TEN COMMANDMENTS FOR WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION

Kathryn Warner recently wrote a
wonderful blog about writing historical fiction.  Followers of my blog and Facebook pages know
I tend to be obsessive-compulsive about historical accuracy.  I think my fellow writer Laurel Corona said
it best when she said very succinctly, “Do not defame the dead.”   Kathryn has elaborated upon the premise very
eloquently.  If I ever had unlimited
power over the universe—admittedly a scary thought, even to me—I would make
this required reading for anyone who has the slightest desire to write a
historical novel.   As a benevolent
dictator, I would also “suggest” that all readers of historical fiction read
it, too.  But until I become queen of the
universe, I will have to make do by re-posting, with Kathryn’s permission, her
blog. 

 

In the interest of full disclosure,
I should mention that Kathryn is a friend of mine; in fact, she has won my
enduring gratitude by translating relevant portions of the German biography of
Richard I by Dr. Ulrike Kessler, Richard I. Lowenherz, Konig, Kreuzritter,
Abenteurer.   Kathryn is also the creator
of a must-visit website for anyone interested in the Middle Ages; here is the
link.
http://edwardthesecond.blogspot.com.au/

 

Now, without further ado, I give you
Kathryn Warner. 

 

Ten Commandments For Writing About
History And Discussing It Online

Some things I need to get off my chest, based on reading about and discussing
history on various online forums and Facebook groups, and certain articles and
books.

1) You shall remember that people who lived hundreds of years ago were complex
human beings every bit as complex and human as we are, who had families, and
feelings, and human dignity, and that therefore you should write about them
with respect, in the same way that you would wish writers to treat the memory
of you and your loved ones with respect decades or centuries hence. You will
not laugh or sneer or gloat at their painful deaths and suffering, or claim
that they deserved everything they got, or express a wish that they’d suffered
even more, or call them vile names. If you wouldn’t want someone in the future
to make light of tragic events which have befallen you and your loved ones, or
to depict your beloved father as a callously neglectful parent or not in fact your
biological father thanks to your mother’s cheating on him, or your kind and
wonderful husband as a spineless snivelling coward who frequently beat you up
and forced himself on you, or your daughter as a cold-blooded child killer -
and if it would make you angry and upset if anyone wrote things like this about
your favourite historical person - then you should think twice about inventing
such calumnies about other people merely because you don’t like them or because
they were an enemy of your favourite historical person.

2) You shall remember that accusing someone of a horrible crime such as murder,
rape, child abuse, violent assault or torture is a serious allegation which
should not be made without real, actualevidence. This is no less true merely
because the person you are accusing lived 500 or 700 years ago, and lame
so-called justifications such as “s/he was an unpleasant person who might
have done such a thing” or “s/he had a motive to commit the crime, in
my opinion” or meaningless rhetorical questions and mealy-mouthed
statements such as “it is not beyond the bounds of possibility” that
s/he committed the crime are insufficient. A motive, or what you with the
benefit of more than half a millennium’s hindsight perceive to be a motive, does
not in itself constitute evidence. A wish to point the finger at your favourite
historical person’s enemies rather than him/her does not in itself constitute
evidence. A wish to portray your favourite historical person as a
long-suffering victim to arouse your audience’s sympathies for him/her does not
in itself constitute evidence.

3) You shall remember that complaining about your favourite historical person
being unfairly maligned by history, while enthusiastically maligning his/her
enemies for all you’re worth, looks hypocritical.

(I have been wondering whether I myself am somewhat guilty of this one, as I do
sometimes jokingly refer to Roger Mortimer as ‘Le Manly Wodge’ or similar,
which is pretty snide of me. Having said that though, my aim is to take the mickey
out of bizarre modern statements about his sexuality such as Alison Weir’s, and
the assumption that his ‘unequivocal heterosexuality’ made him stronger, more
virile, more manly, generally just better than Edward II not because of his
abilities but simply by virtue of who he was sexually and romantically
attracted to. My intention is to point up bigotry and stereotypes, and I do not
in any way mean to be cruel or mocking about Roger himself - just about the way
some people in the twenty-first century choose to depict him. I don’t dislike
Roger at all; he was an extremely able and courageous man and I find much to
like and admire about him. Same with Robert Bruce, or Isabella for that matter,
and I really don’t see why I need to dislike and spit venom at people who were
in some way Edward II’s enemies. For sure I’d never make up the kind of
hateful, hurtful slurs about them which certain Isabella fans have invented to
throw at Edward.)

4) You shall remember that your favourite historical person’s enemies were
complex, multi-dimensional human beings too and deserve to be acknowledged as
such, rather than as cardboard cut-out evil villains devoid of any humanity.
Depicting them as cruel to animals, or attracted to little boys, or sadistic
rapists, is a ridiculously unsubtle and obvious way to make them unsympathetic
to your readers. You shall also remember that however much you like your
favourite historical person, s/he was a human being and thus had character
flaws and made mistakes like every other human being who has ever lived, and
that depicting him/her as impossibly saintly and perfect looks kind of silly.
And also strips them of their humanity.

5) Unless you’re twelve, you shall remember that there is no need to divide
historical people into ‘teams’ or ’sides’ and hurl abuse at the other ‘team’ or
people who like them.

6) If you’re discussing history online and make a surprising or implausible
statement, such as claiming that it was treason to refuse to have sex with the
king of England in the sixteenth century, you shall remember that it is
entirely reasonable to be asked for a primary source to back up your statement.
This is not a reason to accuse people of rudeness and bullying and to get all
huffy and offended.

7) You shall remember that modern historical novels, however well-researched,
well-written and enjoyable, do not count as primary sources. Responding to a
request to provide a source for a statement you’ve made about a historical
person with “Historical Novelist X depicted him this way” does not
actually answer the question. You should also bear in mind that merely because
something has appeared in print in a historical novel does not automatically
mean that it has a basis in fact, and you should check before repeating it as
though it certainly does. This is how historical myths get started, and once
established, they’re damn hard to shake.

8) You shall remember that familial, societal and marital norms of the Middle
Ages were different to ours, and refrain from referring to women as
“helpless pawns” when their marriages are arranged by their (cruel,
heartless, callous, uncaring…) fathers. You shall remember that having your
royal or noble heroine wail “But I don’t love him!” when informed of
her impending marriage to a king or nobleman is by now a tedious cliché. You
will not assume that a medieval king must have been an uncaring neglectful
father because he didn’t live in a nuclear family arrangement with his
children. You will remember that, contrary to what you might assume, depicting Isabella
of France as being willing to take a lover at the age of sixteen and foist a
child of non-royal blood onto the English throne is an insult to her, not a
compliment.

9) You shall remember that depicting women as all of a sudden no longer
possessing their own agency, becoming the proverbial “helpless pawns”
and coming under the total control of nasty unscrupulous men whenever they do
things you don’t approve of, when two pages earlier you were applauding their
independence of action and thought as they did noble and good things, is as
patronising and paternalistic as the ’sexual prejudices’ of previous centuries
you’re decrying. Repeat to yourself until it sinks in: Adult women are
responsible for their own actions, good or bad, just as much as men are.

10) If you wouldn’t refer to Roger Mortimer as Isabella of France’s ’straight
lover’, to Alice Perrers as Edward III’s ‘female lover’, or to John of Gaunt’s
‘heterosexual relationship’ with Katherine Swynford - and of course you
wouldn’t - then you shall remember that there is no reason to call Piers
Gaveston or Hugh Despenser Edward II’s ‘gay lover’ or to talk about their
‘homosexual relationship’. Merely ‘lover’ and ‘relationship’ or ’sexual
relationship’ will suffice; it will be readily apparent to your reader that
Edward, Piers and Hugh were all men and that their relationships were therefore
evidently same-sex. Furthermore, you shall remember that making lame statements
such as “It’s different when men love women” in an attempt to justify
why you think Edward’s (presumed) adultery with men is nasty and icky while his
grandson John of Gaunt’s adultery with Katherine Swynford is fabulously
romantic, looks bigoted. There are ways that we can discuss prejudices of other
eras without making it look as though we share them and expect our readers to
do so too.

 

 

Thank you, Kathryn, for allowing me to re-post your blog
here.   I am sure my readers will find it
just as interesting and persuasive as I did.

 

May 28, 2012

 

67 Responses to “TEN COMMANDMENTS FOR WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION”

  1. paulalofting Says:

    Thanks for reposting Kathryn’s excellent commandments. I hope this reaches a wide audience. She is a brilliant historian and knows what she is talking about. Kathryn has kindly agreed for me to interview her which will be accessed by going to http://www.paulaperuses.blogspot.co.uk.

    Thanks again Sharon

  2. skpenman Says:

    Thanks for posting about the interview, Paula. I will definitely share your link.

  3. marshallslion Says:

    Have tweeted and blogged!
    I get really annoyed by silly terms being applied like” character” for a real perosn is hist-fic!
    And the conntention about the marriage vows ,which btw only women vowed the” forsaking all others” stuff in the early medieval as the laws were about property and inheritance!

  4. skpenman Says:

    What drives me crazy, Marshallslion, is when a novelist will have the heroine balk at getting married because “I don’t love him!” Any writer who does that is automatically consigned to the “wall-banger” pile, the wonderful phrase of Elizabeth Chadwick’s to describe historical novels that make a farce out of history.

  5. Lorraine Hunt Lynn Says:

    Whenever I read words such as Kathryn’s I am reminded of why they are needed. When I was taught to drive the history bus I was fortunate enough in that the first 2 required readings were John Tosh’s marvellous book and The Voices of Morebath. One taught me about putting everything into the greater context of total history and the other that humans are just that -human, regardless of their place in time. Any time I struggle with a character’s response to a certain situation, I draw on both Tosh and Morebath’s parish priest for inspiration.
    Thanks Sharon for sharing Kathryn’s wise and timeless words.

  6. John Phillips Says:

    This article neatly encapsulates all the failings of the majority of todays press, who thus fail to live up to their professed purpose which is to be NEWS Papers, rather than what they really are, namely Propaganda Sheets.

  7. skpenman Says:

    Invesigative journalism in the US belongs on the Endangered Species list, John, along with the polar bear and the condor.

    Here is today’s Facebook Note about a king I’ve always fancied. :-)

    I hope everyone enjoyed the weekend, even if it was not a bank holiday after all in the UK. I had to work, but it was worth it, for I got to save the city of Rouen from the French army. Okay, I had a little help from the Earl of Leicester.
    On May 29, 1453, the city of Constantinople fell to the Turks, thus ending the Byzantine Empire, which had originally been the eastern portion of the Roman Empire. In Lionheart, I called it the empire of the Greeks, for the term Byzantine did not come into vogue until much later.
    And on May 29, 1630, the future King Charles II was born. Charles was to receive what may be one of history’s best birthday gifts, for after having to flee and spend years in exile, he returned to claim the throne and was crowned on May 29, 1660, his 30th birthday. I realize Charles does not fit into our medieval time span, but I always had a soft spot for him. He was not cruel or spiteful and he had a wonderful sense of humor; I’ll forgive a man much if he can make me laugh. I think I fell under Charles’s spell when I was very young, first when I read Forever Amber (hiding it under the covers so my mother wouldn’t find out) and later when I came across a sardonic poem by John Wilmot, the Earl of Rochester, which went as follows:
    “Here lies our sovereign lord the king
    Whose word no man relies on.
    He never said a foolish thing,
    Nor ever did a wise one.”
    Can’t you imagine the reaction of Henry VIII had Thomas Wyatt dared to pen a poem like that about him? Charles, bless him, merely riposted: “That is true, for my words are my own, but my actions are those of my ministers.”
    How could you not like that man? The snarky Earl of Rochester led what may politely be called a turbulent life, dying at thirty-three of what was likely syphilis and alcoholism, although his story would be deemed worthy of a film starring Johnny Depp, The Libertine. But Charles was not left out in the cold by Hollywood; he stars in The Last King, in which he is played by Rupert Sewell.

  8. Koby Says:

    Truer words were never written Sharon. Any writer should take this advice in any genre, but especially in history.

    Today, the Battle of Ctesiphon took place, where the Roman Emperor Julian defeated the Sassanids under the walls of their city, but was unable to take it. The Battle of Monte Porzio also took place this day, where a small force (1,000-1,500) of the Holy Roman Empire (then ruled by Frederick I Barbarossa) defeated a Roman Army of 10,000, eventually leading to the Pope fleeing Rome.

    Sharon asked for a few words on Ibn Khaldun, and why I called him a polymath; I won’t get into it, as it is better to read his books, but in brief, he was not only historian but also philosopher, and is considered one of the forerunners of modern historiography, sociology, philosophy of history and economics. I will mention only one quote by him, his definition of Government: “an institution which prevents injustice other than such as it commits itself”.

  9. Malcolm Craig Says:

    Unlike younger brother James, Charles II was pragmatic: “I do not want to go on my travels again.”

  10. skpenman Says:

    They were so unlike, weren’t they, Malcolm? Makes me wonder if Charles was a foundling, for he wasn’t much like his stubborn father either. It must have saddened Charles on his deathbed to know that the Stuart dynasty was on such precarious ground, for he could have had no illusions about Brother James.

  11. Koby Says:

    And today, Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in Rouen, making this her Saint Day, and Henry VIII [IX] married Jane Seymour.

  12. skpenman Says:

    Here is my Facebook Note for today.

    Turning to the historical calendar, we find that May 30th was a date to remember. In 1213, the French fleet was attacked and destroyed in the harbor at Damme by a force under the command of John’s illegitimate half-brother, William Longsword. Despite this impressive victory, that would not stop the French prince Louis from invading England and laying claim to the English crown two years later. Fortunately for the English—and the Plantagenet dynasty– they had the steadfast, aging William Marshal ready to do battle on their behalf at Lincoln in 1217.
    On this date in 1431, Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in Rouen. Here is a link to a wonderful website about Joan’s trial. http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/joanofarc-trial.asp
    On May 30, 1445, Marguerite d’Anjou was crowned as Queen of England; hers was not to be the happiest of reigns, but she was still much luckier than the queens of Henry VIII. Not having the decency to wait even two weeks after the beheading of his second wife, Anne Boleyn, Henry married Jane Seymour on May 30, 1536.

  13. Koby Says:

    And if May 30th was a day to remember, Sharon, how much more May 31st?
    Today, Isabella of Angoulême and Cecily Neville died, Margaret Beaufort, the mother of Henry VII [VIII] was born, and the Battle of the Kalka River took place, where the Mongols under Jebe and Subutai crushed the Kievan Rus and Cumans.

  14. skpenman Says:

    Thanks so much for jogging my memory, Koby. I give you full credit in the Facebook Note below. I somehow overlooked John’s Jezebel, as she is colorfully called in King John, New Interpretations.

    I must thank Koby for reminding me that May 31st is an important date on the Yorkist-Tudor calendar. On this date in 1443, Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond and mother of Henry VII, was born. No comment there. And on May 31, 1495, Cecily Neville, the Duchess of York and mother to Edward IV and Richard III, died at the age of 80. Anne Easter Smith has written a novel about her called Queen by Right.
    I came upon an interesting blog that I’d like to share with my fellow book lovers. It is called Sir-Read-A-Lot and it offers book reviews—one of the best ways that we find new and intriguing books and authors—and interviews as well. Stuart is a writer himself; I do not know where he manages to find the time for his blog, but it is obviously a labor of love, and I have already bookmarked it. This week he has a very interesting interview with a friend of mine and a favorite with many of my own readers—Helen Hollick. Here is the link. http://sir-readalot.blogspot.com/ You can also follow him on Facebook—naturally!

  15. skpenman Says:

    Here is my second post about Isabelle, giving full credit to you, of course, Koby.

    Koby also reminded me that Isabelle d’Angouleme died on May 31, 1246, “John’s Jezebel” as she is colorfully called in King John, New Interpretations. She died at Fontevrault Abbey where she’d taken refuge after being implicated in a rebellion against the French king. She asked to be buried modestly in the nuns’ cemetery, but when her son Henry III later visited the abbey, he was very upset and insisted that she be reburied in the church, providing her wooden effigy. So this is how she came to crash the Angevin party, resting today with Henry, Eleanor, and Richard, and looking out of place.

  16. Koby Says:

    Sharon, what is this book, King John, New Interpretations? Is it any good? Or is it only good in some respects? And what ‘New Interpretations’ does it offer?

  17. Beth Says:

    Sharon, you may be pleased to hear that the BBC is re-showing, on the BBC iPlayer, Helen Castor’s excellent “She-Wolves” series. Episodes one and two are currently available and episode three is shortly to follow. Matilda and Eleanor are covered in the first episode.

  18. skpenman Says:

    Thanks for letting us know, Beth. I’ll pass that one; I actually have the series on DVDs now, thanks to a dear friend who copied them for me.
    Koby, I’ll get back to your question.

  19. skpenman Says:

    Koby, King John, New Interpretations, is a collection of scholarly essays written by historians who are particularly knowledgeable about the Angevins like John Gillingham, Nicholas Vincent, Jane Martindale, RalphTurner, etc. It is a comprehensive study of John’s reign, with essays on his relations with Wales, Scotland, the Church, his barons, etc. There is one about Eleanor and one about Isabella. I would definitely recommend it for anyone interested in John’s kingship. The only essay I’d suggest skipping is the one by Jim Bradbury about John and Philippe, author of what another historian snidely but accurately called an “enthusiastic” biography of the French king. He may be the only person ever to have a genuine fondness for the French king, and that probably includes Philippe’s own mother. :-) But this means he never misses an opportunity to make excuses for Phiilippe’s bad behavior and justifies it by attacking the Angevins. So of course John does not come off well in his essay while Philippe glows in the dark. I don’t expect historians not to have opinions, but in my own opinion, he crosses the line time and time again. The book itself is well worth reading, though.

  20. Hilary Says:

    Whilst I heartily agree with Kathryn Warner’s stipulations, I can’t help noticing that Shakespeare broke almost every one of them! But then, he almost certainly wouldn’t have claimed to be writing accurate history - he was creating poetry and drama, so I guess we’ll allow him poetic licence!

  21. Emilie Laforge Says:

    Sharon, I’ve finally caught up with your blog entries and all the fabulous comments. I understand that Kasia is currently attending to family problems but I have to say that I really like her contributions and hope she returns soon. I’ve also enjoyed learning more about young Hal through her research.
    I wish I had a greater knowledge of the Medieval period and Angevins. If I did, I could make my own enlightened contributions. On the flip side, it means that I have a lot to learn and many books, articles to read. It also means that I may never see the end of my to be read pile but at least I will never be bored. :)

    As the 1 year anniversary of the Eleanor tour approaches, I find myself thinking about the wonderful adventures we had, the new friends we’ve made and the great memories we will always cherish. I read in a previous post that the next Eleanor tour is tentatively scheduled for September 2013. I am seriously considering joining the tour for a second time. I don’t want to be greedy but there was just so much to take in the first time and it went by so quickly. A return trip would allow me to focus on the various aspects I missed and of course allow me to take more pictures. A return to Mont St-Michel and Fontevraud Abbey would be fabulous as those were my favorite places. Another visit to Chinon Castle is also high on my wish list as the weather and a certain tour guide didn’t really allow us to soak in the atmosphere and connect with the soul of Henry II (a bit cheesy, I know but it was his favorite castle).

    On the topic of Kathryn’s commandments for writing historical fiction, I especially agree with the one regarding the portrayal of women. Why is it that some authors feel it necessary to turn women into feminists? I wouldn’t have wanted to be a woman in the MA but it doesn’t mean that I want to read books that totally disregard the reality of their lives. There are so many things to learn from the lives of these long ago women and pretending that they acted like us is like denying their struggles, their accomplishments, their very existence.

  22. skpenman Says:

    Emilie, that would make me so happy if you could come! I was thinking recently that while I am sure I will enjoy the new tour and the people will be lovely–they do have good taste in books, after all–it might be recapture the magic of the first tour. We all meshed so well. I want to go to England after the tour rather than flying straight home, so maybe you could do that, too; John has promised to givve me a tour of the new Dover Castle, for I haven’t seen it since the renovations. And I am totally in agreement with your eloquent comments about medieval women. We are the product of our yesterddays; why wouldn’t they be?

  23. Malcolm Craig Says:

    Bon jour, Èmilie! I am also hoping to be able to join the 2013 tour, and it would be great to be able to see both you and Sharon again. It would indeed be pleasant if a core group from Sharon’s first tour could return to France and enjoy the second one together. In the meantime, I would love to visit Aix-en-Provence to watch Layla Claire perform. Though she is a western Canadienne, she did study in Montréal and therefore probably speaks French reasonably well.

  24. Kasia (Kate) Says:

    Good morning, everyone! I’ve dropped in, just for a short while, and have to come back immediately to my partly-solved family problems. Emilie thank you for your kind words. You cannot even imagine how heartening they sound to me these days.
    And I am back to mention a man who proved to be a very important person in the Young King’s life. His relative, friend, tutor on the tournament circuit, and ally, Count Philip of Flanders. He died on this day in 1191, at Acre. The city was still holding out when the Count and Philip Augustus arrived on 20 April. Count Philip was not to live to see its fall because he contracted endemic fever and passed away a week before the arrival of Richard.
    I am not going to discuss Philip’s political career. It is enough to say he truly was a shrewd man and capable ruler, and great patron of tournaments. Alongside William Marshal he became Hal’s chief tutor in arms. Although some of his tactics had nothing to do with chivalry. I mean the chivalry as we understand it today:-) Sharon mentioned Philip’s innovative technics in Devil’s Brood.

    Wish you all beautiful day (it’s rainy, here, in Poland:-)) and hope to come back to you soon.

  25. Kasia (Kate) Says:

    One more thing. Concerning Polish history this time. On this day in 1434, Władysław II Jagiełło, one of hte greatest Polish kings, died. He is best known for defeating the Teutonic Knights at the Battle of Grunwald on 15 July 1410 (next to the Battle of Vienna (1683) and the Battle of Warsaw (1920), the greatest victory in Polish history). Władysław’s reign extended Polish frontiers and is often considered the beginning of Poland’s Golden Age.

  26. Koby Says:

    Indeed, Kasia, and thank you for that opening. Welcome back!
    Today, Hugh Capet was elected King of France, beginning the Capetian dynasty. Geoffrey, Count of Nantes (Henry II’s brother) died, Philip Augustus conquered Rouen and finally, Anne Boleyn was crowned Queen of England.

  27. skpenman Says:

    Welcome back, Kasia. I hope all goes well with you and you are soon able to starting posting again. Like Emilie, I have missed you.
    Malcolm, that would be wonderful if you could come on the 2nd tour, too! Fingers crossed here.
    Koby, I am not sure about Anne’s coronation date. I saw the June 1st date, but I’ve also seen it as occurring in May and am not sure which date is correcct. I already had written out a note for today (which goes in a totally different direction) so I think I will post that one now and do a second post later, when I can. Both my dogs are sick, :-(

  28. skpenman Says:

    Here is today’s Facebook note; I hope to be back.

    By June 1, 1192, Richard Coeur de Lion had gained full control over Cyprus. For details of this lightning campaign, see Lionheart.  And on this date at Acre, Philip, the Count of Flanders died. He appeared fairly often in Devil’s Brood and Lionheart, an interesting man who earned both fame and notoriety in his lifetime.
    And on June 1, 1192, Enrico Dandolo was elected as Doge of Venice; the doge was the chief magistrate and senior elected official of the island republic. There is some confusion of dates about when he actually assumed power, but the June date is generally accepted. He was quite elderly by then and blind as well, but that did not stop him from participating in the infamous Fourth Crusade. He agreed to use the Venetian fleet to transport the French and German crusaders to the Holy Land—ironically, they were now willing to adopt the strategy Richard had argued for in vain, an assault upon Egypt, as would all subsequent crusades. But Dandolo’s price was a high one; he demanded that the crusaders recapture the Christian city of Zara, which had once been claimed by Venice and was now under Hungarian control. He seems to have played the role of a master spider in advancing the interests of Venice during this notorious crusade, which ended up attacking the Christian city of Constantinople in an orgy of rape, robbery, and brutality. These actions were so shameful that even Simon de Montfort (“my” Simon’s father) left in disgust, and given what he would do during the Albigensian Crusade, he was not the most sensitive of souls. Dandolo plays a small role in Ransom, for he was the one who informed the captive Richard that Saladin had died in March of 1193. I thought you might like to read his letter for yourselves.
    “To his most serene lord, Richard, by the grace of God, King of England, Duke of Nor-mandy and Aquitaine, and Count of Anjou, Enrico Dandolo, by the same grace, Doge of Venice, Dalmatia, and Cherum, health and sincere and duteous affection. Know ye that it has been intimated to me, from a source that can be relied upon, that Saladin, that enemy of the Christian religion, died in the first week of Lent. And one of his sons, whom he is said to have appointed heir to the whole of his dominions, is at present in Damascus, while the other one is ruling at Egypt and Alexandria. His brother is in the vicinity of Egypt with a numerous army, and the greatest dissension exists between them. Farewell.”
    There were some other significant happenings on a June 1st, but I am going to post this now and try to get back later with a second post that covers them. It may take some time, as both of my dogs are ill and I need to get them to the vet today.

  29. Kathryn Warner Says:

    Thanks to everyone for the lovely supportive comments about my ‘rules’, and also for the great historical info! I always learn so much here!

  30. Kasia (Kate) Says:

    Sharon and Koby, thank you! I’ve missed you too. And I found Kathryn’s commandments highly instructive and accurate. I liked especially the “But I don’t love him “one:-)

  31. Malcolm Craig Says:

    Kathryn, I read your “Ten Commandments” through the link Sharon posted, before she put them up here; and I found them both commonsensical and instructive. As one who had studied the history of the 12th century in detail, I was first attracted to Sharon’s historical novels by her careful fidelity to known historical “facts.” (We who have been trained as historians know that much of what we write is surmise, based on the best evidence available.) I noticed that you provided an example contrary to your commandments by a novelist who is not well regarded by the devotees of Sharon’s clearly superior work. Well done.

  32. Emilie Laforge Says:

    Sharon, I’m always ready to go to England so it wouldn’t take much convincing for me to join you. :) If I do return to France, I would want to add a few extra days to go to Rouen (for its connections to William the Conqueror, Richard, Hal, Matilda, etc), visit chateau Gaillard and pay my respects to Berengaria at l’abbaye de l’Epau in Le Mans. If I was rich and didn’t have to work, I would also want to do a tour of the Cathar Castles in Southern France.

    Malcom, I would love to see you again and what better occasion than another Eleanor Tour. I didn’t know about Layla Claire but since you mentioned that she is Canadian, I just had to go to her website and listen to an audio sample. She has a great voice. For the past 2 years, my mother and I have been taking advantage of the Metropolitan Opera’s innovative idea of transmitting some of their performances in movie theaters around the world. What a wonderful way to discover this ancient art form.

    Kasia, I am glad you were able to make a brief appearance today and enjoy learning about Poland’s history through your posts. How all of you ( Koby the Great, Sharon, Malcom, yourself and countless others) can remember all these facts, amazes me! Best of luck with your family matters.

  33. skpenman Says:

    So glad you are back, Kasia. Thanks for the lovely compliment, Malcolm. I am so delighted there is a chance that you and Emilie can make the second Eleanor tour.

    Here is today’s Facebook Note for June 2nd, a bit late, but I still made it with three hours to spare.

    A slow medieval news day compared to recent days. On June 2, 1420, Henry V married Catherine of Valois as part of the treaty of Troyes. She would be soon widowed, after having given him a son, the unfortunate Henry VI. Catherine was to be the mother of one king and the grandmother of another, but I am guessing she is mainly remembered today by romantics who fancy the story of her secret marriage to the dashing Welshman, Owen Tudor. She died of apparent complications from childbirth in 1437. Owen survived to be executed by Edward IV. Henry V was lucky enough to be immortalized in one of Shakespeare’s plays. I always thought it strange that Shakespeare ignored the high drama provided by our favorite Plantagenets, those wonderfully dysfunctional Angevins. Yes, I know he did one about John, but how about our Henry? Henry’s problems with his sons would have given Lear a run for his money.
    Thank you all for your concern about my dogs. Holly is much better; the antibiotics have cleared up her urinary tract infection. So apparently her recent refusal to urinate was merely a spaniel game, the one called “Finding ways to drive my mistress crazy and drain her bank account with needless tests.” Tristan was in real pain, but after a laser treatment and pain medication, he seems better today, too. In his case, his ailments are age and arthritis related, so the best we can hope for is a holding action. But a dog who nearly starved to death knows how to savor every good moment and these days he has a lot of them.

  34. Kasia (Kate) Says:

    Sharon, I’m glad to hear that both Holly and Tristan are much better.
    As for the Angevins, on this day in 1162, Hal (aged seven), in his father’s absence, with ‘the almost countless crowd of great men and nobles of the realm’ witnessed Thomas Becket’s consecration at Canterbury.

    Wish you all a beautiful Sunday!

  35. Kasia (Kate) Says:

    P.S. I am not going to discuss Hal’s (aged twenty-eight) whereabouts in the Dordogne valley in June 1183. It is enough to say that in four days he will be confessing his sins to Gerald, bishop of Cahors (just in case I would not be able to post on 7 June).
    Sharon, have you been to Martel? Some time ago I took a closer look at the map and traced back Hal’s final journey step by step (from Limoges to Uzerche, then to Donzenac and Martel, from Martel to Rocamadour, and back to Martel, and then straight to Heaven, I do hope:-)). The region seemed so picturesque. I wonder if Hal saw the castle of Beynac. Its history dates back to 12th century so he could have admired its strong walls as he was passing by (it’s not far from Martel). I have to organize my own private Henry the Young King tour one day:-)

  36. skpenman Says:

    Here is today’s rather long Facebook Note. I left any mention of Hal for you, Kasia! No, I did not get to Martel, a huge disappointment for me. I intended to do so, but had problems with my rental car and we had to switch it in Angers, which lost me two days of travel time, and Martel had to be sacrificed.

    On the night of June 2-3rd, 1098, the city of Antioch fell to the forces of the First Crusade after a long siege that had begun in October, 1097. Twice during the siege, the crusaders defeated Muslim armies sent to the relief of Antioch, but they suffered greatly themselves, with it being estimated that one of seven died of starvation. They finally gained entry through the treachery of a man named Firuz and a bloodbath followed, although the citadel itself held out. But the cruaders’ victory was short-lived for a large army then appeared on the scene led by the Emir Kerbogha of Mosel. It was at this time that a chaplain of Count Raymond of Toulouse claimed that a vision from God led him to discover the Holy Lance said to have stabbed Jesus Christ. Interestingly enough, despite the superstitions so prevalent and the veneration of holy relics, this claim was met with considerable skepticism. But others believed and historians think that the Holy Lance helped to galvanize the Christian forces. In any event, when they sallied forth from the city, they managed to win a victory over Kerbogha despite being greatly outnumbered. There are conflicting stories about this battle, including allegations that the emir was deserted by his own allies. I do not think I could comfortably write about the First Crusade, given the brutal slaughter of civilians that was a hallmark of this crusade.
    For my own purposes, the siege of Antioch was significant for who did not take part in that battle against Kerbogha. Stephen, Count of Blois, husband to William the Conqueror’s fiercely proud daughter Adela, had been at the siege, but withdrew to Alexandretta to recover from a fever. The day after he left, the Christian forces captured the city. When they were besieged in turn by Kerbogha, Stephen thought they were doomed and made the sensible—to me—decision to return home. Really, what was he supposed to do? Try to cut his way through the besieging army to die in the city with his fellow Christians? Yes, according to many who then turned on Stephen. He was accused of cowardice and Adela made life so miserable for the poor man that he reluctantly returned to the Holy Land, dying at the second battle of Ramla in 1102. Presumably, Adela could then hold her head up. He was the father of King Stephen, and I describe this episode in the prologue to Saints. Here is a great link to contemporary accounts of the siege and the First Crusade, set up by Paul Halsall. http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/cde-antioch.asp And here is another one to a letter that Stephen wrote home to Adela, his “sweetest and most amiable wife,” and his children from the siege of Antioch. http://history.hanover.edu/texts/1stcrusade2.html
    June 3, 1162 was another date Henry II would have liked to forget—the consecration of his trusted friend, Thomas Becket, as Archbishop of Canterbury. Becket wasted no time in resigning the chancellorship and returning the great seal to Henry; let the games begin.
    And on June 3, 1369, the English parliament did themselves no credit by freeing King Edward III of the constraints placed upon him in the Treaty of Bretigny in 1360, at which time he’d relinquished any claim to the French throne. He promptly renewed this claim, thus leading to the Hundred Years War. Thanks, guys.

  37. Malcolm Craig Says:

    Sharon, it was with that Prologue that I began reading my first Penman book, back in 2003, and I still remember it well. I was obviously hooked on your work from that beginning.

  38. skpenman Says:

    Thanks, Malcolm! I am so excited to think you and Emilie may be able to go on our second Eleanor tour. Will Allys be able to come, too? I was sorry she had to miss our trip last year.

  39. Koby Says:

    Today, Adele of Champagne, mother of Philip II Augustus died.

  40. skpenman Says:

    Today’s Facebook Note.

    Well, I couldn’t find anything medieval to report for June 4th, though Koby may yet ride to my rescue. Kasia, my Polish friend, who shuns Facebook, and Rania down in New Orleans may come up with something I’ve missed, too. But as of now—nothing. So….let’s talk about last night’s finale of Game of Thrones. For those who did not see it yet, stop reading now! Also stop reading if you have not read the books and don’t want to know what happened in them!
    I cannot decide if my memory is getting worse by the day or if their script writers are just getting more creative this season, but I find myself watching so many scenes and thinking, “Hey, I don’t remember that in the book!” Actually, I am hoping that they do deviate from the books at times. I don’t want Shay to betray Tyrion, for one thing. Question: in the books, didn’t Marjorie wed Joffrey’s little brother? Or is that my memory playing me false again? Watching that scene last night, I wanted to shriek at the television screen, You do not want to do that, Marjorie! As worldly and ambitious as she is, she’d get more than she bargained for in Joffrey. I also don’t remember Daenerys seeing her sun and stars in the House of the Undead. Love those baby dragons, though. That is another thing I hope they don’t do in the series—I hated it when the dragons were chained up like rabid dogs later on. Okay, so they weren’t housebroken and tended to turn people into charcoal from time to time, but dragons are not meant to be pets, Danni. And in the book, did Robb actually marry his love? I didn’t remember that, either. Great scene, though, for Tywin Lannister, riding his stallion right into the great hall. Henry II actually did that occasionally.
    PS And Koby did come through. On this date in 1206, Adele of Champagne, widow of Louis VII and mother of Philippe II died. Her two brothers wed Louis and Eleanor’s daughters Marie and Alix, so her stepdaughters were also her sisters-in-law. Philippe had antagonized her early in his reign to the point where she withdrew from court and fortified her lands against him. Henry came to the rescue and patched up a peace between them, not the first time he acted to save the young, inexperienced Philippe from himself—thus proving the truth of that cynical adage, “No good deed goes unpunished.”

  41. Malcolm Craig Says:

    Sharon, until she retires from her post directing F.S.U.’s Museum of Fine Arts, Allys is very unlikely to travel during September. For now, she is satisfied with the annual spring-break week in London with her class. Perhaps once we have both retired, we can travel together for more than a few days at a time again.

  42. Kathy Wagner Says:

    Sharon, I know I have written this at least twice but then I don’t check back on the blog to see if there is an answer. I definately am going to do that this time ! I would love to go on the next tour you put together. I LOVE, and have read , all of your books. My question is, how does one find out or get on the list for more information, etc.? Thank you !

  43. Koby Says:

    Today, Robert de Beaumont 1st Earl of Leicester, who commanded the infantry at Hastings, was among the hunting party where William Rufus died and was the father of the Beaumont twins died. So did Edmund Crouchback, Henry III’s [IV's] son. Finally, Edmund of Langley, 1st Duke of York was born today, beginning the House of York.

  44. skpenman Says:

    Hi, Kathy,
    I think you’ll really enjoy the Eleanor tour. We had a marvelous time and some special friendships developed as a result. The next one will be in September of 2013. E-mail me at sharonkaypenman@gmail.com and I will be happy to put you on the list for information.

  45. skpenman Says:

    Today’s Facebook Note, compliments of Koby.

    Thanks to Koby, I can tell you that on June 5, 1296, Edmund, Earl of Lancaster and Leicester, younger brother to Edward I, died while besieging Bordeaux for his brother. He is sometimes called Edmund Crouchback because he took part in Edward’s crusade. He was wed to Blanche of Artois, queen-consort of Navarre, who was the granddaughter of Blanche of Castile, Eleanor of Aquitaine’s grand-daughter. Edmund received the earldom of Leicester after Simon de Montfort’s death at Evesham. He and Blanche had several children; their son Thomas was executed after rebelling against Edward II. Edmund appears as a character in Falls the Shadow and The Reckoning and Blanche appears in The Reckoning. She suffered a terrible tragedy when her young son from her marriage to the King of Navarre died when his nurse accidentally dropped him from a castle battlement. No, I do not know what happened to the nurse. Blanche’s daughter Joan by the King of Navarre would wed King Philip IV of France, he of Templar infamy; Joan was therefore the mother of three French kings and a Queen of England, Isabella, controversial consort of Edward II.

  46. Kathy Wagner Says:

    Thank you Sharon. I will email you.

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