tower window and saw a beautiful girl in the village below. The droit de seigneur that supposedly allowed a lord to claim a bride on her wedding night is a myth, but lords did enjoy other rights and Robert exercised one of them by sending for her; in his defense, he was only about seventeen. The young woman, whose name was Herlive or Arlette, refused to be spirited in the back way, though, and, dressed in her finest clothes, rode proudly in by the front gate. Tradition says that she was a humble tanner’s daughter, but historians are skeptical of this, for she would later marry well and tanners were on the lower level of medieval society. Whatever the truth of her back-ground or her first meeting with the Duke of Normandy, she became his mistress and gave birth to William circa 1028. thus changing the course of history.

Falaise was one of our Henry’s most important strongholds and he was often here. He chose Falaise for his triumphant peace treaty in 1174 with the captive King of Scots, and he and Eleanor held at least one lavish Christmas court here. We do not know where Eleanor was held after she had the bad luck to fall into Henry’s hands in November of 1173; Henry kept her location a closely guarded secret. She was most likely confined for a time at Chinon, but it is my belief that she was eventually taken to Falaise. Henry kept his Christmas court at Caen in 1173, and Falaise was just twenty miles to the south, very convenient for a long overdue reckoning with his rebel queen. Moreover, Falaise would have been a safer choice than Chinon, which was too close to Eleanor’s own lands, and if she were being held at Falaise, it would have been easy to bring her to Barfleur when she and Henry and his court sailed for England in the summer of 1174.

The Lower Keep was built by Henry, with contributions by Richard and John. All of Normandy came under Philippe Capet’s control in 1204 and he modified the castle, building the cylindrical structure known as the Talbot Tower. The city and castle suffered under a lengthy siege by Henry V in 1417-1418, and another one during France’s Wars of Religion, when its once formidable walls could not withstand the barrage of cannonballs. The castle and town were badly damaged in World War II, although the two keeps were miraculously spared. But in 1980 a restoration project was launched in accordance with the guidelines of UNESCO, and both keeps are now open to the public.

What I found most interesting at Falaise was an audio station allowing us to listen to the haunting song, Ja Nus Hons Pris, written by Richard Coeur de Lion while held captive by the Holy Roman Emperor. It is a prisoner’s lament, and interestingly, was addressed to his half-sister, Marie, Countess of Champagne. You can hear it on Youtube at http://wn.com/Ja_Nus_Hons_Pris_ENGLISH_VERSION sung by Owain Phyfe. On the play-list on the right side of the screen, the first two songs are the ones I’d recommend, both sung in French. The first one includes a commentary that is not strictly accurate, but it is amusing to hear Eleanor described as Richard’s “mom.” The second song does not offer a commentary. The third is in English, but the acoustics are bad and it is not easy to hear. A full translation can be found in John Gillingham’s Richard I, pages 242-243. I did find one on-line, but the translation is not that good; for example, when Richard complains about his overlord (Philippe) ravaging his lands, it is translated as “father.” Here is the first verse:

Feeble the words and faltering the tongue

Wherewith a prisoner moans his doleful plight;

Yet for his comfort he may make a song.

Friends have I many, but their gifts are slight;

Shame to them if unransomed I, poor wight,

Two winters languish here.

After our visit to the castle at Falaise, we headed for the abbey at Mont St Michel. Eleanor’s connection to the abbey are somewhat tenuous, for it is more closely associated with Henry. He is known to have visited it and even brought Eleanor’s husband Louis along on an unlikely male bonding expedition in 1158. He may well have visited it again in 1172 after doing penance for Becket’s murder just across the bay at Avranches. The abbot, Robert de Torigny, was a good friend of Henry’s and was even accorded the honor of acting as godfather to Henry and Eleanor’s daughter, her namesake who would later become Queen of Castile. But even if Mont St Michel could not be tied to Henry or Eleanor, I think I would have tried to include it on the itinerary anyway, for it is truly one of the most spectacular sites in the western world.

In 708 AD, the Bishop of Avranches had a dream in which the Archangel Michael commanded him to build a sanctuary on Monte Tombe, an island in the nearby bay. He installed a community of monks there in 709 and gave it a new name, Mont St Michel. Pilgrims were soon trudging across the bay at low tide, calling themselves Miquelots, and by the time of our Henry and Eleanor, it was a very important pilgrimage site. It was also a very dangerous one, for the tide came in faster than a galloping horse, at more than 200 feet a minute, and pilgrims also had to contend with sudden sea mists and quicksand. Today that is no longer true; in fact the bay had become so silted that there were fears the island might one day be part of the mainland again. The result was Projet Mont-Saint-Michel, with plans to build a hydraulic dam and replace the causeway with an elevated light bridge; it is supposed to be completed in 2012.

The first sight of Mont St Michel is truly awe-inspiring; I am convinced I heard a collective catch of breath as our tour bus started out onto the causeway. I hope it won’t seem too prideful to quote from my own books, but I cannot improve upon these descriptions. The first is from Devil’s Brood. Henry has come to Avranches to atone for Becket’s murder, a phone-it-in penalty as opposed to the deadly serious penance he would later perform in Canterbury.

From the castle battlements, Henry had a superb view of the bay and, in the distance, the celebrated abbey of Mont St Michel. It was one of the marvels of Christendom, built upon a small, rocky island that was entirely cut off from the mainland at high tide. It had a dreamlike appearance, seeming to rise out of the sand and sea foam like a lost vision of God’s Kingdom, its high, precarious perch above the waves so spectacular and dramatic that at first glimpse, pilgrims did not see how it could have been the work of mortal men.

Here are two more images of Mont St Michel, both from Prince of Darkness. Brother Andrev is a monk at the abbey’s cell in Genets. As he stands on the beach and looks across the bay, this is what he sees.

As always, his gaze was drawn to the shimmering silhouette of Mont St Michel. Crowned by clouds and besieged by foam-crested waves, the abbey isle seemed to be floating above the surface of the bay, more illusion than reality, Eden before the Fall.

And now it is Justin de Quincy’s turn.

They reached Mont St Michel as the late-afternoon shadows were lengthening. In spite of his fear for Arzhela, Justin was awestruck at sight of the abbey. At first glance, it looked to be a castle carved from the very rocks of the isle, its towering spires reaching halfway to Heaven, the last bastion of Christian faith in a world of denial and disbelief. A fragment of religious lore came back to him, that St Michael was known as the guardian of the threshold between life and eternity, and that seemed the perfect description for his abbey, too, a bridge between the land of the living and the sea of the dead.

I was planning to relate our arrival at Mont St Michel and our first night at Mere Poulard, a celebrated hotel dating from the 19th century. But I think that can wait until the next blog since this one is already approaching novella length. Instead I will close with Justin’s desperate dash across the bay as the tide comes thundering in. He is well aware of the danger, but he is attempting to prevent a murder from occurring at the abbey.

The wind was cold and wet and carried the scent of seaweed and salt. The muted roar of the unseen sea echoed in Justin’s ears, as rhythmic as a heartbeat. Seagulls screeched overhead, their shrill cries eerily plaintive. His stallion had an odd gait, picking up its hooves so high that it was obviously not comfortable with the footing. One of the tavern customers had told Justin that walking on the sand was like treading upon a tightly stretched drum; he very much hoped that he’d not have the opportunity to test that observation for himself. Behind him, he could hear Durand cursing. Justin kept his eyes upon the glow of their guide’s swaying lantern, doing his best to convince himself that, as St Michael led Christian souls into the holy light, so would this Norman youth lead them to safety upon the shore.

Justin does outrun the tides, but sadly, he is too late to stop the murder. Tomorrow: Mont St Michel, Le Mans, and Fontevrault Abbey.

July 5, 2011


  1. skpenman Says:

    The photo of Mont St Michel by night was taken by Sherill, our musician and obviously gifted photographer. The photos of Mont St Michel in the distance, the main street of Mont St Michel, and the photo of Falaise Castle were all taken by another talented multi-tasker, John, my physician-cum-photographer.

  2. Koby Says:

    There is no arrogance in bringing accurate descriptions, Sharon. From only these pictures, one can see the accuracy of your descriptions. It’s beautiful; my compliments to Sherril and John.
    Although I always wondered how Michael is a saint when he’s actually an angel.

  3. Thomas Greene Says:

    With each new blog I gain more respect of you as a historian and writer. Sharon I don’t think you have any peers in your perspective of the Middle Ages. I have learned so much from you. Just goes to show you can teach old dogs new tricks, or at least give them new information to digest. Thanks Sharon, you really are one of a kind. I am priviledged to have found you.

  4. Britta B. Says:

    This is a slow week at work so I am looking forward to your diary entries. Thank you for taking the time to bring the trip to life for those of us who stayed behind.

  5. Koby Says:

    And today (July 6th), Henry II Fitz Empress of England died. So did the sainted Thomas More. In addition, Richard III of England was crowned.

  6. Sharon K Penman Says:

    Koby, you are cheating. It is not July 6th here yet!

  7. Koby Says:

    Hmm… debatable. If I wake up at 6:30 AM, even the East Coast is still a day behind me. So really, what am I uspposed to do? Wait until it’s the next day across all of the US? I do have things I must do. I think that as long as it’s the proper day in England/France, where most of these events happened, it’s not cheating.

  8. Sharon K Penman Says:

    Today’s Facebook Note.

    A sad day for those of us who admire Henry II, for he died on this date at Chinon in 1189, having been forced to make a humiliating surrender to his son Richard and the French king, and then devastated by the news that his beloved son John had betrayed him. The depths of his despair echo down through the centuries as in his anguished delirium, he cursed the day he was born and murmured fererishly, “Shame upon a conquered king.” Such a pity that his men weren’t able to keep the news of John’s treachery from him, for that was the knifethrust through his broken heart. Whatever his mistakes, he did not deserve a deatih like this one. I see Henry as a Shakespearean tragic hero, brought done by his own flaws.

    And on July 6, 1483, Richard III was crowned at Westminster. As we know, his was to be a brief and unhappy reign, one that continues to stir passions more than five hundred years after his battlefield death at Bosworth Field. Henry is my favorite king and I owe Richard a great debt, for without him, I’d still be practicing law.

  9. Enda Junkins Says:

    Great description. As I read I tried to seel it all in my mind’s eye as I saw it on the tour. I wish we had had a little more time there for it to seep into my memory on a deeper level. Maybe reading more about it will enhance my memories of Mont St. Michel. I still remember walking the causeway of it’s sister, Mount St. Michae,l in Cornwall where the tide does till cut the monastery off at high tide. Mont St. Michel is much more than the English version but they are similar, keeping watch for God on their respective islands.

  10. Sharon K Penman Says:

    I love that thought, Enda, “keeping watch for God on their respective islands.”

  11. Malcolm Craig Says:

    Hello, Enda. Dinner at La Licorne again? Saint Michael’s Mount was a priory of Mont St.-Michel from the 11th century until early in the 15th century. According to the Wikipedia article, it was given to Mont St.-Michel by Edward the Confessor and taken away by Henry V. Leave it to the House of Lancaster.

  12. Koby Says:

    Today, Edward I ‘Longshanks’ of England died.

  13. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Thanks for reminding me about Edward, Koby. I really rely upon you!

    Here is today’s Facebook Note.

    On this date in 1307, Edward I died of dysentery, which was often fatal in the MA. We’ve discussed Edward so often that I am not sure there is anything new left to say. His contemporaries considered him a highly successful king. Many of my Welsh readers consider him the Anti-Christ, and people are not fond of him in Scotland, either. I think the title of Marc Morris’s book about Edward sums him up rather nicely–A Great and Terrible King. I also think his cruelties against the Welsh, the Scots, and the Jews show him to be a man of little humanity, even by medieval standards. Yes, he strenghtened the English Crown, just as Philippe Capet greatly increased the power of the French Crown. But that does not mean I have to like either man.

    Thanks to Nan Hawthorne’s Today in Medieval History for pointing out an event far more interesting to me than Edward’s demise, the retrial of Joan of Arc. On July 7, 1456, she was declared to have been innocent in a trial set up by the Pope. Of course it was rather late for that, since she’d been burned at the stake on May 30, 1431. But it was the first step in what would eventually culminate in her canonization as a saint in May of 1920. She is probably one of the most fascinating and enigmatic figures of the MA, and I have never had any desire to write about her, though I am not sure why. Perhaps some mysteries are better left unsolved

  14. G.Robin Smith Says:

    Henry II and _especially_ Eleanor are my favorite sovereigns. So layered with the constraints of the era and yet also the freedoms their great imaginations and personal wills could muster.
    Thank you for your blogs and glad to find them.
    Best, Robin.

  15. Alessandra Says:

    I’m reading the Marc Morris book about Edward I right now, and of course Sharon’s Welsh trilogy got me interested in him. I have to admit I hated him a little bit in The reckoning, but I find me incredibily fascinating at the same time. To be honest Sharon is responsible for at least 50% of my book purchases since 2008, when I read The sunne in splendour (which I am re-reading right now as well).

  16. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Here is the Facebook Note I just posted a little while ago. It is a very long one, but it deals with a very serious subject, anti-Semitism, which is no less virulent today, sadly, than it was in the MA.

    Earlier today, several of my readers got into a dispute about whether Richard I was anti-Semitic, and one of them went so far as to post an artilce from another website purporting to “prove” it. Well, I read that article, and in all honesty, it was written by someone who knows very little about the Middle Ages. She contends that Richard spent so little time in England because he spoke no English and clearly sees that as a major flaw in an English king. obviously not aware that no Kings of England in the 12th century spoke English. This is beyond ludicrous, and all it “proves” is that there is a lot of sheer nonsense floating about on the Internet, and we already knew that. I had responded to questions about the rioting in London at the time of Richard’s coronation and the subsequent pogroms that swept England once Richard had sailed for Normandy. But I think this is a subject that is important enough to warrant its own Note, and so I am repeating my comments here.

    One of the reasons I ended up doing a 12 page AN for Lionheart is that I was surprised by what my research revealed about Coeur de Lion. Sadly, virtually all of the Christians in the MA were anti-Semitic to one degree or another; this was a bias they breathed in from birth. But I could find no evidence that Richard was a virulent anti-Semitic, as someone charged. it can even be argued that he banned Jews from attending his coronation in hopes of preventing the very thing that happened, a nasty riot. Again, sadly, before every crusade, there were ugly outbreaks of violence against Jews, and Richard would have been aware of that. The London pogrom began because two York Jews, Benedict and Josce of York, arrived bearing gifts for the new king; it is quite possible they did not know of his ban. The crowd hanging around outside the palace attacked them. Josce got away, but Benedict was seized and forced to convert at knifepoint. Meanwhile, the mob surged through the streets of London, attacking any Jew they could find, burning their houses, etc. When Richard was informed, he at once took steps to restore order. Three of the mob were hanged and the unfortunate Benedict was brought before the Archbishop of Canterbury and Richard several days later. When he recanted his forced conversion, he was allowed to do so, though the archbishop angrily asked him why he’d chosen to be the Devil’s man rather than God’s. Richard then sent out writs across England, warning that the Jews were to be left in peace….and they were. But then Richard sailed for Normandy to make ready for his crusade, and once he was out of the country, ugly outbursts began to occur that spring. This is too long, so I am continuing it in another commentary, for it is a very important topic, at least to me. Anti-Semitism is the tragic underside of medieval life, but it is more complicated than some people seem to think. For example, there were terrible pogroms in Germany after the Second Crusade was preached, and when he heard about them, St Bernard of Clairvaux, no particular friend to the Jews, raced from France to Germany to stop the killing and succeeded in doing so.

    The rioting began in East Anglia and then spread like the pox to Bury St Edmunds and Lincoln. In these towns, mobs surged through the streets and the Jews fled to the royal castles for protection. It was different in York, for there is evidence that it was deliberately stirred up to allow men in debt to Jewish money-lenders like Benedict and Josce to burn their debt bonds. The mob broke into Benedict’s house and killed his family, while those who could escape fled to the castle. Those who couldn’t were either slain or forced to accept baptism. But when the castellan left the castle, the Jews, who didn’t trust him, seized control of it. He then appealed to the sheriff of Yorkshire, who happened to be the brother of the celebrated William Marshal. The sheriff then launched an assault upon the castle and the drunken mob was only too happy to join in, egged on by a crazed hermit who assured them they were doing God’s Work. The sheriff soon realized he’d lost control, but by then it was too late. The Jews held out for two days, and then, realizing they were doomed, they chose a medieval Masada rather than be butchered by the mob. Husbands slit the throats of their wives and children and then Josce and their rabbi slit their throats. It is thought that abut 150 Jews had sought refuge in the castle, and all but a score or so committed suicide. The few who did not appealed for mercy, offering to accept baptism, and were promised they’d be spared. But when they ventured out, they were seized by the mob and murdered. I first learned of this atrocity in 1978 when I moved to York to research Sunne, and I can still remember my horror, standing in the sunlight at Clifford’s Tower and reading abut this terrible tragedy. Next, the aftermath.

    The leaders of the mob then forced their way into York Minster and terrified the monks into yielding up the debt bonds of the Jewish money-lenders, which they burned right there inthe nave of the church. Richard was in Normandy and as soon as he heard, he was outraged. Did he feel great sympathy for the Jews? Probably not; he was a medieval monarch. But no king could allow such a blatant breach of the King’s Peace. Moreover, the Jews were an important source of royal revenue, one reason why kings usually protected them. Richard sent his chancellor, Longchamp, back to England and he rode north with an army. In York, the citizens swore “outsiders” and men who’d taken the cross had done the killing, that they were innocent. Longchamp didn’t believe them, and punished the city, demanding hostages and levying harsh fines. The castellan and the Yorkshire sheriff were both dismissed, and Richard issued more warnings about letting the Jews be. The sheriff, John Marshall, then sought out Richard in Normandy to plead for his post back. Richard refused, but I am sorry to say that his brother John then took Marshal into his own household.

    As I said in an earlier post, all medieval kings, all medievals, were anti-Semetic to some degree. The king who treated the Jews in his realm most fairly was Louis VII, Eleanor’s ex. Henry and Richard did not permit outbreaks of violence against the Jews and Henry nullified a law which must have caused great hardship–one which held that no Jews could be buried anywhere but in London, no matter where they had died. The 12th century was a more “tolerant” age in some ways, and worse was to come in the 13th century. We know that Henry III and his son Edward I were both unusually hostile toward Jews; Edward would eventually expel them. Ironically, Louis’s son Philippe is known to have been a virulent anti-Semite, for he seems to have actually believed in the Blood Libel. He would expel the Jews from Paris, eventually allowing them to return when it served his financial benefit, and he perpetrated an appalling miscarriage of justice against the Jews upon his return from the crusade as a means of proving he was still a “good son of the Church” despite having abandoning the crusade. For those wanting to delve deeper into this subject, I suggest you read Falls the Shadow. The chapter I wrote about the confrontation between Simon de Montfort and a courageous (and fictional) rabbi after Londoners had staged another pogrom is one that I am very proud of, for I think–hope–I was able to show the great chasm that separated men of differing faiths in the MA. Sharan Newman is one of the few writers who has addressed this topic in her mystery series set in 12th century France; her major female character is a Christian but later discovers that her family are secret Jews. So Sharan shows us what life was life for Jews in the MA, and that doesn’t appear in fiction very often; see her Catherine LeVendeur series, which I highly recommend. There is also at least one novel written about the York Massacre. Joanne Greenburg’s The King’s Persons. And Margaret Frazer’s The Sempstress’s Tale deals with the the gap between medieval Christians and Jews in the 15th century, another excellent book.

    This was what I’d posted earlier in the Longshanks and the Maid thread, but as I said, I think it deserves a Note of its own. I was glad that I was finally able to discuss the York Massacre in Lionheart, for this is something that should be better known. I have tried very hard in my books to stay true to the medieval mindset, so all of my Christian characters tend to be somewhat suspicious of Jews and some of them, of course, are as hate-filled as Anti-Semites today. When Ranulf is saved by two young Jewish Peddlars in Saints and learns that his saviors are Jewish, his first instinct is to recoil. But then common sense and his innate decency prevail and gratitude proves stronger than bias. I also have a scene in The Reckoning between Hugh de Whitton and a moneylender who loans him enough money to buy a horse so he can go into Wales to warn Llywelyn that his bride, Ellen de Montfort, was captured by pirates in the pay of the English Crown. There is a moment where these two young men connect as human beings, but it is a fleeting one, for this is the 12th century. We can never forget that tolerance was not considered a virtue in the MA. And lest we get too sanctimonious, we’d do well to remember that prejudice continues to thrive in our world, too

    Catherine LeVendeur series, which I highly recommend. There is also at least one novel written about the York Massacre. Joanne Greenburg’s The King’s Persons.
    This was what I’d posted earlier in the Lonkshanks and the Maid thread, but as I said, I think it deserves a Note of its own. I was glad that I was finally able to discuss the York Massacre in Lionheart, for this is something that should be better known. I have tried very hard in my books to stay true to the medieval mindset, so all of my Christian characters tend to be somewhat suspicious of Jews and some of them, of course, are as hate-filled as Anti-Semites today. When Ranulf is saved by two young Jewish Peddlars in Saints and learns that his saviors are Jewish, his first instinct is to recoil. But then common sense and his innate decency prevail and gratitude proves stronger than bias. I also have a scene in The Reckoning between Hugh de Whitton and a moneylender who loans him enough money to buy a horse so he can go into Wales to warn Llywelyn that his bride, Ellen de Montfort, was captured by pirates in the pay of the English Crown. There is a moment where these two young men connect as human beings, but it is a fleeting one, for this is the 12th century. We can never forget that tolerance was not considered a virtue in the MA. And lest we get too sanctimonious, we’d do well to remember that prejudice continues to thrive in our world, too.

  17. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    I’d copied and pasted the Note, and clearly something went wrong, for I just noticed that the last paragraph is repeated. One of these days I’ll learn to proofread before posting.

  18. Koby Says:

    Thank you, Sharon, for posting this important note. Unfortunately, despite many not being any more Antisemitic than society was as a result of religion, too often the general attitude was manipulated by fanatics and evil men, and even today these things still happen. I also think you made it clear Richard was not worse than anyone was in general - In The Devil’s Brood, there was a scene I greatly appreciated, where Richard laughed at Phillipe’s gullibility for believing the Libel of Blood and that the Jews had horns and hooves.
    Lastly, today, Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury died.

  19. Koby Says:

    Today, El Cid died, Lady [Queen] Jane [I] Grey was crowned, and the Battle of Northampton took place, where Richard, Earl of Warwick defeated the Lancastrian army, in the process killing Humphrey Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, and capturing Henry VI [VII].

  20. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Thanks, Koby, for today’s update. It seems my blog can swallow up posts like Facebook, for the one I posted last night has disappeared. I was discussing Philippe Capet. There is no question that he was much more of an anti-Semite than the Angevin kings. His appalling belief in the Blood Libel sets him apart from his fellow monarchs, for this was not normally the case with the well educated; it was believed more easily by those lower down on the social pyramid. At least not in the 12th century; life became even harder for Jews in the 13th century. While their bias doesn’t excuse medievals, it is somewhat understandable because they were taught this by the Church. But bigots in the 21st century? They have no excuse whatsoever.

  21. Brenna Says:


    We never had the opportunity to finish our discussion (or really your recommendations on books on Henry I). When you have a moment of course. Hubby and I just got back from vacation where I read a wonderful book titled “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett. It’s not really historical fiction per se, but it is about Mississippi in the 1950s & 60s. If you haven’t yet read it, I highly recommend it. You’ll laugh and cry out loud by the end!!

  22. skpenman Says:

    I haven’t read it, Brenna, but I know it has gotten stellar reviews. I don’t know any books about Henry I off the top of my head. Maybe you could ask on my Facebook page? My readers are very well-read!

  23. John Rea Says:

    I too after having read history, mostly military, for the past 55 years. discovered your priceless historical novels. I read them grossly out of order, beginning with The Reckoning, now finishing off the Justin D’Quincy series.
    I would use Google and also the three volumes of Somon Schama to totally teach myself this part of medieval history when reading your books. A question if I could… I consider the greatest quote in English history… Henry Fitz Empress to Eleanor following Geoffrey’s departure, “Madam, if you’re not the Queen of France, you sure ought to be.” Eleanor was never out done, was she? “My Lord, if you’re not the King of England, you sure will be!” Absolutely amazing still echoing down through the ages. I regretfully can find no other verification of this great meeting. I hope it was fact and not part of your incredible imagination in bringing these characters to life. Please advise.

  24. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    John, thank you for such a lovely compliment. I have to admit that the scene with Henry and Eleanor came from my imagination. No chronicler thought to describe it. All we know is that they met in Paris then, that Henry and Geoffrey did an amazing turnabout after taking a hard line with the French king, which I think can only be explained by Henry and Eleanor reaching a private understanding. We know, too, that sparks flew between them and of course that they shocked their world by wdding as soon as she was free of the French king. I’m very glad the scene worked so well for you.

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