Margaret Frazer, In Memoriam

I am writing this in memory of my friend Gail Frazer, who wrote her medieval mysteries under the name Margaret Frazer, for she has finally lost her long battle.  Gail was my sister in all the ways that counted.  We were Yorkists, fellow writers, animal lovers, wine lovers, bibliophiles, and shared the same fascination with history.   She was much funnier than me, though, much funnier than the great majority of people on the planet.  I’d not have been surprised to discover that she could trace her descent from Mark Twain. All that irreverence and irony had to come from somewhere, after all.   She could laugh at almost anything, including herself, even death.  She was as courageous as any warrior, fighting cancer for twenty years, giving no quarter. She joked that her mantra was one she’d stolen from Han Solo, “Never tell me the odds!”   She also took a perverse pleasure in defying her doctors, who were, she reported gleefully, baffled that she was still alive.   She rescued stray cats and wayward friends.  She loved fiercely and had no patience with the pompous or the pretentious, skewering writers who did not do their research, describing their sloppy sort of work as “Mary Jane visits the castle.”  
 Her books were a delight to read, for her wit and intelligence shone through on every page.  She was not a Catholic, but don’t tell that to Sister Frevisse, her austere medieval nun, who yearned only to serve God, although Gail kept dragging corpses into her peaceful convent.  Her dashing spy and sometime player, Joliffe, is probably closer to Gail’s own nature, for he took nothing in life all that seriously, especially himself,   She had the imagination to create both chillingly believable villains and the heartbreakingly vulnerable people they victimized.  She was almost as ruthless as George R.R. Martin about killing her characters off; my mother never quite forgave her for The Servant’s Tale.   It would have been fascinating to see what she could have done with Elizabeth of York, the subject of her next novel; Henry Tudor would have been verbally eviscerated before he even knew what was happening. 
Her books are only one of her legacies, though.   She touched so many lives.   She lives on in her sons and in her books and in the memories of all those who loved her, and we are legion.    The world will be a darker place without her.  But for those of you who’ve not yet had the pleasure of reading her novels, there is still time.  And what better way can a writer be remembered than to be read?  

243 Responses to “Margaret Frazer, In Memoriam”

  1. ken john Says:

    Beautifully written Sharon. I did not know of her work until your interview with her a short time ago. I will now take up your suggestion and buy her books. My condolences to her family and of course to you.

  2. Priscilla Says:

    No one could have written a more beautiful tribute to such a remarkable woman and writer than you, Sharon. Gail’s life was an inspiration on so many levels. We grieve that part of her is gone, but we can still rejoice that we have her books to consol us.

  3. Pat McGuffin Says:

    To be so well remembered is the way most of us would like to leave this life. I suspect that Ms. Frazer must have enjoyed your friendship every bit as much as you appreciated hers. My sympathies for all who loved her.

  4. Marilyn Says:

    I have seen her post but I haven’t read her Books. I’d love to… this is a beautiful testimony to your Friend and fellow Author. Being remembered for her talent is a special way to shine.

  5. Michelle Moran Says:

    That is a very, very beautiful tribute. Thank you for sharing it.

  6. Angela Says:

    A wonderful tribute from a writer of equal skill. She respected you so much as well, Sharon. She had a small smile of satisfaciton as she told me she’d already read Lionheart while I was still anxiously awaiting publication! Thank you.

  7. Kasia (Kate) Says:

    Sharon, please accept my condolences. Ms. Frazer must have been extraordinary person indeed. Very brave and courageous.

  8. Suzanne Adair Says:

    Eloquent and moving. My commiserations on your loss. Thank you for such a lovely tribute.

  9. Leslie Budewitz Says:

    What a lovely tribute — thank you for sharing it. She’s given us many happy hours, and taken us to times and places we could not otherwise have visited. She was also very encouraging to newer writers.

  10. Linda Davis Says:

    I am very sorry you lost a good friend, Sharon. She is somewhere else now, I’m sure, thrilling those around her with her stories.

  11. Elizabeth Chadwick Says:

    I was so sorry to learn about Gail’s death. I met her a while back when she came to England and we often chatted online. She was a lovely lady. Thank you so much for writing this tribute to her.

  12. Emilie Laforge Says:

    I was so sad to learn about Ms. Frazer’s passing when I checked my Facebook News Feed this morning. My condolences to you, Sharon, Ms. Frazer’s family, friends and her legions of readers. I haven’t read any of her books yet but I do have her entire Joliffe series waiting in my TBR pile. Thank you, Sharon, for introducing us all to Ms. Frazer. It certainly seems like the world has lost a great person.

  13. Sara Nell Bible Says:

    Sharon, what a lovely tribute to your friend. I have not read her books yet but
    have planned to do so, and will certainly make them a priority this year.

  14. Joan Says:

    Sharon, I am so very sorry to hear this sad news. My deepest sympathy to you & to Ms Frazer’s family. What a lovely tribute you’ve written…& how fortunate for both of you to have shared such a wonderful friendship.

  15. Karen Says:

    I’m so sorry to hear of her passing. I’m a long-time fan of Ms. Fraser’s Sister Frevisse books who will continue to treasure her tales. Her books have a wonderful sense of time and place that really makes the 15th century come alive. Those of us who love historical fiction tend to know and think in terms of the famous figures and their activities. Learning about the lives of every day people during that time period through the eyes of Sister Frevisse (and all those corpses!) has been a true pleasure. My condolences to Ms. Fraser’s friends and family.

  16. Sully Says:

    We will miss her…may she rest in peace.

  17. Stephanie Says:

    Beautiful, my dear Sharon. Somehow fitting that I finished Servant’s Tale just after learning the news.

  18. Graidhne Says:

    Though I have not seen her for years, I will be very sad knowing she is gone.

  19. Jerelyn Says:

    I saw the news last night, or was it early morning on Jeri Westerson’s FB page. My first thoughts were of you Sharon, as I knew of your close friendship. What a loving tribute to your friend. My condolences go out to her family, friends, and fans of which I am one. She will be missed.

  20. Pat Jones Says:

    What wonderful words Sharon, my condolences to you and Margaret’s family. She sounds a wonderful fun and thoughtful person, and a very good friend. She has undoubtedly left a wonderful legacy in her books and the people she loved, and reading your words Sharon, a true historian. I am sorry to admit I haven’t read any of Margaret’s books, but I’m about to put that right, and start now. My thoughts are with you all.

  21. Malcolm Craig Says:

    A wonderful remembrance, Sharon. You may have inspired me to read her books - if I can find the time!

  22. Susan Coventry Says:

    I’m so sorry to hear this. Condolences to you on the loss of your friend. I didn’t know Gail, I only knew Margaret Frazer, and I eagerly awaited the release of each new book. Joliffe is one of my all-time favorite fictional characters. She sounds like a wonderful woman and she’ll be missed be a great many people.

  23. Priya Parmar Says:

    Sharon, what a very lovely tribute. It sounds as if she was an extraordinary person and you shared an extraordinary friendship. I am thinking of you and Ms. Frazer’s family and stray animals and many readers today.

  24. Kristie Dean Says:

    Sharon, a glowing tribute! I am sorry for the loss of your friend; it came as a shock to me that she had passed away.

  25. Colleen Says:

    so sorry to hear this, I only knew her through her books, and I will miss her, and her characters from her books, but you have lost a friend, and I hope your memories of her help you through this time, it sounds like you have many special memories of a special person.

  26. Joansz Says:

    So sorry to learn of your and the world’s loss. My condolences to you, her friends, and family. Here’s to happy memories and friends.

  27. Koby Says:

    This was beautiful, Sharon. As her memory lives on in her books and children, no less does it live on in the lives of the people she touched, and your words here prove this. My condolences to you and her friends and sons.

    Today, Empress Matilda was born, Edward II was formalized as the first English Prince of Wales by the Parliament of Lincoln, and the Sainted Sir Thomas More was born.

  28. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Thank you all for expressing sympathy for the loss of Margaret Frazer. It means a lot to me and I am sure it does to her family, too.
    I don’t have a Today in History post, although I’d normally have written one for the Empress Maude, who was born on this date. But between the two Richards, I am being stretched very thin at the moment, and I have to give priority to a wedding in Rouen. I will be back, though!

  29. Diana Sprain Says:

    Very eloquent memorial to a friend. I will look for Ms. Frazer’s works.

  30. Koby Says:

    Today, the Battle of Al Mansurah took place, wherein the Seventh Crusade was decisively defeated. Among the approximately 15,000 dead were Robert I of Artois and William II Longespée, and Louis IX of France and his brothers Charles d’Anjou and Alphonse de Poitiers were captured. Lastly, Mary Queen of Scots was executed today.

  31. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Today’s Facebook Note.

    For yesterday. On February 7th, 1478, George of Clarence was sentenced to death, although it would take Edward another ten days before he could bring himself to have the sentence carried out. I have always believed that George had become mentally ill by the time he died; it is hard to explain his behavior otherwise. I need to get inside the heads of my characters in order to write about them, yes, even Henry Tudor. But visiting Brother George’s brain was like being trapped in a funhouse, filled with those spooky mirrors that distort reality.
    For February 8th, see my friend Koby’s post on my blog. (I’m not being lazy, just horribly pressed for time.)
    I thought my corner of the country was going to miss the Monster Nor’easter bearing down on the East Coast, but now it seems that in addition to high winds and heavy rains, we are also getting snow. Not as bad as what New England is facing, though; Boston may be hit with a blizzard of the century. What is very worrisome, too, is that so many people are still living in houses badly damaged by Hurricane Sandy, so they are very vulnerable to a storm of this magnitude. I hope everyone in its path stays safe.

  32. Maria Says:

    What a nice tribute, but I am sorry about the loss of your friend. I’ve never read any of her books, but will add her books to my mental list of “books to read”.

    This seems sort of odd to put in a comment on this memorial post, but I want to say this before I forget - I am thrilled to have found your blog. I’ve read all of the Justin deQuincy books, Time and Chance, and Devil’s Brood, and found your blog looking for the promised extra author’s note material for Devil’s Brood. Anyway, I enjoy your books - they are a nice escape from the joys and trials of life as a senior in college majoring in one of the physical sciences.

    Hope you are staying safe in the Nor’easter and again, my condolences for the loss of your friend.

  33. skpenman Says:

    Thank you, Maria. The storm was not too bad where I lived, but of course New England was hammered and 650,000 are without power–or heat.

  34. skpenman Says:

    Today’s Facebook Note.

    Today’s historical events, although none of them are really related to my books. On February 10th, 1126, William IX, the Duke of Aquitaine also known as the Troubadour, died. He is remembered today for his often bawdy poetry and for being the grandfather of Eleanor of Aquitaine. Unfortunately I never got to write about him in one of my novels, for he’d definitely have been a colorful character. On Henry and Eleanor’s wedding night in Saints, I have Henry laughing after Eleanor entertains him with some of the more scandalous stories about her grandfather, exclaiming that Abbot Bernard would be sure that between them, they had a family tree rooted in Hell.
    Also on February 10th, 1162, Baldwin II, King of Jerusalem, died, and was succeeded by his brother Amaury or Almaric, who was the father of one of my characters in Lionheart, Isabella, Queen of Jerusalem.
    Lastly, on February 10th, 1567, Lord Darnley was murdered. He’d not exactly endeared himself to anyone so probably half of Scotland could qualify as suspects. He certainly gave Mary legitimate reasons to want him dead, but while she never met a bad decision she didn’t embrace, I don’t know if she was involved or not; I don’t even have an opinion one way or the other. One of my favorite scenes in the wonderful film from the 1970’s, Mary, Queen of Scots, with Vanessa Redgrave as Mary and the incomparable Glenda Jackson as Elizabeth, has Elizabeth and William Cecil laughing gleefully upon hearing that Mary had married Darnley, falling right into the trap that Elizabeth set for her.

  35. Koby Says:

    Ah, you have returned! I am glad you are well, Sharon. However, I will add two more events: Today, Baghdad fell to the Mongols, ending the Abbasid Caliphate, signifying the end of the Golden Age of Islam Caliphates, and causing a slaughter of at least some 200,000. And speaking of Scottish deaths, today Robert the Bruce murdered John Comyn before the high altar of the Greyfriars Church in Dumfries (though what truly happened there will never be known), allowing for a new beginning of the Wars of Scottish Independence.

  36. Kasia (Kate) Says:

    Sharon and Koby, I just want to add that also on 10 February 1134 Robert Curthose died. As Orderic Vitalis noted:

    In the year of our Lord 1134, the twelfth indiction, Robert II duke of the Normans, in the twenty-eigth year after he had been captured at Tinchebray and detained in his brother’s prison, died in the month of February at Cardiff in Britain, and rests buried int he monastery of St Peter the Apostle at Gloucester.

    John of Worcester added that Robert was buried with great honour in front of the high altar. As William M. Aird in his excellent biography of Duke Robert underlines this is an important detail which tells us that at least in death his status was recognised.

    I can see many similarities between Robert and Hal, and intend to make my observations into a post on Henry’s blog one day :-)

    P.S. I can’t help admiring Robert for his eagerness to do something with the abundance of free time he had while inprisoned. As far as I can recall, at some point in her Welsh trilogy, Sharon mentioned that while in Cardiff he had learnt Welsh. I hate using the word, but… WOW!!!

  37. Koby Says:

    Today, Elizabeth of York, Queen of England, was born and 37 years later, died.

  38. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Today’s Facebook Note.

    February 11th, 1466 was the birthday of the first child of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville, known to history as Elizabeth of York. We know her story and it is a sad one. At least from the outside, her marriage to Henry Tudor seems to have turned out better than she probably expected, given the circumstances and the fact that she had the Mother-in-law from Hell. (And I do not say that with Tudor bias, for I think Eleanor of Aquitaine was a Mother-in-law from Hell, too.) What little evidence there is indicates that Bess’s beauty and charm helped thaw Tudor’s hard heart. I like to think so, anyway. She was devoted to her children and I hope they gave her comfort for the loss of her Yorkist family. She had seven, and the sorrow of losing four of them. Even in an age in which childhood was a precarious time, that is more than her share of tragedy. It is interesting to speculate whether her son Henry’s life might have taken a better turn had she lived, for he was said to be devoted to her and cherished her memory. A kind-hearted woman, she would have been an influence for good. But she died on February 11th, 1503, nine days after giving birth to her seventh child, a little girl who died the day before she did. It was her thirty-eighth birthday.
    I have good news for all whose hearts were touched by the plight of Doc, the 10 year old German Shepherd whose owners lost their home to Hurricane Sandy. They were able to find a good home for him, a bittersweet victory for them, of course, for they saw him as an integral part of their family. But it could have been worse, for elderly dogs are not in great demand. So at least he will be able to live out the remainder of his life in a safe home and I hope that will be of comfort to them.
    Lastly, here is a lovely tribute to a beloved dog by my friend and fellow writer, Christopher Gortner. Sadly, this is a road that all pet lovers must walk and no matter how often we do, it never gets easier. But Christopher brings Paris back to vibrant life and she is likely to linger in the memories of many people who never even knew this big-eared bundle of joy; such is the power of his words. I found it helped to write about my shepherd Cody and one day I may be able to write about Shadow and Tristan, my white wolves. I hope it helped Christopher, too.

  39. Joan Says:

    Sharon, I hope you are well &, along with all your readers, have had you in my thoughts.

    Stephanie, I’ve been wanting to compliment you on your review, but can’t seem to get my message sent from the comments section on Kasia’s blog. I didn’t know that you teach history. So now I’m wondering if you’re the one whose post I read some time ago (may have been in past blogs I was perusing when I first discovered Sharon’s blog). Someone had posted how she was so inspired by Sharon’s novels that she went back to univ to do her masters in Medieval History. I love reading others’ stories of Sharon’s inspiration as she certainly has influenced my life.

    And isn’t Kasia’s new blogsite fantastic? I didn’t realize she had a new site as I’d bookmarked her previous site & where I went to read new posts, with lots of confusion about why I wasn’t seeing what apparently had been posted, eg Ken’s great contribution, & others. So what a pleasure when I finally saw it! Also want to say that when you have time to get back to your novel, it will be a gem.

  40. Stephanie Says:

    Hi Joan,

    It was fun to see those reviews posted on Kasia’s blog! It’s rather humbling to see my name associated with something like this. And no, I am not a teacher. I can’t remember what I said in my review, but I’m sorry if I misled you! Am merely an armchair historian with a degree from Penman University. I find she’s a superb teacher. ;-)

  41. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Today’s Facebook Note.

    I’d intended to post this last Monday, the anniversary of the Lionheart’s release, but of course that is the day the news broke about the third Richard, so I unceremoniously shoved the first Richard offstage. Since this is a slow medieval news day, here it is again. I am happy to report that Eleanor plays a larger role in Ransom than she did in Lionheart. I have no doubt that she was the driving force behind Richard’s eventual liberation, and to his credit, he realized that.

    On February 4th, 1194, Richard Lionheart was finally freed from his German captivity after paying an astronomical ransom. He’d been held for one year, six weeks, and three days. But two days earlier, he’d been double-crossed by Heinrich, who announced to the assemblage of German and English lords and prelates that he’d had a new offer from the French king and Richard’s brother John and, with an utter lack of shame, invited Richard to better it.
    From A King’s Ransom, Chapter Twenty
    * * *
    While Richard glanced down at the letters, the Archbishop of Rouen hastily translated Heinrich’s comments for Eleanor. The letters were indeed from Philippe and John and, as Richard read what was being offered and what it could mean for him, his numbed disbelief gave way to despair and then, murderous rage.
    His fist clenched around the letters and he flung them to the floor at Heinrich’s feet. But before he could speak, his mother was beside him. “Wait, Richard, wait!” She was clinging to his arm with such urgency that she actually succeeded in pulling him back from the dais. “Look around you,” she said, her voice shaking, but her eyes blazing with green fire. “Look!”
    He did and saw at once what she meant. Virtually every German in the hall was staring at Heinrich as if he’d suddenly revealed himself to be the Anti-Christ. Not a word had yet been said, but their expressions of horror and disgust left no doubt as to how they felt about their emperor’s eleventh-hour surprise. “Let them speak first,” Eleanor hissed. “Let the Germans handle this.”
    * * *
    The Germans did handle it; led by Richard’s friend, the Archbishop-elect of Cologne, they forced Heinrich to honor the original terms for Richard’s release. But Heinrich saved face by insisting that Richard would not be freed unless he did homage to the German emperor. Richard was outraged and refused, but again his mother interceded, convincing him that he had no choice. He was then freed on February 4th, although the forced act of homage left some deep psychic scars.

  42. Koby Says:

    This was wonderful, Sharon, thanks for sharing! As for a slow day, I don’t know if I would say that. Today, one of my favorite and most tragic English rulers was executed: Lady Jane Grey, the Nine Days’ Queen. Her husband, Guilford Dudley, was executed some bare hours before her. According to the Chronicle of Queen Jane and of Two Years of Queen Mary, before her execution she gave this speech: “Good people, I am come hither to die, and by a law I am condemned to the same. The fact, indeed, against the Queen’s highness was unlawful, and the consenting thereunto by me: but touching the procurement and desire thereof by me or on my behalf, I do wash my hands thereof in innocency, before God, and the face of you, good Christian people, this day.”
    She then recited Psalm 51 (’Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions’), gave the executioner her forgiveness, and asked him to ‘dispatch her quickly’. The last poignant moments of her life showcased how young she was, in counter to her composure until then: she had blindfolded herself, and so could not find the block, and cried, “What shall I do? Where is it?” so that she had to be helped to find it. She regained her composure, though, and her last words were the last words of Jesus as told by Luke: “Lord, into thy hands I commend my spirit!”
    (Sorry for such a long and detailed post, but the first historical movie I ever saw was the 1986 Lady Jane Grey, when I was barely 14, and it had a strong effect on me).

  43. Joan Says:

    I agree with Koby, Sharon, what a dramatic passage! “Eyes blazing with green fire”….Wow! Can hardly wait to read the entire novel.

    Koby, I saw the movie Lady Jane as well & the impact was no less for me. Reading your post on the actual history makes me realize again how excellent Helena Bonham Carter was in the role. It’s such a tragic story but the film is outstanding (not sure how close they stayed to all the facts). I’ve always felt that if schools want to get kids interested in history, give them context first……excellent historical novels, good film, & great theatre. With lots of discussion! A friend & I both studied Greek & Roman mythology…..her prof emphasized dates & events….mine took us to meet Apollo & Dionysus, we sat under olive trees, witnessed oracles at Delphi, & this left a lasting interest. And really, isn’t this what Sharon does through her novels?

  44. Koby Says:

    Oh, Helena Bonham Carter was absolutely amazing. It’s pretty accurate, I believe. I’m not sure about the whole sub-plot of Guilford having any understanding in finance and Jane trying to get the country out of debt or something. And Jane and Guilford being in love was probably an exaggeration based on her cries of “Oh, Guildford, Guildford” upon seeing his corpse. But otherwise, I think it was pretty accurate, even if it omitted certain details. In any case, I cannot agree more regarding how to get children interested in history.

    Today, Mary of Burgundy, daughter of Charles the Bold, step-daughter of Margaret of York, wife to Maximillian I, Holy Roman Emperor. Their son was Philip the Handsome, who would marry Juana La Loca, and their son would be Charles V, the greatest ruler of his time.
    Also, Catherine Howard was executed today for adultery, as was her lady-in-waiting, Jane Boleyn (who had been Anne Boleyn’s sister-in-law).

  45. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Koby and Joan, I’m glad you liked the Ransom passage. Eleanor is always fun to write about. Interestingly, she burst into tears after Richard had been freed, which shows the extreme strain she’d been laboring under. Thank you, too, Koby, for doing what I did not–remembering Jane Grey, another one of history’s sad ghosts.

    Today’s Facebook Note.

    I appreciate that you all understand why I’m not able to stop by Facebook as often I would like to do. Eventually life will return to normal, or as normal as it ever gets for a writer. Now our time travel feature of the day.
    On February 13, 1177, Henry and Eleanor’s youngest daughter, Joanna, was wed in Palermo to William, the King of Sicily and then crowned as his consort. She was all of eleven years old. It is hard for us to imagine sending children off to foreign lands to marry strangers at such young ages, but this was the way of life for highborn girls in the MA. Surely some parents must have felt some qualms, though, for the safety or wellbeing of their daughters. Some of these marriages were happy ones; Joanna’s older sister Leonora came to love her husband, the King of Castile. Some were not as successful and some brought only misery to the young brides. Surely the worst case was that of Agnes, daughter of Louis VII of France, sent off to wed the son of the Byzantine emperor at age eight; her young husband would be murdered and she would be forced to wed his killer, a man whose reign was so brutal that the citizens of Constantinople rose up against him and he fled the city with his favorite concubine and his little French bride. He was later captured and died rather gruesomely, but Agnes was spared.
    Joanna encountered no such horrors in Sicily and was well treated by her husband, although he did keep a harem of Saracen slave girls. It had been a rough trip for her; she’d been escorted into Poitou by her eldest brother Hal, and then Richard escorted her all the way to St Gilles, where she was turned over to the Sicilian envoys. On the voyage, she’d suffered so severely from seasickness that the ships had to hand at Naples and continue on land. But she was given a magnificent welcome into Palermo. Here is Roger de Hoveden’s account of her introduction to her new life in Sicily.
    “The whole city welcomed them, and lamps, so many and so large, were lighted up, that the city almost seemed to be on fire…for it was by night that they entered the city of Palermo. The said daughter of the King of England was then escorted, mounted on one of the king’s horses, and resplendent with regal garments, to a certain palace, that there she might in becoming state await the day of her marriage and coronation.
    After the expiration of a few days, the before-named daughter of the King of England was married to William, King of Sicily, and solemnly crowned at Palermo, in the royal chapel there, in the presence of Gilles, Bishop of Evreux and the envoys of the King of England.”
    That same day William issued a charter in Joanna’s favor, providing generously for her dowry, describing her as “the maiden Joanna, of royal blood, and the most illustrious daughter of Henry, the mighty king of the English, to the end that her fidelity and chaste affection may produce the blessings of the married state.”
    A less happy event on February 13th, 1542, when silly little Catherine Howard was beheaded after Henry VIII had rammed a bill through Parliament that made it treason for an “unchaste” woman to marry the king. Tudor justice was the ultimate oxymoron.

  46. Koby Says:

    Thank you for another detailed note, and quite interesting as well, Sharon. Today is the generally accepted date of death for Richard II, most likely of starvation, as well as the date of death for Edward I’s second wife, Marguerite of France. Though mismatched (he was at least 40 years older), they had an excellent loving relationship, and she had influence over both him and her step-son, Edward II.

  47. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Thanks, Koby!

    Today’s Facebook Note.

    I’d hoped to have good news to announce, for today was supposed to be the birth of When Christ and his Saints Slept as an e-book in the UK at long last. But there has been an unexpected delay, fortunately not for long; the new launch date is the 28th of February.
    The 1000 pages of the Sunne galley proofs arrived yesterday, landing with a house-shuddering thud on my porch. I took a deep breath and plunged in. I’d not read Sunne in its entirety for a number of years, so it is a great relief that it seems to be holding up so far. I’ve just reached the part where the bombshell news of Edward’s secret marriage to Elizabeth Woodville Grey has become known. How different history would have been if only Edward had not developed an itch that only Elizabeth could scratch. He’d probably have married the French princess whose marriage Warwick had been negotiating on his behalf. I suspect he and Warwick would still have had a falling-out; there was not enough room in England for two such strong-willed men. But it might not have come to rebellion. Imagine if there’d been no Woodvilles intruding upon the English stage. Would Edward still have drunk and whored his way to such an early grave? Would Richard have lived out his days as the king’s right hand, the Lord of the North? Would Edward have lived long enough to see a son by that French princess established on the throne? Would the Plantagenet dynasty continued on for another three hundred years or longer? No Tudors, no Elizabeth, no break with the Catholic Church, no Stuarts, no Hanovers, maybe even no American Revolution? . Contemplating such seismic changes to the fabric of history is enough to make our heads spin. Could so much be different if only Edward had never crossed paths with the lovely widow Grey? Who knows? It does remind me, though, of a line from The Lion in Winter, when Eleanor is explaining that she’d not have divorced Louis if she’d given him sons instead of daughters and she concludes, “Such, my darlings, is the role that sex plays in history.” That might be a slight paraphrase, as I haven’t seen the film lately, but it is close enough.
    I have been presented with an opportunity to do something I never expected I’d be able to do: make some minor revisions to Sunne. The one complaint I’ve heard over the years about it, especially from British readers, is that the dialogue jarred at times, that it seemed as if I were trying too hard for pseudo-medieval speech. In time, I came to agree with them. Sunne was my first novel, so it was a learning experience in many ways, and dialogue has always been a fine balancing act for historical novelists. With my subsequent novels, I developed certain rules. I avoid Hollywood clichés whenever possible; nowhere in one of my books will you find a knight crying, “Unhand that wench, you varlet!” Obviously, I do not use contemporary slang. I also try to stay away from words that could ring false to modern ears, even if such words were actually known in the MA; adolescent is a perfect example. I keep contractions to a minimum. I occasionally will toss in a word or phrase that still sounds vaguely medieval—fetch, tarry, behest. And so when some of you buy the new British hardcover edition of Sunne in September, you’ll find that I’ve woven these minor changes into the book’s fabric—seamlessly, I hope!
    I am also going to correct any mistakes that I stumble onto. We were able to catch the infamous grey squirrel for the paperback editions of Sunne, but that time-traveling little creature remains entrapped in the US and UK hardback editions for all eternity. Well, I will make sure that he does not pop up again. No longer will readers find a fox with black eyes. No one will be sitting on a bale of hay. Of course what I would love to do is to offer the real explanation for the discrepancy between Richard’s shoulders; in Sunne, I went with a childhood fall in which he broke his shoulder. Now we know better, but unfortunately there is no way I could introduce scoliosis into the storyline; too much rewriting and not enough time. If only!

  48. Joan Says:

    I really enjoyed your post, Sharon, & just as I was wondering if it were possible to make revisions to published works, you mentioned it. And I understand how the scoliosis factor would entail too much rewriting. That would have been a major issue & controlling factor in Richard’s life……I can’t imagine the constant pain he would have lived with. Seeing the scoliosis in that frail skeleton was shocking and heartbreaking. When did historians start suspecting scoliosis? I wish you luck in this! I think we all heard the thud on your porch!

  49. Kasia (Kate) Says:

    Sharon, that’s fantastic! You have probably missed it, but some time ago, when you mentioned the new edition of the Sunne, Ken asked you about the possible additions or changes to the original text if you were given a chance. I suppose he has just got his answer :-)
    I love the time-travelling squirrel! It has already become a legend, I daresay.

  50. Emilie Laforge Says:

    Sharon, following the confirmation by Leicester University that the bones found were indeed those of Richard III, I decided it was time to reread Sunne. It took me 1 week to bring myself to read Edmund’s death scene and ironically enough, during today’s lunch break, I read the section where Elizabeth Woodville is announced as Edward’s wife. Although you can’t alter the story to the point of including Richard’s scoliosis, I suppose we can expect an even more fascinating Author’s Note. Good luck with the revisions of Sunne!

  51. Joan Says:

    When I first discovered this blog, I read “Medieval Mishaps” & chuckled for days. I’ve told the story of the time-travelling squirrel to many since then. I agree, Kasia…..a legend!!

  52. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Thank you all so much! I will have a brief preface to the new edition of Sunne, but I hope to have a longer one for the paperback publication next year. There is no way for me to find the time to do justice to one now for it would have to be done at the same time as the galley proofs–while I am also working feverishly on Ransom, have promotional pieces to do for my paperbacdk publishers, and then of course there is still my (shudder) income taxes. I could really learn to hate February!

    Here is today’s Facebook Note, which is–no great surprise, I suppose–about Sunne.

    I did not have anything to post today, another one of those blank dates on the medieval calendar. But yesterday I’d posted something about Sunne on my Goodreads page in response to a reader’s comment and a friend who saw it suggested I post it here, too. Since I have nothing else to write about, here it is, slightly expanded.
    I’ve reached the point in the Sunne galley proofs where Richard and Edward are in exile in Bruges, and it brought back some nice memories of my time in that lovely city, sometimes called the Venice of the North. I remember admiring the magnificent Gruthuuse Museum, which was the town house where Edward and Richard stayed, thinking it must have seemed ironic to them that they were living in such luxury with no money to pay their rapidly mounting debts. I originally had a scene in Sunne in which Richard and his friend Rob Percy raced each other to the top of the Belfort, and I climbed myself to the very top so I could experience it; too. I didn’t run up the stairs like they did, not being 18 and not being crazy. But it was quite a climb even at my snail’s pace, and the view of the red roofs and sun-silvered canals was spectacular. So of course we ended up deleting that scene before the book was published!
    Writers often do daft things like this. I started to write about some of them, but then decided to save those stories for a blog sometime. It is strange to be rereading Sunne after so long, for it has been years. What struck me anew was the burden of responsibilities that Richard shouldered for his brother at such a young age. I am accustomed to my medieval men growing up fast. Henry invaded England at age fourteen, after all, and Llywelyn Fawr was the same age when he launched his rebellion to overthrow his uncle. Richard and Geoffrey gained experience in war while still in their teens. But Richard’s duties were greater and more daunting, for they involved the exercise of real power. At seventeen, he was Lord High Constable of England, Chief Justice of North Wales, Chief Steward, Approver and Surveyor of all Wales, Chief Justice and Chamberlain of South Wales. Obviously he had men to advise him, but they were not empty titles.
    It is hard for us to imagine entrusting such authority to a teenager. But then Edward had rescued his family’s plummeting fortunes and claimed the crown of England after winning the bloodiest battle ever fought on English soil while still a month from his nineteenth birthday. So it is not surprising, I suppose, that he would also entrust his youngest brother with an even greater honor, the command of the vanguard when they met Warwick on Barnet Heath. And as we know, Richard justified the faith Edward placed in him—just as those other precocious youngsters went on to greater fame, Henry as a great king, Geoffrey as a highly competent duke, Richard as one of the best battle commanders of the MA, and Llywelyn as the first true Prince of Wales even if he did not actually claim that title. I feel very lucky to have found such remarkable men to write about, even luckier that they so often had equally remarkable women at their sides!

  53. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    I almost forgot–Joan, I do not think anyone suspected scoliosis untill the discovery of Richard’s lost grave. It is hard to say how much pain he had as a result. For me, my back pain did not become chronic until I hit my mid-thirties, so it is possible that by dying at 32, he was spared that–though that would certainly bea drastic cure for back pain, wouldn’t it? But I suspect his case of scoliosis was worse than mine, for I did not have such a curvature of the spine to cause a shoulder disparity. It certainly did not keep him from fighting on the battlefield and fighting very well.

  54. Joan Says:

    After I posted I wondered if that were the case, that it was revealed just now with this discovery. I didn’t know that was the cause of your back pain. And it would run the whole spectrum, wouldn’t it? My sister’s friend has a severe case, with onset at a young age, so her situation is extreme.

    Re invasions & battles at such a young age, I’ve tried picturing my son & his friends (at 14) setting out to conquer kingdoms! And we are so happy that you chose to write about those remarkable men & women.

    Well I decided to take courage & read The Dovekeepers. I’m coming to the end so will have to say a few words about this remarkable story. Now there’s a book I’d love to see reviewed by you, Sharon!

  55. Joan Says:

    Trumpets are blaring!! Amazon has posted my review!! I shortened it…that was likely the problem.

  56. Stephanie Says:

    Joan, I’m glad to hear that Amazon has posted your review. I will go look it now. That that you have the power of the Amazon review know-how, you can post reviews of all Sharon’s books as you read / reread them!

    As to Sharon reviewing Dovekeepers, she did so. If I remember correctly, it was a book she included in the piece she wrote for NPR as one of her top 10 books of 2011. (Here I go speaking on behalf of Sharon again… sorry, Sharon.) She’ll undoubtedly correct me if I am wrong.

  57. Stephanie Says:

    (It seems as though my typing skills are somewhat lacking today. Never mind all those types above. Sigh.)

  58. Joan Says:

    You’re right Stephanie. I went looking for it….the blog is “One of the best books I’ve read” posted Oct 16, 2011. When I read it just now, my memory was jogged….I did come across it once before. I love reading past blogs because I only discovered this site last year. Have you read the book? Was going to finish it tonight but got caught up with the 1966 film Hawaii, then my son called & wanted to talk about Game of Thrones. To think I used to party Friday nights!

    And posting on Amazon will be a cinch now. Couldn’t believe how fast it was processed! Thanks for getting me started.

  59. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Joan, your review of Lionheart is wonderful–thank you so much! Richard liked it, too, and we know how difficult those Angevins can be to please. :-) Stephanie was right of course (I hope it won’t go to her head.) and I not only did a review of The Dovvekeepers, I included it in the blog I did for the NPR of the five best historical novels of 2011. I’ll be very interested in your opinion of it once you’ve fnished, Joan.

    I am still laboring away on the galley proofs for Sunne, while the Ransom deadline looms every closer. Suddenly I seem to have way too many Richards in my life.
    Here is today’s Facebook Note.
    Last week, I posted about the desperate plight of Dutch, a service dog for a disabled veteran. He’d been sentenced to death because he bit the woman who’d been beating him. Many people felt this was unjust and petitions were circulated, urging the judge to change his mind. He did not and Dutch was put down on Valentine’s Day. The judge even ordered Dutch’s supporters to take down their Facebook page; so much for free speech. While it is always painful to lose a beloved pet, losing a therapy dog is far worse, for often these highly trained dogs can make the difference between coping and giving up for their owners. If you want to read what these dogs can do for men and women wounded in body and soul, I recommend you read Until Tuesday, by Luis Carlos Montalvan. They are also closely screened for temperament before being accepted for training; had Dutch shown signs of viciousness or aggression, he would never have been admitted into such a program. I think this is sickening and my heart goes out to his owner. We owe our vets better than this. Here is the link to the story for those with the stomach to read it.

  60. skpenman Says:

    I have learned from two of my readers that the above story is in error and the death sentence has not yet been carried out, pending appeal. So there may be some hope, but probably not much. I highly recommend reading Until Tuesday to learn about the intense bond that forms between a service dog and his or her owner. Tuesday, the golden retriever in that book, made a huge difference in the life of his master, an Iraqi vet, who came home with deep physical and psychic scars from his tours of duty.

    I also found that one of my own posts was being held hostage by my website and liberated it a little while ago. I mention it because it is about Elizabeth of York, it being posted on her birth and death day, February 11th, and because it contains some good news about Doc, the elderly shepherd who desperately needed a new home after his family lost their house to Hurricane Sandy. They were able to find one for him, and so while it is bittersweet for them, having to give up the dog they loved, at least he can live out his remaining years in a good home.

  61. Stephanie Says:

    Go to my head? Never! (heh-heh, she says as she copies and pastes Sharon’s comment about me being right to her Facebook status for all the world to see)

  62. Joan Says:

    That’s funny Stephanie. Sharon, thank you for your lovely comment. I enjoyed Christopher Gortner’s tribute to his wonderful pet, Paris. But the story of Dutch is a sad one.

  63. Joan Says:

    And now, The Dovekeepers. A warning to anyone reading this….there are SPOILERS. I may not have read it, Sharon, if you hadn’t commented that Alice Hoffman has managed the almost impossible, giving us a few glimmers of hope. So I’m very grateful for that….would not have wanted to miss this novel.

    The story is nothing like I imagined, not even close. The easiest thing to say about this story is to say I experienced it….profoundly! What stands out is how the strength & spirit of a people has been reinforced over & over again….symbolically & in other ways. The life force in the story is palpable & beautifully expressed…..breath given, breath taken, breathing in the ash & the bones, the return of breath given. The beating hearts of the doves, the songbirds’ “nimble hearts beating”, “two hearts beating against my chest”, “my two hearts stirring inside me”. There are threads everywhere, there’s water & blood. The circle of life is everywhere…..things keep coming full circle, over & over again. It’s women who bring life into the world & women who save life. A story of mothers & daughters & birth, & the feminine aspect of God.

    I loved the four women….heroines, & the men who saw the truth of them….heroes. It’s sublime & earthy, fecundity everywhere, fierce passions. And (to my own disbelief), the only place I out-and-out cried is when she says, “My name is Rebekah” (394) Sometimes when you finish a book, you wish you could wail your heart out because there’s nothing like a good cry. And this is a very tragic event. But for the moment I’m caught up in the beauty of the story told… & hope. At one point I thought, wouldn’t it be fun to actually study this novel, but I changed my mind. I think I like it exactly how it is inside me.

    Is there another of her novels that you would especially recommend….besides all of them, ie?

  64. skpenman Says:

    What a beautiful review, Joan. You have such a way with words. I’d have to think about recommendations, for I’ve never not enjoyed one of her books, so “all of them” probably works for me. She injects an interesting element of what has been called “magical realism” into her books, but The Dovekeepers was something of a depature for her and I consider it her tour de force. Yet she got a nasty review in the NYTimes that astonished me, almost personal in its hostility, so go figure. Speaking of wonderful reviews, though, I love the one you did on Amazon for Lionheart!
    Today’s Facebook Note.

    Nothing to fill a Today in History post, so I went a bit further afield, having discovered a remarkable story of a family in Siberia that lived such an isolated life that they were not even aware of WWII. It is amazing and very sad.
    Meanwhile I slog on through this unloved month of February; puzzling how the shortest month in the calendar can seem so endless. I’ve given up sleep for Lent since I have to finish another Ransom chapter by month’s end, and the Sunne galley proofs still have me trapped. I definitely have too many Richards hanging around the house these days. Whatever possessed me to write a 1000 page book? And one where there is no one left alive at the end? Readers have often told me that when they reread Sunne, they stop before Bosworth Field. Well, writing those scenes was not much fun, either; it took me three weeks to get Richard out of his command tent and onto the battlefield at Bosworth. And Sunne was not even the saddest of all my books; I was in need of grief counseling by the end of The Reckoning. Sometimes, as my favorite characters are dropping left and right, I think I ought to consider writing about purely fictional characters so I can have a few happy endings—like George RR Martin.

  65. skpenman Says:

    Earlier today, I was complaining about how depressing it is now that I’ve reached the part in the Sunne galley proofs in which Edward dies and all goes downhill, and I said, tongue in cheek, that I was tempted to write about purely fictional people so I could have some happy endings, like George RR Martin does. My Facebook friend Jayna responded with this post that I thought was too good not to share. She said:
    I don’t expect anybody to be living at the end of A Song of Ice and Fire - including me, at the rate George RR is writing!

  66. Joan Says:

    Thank you once again Sharon, for all your lovely comments. I did read that review & just reread it. I dismissed it as so much piffle! Don’t get me started! Only a person with depth & soul & passion & imagination & insight is qualified to take on this novel! And perhaps some religious background, to have experienced the richness of ritual & the concept of the “World-to Come”. It’s a privilege to read books like this. And we should come away feeling grateful for the experience. There’s my rant for the day!! I did see the film based on “Practical Magic” & didn’t know anything about Alice Hoffman then. I’ve ordered Circle of Witches & can hardly wait! I may even try reading it with 3 lit candles, as your dear friend once wrote.

    I can’t help but chuckle at some of the above in your post, though I sympathize with your extreme busyness!

  67. skpenman Says:

    You are way too modest, Joan. If there were awards given out for best reviews, yours would be a shoo-in!

    Today’s Facebook Note.

    I forgot to mention that yesterday, February 17th, was the anniversary of the second Battle of St Albans, fought in 1461, in which the Earl of Warwick was defeated, frightening the Duchess of York enough to send her two small sons, George and Richard, to safety in Burgundy. What saved the fortunes of York was the military brilliance of her eldest son, Edward, not yet nineteen, for his victory at Mortimer’s Cross gave the Londoners the courage to deny entry to Marguerite d’Anjou and her approaching Lancastrian army. On February 26th, Edward was welcomed into the city, riding a wave that would soon take him as far as the English throne.
    Seventeen years later, Edward’s unstable brother George, Duke of Clarence, was put to death in the Tower of London, on February 18th, 1478. We do not know how it was done, though the legend that he drowned in a vat of malmsey became a popular one. Since I’ve been re-reading Sunne for the first time in years, working on the galley proofs, here is a scene from Sunne, in which the Bishop of Bath, Robert Stillington, has been sent to the Tower to see the doomed duke.
    Page 623-624
    * * *
    (George) struggled upright with some difficulty, but his smile was dazzling. “How did you get by Ned’s lackeys? You cannot imagine how I’ve yearned for someone to talk with—“
    “Your Grace,” Stillington interrupted hastily, unable to bear being greeted as a friend. “You…you don’t understand.” He swallowed, looked about for someplace to sit, and at last lowered himself onto the edge of the bed next to George.
    “I’m here at the king’s behest,” he said quietly. “He did send me to you, my lord…so that you might hear Mass and make confession, so you’d not go unshriven to God.” As he spoke, he was studiously staring down into his lap, so he’d not have to watch when the meaning of his words registered with George. Once, as a young priest, he’d given absolution to a condemned man, and the memory had haunted him for years. But this was infinitely worse.
    When he could avoid looking up no longer, he chanced a sideways glance at the other man. Months of enforced sobriety had stripped away the excess flesh of George’s drink-sodden summer. The hair slanting across his forehead was the shade of spun gold; the eyes meeting Stillington’s own were a brilliant blue-green and had in them the stunned uncomprehending look of a child. Stillington, who nurtured no illusions whatsoever about George, was, nonetheless, moved almost to tears, and he, who was neither handsome nor young, could only wonder why it was that tragedy seemed somehow worse when it struck at those favored with both youth and beauty. So sharp was his pity that it unsettled him, struck a vein of superstitious unease. So, he reminded himself, must Lucifer have looked before the Fall.
    * * *
    Also on February 18th, this time in 1516, Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon were blessed with a daughter, christened Mary. Since Henry had not yet become obsessed with siring a son, it is likely this was a very happy day for them both. I sometimes wonder if we are blessed or cursed in not knowing what the future holds for us.

  68. Joan Says:

    Sharon, I was referring to the NY Times review as piffle. It made me quite angry. She obviously didn’t get it.

  69. ken john Says:

    Sharon wrote above: “Meanwhile I slog on through this unloved month of February; puzzling how the shortest month in the calendar can seem so endless. I’ve given up sleep for Lent since I have to finish another Ransom chapter by month’s end, and the Sunne galley proofs still have me trapped.”
    So, being a really nice chap I thought I would spring to her aid by helping out in the re-write of ‘Sunne’:

    You will recall that some time ago, I had embarked upon ‘spicing’ up Sharon’s books to increase sales; changing their titles and adding pictures of a partly clothed Angelique on their covers with part of her head missing as is the vogue among the preferred books of you lady readers. I experienced amazing success in my venture and now, with the news from Leicester promoting further interest in Richard III, I think the time is ripe for a re-launch. I see that Sharon is re-proof reading ‘Sunne,’ so I thought I’d lend her a hand. As stated above, I’m a nice guy aren’t I?

    I had previously re-written ‘Sunne’ as ‘Angelique and the last Plantagenet.’ (Cover of Angelique searching the battle field for her Richard’s body). You read how Angelique stole the heart of Richard when they were both mere children. And how he returned her love with an all-consuming passion that was to last a lifetime, enduring forced separation, a brutal marriage, and murderous loss. Angelique is the daughter of his father’s closest ally who was now his brother’s worst enemy and Angelique became an innocent pawn in a deadly game of power politics. You read how Angelique turned the tables on the evil queen by inviting her children ‘the little princes’ to a fun party in the Tower of London.

    Well, I have updated the story to present day where Angelique cherie is the founder member of the ‘I love Richard III’ Society, a society dedicated to the discovery of her lost love’s body. I think I’ll modify the title to ‘Angelique in Splendour.’ (Cover of Angelique in skimpy Parking Attendant’s uniform). Angelique works for the Leicester Social Services and is dearly loved by everyone. Every working day she parks her Mini Cooper in the council car park and each time she does so, she senses something; an ephemeral, ghostly presence. One day (to cut my post short), she returns to her car on a cold foggy evening to find a large ‘R’ written on the windscreen, next to an arrow pointing down beneath her car! Could it be? Could her Richard really have been there all this time? Read what Angelique does next. Read how the ‘love of a lifetime’ was a love that bridged the centuries. Read how Angelique puts the flesh on the bones of Richard, the much maligned king, how she straightens out his reputation and using the latest technology, succeeds in bringing Richard back to life even more handsome than before. The real murderers of the ‘little princes’ are exposed once and for all.

    I will be offering this theme to Sharon and, as usual, I won’t be asking for anything other than grateful thanks in return

  70. Joan Says:

    Well this is hilarious, Ken! Sharon must be very grateful for easing up her damnable month.

    Kasia, I unlocked a secret door (or window) on your blogsite. I love clicking on things & voila! a thoughtful, bright, smiling, pretty face popped into view!

  71. Koby Says:

    I have been busy recently, and had no internet yesterday, but I have returned! Sharon, thanks for keeping up the dates. Joan, that was a wonderful review. Ken, that was hilarious, I would certainly read that book.

  72. ken john Says:

    Thanks Joan and Koby. Sharon is going to make pots of money from this relaunch. I am being inundated by publishing houses vying to publish it and asking if I would be interested in a series..!

  73. May Says:

    just make sure, Ken, that all appropriate credit (and royalties) go to Sharon. Not that I’m keeping an eye on you or anything.

  74. skpenman Says:

    Thank you, May, for the subtle reminder. I’m sure Ken does not need it, but it is always nice to remind people that I have the Lawyer from Hell on retainer, rather like casually mentioning to would-be burglars that I live with a pack of shepherd-wolf hybrids.
    Welcome back, Koby! Ken and I are discussing collaboration, as dollar and pound signs have begun to dance in both our eyes. This is a much better idea than the one suggested a while ago by another friend, that I make Richard Coeur de Lion into a vampire.

    Today’s non-historical Facebook Note.

    Well, nothing happened on this day in medieval history. Even those party-crashing Tudors were keeping out of trouble. So this is for my fellow Ice and Fire geeks. Some of you have undoubtedly seen this before, but I am sure that some of you have not, and in any case, it is well worth a second look. So I now give you the heartfelt, hilarious song, George RR Martin, Write Like The Wind.

  75. Stephanie Says:

    May, don’t we give her enough credit here? ;-)

  76. skpenman Says:

    Stephanie, how is it possible to get too much credit?

    Today’s Facebook Note: A doomed king, pushy Tudors, and cute puppies.

    On February 20th, 1194, Tancred, the King of Sicily died after a lingering illness that might well have been cancer. His was a very sad death, for his eldest son and heir, Roger, had died suddenly in December, and so when Tancred breathed his last, he must have known his dynasty and family were doomed, for his second son was a small child and no match for his ruthless rival, Heinrich VI, Holy Roman Emperor, who was keen to claim Sicily in the name of his wife, Constance. When I began researching the history of Sicily for Lionheart, I was not favorably inclined toward Tancred, for when he took the throne after the death of his cousin, William II, he seized the dower lands of William’s queen, then imprisoned her, and since she happened to be Joanna, Henry II and Eleanor’s youngest daughter, I naturally resented such treatment on her behalf. But my research revealed that Tancred was no villain, just a man in a tight spot doing the best he could under difficult circumstances. That does not make his confinement of Joanna right, but it is more understandable, and I came to see that he had some admirable qualities. Richard apparently thought so, too, for despite the rockiest of beginnings, they eventually became allies and even friends. Joanna, too, seems to have been willing to forgive him, for upon her return from the Holy Land, she and Berengaria stopped in Sicily, where they were welcomed warmly by Tancred and his wife. The fate of Tancred’s family was a tragic one. Heinrich at first promised their safety, only to “discover” a plot immediately after his coronation at Christmas, 1194. He arrested Tancred’s family and the leading Sicilian nobles, several of whom appeared in Lionheart. Tancred’s widow, Sybilla and her daughters were dispatched to a German convent. Tancred’s son, then about four years old, was sent under guard to a German monastery, where he was said to have been blinded and castrated and died soon afterward. The Sicilian lords fared no better.
    I can’t seem to keep those pushy Tudors from invading what is clearly Plantagenet domains. Today was the coronation in 1547 of Henry VIII’s young son, Edward VI. Here’s a passing thought. The Tudors claimed he was the sixth Edward to rule since the Conquest even though the fifth Edward, the elder of the young Princes in the Tower, was never crowned. So why, then, do historians not count the Young King, Hal in my books, wbo was not only crowned once, but twice?
    On to other matters. Echo White Shepherd Rescue needs volunteer drivers to take some puppies from Atlanta, GA to Wilmington, NC. Sounds like a fun expedition; who can resist puppies? The Itinerary is below in case any of my fellow pet-loving readers happen to live in the areas where the puppy caravan is passing through and would like to lend a hand for an hour or so this weekend. You can contact Amy Lusty at or contact me and I’ll put you in touch with Echo.
    Dog: 3 puppies, 8 wks old, shepherd mixes
    Puppies: 1 Black female, 1 Black male, 1 White male
    Vaccinated: 1 round of DHLPP
    Weight: ~15 pounds each
    Altered: No
    Housebroken: No
    Good with Dogs: Yes, but please do not bring any dogs on transport! The puppies need to stay healthy and clear of other dogs.
    Crate: Yes, Recommended (puppies can be messy and move around a lot in a car)
    Moving From: temp foster (been out of the shelter for 2 weeks)
    Moving To: Foster home
    Receiving Rescue: Echo Dogs
    Receiving Foster Home: Lori Overton
    Puppies will be going to New Hampshire the following week. Moving half way Feb 23th, and to NH March 2nd.


    Saturday Feb 23rd Route
    (all Eastern Tim Zone)

    Leg 0: Zebulun GA to Atlanta GA
    45 miles, 1 hr
    Leave 8:00 am
    Arrive 9:00 am
    *** Needed ***

    Leg 1: Atlanta GA to Greensboro GA
    75 miles, 1 hr 10 min
    Leave 9:00 am
    Arrive 10:10 am
    *** Needed ***

    Leg 2: Greensboro GA to Augusta GA
    70 miles, 1 hr 5 min
    Leave 10:25 am
    Arrive 11:30 am
    *** Needed ***

    Leg 3: Augusta GA to Columbia SC
    75 miles, 1 hr 10 min
    Leave 11:45 am
    Arrive 12:55pm
    *** Needed ***

    Leg 4: Columbia SC to Florence SC
    75 miles, 1 hr 10 min
    Leave 1:10 pm
    Arrive 2:20 pm
    *** Needed ***

    Leg 5: Florence SC to Lumberton NC
    50 miles, 55 min
    Leave 2:35 pm
    Arrive 3:30 pm
    *** Needed ***

    Leg 6: Lumberton NC to Wilmington NC
    75 miles, 1 hr 10 min
    Leave 3:45 pm
    Arrive 4:55 pm
    *** Needed ***

  77. skpenman Says:

    Kasia, I raised that question about Hal for you!

  78. Joan Says:

    Well I think you did a nicely balanced portrayal of Tancred in Lionheart, Sharon, because it really came through that he did the best he could under the circumstances. And I’m another mother hen where Joanna is concerned.

  79. Koby Says:

    A great note Sharon, and I note (heh) that you raised my eternal question, which has led to my double numbers when mentioning the Henrys. But, you missed a death - Conan IV, Duke of Brittany, who was Constance’s father. Conan suffered continually throughout his life from Henry II’s meddling in Brittany, but I’m sure he would have been happy to know that his daughter ruled it in her own right with Geoffrey.

  80. skpenman Says:

    Thanks for mentioning Conan, Koby. I am slighting a few more events in today’s Facebook Note, too. And I think you are right about the odd numbering system used by the English kings! Also, why pretend the Saxon kings did not exist, as if life began with the Conquest?
    Thank you, Joan. Joanna is one of my favorite characters–I suppose it shows.

    Today’s quite long Facebook Note.

    Other things happened on February 21st, but the one that matters the most to me is what occurred on this date in 1173, when Thomas Becket was canonized as a saint by the Catholic Church. Since he’d only died in 1170, clearly they fast-tracked it. I think it is safe to say that it would not have been a red-letter day for Henry, even though he’d managed to make peace with the Church by then—and he would also manage to avoid some of the penances imposed upon him at Avranches. His true penance occurred two years later when he was driven by despair and desperation to the tomb of the martyred archbishop at Canterbury, reeling from the betrayal by his wife and sons. I’ve often admitted that Henry is my favorite king and his scene in the cathedral crypt is one of my favorites because I think it reveals Henry in all of his Angevin complexity. So here is The Devil’s Brood, pages 246-247, with some omissions due to length. Henry has been kneeling before Becket’s tomb for hours. The garrulous monk finally departs:
    * * *
    leaving Henry alone in the crypt with the dead and the ghost of the murdered archbishop.
    At least it seemed that way to Henry. He had not been able to invoke the saint’s presence, but it was easier to imagine Thomas’s earthly spirit lurking in the shadows, watching his abasement with sardonic amusement. For Thomas had once had a quick wit, a playful humor, a droll sense of mockery. He’d lost that humor, though, as soon as he’d put the sacred pallium about his neck, yet another mystery Henry could not fathom. Had the man he’d known and trusted and loved ever truly existed? (omission)
    “It is just the two of us now, Thomas. No one else can hear our secrets, so why not talk to pass the time? We have hours to go till dawn, time enough for honesty if nothing else.”
    He cocked his head, hearing only the silence of the grave. “I suppose you’re rather talk about the killing. Fair enough. I never wanted your death. I swear this to you upon the lives of my children. But you know that already. Why am I so sure? Because Roger showed me a letter written by your subdeacon, William Fitz Stephen. I’ve restored him to royal favor, by the way. In fact, he and his brother are co-sheriffs of Gloucestershire now. Life goes on.
    “What was I saying? Ah, yes, the letter. Fitz Stephen wrote that you told the killers that you did not believe they came from the king, from me. So there really is no reason to swear my innocence upon holy relics, is there? You know the truth. Of course Roger knew the truth, too, and was the one man with the ballocks to say it straight out to my face. I may not be guilty, he pointed out, but neither am I innocent. I daresay you agree with him, no?”
    He waited, heaving a sigh that echoed in the stillness. “Come, Thomas, hold up your part of the conversation. You need not do anything dramatic, like loosing a thunderbolt or performing one of your miracles. But at the least, you could extinguish a few candles to show me you are paying attention. Surely that is not too much to ask?”
    He was feeling light-headed again, and sank down upon the floor, slumping back against one of the pillars. “I sound like a drunkard or a madman…mayhap both. But just between you and me, talking to a ghost makes as much sense as talking to a saint. What else do you want to know, Thomas? Did I grieve for you? No, I did not. My grief was for myself, for I knew at once that you’d trapped me well and truly. For you are not innocent either, my lord archbishop. You sought your martyrdom, you craved it, even lusted after it for all I know. You could have escaped, Thomas, had so many opportunities to evade your killers. But you did not, did you? You had to confront them, had to taunt them. Was it true that you called Fitz Urse a pimp?”
    Henry leaned forward, rested his head upon his drawn-up knees. He was either burning up with fever or losing his mind. “Sancte Thoma,” he mumbled, “requiescat in pace.” But there was as much pain as mockery in his voice, and when he looked up, he saw the crypt through a haze of hot tears. “Do you know why I did not grieve for you when you died? Because I’d already done my grieving. I trusted you, I had faith in you, I loved you more than my own brother. And then you turned on me. But it need not have been that way. You could have served both me and the Almighty, and what a partnership we could have forged, what we could not have done together!”
    Getting to his feet with difficulty, he had to hold onto the pillar, for his head was spinning. “When I told you that I would raise you up to the archbishopric, you said you would not want to put our friendship at risk. And I assured you that it would not happen, that I was not so prideful that I saw God as a rival. Do you remember what I said? That the Almighty and I would not be in contention for your immortal soul. Why could you not believe me, Thomas?”
    His tears were falling faster now, but there was no one to see them. “I am truly and grievously sorry that our paths led us to this place, this night. I do mourn you, Thomas. But do I think you are a saint? God’s Truth, I do not know. You are the only one who can answer that question, my lord archbishop. We both know you could never resist a challenge. So take it up. Prove my doubts are unfounded. Prove me wrong.”
    Dropping to his knees, he winced at the pain that action caused his fevered, battered body. “St Thomas,” he said in a low, husky voice, “guard my realm.”
    * * *
    And, of course, Thomas did, at least in the eyes of medieval men. For as Henry did penance in the crypt of Canterbury Cathedral, the king of the Scots was being captured at Alnwick Castle, which effectively ended the rebellion—and certainly convinced Henry’s contemporaries that he had God and the martyred archbishop on his side.

  81. Kasia (Kate) Says:

    Hi, Sharon and everyone! Forgive me my prolonging silence but I’m so busy with my family and occupational matters that I have barely enough time to take care of that poor neglected (neglected by the historians, as you have rightly pointed out) thing, Henry the Young King and his even more neglected young wife. I’m planning to write an article concerning the aforementioned omission in the list of the English monarchs in March, after Hal’s birthday (28 February). For the time being I have finally managed to write a text about Marguerite. I have learnt so many fascinating things in the course of writing, especially about her life in Hungary and her input in the Hungarian culture. I have come across a very interesting info, namely that, after Bela’s death, she set out for the Holy Land at the head of the Hunagrian troops (meant to aid the Crusade). I always thought it was a pilgrimage. I found the info in one book only and I cannot tell whether I can rely on it or not, for it gave highly romanticized portrait of the queen, calling her a youthful widow, although she was thirty-nine at the time.

    Sharon, you mentioned once that Henri of Champagne took care of her funeral at Tyre. Do you remember where you have come across this info? I would be most grateful for any tips.

  82. Kasia (Kate) Says:

    Koby, you are as steadfast (in your double numbers) as William Marshal :-)

  83. skpenman Says:

    Kasia, I am afraid I do not and I don’t have time to search my sources right now, being in the middle of a nervous breakdown.:-) Obviously it was in one of my books about the Kingdom of Jerusalem, but I have tons of them. She apparently died close in time to his own tragic death. It is notable how many newcomers to the Holy Land died so soon after arrival; the Count of Flander is another.

    Today’s Facebook Note.
    I am still trapped in my own personal February purgatory, so I may be MIA for a while longer. It truly was the convergence of the Perfect Storm, having to combat a looming deadline at the same time I must make revisions to 1200 galley proof pages of the new Sunne, while my income tax files lurk in a corner like a sinister troll. So nothing historical today from me—just lots of self-pity! But here is a funny video about Elliott, a very persistent little pig and his pal Molly, a truly saintly St Bernard.

  84. Joan Says:

    Cute video that I’ve sent on to my granddaughters. Deep breathes, Sharon!

  85. skpenman Says:

    My brief Facebook Note is below. Over here, of course, I count on Koby and Kasia to take up the slack! I’ve passed the need for deep breaths, Joan, could probably do with an oxygen tank about now.

    I’ll have to count on Rania and my other Facebook friends to do my daily history posts for the next few days, as I won’t even be coming up for air. Whatever possessed me to write a thousand page book in which everyone was dead at the end? And the British galley proofs are over 1200 pages—shudder. Meanwhile, Coeur de Lion is in a monumental Angevin sulk because I am spending so much time with the wrong Richard. (Mom always loved you best..) Holly has not had a walk since before the Flood, the house looks as if I had the Vandals and Visigoths over for a weekend, and I have given up sleep for Lent. However, my wonderful British publisher has agreed to bring out a new e-book that will incorporate all of the corrections, changes, and revisions. (in the new, improved Sunne, Richard wins at Bosworth.) So that will make all my suffering worthwhile.

  86. Marianirestaurant|Wedding Venue|Lumberton NC|Pembroke|Fayetteville Says:

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  87. Koby Says:

    Kasia, thank you! I’m glad you think so. Sharon, I am sorry, but it seems the burden will have to fall on Kasia; Purim has begun on sundown, and will go on until tomorrow night, so I doubt I will be around much. Happy Purim to all!

  88. skpenman Says:

    Happy Purim, Koby!

  89. Kasia (Kate) Says:

    Sharon, no problem. With the tips, I mean :-) The problem may appear with me taking up the slack :-) Hal’s birthday is approaching and so far, with my children ill and my husband away, I haven’t been able to type a single word to commemorate His Young Majesty’s Big Day. I will try, though. I will never forgive myself if I fail him on 28 February!

    Happy Purim, Koby!

  90. Kasia (Kate) Says:

    On 25 February 1173 Raymond V of Tolouse did homage for his county first to Henry II, then to Henry the Young King and finally to Richard at a court held at Limoges. To learn the details re-read Devil’s Brood (one of my favourite scenes- full of tension and passion). The whole story of Eleanor and Toulouse, which she had always considered her rightful inheritance, is simply fascinating.

    And according to Wikipedia note, 25 February 1246 was the day when Daffyd ap Llewelyn died. I have always found Sharon’s Davydd a rather lonely and sad figure, and felt sorry for him, because of the burden that befallen him upon his father’s death. Still the scene of his arrival into this wold in Here Be Dragons is one of my favourite “birth” scenes in Sharon’s books :-).

    What I found absolutely fascianting about both Llewelyn and Daffyd was the Holy vows they had decided to take on their deathbeds, just like William Marshal and many others before them. I suppose it was a kind of a fashion trend at the time :-)

  91. Joan Says:

    Everyone is so busy I’m feeling guilty. But not too guilty. Sharon & Kasia, if I lived in your neighborhoods I’d lighten up your loads a bit… least cook for you (seems you both mentioned the kitchen isn’t your fave place!) And take Holly & children to parks.

    Thank you for the post Kasia. By the way, I’ll start rereading Devil’s Brood. I hope your children are on the mend.

    Koby, a late thank you for your kind words.

  92. Stephanie Says:

    Joan, I’m not as busy as Kasia and Sharon, but will you still cook for me and watch my kids?

  93. ken john Says:

    Shame on you Stephanie person. Shame on you..!

  94. Joan Says:

    I knew that was coming Stephanie. I’m going…..wait for it!! And after hearing about your Christmas dinner, topped off with 3 scrumptuous pies, I think you’re probably a better cook than me. I’m game for kids but I don’t do Lego! (didn’t you have a living room full of it one day?!) Papier maché is a fave thing to do though. The last thing I made with the girls was Dinoland, volcano, cave & all.

  95. Kasia (Kate) Says:

    Hi everyone :-) Ken and Stephanie, where have you been??? Don’t have to answer, I already know. It was just a question from FB refuser to FB addicts :-)

    Joan, you are so very very kind. I love when someone cooks for me :-) Usually it’s the opposite- with me cooking for everyone :-)

  96. ken john Says:

    Hi Kasia. Well in answer to your question as to where I have been? I’ve been really busy re-writing another of Sharon’s books in order to have a re-launch and make Sharon pots of money. Here is what I posted (to general acclaim) on FB some time ago:
    “Following the runaway success of ‘Angelique in Splendour,’ and to respond to the demand for more of Angelique’s adventures, I have quickly penned an update to Sharon’s ‘Time and Chance’ in a new format entitled ‘Angelique and the King.’ (Cover of Angelique in low cut bodice reading from her psalter in an orchard with Eleanor of Aquitaine standing menacingly behind her).

    This is the story of ‘Angelique Clifford,’ with whom King Henry II falls in love, naming her his ‘fair Angelique.’ Angelique is the beautiful daughter of Sir Walter Clifford, a famous lord of the Welsh marches. One day Henry passes by Clifford castle on his way to war with Rhys ap Gruffudd and espies Angelique in the orchard (she loves apples). He falls instantly in love with her, but being already married to Eleanor, he can only propose that she become his concubine. Angelique speaks with her ambitious father who can see only advantages in such a liaison and she agrees so commencing a life-long affair which brings her riches but much sadness and finally death.

    Read how their love alienated Aleanor (clever that wasn’t it?). Read how Henry’s proud and passionate queen, humiliated by her husband, seeks Thomas Becket’s help to bring about Henry’s downfall. Read how Henry’s sons, although each secretly in love with the fair Angelique, rally to Eleanor’s cause. Finally, learn whether Angelique was truly the mother of Henry’s sons Geoffrey Plantagenet and William Longspee. Is it also true that our heroine was given a poisoned apple at the hands of a jealous queen, or are these just myths? All will be revealed.

    Bloody and violent deaths, tearful betrayals and dizzying shifts of power. This thrilling and epic story of mischief in the Middle Ages has it all!

    See? I have been really busy..!

  97. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Kasia, thank you for taking up the slack whilst I’ve been gone. Joan, I’d love to have you cook for me; don’t let Stephanie highjack you to MN. Ken, we’re going to be rich!
    Kasia, Davydd was one of my favorite characters. Sons of famous men rarely thrived, stunted in their sires’ shadows. I think Davydd showed himself to be worthy of his father in all respects. All he lacked was time. If it won’t sound too immodest, I gave him one of my favorite lines in Shadow, where he lured his brother Grufyddd to Cricieth, where he then violated the safe conduct and imprisoned him. The Bishop of Bangor, horrified, reminds him that he swore a holy oath that he’d not harm his brother. Davydd’s laconic response: “I lied.” Taken out of context, that might seem to put him in a bad light, but I think he’d decided to do what he felt was best for Wales, even if it meant his own excommunication and the ruin of his reputation.
    Since this is already so long, I am going to post the Facebook Note below as a separate entry.

    Okay, here is today’s Facebook Note, a long one to make up for my neglect.

  98. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Today’s Facebook Note.

    I am sorry for the silence, but I am still struggling with deadlines that are not only in competition, they are racing at each other like two runaway trains….and guess who is tied to the train tracks?
    Anyway, on February 27, 1461, London opened its gate to the Yorkists, having already refused to give entry to Marguerite d’Anjou and her army. Edward, then still two months from his 19th birthday, won the city that day, as much with his smile as with the sword bloodied at the battle of Mortimer’s Cross. As I had Marguerite later thinking, as she waited for word of the battle at Towton: She knew now that she’d blundered in yielding London so easily to Edward of York. Her face grew warm every time she thought of the tumultuous welcome he’d been given, for all the world as if he’d just liberated Jerusalem from the infidels. Trust Londoners to confuse the entry into London of a nineteen-year-old rakehell with the Second Coming of the Lord Christ.
    And for Edward’s entry into the city, here are a few brief passages from Sunne, with omissions due to length, pages 63-64
    * * *
    The volume of noise was increasing; she’d not have thought it possible. The shouts were audible now, shouts of “York” and “Warwick.” But overriding all, one name, again and again, a hoarse chant that sent shivers of emotion up Cecily’s spine…Edward! Edward! Until the entire city echoed with the sound, with the name of her son.
    Cecily swiftly bent down, lifted Anne up so that the child could see. As she did, another burst of cheering rocked the churchyard, eclipsing all that had gone before, and she knew even as she straightened up that her son had ridden through the gateway.
    He was astride a magnificent pale-white stallion with a silvery tail that trailed almost to the ground, and he seemed to be enveloped in light, with the sun directly over his head, gilding his armor to silver, tawny hair to gold.
    “Oh, Ma Mere!” Margaret gasped, in a voice that was strangely uncertain, unexpectedly awed. “He does look like a king!”
    “Yes, he does,” Cecily said softly, forgetting that she had to shout to make herself heard. “He does, indeed.”
    Cecily came forward as he dismounted. She held out her hand and he brought it to his mouth, said “Madame,” with flawless formality. And then he laughed, and she found herself enfolded within a boyish, exuberant embrace, from which she emerged bruised and breathless. He turned then to Margaret, catching her as she flung her arms around his neck and swinging her up off the ground in a swirl of silk. As an exercise in crowd-pleasing, it was masterful; the level of noise reached physically painful proportions.
    Cecily clutched at her composure, smiled at her son. “Never have I seen such a welcome, Edward…never in my lifetime!”
    “Welcome, Ma Mere?” he echoed and kissed her lightly on both cheeks so that his voice reached her ear alone. “I rather thought it to be a coronation.”
    * * *
    Because of the drama and controversy that continues to swirl around his youngest brother, Richard, Edward is sometimes overlooked, both by historians and the reading public. But his own story was no less remarkable than Richard’s. When his father and uncle and brother died at Wakefield, the House of York seemed doomed. Yet in just three months, Edward turned fate on its end, proving himself to be a superb politician and an even better soldier. At Mortimer’s Cross, he forestalled a panic when his men saw three suns in the sky before the battle (what we now know was a parhelion), crying out that the triple suns denoted the Holy Trinity and meant victory would go to York. Fast thinking for a teenager. He seduced the Londoners with his charm, and a month later, defeated the Lancastrian army in a raging snowstorm that would be one of the bloodiest battles ever fought on English soil If he lost his crown through lack of care, he would be the first king ever to win it back. And he was also the only English kings who’d dared to marry for love (okay, maybe lust). His story had everything any historical novelist could hope for, even a tragic death that would doom his House. I called my novel The Sunne in Splendour, using Edward’s cognizance rather than Richard’s, because I saw Richard as always in his brother’s shadow. Yet ironically, history (and Tudor propaganda) has reversed their roles.
    I will probably be on Facebook only randomly for a while as I try to get off the tracks before those trains collide. So I’ll close with a Richard III joke that I heard on Mediev-l, of all places. It now seems likely that Leicester will be Richard’s final resting place, not York. When his newly liberated spirit was asked where he’d have preferred to be buried, he said, “Actually, I was hoping for Stratford-on-Avon so I could get my hands on that dratted Shakespeare.”

  99. Joan Says:

    Well we’ve heard of the Perils of Pauline & now we have our very own Sharon tied to the tracks, evil villain twirling his moustache while the minutes are staccatoed away by crescendoing piano notes. To the rescue, Holly! The heroine is freed by her little dog once again.

  100. Kasia (Kate) Says:

    Sharon, I love the scene describing Cecily and Margaret’s feelings. Each time I read it I feel as if I were there with them :-) I supose, I have already mentioned that after I read Sunne for the first time I couldn’t get rid of the impression that- at times- Edward overshadowed Richard (just like it must have been in reality :-)). And forgive me, but when I say I’m a Yorksist first and foremost I think about Edward. Pretty risky to say these days, I suppose. In the light of the latest events centred all around Richard :-)

    Ken, I love when you are busy! “Eleanor standing menacingly behind her” :-) Gee, I would love to see this cover!

  101. Kasia (Kate) Says:

    Today is a BIG DAY! Exactly 858 years ago, on 28 February 1155, Eleanor of Aquitaine gave birth to her second son by Henry, who was christened after his grandfather and father and went down in history as Henry the Young King.

    We’re throwing a party in the evening on Henry’s blog. Do feel invited :-)

    (Ken, a special mission for you: Gerald of Wales has been taken ill so he won’t be able to take part and later give yet one more juicy account. We count on you, your notebook and unfailing imagination to stand as an eyewitness (and active participant, of course) and play the role of our chronicler).

  102. Kasia (Kate) Says:

    Oops, I meant Henry was christened after his great-grandfather (Henry I) not grandfather, of course.

  103. Joan Says:

    Happy Birthday Hal! Just reading about you in Devil’s Brood, you handsome devil! How nice of Kasia to throw you a party…..I wouldn’t miss it!

  104. May Says:

    Kasia, Ken just linked to your blog on Sharon’s fan page on Facebook. :) We wish you would join us there–it’s quite the lively group, and your contributions would be greatly valued!

  105. ken john Says:

    Kasia, I just wish Sharon had written a book about Othon and Angelique and then I could just take over and write my own version. Unfortunately it all has to come out of my own head.
    As you still refuse to join Sharon’s (very friendly and knowledgeable) band of FB friends, I took the liberty of posting the link to your blog on a notice by Rania of the birth of the Young King and invited people to learn some more about him.

    I also posted a link to a paper I have entitled Gerald (of Wales) and the Angevins. Fascinating insight into how Gerald, while trying to become Archbishop of St Davids, wrote in flattering terms about Henry II and his sons, but as it became obvious that his ambitions were to be dashed, he turned rather nasty and wrote really vicious articles about Henry II and Queen Eleanor. He seemed to have remained fond of the Young King though.

    Here is the link:

  106. skpenman Says:

    Today’s Facebook Note. I was sure you’d throw a party for Hal, Kasia, as you can see below, which was written last night.

    I am delighted to report that When Christ and his Saints Slept is now available as an e-book in the UK at long last. And it will also be available Down Under, though there might be a brief delay there. This means that only Time and Chance is not available in the UK in the e-book format, and it is on Macmillan’s schedule for later this year; not the mysteries, but that’s another, sadder story.
    Also on February 28th, 1155, Henry and Eleanor’s second son was born; he was named after his father and nicknamed Hal in my books so I could avoid having to write sentences like “Henry said to Henry….” After his elder brother William died at age three, Hal became the heir apparent, and would be crowned in 1170, then again in 1172. Despite being anointed in the sacred chrism twice, he does not get counted as one of England’s kings—even though Edward IV’s son is known as Edward V, despite never being crowned at all. Hal was known to his contemporaries as the Young King, and history has adopted that usage, too—when he gets mentioned, at all, of course. He does find himself overshadowed by his brothers, Lionheart and Lackland, but he still fares better than poor Geoffrey, who gets about as much attention from historians as he did from his parents. My Polish friend, Kasia, maintains a wonderful blog about Hal, doing her eloquent best to make sure he is not forgotten. Here is a link to it.
    Now back to dodging deadlines.
    PS Well, I just checked and couldn’t find Saints in the Amazon.UK’s Kindle store; not happy about that. I was assured that today was indeed the day, so I am hoping that this is merely a temporary delay. My British editor is out of the office till Monday, so if Saints continues to be MIA, I won’t have any answers about it till then.

  107. ken john Says:

    Sharon, could you let my post get past the moderator?

  108. Kasia (Kate) Says:

    Sharon, I love your note and thank you for inculding the link. I’m both very happy and honoured! Sadly, you’re right about poor Geoffrey. Perhaps Malcolm could take care of him one day. His knowledge concerning the Breton branch of the family is impressive indeed.

    Joan, May and everyone, you are all invited :-) Ken has just dropped by and left a lovely comment including a very useful recommendation. Thank you all for the lovely wishes. The Young King must be very happy today.

    Ken, thank you. You too are the Young Henry’s champion. I cannot express my gratitude (yet one more time).

  109. Emilie Laforge Says:

    Kasia, I can’t wait to go home tonight and read your entry about Young Henry! He couldn’t have a better champion than you to keep his memory alive for the rest of us. Happy Birthday, Hal. :) Oh and I agree with you, Malcom should write a blog about Geoffrey and Brittany…the things we would learn!

  110. Joan Says:

    Delightful post for Young Henry, Kasia. Your affection for him is so obvious. I still need help to place a comment on your blog so does that mean I miss the party? I was all ready to time-travel!

  111. Joan Says:

    Isn’t it enough that the 2 Richards are competing for your attention, Sharon?!? Now they want equal media time!!

  112. skpenman Says:

    Ken, I freed your post and I didn’t even ask for a ransom. The best comment I’ve heard about Giraldus Cambrensus was made by the German scholar, Hans Mayer. He said that Giraldus’s stories were “always delightful to read, but often hard to believe.” It was not just Henry and Eleanor whose reputations he trashed, either. Woe unto anyone who crossed our cranky would-be bishop, who became very bitter in his last years. He also teamed up with the Bishop of Coventry to slander Guillaume de Longchamp, Richard I’s chancellor, making some very nasty accusations.
    Kasia, you did the Young King proud today. I knew you would!

    Joan, the third Richard is not as demanding as the first one, not being an Angevin. But his book was so long–1200 pages–that I began to think I’d never see the light of day again.

  113. Koby Says:

    Urgh, I feel bad for beign so busy and missing all this stuff… but I see Kasia has kept it up for us all, and it’s absolutely amazing. Thanks, Kasia.
    Today (or rather, last night), Gruffydd ap Llywelyn died falling from the Tower, trying to escape.

  114. ken john Says:

    Hapus Dydd Gwly Dewi (Happy St Davids Day) to all. Not so happy for poor old Gruffudd though :(

  115. skpenman Says:

    Today’s Facebook Note.

    If it is true that everyone is Irish on St Patrick’s Day, then we all are Welsh today, for St David is the patron saint of Wales.
    This date is also an important one in Welsh history, for on March 1st, 1244, Llywelyn Fawr’s eldest son, Gruffydd ap Llywelyn, died in a failed escape attempt from the Tower of London. He was attempting to climb down on knotted sheets and the makeshift rope broke, plummeting him to his death ninety feet below. A chronicler’s account of this incident gave us some interesting information about Gruffydd’s physical appearance; he reported that the Welsh prince was a big man and he’d gained weight in captivity, which caused the sheets to give way. I still remember the strange looks I was getting from other tourists when I was prowling about the upper story of the White Tower, checking out the windows and even whipping out my tape measure to check the width!
    Here is Gruffydd’s death scene in Falls the Shadow, page 206, with omissions due to length.
    * * *
    The night air was bitter cold; he felt as if he were inhaling ice. He’d passed all his life upon the alpine heights of Eryri, but as he looked down at the snow-blanketed ground so far below him, he experienced a dismaying jolt of dizziness. He closed his eyes for a moment, then smiled at his son. “Once it’s your turn, do not tarry, lad, for it’s cold as a witch’s teat!” And he swung his legs over the ledge, pushed out into space.
    While planning all aspects of their escape, he’d not given much thought to the climb itself, had seen it merely as the means to an end, to freedom. That had been a mistake. Within moments, his arms felt as if they were being wrenched out of their sockets, and every muscle was in rebellion against this unaccustomed abuse. His body had always done what he demanded of it. It had never occurred to him that a time might come when it could fail him, when will alone would not be enough. He fought back this surge of panic, sought to get air into his laboring lungs. He’d make it. Slow and easy. He’d make it.
    When it happened, it was without warning. The ripping noise the rope made as it gave way was muffled by the wind. There was a sudden slackness, and then Gruffydd was falling, plunging backward into blackness. There was a moment or two of awareness, but mercifully no more than that. The last sound he heard was a man’s scream, but he never knew if the scream came from him or from Owain.
    * * *
    In non-medieval happenings, on March 1st, 1562, the murder of 23 Huguenots by Catholics marked the beginning of the bloody Wars of Religion in France, which would last for thirty-six years.

  116. Joan Says:

    Hapus Dydd Gwly Dewi from me too. And today I am Welsh & will go by the name Siwan. I toast Wales with a glass of Chilean wine, if that’s okay.

    I was really shocked when I first read about Gruffydd’s terrible death, not knowing any of the history. Do we know which window it was? I’m asking because my sisters & I are starting to plan a trip to England (& maybe Wales) & I’m thinking the 9pm tour of the Tower of London would be the best bet for any ghosts who may choose to make an appearance. I also have a morbid curiosity about who was killed where.

    I posted that note on the 2 Richards yesterday just after seeing the BBC news on the examination of Richard Lionheart’s heart, or rather, the dust that is left. I suppose, not to be outdone by Richard III, the Lionheart felt some media time was his due. And it sounds like you are making great headway, Sharon.

  117. Mine Defense Says:

    Really good. I agree.

  118. Kasia (Kate) Says:

    Thank you all for your supportive words. Henry must be perfectly happy.

    Emilie, always remember you are the Young King’s godmother! Your heartening and encouraging words helped me in making a very important decision the other day. Thank you! Perhaps you could do the same for Geoffrey. Speak to Malcolm. We will be all really grateful.

    Joan, I will contact you and try to help with the comments, but- as a fair warning- I’m not an expert either :-)

  119. Kasia (Kate) Says:

    Sharon, I’ve always felt so terrbly sorry for Gruffydd, not because of the way he died, but because of the way he lived. Your Gruffydd and his relations with both his father and son were heart-breaking.

  120. skpenman Says:

    Thank you, Kasia.

    Today’s Facebook Note.

    Well, Saints has yet to appear on in its e-book rebirth, and I won’t be able to contact my editor till Monday, so I don’t know what has gone wrong. Whenever things do go wrong, I tend to blame Demon Spawn, but even I have to admit he is innocent this time.
    I did get some good news about Lionheart, though. An English friend told me that Lionheart is on the Bookseller’s Heat-seeking Fiction List. I am not totally sure what that is, but it sounds way cool. Lionheart is definitely giving off some heat on several British bestseller lists, which makes me very happy, of course. But poor Henry. I can see Richard making his life miserable in some corner of the Hereafter, bragging that his book has sold much better than Henry’s. I’m sure Henry already was vexed that in the UK those books are advertised as the Eleanor of Aquitaine trilogy–for you know Eleanor wouldn’t have missed a chance to bring that up at some celestial dinner party.
    And the Historical Novel Society has posted my tribute to Margaret Frazer on their website, here. I think it is lovely that they are remembering her this way, and they also plan to do a retrospective of her books in the future; I am sure that would have pleased her.

  121. Joan Says:

    Fantastic news on Lionheart! Congratulations!

    What a lovely HNS post. She was a beautiful woman, inside and out.

  122. Joan Says:

    Kasia, your short note on Gruffydd gave me pause. Heavens but I do come across as a sensational-seeking tourist in my post re the Tower…..that’s what comes of perusing too many travel guides!! Admittedly, I’m curious, but would have nothing but respect, even prayer, when visiting these sites.

  123. Paula Mildenhall Says:

    I agree that Malcolm should write about Duke Geoffrey and maybe he already has? I was lucky enough to be at Notre Dame cathedral with Malcolm in 2011. He pointed out the plaque dedicated to the memory of the Duke of Brittany. I had many tingles up and down my spine on seeing it. Even more tingles than from the Eleanor vase.

  124. Kasia (Kate) Says:

    Paula, you were all very lucky to have Malcolm with you :-) I read the plaque was really hard to find and Malcolm had to use the photo he had taken during his former visit to identify the site. Perhaps you could ask Malcolm about Geoffrey?

    Joan, when I paid a visit to the Tower I knew nothing about Gruffydd. I think it’s natural you would like to see the site where he died.
    My most precious memory from the White Tower is the feeling I became overcome with while standing in St John’s Chapel. I was absolutely happy and at peace with myself and all the figures from history who must have prayed there throughout the ages.

  125. skpenman Says:

    Kasia, I have always felt that same way whenever I’ve visited St John’s Chapel. It is one of my favorite places and I’ve deliberately set a number of scenes in my books there–in Falls the Shadow, the mysteries, and now A King’s Ransom. it has a stark elegance that I’ve found in few other churches.

    Today’s non-historical Facebook Note.

    March 3rd was a slow medieval day, and I’m too busy helping Lionheart build his “fair daughter,” Chateau Gaillard, to do much searching. So I’ll settle for two feel-good stories sure to bring a smile or two. One involves some Los Angeles police officers who come to the aid of a dog in dire need, and the second is the remarkable story of a pod of sperm whales apparently adopting a dolphin with a spine deformity.

  126. Koby Says:

    I am dead tired, but I wanted to add that Kasia, I found your words to be very powerful, and Sharon, you forgot that today the Statute of Rhuddlan was enacted, incorporating the Principality of Wales into England.

  127. Kasia (Kate) Says:

    3 March was a slow medieval day, but 4 March, to the contrary. I’m sure Sharon and Koby are going to focus on the other events, whereas I just want to mention two great rulers who were crowned today: Frederick Barbarossa, who was elected King of the Germans in 1152 and our Polish/Lithuanian Władysław II Jagiełło, who was crowned King of Poland in 1386. The former is one of the characters in Umberto Eco’s Baudolino, the novel which I highly recommend (especially the mystery of the Emperor’s drowning ;-)), the latter is the character in Henryk Sienkiewicz’s (our Nobel Prize winner) Krzyżacy- ‘The Teutonic Knights’ (also translated into English as The Knights of the Cross), a wonderful two-part novel. Jagiełło is best remembered as the husband of Queen Jadwiga (of whom Sharon wrote some time before) and as the winner of one of the greatest battles of the Middle Ages, the Battle of Grunwald (15 July 1410) where he decesively defeated the Teutonic Knights, bringing their domination in this part of Europe to an end.
    And on 4 March in 1484, Władysław II’s grandson, prince Casimir Jagiellon died, aged 25. He is a patron saint of Lithuania, Poland and the young.

    On non-medieval note, on 4 March 1745 Count Kazimierz Pułaski was born. He went down in history as a brilliant, albeit a little bit hot-headed military leader, the hero of the American Revolutionary War (he saved George Washington’s life :-)), who died, aged 34, of the wounds received in the Battle of Savannah. Sadly, today he is better remembered in the US than in his native Poland.

  128. skpenman Says:

    I am so glad I can count on Koby and Kasia to take up the slack if I am not able to post or if I’ve forgotten any significant historical dates.
    Kasia, I’ve always been very interested in Count Pulaski; I went through a period where I was seriously considering doing a novel set during the American Revolution and did a good amount of research about that time. He was an intriguing man and I’m sorry to hear he has not been well remembered in Poland.

    Today’s Facebook Note.

    Some interesting medieval occurrences on this date. The great Kurdish leader, Salah al-Din, known to the West as Saladin, died in Damascus on March 4th, 1193. He’d not been ill for long and according to his friend and biographer, Baha al-Din, he’d given away so much money to the poor that they did not have enough to pay for his funeral. The man he has been linked with in the public imagination for the past 800 years, Richard Coeur de Lion, was then a prisoner in Germany. I thought you all might like to read the letter that Richard received from the Doge of Venice, informing him of his respected adversary’s death.
    “To his most serene lord, Richard, by the grace of God, King of England, Duke of Normandy and Aquitaine, and Count of Anjou, Enrico Dandolo, by the same grace, Doge of Venice, Dalmatia, and Cherum, heath 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.”
    Saladin’s brother, al-Malik al-Adil, was far more capable than Saladin’s sons, and he would eventually rule Saladin’s domains. He was great fun to write about in Lionheart and I am looking forward to giving him more time on center stage in The Land Beyond the Sea.
    Also on March 4th, 1215, King John reluctantly took the cross in order to win the support of the Pope. He never fulfilled his crusader’s vow, kept at home by a civil war in the remaining turbulent year of his reign, but I suspect that even if he’d prevailed over the rebels, he’d have found excuses not to head off to the Holy Land, just as his father did. Henry was so clever at evading his promises to go on crusade that some chroniclers thought this was why he came to such a tragic, bitter end. Henry was always more interested in what was happening in his own domains than in the Holy Land although he played an important role in the rescue of Jerusalem’s citizens. Saladin had been determined to take the city by storm to avenge the bloody massacre perpetrated by the first crusaders when they seized the city in 1101, but Balian d’Ibelin convinced him to allow them to surrender peacefully. A ransom was then set for every man, woman, and child, and much of it was paid with money that Henry had contributed to the Kingdom of Jerusalem over the years.
    Also on March 4th, this time in 1461, Edward IV was acclaimed as King on England, although his bloody coronation would not occur until March 29th, when he won one of the most savage battles fought on English soil, at Towton.

  129. Koby Says:

    Well, Sharon and Kasia have done their part admirably, picking up most major events I would have mentioned, and the few that are Kasia’s specialty… so I will simply add that today, Joan of England, Queen of Scotland, John and Isabella’s eldest daughter died, and that Blanche of Castile, the powerful Queen Regent of France was born to Leonora of England.

  130. skpenman Says:

    Thanks, Koby!

    I am happy to report that Saints is finally available as an e-book in the UK!

  131. Joan Says:

    It would be interesting to know the Lionheart’s thoughts when he received the news of Saladin’s death. I’m looking forward to the continuing story of Balian.

    I’d been looking at St John’s Chapel online & also love its simple beauty. I can imagine the peace & contentment you would feel there, Sharon & Kasia, & feeling very connected to the figures of the past.

  132. Kasia (Kate) Says:

    And today we’re celebrating 880th anniversary of Henry II’s arrival into this world :-) Happy Birthday, Sire!

    Also on this day in 1173 his eldest son Henry decided to give his father what Sharon will probably call the worst birthday present ever :-) Still, the scene of Hal’s escape from Chinon is one of my favourite in Devil’s Brood (so brilliantly written). I’m posting about the event on Hal’s blog later in the afternoon (which is your morning:-)).

  133. Kasia (Kate) Says:

    Sharon, do you remember the source which gives 5 March as the day of Hal’s escape? The chronology of the events is in great confusion when it comes to the very event. Last year you wrote your source was a very reliable one and you highly trusted its accuracy. I trust you, for I’m sure you wouldn’t have placed the whole affair on 5 March in Devil’s Brood hadn’t you been absolutely certain it really took place on 5 March:-)

    Just in case I’ve begun my text “About 5 March…” :-)

  134. Kasia (Kate) Says:

    Was it Eyton’s Itinerary (following J. Brompton and Benedictus Abbas)? It’s the only source I have come across which gives the 5th March as the date.

  135. skpenman Says:

    Kasia, I don’t remember off the top of my head, sorry. Devil’s Brood was published in 2008, so the research goes back even further than that. When I finish a book, I have to empty my head of its facts, or else there’d be no room in my brain for the needed data for the next book.

    Today’s Facebook Note.
    My favorite English king was born on this date—March 5th, 1133, in the beautiful city of Le Mans, christened in its great cathedral, named Henry after his grandfather. He would prove to be a great king, but a flawed husband and father, and as he lay dying at Chinon Castle, forced to make a humiliating peace by Richard and the French king, shattered by the betrayal of the one son who had most reason to be loyal, his favorite child, John, he must have wondered how it had ever have come to that, wondered how so much bright promise could have ended so bitterly. But on his birthday, I prefer to focus on that beginning. Here are two scenes from When Christ and His Saints Slept. The first one takes place in the stables of the castle at Le Mans, where Maude had gone to demand that her unfaithful husband, the young Count of Anjou, not humiliate her while her brothers were visiting. On her way back to the hall, she became dizzy and was assisted by her cousin Stephen; hey, where would a story be without a seasoning of irony? Page 49
    * * *
    “I want no daughters,” she said, “not ever.”
    Stephen was puzzled by her vehemence. “Matilda recently confided that she might be with child again, and if so, we both hope for a lass this time. Why would you want to deny your-self the pleasure a daughter would bring?”
    “Because,” Maude said, “daughters are but pawns, utterly powerless—“
    She broke off so abruptly that Stephen knew she’d had another pang. “Is it common to have these pains?”
    “The midwife assured me that they come and go in the days before the birthing begins. But the ones I’ve had today have been different, in my back, and I—“ Maude’s mouth contorted, and then an alarmed expression crossed her face. “Jesu!” she cried. “My water has broken!”
    Stephen jumped to his feet. “We’d best get you inside straightaway.”
    “No…you go in and tell them.” Maude was looking everywhere but at Stephen’s face. “I….I will follow in a moment or so.:
    “Maude, that makes no sense!” He stared at her in utter bafflement and had his answer, then, in her crimson cheeks, averted eyes, and sodden skirts. God save the lass, she was em-barrassed! “Sweet cousin, listen. You must come with me. You cannot have your baby in a stable. This is Le Mans, not Bethlehem.”
    As he hoped, that won him a flicker of a smile, and she held out her hands, let him help her to her feet. “Take me in, Stephen,” she said. “I doubt you’d make a good midwife…”
    * * *
    The next scene is on page 52. Maude has given birth to her son, and she and Geoffrey are enjoying a rare moment of marital peace.
    * * *
    Maude was finding it harder and harder to stay awake, but she was not yet ready to relinquish her son, even for a few hours. “I suppose you still want to name him Fulk, after your father,” she said drowsily.
    Geoffrey looked at her, then at the baby. “Well…no,” he said, and Maude’s lashes fluttered upward in surprise. “I know we’ve been quarreling over names, but I’ve changed my mind. You can name him, Maude. I think you’ve earned the right.”
    Maude did, too. “Thank you,” she said, and smiled sleepily at her husband and son. The baby chose that moment to open his eyes, and startled them both by letting out a loud, piercing wail. They looked so nonplussed that the midwife and wet nurse started to laugh. And it was then that Minna opened the door and ushered Robert, Ranulf, Stephen, and Matilda into the bedchamber.
    Maude was not a woman to find humor in chaos. But for once she did not care about decorum or dignity. Cradling her screaming little son, she said happily, “Come closer so you can hear over his shrieks. I want to present Henry, England’s future king.”
    * * *.

  136. Joan Says:

    Love both those scenes!!

  137. Koby Says:

    A beautiful tribute, Sharon, I loved reading those scenes again, especially Maude’s pride and how Steven convinced her.
    Today, John of Gaunt was born. Truly no king, but a father of rulers: Henry IV [V], V [VI] and VI [VII], Catherine Queen of Castile, Philippa Queen of Portugal, great-grandfather to Edward IV and Richard III, and great-great-grandfather to Henry VII [VIII]. He was also one of the richest men in history - taking into account inflation rates, he was worth the equivalent of an estimated $110 billion.

  138. Kasia (Kate) Says:

    I too love the scenes. Despite being a weak king Stephen must have been a charming man and epitome of chivalry indeed. He disarmed me with his kind treatment of the five-year-old William Marshal before the walls of Newbury and how he later played “knights” with him in his tent. The story is one of my all time favourites.

  139. skpenman Says:

    Oops, I forgot about John of Gaunt; thanks, Koby!

    Today’s Facebook Note.

    I hope everyone in the path of that Nor’easter comes through it safe and sound. My furnace stopped working yesterday, but it has been revived in time for the storm.
    Nothing on the medieval calendar today, so I thought you all might be interested in a great castle website. It lists six famous ones, including Conwy, Dover, and the Lionheart’s “fair daughter,” Chateau Gaillard. The link is below. Be sure to check out Chateau Gaillard; click onto the Bird’s Eye View and you’ll be treated to a dramatic recreation of this remarkable citadel as it would have looked in Richard’s time. It was innovative in a number of ways, the beneficiary of all that Richard had learned in twenty-five years of constant warfare. In addition to the castle, he built a new town below at Petit Andely, damning two streams to create a protective lake between it and the older town, Grand Andely. He fortified the island of Ile d’Andely and built a palace there that became his favorite residence in the last two years of his life, built a fort on another nearby island, and a double stockade across the River Seine. To the astonishment of his contemporaries, he did all this in just two years. Perhaps the most famous story of Chateau Gaillard is the following one. Philippe was infuriated that Richard was building this stronghold on his border and boasted that he would take it “if its walls were made of iron.” When Richard heard this, he laughed and said that he would hold it “if its walls were made of butter.”
    Chateau Gaillard would fall to the French king in 1204 after John failed to lift the six month siege. One of the most gruesome tragedies of the MA occurred during this siege. At first the castle had allowed the townspeople to take refuge there, but as the siege dragged on, the garrison realized they would not have enough supplies and forced some out. The French let them through the lines, but when a second group were expelled, Philippe refused to allow them to pass, and these unfortunate men, women, and children were trapped in this deadly no-man’s land between the castle and the French siege camp—without food or shelter. There were over four hundred of them, but they soon began to die. They became so desperate for food that when a baby was born to one of the women, the infant was seized and eaten. By the time Philippe relented and agreed to let them pass, the great majority of them were dead. The castle finally fell to the French in March, 2004.
    Eleanor was then very ill, dying on April 1st at the venerable age of eighty. I always hoped that she never knew that Richard’s beloved castle had been lost by John to his mortal enemy. Now to see Chateau Gaillard in all its spectacular glory, click here.

  140. Joan Says:

    Thanks for posting this fabulous site, Sharon. I’ll be spending some time on it. I watched the series Battle Castle last year & enjoyed it very much despite the ear-bursting sound….lots of info on all aspects & an exciting approach to these famous castles. Especially loved Chateau Gaillard. The brilliance behind the construction of these fortresses is quite unbelievable.

  141. skpenman Says:

    I’d have loved to have seen that, Joan. I tried to find it on DVD, with no luck. It is amazing, isn’t it, to see these medieval castles and cathedrals and marvel at how they were constructed.

    Koby, I added a PS to my Facebook about John of Gaunt, crediting you, of course!

  142. Stephanie Says:

    Sharon, I just thought to pull out my book “The Medieval Fortress” and it has three pages describing Chateau Gailard, with a topical layout and several photos. I haven’t had time to read all of the text yet, but I will do so later when I have some free time.

  143. skpenman Says:

    Stephanie, if this is The Medieval Fortress by JE Kaufmann and HW Kaufmann, this is an excellent book, one of the best castle studies I’ve ever read, and I recommend it highly for anyone interested in this subject.

    Today’s Facebook Note.

    I hope the Nor’easter did not cause too many problems for those of you in its path. Some scary flooding in the Jersey shore towns still recovering from Sandy, and thousands lost power, but I was one of the lucky ones.
    I have been dealing with a frustrating experience this past week; Fed Ex managed to “misplace” my galley proofs. I’d often used them in the past without problems, but this turned into a nightmare, all the more so because no one bothered to contact us. We’ve been assured that they will be delivered today, a week late, but I won’t draw an easy breath until I get confirmation from my British editor. Lucky that I am not paranoid, or I might have started to wonder if we were being victimized by vengeful Tudor spirits.
    I do have some good news about Sunne. I’d asked my American paperback publisher, St Martin’s Press, if it would be possible to bring out a new e-book edition of Sunne that reflects all the changes and corrections that I’ve made to the upcoming hardback edition; Macmillan is also going to bring out a new e-book at the same time. I just learned yesterday that Macmillan is willing to let St Martin’s use their Sunne files, so they will be putting out a new Sunne e-book, too, probably not until Sunne is published in the UK. And they will also incorporate these changes in any subsequent reprints of the paperback edition. I am understandably delighted about this—it is turning out to be a good year for both Richard and me. BTW, I finally was able to read that article posted earlier on Facebook by several of my readers, analyzing Richard III’s personality. I found it very interesting and I could recognize my fictional Richard in many of the conclusions they drew about the real Richard.

  144. Stephanie Says:

    Yes, that is the one, Sharon. My father-in-law gave it to me for Christmas. I love pouring over those pages!

  145. Koby Says:

    Thanks, Sharon, and good to hear about the e-book. Today, William Longespee, Earl of Salisbury died. And though unconnected, Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox also died today. She was the mother of Henry Darnley, Mary of Scots’ ill-fated husband, and readers of the Lymond Chronicles will remember her as Lymond’s nemesis.

  146. Joan Says:

    Sharon, would it be possible for us here to see the article on Richard III’s personality? Is it good or bad luck to predict sales on a book? I won’t type it, but looking forward!!

    Stephanie, have you tried youtube for Battle Castle? I know you couldn’t get more than a few minutes last year, but haven’t checked again. Though it is nice to have the DVD set, which will probably be available down the road. I’ll have to check out the book. Great Christmas gift!

    Koby, it’s so great of you to keep posting & informing us when you are so busy!

  147. Joan Says:

    You mention cathedrals, Stephanie. The most realistic thing I’ve read so far about the construction of one, albeit fictional, is the building of the cathedral at Sarum, in the novel.

  148. Stephanie Says:

    Joan, here is the article to which Sharon referred:

    Battle Castle played on our local PBS station in January. I only watched the first episode and promptly forgot to watch the rest. It’s so difficult to watch prime time television at my house. The one episode we did watch, however, was a family affair, so I guess we could have watched all of them together. Imagine my surprise when my non-lover of history husband sat and watched the whole thing!

    LOVED the book Sarum, Joan!

  149. skpenman Says:

    Joan, I will post the link to the Richard III article later today. It is very interesting.
    I could not find Battle Castle on YouTube when I looked last week. There is a book coming out, too, but it won’t be available till this summer, I believe.
    Thanks, Koby!

    Today’s Facebook Note.

    Nothing medieval to report on this date, so I’m visiting the semi-medieval world of George RR Martin. For those who haven’t heard, the second season of Game of Thrones is now available for sale both in the US and the UK. We still have several weeks to refresh our memories before the start of season three, on March 31st in the US. I’m not sure if it will be broadcast simultaneously in the UK or Down Under, but I’m sure some of my readers will know.

  150. Stephanie Says:

    Joan, I posted it yesterday for you along with a few other comments, but my comment is lost is moderation land, waiting to be freed! ;-)

  151. skpenman Says:

    Sorry, Stephanie, I’ll pay the ransom right away.
    Joan, here is the link. I’ll be interested in what you think of it.

  152. Joan Says:

    Thank you Sharon & Stephanie for the link, which I’ve bookmarked & find interesting, especially the part saying much of his character & many relationships would have already been established before his crook developed. That would be very significant, wouldn’t it? Also the “IU” concept. I’ll have more comments once the new Sunne comes out. I’m still working my way up to that historical period in order to get the most out of your novel, Sharon, so have not read it yet. But it’s killing me, especially now…..I keep snatching bits & pieces at Chapters! However, from all the discussion here about your Richard, I understand how you would recognize him in some of these conclusions. And at some point this fall, I will be fairly exploding with comments!!

  153. Joan Says:

    Stephanie, so you did get a taste of Battle Castle….& with your husband…

    Sarum was an experiment….I couldn’t fathom how someone could write 10,000 years into one book! It was pretty amazing, & didn’t expect that much depth in his characterizations. I had a great time reading it. I have The Princes of Ireland but haven’t read it yet.

  154. skpenman Says:

    Today’s Facebook Note.

    Nothing on the medieval front today, at least not connected to my books. But I have some more Sunne news. I have seen the new cover for the British Sunne edition, and I love it. I can’t post it yet, but as soon as my publisher gives me the okay, I will. It was not at all what I expected, but it was love at first sight for me. Think brilliant bold colors and battles. And Macmillan will also be bringing out a new trade paperback edition of Sunne Down Under, in South Africa, and Ireland at the same time they publish the hardback version in the UK in September. But my readers in those countries and the US can still order the British book if they would like a hardcover Sunne; as many of you know, Book Depository ships worldwide free of charge.
    Meanwhile here are two interesting stories, one that proves dolphins have names for one another and one about a charity that grants wishes for children in foster care.

  155. Stephanie Says:

    Princes of Ireland was good as was London (these are the only Rutherfurd books I’ve read), but Sarum was by far my favorite.

    I wonder if Book Depository would ship ME free of charge?

  156. skpenman Says:

    You could break new ground there, Stephanie.

    Today’s Facebook Note.

    I am still at Rouen with the first Richard, where a raucous Christmas celebration turns into a somber wake. Has anyone noticed how many people die in one of my novels? Not my doing, of course. But here are a few fun links about the third Richard.

  157. Joan Says:

    Too funny! Love Lord Farquaad but don’t like the feminine facial model.

    Yeah Armitage!!

    Did you read that blurb awhile back where someone calculated the astronomical amount he owes in parking fees?

  158. Joan Says:

    Back to Richard Armitage, he was born on the same day as Richard III’s death at the Battle of Bosworth, therefore named Richard by his father, an avid Ricardian. If anyone wants to listen to a short Radio Leicester interview with Richard’s thoughts, I have the site. The voice alone is worth it!

  159. Koby Says:

    Very tired - had a full day from waking up at 6 AM until getting home at 21:30, but just wanted to mention that John de Vere, Earl of Oxford died today. An avid Lancastrian, he fought in Barnet, defeat William Hastings, but was foiled when John Neville shot on his returning troops, and was instrumental at Bosworth, leading the vanguard, and led the vanguard again at Stoke Field, the last battle of the Wars of the Roses.

  160. skpenman Says:

    Today’s Facebook Note

    General Sherman was right when he said that war is Hell. But even in war, there can be moments that ennoble. This is the story of those times when enemy soldiers were able to recognize their common humanity. The heart of it is the true account of a German fighter pilot who had a crippled B-17 in his sights in December 1943. But it has a universality that resonates down through the centuries. I found it in the chivalric code that medieval knights accorded one another. One of the reasons why the legends of the Lionheart and Saladin continue to burn so brightly is the mutual respect they showed each other. No one would claim that this code of honor is always followed. But throughout history there have been these brief flashes of light in the darkness and we need to celebrate them, for they give us hope. So read this story of Charles Brown and Franz Stigler and their brothers-in-arms in other wars, other times. I think you will find it as moving as I did.

  161. Joan Says:

    Thanks for sharing this with us, Sharon…..I’ll be sending it on. Amazing & beautiful story & the article gives much food for thought. Defining moments in life! Someone once recommended Steven Pressfield’s “Killing Rommel”, but I’ve never given it any more thought till now.

  162. Kasia (Kate) Says:

    Sharon, thank you for sharing the link. I’ve just checked it and the story is compelling indeed. To be honest I love stories like this :-) And Richard and Saladin, of course…

    BTW, is Wikipedia right claiming that Marie of Champagne died on this day in 1198? I’m not sure whether we can trust it?

  163. Kasia (Kate) Says:

    Koby, I hope you are not exposed to danger of any kind? Is it your job that keeps you so occupied these days or perhaps other (less dangerous) things? I hope the latter to be more true :-)

  164. Koby Says:

    That was a beautiful story, Sharon, than you so much for sharing it. It left me with tears in my eyes.

    Kasia, I am pretty certain that date is correct, based on other sources. It’s certainly the only date I’ve found, so you may as well take it as the only known one, even if it not sourced.
    As for my job, it is more dangerous today with the uncertainty in Syria - the Northern border lies uneasy and on high alert. But nothing has yet happened, and what keeps me so occupied is preparing the army for Passover, which will be in two weeks.

  165. skpenman Says:

    Today’s Facebook Note.

    On March 13, 1271 occurred one of the most shocking crimes of the Middle Ages, in part because of the high birth of the killers and the victim and in part because of the scene of the murder—during Mass at the church of San Silvestro in Viterbo, Italy. It had its roots in a battle, the one at Evesham in 1265 in which Simon de Montfort was defeated and slain by Henry III’s son, Edward, who also happened to be Simon’s godson and nephew by marriage, as Simon was wed to Henry’s sister, Nell. Simon’s eldest son Harry also died at Evesham, and his third son Guy was seriously wounded, although he did eventually recover and managed to escape, where he began a new life in Italy. The second son Bran was a victim, too, of Evesham, for he’d been supposed to join his father and brothers at Evesham with reinforcements. Instead, he gave Edward an opportunity to ambush and defeat his men. By the time he got to Evsham, it was in time to see his father’s head on a pike. He later joined Guy in Italy, but he never got over Evsham, for he struggled under a double burden—grief and guilt. Here is a scene from The Reckoning, page 41-42. Guy has just learned that their first cousin Hal, Henry III’s nephew, is in Viterbo and he at once vows to avenge his father and brother’s deaths. At that moment, Bran, suffering from a monumental hangover, stumbles into the hall.
    * * *
    Bran paused, blinking in the surge of sunlight, looking puzzled and a little wary to see the hall in such turmoil. Grabbing Bran’s scabbard from the back of a chair, Guy strode forward, thrust it at his brother. “We’ve no time to lose, Bran. Hal is here, right here in Viterbo! I still cannot believe it, cannot believe God could be so good to us. But Christ, why could it not have been Ned?”
    Bran had always believed the folklore that a sudden shock could sober a man. He discovered now that it wasn’t so. No matter how he tried to focus his thoughts, to banish the wine-fumes from his brain, he could not cut through the confusion. Drink did not numb as easily as it once had, so why now? Why now when he had such need for clear thinking? He looked at his brother, seeing not Guy but Harry, his constant, unseen companion, for who was more faithful than a ghost? Who understood better than the dead that there was no forgiveness, in this life or the next? What did Guy know of remorse, relentless and ever-present, goading a man toward madness? What did Guy know of that? And he must not ever learn!
    “Guy, listen to me!” Why did his voice sound so slurred, echo so strangely in his own ears? Why could he not find the right words? “But it is Hal, not Ned. Hal. And he…he was not even at Evesham!”
    He saw at once that he’d not gotten through to Guy; the look on his brother’s face was one of disbelief, not comprehension. “Why are you so set upon destroying yourself? What will it change? You cannot even say that Papa would want this, Guy, for you know he would not!”
    It was a cry of desperation, honest as only a plea utterly without hope can be. But Guy reacted as if he’d been struck a physical blow. His head came up, breath hissing through clenched teeth, eyes narrowing into slits of incredulous rage.
    “You dare to talk of what Papa would have wanted, you who killed him! He and Harry died because of you, because of your criminal carelessness, your God-cursed folly! Where were you when we most needed you? Camped by the lake at Kenilworth Castle, out in the open so your men could bathe, by God, so Ned could come down on you like a hawk on a pigeon! And Papa never knowing, keeping faith with you till the last. Even when we realized that Ned had used your banners as bait, we assumed you’d fought and lost, not that you’d let yourself be ambushed like some green, witless stripling, never that! Does it comfort you any, that our father went to his death still believing in you, never knowing how you’d betrayed him? I watched him die, damn you, and Harry and all the others. Not you, Bran—me! And mayhap this is why I did not die that day myself, so I could avenge our father, avenge Evesham!”
    Sweat stood out on Guy’s forehead; his chest heaved as if he’d been running. He drew a deep, constricted breath, then said, more calmly, but no less contemptuously, “You can come with me or not as you choose. But is it not enough that you failed Papa at Evesham? Are you truly going to fail him at Viterbo, too?”
    Bran’s throat had closed up, cutting off speech. But he had nothing to say. No denials to make. No excuses to offer. Every embittered accusation that Guy had flung at him was one already embedded in his soul, five years festering. He could not defend himself. Nor could he save himself. All he could do was what he did now—reach for the sword that Guy was holding out to him.
    * * *
    Hal’s death truly shocked medieval public opinion, for the de Montforts burst into the church during Mass. Guy struck down a priest who tried to interfere and stabbed his cousin as he clung to the altar. The killing is well documented; we even know what Guy said when Hal pleaded for mercy, “You shall have the mercy you showed my father and brother.” But there are several mysteries about this gory murder. Hal made no attempt to defend himself. And other than the priest, no one came to his aid even though the church was filled with men, some of them surely Hal’s own household knights. Nor did anyone attempt to stop the de Montfort brothers when they fled the scene after the killing was done.
    Guy and Bran earned the unrelenting enmity of their cousin Edward for this crime. But Guy was wed to the daughter of a powerful Italian count; moreover, he’d inherited his father’s battlefield brilliance, and there was no shortage of men willing to ignore his crime in order to have him fighting on their side. In 1283, Guy was even appointed as captain-general of the papal forces in Romagna! But in 1287, he was captured during a naval battle and imprisoned in Sicily. The vast sum of eight thousand ounces of gold was offered to ransom him by his family and friends, but the ransom was refused and he died after several years in captivity; one report said that he committed suicide. It is generally believed that Edward exerted the considerable power of the English Crown to make sure he would never be released.
    Bran’s day of reckoning came much sooner. He was dead, apparently of malaria, in a matter of months, after wandering the swampy wastelands of the Maremma, truly a lost soul. I’ve always felt that to him, death was a mercy, for he obviously could not live with what he’d failed to do at Evesham and what he had done at Viterbo.
    The church still exists, although it is not open to the public. But there is a plaque in the piazza telling passersby what happened there on March 13, 1271. I’ve never forgotten how close the past seemed to me as I stood there, staring down at the paving stones and finding it all too easy to envision them soaked in blood.

  166. Joan Says:

    This is a masterful scene in a great novel, Sharon. The story of this passionate family left its mark on me. I loved Simon & Nell as individuals & as a couple, winced as Simon made all those same mistakes with his sons, never seeing them as men. What is so striking in your portrayal of this family, as with the Angevins, is that, when all was said & done, we still had affection for them….you brought this out in us, admiration, affection, understanding, & forgiveness.

  167. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Thank you, Joan. I always found it interesting that Simon was so hard on himself and on everyone else, but was indulgent where his sons were concerned. Human beings are so complex, aren’t they? But the de Montfort sons did seem to have a strong sense of family solidarity, which the Devil’s Brood totally lacked. So I think we have to conclude that Simon and Nell, despite their mistakes, were still better parents than Henry and Eleanor.

    Today’s Facebook Note.

    On March 14th, 1471, Edward of York, his brother Richard, and their small band of exiles landed on the Yorkshire coast near the fishing village of Ravenspur. They had sailed from Flushing on the 11th in heavy seas, losing the ship that carried their horses but evading the English fleet under command of the Earl of Warwick’s kinsman, the Bastard of Fauconberg. They’d planned to land in Norfolk, where they had Yorkist support, but when Edward prudently sent a scouting party ashore first, they learned that the Duke of Norfolk was under arrest and the Lancastrian Duke of Oxford was on the alert for them. They put out to sea again, then their ships were scattered in a storm. Richard and the three hundred men under his command came ashore near Ravenspur, and must have had a nerve-wracking night until in the morning they were able to find Edward and Will Hastings and the five hundred men on their ship and then unite with Edward’s brother-in-law Anthony Woodville and his two hundred men. Not a large army to attempt what many thought to be impossible—recover a lost throne. But Edward was one of those men at their best when things were at their worst, and paradoxically, at his worst when all was going well. He was blessed, too, with a brother he could trust implicitly, a luxury few kings enjoyed. And so they set forth bravely on their all or nothing gamble. Stay tuned for further developments.

  168. Joan Says:

    Re Simon, he didn’t make all the same mistakes, just that one important one. And the fact that they were a strongly-bonded family does great credit to the parents, probably a greater accomplishment in medieval times. And probably the biggest reason I became so attached to them.

  169. Kasia (Kate) Says:

    Sharon, great tribute to two great men and, as it happens, brothers :-) Edward was lucky indeed to have Richard and vice versa.

    Koby, do you mean spiritual preparations or perhaps organizational as well?
    I would be grateful if you could write more about Passover itself and how you celebrate it.
    I often think about you these days and hope nothing will happen. Living where I live is really hard to imagine how the life is like in a war zone. Promise me you will try to stay safe :-)

  170. Kasia (Kate) Says:

    I mean it, Koby! The smiley is only a cover to hide an uncertainty and fear.

  171. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Koby, I agree with Kasia; it would be fascinating if you could write a little about Passover for us–assuming you could find the time!

    Today’s Facebook Note.

    Another slow day on the medieval calendar. But it’s huge on the ancient history side of the aisle. March 15th is the Ides of March, when Julius Caesar was assassinated in the Senate. His last words are reported to have been “Et tu, Brute?” There is no confirmation that he actually said this, the quote coming from one William Shakespeare, who was a marvelous playwright but not such a great historian. But like so much of Master Shakespeare’s prose (A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse!) it is so well entrenched in the public imagination by now that there is no point in questioning it.
    Back to our time, March 15th is the date that the buzzards, aka turkey vultures, return to Hinckley, Ohio, as they’ve been doing every March since 1957. Sadly, the loyal buzzards are totally overlooked in favor of the admittedly cuter swallows who swoop down upon San Juan Capistrano four days later and get all the media attention. .

  172. Kasia (Kate) Says:

    Sharon, I’m reading that on 15 March 1190 Isabella of Hainaut, Philip Augustus first queen died, aged 20 due to complications in childbirth.

  173. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Kasia, I forgot all about that and I even wrote about it in Lionheart!

    Today’s Facebook Note, about two horrific crimes and a tragic death in the MA.

    On March 16, 1190 occurred one of the most tragic and shameful occurrences in the MA, the deaths of 150 Jews who’d taken refuge from a rampaging mob in the castle at York. After each crusade was preached, there was a wave of anti-Semitic violence, and the Third Crusade was no exception. It began on the day of Richard’s coronation in September 1189. Rulers did not look kindly upon rioting that threatened the King’s Peace and Richard took measures to make sure it did not happen again, hanging three of the rioters and sending out writs of warning to other cities of the realm. But once he left for Normandy at the end of the year, it broke out again in East Anglia, spreading like a malevolent pox to cities like Bury St Edmunds and Lincoln and eventually York.
    In York a more sinister pattern emerged, as the mob was urged on by men of rank, men who owed money to Jewish money-lenders. The Jews took refuge in the royal castle, but they mistrusted the castellan and when he left the castle, they overpowered the garrison and took over the stronghold. The castellan then summoned the sheriff of Yorkshire, who happened to be the brother of the famous William Marshal. The sheriff then assaulted the castle, with the drunken mob happily joining in. By the time the sheriff and castellan realized they’d lost control, it was, of course, too late. The Jews held out for two days, but when they realized they were doomed, they chose to die by their own hands rather than be butchered by the mob. Husbands slit the throats of their wives and children, and then were slain by their rabbi and a money lender named Josce, a leader of the Jewish community. There were some who balked at suicide, about a score or so. They offered to accept Christian baptism and were promised that their lives would be spared. But when they emerged, they were seized by the mob and murdered. The mob leaders then forced their way into York Minster where the Jews kept their debt bonds and terrified the monks into giving them these bonds, which were burned right there in the nave of the church.
    Richard, then in Normandy, was enraged when he learned of this and sent his chancellor, Longchamp, north with an army. By then the ringleaders had fled, of course, and the citizens of York swore it was not their doing, blaming the killing on strangers. Longchamp took hostages, imposed a heavy fine on York, and the castellan and the sheriff were both dismissed. There were no other outbreaks after this, but the York massacre continues to haunt us to this day. I still remember standing in the sunlight at Clifford’s Tower after I’d moved to York to research Sunne, reading a plaque about the horrors that had been committed on this spot and being thoroughly chilled, for I’d not heard about it before. It is often called the medieval Masada.
    What was the reaction of medievals to this appalling crime? One chronicler, William of Newburgh, was clearly troubled by it, particularly the betrayal of the Jews who’d agreed to accept baptism. But another one, Richard of Devizes, was contemptuous of Winchester, for that was the one city in which a pogrom was stopped in its tracks by the local officials. As I’ve often said, anti-Semitism was the ugly underside of medieval life and very few were immune to this poison, for it was something they breathed in from birth, all the more toxic for having such strong religious underpinnings. I think that virtually all of the people I’ve written about over the years were anti-Semitic; it was mainly a matter of degree. Richard was furious about it, but I think his outrage was more likely due to this blatant defiance of royal authority. Despite this horrific occurrence, the 12th century was actually a more “tolerant” time for the Jews than the thirteenth century, which saw the imposition of yellow badges during the reign of Henry III and the expulsion of all the Jews from England by Edward I. The French king, Philippe Auguste, was more bigoted than his Angevin rival kings, for he apparently believed in the blood libel; he banished the Jews from Paris, confiscating their goods, of course, but later allowed them to return when he needed the money. The Jews were an important source of royal revenue in the MA, one reason why kings attempted to keep them safe.
    I describe the massacre of the York Jews in some detail in Lionheart, pages 81-86, in which I also discuss an appalling crime that occurred in Blois when the Count of Blois attempted to distract attention from his affair with a Jewess by making the local Jews the scapegoats, having 31 men and women burned at the stake. Philippe did something similar upon his return to France in an effort to repair the damage done to his reputation by his abandonment of the crusade. While I’ve often tried to dramatize the perilous position of medieval Jews, I went into it in depth in Falls the Shadow in Chapter 31, in which Simon de Montfort confronted Jacob, the Jewish rabbi who’d courageously come to seek justice for those slain in a London pogrom. In some ways, I am most proud of that chapter, for I attempted to root an age-old evil in a medieval context. I did the same in Saints when Ranulf was rescued from bandits by two young Jewish peddlers. When he learns that they are Jews, he instinctively recoils, until common sense reasserts itself and he remembers that these men saved his life. Sadly, there were many in the MA who would have found it impossible to feel gratitude to Jews even under such circumstances. I was just reading about a German film, Lore, in which the children of a high-ranking Nazi officer are on their own as the war ends and are befriended by a young Jewish man. The film explores the conflicted feelings of Lore toward her benefactor, for she has been taught by her parents to hate Jews. I have not seen this film, but I would like to.
    March 16th was also the date of another massacre, this one the burning of 200 Cathar men and women when the last Cathar stronghold, Monsegur, fell in 1244. Just as I’ve discussed medieval anti-Semitism, I’ve discussed, too, the Albigensian “Crusade,” one of the darker chapters in the Church’s history.
    And on March 16h, 1485, Richard III’s queen, Anne Neville, died, three months from her 29th birthday. Sunne, page 856.
    * * *
    Church bells were still tolling throughout the city when a queer noontime darkness began to settle over London, and as people watched in awe , the sun was slowly blotted out, blackness radiating outward haloed in light. To a superstitious age, a solar eclipse was seen as a sign from God, was seen by all as an ill omen, and by many as proof that Richard had sinned against God in taking his nephew’s throne, for why else, people argued, should the sun go dark on the day of his wife’s death?
    * * *

  174. Joan Says:

    A very interesting post, Sharon. And I have just finished Circle of Witches. I wish I were on the Yorkshire dales right now, to walk the moors & hills to think through, not only the story itself, but the powerful feelings evoked throughout this incredible journey, & a journey it is. It calls up memories of one’s own passages, even longings & griefs. It’s a phenomenal book, isn’t it? According to your interview with Margaret Frazer, this is a book that she kept going back to for years before completion. I’m happy she did, the wisdom & depth are there. I had a tough time reading toward the end just because my eyes kept flooding with tears & couldn’t see the words. She has a very beautiful writing style which pulled me in immediately, & the allure of the landscape, the stones, the old ways, the characters, all of it is mesmerizing. And will stay with me for quite some time. I’ve recommended the book to a few particular people who will also love it. Once again, I’m so grateful, Sharon, for being alerted to so many beautiful novels.

  175. Koby Says:

    Firstly, thank you all for covering those events while I was swamped with work. Your post about the Massacre at York and the general antisemitism of the time was very powerful. And the one about Bran and Guy was quite interesting and informative as well.

    Secondly, today Marcus Aurelius, the famous philosopher-emperor died, and James IV was born. A great king of Scotland, he is still primarily remembered for his disastrous defeat at Flodden, where he became the last monarch from all of Great Britain to be killed in battle. Also, yesterday John Beaufort, Earl of Somerset, John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford’s son was born. Besides the many Beauforts who came from, his granddaughter was Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry VII [VIII].

    Thirdly, you asked me for a few words on Passover. I don’t have much time, but I will attempt to do what I can. Kasia, the preparations are primarily physical, but quite a few are spiritual as well. One needs to prepare what I suppose you’d call sermons, arrange for religious services, and so forth. I need to finish a Tractate of Talmud by Passover Eve, in order to make sure no first-born needs to fast on Passover Eve (traditionally, firstborns fast on Passover Eve, because they should have died that night. If you finish a Tractate, you can have a meal in celebration, and anybody who attends can eat despite fasting). However, as I wrote the things that take time are physical. We need to clean the entire base, make sure there is no Chametz anywhere, arrange the foodstuffs so that only Kosher for Passover things are out, kosher the entire kitchen (and that’s going to be a tall order), arrange for the special Passover foodstuffs to be delivered, instruct everybody on how to clean and prepare, and more and more. My time is running out now, so all best wishes, and I hope to be back soon.

  176. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Thank you, Koby! Very interesting.

    Today’s Facebook Note.

    Happy St Patrick’s Day to my friends and readers. I know not everyone is Irish, but who doesn’t celebrate it?

    My friend David Blixt has a new book out, and since he is a wonderful writer, I am delighted to spread the word to my fellow book-lovers. I definitely will be reading his new one once I outrun that Ransom deadline nipping at my heels. I loved his Her Majesty’s Will, which is a hilarious account of an adventure by two young Englishmen named Will Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe, who will prove themselves to be brilliant playwrights, but not such gifted spies.–Her-Majesty-s-Will-in-Print—-More-.html?soid=1103909911454&aid=Bl6p0SRluSg

  177. Connie Salines Says:

    I’m pretty pleased to find this site. I want to to thank you for your time for this fantastic read!! I definitely really liked every bit of it and i also have you book-marked to check out new stuff in your web site.

  178. skpenman Says:

    On March 18th in 37AD, the Roman Senate proclaimed Caligula as the next emperor. Bad, bad move, one they came to greatly regret.

    On March 18th, 1229, Frederick II, the Holy Roman Emperor, son of Richard I’s nemesis Heinrich von Hohenstaufen and Constance of Sicily, crowned himself as King of Jerusalem. He had to put the crown on his own head because the patriarch of Jerusalem refused to do it. He had gained control of Jerusalem by negotiating with the Sultan of Egypt, al-Kamil, with whom he became quite friendly. Ironically, he was excommunicated at the time, the sentence having been passed upon him by the pope for what the Vatican saw as an unreasonable delay in going on crusade. Frederick typically ignored the excommunication, and the pope excommunicated him a second time; he ignored that one, too. The deal he struck with the sultan was viewed by many as a betrayal of Christendom, in part because Frederick himself was so controversial. Called the Stupor Mundi, the wonder of the world, he was undeniably a brilliant man, a free thinker, and a significant figure on the political stage in the 13th century, although he was unable to secure the continuation of the Hohenstaufen dynasty. While I find him an undeniably intriguing man, there is a coldness about him that has always put me off. My idea of Hell would have been marriage to Frederick. He flaunted a harem, kept his wives in seclusion, and had numerous illegitimate offspring, as well as a continuing relationship with a mistress that lasted for many years.. His second wife’s story was probably the saddest one. Isabella or Yolanda was the Queen of Jerusalem, for her mother, Marie de Montferrat, had died giving birth to her. Frederick wanted her so that he could lay legal claim to the crown of Jerusalem and they were wed in 1225. Isabella was only 13, but that did not stop Frederick from consummating the marriage, for she gave birth to a daughter the following year at age 14. The daughter died the next year and Isabella herself died in childbirth in 1228, at age 16, after three years of a marriage that brought her little but misery; soon after her wedding, she was writing pitiful letters home to her father, complaining of Frederick’s ill treatment of her. After her death, Frederick would wed another Isabella, this one the sister of the King of England, Henry III. She gave Frederick five children in six years of marriage, dying in childbirth, too, at age 27, having had to bury three of those children.

    Also on March 18th, 1314, the last Grand Master of the Templars, Jacques de Molay and Geoffroi de Charney were burnt at the stake, victims of the greed of the French king, Philippe the Fair.

    Lastly, on March 18th, 1496, Elizabeth of York gave birth to her fifth child by Henry Tudor, a daughter they christened Mary, who would later become the unwilling Queen of France. The year before, Elizabeth and Henry had lost their second daughter, named Elizabeth, at only three years of age, so I like to think that Mary’s birth was of some solace to her grieving mother.

  179. Kasia (Kate) Says:

    Sharon, fascinating note on Frederick. Bad husband he might have been, but I do find him fascinating. To entertain his guests on the occasion of his wedding to Isabella, Henry III’s sister, at Worms, he had a selection of animals from his private menagerie paraded through the town and through the cathedral! He later on generously gave his new brother-in-law three of his magnificent lions, although at the time they were called ‘leopards’ (reference to Henry’s Plantagenet crest). Frederick could not have predicted that his ‘leopards’ would give the beginning to the famous Tower menagerie :-), for they were kept in the Tower of London (out of lack of better place to keep them).

    Koby, thank you for the fascinating and exhaustive explanation. We are all keeping our fingers crossed for you :-) Such a great responsibility!

  180. Kasia (Kate) Says:

    To see what happened on 19 March 1330 please do visit Kathryn Warner’s brilliant blog :-) She describes at length the events surrounding Edward II’s death/survival. Simply fascinating.

  181. skpenman Says:

    I was side-tracked yesterday writing about the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II and his lamentable marital history, and as a result, I forgot that the 18th was an important date on the Yorkist calendar. So—a day late—I am shining the spotlight on one of Edward IV’s finer moments, in which he displayed ice-blooded courage and cynical craftiness that Machiavelli would have approved. On March 18th, 1471, four days after he’d landed in Yorkshire with his small band in an attempt to recover his lost crown, Edward was admitted into the city of York. It would later be won over by his brother Richard in his years as Lord of the North, but in 1471, this was not friendly territory for Yorkists. In the following scene from Sunne, pages 261-262, Richard and Will Hastings are nervously awaiting Edward’s return, fearing for his safety since he’d dared to ride alone into the city and fearing, too, that he’d fail to win the citizens over.
    * * *
    There was a sudden stir among the men. The iron-barred portcullis was rising; several horsemen were passing through the Walmgate barbican. The youth stationed to keep watch now forgot all protocol and yelled, “Tell Gloucester!” and Rob adjusted his scabbard, moving closer for a better view of the approaching riders.
    Richard and Will Hastings were standing together, and Rob saw Richard grin suddenly, heard him say in a low voice, “The news be good, Will. That’s Tom Wrangwysh with them. If there’d been trouble, we’d see it in his face.”
    Both city sheriffs were impassive, but Tom Wrangwysh and Thomas Conyers looked enormously well pleased with themselves, and Conyers blurted out their news even as he was dismounting. They were all welcome now within the city walls, and my lord of York did await them at the guildhall. If they would—
    Tom Wrangwysh interrupted happily. “My lords, you should have seen him! You’d have thought he had an army at his back, so cool he was…There were many he did win over by his courage alone. And then he did speak to the people and made a marvelously fair speech in which he said he would content himself to be Duke of York and serve good King Harry and the crowds cheered him till we all were hoarse!”
    Word was spreading swiftly; all around Rob, men were laughing and pounding each other on the back. Richard was trying to make himself heard over the uproar, but soon abandoned the attempt and watched with a grin as their men raised a cheer for His Grace of York and the city that was now willing to admit his army.
    Rob moved to Richard’s side, just in time to hear Tom Wrangwysh confide, “My lord, however did His Grace think to lay claim to the duchy of York? I can say with certainty that had it not been for that, the city would’ve stayed closed to him.”
    Richard laughed. “It was used once before, Tom. Harry of Lancaster’s grandfather did return from exile to claim only his duchy of Lancaster and, of course, deposed a king. My brother thought it only fitting that a gambit used by the first Lancastrian king should now serve York.”
    * * *
    Back to the 19th of March, on this date the swallows return to Capistrano. I’ve seen the magnificent mission there, but sadly, I’ve never been there on March 19th, even though I’ve been told it is not a dramatic surge of swallows, but more of a trickle effect.

  182. Koby Says:

    Quite exhausted, but I wanted to mention that Ibn Khaldun also died today.

  183. Joan Says:

    Koby, I think of you when I watch the evening news & wish you luck with everything you’re doing. Keep safe!

  184. Joan Says:

    Sharon, I’m wondering if you recommended a book awhile back on the War of the Roses. It seems I made a note but cannot find it. I would like to read something comprehensive enough without being dry. Thanks.

  185. skpenman Says:

    No, it was not me, Joan.

    Today’s Facebook Note.

    On March 20th, 1140, England experienced a solar eclipse, which was duly recorded by a contemporary chronicle.

    On March 20th, 1469, Cecily of York, the third daughter of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville, was born. Sir Thomas More called her “less fortunate than fair,” and she did endure a great deal of sorrow in her life. But her third marriage was apparently made for love, and I like to think she was happy with her husband, although they did not have many years together as she died young.

    On March 20th, 1413, the first Lancastrian king, Henry IV, died. His health had deteriorated in the last years of his life and at one time, he apparently suffered from a disfiguring skin condition. Some claimed he’d been inflicted with leprosy as divine punishment for the execution of a prelate, the Archbishop of York, who’d taken part in a rebellion against Henry. But according to his entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, his bones were examined in the 19th century and they concluded that he showed no signs of leprosy. I confess I wondered if 19th century science was advanced enough to draw such a conclusion, but I simply don’t know enough about Henry’s life to have a horse in that race. It had been predicted that he would die in Jerusalem, which must have discouraged him from taking part in any crusades, but he collapsed and died in the Jerusalem Chamber of the abbot of Westminster…..or so it is said. He is a major character in Brian Wainwright’s excellent novel Within the Fetterlock

    Lastly, on March 20, 1549, Thomas Seymour was beheaded. Among his crimes was the suspicion that he’d seduced the young princess, Elizabeth. She was kept under close watch by hostile observers, and when they flung the news of his death at her, she responded with remarkable coolness, saying that “Today died a man of much wit, but little wisdom.” Of course by then she’d already learned one of life’s most painful lessons, that there was no one she dared trust.

  186. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    I am sorry that there has been such a long delay in posting a new blog. But I’ve never had to work on two books at once before and it has been overwhelming. I hope to remedy this soon, though.

    Nothing medieval to report today, but I do have what may be the cutest baby-dog video ever made. I can guarantee that none of you can watch this without smiling, it is that joyful. And we all need joy, right? Especially since winter seems determined to overstay its welcome. I saw the first robin of spring yesterday; it was frozen to death.

  187. Stephanie Says:

    We forgive you just this once, Sharon. But when the re-release of Sunne goes on to make millions and brings in screen writers wanting to make it into a movie, it will all be worth it. Just remember us little folk when you are rich and even more famous.

  188. Stephanie Says:

    (Because we’ll all be sitting in the movie theater whispering to one another, “Psst, the famous Sharon Kay Penman mentioned me in a blog post once.”)

  189. Joan Says:

    What a great video, Sharon! Super cute! That baby is sweet but the dog! Have you ever seen such an adorable dog? Love the bond between them.

    Too true, Stephanie! I do it even now but don’t tell Sharon. Her name & Sunne even came up in Rick Steves’ travel guide, as recommended reading.

    Re a book on Wars of the Roses, I may as well have asked for a recommendation on a good cookbook!! I was aware it was a tall order but I know I jotted something down once. Anyhow, in my surfing & found Charles Ross’ W of the R: A Concise History…that may be what I’m looking for, an overall view, something to build on. Or I may just continue gathering info online.

    Has anyone ever seen that marvellous docu “Wye….Voices from the Valley”?? It’s aired on our TVOntario station every so often…..absolutely beautiful lyrical portrait of small farming in the hills…..a sheep farmer, bee keeper & honey maker, cider maker with apple orchards, & salmon fisherman. Imagine watching lambing to “Ave Maria” & slow-mo sequences where rich honey & cider flows, & kingfishers lazily soar the skies, & newly-sheared sheep make a slow arc in the air. That’s what this show is about. That & the farmers’ great love for their land. I’ve been trying to purchase the video (in the BBC Natural World Collection) but no luck so far. You can only get 2 mins of it on youtube. And I think Netflix offers it.

  190. Koby Says:

    Thank you all for the well-wishes. I am safe and sound, and done with making sure everything is ready for Passover… at least in the army. Still very busy, now with my house. So I will only mention that Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor was born today - he married Mary of Burgundy, Margaret of York’s step-daughter, and their son was Philip the Fair, who married Juana la Loca, making him the grandfather of Charles V. Also, Thomas, 2nd Earl of Lancaster was executed today - he led opposition to Edward II.

  191. skpenman Says:

    I should have posted this yesterday, but I needed to verify the date first. On March 21st, 1152, a royal marriage ended, and the history of Christendom was forever changed. At Beaugency, France, Louis VII of France and Eleanor of Aquitaine were declared to have been related within the prohibited degree, and their marriage was therefore annulled on grounds of consanguinity. Within two months, Eleanor would horrify Louis by wedding the young Duke of Normandy, Henry Fitz Empress, and to add insult to injury, she and Henry were related to the same degree as she and Louis were. Below is a scene from When Christ and his Saints Slept, beginning on p 613, between Eleanor and her nemesis, Bernard, the Abbot of Clairvaux, who would later be canonized by the Catholic Church and who famously proclaimed that the Angevins were from the Devil and to the Devil they’d go. Henry and Eleanor’s sons seemed to have felt that gave them bragging rights. Anyway, I give you the queen and the cleric.

    * * *
    Abbot Bernard greeted her with frigid formality. He so resembled one of the patriarchs of old—pale and haggard, burning dark eyes and flowing long hair—that Eleanor wondered cynically if he’d deliberately cultivated the image. “I understand,” she said, “that you convinced Louis not to bring my daughters to Beaugency to bid me farewell. He told me that he would have done so—if not for you, my lord abbot.”
    He was quite untroubled by the accusation. “That is true,” he said calmly. “I thought it was for the best. Such a meeting was bound to be painful.”
    “Am I to believe, then, that you were acting out of Christian kindness?”
    “I care for all of God’s lost lambs, Madame, even the foolish ones who keep straying into the hills where wolves prowl and dangers lurk. The Lord forgives much, provided that there is true repentance. It is always possible to come back into the fold, into grace.”
    “With you as my guide? I’d rather take my chances with the wolves.”
    “Take care, Madame, lest you imperil your immortal soul. You do but prove I have good reason to keep your daughters away from your baneful influence.” As wrathful as he was, the abbot still remembered to keep his voice down, for this was not a conversation for others to hear. “Your lack of gratitude should not surprise me, though, given your lamentable lack of decorum and discretion—“
    “Gratitude? My apologies, my lord abbot. It seems I’ve been maligning you unfairly, for you do have a sense of humor, after all!”
    “It is foolhardy to court danger, Madame, but it is lunacy to court damnation. You do indeed owe me a debt of gratitude. If not for my forbearance, you might have been cast aside for adultery rather than consanguinity.”
    “It is also foolhardy, my lord abbot, to hold your foes too cheaply. Your convictions to the contrary, most women are not idiots. I could not have been accused of adultery, for you have no proof, and well you know it. And even if you’d found men willing to swear falsely that it was so, a verdict of adultery would have prohibited Louis from marrying again…as you well know, too.”
    “I see no point in continuing this conversation. If you would spit upon salvation, so be it, then. I leave your sins to God. Fortunately for the king and for France, he is now free of your unholy spell, free to choose a wife devout and docile and virtuous, a wife who will give him the heir you could not.”
    Eleanor’s eyes shone with a greenish glitter. “What a pity,” she said, that the Blessed Virgin Mary is not available, for she would have suited his needs admirably.”
    Bernard drew in his breath with a sibilant hiss. “You are an evil woman, wanton and truly wicked, and you will indeed suffer for—“
    “No—no, she is not!” Neither Eleanor nor the abbot had heard Louis’s approach, and they both spun around at the sudden sound of his voice. “You are wrong, Abbot Bernard,” he said, with a firmness Eleanor had seen him show all too rarely. “I know her far better than you, and there is no evil in her soul, only a misguided sense of…of levity.”
    There’d been times when she’d yearned for words sharp enough to draw blood, to leave ugly scars. She’d blamed Louis for much that had gone wrong in their marriage, for not being bolder or able to laugh at life’s perversities, for not being more like the swaggering, spirited, roguish men of her House, for no longer heeding her advice as he’d done in their first years together, for loving God far more than he could ever love her, and for the reluctant desire and sense of shame that he’d brought to their marriage bed.
    But she’d not hated him for those failings—anger and frustration and occasional contempt, but not hatred. That had come only after Antioch, after Louis had accused her of harboring an incestuous passion for her uncle and threatened to have her bound and gagged and dragged away by force if need be. Ever a realist, she’d yielded, far too proud to fight a war she could not hope to win; she was learning that women must pick their battles with care, that strategy mattered more than strength. Eventually Louis had apologized and swore upon the True Cross that he knew her to be innocent. But by then it was too late. By then her uncle had been slain by the Turks, his impaled head rotting above the caliph’s palace in the hot Baghdad sun, and Eleanor could not look upon her husband without Raymond’s doomed and bloodied spectre coming between them.
    But now that she’d regained her freedom, she found herself remembering how it had been at first for them, a fifteen year old bride and her sixteen year old bridegroom, shyly appealing, awed by her beauty and eager to please her. Before he’d begun to yearn for the peace of the cloister, before those poor souls had died in the flames of a Vitry church, before the miscarriage and daughters instead of sons, before his hair shirt and her disgrace, before the crusade and Antioch and Raymond’s needless death, before Abbot Bernard. For a poignant moment, she could see that long-lost youth reflected in the depths of translucent blue eyes. And then the memory faded and she was looking at a man decent and ineffectual and despairing, a man she could pity but not respect and never love.
    * * *
    Of course we now know that Eleanor was actually born in 1124, not the traditional date of 1122, so she was an even younger bride than we’d realized—only thirteen. It is interesting to speculate how different their history might have been had she given him even one of the sons she’d give Henry. We also know that it was the husband who determines the sex of the child, an ironic twist that Eleanor might have appreciated. But I suspect that she’d rather have had the glorious chaos of life with Henry, even with its bittersweet ending, than whatever Louis could have offered her. As I have her think in one of my novels, she was not made for safe harbors.

  192. Joan Says:

    A brilliant exchange between Eleanor & the Abbot, deliciously dripping with razor-sharp sarcasm. Eleanor must have been exactly how you have portrayed her. How women lived with such misogyny is way beyond my imagination. The only recourse they had was to learn to outsmart men such as this at every turn. Hateful men, & I wouldn’t doubt that half the time their own jealousy AND lust for these very women fuelled their own hatred. Still, how these intelligent women, supreme in every way, how they coped is beyond me, women like Eleanor & Matilda (now reading Lady of the English & loving it), & so many others.

  193. Stephanie Says:

    Enjoy Lady of the English, Joan. I thought it was wonderful!

  194. Joan Says:

    Thanks Stephanie. I’m just at the part where Matilda is shocked, sickened, & insulted at having to marry the “kid”. It’s my first Elizabeth Chadwick novel so a new adventure & thoroughly enjoying it.

  195. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    My favorite of her novels is The Falcons of Montabard, Joan, which is set in the Kingdom of Jerusalem. I have been waiting till I finished Ransom to read her two novels about William Marshal, but I really enjoyed A Place Beyond Courage, about John Marshal.

  196. Joan Says:

    Thanks Sharon. They all sound interesting. The 2 on William Marshal have been on my list for some time & the Falcons of M sounds exciting. Eventually I’ll try First Knight but I’ve had trouble reading anything Arthurian since Mary Stewart’s Merlin/Arthur series, read years ago where I was transported to that place for so long, my family wondered if I’d ever come back. On road trips along forests & lakes my eyes were always searching the woods.

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  198. Theresa Says:

    . Love the verbal duel between Eleanor and Bernard. If only Henry had heeded her advice more often. (particularly about appointing Becket as archbishop) I just found out that St Thomas a Beckett was voted the second worst historical Britain for the past 1000 years. (BBC Poll) Other people who made the list were King John, The Duke of Cumberland (butcher William) and Sir Richard Rich (Lawyer who played a key part in Sir Thomas More’s trial and execution)

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