I am sorry for flying under the radar for so long, but I’ve been struggling with twin demons—that looming deadline for A King’s Ransom and what may be bronchitis.   I am happy to report that I am finally on the mend and I have a new blog entry—an interview with the author, actor, and director, David Blixt.    When you read the interview, you will be able to tell that David and I are friends—and that we share the same somewhat warped sense of humor.    (I mean that in a good way, of course.)    For anyone who has not yet read one or more of David’s novels, you are about to hit the literary lottery.    Yes, he is that good.  You can visit his website, but first I hope you read our interview below.

Your novel HER MAJESTY’S WILL is quite the comic romp, very different from the twists and turns of THE MASTER OF VERONA. But they’re both inspired from Shakespeare. Is that where your ideas come from?
Partly. I’m inspired by gaps in stories we all know, or think we know. For MoV, it was the origin of the Capulet-Montague feud. For HMW, it was the biography of Shakespeare himself, those lost eight years after he left Stratford and before he showed up in London. My Roman/Jewish series is the gap in the history of the early Christian church. I don’t want to tell stories people know. I want to tell stories that surprise people, flout their expectations.

You’re an actor. How much is theatre a part of your writing process?
It’s a huge influence, because it’s what I know. Most of my professional life in the theatre involves Shakespeare, so that’s what I know. He’s a great teacher for character, structure, and dialogue. His plots are rather dippy, but he’s a genius for motive and honest expression. Shakespeare also introduced me to my wife. So I owe him a lot.

What inspired you to write your first book?
THE HOBBIT, and DREADSTAR comics, which is a sprawling dark space epic. I was eleven years old, and imitation was the sincerest form of flattery, so it had giant spiders and a magic sword that lives in your soul. But my first real attempt at a novel was inspired by Jonathan Carroll’s SLEEPING IN FLAME. Romantic and disturbing all at once. I was nineteen when I read that, and it spurred me on.

Which novel is that?
The one that lives in a drawer. In fact, that’s probably a better title for it than the original – THE NOVEL THAT LIVES IN THE DRAWER. For all that it’s a dark time-travel romance, it’s actually the novel I had to write to get out of my own way.


What about your first work of Historical Fiction? What was the inspiration for that?
The basic story for THE MASTER OF VERONA was rattling around in my brain when I happened to read Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond series for the first time. It was her work more than anything that showed me the model I wanted to follow.

But the idea itself came from Shakespeare. There’s a line at the end of Romeo & Juliet that hints, maybe, sorta, at the origin of the feud. It doesn’t work theatrically, but I couldn’t get past the notion. Yet I was physically incapable of not telling that story. So I dove in and wrote a much more ambitious novel than I’d intended, involving Dante and Cangrande and politics and religion and war and honor and love. When I finished that book, I realized I wasn’t done with the story. Which is what kicked off the Star-Cross’d series. 

You have a new novel out?
Yes, COLOSSUS: THE FOUR EMPERORS. It’s about Nero’s final year and the terror that follows, known today as the Year Of The Four Emperors. It’s available as a Kindle e-book now, and in trade paperback next month.

And then a new Verona book at the end of the summer?
That’s the hope. I’m terribly behind. THE PRINCE’S DOOM, fourth in the Star-Cross’d series. The first three are available on Kindle and Nook, with the trade paperback edition of VOICE OF THE FALCONER out now, and FORTUNE’S FOOL coming next month. The covers are breathtaking.

Speaking of covers, the cover for HER MAJESTY’S WILL is very funny. A twist on the ‘headless woman’ trend. Except when you look closely, it’s a man. Who designed it?
A wonderful artist and fellow actor by the name of Rob McLean. I knew exactly what I wanted from the cover, but it took Rob to make it real. He got photographer Paul Metreyon to come in and shoot the pic. I borrowed the Renaissance dress from Elizabeth MacDougal, and we stuck a wig on the very talented, very tall actor Matt Holzfeind. The photo-shoot was hilarious and joyful, and I think that comes through in the cover. I’m lucky to know so many talented people.

Is there a message in your novels that you want readers to grasp?
Someone recently said my books convey the message, ‘Life is pain, and then you die.’ I hope not. I’m a pretty happy guy. I’m both bothered and tickled when I see myself being compared to George RR Martin. I love it because I admire his skill at flouting his audience’s expectations. And I approve of his ‘no one is safe’ method. But his work is so bleak, there’s almost no relief. Drama is conflict, and so we thrive on trouble and strife. But there has to be some joy to punctuate the trouble, or else we’re just pummeling ourselves. And our readers.

To actually answer your question – no, I don’t think so. I just like to tell stories. History holds enough messages, and I want people to take away what they will.

You have a great deal of ‘child in peril’ in your Verona books.
I do. Someday my children are going to read these books and wonder what I have against them. Especially as the character Cesco looks a lot like my son Dash. But I created Cesco a full six years before Dash was born. I’m saved by the clock.

What books have influenced your life most?
Dorothy Dunnett’s A PAWN IN FRANKENCENSE. Jonathan Carroll’s SLEEPING IN FLAME. Bernard Cornwell’s ENEMY OF GOD. Colleen McCullough’s THE FIRST MAN IN ROME. And THE SUNNE IN SPLENDOUR.

You’re cute. What book are you reading now?
For pleasure, I’m re-reading Christopher Gortner’s THE TUDOR SECRET in preparation for the sequel, coming later this year. I’m also back in the pages of A. M. Allen’s A HISTORY OF VERONA. That’s my one regret in becoming an author – these days I read so much more for research than I do for fun.

Do you have to travel much concerning your books?
Not nearly as much as I’d like. But I’ve been everywhere I’ve written about, with the exception of Avignon in FORTUNE’S FOOL. That was hard. I hate relying on pictures and written descriptions of places. I need to have my own impression of the land, the color of the light, the roll and pitch of the streets, the smell in the air.

What projects are you working on at present?
I’m finishing the aforementioned fourth Star-Cross’d novel, THE PRINCE’S DOOM. Then two more Colossus novels, WAIL OF THE FALLEN and THE HOLLOW TRIUMPH. After that comes the novel I’m dying to get to, the one that I’ve wanted to write for years but have finally figured out how. It’s about the Devil. I’m very excited.

And future projects?
I want to wade into another Shakespeare property and tackle Othello. I also have a vampire series in the back of my head. Right now I’m about five years behind my brain, and I’m just trying desperately to catch up. I hope I never do.

Part of the hold-up is theatre. This summer I’ll be on-stage playing Orsino in Twelfth Night at the Michigan Shakespeare Festival. While acting can inspire me to write, I can never actually write while I’m doing a show. That’s part of how I fall behind – I took a show last October, and it put me two months off my ideal writing schedule. But theatre feeds a different part of my ego.

Your ego seems very healthy.
Um, thank you?

Vampires, the Devil. You seem to want to genre hop.
My heart is in historical fiction, but there are occasions when I want to play in another sandbox.

What’s your favorite fruit?
To eat, grapes. As a flavor in drinks and whatnot, peach.

Have you ever been in trouble with the police?
Not in the United States.

If you were going to commit the perfect murder, how would you go about it?
I’d replace someone’s medicine with sugar pills, and wait. I’m very patient. It’s like reverse-poisoning.

And if they didn’t take medicine?
A good hand axe. Lots of heft.

What’s the best juxtaposition of life events you’ve experienced?
Being physically thrown out of the Vatican, and being blessed by the Pope. Two different days.

Sounds like a good story.
It is.

Back to acting – you’ve been stabbed how many times? On stage, I mean.
Once in the belly, once in the thigh. Once I thought I’d lost part of a finger during a swordfight on stage, but I only lost the fingernail. Lots of blood, though. I’ve had my nose broken onstage. As safe as we try to be, there are mishaps. And with swords, those mishaps can be pretty dramatic.

That’s disturbingly attractive.
Sharon, I’m married.

What do you consider your biggest failure?
All of them. I relive my failures constantly. It’s like my brain says, “Oh, we’re feeling pretty good, are we? Remember that moment in the second grade when you did this?” And I shake to my core.

What do you like to read in your free time?
Comic books.

Seriously. I’m a lifelong addict. I have well over 20,000 comics, all bagged and boxed. And now that I have an iPad I read comics on that, too.

Would you ever want to write comics?
I would. Like everyone I know, I have a killer Batman story. But mine does not involve the Joker. Or Catwoman. In fact, it’s a new villain, but features an old one. And suddenly we’re talking about a whole different part of my brain. Or maybe the same one. It’s all world-building, with familiar characters.

You seem far less attractive suddenly.
Does that mean you’ll stop undressing me with your eyes?

You’re really a child, aren’t you?
Yes. I discovered the things that made me happy as a child make me happy as an adult. I’ve just added sex, cars, and alcohol to the list.

What’s your favorite movie?

What’s your favorite movie that isn’t a cliché?
Nice. It Happened One night. Or Die Hard.

Which is pretty much what HER MAJESTY’S WILL is – a combination of It Happened One Night and Die Hard, with a smidge of Brokeback Mountain.
Ha! Yes. With some Hope/Crosby Road Movies thrown in for good measure.
Way to make a callback!

Thank you. Any final words?
Wait – does this interview end with my death?

If you keep this up, yes.
Then I’ll just say what an honor it is to be counted among your friends. And what an inspiration you are, a dynamo of great writing that it is impossible to hope to match.

And that talent is sexy, which makes you the Marilyn Monroe of Historical Fiction authors.

Excellent answer. Say goodnight, David.
Goodnight, David.

April 28, 2013



  1. Sara Nell Bible Says:

    So enjoyed this interview. I happen to be reading THE MASTER OF VERONA just now after having it on the back burner since you mentioned Blixt in some earlier discussion. I’ll be going to Italy this Fall and will be in Verona so thought it was a good choice to read in preparation for the trip.

  2. Paula Mildenhall Says:

    I think ‘Her Majesty’s Will’ just got bumped to the top or the TBR pile. Sharon, you have worked your magic once again!

  3. Paula Mildenhall Says:

    I think ‘Her Majesty’s Will’ just got bumped to the top or the TBR pile. Sharon, you have worked your magic once again!

  4. Stephanie Says:

    I agree with Paula. David’s books have been on my TBR list for too long. This made me want to start reading it TODAY. And by the way, thanks for making me snort laugh while I read this. (Shakes her head.) Try to enjoy yourselves a bit more next time, okay?

  5. Joan Says:

    It’s good to see you back & well, Sharon……and in top form!

    Great interview & looking forward to adding some of these delicious-sounding novels to my shelves. I agree with David, the covers are breathtaking! I especially love the Colossus covers, also Varnished Faces….the mask….very theatrical.

    I’ve lately been watching “Shakespeare Uncovered”…..brilliant BBC series!

  6. Kasia (Kate) Says:

    Sharon, I’m so glad you’re back! At last! And I must agree with Joan: you’re in top form! I love the interview. Thank you for reminding me of Her Majesty’s Will. I was planning to read it after you mentioned it for the first time, but later, somehow, it slipped my mind. I’m going to remedy it very soon, especially that I love both Shakespeare and Marlowe.

    I’m sure I have already recommended a wonderful book by Professor Stanley Wells, but let me repeat myself: do read Shakespeare &Co. It’s a must-read.

  7. Kasia (Kate) Says:

    Joan, is “Shakespeare Uncovered” available on YouTube? It sounds like a must-watch :-)

  8. Joan Says:

    Kasia, I’m glad you asked…’s not to be missed. Each episode is rich & amazing & fun as well, with fabulous presenters (you’ll love Jeremy Irons!!). I especially enjoyed the most recent…..Henry IV & Henry V, as I’m now into this era. I haven’t seen all of the episodes yet…..Hamlet is next. Here’s some info:

    You can watch only snippets on youtube

    You can purchase the complete set at……

    It’s also available for streamlining online. I’m going to include a link in the following post, but wanted to get this off to you in case Sharon is busy & can’t release the post just yet.

    I’m also going to buy the book you suggested for autumn reading…I’ve made note of it before but haven’t bought it yet. So thank you for mentioning it again.

  9. Joan Says:

    Kasia, this is a site that will give you an idea of the series. Enjoy!!

  10. Joan Says:

    Kasia, this is the site re the overview of the series…..the previous site (above) has a small clip of Jeremy Irons

  11. skpenman Says:

    I missed some interesting historical happenings during my bout with bronchitis, so I will try to catch up in coming weeks. Meanwhile, on April 30th, 1483, Richard III, then Duke of Gloucester, reached Stony Stratford and arrested the young king’s uncle, Anthony Woodville, after being warned that the Woodvilles were planning to defy Edward IV’s dying wishes and refuse to recognize him as Lord Protector of the Realm. The sad scene below comes from Sunne, page 684-685
    * * *
    “Edward, I should like to talk with you.” Richard waited, watched the boy come forward reluctantly, sit stiffly beside him on the settle. “You think I don’t know how you’re feeling, but I do. I know better than most. I was just your age when Ned did quarrel with our cousin Warwick. I did love them both, Edward, learned a bitter lesson in irreconcilable loyalties.”
    Edward said nothing. He was studiously staring down into his lap; all Richard could see was a crown of bright hair.
    “What I’m trying to say is that I understand how confusing this is for you. You love your Uncle Anthony and you don’t know me all that well. But once we’re in London…..” And what difference would that make to the boy? Their problem was not one of geography. He was the wrong uncle.
    “Edward…..” What was there to say? That he’d loved Ned? That should have been a bond between them, and yet Richard sensed that it was not. Edward had raised his head, was looking up now with Ned’s eyes. No, not Ned’s. Guarded eyes that gave away nothing.
    “If you’re ready, lad, we can ride back to Northampton,” Richard said and, without thinking, started to put his arm around the boy’s shoulders as he would have done with his own sons. It was the first time he’d touched Edward; he got a response neither one of them expected. Edward stiffened, jerked back as if stung. The withdrawal was involuntary, and for that reason, all the more telling.
    Edward quickly recovered his poise, even looked slightly embarrassed. “I did not mean to be rude,” he said, very politely. “You did startle me, that’s all.”
    Richard was stunned, for he’d read in Edward’s recoil more than mistrust. There’d been fear, too. Before he could stop himself, before he could think better of it, he said softly, “Good Christ, what have they told you of me?”
    * * *

  12. Theresa Says:

    Poor Richard. Even if he hadn’t taken the throne, the Woodvilles would have had him removed.
    There was an interesting passage in Sunne before this scene where Buckingham warns Richard that young Edward is nothing like Ned, instead he is described as being pure Woodville.
    Personally I would have liked to have read about Anthony Woodvilles execution scene in this book, but I did enjoy Richards later admission that he felt no remorse for his death.

  13. Kasia (Kate) Says:

    Theresa, I, on the opposite, wouldn’t like to read about Anthony’s execution. A Woodville he might have been, but still I can’t help admire him. He was a learned men, with a flair for literature. And to him the English owe one of the first books printed in England by William Caxton (the two men met while in Bruges and apparently found the common subject to talk about :-)), Rivers’ own translation from French of the ‘Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers’.
    Sorry, I have a soft spot for men of letters :-)

  14. Kasia (Kate) Says:

    Gee, Joan, now you have whetted my apetite! I really must watch the series! Thank you for recommending it.

  15. skpenman Says:

    I see Anthony Woodville as being something of a reluctant conspirator.

    Catching up–on April 25th, 1199, Richard’s brother John was invested as Duke of Normandy in Rouen. Unfortunately it did not go well, thanks to the tom-foolery of some of John’s boon companions. We get an eye-witness account from Hugh of Avalon, the Bishop of Lincoln, who would later be canonized as a saint. Hugh did not approve of John and that comes through loud and clear in the following passage from the Life of St Hugh of Lincoln.
    “Later, on the octave of Easter, at Rouen during the celebration of high mass, he (John) received the ducal insignia, the archbishop placed the lance reverently in his hand with a pennon, the customary investiture of the dukes of Normandy. He, however, hearing the bursts of applause and the childish laughter of his former youthful companions, and his attention being very little absorbed by the rite, turned round out of levity, and whilst he and they were laughing together, the lance which he was not grasping firmly enough, fell to the ground. Almost the whole assembly declared that this was a bad portent for him.”
    John had already offended Hugh by interrupting a high mass, sending one of his companions three times to implore the bishop to wind up his sermon as he was hungry. The bishop’s biographer reported acidly that John “was eager to fill his belly with meat and cared not at all for the emptiness of his mind.”
    April 25th was also the birthdate of Edward II in 1284 and in 1214, the French king, Louis IX, who would eventually be canonized, and—a bit out of our range—Oliver Cromwell in 1559. Here is a link to Kathryn Warner’s always interesting blog, which delves into Edward II’s reign and politics in 14th century England.

  16. Joan Says:

    Sharon, when you have a minute I have 2 posts that need to be freed for Kasia. Thank you.

  17. Joan Says:

    Kasia, there’s a quiz you can do on the Shakespeare Uncovered site (go to blog)…it’ll tell you what character you’re most like. I’m Rosalind from As You Like It! Let me know.

  18. Kasia (Kate) Says:

    Thanks Joan for the links! I’ll check them first thing in the morning. I too have something fascinating to share. Do check the link to Elizabeth Chadwick’s blog. There’s a research snippet I’ve found very intersting. It has a lot to do with you know who :-)

  19. Kasia (Kate) Says:

    Sharon, I too have a comment awaiting moderation. Could you free it? I’ve posted a link to a very interesting text on Elizabeth Chadwick’s blog. Thank you.

  20. skpenman Says:

    Kasia, I’ll be happy to pay the ransom for you. Meanwhile, here is today’s Facebook Note.

    On May 2nd, 1536, Anne Boleyn was arrested and sent to the Tower, her case one of the more convincing arguments that Tudor Justice is the ultimate oxymoron. While I did not have the intestinal fortitude to watch The Tudors, I am a huge fan of Natalie Dormer, currently stealing scenes with wild abandon in Game of Thrones, and I am sure she made a very convincing Anne.

    Still catching up—On April 23rd, 1445, Henry VI wed Marguerite d’Anjou; I hope they enjoyed the wedding since they did not deprive much pleasure from the marriage. On April 23rd, 1616, a certain playwright named Shakespeare died; traditionally he is thought to have been born on April 23rd, too. The niece of an English king he’d maligned (not his fault, though; he was working from tainted sources.) also had the odd distinction of dying on her birthday. The niece was Elizabeth of York, of course, who was born and died on a February 11th. April 23rd was also the date of death of the high Irish king, Brian Boru, in 1014. I’d recently been discussing Lion of Ireland with some of my Facebook friends, and while it has been many years since I’ve read Morgan Llywelyn’s novel, I remember liking it very much. Hopefully it is still in print?

  21. Koby Says:

    I apologize for my absence; I was quite busy. It’s good to have you back, Sharon. Allow me to make up those days I missed: May 1st was May Day, Beltane, Samhain in the Southern Hemisphere, Walpurgis Night, and so on, so a belated happy May Day to any who celebrated.
    On May 1st, Edith (Matilda) of Scotland, queen of England, first wife of Henry I died.
    Yesterday, Llywelyn Fawr had William de Braose publicly hanged.
    And Today, Matilda of Boulogne, Queen of England died, and Cecily Neville, Duchess of York and her daughter Margaret of York, Countess of Burgundy were born.

  22. skpenman Says:

    Good to have you back, Koby, and wow, did I ever forget a lot for the past two days!

    Today’s Facebook Note.

    Some of you know that I am a football fan (American football, to my British and Aussie readers.) But I have always loved sports writers. They are so much fun to read, clever and sardonic and imaginative, influenced in the best possible way by Damon Runyon. My all-time favorite definition of writing came from the great sports writer, Red Smith. “Writing is easy,” he said. “You just sit down at the typewriter and open a vein.”
    Anyway, here is a link to a very well-written column by Phil Sheridan, a Philadelphia Inquirer sports columnist, about Jason Collins’s courageous admission to Sports Illustrated that “I am a 34 year old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.”

    Still catching up. On April 21, 1509, Henry VII, the first Tudor king, died. No plans to send flowers. And on April 20, 1191, the French king Philippe Capet arrived at the siege of Acre. He was at a distinct disadvantage when it came to competing with that PR master, the English king. In Lionheart, I had Richard scornfully describe Philippe’s entry into Messina: “Philippe arrived last week, in a single ship if you can believe that, with all the fanfare of a merchant returning home from a day at the market.” So we can safely assume that Philippe’s Acre arrival was equally low-key. Two months later, Richard would show Philippe how it ought to be done.

  23. Joan Says:

    What a great quote re writing, Sharon. Tell me, how many transfusions have you had over your writing career?!?

    I look forward to seeing that word “Donzel” in future, Kasia.

  24. Theresa Says:

    Are there any references to Cecily Neville’s physical appearance in contemporary sources. I’ve always been puzzled as to the rumours about her supposed ‘affair’ with a archer in Rouen. (the archer being the biological father of Edward) But I wondered if she was tall and fair then Edward could have resembled her rather than his father.
    Look at Prince William - he resembles his mother more than Charles (this comment is not intended as an attack on Princess Diana)
    Or was she just the victim of rumours spread by the Earl of Warwick. (He did also claim that Edward of Lancaster was not the son of Henry VI)

  25. skpenman Says:

    I cannot think of any references to her physical appearance, Theresa, but that does not mean there weren’t any–just that I do not remember any (Sunne was published over 30 years ago!) I’ll ask Anne Easter Smith, who has written a novel about Cecily.

    Today’s Facebook Note, which involves the House of York.

    May 4th, 1471 was the date of a very significant battle at Tewkesbury, during which Edward of York destroyed the last hopes of the Lancastrians and re-established his authority as the unchallenged sovereign King of England. At the risk of sounding blood-thirsty, I enjoy writing battle scenes, and the best ones are those with dramatic twists. The battles in Sunne set the bar very high for future books. At Barnet, there was the morning fog that posed such danger for Richard’s vanguard and then caused the deadly blunder when the Earl of Oxford attacked John Neville’s men in error, and Neville’s men then mistook Oxford’s Streaming Star for the Sunne of York. And at Tewkesbury, the Earl of Somerset set up a bold ambush, gambling that he would be able to destroy Edward’s center before Richard and the vanguard even knew what was happening. It did not work–because Richard responded much more quickly than they’d expected and because Somerset’s ally, Lord Wenlock, did not give Somerset the support he expected. Here are some passages from Sunne, page 354-355
    * * *
    When his hidden spearmen joined the struggle against Somerset, Edward at last let himself hope he might prevail. Where in Christ was Wenlock? He didn’t understand, could only thank God for the inexplicable reprieve, for the uncanny luck that had always been his. And then he thanked God for his brother, for the Yorkist vanguard was suddenly there, how he didn’t know, didn’t care, and once again he’d won, against all odds and expectations. His stallion was limping badly; he slid from the saddle, and leaning against the animal’s heaving side, he began to laugh.
    * * *
    In the following passage, the Earl of Somerset responds to what he sees as the treachery of Lord Wenlock, in a very dramatic fashion. No writer would dare make stuff like this up.
    Sunne, Page 357
    * * *
    He (the young prince of Lancaster) opened his mouth, not at all sure what he meant to say, and then, like all the others, he was turning, staring at the rider coming up the hill toward the Lancastrian lines, coming at a breakneck gallop that had every man there expecting momentarily to see the animal go down, to see a foreleg snap like kindling. It stumbled once, but regained its balance, came on. He hardly recognized it as a horse, its muzzle dripping froth, eyes glazed and rolling back with fear, so streaked and smeared with blood that it was impossible to tell what color it once was, white or grey. He was staring with such horror at the horse that it was some seconds before he looked to the rider, and stunned, recognized the Duke of Somerset.
    Somerset was as ghastly a sight as the horse he rode, drenched in Yorkist blood, and shouting like a madman, so incoherent that his words were lost, conveyed only a rage such as none among them had ever seen in any sane man.
    Edward was frozen in the saddle. Wenlock, too, seemed incapable of moving, staring at this bloodied raving apparition as if he doubted his senses.
    “Judas! Traitorous son of a Yorkist whore! Where were you when my men were being butchered?’
    Wenlock suddenly seemed to recognize his peril. One hand went to his sword; he started to speak. He was never given the chance. Somerset spurred his maddened mount against Wenlock’s; the other horse reeled under the impact, stumbled to its knees.
    “By Jesus, this will be the last time you do York’s dirty work!”
    Even as he spoke, Somerset’s battle-axe flashed up and over. The force of the blow sliced through Wenlock’s helmet as if it were parchment; the blade buried itself in his skull. Brains, bone, and grey-white tissue were flung into the air, splattered the closest of the soldiers. Wenlock was dead before he hit the ground.
    * * *
    As I said, who could make stuff like this up?

  26. skpenman Says:

    We need to pray for rain for California. If you click onto the slideshow with this story, you’ll see some truly terrifying photos. Fire fighters are my heroes.

  27. skpenman Says:

    Today’s Facebook Note.

    I missed several very important historical events this past week, but fortunately my friend Koby jogged my memory. On May 3rd, 1152, Stephen’s queen, Matilda, died, and he never seems to have recovered from her loss. I liked Matilda and tried to give her a death scene she deserved. Saints, page 627.
    * * *
    Matilda had always envisioned time as a river, flowing forward inexorably into the future, forcing people to keep up with the current as best they could. No more, though. Time had become tidal. Lying in the shuttered dark of an unfamiliar bedchamber, she could feel it receding toward the horizon, leaving her stranded upon the shore. As a little girl in Boulogne, she’d often walked along the beach, throwing back the starfish trapped by the ebbing tide. Now, forty years later, when it was her turn to be marooned by the retreating waves, there was no one to save her as she’d saved the starfish, but she did not mourn for herself. Dying was not so terrible, for all that people feared it so. She was in God’s Hands, a feather floating on the wind, waiting to see if He would call her home.
    * * *
    On May 3rd, 1415, Cecily Neville was born, and she gave birth to her daughter Margaret on May 3rd, 1446—the ultimate birthday present. This happened in my own family, as my grandmother and my mother shared the same birthday, February 19th.
    On May 2nd, 1194, Richard I gave Portsmouth its first charter before sailing for Normandy, never to set foot on English soil again. He seems to have been interested in making Portsmouth the base for an English navy; he showed a flair for naval warfare during his time on Crusade and he was planning to use his beloved Chateau Gaillard as a means of controlling river traffic on the Seine.
    Also on May 2nd, this time in 1230, Llywelyn Fawr hanged his wife Joanna’s lover, William de Braose; he was the grandson of the woman that Joanna’s father John had starved to death. Again, who could make stuff like this up?

  28. Kasia (Kate) Says:

    Sharon, this happened in my family too, as my two sisters share the same birthday, 28th May and they are not twins :-)

    As for today’s events, on 5 May 1162, Richard de Belmeis II, bishop of London (1152-1162), former canon and archdeacon of Middlesex and nephew of the former bishop, Richard de Belmeis I (appointed in 1108 by Henry I) died. I’ve decided to mention his death anniversary, for he was the one who baptized Henry the Young King. The London see and chapter were occupied by a Belmeis- Foliot dynasty (famous Gilbert Foliot was also related to the Belmeis clan) for a large part of the twelfth century (1108-1127 and 1152-1187).

  29. Malcolm Craig Says:

    My favorite first cousin was my 7th birthday present (especially since I have 4 sisters and no brothers). His next brother missed our birthday by 30 minutes. My father was exactly 25 years older than my wife, and Allys’s youngest brother was born on their father’s birthday.

    After May 18, when youth baseball and my high school class’s reunion are over, I should be more visible here and on Facebook.

  30. skpenman Says:

    I recently confessed that I enjoy writing battle scenes. The reason is probably obvious; writers are addicted to high drama. This is one reason why I so enjoy writing about the Plantagenets in general and the Angevins in particular. Henry and Eleanor and their Devil’s Brood led such deliciously improbable lives, lives that often sounded as if they’d been scripted by a Hollywood screenwriter. This was especially true of Coeur de Lion; the man did not seem able to cross the street without encountering danger or drama. This was especially true during his crusade.
    Richard’s fleet had been scattered in a savage Good Friday storm and Joanna and Berengaria did not know where he was or even if he’d survived the storm. When their ship finally reached Cyprus, it offered no safety. Isaac, Comnenus, the self-proclaimed emperor of the island, had imprisoned the survivors of two of Richard’s ships that had run aground on the rocks, and he realized what valuable hostages Joanna and Berengaria would make. Joanna had been stalling for time, but on May 6th, 1191, Isaac’s patience ran out and he gave her an ultimatum—she and Berengaria would come ashore on the morrow or they’d be taken by force. Isaac had a vile “rep” even by medieval standards; he was hated by the Cypriots for the brutality of his rule, and it was rumored that he was secretly allied with Saladin, so the women were understandably fearful of falling into his hands. What happened next was something I would never have dared to invent, yet another example of the way life can eclipse fiction, especially when the Angevins were involved. Here is a scene from Lionheart, page 221.
    * * *
    A sudden shout turned all eyes toward the rigging, where a sailor had been perched all day. Straddling the mizzenmast, he leaned over so far that he seemed in danger of losing his balance. “I see a sail to the west!”
    It seemed to take forever before those on deck could see it too, a large ship skimming the waves, its sails billowing out like canvas clouds. When the lookout yelled that there were two ships, excitement swept the buss, for with these reinforcements, surely they could fend off Isaac’s galleys? Men were laughing and slapping one another on the back, sailors scrambling up into the rigging to get a better view, and Joanna’s dogs began to bark, hoarsely, as if they’d forgotten how. “You see,” Berengaria said with a beatific smile. “God does hear our prayers.”
    “Yes, he does,” Joanna agreed, for it would have been churlish to quibble with salvation. But she could not banish the question from her mind as she could from her lips. Where was the fleet? Where was Richard?
    It happened with such suddenness that men were not sure at first that they could trust their senses. There was nothing to the west but sea and sky and those two ships tacking against the wind. And then the horizon was filled with sails, stretching as far as the eye could see. A moment of stunned disbelief gave way almost at once to pandemonium, and for the rest of their lives, there would be men who vowed they’d never experienced an emotion as overwhelming as the joy of deliverance on a May Sunday off the coast of Cyprus.
    The sharp-eyed sailors spotted it first. “The Sea-Cleaver! The king’s galley!” But Richard’s women needed to see it for themselves, scarcely breathing until it came into focus, looking like a Norse long-ship, its hull as red as the sunset, its sails catching the wind, and streaming from its masthead the banner emblazoned with the royal lion of England.
    Berengaria found it hard to tear her gaze away from the sight of that blessed galley. “It is like a miracle, Joanna,” she said in awe, “that he should reach us in our hour of greatest need.”
    Joanna gave a shaken laugh. “Richard has always had a talent for making a dramatic entrance, but he has outdone himself with this one!”
    * * *
    In the following brief scene, Richard has learned that Isaac had imprisoned his men and had been seeking to take Joanna and Berengaria prisoner, too. Lionheart, page 222
    * * *
    Richard listened in ominous silence, then summoned Roger de Harcourt to get a firsthand account of their imprisonment. He even called Petros over to question him about what he’d seen in Amathus. And then he moved over to the gunwale, stood for a time staring at the beach and those low-riding Greek galleys. When he turned back to the other men, there was a universal sense of relief that this lethal rage was not directed at any of them.
    ”It takes great courage to maltreat half-drowned shipwreck survivors and to threaten defenseless women. But now we will see how Isaac likes dealing with me.”
    * * *
    Isaac did not like it at all.
    Also, in a very unmedieval mention, I would like to thank Stephanie for letting me know that May 6th is the birthday of George Clooney. Happy Birthday, George.

  31. Koby Says:

    Those were great scenes, Sharon. I always enjoy your writing.
    Today, Sir James Tyrrell was executed for the murder of the Princes In the Tower. Also, the great George Kastrioti Skanderbeg was born, and the Sack of Rome (1527) took place.

  32. Joan Says:

    Imagine a horizon filled with sails!! Breathtaking! I loved this scene & all your dramatic ship scenes, Sharon. Don’t you describe one of them as a “floating forest”??

  33. skpenman Says:

    I think I did, Joan. One of the chroniclers who’d accompanied Richard described how the women were staring out to sea, despairing, before the sails appeared on the horizon, and details like that are rarely found in medieval chronicles.

    Today’s Facebook Note.

    No historical tidbits to report on May 7th, though Koby and Rania might catch something I’ve missed. So I am focusing upon good deeds today. There is a little boy in South Jersey, age 10, who suffers from Autism. His mother says he loves to receive mail and she is asking people to send him notes, letters, or birthday cards; his birthday is May 30th. If some of you are able to do this, they can be sent to Joey Lockwood, 72 S. Chew Road, Hammonton, NJ 08037.
    The next good deed is needed by my friends in Echo Rescue. Last week they attempted to transport two white shepherds to new lives, but they were unable to get enough volunteer drivers and are trying again. Nixie and Kiser are going from Knoxville, TN to Lake Arial, PA this coming weekend. The itinerary is listed below. If any of you live in the right area and could spare an hour or so, please contact Amy Lusty at or Or you can contact me and I’ll get in touch with Amy. Most of you know that my white shepherd Tristan was transported from FL to me by 11 wonderful people; if not for them, Tristan would never have been able to spend the last 20 months of his life in a home where he learned what it was like to be loved for the first time in his life.
    Passenger(s): Nixie and Kiser
    Breed: White German Shepherds
    Age: 6 yrs (Both are around 6 yrs)
    Sex: Kiser –Male, and Nixie-Female
    Neutered/Spayed? Yes, all
    Size/weight: Nixie 75 lbs, Kiser 95 lbs
    UTD on shots, including rabies: Yes
    Overall Healthy for Nixie and Kiser - Good
    Housebroken Crate Trained yes -
    Do they get along with other animals? Yes
    Do they get along with children? yes
    Do they get along with Men? / Women? Good
    Any behavior problems? Not that are known
    Is a crate optional or mandatory? Optional, but good idea to tether them as we don’t know if they will try to get in the front seat or not.
    If so, is a crate provided and what size is it? not provided
    Items traveling with: Collar, leash, paperwork
    Reason for Transport: Dogs were in shelter (have been in boarding for 2 weeks) and moving to a Foster home.

    Note: these dogs are a pair and are in the same kennel in boarding, so they get along well.

    Route Saturday May 11th
    Meeting Spots listed are suggested only from the map. If you have a meeting spot you would like, please use it! Just make sure all parties are aware. 
    Leg 1 & 2 – Knoxville TN to Bristol TN
    113 miles, 2 hr
    Leave at 8:45 am
    Arrive at 10:45 am
    *** Filled *** (Dave, thank you!)

    Leg 3 – Bristol TN to Wytheville VA
    70 miles, 1 hr 5 min
    Leave at 11:00 am
    Arrive at 12:05 pm
    *** Needed ***

    Meeting Spot Wytheville:–Food Lion, 1155 N 4th St #200, Wytheville, VA

    Leg4b – Wytheville VA to Roanoke VA
    76 miles, 1 hr 10 min
    Leave at 12:20 pm
    Arrive at 1:30 pm
    *** Needed ***

    Meeting Spot Roanoke: Days Inn, 8118 Plantation Road Roanoke, VA 24019

    Leg 5b – Roanoke VA to Staunton VA
    73 miles, 1 hr 10 min
    Leave at 1:45 pm
    Arrive at 2:55 pm
    *** Needed ***

    Meeting Spot Staunton: Days Inn, 372 White Hill Road Staunton, VA 24401

    Leg 6b – Staunton VA to Strasburg VA (Toms Brook)
    74 miles, 1 hr 10 min
    Leave at 3:10 pm
    Arrive at 4:20 pm
    *** Needed ***

    Meeting Spot: Wilco Hess Station, 1014 Mount Olive Road, Toms Brook, VA 22660

    Leg 7b – Strasburg VA to Hagerstown MD
    75 miles, 1 hr 20 min
    Leave at 4:35 pm
    Arrive at 5:55 pm
    *** Needed ***

    Meeting Spot Hagerstown: Café Del Sol, 1481 Salem Avenue, Hagerstown, MD 21740

    Leg 8b – Hagerstown MD to Harrisburg PA
    78 miles, 1 hr 20 min
    Leave at 6:10 pm
    Arrive at 7:30 pm
    *** Needed ***

    Meeting Spot Harrisburg: Quality Inn, 200 North Mountain Road Harrisburg, PA 1711

    Leg 9b – Harrisburg PA to Hazelton PA
    74 miles, 1 hr 10 min
    Leave at 7:45 pm
    Arrive at 8:55 pm
    *** Needed ***

    Meeting Spot Hazelton: Hampton Inn, 1 Top of 80’s Road West Hazleton, PA 18202

    Leg 10b - Hazelton PA to Lake Arial PA
    58 miles, 1 hr 10 min
    Leave at 9:10 pm
    Arrive at 10:20 pm
    *** Filled *** (Corette, thanks!)

    Amy Lusty
    Echo Dogs White Shepherd Rescue, Transport Coordinator & Foster Home
    email: or


  34. Koby Says:

    Indeed, Sharon, and here I am. While there are indeed no events directly connected to your books that happened today that I know of, there is another, close to my heart.
    Today, Jehanne de Domremy, also known as Jehanne d’Arc and Jehanne de la Pucelle broke the Siege of Orleans. She attacked contrary to the advice of the French Command, pulling an arrow from her own shoulder and returning, wounded, to lead the final charge. In Jehanne’s words: “Jehanne… la Pucelle vous fait savoir des nouvelles de par decha que en VIII jours elle a cachie les Angloix hors de toutez les places quilz tenoient sur le revire le Loire… Car Dieu, le roy du ciel, le veult, et cela est revele par la Pucelle…” (Jehanne… the Maid sends you news from these parts: that in one week she has chased the English out of all the places that they held along the Loire river…S o God, King of heaven, wills it; and so it has been revealed by the maid…)
    Lastly, allow me to add a beautiful piece of music set to these words, from Voices of Light:

  35. Koby Says:

    Ah, Sharon, my comment is trapped, of course. Would you be so kind as to release it?

  36. skpenman Says:

    I will, Koby, and won’t even demand a ransom.

    Anne Easter Smith has a new novel coming out today, Royal Mistress, about a lady I always liked, Jane Shore. Anne will do an interview on my blog about the book later in the month. Meanwhile, here is a link to Royal Mistress.

  37. skpenman Says:

    Nothing much happening on the medieval front today. So I thought I’d toss out a question for my fellow Game of Thrones addicts, for Westeros has a gritty medieval reality—apart from the dragons and dyrewolves, of course. But there are SPOILERS ahead, so read no farther if you have not already watched Sunday’s episode, The Climb. Am I the only one to be upset with them for this major deviation from the book? I hate what they are about to do to Gentry, what we are probably going to have to watch in gruesome detail next week. It does not make sense to me, either, for how would Melisande know that Gentry was Robert’s illegitimate son? He does not even know it. And hasn’t Arya endured enough already without dumping yet another tragedy upon those slender little shoulders? I am also not happy with what they did with Ros. She was not even in the books, so her fate was utterly in the hands of the HBO screen writers and I thought her fate was gratuitously sadistic. As those who’ve read Storm of Swords can testify, it is not as if we’re going to be lacking for bloodshed and violence and sheer horror in the coming episodes. On a more positive note, I loved the made-up scene between Charles Dance (Tywin Lannister) and Diana Rigg (Queen of Thorns) and I really liked the other made-up scene in which Cersei and Tyrion were commiserating with each other about the fun of being Tywin Lannister’s kids. And I thought the ending scene of Jon and Ygritte on the wall was great. But I’m going to be holding a serious grudge for Gentry and Ros.

  38. Kasia (Kate) Says:

    Sharon, I still wake up in the middle of the night and have the image of Ros before my eyes, popping out immediately. She resembled St Sebastian from the painting by Da Messina, the one depicting his martyrdom. I’m posting the link. Could you free it for me? You’re going to see for yourself.

  39. Koby Says:

    Sharon, you raise good poitns and I am in complete agreement with you regarding Ros. But I do not think you need to worry for Gendry. I feel that he will replace Edric Storm in this story, and will be an intended sacrifice which Davos saves.

  40. skpenman Says:

    I really hope you’re right, Koby, and Davos will save him. I just had an awful feeling that they were going to sacrifice him right there in the forest. I really like Davos; he has more humanity than almost anyone on the show.
    Kasia, I will free your hostage comment right now. Ros was the creation of the screen writers, and they made her into a smart young woman, doing her best to survive in a hostile environment. So shame on them for giving her such an awful, needless, agonizing death.

  41. skpenman Says:

    Kasia, I am sorry, but there is no comment of yours being held hostage. Maybe you could try to post it again?

  42. Joan Says:

    Koby, thank you for posting that beautiful piece of music. It pierces the soul.

    I’m looking forward to the interview with Anne Easter Smith, Sharon……haven’t read any of her novels yet. And re a chronicler having written about the women’s despair staring out to sea, I find that very interesting & gratifying, giving us such a personal & meaningful glimpse.

  43. skpenman Says:

    Joan, I’ll pull out that passage from the chronicler and post it here. You are quite right; it is very unusual to get such a personal glimpse.

    Here is today’s Facebook Note.

    May 9th is another slow day on the medieval history front. So here is a link to a heartwarming story about a rescue group that saves thoroughbred horses in need. We owe horses so much; think how differently the history of mankind would have been if we’d not been able to tame horses. They truly were indispensable to the spread of civilization. Sadly, we did not repay them well. Over the centuries they have been ill-treated; I always felt regretful whenever I had to write about the deaths of horses on the battlefield. Being able to write about the Lionheart’s cherished stallion Fauvel was a rare bright spot; horses rarely were mentioned in the medieval chronicles and so I was happy to give Fauvel his time in the sun, standing in for all his brethren forgotten, ignored, or abused.
    We do not know Fauvel’s fate. A minstrel’s tale a hundred years after Richard’s death had him dying at the battle of Jaffa, resulting in Saladin’s sending another horse to Richard under a flag of truce. That never happened, of course. The legend had its roots in the action of Saladin’s brother, Al-Malik al-Adil, who gave Richard two magnificent Arab stallions after the battle to honor the courage he’d displayed at Jaffa. This was a remarkable, generous gesture to make to an enemy, so it is not surprising that it would give rise to later legends and myths. But just as Saladin did not offer Richard a horse in the midst of the battle, nor did Fauvel die then. Richard had not taken any horses with him when his galleys had sailed to Jaffa’s rescue; he and his knights only had eleven horses at the second battle of Jaffa, those they’d either found in the city or captured from the Saracens.
    So we do not know Fauvel’s fate. Richard would certainly have sent him home on a horse transport with his two Arab stallions. Since we do not know otherwise, my Fauvel will make it safely to his master’s domains. With so much death and sorrow hovering over the ending of Ransom, it was a small relief to offer this one glimmer of light.
    So my gratitude to horse rescue groups comes in part from my reluctance to see these magnificent animals suffer and in part from my appreciation of all the human race owes them. It was sickening that the Kentucky Derby winner Ferdinand eventually ended up in a slaughter house in Japan once his owners had decided he was of no further use to them. I realize that not all agree with me, but I feel very strongly that it is as barbaric to eat horses as it would be to eat dogs or cats.
    If I disappear from time to time in the coming weeks, it is simply because that accursed deadline has me cornered. I will do my best to give it the slip when I can. Most people daydream of winning the lottery or meeting star athletes, famous actors, or rock stars. I daydream of writing at my own pace, having no deadline but my own. Of course that might mean that I’d take five years to get a book done, so maybe deadlines are not entirely evil!

  44. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    No news on the medieval history front. So I am posting an interesting article about how pet ownership lowers our risk of heart disease. We all know about the benefits of exercise and companionship. But what I found particularly interesting is the suggestion that we also benefit from all the dirt they track into the house!

  45. Ken John Says:

    Kasia, Kasia! Koby has joined Sharon’s Face Book page! Come over as well….Please…

  46. Kasia (Kate) Says:

    Ken, Ken! Where have you been? I’ve missed you…. Koby is it true???Are you going to leave us? What are we going to do without you?

  47. skpenman Says:

    Koby has been my Facebook friend for ages. See, Kasia, it is possible to do both!

    May 11th was another slow medieval news day. So it seems a good time to call your attention to a new novel that ought to appeal to my fellow Ricardians. I have not had a chance to read it yet; pleasure reading is as elusive as the unicorn around the Penman household these days. But it sounds intriguing. The title is Pull of the Yew Tree, written by Australian author, Pauline Toohey. It is set in 15th century Ireland, and is based upon a powerful Irish family, the Fitzgeralds of Kildare. As an added bonus, Richard III, then Duke of Gloucester, makes a cameo appearance during the battle of Barnet. Pauline says that it is available in paperback worldwide, and it will soon be available in the e-book format, too. And I am not jealous at all that you guys get to read about medieval Ireland while I’m still bogged down doing research on the ghastly symptoms of gangrene.

  48. Joan Says:

    Great timing…..Pull of the Yew Tree will fit right in with my present interest, W of the Roses. I decided to finally read Azincourt, which I’m loving! My first Bernard Cornwell. And I love the longbow…….my fave scene from LOTR is the Elves march to Helms Deep…..epic, heroic, romantic!!

    And if you have a minute to spare, Sharon, which you probably don’t, I would love to read that passage from the chronicler. Thanks!

    Kasia, promise us that if you do go over to the dark side, you’ll continue to inform & delight us on this blog!!

  49. Kasia (Kate) Says:

    Sharon and Joan (and my dear Ken, of course), I’m somehow torn, since I’m perfectly aware how badly the Young King needs this “dark side” :-) and because of his blog i’m not as active here as I used to be. Don’t forget that English is not my first language and it takes me more time to type a comment, not to mention the whole text :-)

    Azincourt was also my first Bernard Cornwell. I loved it. Do write more about your impressions when you finish. We’ll share our opinions.

  50. Koby Says:

    I stand in both realms, here and on Facebook, and do not plan to leave either. I guess I’m kind of like Ranulf and Roger, only without divided loyalties - I don’t have any problems with being on both sides.
    Joan, I’m glad you enjoyed it. It’s a wonderful album, and my personal favorite there is ‘The Fire of the Dove’ - I can even chant it in the original Latin by heart!
    Lastly, there was a minor occurrence today: Anne of Bohemia, Richard II’s most beloved queen was born today.

  51. skpenman Says:

    Joan, I’ll see if I can fish it out. Kasia, no one would ever guess that English was not your mother tongue.

    Pull of the Yew Tree is now available as an e-book, too.

  52. skpenman Says:

    Joan, here are two passages from the Itinerarium Peregrinorum et Gesta Regis Ricardi, the Chronicle of the Third Crusade, one of the two written by men who actually accompanied Richard to the Holy Land. Lionheart spoiled me for any other books after having such rich, detailed, and personal sources.

    After describing the treachery and double-dealing of Isaac Comnenus, the chronicler says of that Sunday:

    “On the third day, a Sunday, he again tried to get round the queens and seduce them with flattery and deceit. The queens were in a tight spot. They began to waver, anxious that if they submitted to the emperor’s persuasions, they would be taken captive. On the other hand, they were afraid that he would attack them if they persisted in their refusals….In order to hold the emperor off for a while, they gave a noncommittal reply, assuring him they would disembark on the following day and entrust themselves to the emperor’s judgment. On the basis of this promise, the emperor held back.
    While the queens were burning with growing anxiety, God sent them prompt help. On that same Sunday, while they were gloomily discussing and bewailing their situation to each other and gazing out across the sea, two ships appeared in the distance among the foaming peaks of the rolling waves, sailing rapidly toward them, tossing about like little crows. The queens and those with them were still doubtful as to what this was, when they caught the sight of some other ships following them. An enormous number fo ships following immediately behind, heading directly toward the port at great speed. Guessing that this was the royal fleet, they were overjoyed, the more so because help is the most welcome to those who have despaired of it.

    Another chronicler says Joanna was the one who kept trying to hold the emperor off and that certainly fits with what what we know of Eleanor’s daughter. These chronicles are so unusual in that they focus upon the human side, the emotions of the people involved, and in this case, the emotions of women, who were normally ignored by chroniclers.

  53. skpenman Says:

    Here is today’s Facebook Note.

    On May 12, 1191, Richard Coeur de Lion and Berengaria of Navarre were wed at Limassol in Cyprus. Berengaria thus has the distinction of being the only English queen to be wed and crowned in Cyprus. She has a more dubious distinction, too, being the only English queen never to set foot on English soil. One of Eleanor’s biographers claims that she did make trips to England during John‘s reign, basing this claim upon safe conducts issued to her. But no other historians believe she actually made use of them, as there is no evidence at all to support a visit to England. I certainly don’t believe it.
    Here is a passage describing the wedding from one of the chroniclers who accompanied Richard on crusade, the Itinerarium Peregrinorum et Gesta Regis Ricardi: “On the following day, a Sunday, on the Feast of St Pancras, King Richard and Berengaria, daughter of the King of Navarre, were married at Limassol. The young woman was very wise and of good character. She was there crowned queen. The Archbishop of Bordeaux was present at the ceremony, as was the Bishop of Evreux and the Bishop of Bayonne, and many other magnates and nobles. The king was merry and full of delight, pleasant and agreeable to everyone.”
    Ambroise, who is one of the few chroniclers to have actually seen Berengaria, described her as “very fair and lovely.” But the chronicler who most often gets quoted is the snarky Richard of Devizes, who described her as “more prudent than pretty” even though he never laid eyes upon her. Both Ambroise and the author of the Itinerarium believed that Richard had desired her since he was Count of Poitou, even referring to her as his “beloved.” As I’ve often said, this is sweet but I remain skeptical for I am convinced Richard did not have a romantic bone in his entire body. It does cast an interesting light, though, upon contemporary views of the marriage; to quote Richard’s primary biographer, Dr John Gillingham, it shows that they believed Richard’s sexual tastes were “conventional.” \
    Even if chronicler reports cannot be verified, they are useful for what they say about public opinion or what rumors and gossip were saying. For example, Roger de Hoveden, one of the most reliable of the 12 century chroniclers, said that Richard’s illegitimate son, Philip, killed the Viscount of Limoges as vengeance for his father’s death. Although the viscount did indeed die that year, for some reason historians tend to discount this, even though they usually find Hoveden very trustworthy. But whether it was true or not, it is interesting that Hoveden thought it credible, giving us one of our few glimpses of Richard’s relationship with his son.
    There is some conflict regarding the fate of the crossbowman who shot Richard, too. All agreed that Richard forgave him on his deathbed; one chronicler even says he gave the young man money. All agreed, too, that Richard’s pardon was not honored once he was dead. One chronicler said that Mercadier seized the man and had him flayed alive. The Annals of Winchester reported that Mercadier sent the unfortunate soul to Joanna, who had him put to death slowly. I believe the first account because Joanna was not at Chalus. She did not even know Richard was dead until weeks later; she’d been on her way to seek military aid from him for her husband and was devastated when she learned of his death on her journey. She went at once to Fontevault to pray at his grave and sought her mother out; they were reunited on May 5th at Niort. Joanna was also in poor health, dealing with a problem pregnancy, her third in three years. So I think Mercadier is the more likely one to have put the man to death under these circumstances. But that the Winchester chronicler believed it is further evidence—albeit very grim evidence, of the strong bond between Joanna and her brother and I find it interesting for that reason.
    Last week I’d posted about Richard’s Hollywood–style rescue of his sister and betrothed from the emperor of Cyprus, and one of my blog readers asked me to post the passage from the chronicle describing the women’s despair and then joy on a day that must have felt like an emotional roller coaster. Even though it does not really relate to their wedding, I thought I might as well post it here, too. This comes from the Itinerarium.
    “On the third day, a Sunday, he again tried to get round the queens and seduce them with flattery and deceit. The queens were in a tight spot. They began to waver, anxious that if they submitted to the emperor’s persuasions, they would be taken captive. On the other hand, they were afraid that he would attack them if they persisted in their refusals….In order to hold the emperor off for a while, they gave a noncommittal reply, assuring him they would disembark on the following day and entrust themselves to the emperor’s judgment. On the basis of this promise, the emperor held back.
    While the queens were burning with growing anxiety, God sent them prompt help. On that same Sunday, while they were gloomily discussing and bewailing their situation to each other and gazing out across the sea, two ships appeared in the distance among the foaming peaks of the rolling waves, sailing rapidly toward them, tossing about like little crows. The queens and those with them were still doubtful as to what this was, when they caught the sight of some other ships following them. An enormous number fo ships following immediately behind, heading directly toward the port at great speed. Guessing that this was the royal fleet, they were overjoyed, the more so because help is the most welcome to those who have despaired of it.”
    Another chronicler says Joanna was the one who kept trying to hold the emperor off and that certainly fits with what we know of Eleanor’s daughter. These crusader chronicles are unusual in that they so often focus upon the human side, the emotions of the people involved, and in this case, the emotions of women, who were normally ignored by chroniclers.

  54. skpenman Says:

    On May 13, 1515, Henry VIII’s younger sister Mary Tudor wed the man she loved, Charles Brandon. In October of 1514, the 18 year old princess had been wed against her will to the 52 year old French king, Louis XII. To secure her consent to the marriage, Brother Henry promised her that she could choose her next husband if she outlived Louis, as seemed likely. As it happened, the marriage lasted less than three months; he died in January 1515, with gossip having it that he’d worn himself out in the bedchamber with his beautiful young bride. (This would be a great plot device in a mystery novel; young woman kills her aging rich husband with a weapon impossible for police to detect—sex.) Mary was now free to wed the man she loved, her brother’s friend, Charles Brandon. But she did not trust Henry to keep his promise and so she wed Charles while still in France and presented her irate brother with a fait accompli. An astute judge of character, that girl. If Mary were able to watch cable television in the Afterlife, she’d have been astonished by the Showtime series, The Tudors, in which she was renamed Margaret, the name of her sister, and wed to the King of Portugal, whom she then murdered.

  55. Joan Says:

    Sharon, the chronicles must be the best part of researching for a book…..truly the icing, if not the actual cake! And I can see how Lionheart spoiled you for other books. Such a rare find. It’s amazing to read, & to think it was written in the 12th or early 13th C. And by someone who obviously had unusual sensitivity & admiration for these women, at least.

    Re your post of May 12, more credit to all of you historical novelists who must distill to the point of distraction. Though I have a feeling it’s heroine in your blood. The great Single Malt Scotch distilleries have nothing over you novelists!!

  56. Joan Says:

    Kasia, I will share my thoughts on Azincourt & look forward to yours. I agree, you must get Hal over to FB to meet everyone, but perhaps you could still post here once a week or so. And I agree with Sharon, your English is fantastic.

    Koby, you’ve led me online to listen to more of Voices of Light & on to The Passion of Joan of Arc. To attend a live performance with the screening of the film would be unreal! From what I read, most of the libretto is from medieval female mystics. I found Roger Ebert’s 1997 beautiful review of the 1928 film (Sharon, you’ve surely read this), who said you cannot know the history of silent film unless you know the face of Renee Maria Falconetti… is to look into eyes that will never leave you. What a tribute to the Maid of Orleans!

    Any chance you’ve made a video of your chanting The Fire of the Dove? If so, you must share it with us. 2 of my faves are Exclamavit & Pater Noster. You reminded me of the days we sang the Latin Mass…..I must have been 5 when I first sang in Latin. We loved it, esp because my Dad spoke Italian with his brother, & I think we developed a feel for Latin. I didn’t realize at the time what a privilege it was & how it enriched us, but I do value it now!

  57. Koby Says:

    Today, the Battle of Lewes took place. I am sure Sharon will expound on this, so suffice to say that Simon de Montfort won, capturing Henry III [IV], and that I believe they are already getting ready for the 750th anniversary of it next year. In addition, William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke died today. And the holiday of Shavuot, commemorating the giving of the Torah by God to the people of Israel, begins today at sundown.

    Oh, yes, Joan, the movie is just as incredible. And I really enjoy the texts - some of them are from Jehanne’s own letters (I especially love the epilogue: ‘Car Dieu le Roy du ciel le veult, et cela est revele par la Pucelle…’), but the writings of St. Hildegard of Bingen, Blessed Angela of Foligno and the rest are just as amazing, with the words of the Bible retaining their awesome power throughout. It is amazing how accurately these writings fit the story…
    I fear you will not be able to enjoy my voice, though. I do not feel my Latin is good enough, or my voice strong enough, to do it justice… the only words I record are me reading certain portions of the Bible in Hebrew and with the age old tunes we’re taught.

  58. Kasia (Kate) Says:

    Oh, I can see that Koby has already mentioned the one occurance I wanted to write about, namely the death of a great man, who- like one of his overlords, Richard the Lionheart- had become legend in his own lifetime, William Marshal. And only two years before he breathed his last breath, in 1217, already in his seventies, he had been fighting the French at Lincoln (and winning) :-). Of course, for me, William will always remain, first and foremost, tutor in arms, guide and most loyal friend of Henry the Young King. I highly recommend Elizabeth Chadwick’s brilliant blog. There you are going to learn more about this exceptional man.

  59. Kasia (Kate) Says:

    Joan, you and Sharon are too kind. As far as my English is concerned, I perfectly know my weak points (syntax, for instance). I told you once, that it’s difficult to switch from thinking in Polish to thinking in English!

    Joan, I do hope I will be able to visit Sharon’s blog more often than once a week. Perhaps you too will join Facebook? We could do it together, and Kenneth Notorious Troublemaker John could be of help :-)

  60. skpenman Says:

    Very interesting posts, as usual. I’ll try to get back later to respond to some of them, but for the next six weeks I may be MIA more often than not as that July 1st deadline looms.

    Today’s Facebook Note. You were right, Koby!

    May 14, 1264 was the date of one of my favorite battles, favorite in the sense of fun to write about. The Battle of Lewes was a Christmas tree of battles, laden with so many gifts for a novelist. I have very sharp memories of the battlefield, too. Simon de Montfort and his men made a rare night march and reached the Downs not long before dawn. Below them lay the town and castle of Lewes. Centuries later, I trudged along that same bridle path with my friend Cris and her son and my godson, Geoff. It seemed to take forever and Cris and I began to worry that we’d taken the wrong path. But Geoff insisted we push on and suddenly there we were, gazing down at the same view that Simon would have seen on that May morning in 1264. (Okay, not the exact view, for Lewes is no longer a medieval town and the castle is gone.) But it gave us all a sense of satisfaction and excitement to have followed the track of that long-ago army.
    The battle itself began disastrously for Simon. His Londoners, loyal but not battle-seasoned, broke under Edward’s charge and fled the field, with Edward and his men in hot pursuit. This was one of Edward’s few military mistakes; he was still young and learning. He left the field instead of savaging Simon now that he was so badly outnumbered. When Simon realized this, he made one of his bold gambles and led his reserve force against Henry’s left flank, with spectacular success. Here are a few passages from Falls the Shadow. Martin is a young clerk eager to bloody his sword for Simon, who is caught up in the panicked rout of his fellow Londoners up Offham Hill. P. 444
    * * *
    Risking another backward glance, he stumbled over an exposed tree root. It was a bruising fall; the metal rim of his kettle helmet slammed into his temple. His vision blurring, his head spinning, he lay still until the dizziness passed. A huge oak towered over him, dwarfing the other trees in the clearing. (omission) The sounds of the hunt were fading. Almost, he could believe he was alone in a woodland world of enchanted calm, centuries removed from the horrors of Offham Hill. And then he noticed the corpse. (omission)
    “I tell you, Davydd, I saw some of them go this way.”
    Martin froze. “So? Has Your Grace not slain enough Londoners for one day? Jesu, from the way you’ve gone at it, I’d think someone must be paying a bounty on them.” This second speaker spoke accented French; he sounded oddly detached, as if this carnage had naught to do with him.
    Martin peered through an opening in the thickets. A handful of riders had reined in not twenty feet from where he lay, but he saw only the knight on a huge, white destrier. His hauberk caught the sun’s rays, shone like silver; the sword resting upon the pommel of his saddle was three feet long, the blade well smeared with blood. Martin’s mouth went dry. He knew he was looking upon the Lord Edward, knew now why their pursuit had been so relentless, so implacable. He and his comrades were paying for a July day at London Bridge, paying for every rotten egg that landed in Queen Eleanor’s barge, for every shout of “Drown the bitch,” for every promise sworn to Simon de Montfort. He sank lower in the grass, staring at the king’s son, astride that lathered, restive stallion. And I looked, and behold a pale horse, and his name that sat on him was Death (omission)
    * * *
    Martin and another frightened Londoner were trying to make their way to Simon’s baggage camp, but Edward got there first. Three wealthy Londoners were being held prisoner there. As Martin watched in horror, they were dragged out of the horse litter and slain even as they screamed that they were Simon’s hostages, not his allies. Page 451-452
    * * *
    Swords flashed; within moments, the hapless merchants were hacked to death.
    Martin looked away, sickened. In a day of horrors, somehow this seemed the most obscene horror of all, that Augustine de Hadestok, Stephen de Chelmsford, and Richard Picard should have been slain by their own allies. Godwin was tugging at his sleeve, urging him to flee. And indeed, now was the time, while Edward’s soldiers were ransacking the baggage. But they’d only covered a few yards before they encountered an armed knight.
    He appeared to have been watching them for some time, at ease astride a bright chestnut destrier, his sword unsheathed and bloodied, but pointing downward. Rather than a great helm, he wore an old-fashioned kettle helmet with nose-guard, and the face turned toward them was young, sun-browned, surprisingly benign. But they were too frightened to notice his lack of rancor.
    Davydd had no particular liking for Londoners; they too often acted as if the Welsh had tails. But he could see no sport in killing these bedraggled, scared youngsters. Poor fools, if they had any sense, they’d not be here at all; what did it really matter to them whether Edward or de Montfort prevailed? At that, he gave a low laugh; what did it matter to him, either? “Go on,” he said abruptly, “be off with you.” They gave him an incredulous look, then bolted. Davydd watched until they were out of sight, then urged his stallion into an easy canter, toward Simon’s ravaged encampment.
    * * *
    Davydd is, of course, Davydd ap Gruffydd, younger brother to the Welsh prince, Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, Edward’s ally of the moment after having to flee into English exile. In the next scene, he joins Edward as the latter rounds up his men to return to the battlefield.
    Pages 452-453
    * * *
    They drew rein on the crest of the hill, where their first glimpse of the battlefield seemed to confirm Edward’s every expectation. The battle was over, part of the town in flames. Bodies beyond counting lay sprawled in the sun, some already stripped by looters. Men were searching the field for gain, others tending to the wounded, still others chasing loose horses. Only to the south, beyond the priory, did sporadic fighting continue, and that flurry of action degenerated, even as they watched, into a rout.
    “Do you think he still lives, Ned?” Hal asked hesitantly, for he could not imagine Simon dead, any more than he could imagine the sun plummeting from the sky.
    “No,” Edward said flatly. “He’s not a man to be taken alive.” Turning in the saddle, he raised his voice. “We’ll give our horses a brief rest; they’ve been roughly used this day. But the sooner we get back to the castle, the sooner we can begin celebrating!”
    Some of them were ready to celebrate then and there, and wineskins were soon passing back and forth. It was left to Davydd, the outsider, to stumble onto the truth. Moving to the edge of the bluff, he gazed down at the battlefield. (omission) Blood of Christ! For a long moment, he sat motionless in the saddle, scarcely breathing. Could it be that he’d wagered once again on the wrong horse?
    His sudden shout drew all eyes. Edward was moving toward him, though without haste. Davydd spurred his stallion away from the bluff. “If we won the battle,” he said tautly, “why is the castle under siege?”
    * * *
    Once they realized the battle was lost, Edward’s knights elected to save themselves and fled. Edward courageously fought his way into the priory where his father had taken refuge, and the next day they surrendered to Simon. The Battle of Lewes put the governance of England into Simon’s hands….until the following year, when he and his godson, Edward, would meet again on a battlefield, this time at Evesham.

  61. Joan Says:

    Sharon, what a thrill to take that path & gaze at that same view. FTS is such a great book & will have to reread it.

    Koby, did you see the film “Vision”, with Barbara Sukowa as St Hildegard of Bingen? I saw it when it came out in 2005 & enjoyed it immensely. I found the texts you mentioned & have them bookmarked to read tomorrow.

    Kasia, I give you kudos for your discipline with the English language…..we appreciate all your (very successful) efforts. BTW, I don’t do FB, or text, or tweet. If I got into all that, I wouldn’t have time for all my other projects & hobbies.

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