I am delighted to have this opportunity to interview one of my favorite authors, Bernard Cornwell.  Since I discuss his books often on my Facebook pages, I know that he is a great favorite with my readers, too, and several have asked if they could submit questions of their own.  So this meeting of the unofficial Bernard Cornwell Fan Club now comes to order!
Bernard, thank you so much for agreeing to this interview.   Your American fans have been waiting impatiently for The Pagan Lord to be published on our side of the Atlantic and this finally happened on January 6th.    I have yet to read a book of yours that I did not greatly enjoy: your Sharpe series, your Grail Quest books, stand-alone novels like Agincourt, just to name a few.  But I confess that it is your Saxon series which resonates the most with me, for Uhtred is simply magnificent, as mesmerizing as he is unique.  He is the ultimate outsider, a Saxon raised by Danes, a man of conflicting but fierce loyalties, impulsive, hot-tempered, swaggering, skeptical, sardonic, and always highly entertaining.  I would wager that he is the most popular of all your characters, even though you’ve created some memorable ones in other books.

Q.   How did Uhtred come into being?  Did he spring fully-formed from your head like Minerva?  Or did he gradually assert himself, finding his own voice as the writing progressed?

A. I’ve never been able to plan anything; neither a book nor a character. The only way I know how to write is to begin at the beginning and see what happens! So he emerged slowly. I did know from the start that he would choose paganism over Christianity, which gives him a certain orneriness (not that he needs more). I suppose it’s a fairly common theme in my books; Sharpe is an officer up from the ranks which puts him at odds with the more privileged; Starbuck is a northerner fighting for the south, and Uhtred is a stubborn pagan in a very orthodox Christian setting. As for the rest?  He just muscled his way onto the page.

Q.  Did you start out with a road map, knowing from the first how Uhtred’s story would end?
A. Oh, I wish!  I don’t even know how the chapter I’m writing now will end! In fact it’s a complete rewrite. I finished chapter three of the new Uhtred story last week and realized that he said, ‘You see? Nothing happened.’ And he was right, nothing had happened, so I hit the magic delete button and have started again. The only glimpse of a road map is the Battle of Brunanburg which took place in 937AD and is really the end of Uhtred’s story because it’s that battle that establishes England as a country (and the series is about the making of England). So I have a destination, but the map in between is murky (‘here be dragons’). And Uhtred will be so old by 937 that I’ll have to make some awkward decisions before then. It was E.L. Doctorow who said that writing a novel was rather like driving on an unknown country road at night, the way ahead illuminated only by very feeble headlights, and that’s true for me. I envy writers who can plan a whole book (or series) then write to the plan. I stagger from one crisis to the next!

Q. Our fellow historical novelist, Priscilla Royal, would like to know if you intend to carry the story into the reign of Athelstan?
A. Very much so! Athelstan was the victor of Brunanburh and the first man who could legitimately claim to be the King of England, so yes!

Q. Priscilla is much more knowledgeable about this period of English history than I am; I confess that I am learning as I read your books, and I tend to accept Uhtred’s views as gospel.  So naturally I am not all that fond of Alfred.  I think you’ve been scrupulously fair, though, in your depiction of Alfred, and I am curious about your own feelings for the man?
A. I hope my admiration for him shines through Uhtred’s rather sour view.  The standard view of Alfred is a warrior king, witnessed by the statues of him which show a man built like a linebacker, clad in mail and carrying a huge sword. In truth he was a very sickly man whose chief passion was Christian scholarship. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t a warrior, but it does suggest that the truth might be more nuanced. My take on him is that he was a very good man, a very very intelligent man, and an honest one. He was also a puritan and Uhtred, like me, has a strong distaste for puritanism. On a beam over my desk I painted in letters of red and gold Sir Toby Belch’s admonition from Twelfth Night; ‘Dost thou think because thou art virtuous there shall be no more cakes and ale?’

Q. This is from Shelly.   Is AElfwynn Uhtred and Aethelflaed’s secret love child?
A. No, sorry!

Q. This is from Jo, who says she has always wondered what or who inspired the “fabulous character” of Skade?
A, I really have no idea. I wish I could suggest something exotic. But I do like my female characters to be strong (and Skade certainly qualifies). One of the things that annoys me is the inevitable sequence in a film where a man and woman (or boy and girl) are running away from the villains, and you know, sure as eggs, that the woman will trip over.  That is such garbage, and I try to avoid it.
What’s emerging in the new book is a much stronger treatment of Aethelflaed, Alfred’s daughter, who successfully ruled Mercia after her husband’s death at a time when female rulers were as common as hens’ teeth. We know she led campaigns against the Danes, so she was a considerable warrior, yet somehow she’s been forgotten by history and she deserves to be better known.

Q. This is Stephanie’s query.  “How old could a successful warrior (and by successful, I mean one who has not yet been killed or seriously maimed) expect to live?   How many reasonable fighting years does Uhtred have?”  She confesses that she is just trying to get a better idea of how many more books are left in the series!
A. I think the sensible answer is that if a man survived into his 50’s he had far exceeded the average life expectancy, though we know some folk lived on into their 80’s and beyond. Stephanie has touched on a problem I’ve yet to solve, which is what to do with Uhtred as he gets much older. I really don’t have an answer yet, though I’ll have to find one soon.

Q. I am convinced that no writer does better battle scenes than you do, whether it be in Uhtred’s scary shield wall, with the Black Prince’s lethal archers, or in the Spanish hills with Sharpe and Harper. So Paula’s question is mine, too.  She says, “When I read the battle scenes, I feel like I’m there with Uhtred in the shield wall.  I am walking step by stealthy step and jabbing upwards with my sword.  Where do you think this comes from?  Is it years of research, a vivid imagination, or a bit of both?”   I would add another question, asking if you’d rather fight battles with Uhtred, with Thomas of Hookton and his archers, or with Sharpe and his Chosen Men?  Which of these wars is the most fun to write about?
A. Years of research? Yes! But perhaps the greatest influence was Sir John Keegan’s book The Face of Battle. John was born with a deformed foot so could not serve in the armed forces, yet at heart he was always a soldier. He became a military historian and lectured at Sandhurst (Britain’s West Point) and was ever curious about what was it really like to be in combat? That was an experience he had been denied and many of his friends, who had served, were reticent. The books didn’t help much – most military histories were very dry and full of technical stuff, so he wrote The Face of Battle to find his answer. The point he made is that it’s impossible to understand any conflict without comprehending what the men (mostly men) involved experienced; what they saw, felt, smelled, touched and heard. I try to remember that, and that, of course, means imagining the answers. I was struck recently by an archaeological report from Towton where England’s bloodiest battle was fought in 1461. A forensic scientist examined many of the bodies found in the grave-pits and discovered that the men were so terrified by the experience that they had shattered their own teeth by gritting them too hard. That’s a frightening image, and one backed up by one of the chroniclers of the battle of Poitiers who reported the same thing. I suppose if I had to make a choice I’ll go with Sharpe, only because there’s going to be much less hand-to-hand fighting. The experience of a Saxon shield-wall, or the clash of men-at-arms in a mediaeval battle is truly horrifying; think of an NFL player encased in armor coming at you with an axe. No wonder that many accounts suggest that men were often drunk!  As to which era is most enjoyable? Whichever one I happen to be writing about at the time!

Q. Historical novelists often have to risk alienating or shocking their readers, for while I do not think human nature has changed over the centuries, beliefs and superstitions and society’s expectations obviously have.   Some writers try to soften the harsh edges of historical reality to make their books more palatable for today’s readers; for example, writing a novel set in the Ante-bellum South in which the major characters are all secret abolitionists, or having a female character in a medieval setting be a dedicated feminist or determined to marry for love.   You never fall into these traps, presenting Uhtred’s world as it was—hard-scrabble, brutal, and often bloody.   Have you ever been tempted to take the modern sensibilities of your readers into consideration when writing a scene likely to trouble them?    Maybe easing back a bit on the throttle?    I confess I can’t find any evidence of that, though!
A. I have, yes!  I sometimes think I’ve gone over the top and I’ll delete . . . . and for some reason I’m reluctant to use the efficacious word even though it was certainly the commonest word in Sharpe’s time. I’ve always been amused by the objections people have to the F word, but they happily accept blasphemy. Why? Sharpe can take the name of God in vain a hundred times and no one notices. Oh well.

Q. I could think of many more questions, but you have things to do, places to go, and most importantly, books to write.  So I will conclude by asking the question we all want to know.
Can you tell us how many more books remain before you end the Saxon series?   Is this negotiable?  And is there any chance at all that Richard Sharpe might march again?
A. Again, I wish I knew! At least about Uhtred. Certainly another four or five? Maybe more? I just don’t know! I do have an idea for one more Sharpe book – I kept back the Battle of Sorauren for my old age, though God knows I’m in that already. I’ve just finished my first (and only) non-fiction book, the story of Waterloo for the bicentenary in two years, and I was VERY tempted to write Sharpe straight afterwards, but resisted the temptation and launched into another Uhtred instead. I do miss Sharpe. I once started a Sharpe book with the words ‘Sharpe was in a good mood,’ and of course it didn’t work, but I really hope the grumpy bastard will march again soon!
Bernard, thank you again for stopping by.  I loved The Pagan Lord, of course, and Uhtred continues to dazzle readers, even if he will never be named Father of the Year!   The only downside to a new Bernard Cornwell novel is the realization that there will be a long wait until the next one.
January 14, 2014


  1. Priscilla Says:

    Fascinating interview. Many thanks to you both. Of course, I am delighted that Athelstan will get some light shone on him. Alfred gets much press but Athelstan deserves much more. And I am delighted to know about Sir John Keegan’s book, Face of Battle. His other work has long tempted me, but I think I better read this one first. The Pagan Lord will, however, take precedence!

  2. Kathy Says:

    Thank you Sharon and friends. Those are all the questions I would have asked — and I enjoyed his sense of his characters.

  3. Stephanie Says:

    Oh, that was great fun! But now I have another book to add to my TBR list: Sir John Keegan’s book The Face of Battle. It sounds really fascinating. Thanks for this, Sharon!

  4. Stephanie Says:

    Aaaaaaaaaaand Sharpe’s Tiger has now been purchased. (That sound you hear is the sound of my husband taking another sharp intake of breath when he sees the credit card statement.)

  5. Kasia (Kate) Says:

    Fascinating! I haven’t read the Saxon series yet, but the interview has whetted my apetite. Thank you!

    Stephanie, my husband faces a simillar problem these days. I have purchased twenty books or so dealing with my favourite Duke Henryk Sandomierski- Henry of Sandomierz :-)

  6. Stephanie Says:

    Kasia, my hope is always that these little Amazon purchases will just slip his notice, but he’s too eagle-eyed for that.

  7. Joan Says:

    Thank you for this great interview Sharon & Mr Cornwell. Your novels are wonderfully engaging & I hope to read many more, esp the Saxon series. Enjoyed the afterword on the longbow at the end of Azincourt….my very fave weapon. I always wondered where all the arrows would come from when the quiverful was done. As an aside, one of my fave scenes from LOTR is the Elves March into Helm’s Deep, the longbows a striking part of that noble, heroic army. And the horror of battle was etched in my mind with the warriors drowning in their helmets…..that really is doubly claustrophobic……in essence, buried alive. What surprised me is how emotionally involved I became with some of your characters.

    Kasia & Stephanie, while you face the wrath of your hubbies, I must gather courage for my own great gasp!

  8. Owen Mayo Says:

    The Pagan Lord was a most welcome and totally unexpected Christmas present from my son, Ben. I wasn’t aware that he knew I had all the other books in the series. I haven’t had time to read it yet, but I am avidly looking forward to renewing my contact with Uhtred who has to be one of the best fictional characters to manifest himself in a long time, and as he advances into his later years, promises (hopefully) to mature with age like a vintage wine of which even the dregs will be of interest on the palates of his faithful followers.
    Thanks to both of you for a fascinating interview, and for so many hours of compulsive reading.

  9. Pauline Says:

    I currently have my head into Uhtred’s latest adventure in The Pagan Lord. Uhtred is hilariously dry, vulgar and straightforward. He’s in his 50s in this one, and I dare not imagine the limitations on the number of books to follow. But I’m sure Bernard will find another character to entertain us with. Thanks for the interview, Sharon.

  10. Margaret Skea Says:

    Great interview, Sharon, and like others I now want to read the Keegan book - has to be another ‘carrot’ for when I’ve got my word count up! Glad that there might be another Sharpe coming at some stage.

  11. Mike Says:

    Thanks for the great interview. I just finished The Pagan Lord yesterday and greatly enjoyed it, as I did the other Saxon stories. However, I don’t know whether I’m excited to hear there may be another 4 or 5 books, or perturbed because I want to know if/when Uhtred will ever regain Bebbanburg!

    In regards to Aethelflaed: there was a very good YA novel published a number of years ago about her. It’s The Edge On the Sword, by Rebecca Tingle. She also wrote a sequel of sorts, focusing on Aelfwyn, called Far Traveler. As I recall, I did not enjoy it as much, but still appreciated novels on these little known women.

  12. Gabriele Says:

    I have my own money and no husband, so I can buy as many books as … well, not as I want but as my bank account not very reasonably allows. :)

    Uhtred should somehow drag himself to Brunanburh and die there. I can’t see him meeting a straw death. And Egil Skallagrimson should write a song about him (after all, many manuscripts have been lost and one never knows …. ;) )

  13. skpenman Says:

    I highly recommend the Keegan book, too. It is very helpful in giving insight to the emotions of men in battle.

  14. skpenman Says:

    I forgot that today was the birthday of Edmund, Edward I’s loyal and likable younger brother; fortunately Jayne didn’t! I enjoyed writing about Edmund and his worldly French wife, Blanche in The Reckoning. Secondary characters normally don’t get much time on center stage, but they often have interesting stories of their own.
    And here is an interesting article about e-book readership, with encouraging news for those fearing that they will totally supplant “real” books.

  15. Kasia (Kate) Says:

    Sharon, for me, being an avid fan of traditional books, the news is indeed heartening!

    I’ve just popped in to say “Happy Birthday!” to Stanisław August Poniatowski, the last king of Poland, who was born today in 1732. Despite all his flaws (as a man and ruler) we cannot forget that he was the author of the text of the Constitution of May 3, the first in Europe to follow the United States Constitution, something we, the Polish, should be proud of (according to Edmund Burke, thanks to the Constitution of May 3, Stanisław August has earned a place among the greatest kings and statesmen in history).

  16. skpenman Says:

    Yet another reason to visit Australia.

  17. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    A good day for my fellow football fans. Go, Denver and San Francisco!
    And here is a wonderful quote from the multi-talented Stephen Fry, which a Goodreads friend kindly called to my attention: “Books are no more threatened by Kindle than stairs by elevators”. Stephen Fry is a comedian, writer, actor, and director. I hope he is also a prophet, for it is my heartfelt wish that e-books merely supplement “real” books, not replace them.

  18. Joan Says:

    It’s no wonder they chose him for the role of Oscar Wilde….he was exquisite!

    Another heartening book thought is that the ”real book” seed is still planted in children from birth. Kids have librairies of books at home, & has there ever been such a variety of beautiful & informative books out there? From my observation, the kids have separated real reading from device reading. My grandkids love technology, but reading time with their parents before bed is still a major highlight of their day, not to mention the times they sneak away to a cozy spot with a book under their arms.

  19. Kasia (Kate) Says:

    My husband and I agree that there is no better view than that of our children reading books every day before bedtime (Emilka and Franek can both read, but sometimes ask us to read for them, as we used to do when they were younger). We are so proud of them and of ourselves- it’s our greatest parental success so far! Passion for traditional books- something quite rare nowadays (in Polish we say “ze świecą szukać” meaning “looking for something using candle to light your way”, so difficult to find it seems).

    P.S. Joan, I owe you an e-mail. I’ll try to write in the morning :-)

  20. Joan Says:

    Love that saying “looking for something using candle to light your way”. It makes me feel warm & cozy. If I lived in the same city as my granddaughters, I’d read them all the classics (give their parents a break). Doesn’t work by phone or skype. Then get them started on the MA, hee,hee. I’m working on that though. Reading to my kids was fun. With grandchildren, life does not get much better than that!

  21. Joan Says:

    Article about Nicholas Carr’s book “The Shallows”

  22. Joan Says:

    Sharon, I have a post awaiting moderation. There’s a series on the brain on our Ontario educational channel all week. One guest, Nicholas Carr (The Shallows) poses his questions about the Internet, what it may be doing to our brains. The site I posted has some thought-provoking comments on it…..the deep, contemplative thinking inspired by books v/s our growing addiction to the quick fix online.

  23. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    I will ransom your post ASAP, Joan; sorry for holding it hostage.
    I am still housebound thanks to the polar vortex that followed our last snowstorm. I figure at this rate the snow ought to have melted by St Patrick’s Day. My sympathies to all of my readers and friends–if not braving frigid air, you all seem to be dealing with deadly droughts (California and Southwest) or horrific heat (Down Under.)
    Meanwhile, I am happy to report that Sharan Newman’s new biography of Queen Melisende of Jerusalem is available for pre-ordering on Amazon. Melisende died in 1161, before the time I’ll be covering in my Outremer novel, which opens in 1172, but Sharan’s book gives an excellent perspective on the history and customs of the kingdom. I was able to get an ARC and enjoyed it very much. And Melisende is an interesting figure in her own right.

  24. skpenman Says:

    Another day, another minus-zero windchill. My new image of heroism is my little spaniel bravely trudging out into the snow to answer nature’s call. Good luck staying warm to all my friends in the US and Canada, and the opposite wishes for my friends Down Under. Meanwhile, here is an amazing story featured on one of my favorite websites, Pedro and his family make my Angevins seem as wholesome and benign as the Waltons.

  25. Joan Says:

    Thank you for releasing the post, Sharon. I knew there was something I forgot to do today….check out Will get to Pedro now. Love that site!

  26. skpenman Says:

    Isn’t it wonderful, Joan? They find the most intriguing stories. It should be a must for anyone who loves medieval history. You can subscribe to the website, too, which is helpful for those of us with poor memories.
    PS What sort of winter are you having?

  27. Joan Says:

    Love the website….something for everyone, so I often send items on to friends & family. Strange thing was Pedro didn’t come up on the website when I visited after reading your post….is it an older entry? What would be the difference between subscribing & just following it? Are older entries eliminated after a time? I also had fun reading Sharan Newman’s blog….isn’t she an interesting & witty lady!

    I’m trying to ignore the weather but snow is blowing around as I write (only -14C with wind chill). Generally it’s a cold winter with a few mild breaks. I usually get out there no matter the temps, but not this year. My 3 weeks in the frigid prairies was all the winter I needed! Hmmm, wonder if that’s why I got my knitting needles out in Jan?!?

  28. skpenman Says:

    If you subscribe, Joan, you get e-mails with their posts, which is very convenient. By now, Pedro is an older entry; you should be able to find it without any trouble, though. His story has to be read to be believed, and even then, it is bizarre beyond belief.

    Yesterday I went to Philadelphia for the A.L.A. convention. The weather was snowy, windy, and very cold, but Putnam’s had arranged transportation for me, fortunately. It was great fun getting to meet so many book-lovers; I owe librarians a huge debt of gratitude as they have been very helpful over the years in promoting my books.
    Not much else to report. There is one bit of good news, though. Remember that story last month of the blind man whose guide dog saved him when he fell onto the subway tracks in NYC? Orlando, the dog, was 11, too old to continue as a guide dog, and his owner could not afford to keep him and a new guide dog, too. But the story drew national attention, with this happy ending, thanks to the generosity of those who heard about it.

  29. Kasia (Kate) Says:

    Hello Sharon and Joan! I’m happy to read you’re both safe and sound and have managed to survive the harsh winter so far. The latter has arrived in Poland recently and we are busy feeding the birds in our garden. Still, according to my children, there is not enough snow :-) they would love to use thier sledges to explore the nearby hill, not only their skates to visit the nearby ice-rink :-)

    Sharon, how I do envy the book-lovers from Philadelphia. Wish I could be there too.

    P.S. I do agree: in comparison to Pedro and his family the Angevins seem quite a loving brood.

  30. skpenman Says:

    Stay warm, Kasia. This has been such a brutal winter for much of the globe.

    On January 27, 1186, Constance de Hauteville wed the eldest surviving son of the Holy Roman Emperor, Heinrich von Hohenstaufen. She was eleven years older than he, and for the first eight years of their marriage, she was believed to be barren. But to the amazement and skepticism of the medieval world, she became pregnant in the spring of 1194, and was delivered of a healthy son in late December of that year, who would later gain greater fame than either of his parents. She was forty by then and Heinrich’s enemies—who were legion and well-deserved—claimed the entire pregnancy was a hoax, a scheme concocted by Heinrich to get a male heir. Constance was outraged by this malicious slander and showed remarkable courage and fortitude by inviting the women of the town of Jesi to watch her give birth, determined that none would be able to deny the legitimacy of her son. I’ve mentioned often that Constance is a character in Ransom and is also the star of my first-ever short story, A Queen in Exile, which appeared this past December in George RR Martin’s anthology, Dangerous Women. I have great admiration for Constance, wed to a man who had neither honor nor mercy. She deserved so much better, and I am grateful to that medieval mosquito who infected Heinrich with malaria and brought about his unexpected and sudden death in 1197—assuming that he did die of malaria, for dysentery has also been suggested, as has poison. While there is no evidence of the latter, if it was true, the question would not have been, Who would have wanted to murder Heinrich? It would have been, Who would not have wanted to murder him?

  31. Joan Says:

    Kasia, if only you could have a winter holiday here in Canada. Your children would have a fantastic time but I doubt you would! Of course, we would all have to meet in Calgary where my granddaughters live, so that they could welcome their new Polish friends!

  32. skpenman Says:

    For the past two years, I have been publicizing the blanket drive for Gracie’s Gifts at this time of year. Many of you were touched, as I was, by this brave struggle to bring some good out of the worst sort of sorrow, so I am posting about the the new blanket drive for those who’d like to publicize it, too, or to donate a blanket to babies in need.

    On March 6, 2003, Holly Sonneborn (Patrice’s daughter) gave birth to beautiful Grace Sonneborn. She had OI, and only live 19 precious hours. During Gracie’s brief time, she was given a homemade blanket.
    Every year on March 6th, Holly honors Gracie’s memory by donating blankets collected from so many generous people to Temple Hospital’s Maternity Ward. Temple’s Maternity Ward was chosen because it’s patients are among the poorest in the city of Philadelphia. Sometimes these blankets are the only new thing these babies receive.
    Any new or homemade blankets are gratefully accepted.
    This started out with a donation of 25 blankets and last year over 1000 were donated, thanks to the generosity of people like you.

    If you can contribute, please message Patrice Batyski on Facebook,

  33. Theresa Says:

    28th January
    It has been said before but two of Sharon’s least favourite Tudors were born and died on this day. The first was aptly described by Sir Francis Bacon as a ‘Dark Prince’. The second, well he did start my long interest in British History. Along with the fact that he probably made a great deal of money for many historians, novelists and hollywood screen writers.

  34. skpenman Says:

    I did my best to ignore that, Theresa. :-) Though I did have to mention my least favorite royal family in today’s Facebook post below.

    On January 29, 1536, Anne Boleyn was prematurely delivered of a stillborn son. Less than four months later, she was dead, sacrificed to Henry’s obsession with having a male heir—and possibly his roving eye, which had already alighted upon Jane Seymour, whom he wed eleven days after Anne’s execution. Henry was a class act. It is widely believed that Anne’s “failure” to give Henry a living son sealed her doom; this was the belief at the time, too, the Spanish ambassador Chapuys writing “She has miscarried of her savior.” However, the creator of one of the best websites about Anne, the Anne Boleyn Files, does not agree. You can read her argument for yourself here. I personally believe the miscarriage did mark a fatal turning point in their relationship, but then, I am certainly not an expert when it comes to the Tudors. In fact, when I typed the opening sentence in this post, I was amused to find that I’d written that Anne Neville was the one delivered of a stillborn son. We know where my sympathies lie, of course, but I do spare some of it for Anne Boleyn. Whatever her flaws, she did not deserve the death she got, any more than Katherine of Aragon or silly little Katherine Howard did

  35. Joan Says:

    Interesting article (& website). It really pounds the reality into us again, that royal women were little more than walking wombs. (you’ll probably enjoy the alliteration, Sharon)

  36. arrow Says:

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  37. Theresa Says:

    Intriguing article, however I believe Anne Boleyn’s days were numbered after this miscarriage. Henry was tiring of her and she had too many other enemies at court.
    Of of this tale’s ironies was that Henry who sacrificed so much (or so many) for a son, did have a child who would be renowned as one of England’s greatest monarchs. But it would be a daughter, Elizabeth I.

    30 January. On this day Charles I of England was beheaded, sharing the same fate as his paternal grandmother Mary Queen of Scots. (Personally I think these two had many qualities in common, not withstanding their manner of death)
    There is a rather interesting documentary on the trial of the regicides who signed the death warrant of Charles I. If you are interested in this period of history or whether the parliament had a right to execute their monarch.

  38. Octavista Says:

    Hi Sharon, your books have interested me in a period of history which i did not know much about. I would like to know whether you would cover any other time periods which are not of the Plantagenet dynasty- i know that there is one in the works about the middle east and the crusades, however i mean more British history such as the Norman conquest or the 100 years war. Thanks.

  39. Joan Says:

    Theresa, is this the docu “The English Civil War….Trial of the King Killers”? Went to youtube & this came up.

  40. Theresa Says:

    Hi Joan
    Yes that was the name of the documentary.
    Sharon were you ever tempted to write about the Stuarts? Particularly the first three Monarchs to rule England, James I, Charles I and II. I’ve always been intrigued as to how different they were as rulers and as people.
    No pressure though.

  41. Kasia (Kate) Says:

    Theresa, if my memory serves me Sharon has a soft spot for Charles II :-) So do I. I love Pepys diary. Could re-read it all over again.

    I’ve missed an important anniversary yesterday. According to my notebook (hope it has got its dates right) William, the youngest brother of Henry II died on 30 January 1164, aged twenty-seven. Henry blamed Thomas Becket for this untimely death.

  42. Kasia (Kate) Says:

    Theresa, if my memory serves me Sharon has a soft spot for Charles II :-) So do I. I love Pepys diary. Could re-read it all over again.

    I’ve missed an important anniversary yesterday. According to my notebook (hope it has got its dates right) William, the youngest brother of Henry II died on 30 January 1164, aged twenty-seven. Henry blamed Thomas Becket for this untimely death.

  43. Kasia (Kate) Says:

    Oops, it seems I posted the same comment twice…

  44. skpenman Says:

    We can never get enough of your posts, Kasia. :-) And you are quite right; I do have a soft spot for Charles II.

    Meanwhile, back at the ranch, here is today’s Facebook post.

    I am very happy to report that the first review of A King’s Ransom is a good one—huge sigh of relief. This comes from Booklist.
    Penman follows up her best-selling Lionheart (2011) with a panoramic retelling of the tumultuous last years of Richard the Lionheart’s life. In addition to detailing the long road home from the Third Crusade and his brutal imprisonment at the hands of the Holy Roman emperor, she continues to explore the complex nature of Richard’s relationships with his demanding and determined mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine; his long-suffering wife, Berengaria; his sister Joanna, Queen of Sicily; and a host of other superbly rendered historical figures. Breathing life into a revered legend is never easy, but Penman has absorbed herself so fully into the heart and mind of her protagonist that an undeniably flawed but refreshingly human Richard virtually walks off the pages. This atmospheric fictional biography showcases the author’s mastery of all things medieval while providing some refreshingly new twists on the life and times of a hallowed hero.
    HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Penman has a well-deserved reputation for serving up meaty historical fiction. Lionheart was a huge best-seller; expect no less from this masterful sequel.
    — Margaret Flanagan

  45. Joan Battistuzzi Says:

    Brava Sharon! Amazing review & yet another teaser. I’ve not thought of this before, she raises the issue of tackling a “revered legend”, even more daunting, and to be successful at it deserving of the highest praise. I can hardly wait to be with everyone again.

  46. Kasia (Kate) Says:

    Sharon, I wish my English let me express my thoughts as eloquently as Joan! Great review! I’m sure it is going to give me many a sleepless night while waiting for Ransom :-)

  47. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Thank you, Kasia!

    February 2nd….ah, where do I start? It is Candlemas, an important medieval Church holiday. It is also Groundhog Day in the US; given how the winter has been going so far, I suspect there will be a mob gathering with torches and pitchforks if Punxsutawney Phil dares to forecast six more weeks of winter. It is also the Super Bowl, of course, and for the non-football fans out there, there is the Puppy Bowl on Animal Planet and this year the Kitten Bowl on the Hallmark Channel. And for medievalists, it is the anniversary of the death of Llywelyn Fawr’s wife, Joanna, on February 2, 1237. It was a sad scene to write.
    Falls the Shadow, pages 31-32
    * * *
    An intimate enemy, Death, capricious and cruel, ultimately invincible. But Llywelyn did not fear his own demise, and he truly thought he’d taken its measure, knew the worst it could do. And then Death claimed his wife.
    There was a Welsh proverb: for every wound, the ointment of time. To Llywelyn, it was an empty promise, a hollow mockery. Time would not heal. Till the day he died, he would grieve for Joanna. Now he sought only to learn to live without her. But so far it was a lesson that eluded him, for Joanna’s was an unquiet grave. She came to him in the night, filled every room with her unseen presence, a tender, tempting ghost, beckoning him back to a past that was far more real to him than the joyless, dismal world he now inhabited. It had been more than two months, the longest he’d ever gone without a woman in his bed, but he felt no stirrings of desire. The woman he wanted was dead. It was April and all about him were the miracles of new life. He looked upon this verdant, blossoming spring, a spring Joanna would never see, he looked upon a field of brilliant blue flowers—the bluebells Joanna had so loved—and at that moment he’d willingly have bartered all his tomorrows for but one yesterday.
    * * *
    PS I am so looking for a pitchfork. Not only did that wretched little rodent curse us to six more weeks of winter, we are getting another snowstorm tomorrow.

  48. Joan Battistuzzi Says:

    This scene is too too sad…..very difficult to get through Joanna’s death.

    Kasia, thank you, but you are eloquent in 2 languages, & possibly 3?

  49. Joan Battistuzzi Says:

    Sharon, I just noticed that my last name now appears. I wonder how that happened. Is there any way I can revert it back?

  50. Joan Says:


  51. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    A friend sent me this and I had to share. Divine—er, Dragon—retribution!

  52. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    How strange, Joan. It looks as if it has reverted. Naturally I don’t have a clue as to what is going on!

  53. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Well, the Super Bowl was fun for Seattle. For the rest of us, not so much. Even the SB commercials were not up to par, though a few were hit out of the park, if I can mix sports with wild abandom. Grading the teams is a non-brainer, A for the Seahawks, F for the Broncos (sob) But here are the grades for the commercials. I am sure it comes as no surprise that I loved the Clydesdales and the puppy ad.

  54. Gabriele Says:

    At least they could find a wretched little rodent ot predict the weather. They only live in the Alpes here and right now are buried under some 3-4 metres of snow.

    While my place only got a coverlet to cool your feet and even that has melted again. I’d like to have some nice blizzard, but then I’m a winter crazy person. :)

  55. Kasia (Kate) Says:

    Sharon, I have just made a terrible discovery! Do you know that the British hardcover edition of Lionheart gives 1182 as the year of Henry the Young King’s death? Strange, but I haven’t noticed it before. Perhaps it’s only my copy??? Anyway, shame upon a conquered young king!!!

  56. Joan Says:

    Sharon I just found out that the horse, Alex, in that adorable puppy ad lives in Ontario….the rancher was interviewed for the news. The reason for my minor glitch was that after I’d installed the new operating system, I had to do some resets in different areas, here being one of them, & I typed my full name.

    Gabriele, come to Canada! You must love winter sports, why else would someone love winter, except maybe for the beauty of a fresh snowfall on Christmas day, or glittering moonlit diamonds. My love affair with winter ended the day I hung up my skis & skates.

  57. skpenman Says:

    Yikes, Kasia. I never caught that either. Obviously no one did. I assume you are referring to the Cast of Characters? I’ll have to go find my copy and see.

    Joan, how nice to know his name. That was such a heart-warming commercial, and it was lovely that the puppies were being adopted, not sold.

    February 4th is an important date in the Angevin calendar; on this day in 1194, Richard I was finally released from his German captivity after the payment of a staggering 150,000 silver marks. I suspect there must have been some of his subjects who wondered if he was worth such a vast sum, but his mother would have paid twice that amount to set him free and she was the driving force behind the collection of the ransom. Eleanor disappeared from Lionheart once Richard sailed for the Holy Land, but she has a prominent role in Ransom, protecting her son and his kingdom, then coming to her daughter’s aid in Joanna’s time of greatest need, and finally securing the crown for her last-born son, John.
    Richard was imprisoned for almost as long as the time he’d spent in the Holy Land and it was a very stressful time, including a trial before the Imperial Diet at Speyer where he was accused of betraying Christendom to the Saracens, and a stint in chains at the dreaded Trifels Castle, always with the threat hanging over his head of being turned over to the French king. Here is a brief scene from February 4th, 1194.
    A King’s Ransom, pages 333-334
    * * *
    The outer courtyard was thronged, for they had a huge retinue—Eleanor’s ladies, Richard’s knights, men-at-arms, the lords and bishops and abbots who’d accompanied the queen from England, and those in attendance upon the Archbishop of Cologne and the Duke of Brabant, who intended to escort Richard across Germany, none of them trusting in Heinrich’s safe-conduct. Eleanor had tried to anticipate all of her son’s needs. She’d ruled out river travel because she was sure he’d want to be on horseback after his long confinement, engaging mounts for the men, horse litters for herself and her women, and for Richard, a spirited grey stallion that brought a delighted smile to his face. Although he’d been able to dress well in recent months, she’d still made sure to bring a wardrobe suitable for a king. And she assured him that English ships would be awaiting their arrival at Antwerp.
    She had forgotten one of Richard’s needs, though, something he found as essential as air. But Andre had not, and as Richard stood beside his new stallion, talking soothingly to accustom the animal to his presence before mounting, Andre approached with a large hemp sack. “I thought you might want this,” he said, opening the bag to reveal a scabbard of Spanish leather.
    Sweeping his mantle back, Richard fastened the belt and then drew the sword from its scabbard. He saw at once that a superior bladesmith had labored to create this superb weapon, with a thirty-six inch blade and an enameled pommel, reminding him of the sword he’d been given by his mother upon his investiture as Duke of Aquitaine at age fifteen. He admired its balance, his eyes caressing that slender steel blade as a lover might, and when he glanced toward his cousin, Andre thought he finally looked like himself.
    “Do you know how long it has been since I’ve held a sword in my hand, Andre?”
    The other man shook his head.
    “One year, six weeks, and three days.” For a moment, their eyes held, and then Richard sheathed his sword, swung up into the saddle, and gave the command to move out.
    * * *

  58. Malcolm Craig Says:

    Just a month way. (Actually 4 weeks, since February is the shortest month.)

  59. skpenman Says:

    I hope all of you being battered by this latest winter storm are staying warm and safe. Ice storms are scarier than snow, and already half a million people in the Philadelphia area have lost power. My own power has been flickering off and on so if I don’t surface again on Facebook, it will mean I’ve become one of the storm victims, too.

  60. skpenman Says:

    What a wretched week for so many around the globe. Three-quarters of a million people lost power in the Tri-State area alone; we were much luckier where I live, being spared the ice storm. The UK is taking another pounding; some of the photos of the waves and flooding are as scary as anything I’ve ever seen. Minneapolis has had seven straight days of temperatures below zero, and that is not counting the windchill. If it keeps up, we may have to chip in to send Stephanie away to someplace warmer—like Anchorage. I am starting to get a bit nervous about my book tour, for March is a very perverse month.
    On the historical front, my favorite non-medieval king, Charles II, died on February 6th, 1685. I was planning to post a quote about the horrific measures his doctors took to try to save him, but I can’t find the book, so you’ll have to take my word for it. Charles would make a great character in a book and I am sorry I won’t be able to give him an extended turn on center stage. But you can spend time with him in Priya Parmer’s excellent novel about his most famous mistress, Nell Gwyn.

  61. Gabriele Says:

    Joan, I’ll do some cross country skiing when I get the chance, but I simply love me a nice winter with snow and temperatures below zero. Though I admit that 4 metres of it in a few days (like in parts of Austria) are a bit much. ;) The weather has been crazy: floods in Italy, ice rain that destroyed large parts of forests in Slovenia, the Atlantic halfway into Spain, France and the UK for like the 5th or 6th time this year, here the almond trees start to bloom and we’re in for _another_ storm tomorrow.

  62. Theresa Says:

    7th February, Maude daughter of Henry I of England was born on this day. I wonder how different Maude’s life have been if her brother William had not died in the wreck of the White Ship? Would her father permitted her to remain in Germany or would she have still been forced to marry Count Geoffrey for strategic purposes?

  63. skpenman Says:

    An intriguing question, Theresa. Another one of history’s what ifs.

    We all naturally focus upon the wretched weather in our own areas, be it frigid temperatures and ice in much of the US, the deadly drought in California, the scorching heat wave Down Under, and the massive flooding in Europe. But this photo of a storm in Cornwell is as scary as anything I’ve ever seen. Southern and western England and Wales are desperately in need of a respite. And here is a video of more storm damage that will make its viewers want to move hundreds of miles inland, as far from the sea as they can get.

  64. skpenman Says:

    Not a good day for those of us who have misgivings about zoos. The story of Marius, the young, healthy giraffe killed by a Danish zoo because he was not needed for their breeding program is one that I find infuriating, for at least one other zoo offered to take Marius. The story of the mother lion and cubs put down at Longleat is also troubling. In both cases, the attitude of the zoos harkens back to the idea that animals are property to be disposed of as the owners see fit, and I do not accept that, for this mindset hampered the acceptance of anti-cruelty laws for years. It is only fairly recently that society has come around to the position that owning an animal does not mean its owner can neglect or abuse it with impunity.
    On the bad winter front, the UK’s weather woes continue, with flooding along the Thames and the city of Worcester cut off from the rest of the world. Worcester is, of course, the final resting place of King John, who had his own unpleasant experience with water during his crossing of the Wash not long before his death.

  65. Phoenix Woman Says:

    I’m glad to have finally found your website, Ms. Penman! Congratulations on living long enough to have seen the discovery of Good King Dick’s mortal remains.

    Speaking of the Lord of the North, I see that minimally invasive spinal surgery now exists that not only spares the back muscles, but has a far shorter recovery time, measured in weeks (if not days) instead of months. If one could wave the proverbial magic wand and give Richard that option, would one do it? I myself wouldn’t try it with conventional spinal surgery, as that would permanently weaken the back muscles and England’s last true warrior king would not want to be rendered incapable of fighting. But maybe the minimally invasive kind might be a boon and not a bane.

  66. skpenman Says:

    When I was writing Sunne, Phoenix, I would never have guessed that Richard would resurface like that thirty year later! I have scoliosis myself, so I felt an even greater empathy with Richard when we learned that he suffered from it, too. But for me at least, back surgery would always be the very last option. I just wish I could send a chiropractor back in time for Richard!

    February 10th was the date of death of two dukes, a king, one of those treacherous Stanleys, and the worst king-consort ever. Only two of them—maybe two and a half—were worth mourning.
    On February 10, 1126, William, the ninth Duke of Aquitaine, also known as the first troubadour duke, died after a long and eventful life. He had a keen sense of humor so he may have been amused that today he is mainly remembered as the grandfather of our Eleanor. But he also had a healthy ego, so maybe not. I would have grieved for him—unless I was one of his wives!
    On February 10, 1134, Robert, the Duke of Normandy died after being held prisoner by his not-so-loving younger brother, Henry I, for twenty-eight years. Robert seems to have been a feckless sort, certainly no match for the ruthlessness of Brother Henry, but he probably didn’t deserve nearly three decades of captivity.
    On February 10, 1163, Baldwin III, King of Jerusalem, died. He was only in his 33rd year and by all accounts was a very good king, an adroit politician, and a courageous battle commander. He also seems to have been a genuine good guy, charming, affable, and handsome. His death dramatically changed the history of the Holy Land, for he’d not yet had children with his beautiful bride, the seventeen year old Byzantine princess, Theodora, and so the crown passed to his younger brother Amalric, the Count of Jaffa. Amalric had none of Baldwin’s charisma, taciturn and introverted. He proved to be a capable king, though, but he, too, died prematurely, leaving a thirteen year old son as his heir, the boy who would tragically become known to history as the Leper king. Had Baldwin not died so young or had Amalric lived long enough for his queen, also a Byzantine princess, to give him another son, the kingdom’s doomed march to Armageddon might not have happened. There is no doubt that Saladin is one of history’s more fascinating figures, a brilliant politician, but his great victory at Hattin was based in part upon the disunity among his Christian foes, just as the first crusaders took advantage of Saracen discord to carve out the kingdom of Outremer eighty-some years earlier. Baldwin III does not appear as a character in my new novel, being dead by the time the book opens, but Amalric makes a few appearances before dying of dysentery and his son is a major character, of course. Had I lived then, I would definitely have mourned Baldwin.
    On February 10, 1495, William, Lord Stanley, was executed by Henry Tudor, accused of treason, irony at its best. Party time!
    Lastly, on February 10, 1567, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, was messily murdered, a death that was richly deserved. One of my favorite scenes from the wonderful film, Mary, Queen of Scots, had Elizabeth (the incomparable Glenda Jackson) and Cecil practically falling on the floor laughing upon learning that Mary had been foolish enough to take the bait and marry Darnley.

  67. Phoenix Woman Says:

    Good morning, Sharon! Nice to see you’re up and about bright and early.

    I feel for you and your poor back, and I tend to agree with you on the question of back surgery for Richard. Interestingly enough, at least one friend of mine who has fought in armor and who himself has back issues thinks that Richard may well have been more comfortable in armor than out of it, as the stiff cloth-and-leather jack that Richard would have worn under his plate armor would have functioned much like a Milwaukee brace.

    As for that traitorous twit Stanley - heh, he and Rhys ap Thomas could have stood a good talking-to, and a healthy taste of what their betrayals would earn them. (In Rhys’ case, he himself would be safe during his own lifetime, but everything he did was done with a view to securing his own son’s good fortune, and Rhys the father’s body had scarcely grown cold before the son of the man he’d helped put on England’s throne went and coolly disinherited Rhy’s son, then executed said son when he wouldn’t go quietly into penury.)

  68. Phoenix Woman Says:

    (Arrgh, make that Rhys’ grandson — Rhys’ son actually pre-deceased him by four years.)

  69. Kasia (Kate) Says:

    Sharon, speaking of Robert Curthose I would like to recommend a novel about him by Mr Austin Hernon entitled Robert the Wayward Prince. It’s the first part of a trilogy, which is going to cover the lives of both Curthose and his son, William Clito. Sounds really interesting, especially that we owe much to Clito. Without him there would be no England/ Normandy-Anjou allience, no Matilda-Geoffrey, no Henry II and, in consequence, no Henry the Young King (God forbid!!!). I’m including the link to the review by our Marsha Lambert. Could you free it?

  70. Kasia (Kate) Says:

    Here’s the link:

    Thank you, Sharon! (I still haven’t come to myself after Helenka’s baptism. In Catholic Poland it’s always a grand affair, but all the preparations and stress involved… No, thank you! The family meeting was great, but the baking and cooking before, hmmm… :-))

  71. skpenman Says:

    Phoenix, that is an interesting thought about Richard’s armor. My own scoliosis didn’t start causing real pain until I was in my late thirties, so I like to think Richard’s scoliosis was not that bad yet. OF course dying young is a drastic cure! And then, too, to judge by the look of his spine, he seems to have had a much worse case than me. And I love your phrase, “traitorous twit.” It would look nice carved on Stanley’s gravestone, wouldn’t it?
    Since you are staying away from Facebook these days, Kasia, I’ll try to remember to mention this book for you.

    Those irksome Tudors are barging onto my Facebook page again, the ultimate party-crashers. I’ll start with the Tudor by marriage, whom I still think of as a daughter of York, Elizabeth. She has the dubious distinction of being born and then dying on the same date, February 11th, entering the world in 1166 and departing it in 1503, at only thirty-seven. She must have been a woman of considerable charm, for even Henry Tudor seems to have grieved for her. He and his son are strangely linked by the date, January 28th, for he was born on that day in 1457 and Henry VIII died on January 28th, 1547.
    I hope that all of my readers down in the Atlanta area are faring better in this latest storm than they did last week. We’re getting another storm ourselves on Thursday. One of the TV forecasters said it is our eleventh of the season, and I can well believe it. I am so ready to surrender, to concede defeat to Mother Nature, but she seems intent upon taking no prisoners in her winter war.

  72. skpenman Says:

    Several eagle-eyed readers pointed out that Elizabeth of York had an extraordinarily long life, based on the dates I provided. To save time, I am copying and pasting my response. ” if only I had a dollar for every time I did that, I could go someplace warm for a week! I used to think it was carelessness, typing too fast or not proof reading. But since I almost always transport people back to the 12th century, which happens to be my favorite medieval period, I think more may be at work here.”

  73. Joan Says:

    Too funny. No eagle-eyes here. Watched a great 3-part BBC series on the Vikings, presented by that cool Scottish fellow, Neil?? No eagle-eyes, no memory!

    Kasia, I can’t get a post up in your blogs. I’ve had a few problems since I installed Mavericks & trying to sort them out with help from someone. Still some glitches though. Has anyone else had a problem posting? On this blogsite I have to enter my “leave a reply” info each time. I’m happy everything went well for Helenka’s baptism… must have been fun, once all the prep was done, that is.

  74. Kasia (Kate) Says:

    Thank you, Sharon, for the recommendation. I’ll let Mr Hernon know. He will be very happy, especially that he’s in hospital with three broken ribs after he fell off the ladder. Poor thing.

    I do agree, Joan! Hilarious! And yes, no eagle-eyes here.

  75. skpenman Says:

    Believe it or not, I did it again today. After transporting Elizabeth of York back to the 12th century yesterday, I did it again to Jane Grey in today’s Facebook post. I caught it in time to correct here, though. But clearly there is no hope for me. I hope Mr Hernon is soon on the mend, Kasia. Are you having the same sort of horrible winter that we are in the US and the UK?

    On February 12, 1554, Lady Jane Grey, often called the Nine Days Queen, was beheaded in the Tower of London, paying the ultimate price for her family’s ambitions and lack of scruples. She was in her seventeenth year if the traditional date for her birthday—October, 1537—is correct.
    Ice storms are terrifying and I hope all of my friends and readers in the US South are staying indoors if they can. Wishing you all a quick storm and an even quicker melting. Where I live, we are only getting snow, then rain, then snow again, nowhere near as scary as an ice storm.
    To end on a more cheerful note, I am delighted to report that the second Ransom review is as good as the first, this one from Kirkus. I’ll post it when I can. Meanwhile, I wanted to share a marvelous quote that I came across the other day:
    “Creativity is intelligence having fun.” Albert Einstein.

  76. Joan Says:

    Love it. Here’s another….this by Picasso….

    “Art washes away the dust of everyday life.”

  77. Theresa Says:

    February 13th 1542, Queen Catherine Howard (and possibly worst attendant ever) Lady Rochford were both executed in the Tower of London.
    Apparently Lady Rochford was supposed to be mad, but being the humane person that he was, Henry VIII had a special law passed that made it legal to execute mad people.

  78. Kasia (Kate) Says:

    Taking into consideration what you’ve been through sheepishly I admit wer’re enjoying spring here instead of winter. Yesterday there was a snowstorm, but the snow has already melted.

    Great quotes! :-) Let me add one more, by Mikołaj Kopernik [Nicolaus Copernicus]:

    To know that we know what we know, and to know that we do not know what we do not know, that is true knowledge.

  79. Kasia (Kate) Says:

    Speaking of the reviews, I can’t wait for Ransom to come out! Meanwhile I have purchased the biography of the afore-mentioned Mikołaj Kopernik :-) Should be here soon.

  80. Joan Says:

    Love these quotes. Any more? I missed the most important part of Picasso’s……”Art washes away from the soul, the dust of everyday life”. My mantra. How else would we make sense of life?

  81. skpenman Says:

    I love those quotes, Joan and Kasia. Theresa, I did not know Henry VIII had passed a special law allowing the execution of the insane. He passed a special law so he could execute Catherine Howard–see my Facebook post below. He is the best example of the truism that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    Is it just me or does Pax—Latin for peace—seem like an ironic name for a storm making life miserable for millions? We’re hunkering down in the Tri-State area, hope all of you are doing the same.
    Two queens are featured today. On February 13, 1177, Eleanor and Henry’s daughter Joanna, age eleven, wed William de Hauteville and was crowned as Queen of Sicily. It seems as if she and William had a happy marriage, although I doubt that she was thrilled about his harim of Saracen slave-girls. Yes, medieval women were realists when it came to male fidelity, but I suspect Joanna would have seen a harim as a bit much. Certainly “my” Joanna thought so. Joanna has always been a favorite of mine, the daughter most like Eleanor, and I was delighted to give her so much time on center stage in Ransom.
    And on February 13, 1542, silly little Catherine Howard became yet another victim of her husband’s monstrous ego. When Henry VIII discovered that she’d had a colorful past prior to their marriage, he was so outraged that he pushed a bill of attainder through Parliament making it treason for an “unchaste” woman to marry the king, then sent Catherine to the Tower, where she was beheaded on this date. Earlier this week we talked of Jane Grey, who paid with her life for her family’s all-consuming ambition. So did Catherine Howard, although she had none of Jane’s intelligence or education, which makes her pathetic story all the sadder. Marriage to the aging, ailing, hot-tempered Henry was more than punishment enough for any sins of her feckless youth. Despite the legend, though, she did not say that she died the Queen of England but would rather have died the wife of Thomas Culpepper. Those about to be executed in Tudor England did not make defiant gallows speeches, wanting to spare their family from royal retribution. But Catherine really did ask for the block to be brought to her the night before her execution; she wanted to practice kneeling and putting her head upon it so she would be sure to do it correctly come the morning. How pitiful is that?
    PS I hope you all noticed that I resisted the temptation to transport Catherine back to the 12th century as I did with Jane Grey and Elizabeth of York!

  82. Theresa Says:

    Charles Dickens once described Henry VIII as ‘being a blot of grease and blood on the pages of english history’. I am not really sure if this is the exact wording though.
    Moving back to the Plantagenets though

    Richard II of England died 14th February in Pontefract Castle. Some say he was murdered while others write that he starved himself to death. I always liked the following quote from Shakespeare’s Richard II:

    ‘For Gods sake, let us sit upon the ground
    And tell sad stories of the death of kings.’

    I always remember the part in The Sunne in Splendour where Richard III visits the tomb of his namesake and contemplates their similarities.

  83. skpenman Says:

    I love that, Theresa. It is almost enough to make me overlook the way Dickens treated his wife. :-)

    As wretched as the winter has been for much of the US, I really think it has been worse in the UK. We’ve had enough snow and ice to last two lifetimes, but flooding causes more devastation and the flooding there has been relentless. We’ve been posting photos of monster waves crashing ashore in the southwest. This shot of the sea about to engulf an inn in Dorset is as terrifying as any I’ve seen. And inland, the rivers are overflowing and there seems no end in sight to the misery this winter is wreaking on both sides of the Atlantic.
    Meanwhile, I hope all in the path of the storm ironically named Pax came through it okay. Where I live, we got seven inches with the first round, then another few inches when the tail end hit. But snow is far preferable to ice, so I won’t complain. And if it is any consolation, just imagine how much worse people had it in the MA during bad winters.
    To cheer us all up, here is a very nice story about one of the American Olympic athletes determined to save a litter of puppies in Sochi. You’ve probably read that the city’s stray dogs were being rounded up and put to death before the games began. Russian animal lovers rallied to save them, spiriting as many dogs as they could out of Sochi to homes they’d found for them. Here is a link to that story, too.

  84. Joan Says:

    Re those poor dogs (& thank god for animal lovers) & other things going on, all I can say is Shame on you (we know of whom I speak). What were you just saying, Sharon…….power corrupts & absolute power corrupts absolutely?

  85. Joan Says:

    Here’s something on the Historical Honey site….a book by Alex Connor “The Caravaggio Conspiracy”. Says the author…….”the genius/lunatic who spat & roared & belched his way into infamy & painted his way into immortality (don’t you love it?) He lived like an animal yet he could paint angels. He was too big for the world” (like so many figures of the MA, wouldn’t you say?) While in Italy I became fascinated with Caravaggio & still am. I think the book may be worth a read.

  86. Joan Says:

    The author of book above is Peter Watson.

  87. skpenman Says:

    What a great description of Caravaggio, Joan.

    A day late, but February 14th, 1400 is usually given as the date when Richard II died in captivity. Hid death was certainly convenient for his cousin, Henry IV, who’d usurped his throne, but was it murder? Historians tend to think so, although the manner of his death remains a mystery; it has been suggested that he was starved to death. Richard and Henry VI both testified to the truth of the Biblical warning, “Woe unto thee, O Land, when thy king is a child.” Richard became king at the age of ten, and it is interesting to speculate how history would have changed had his father, the Black Prince, survived his own father, Edward III, and became king rather than young Richard. Of course that would have meant no Lancastrian kings, no Wars of the Roses, and no Sunne in Splendour either. I don’t want to doom the Black Prince all over again, but I definitely would not have wanted to have been stuck practicing tax law.
    Here is a very interesting article from the BBC website about famous figures in history and their pets. Some of the stories are known—Anne Boleyn and her small dog, Purfoy—and others were quite a surprise to me—US president John Quincy Adams had a pet alligator in the White House, where he kept it in a bathtub and enjoyed scaring White House guests with it. They forgot one royal pet, though—Mary Queen of Scots’ small dog, who was said to have hidden in her skirts after she was beheaded at Fotheringhay Castle.

  88. Nell Corkin Says:

    Thank you Sharon and friends for a fascinating interview. It is good to know that others share my fondness for the Uhtred books, and I was so glad to hear that there will be more. It will be interesting to see what happens as Uhtred gets older. It’s hard to imagine him sending others out to fight for him.

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