Read This at Your Peril

My Facebook friends and readers already know that this blog vanished in a puff of smoke two days after I’d posted it.   But for the benefit of those of you who do not hang out on Facebook and may have wondered if you’d hallucinated reading it, it was indeed up and then gone, thanks to the host, which was in the process of migrating its servers.     I can only hope it never happens again, for although I can re-post it, as I am now doing, all of the original comments were zapped into a black hole of cyberspace.   Anyway, once again  here is the blog, Read This at Your Peril.
I am sorry it has taken me so long to put up a new blog, but no sooner had I finally vanquished that pesky pneumonia dragon than the deadline dragon moved in.   At least this delay gave more of you a chance to enter Pauline Toohey’s drawing for her novel, Pull of the Yew Tree.   Pauline and I are happy to announce that the winner is Barbara, no last name given, who posted the eighth comment.   Barbara, please contact Pauline at or me at, so arrangements can be made to send your personalized copy of Pauline’s novel.  Thanks to all of you who took part in the drawing.
Now, why the warning?   Because I’ve already enticed so many of you into joining me on the merry road to book bankruptcy, and I am about to do it again.   But I did have a twinge of conscience, so I decided to play fair.   If you continue to read this blog, you will find a number of books that you are going to find very tempting.   Some I have had a chance to read myself, others not yet thanks to the deadline dragon.   Because deadlines have become as tight as nooses nowadays, that means I have had to seriously limit my pleasure reading time, a real sacrifice for anyone who is an avid reader, which I’ve been since the age of five or so.   But they are all on my TBR list, and they are all books that I think are likely to interest my fellow lovers of history.
I’ll begin with the ones that I was actually able to read.   I’ve just finished M.K. Tod’s Lies Told in Silence, a novel set in France during World War I.    This was one of mankind’s most tragic wars, not only because of the staggering death toll, but because it need not have happened.    Most of you are probably familiar with the famous comment by the British Foreign Secretary, Sir Edward Grey, as war loomed.  Looking out the window at a man lighting the gas lamps in St James Park, he said sadly, “The lamps are going out all over Europe.  We shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.”     Considering the bloody history of the 20th century and the continuing global conflagrations in the 21st century, it is hard to argue with him.     M.K. Tod captures this sorrowful sense of loss as men and women were caught up in a tide beyond their control, one that would transform their lives beyond recognition.  She has created characters that readers will care about and has very effectively dramatized how soldiers suffered, physically and psychologically, in the so-called “Great War,” a theme that continues to resonate with us today.   Her novel is now available on Amazon.
I also recommend The Invention of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd, author of the moving The Secret Life of Bees.    This novel is the story of two truly remarkable sisters, Sarah and Angelina Grimke, who were born into the aristocracy of the Ante-Bellum South, but were those rare individuals who were guided by conscience, not society’s dictates.  For the Grimke sisters, that meant a rejection of slavery, becoming abolitionists, and in time, suffragists.     I wish we had more people like the Grimke sisters, but I am glad we do have Sue Monk Kidd to keep them from being forgotten.
Another book I enjoyed was I am Livia, by Phyllis T. Smith, a novel about the Emperor Augustus’s formidable consort, Livia.   My views of Livia were formed by the classic BBC series, I, Claudius, which means I imagined her to be a woman you’d dare not dine with.   Ms. Smith  treats Livia more kindly than  Robert Graves, but I was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt; after all, I hoped that readers would do that for my revisionist portrayal of Richard III.  And after I finished the novel, I investigated a bit; in other words, I Googled Livia, and discovered that her hands were not quite as blood-stained as I, Claudius would have us believe.
And I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to read the ARC for An Air of Treason, by P.F. Chisholm, the newest entry in her wonderful series about Robert Carey, the real-life, swashbuckling cousin of Elizabeth Tudor.   These books are so much fun, filled with action and humor and surprise twists and fascinating details of Elizabethan life.     An Air of Treason revolves around one of the most dangerous mysteries of Tudor England—the fate of Amy Robsart, Robert Dudley’s unwanted wife.   For those who have not yet had the pleasure of entering Robert Carey’s world, the first in the series is A Famine of Horses.  I cannot recommend these books highly enough; I think they are that good.
Briefly detouring into the realm of non-fiction, I have to mention Sharan Newman’s Defending the City of God, a biography of Melisende, Queen of Jerusalem in the early years of the turbulent 12th century.   And in the autumn, we can look forward to a new biography of Edward II, by Kathryn Warner, who probably knows more about Edward’s life than he himself did.     The next two books are not historical, at least not in the medieval sense, but I wanted to remind you how much I enjoyed Kirk Douglas’s I am Spartacus, his account of the making of this classic film about the slave who was able to threaten the very foundation of ancient Rome     And another compelling book is The Elephant Whisperer by Anthony Lawrence, written by a man who devoted his life to the preservation of these magnificent animals.
We all have series that we love, so here are a few of mine.  Steven Saylor’s Gordianus books are set in the waning days of the Roman republic.   Bernard Cornwell has created one of my all-time favorite characters in Uhtred, star of his Saxon series.  His latest is The Pagan Lord, and for new readers, the first one is The Last Kingdom. This next series is not at all medieval, but Dana Stabenow’s mysteries set in Alaska and featuring the unforgettable Kate Shugak and her equally memorable wolf-hybrid, Mutt, are so much fun that it might not be completely legal.     I also recommend Sharan Newman’s Catherine Levendeur series set in 12th century France, Priscilla Royal’s mysteries rooted in 13th century England, and C.J. Harris’s mystery novels set in Regency England.    Both Sharan and Priscilla delve into matters not often touched upon in novels of the Middle Ages, each having a character who has an outsider’s perspective, Solomon, a Jew who does not find life easy in a Christian society and Brother Thomas, a young monk who struggles to understand why God has given him forbidden urges that his Church condemns as mortal sin.  Both men are true to their times, reflecting the beliefs and mores of their medieval world, but their vulnerability can be heartbreaking and gives their stories a complexity not always found in novels meant to entertain.     Lastly, for my fellow dog lovers, there are the books of David Rosenfeld and Spencer Quinn, which combine suspense with humor and reflect their own affection for our four-legged friends.   The first in David’s Andy Carpenter series is Open and Shut, his newest Hounded, due out in July.   Spencer’s Chet and Bernie series has a new entry, Paw and Order, which will be published in August, and the start of their career begins with Dog on It.
Now for books that I’ve not been able to read yet, which I hope to read in the future.    Laurel Corona’s The Mapmaker’s Daughter is set in Spain on the eve of the expulsion of the Jews.     Paula Lofting has written a novel set in 11th century England, Sons of the Wolf.    David Blixt’s Master of Verona sounds like a fascinating journey into Renaissance Italy, with no less a guide than the oldest son of the famed poet, Dante.    Margaret Skea ‘s Turn of the Tide explores clan loyalties in 16th century Scotland.   Charlene Newcomb has written a novel that I’d be interested in reading, Men of the Cross, the story of a young knight who follows the Lionheart to the Holy Land on the Third Crusade, where he finds a forbidden love and discovers the high price that battlefield glory exacts from soldiers; readers of A King’s Ransom know that I have great sympathy for the toll that PTSD has taken upon fighting men down through the ages.     And in the autumn, Judith Starkston’s novel about the Trojan War, Hand of Fire, will be published, as will Alix Christie’s Gutenberg’s Apprentice, set in medieval Germany and dealing with an invention of great importance to any book lover.     Finally, we were recently discussing on Facebook whether there were any novels written about Edward III.   Well, guess what I found?   Fields of Glory by Michael Jecks, which focuses upon that very king and the Battle of Crecy.
See why I gave you all fair warning?     This blog is like a banquet for book lovers, with delicacies to tempt every palate.     Please feel free to join the Book Bankruptcy Party and suggest books of your own that you either enjoyed or hope to read.   We can always argue that spending money on books is actually a virtue, right?
Now I shall go back to fending off the deadline dragon.  Once I finally got A King’s Ransom off to my editor, I’d hoped to see the last of him, but he was called back into service for the new book—Outremer, the Land Beyond the Sea–set in the Kingdom of Jerusalem during the latter years of the 12th century.     So far he has confined himself to lurking in the shadows, watching me with glowing red eyes and blowing smoke rings to amuse himself.  As long as he does not start snacking on sheep or spaniels or worse, like Daenerys’s fierce pets in Game of Thrones, I’ll try not to complain.
June 28, 2014, re-posted on July 1, 2014

80 Responses to “Read This at Your Peril”

  1. skpenman Says:

    No medieval events of personal interest today, but here is a wonderful story about how social media helped a soldier recover his dog, which an ex-girlfriend had sold on Craig’s Lis while he was deployed in Afghanistan. The family that bought the dog didn’t want to give him back, saying their kids had “bonded” with it after a week—and they were a military family, too! They were eventually shamed into doing the right thing and the soldier was reunited with his beloved dog, Baxter. He has a kinder, more forgiving spirit than I do, for he has not revealed the name of the ex-girlfriend or the family because they did not want to be identified. Maybe I’ve been hanging around with the Angevins too long, for they were not into forgiving as a rule, but I would want to hire a plane to sky-write the names for all of America to see.

  2. Judith Abbott Says:

    Ahhhhh, Spencer Quinn’s delightful Chet and Bernie. I have them in paperback and Kindle, as well as SKP and Elizabeth Chadwick. No such thing as too many books!

  3. Emma Says:

    Dear Sharon,
    I had never consider reading historical fiction on the early to mid-medieval and I literally ate all the Uhtred series…and it is your fault :). I discovered them on one of your previous blogs.
    This time there was a warning, but I am a “lost cause”, so I have a new long list of books that I know that I will read through some sleepless nights.
    Thank you for your wonderful books and for this blog, which is also fantastic.

  4. skpenman Says:

    Very well put, Judith! I met Spencer at the Tucson Festival of Books in March and I am happy to report that he is as funny and charming in real life as his characters are on the printed page.
    You sound like a soul sister, Emma. I think we’re all “lost causes” when it comes to books.

    Here is today’s Facebook post.

    I was very sorry to hear we’ve lost a genuine hero, Louis Zamperini, the Olympic athlete who survived a horrific ordeal at sea when his plane was shot down during WWII, only to endure even worse treatment when he was “rescued” and thrown into a Japanese POW camp. I highly recommend Unbroken by Laura Hildenbrand, who does justice to his remarkable story. It is sad that he did not live to see the Unbroken film, directed by Angelina Jolie, but he and Angelina did become good friends during its filming and, to judge by an interview I saw them do, he definitely enjoyed that!

  5. skpenman Says:

    I want to wish a happy July 4th to my American friends and readers, and hope that those of us in the path of Hurricane Arthur stay safe and dry.
    July 4th is, of course, the date upon which the final version of our Declaration of Independence was approved by Congress in 1776, although it was not officially signed until August 2nd—and thanks to Google for making that fact so easy to verify.
    July 4th was also the date of a very consequential medieval battle. On July 4, 1187, the army of the Kingdom of Jerusalem was overwhelmingly defeated by the forces of the Sultan of Egypt, Salah al-Din, known to posterity as Saladin, at the Horns of Hattin. This defeat almost destroyed the kingdom and led to the fall of Jerusalem to Saladin in October; that in turn led to the Third Crusade, which eventually led to my novel, Lionheart.  So the battle of Hattin was a very significant one in history. It was also without doubt one the most boneheaded and reckless military decisions ever made and sadly, there is a lot of competition for that dubious honor. Just to name a few—General Custer at the Little Big Horn. The Charge of the Light Brigade during the Crimean War. General Santa Ana’s decision to lay siege to a small fort called the Alamo instead of simply going around it, thus giving the Texans time to rally their forces. Napoleon’s decision to invade Russia, proving that even a military genius can have an off day; fortunately for the world, the Nazi leaders were not ones for learning from history. Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg. So many to choose from.
    But for sheer lunacy and incompetence, it is really hard to top Guy de Lusignan’s decision to engage the Saracen force even though they lacked the one utterly essential element for fighting in desert country—water. What makes it even sadder is that it was not really his decision. He’d finally listened to reason and agreed with the barons of the realm that it would be madness to fight under the circumstances. But then the grand master of the Templars, Gerard de Ridefort, returned to the royal tent and talked Guy into reversing his decision; since Guy tended to be swayed by the man to reach him last, this was probably not all that difficult. In a depressing twist of irony, all of the Templar and Hospitaller knights who survived the battle, over 230 of them, were then executed by Saladin in a rather brutal manner, chopped to pieces by holy men unaccustomed to wielding weapons—-with one exception. Guess who was not executed? Yes, Gerard de Ridefort. Nor was his lethal contribution at Hattin the first time he’d goaded men into battle and somehow survived himself. Two months earlier—almost like a practice run for Hattin—he disregarded the protests of his Templar knights and led them to certain defeat against a much larger Saracen force at the battle of Cresson Springs; although wounded, he was one of the few who escaped. But the final responsibility for the defeat of Outremer’s army at Hattin must still rest with Guy, for he was the one wearing the crown.
    Lastly, a message for my British readers. is currently offering the Kindle version of Sunne in Splendour for the bargain price of 1.89 pounds sterling.

  6. Kasia Says:

    Happy July 4th, dear Sharon, to you and all your American fans!

    I suppose that upon receiving the news of the slaughter at Hattin William Marshal must have nodded his head knowingly as if he wanted to say: “Guy de Lusignan! Why am I not surprised…” It has just crossed my mind after reading your fascinating post, Sharon :-)

  7. skpenman Says:

    I don’t doubt that for a moment, Kasia.

    I hope it was a good July 4th for one and all—not that you celebrate it in the UK, of course! A wet one for many, but the rest of the holiday weekend looks glorious. I may be off the radar screen for a while again as I ran into a researching snag, have to sort out conflicting sources. I will stop by whenever I can dodge the Deadline Dragon. Meanwhile, I have wonderful news for Bernard Cornwell’s legion of fans. He will have a new book out about our favorite rogue, Uhtred, this year! For me, a new BC novel is always as if Christmas came early. The Empty Throne will be published in the UK on October 23rd and in the US on January 6th. The countdown can now begin.

  8. Judith Anderson Says:

    Hi - I am reading book #4 of the Justin series…are there going to be more?

  9. Gabriele Says:

    October 23rd. Hey, that’s a birthday present right there. :)

  10. skpenman Says:

    I’d had to put them aside, Judith, because my publisher asked me to focus on a while on the historicals, which sell better. But I’ve missed writing about Justin and am giving serious consideration to doing another one after I finish my current novel. I’ll just have to see how it develops

    July 6th, 1189 was the day that Henry II died at Chinon Castle, a wretched end to a remarkable life. As humiliating as he’d found the forced surrender to the French king, Philippe, and his own son, Richard, the true dagger through his heart had been delivered when he was given a list of the men who’d abandoned him to curry favor with Philippe and Richard. The first name on the list had been that of his beloved son, John, for whom he’d sacrificed so much. It was said that he’d turned his face to the wall then and refused to speak again, except for feverish murmurings as his life ebbed away—“Shame upon a conquered king.” Henry deserved better than that.
    Five years later to the day, on July 6th, 1194, his son Richard, newly freed from his German captivity, was given his first opportunity to take vengeance upon the French king. The two armies had camped within a few miles of each other and Philippe had defiantly promised battle on the morrow. Instead, he and his men had fled at first light. Richard had been expecting this, though, and set out in pursuit. He’d overtaken the French and seized Philippe’s baggage train, which included all of the royal archives—a loss so devastating to the French king that after the battle of Freteval, archives no longer traveled with the king. But Philippe himself had eluded Richard, for he’d hidden in a church as the Lionheart raced by. I decided not to post Henry’s death scene in Devil’s Brood, for it was too sad. So here is a brief scene from Ransom, page 402-403, after the battle.
    * * *
    Richard paused often to banter with soldiers, to offer praise that they valued almost as much as the plunder they knew he’d be sharing with them. He paid a visit to the tent that was serving as a makeshift hospital, jesting with the wounded, pleased to see there were not very many; most of the casualties that day were French. After that, he wanted to make sure that Fauvel had been cooled down, rubbed, and fed. Getting a dried apple from a groom, he fed the treat to the dun stallion, assuring Fauvel that he was much faster than Scirocco, joking to Andre that he did not want jealousy to fester amongst his horses.
    Andre was surprised by his good mood, for he’d been certain Richard would be furious to learn he’d come so close to capturing the French king. When he said that, Richard shrugged. “It was not a total loss. When that story of Philippe cowering in a church gets around, he’ll be a laughingstock with his own troops. I’ll have other chances to run that fox to earth, for I am going to make it my life’s mission from now on.”
    Richard hesitated, giving the other man a sidelong glance. “The truth is that I had something else to do this day, something that mattered almost as much as capturing King Craven-heart. I needed to prove to myself that I am still the same man I was, that my imprisonment left no lasting scars.”
    Andre frowned as he thought that over. “But surely you proved that already at the siege of Nottingham and then again at Loches. If you feared death during those assaults, you hid it very well.”
    Richard was regretting his impulse, for it was not easy to bare his soul, even to Andre, who was likely to understand if anyone could. “There are worse fates than death,” he said at last, and Andre cursed himself for not having seen it sooner. When Richard had charged into those besieged castles, he’d risked a fatal wound. But by racing into the very midst of the French army, he was risking capture.
    “Well,” he said, “you need not fret, Cousin. To judge by what I saw today, it is clear that you are the same crazed lunatic on the battlefield that you always were.”
    Richard grinned. “I was hoping you’d say that.” They looked at each other and then began to laugh, sounding so triumphant that soldiers passing by smiled, glad that their king was so pleased with their victory over the French.
    * * *
    Also on July 6th, this time in 1483, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, became the third Richard to rule England since the Conquest, crowned with his queen, Anne, at Westminster Abbey. And on July 6th, 1553, the sixth Edward to rule drew his last breath at Greenwich Palace. He was only fifteen, and suffered greatly in his last illness, which was likely tuberculosis, telling his tutor that he was glad to die. It is hard to predict what sort of king he would have been, but I think it highly unlikely that he could have held a candle to his sister, Elizabeth.
    For me, though, July 6th will always call up thoughts of Chinon Castle and that fascinating, flawed man who was, despite his mistakes, a great king.

  11. Malcolm Craig Says:

    Le roi est mort. Vive le roi.

  12. Loretta Livingstone Says:

    Sharon, can you recommend any historical fiction writers who set their books in Abbeys where the life of the nuns is included in the storyline, please? I am trying to learn more about this aspect of medieval life by reading Alys Clare, and by gleaning what I can from your books (reading those again is no hardship, lol) but would be grateful for any recommendations you can give me.

    By the way, the first of my re-reads is Here Be Dragons, as I am also trying to learn more about John. The descriptions of the journey across the fens, and John’s subsequent death are mesmerising.

  13. joan Says:

    Sharon, what would the royal archives that travelled with the king have consisted of?

    I love same date events, some are so ironic.

  14. Sara Buchanan Says:

    Well on a non historical fiction jag jim butcher’s Harry Dresden series is something i regularly recommend as is Diana gabaldon’s outlander series. Another good one is Kevin Hearn’s iron druid series-dog lovers should read them for Oberon if nothing else. As for historical fiction, Karleen koen and Helen hollick are both rewarding reads. Anne Easter Smith is another good one who is also a Ricardian! Love Elizabeth Chadwick too. Here recently I have been on a jean plaidy kick- I wish her plantagent series would get reprinted. The last author I’m giving a shout out to is Patrick Rothfuss-someday the last book in his series will be published and I will be first in line to order it. Oh, I just discovered Joanna hicks who is writing a series about Katherine Valois. I highly recommend it. The first book is the Agincourt bride. Ok I’m really stopping now, sorry I went on so long!

  15. skpenman Says:

    Loretta, there are two excellent mystery series that are set in nunneries. Margaret Frazer’s Dame Frevisse mysteries set in 15th century England offers a detailed look at the lives of medieval nuns, and Priscilla Royal does the same in her 13th century mysteries about the Lady Eleanor, a young woman of noble birth who presides over an English priory of nuns and monks linked to the mother house in France, the famed Fontevrault Abbey. In the interest of full disclosure, Margaret Frazer (who died last year) was a good friend of mine, as is Priscilla. But I can in clear conscience recommend both series highly, for they are well written, well researched, and bring the MA to vibrant life.
    Joan, the archives included charters and writs and deeds and some very embarrassing information, such as a list of all the barons who’d betrayed Richard by going over to the French king during Richard’s captivity in Germany. After losing them all to Richard, the charters, etc, had to be recreated if possible, from memory, a huge challenge for Philippe’s poor clerks. You can imagine how pleased Richard was to get proof of the treachery of men he considered traitors. He also seized a good portion of the French king’s treasury. All in all, a good day for the Lionheart, aside from missing a chance to catch Philippe, too, although he did have the consolation of knowing Philippe had humiliated himself by hiding in a church.

    Today’s Facebook Note.
    Sorry for the silence, but that pesky deadline dragon has been breathing down my neck and needless to say, he has very hot breath. I missed a few historical events since my last post, but I am sure Rania covered them admirably. For example, Edward I died on July 7th, 1307, and once again I shall display admirable restraint and not comment further. Also on July 7th, this time in 1456, the Church found Joan of Arc innocent of the charges that had caused her death twenty-five years earlier.
    On July 9th in 1540, the marriage of Anne of Cleves and Henry VIII was annulled on the grounds that it had not been consummated. I do not doubt that this was a happy day for Anne, who must have felt that she’d slid out from under the executioner’s axe. In case there are a few out there who think that is an exaggeration, just remember the Tudor Bluebeard’s sixth wife, Catherine Parr, who was almost sent to the Tower for the “sin” of daring to disagree with Henry over religious beliefs.
    And another Tudor mention which I could not avoid—on July 10, 1553, Lady Jane Grey was proclaimed Queen of England, thus taking her first unwilling step onto the road that would eventually lead to her execution in the Tower Jane’s story is a sad one, so I am going back in time a bit to avoid ending the post with her doomed queenship, and close instead with the reminder that on July 10, 1460, an important battle of the Wars of the Roses was fought at Northampton. I did not dramatize this battle in Sunne, and I rather wish I had, for it had some very dramatic elements. It was fought in a rainstorm and one of the Lancastrian commanders, Lord Grey, threw in with the Yorkists at the eleventh hour. Here is a link to a good summary of the battle, in which Henry VI was captured by the victorious Earl of Warwick and the young Edward was given his first command. Eight months later, Edward would demonstrate that he was one of the best generals of the MA by defeating the Lancastrians during a blizzard at Towton, in what has been called the bloodiest battle ever fought on English soil. Northampton was also the site of a battle in the Barons’ War, resulting in the capture of Simon de Montfort’s son Bran; that battle I did dramatize in Shadow, and enjoyed writing about it due to Bran’s heroics, Davydd ap Gruffydd’s antics, and the scene after the battle between Bran and his cousin, Edward.

  16. M.K. Tod Says:

    Dear Sharon - many, many thanks for reading Lies Told in Silence. I am so pleased that you enjoyed it and thrilled that you included it with this post. Many other wonderful suggestions for me to add to my reading pile!

  17. skpenman Says:

    It was my pleasure, M.K. Not too many stories stay with us after we’ve finished reading them. Lies Told in Silence was one of those that do.

    This is for my British readers. You can get two great books, the first Brother Cadfael, and the first one in PF Chisholm’s mystery series, Famine of Horses, on, for the bargain prices of 59 and 77 pence, respectively. If you’ve not read either of these series, this is a good time to start; they are Kindles, of course, and the Chisholm book is on the second page of the bestseller list. Cruel as the Grave is also still available for only 1.49, but the other two are the real deals!

  18. joan Says:

    The fact that kings travelled with archives on their way to battle seems proof of their sense of infallibility & invulnerability. But I guess you need a pretty big ego to be a king. Hah, imagine Richard’s delight!!

  19. skpenman Says:

    And after the catastrophe at Freveval, Joan, Philippe started to keep the royal archives in Paris!

  20. skpenman Says:

    July 11th is the birthdate of two important medieval figures, Robert the Bruce in 1274 and Richard II’s queen, Anne of Bohemia, in 1366. We discussed both of them recently, though, so there is no need to go there again so soon Also on July 11th in 1174, Amalric, the King of Jerusalem died unexpectedly at age 38 after a severe bout with dynasty. His death would have enormous consequences for history, for had he lived, there would have been no battle of Hattin, no fall of Jerusalem, and no Third Crusade. But I will leave it at that since I’ll be dramatizing these events in Outremer, the Land Beyond the Sea
    So I’ll close with a scene from a recent John Oliver show; Oliver used to be Jon Stuart’s sidekick on the Daily Show, and did such a great job subbing for Jon last summer that he was rewarded with his own show on HBO. In this skit, Oliver had been talking about Game of Thrones and that segued into a brief scene with George RR Martin, supposedly hard at work on the next book in the Ice and Fire series. When Oliver asked what he was doing, GRRM flashed an evil smile and said, “I just killed three of your favorite characters.” Cut to scream of anguish from Oliver, who is then reduced to begging, “Not Arya! Please don’t let it be Arya!”

  21. skpenman Says:

    Correction for above post It should read dysentery, not dynasty! They are making such fun of me on my personal Facebook page; I have some very clever Facebook friends.

  22. joan Says:

    OMG, no doubt they’re having fun. I’m sitting here in stitches. That’s likely the real cause of Henry II’s death!! Just to name one! Too hilarious!

  23. skpenman Says:

    On July 12, 1191, the city of Acre surrendered to Richard Coeur de Lion and the French king, Philippe Capet, ending a siege that had begun in the autumn of 1189.
    Also on July 12th in 1543, Henry VIII wed his sixth wife, Catherine Parr. We can never be sure, of course, but my own feeling is that only Katherine of Aragon experienced true bridal joy on her wedding day. I think Anne Boleyn probably felt exhausted triumph rather than happiness. Who knows how the enigmatic Jane Seymour felt? Same for silly little Catherine Howard; was she excited to be a queen or horrified to wed an aging, overweight man with serious health problems? Maybe both? We can safely say that Anne of Cleves was not a happy bride and Catherine Parr was probably the unhappiest of the lot, in love with another man and acutely aware by then how dangerous it could be to become the Tudor Bluebeard’s wife.
    For someone who is not a fan of the Tudor dynasty—as most of you have suspected by now—I do find myself writing about them with depressing regularity It is probably the same sort of morbid fascination that compels drivers to slow down as they approach a car crash.

  24. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    I am doing something today that I’ve never done before, repeating a post of mine, this one done two years ago. It concerned one of our favorite kings, Henry II, his spectacular penance before Becket’s tomb in Canterbury Cathedral, and the dramatic aftermath. He performed it on July 12-13, 1174, and of course I wanted to commemorate it. But I am emotionally invested right now in a challenging Outremer chapter and couldn’t afford to take the time to write about the Canterbury scene at length. Then it occurred to me to recycle a past post about Henry’s penance. Since two years have passed since I wrote it, I doubt anyone remembers what I said, and in any event, I have added quite a few new Facebook friends since 2012. So I now transport us back in time to God’s Year 1174 and discuss how desperate this proud king must have been to humble himself in such a memorable way.
    * * *
    Since I unforgivably forgot yesterday was the anniversary of Henry’s penance at Canterbury Cathedral, I want to make amends by discussing it in some depth. But I also need to mention a few other historical events.
    Henry’s penance actually carried over from July 12th to the 13th, as he insisted upon kneeling all night long by Becket’s tomb. And he was to be spectacularly rewarded for his ordeal, for while he was doing penance, his forces captured the King of Scotland outside Alnwick Castle. Naturally, medievals attributed this to the intervention of the martyred archbishop, Thomas Becket. The Great Rebellion against Henry fell apart and within two months, his sons were suing for peace.
    So July 13th had to be a date that meant a lot to Henry. Sadly, it would also be the date upon which his daughter Matilda, Duchess of Saxony, (Tilda in my novels) died suddenly in Brunswick at age thirty-three. At least Henry was spared knowing this, having died at Chinon a week earlier.
    July 13, 1205 was also the death of a very important figure to two Angevin kings, Hubert Walter, Archbishop of Canterbury. Lionheart readers will remember him as a character in that book, accompanying Richard on the Third Crusade, where he greatly distinguished himself. He impressed Richard enough for the king to name him as his choice for Archbishop of Canterbury, writing from his German prison to tell his mother, Eleanor, that only his own release meant more to him than Hubert’s election. He would prove to be an excellent choice, and is given high marks by historians. He even managed to keep the confidence of the prickly, sometimes paranoid John, no mean feat.
    Now, back to Henry. Some scenes are innately challenging, and this was certainly one of them. I approached it with some unease, for if it fell flat, I feared it could adversely affect the rest of Devil’s Brood. Henry’s decision to do penance was so very medieval, after all, and it is not always easy for us to identify with the medieval mind-set. To my surprise and relief, it turned out to be very easy to write. I was even able to insert a few touches of humor into this highly charged, dramatic scene: Driven to distraction by a garrulous monk, Henry wonders, “Was there a way to murder Brother Benedict and make it seem as if he’d been smitten by the wrath of the unforgiving Thomas? A vengeful saint was surely a contradiction in terms, but he alone seemed to think so.” Brother Benedict, by the way, would later pen a history of the miracles he was boring Henry with. I searched diligently for a copy, and finally found one on-line in a Tokyo bookstore; I admit I loved the symmetry of that—an American author buying a book written by a medieval monk from a Japanese bookseller.
    The trickiest part of the scene was Henry’s monologue after Brother Benedict finally departs. I wasn’t sure how I’d handle this, but Henry’s character chose to talk conversationally to his former friend, and I just followed his lead. He is by turns emotional, cynical, and challenging, calling Thomas a chameleon, denying that he wanted Becket’s death, and confiding “Did I grieve for you? No, I did not.” He accuses Thomas of craving martyrdom, points out the absurdity of Becket’s position that only the Church could punish its own, for it meant that he could take no action against the assassins, who escaped with a papal slap on the wrist, sent off on penitential pilgrimages to the Holy Land. Henry being Henry, he cannot resist sarcasm; “Come, Thomas, hold up your part of the conversation. You need not do anything dramatic, like loosing a thunderbolt or performing one of your miracles. But at the least, you could extinguish a few candles to show me you are paying attention.” He ends up confessing, though. “Do you know why I did not grieve for you when you died, Thomas? Because I’d already done my grieving. I trusted you, I had faith in you, I loved you more than my own brother.” He admits he does not understand how they came to this, and he truly does not, just as he will not understand why his marriage crumbles or his sons do not love him as he loved his own father. He waits in vain in the empty cathedral crypt for a response from the new saint, and finally entreats in desperation, “St Thomas, guard my realm.” I, for one, was very glad that St Thomas came through for him.
    I have a confession of my own; I think this may be my favorite of all the scenes I’ve written, for it shows Henry at his most human. After three novels with him, I miss writing about him very much, and while I did manage to give him a brief scene in Ransom, that only made me mourn his loss all the more. I’ve been able to write about some memorable characters over the years, but Henry is very close to my heart.

  25. joan Says:

    I’ve heard that one of the reasons people mourn the loss of a romantic love is that we mourn not only the loss of the person, but who we were with that person, & what we may have continued discovering about our own selves & the world with that person. And I think this could come into play between authors & their favorite characters. The bond that develops from such indepth knowledge of a figure would be very significant & inspirational.

    It’s very interesting when an author remarks on dialogue they’ve written, saying that the character took the lead. You obviously know Henry on such a deep level that this kind of thing naturally happens. Talk about a magical moment!

    And I love the Tokyo bookstore “symmetry”.

    Thanks for reposting this blog, Sharon.

  26. skpenman Says:

    Thank you, Joan. It is true that characters develop their own voices, especially strong-willed ones like our Henry. I honestly had not decided how to handle that scene in the crypt, but Henry had his own ideas; maybe my character was channeling him. :-) Getting inside a character’s head makes it much easier to make him or her three-dimensional and believable. Unfortunately, that sometimes means I found myself in some murky under-currents. It was not fun being trapped inside George of Clarence’s head, for example. And Heinrich von Hohenstaufen was even worse!

  27. skpenman Says:

    On July 14, 1223, the French king, Philippe Capet, died at age 57. Since I showed such admirable restraint when mentioning Edward I’s death, I feel obliged to do as much for Philippe. Anyone who has read Lionheart or Ransom already knows my opinion of him, anyway! It was probably a happy day for his abused queen, Ingeborg, for she fared much better as a widow than ever she had as a wife, treated with kindness and respect by Philippe’s son and grandson.
    July 14th is of course also Bastille Day, so it seemed appropriate to post here a link to the best scene in Casablanca, when the Marseillaise, surely the most stirring of national anthems,(if a bit bloodthirsty) is played in Rick’s Café. I imagine almost all of you have seen Casablanca, but it is always worth re-watching, if only to observe how adroitly Claude Rains steals every scene he is in.

  28. Kristen Elizabeth Says:

    Ooooookay, you want to hear something interesting? Hand of Fire by Judith Starkston? She was my high school Latin teacher! She taught at Mountain Pointe HS in Phoenix. I had her for English, too, but Latin first and foremost. She was literally my favorite teacher in an otherwise hated period of my life. So I am THRILLED to hear about this, and will be buying it as soon as I possibly can. I’m very pleased for her! I’m so excited about this! :) Thanks for sharing the Book Bankruptcy list as always, Sharon!

  29. Malcolm Craig Says:

    Sharon, I first saw “Casablanca” at the Brattle Theater in Cambridge early in 1965. Since we had just finished semester exams, we were all prepared to enjoy ourselves. During the “Marseillaise” segment, there was enthusiastic audience participation. I watched the movie again during my Christmas break last year. This may have been because I had just read Is Paris Burning? During its liberation, Paris was spared the destruction Hitler demanded, partly due to the forbearance of General von Cholitz.

  30. Kasia Says:

    I just want to mention that today, exactly 604 years ago, one of the most important and largest battles of the Middle Ages was fought near the village of Grunwald. The victory went to the united Polish-Lithuanian forces under King of Poland, Władysław Jagiełło and his cousin Witold, the Grand Duke of Lithuania, and is still regarded as the greatest victory in the history of both countries and a symbol of national pride. And little wonder, for the defeated were, no more no less, but the brothers of the Order of the German House of Saint Mary in Jerusalem aka the Teutonic Knights [in Polish "Krzyżacy"]. Their the then Grand Master Ulrich von Jungingen was killed and most of the Knights’ leadership with him. Fourteen thousand others were taken prisoners. In the long run the battle marked the end of the Teutonic domination in Eastern Europe and the beginning of the Polish-Lithuanian Union steady rise to power and prominence in the region. I myself call it the beginning of the Polish Golden Age :-)

  31. Theresa Says:

    James Scott Duke of Monmouth and the illegitimate son of Charles II was executed on 15th July 1685. There were many unfortunates beheaded for treason but Monmouth was one of the unluckiest as it took the executioner seven blows to chop off the Dukes head.

  32. Gabriele Says:

    Kasia, but Malbork Castle (Marienburg) is still around. :) I spend a lovely morning there back in 2012.

  33. skpenman Says:

    Kristen, I’m glad you and Judith were able to connect. Mac, another good book about the occupation of Paris is Men of Free Blood; after reading that, I went back and reread Is Paris Burning?
    Theresa, he sounds as unlucky as the Countess of Salisbury, who was judiciously murdered by Henry VIII for the crime of being a Plantagenet; her executioner made a bloody botch of it, too.
    Great post, as always, Kasia.
    Here is today’s Facebook note.

    I am sorry that I haven’t been around for the past few days, but the Deadline Dragon had me cornered. Fortunately I can rely upon Rania to fill in for me!
    Several happenings of interest on this date.
    On July 18, 64 AD, the great fire of Rome began, though I doubt Nero was really fiddling while it burned. Margaret George would know, I bet, since she is working on a novel that will feature both Nero and Boudica. I am eagerly looking forward to that one, but sadly it probably won’t hit the bookstores till 2017
    On July 18, 1290, Edward I expelled the Jews from England, thus causing untold misery and suffering. He had a talent for that.
    And on July 18, 1536, the Pope’s authority was declared null and void in England by you-know-who. I can imagine several medieval kings who’d have liked to do that, too.
    Lastly, for my British readers who like e-books, you can still get several of the excellent Brother Cadfael series by Ellis Peters are great bargain rates. And the first book in the equally compelling Elizabethan mystery series by P.F Chisholm, A Famine of Horses is still listed at 77 pence. Sunne and my second mystery, Cruel as the Grave, are also still being offered at bargain prices, 1.89 and 1.49 respectively; sorry I can’t use the pound symbol on the evil Melusine, who has now moved over to the Dark Side permanently. She has been so troublesome lately that even naming her after the Demon Countess of Anjou seems too flattering to her. Maybe I’ll rename her after one of the Kardashians.

  34. skpenman Says:

    Nothing historical to post about today. But here are some photos of a mother tiger and her cubs trying to cool off in an Indian heat wave. Probably the most beautiful (and dangerous) of earth’s animals.

  35. Gabriele Says:

    Lol, I call my old computer Varus and the new laptop Arminius. They’re not exactly on talking terms via the intranet in my house right now, but I blame the new browser which I’m tempted to call Segestes, the ‘ol troublemaker. :)

  36. skpenman Says:

    Gabriele, you are clearly a scholar of ancient Rome! I love Varus and Arminius as names for computers. But I confess you stumped me with Segestes?

  37. skpenman Says:

    One of my all-time favorite actors, James Gardner, has died. He was a very talented, intelligent, and outspoken man who always marched to his own drumbeat. He had a highly successful film career; his own favorite of his films, The Americanization of Emily, was my favorite of his films, too, although The Great Escape comes close. I think his television career was even more impressive, for he starred in two ground-breaking shows that are truly iconic, Maverick in the late 1950’s and The Rockford Files in the 1970’s. He had a long and memorable life, reaching the advanced age of 86, so we do not mourn him in the same way we would someone whose life was cut cruelly short. But I think that the world’s light is a little dimmer without him.

  38. Gabriele Says:

    Segestes was Arminius’ father-in-law, though it’s said the girl ran off with Arminius and daddy was not happy about it, seeking a political alliance elsewhere. Segestes warned Varus about the impending treason, only Varus didn’t listen, probably because he knew about the strained relationship between Segestes and Arminius and put it in the Family Stuff file. Segestes was later ok with part of the booty of the Teutoburg Forest. :P

    When Germanicus invaded Germania in several campaigns in AD 14-16, Segestes managed to get on the wrong side of Arminius again and had to be rescued from siege by the Romans. The daughter was with him at that time, and I really wonder what happened. He’d abducted her, Tacitus says, but I wonder how Segestes would have managed that since Arminius must have lived in the same sort of fortified settlement Segestes did and which Arminius laid siege to. I suspect there’s more to that story (and good for a writer :) ).

    Segestes’ political alliances must have made a knot in his cloak, so often as he turned it. He may also have been the mysterious rival of Arminius’s family who forced them into exile in AD 4 when the Roman governor of Gaul in vain tried to interfere. It was probably at that time Arminius came into contact with Rome and decided for a career as officer in the army. Tiberius sorted the mess out with more success and reinstalled Arminius’ father as head of the tribe. Segestes at that point is mentioned as one of the leaders of the anti-Roman party.

    A fitting name for a router with dubious allegiances towards my hardware, for sure. :D

  39. Gabriele Says:

    And yes, I am a scholar of ancient Rome. I’m also interested in the Middle Ages and that’s why my blog is all over the place, historically. :) Right now it’s Roman cavalry, but the next post will be part of my series about Mediaeval Scottish kings.

  40. Malcolm Craig Says:

    Sharon, I think you know that I have always enjoyed Jim Garner and Julie Andrews in “Emily.” I believe it was a favorite movie of them both. With “Victor/Victoria” in between, Garner and Andrews combined again for a TV Christmas movie (which I taped) around 2000. A while back, at the local Goodwill store, I came across a tape of “Shady Deal at Sunny Acres,” said to be Garner’s favorite Maverick episode. Brett sits in a rocking chair throughout, while Bart and his other cohorts do all the work to trap the embezzling banker. Thanks for the sad news.

  41. skpenman Says:

    Such a shame that the Maverick series is never shown on television or available in DVDs. At least not in the past; I remember reading that it was due to ownership or royalty disputes, Mac. I’d love to watch that Shady Deal episode.

    Nothing to post about July 21st medieval happenings, but I do have a lovely story about Eleanor of Aquitaine told to me by one of my readers. She said that she’d visited Fontevrault Abbey about fifteen years ago and at the foot of her tomb was one red rose. She asked the guide, “Do you put them there?” He said, “Oh, no, Madame, we find them there.” I think Eleanor would be pleased and I suspect she might just mention to Henry that no one put flowers by his tomb.

    Some years ago, I visited the abbey ruins of Cwm Hir, where Llywelyn ap Gruffydd is said to have been secretly buried by the Welsh to keep the English king from desecrating his grave as he’d done with Simon de Montfort’s grave at Evesham Abbey. It was rather remote and not easy to find. There is a black slate plaque there in his memory, which I always found far more moving than the large monument to him at Builth Wells. On my first visit to Cwm Hir, I was touched to see that someone had been there very recently and left a bouquet of flowers on the memorial stone. Welsh friends have told me that flowers are often found on Joanna’s tomb in the alcove of St Mary’s Church in Beaumaris, too.

  42. Kasia Says:

    Sharon, the red rose at Eleanor’s tomb is so moving. The guide’s reply even more so… I remember when I was in my teens and we went with my class to Cracow. This was my first visit to the Wawel Castle and I took a flower with me (now don’t remember what flower it was) with the intention of putting it on Cyprian Kamil Norwid’s effigy in the National Poets’ Crypt. I remember a surprised look on the elderly gentleman’s face who saw me placing the flower in the hand of the poet … Made me think that the old generally hold a rather low opinion on the young :-)

    As for today’s events, on 22 July 1174 Henry the Young King, together with Philip, Count of Flanders, joined his father-in-law, Louis VII launched the first attack on the city of Rouen. He hoped to seize the Norman capital thus striking a serious blow at his father’s position. Fortunately for Henry II, he made very little progress. Knowing the military skills of the French king, there was no other option, I guess :-)

  43. Stephanie Ling Says:

    Sharon asked me to post a little note on her behalf to let everyone know that she injured her wrist and may not be around for a few days while it heals. She just wanted to be sure no one worries about her or thinks she has been inhaled whole by that nasty Deadline Dragon.

  44. joan Says:

    Kasia, what a touching gesture. You changed some opinions that day!

    Thanks, Stephanie. Wish Sharon speedy healing.

  45. Kasia Says:

    Sharon, warmest wishes and speedy recovery! We all miss you.

    Thank you, Joan! I sincerely hope I did.

  46. Stephanie Ling Says:

    Hey everyone, I thought I’d give an update on Sharon. Her wrist is feeling much better and she is able to type again, but because of the time she’s lost, she needs to play some catch up again before checking in. I passed along everyone’s well-wishes, and she is grateful for everyone’s care and understanding!

  47. Kasia Says:

    Stephanie, thank you for the good news. Warmest wishes for our dear Sharon. We miss you!

    I have to mention a very important battle, one of the most important battles of the MA. 27 July marked the 800th anniversary of the Battle of Bouvines, fought in 1214, where Henry the Young King’s relatives met to fight each other. The family relations on the battle field can make one’s head spin :-) Henry’s younger brother, John, the king of England, represented by their younger natural brother, William Longespee, the earl of Salisbury, in coaltion with their nephew, Otto IV, Holy Roman Emperor, met to fight Henry’s brother-in-law, Phillipe Auguste, the king of France. A little bit confusing, don’t you think? :-) Anyway, it was Philippe who won that day… Otto was forced to flee and Salisbury got captured as many other nobles fighting on English-German side that day. I wonder whether ther would have been any battle had Henry lived long enough to rule independantly. Perhaps his personal charm would have bedazzled even that cold fish, Philippe Auguste. Perhaps the Angevin Empire would have lasted a little bit longer… Who knows…

  48. Theresa Says:

    29th July was an unlucky day for Royal Weddings.
    On this day, Mary Queen of Scots married Lord Darnley which proved to be an absolute disaster. Mary’s great grandson Charles II stated that of his nieces betrothed George of Denmark that “He has talked to him drunk and conversed with him sober, but there is nothing to him in any way”.
    I like to think that Charles would have had the same opinion of Darnley.

    More recently Prince Charles married Lady Diana in St Paul’s on the 29th July 1981.

  49. skpenman Says:

    Kasia, Philippe was quite immune to charm. I fear that Hal’s reign would have been a disaster, even more so than John’s. I still think that Geoffrey would have been the best king of the Angevin’s brood, for he did not have Richard’s reckless streak.

    I am sorry for the long absence, but I injured my right hand and wrist and had to stay off the computer until it healed; there seems to be a law that when we injure a hand, it must be the one we use the most. I am sure that you all carried on quite well while I was gone, and I appreciate it that neither Stephanie nor Ken tried to stage a coup.
    The world news is so horrific these days that I am going to start posting stories about hope every now and then, and I’d be happy if you all did the same. There are too many days when we desperately need a reason to smile. So here is one.

  50. Malcolm Craig Says:

    Sharon, if the young king had reigned as king in fact, and Geoffrey had also lived, it is possible that Henry would have listened to his competent younger brother. Speaking as Geoffrey on Kasia’s blog, I said that he and Henry together could have kept Richard in the South, where he belonged. I also opined that in those circumstances, Richard (rather than his nephew, Henri de Champagne) might have become King of Jerusalem. Too many ifs and a great deal of speculation, but I think that scenario had possibilities.

  51. Kasia Says:

    Malcolm, THANK YOU! God bless you for this :-) One of my friend told me once that Henry’s reign might not have been such a disaster as everyone thinks. With the help of the loyal advisers (had he paid heed to them, of course) and Geoffrey- as you have pointed out- he might have coped not to waste his father’s inheritance. Don’t forget about his most formidable weapon- a quality that poor John apparently did not possess- his ability to win people’s hearts… You’re right, Sharon, I might have exaggerated about Philippe :-)

    Anyway, it’s soooo good to have you back, dear Sharon! I hope you have fully recovered.

  52. joan Says:

    I’m happy you’ve recovered, Sharon. And I have a happy canine story for you. My niece & her partner recently found an abandoned little dog in a house that was up for sale (they live in the country-ish), so took him home, then to the vet for 5 days where his many health problems were seen to. They continued to nurture him, body & spirit, & now this pup has gained weight & romps around with their other dog who, by the way, was in great need of a younger brother to care for, being spoiled rotten himself. Win win!

    Hmm, the Lionheart as King of Jerusalem, kind of sounds right. Richard may have had a better ending than he did….may have.

  53. skpenman Says:

    Joan, what a lovely story!

    Now that we know what Richard III really looked like—much more attractive than his squinty-eyed successor—we can move on to Jane Austin. (Okay, Jane and Richard—I admit that is an odd pairing) But here is an interesting article which shows what a forensic artist thinks Jane looked like—very appealing. . And of course you can always go to YouTube and see the remarkable recreation of the tomb effigies of Eleanor and Richard at Fontevrault Abbey by Jude Maris, (She also did Henry, but many of us think that was a misfire, for she makes him look way too bland for our Henry.)

  54. joan Says:

    Oh yes Kasia, I’m so delighted to finally see a face that could very well be our Jane. A very distinct personality shines through. Thank you for this Sharon. Wait till my sister Linda sees this! We’ll have many things to swoon over while on our trip (eh, Kasia?), but one thing for sure will be The Desk in Chawton! Seeing this image makes it all the more fun.

    I check out the photoshopped tomb effigies every so often, along with whatever else is new. Don’t know how many times I looked at Richard I while reading Ransom. And played the video of his lament.

  55. Theresa Says:

    Interest to see what Richard III may have looked like. A far cry from the villainous characterisations of Shakespeare. Some of those has poor Richard bearing a strong resemblance to the evil Child Snatcher in the 1968 film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

    August 1st 1714, Queen Anne of Great Britain died on this day. I don’t know as much about her as other monarchs. (My favourite Queen Regnant has always been Elizabeth I) Yet Anne deserves sympathy for having endured 17 fatal pregnancies. (Some stillborn, some in infancy, others were miscarried, one only survived until 11)
    The 1995 Rob Roy film (set during the last years of her reign) has a character declaring that, “I have seen healthier graveyards than that woman’s womb”. Somewhat of a harsh comment.

  56. Kasia Says:

    Very harsh comment, Theresa. I didn’t pay attention to it while watching the film, though. Perhaps because it was so long ago. Will need to refresh my memory.

    Joan, I wouldn’t like to be in yours and Linda’s shoes… To swoon or not to swoon… That is the question. I would add: to swoon over Richard Armitage or Jane’s desk… Difficult choice to make :-)

  57. Kasia Says:

    Yesterday marked the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising which broke out on 1 August 1944 at 5.00 p.m. The citizens’ heroic struggle against the Nazi occupation was to last for 63 days and cost almost 216,000 lives (10.000 killed in action, 6.000 missing in action, and almost 200.000 civilians). The Warsaw Uprising was the largest single military effort taken by any European resistant movement during the WWII.

  58. joan Says:

    Kasia, you are too funny. Alan Rickman was in the Crucible audience the other night!

    The Warsaw uprising was indeed a heroic struggle that we should never forget.

  59. skpenman Says:

    Kasia, I am embarrassed to admit I did not know much about the Warsaw Uprising, although I was very familiar about the uprising in the Warsaw ghetto, which was so memorably depicted in Leon Uris’s Mila 18, a book I highly recommend. Thank you for your post; what a staggering death toll.

    This is a truly amazing video Words can’t do it justice, so watch for yourselves and marvel at the ways in which Mother Nature can surprise us.

  60. Gabriele Says:

    Well, Richard Armitage is definitely swoon-worthy. :)

    I got a new post on my series about Mediaeval Scottish kings. Click my name to get to my blog - links here will only require ransom again. ;)

  61. joan Says:

    Gabriele, you should pop over to London to catch The Crucible. (from my perspective in Canada, I’m under the illusion that Europeans can flit anywhere in the blink of an eye). South African director Yael Farber has created an outstanding interpretation of Miller’s classic, her work is always gritty & visceral, & what’s really exciting is that the Old Vic now has theatre in the round. The reviews are brilliant & grown men are reduced to sobbing by the end of it!

    Will now check your blog.

  62. Gabriele Says:

    Lol, since I don’t fly and the channel train goes via Paris which is just STUPID, London is more difficult for me to get to than Edinburgh (where I just take the Amsterdam/Newcastle night ferry).

  63. skpenman Says:

    So what happened on August 3rd? I am sure Rania will cover the spectrum for us (thanks, Rania!), so I’ll confine myself to one event. It does not concern a historical figure I’ve written about, but his demise was unusual enough to deserve a mention. On August 3, 1460, the thirty year old King of Scotland, James II, was killed when a cannon he was attempting to load exploded. I can think of several earlier kings who’d have been unable to resist the urge to fire a cannon, saved only because artillery guns were unknown during their reigns. It is definitely something the Lionheart would have wanted to try, and I can also see a young Edward I or a young Henry V giving it a go. But as far as I know, James has the dubious distinction of being the only monarch blown to Kingdom Come by a cannon. If I am wrong, I am sure at least one of my readers will know who else was so unlucky! I can think of a few kings whom I’d have liked to be blown to smithereens by a cannon, but that is another story, isn’t it?

  64. Kasia Says:

    Sharon, speaking of cannons and the toll they could take, I can remember how utterly shocked I was after reading the scene in Bernard Cornwell’s Azincourt, in which the canon (or a similar weapon) exploded. And it had been bleesed by the priest who was later killed by it. Not until I read that scene I had been aware how dangerous it could be for those who were firing them.

    Gabriele, I love the term “swoon-worthy”. I’m sure it could also apply to Henry the Young King :-) I’ll read you latest blog post ASAP.

    Joan, we have been discussing the “swooning” issue so frequently these days that it has already become a legend, if you get what I mean :-D Joan and Linda in a “swoon-opera” conquer England accompanied by Richard Armitage, Alan Rickman and Jane Austen’s time-travelling desk :-) I love it… God, how I wish I could join in.

  65. Kasia Says:

    Sorry for the typos above…

  66. skpenman Says:

    August 4, 1265 was the date of a history-changing battle, one in which Simon de Montfort was defeated and killed by his godson, the future Edward I, after he’d been trapped at Evesham by Edward’s army. Simon was expecting reinforcements from his son, also called Simon, and Bran in my novel to save me from ever having to write “Simon said to Simon” When he first saw the approaching force, Simon assumed it was Bran, for they flew his banner. But he did not know that Edward had ambushed and scattered Bran’s army as they encamped outside Kenilworth Castle, foolishly bathing in the lake and dallying with the inevitable camp prostitutes. When a scout gave Simon the devastating news, he and several of his men climbed up into the abbey’s belfry tower. Below is a brief scene from Falls the Shadow, pages 514-515
    * * *
    The wind was rising. It tore leaves from shuddering trees, flattened the marsh grass, and hurled dark clouds toward the fleeing sun. By the time Simon reached the north window in the church tower, the storm was nigh. He could see it sweeping across the vale, bearing down upon them from the north, shadowing the army of the king’s son. Edward had taken up position on the crest of Green Hill, closing off the loop of the River Avon with a line of steel. A mile lay between their thousands and Evesham, no more. Simon needed but one glance to know that he and his men were doomed.
    He sucked in his breath, jolted by a surge of purely physical fear, the body’s instinctive reaction to peril. But he’d faced death too often, had long ago learned how to make fear serve him; self-preservation was a powerful motivating force in and of itself. The fright bred into bone and muscle was a familiar foe, one he knew he could vanquish. But what followed it was far more terrifying, a fear born of the brain, one that offered him a haunting glimpse of the future, a lightning-lit landscape of desolation and lost faith. Was their dream to die with them, too? Had it all been for naught?
    No. No, it could not be. They would not be abandoned in their time of need, for their cause was just and would prevail. He would not fail his trial of faith, would not disavow a single yesterday. Death came to all men, but defeat only to those who doubted. Fear not, I am thy shield, trust in me and be not afraid. He unclenched his fist, eased his desperate grip upon the shutter latch, and then turned to face those who’d followed him up into the tower, followed wherever he led, his sons, his friends.
    “We must commend our souls to God,” he said, “for our bodies are theirs.”
    * * *

  67. joan Says:

    One of the most difficult scenes to read, I remember an explosive No No No erupting from my mouth.

    If only you could join us, Kasia! You are too funny! And don’t forget, Orlando Bloom & Benedict Cumberbatch (our Sherlock) were there too.

  68. Kasia Says:

    I felt so very sorry for Simon and his eldest son, but what later befell his younger children is even more tragic, at least thia is how I see it.

    Joan, I love Benedict Cumberbatch. Have you seen him in August: Osage County? This is the last production I’ve seen him in.

  69. Kasia Says:

    4 August 1944. The Warsaw Uprising. Day 4. Twenty-three-year-old Krzysztof Kamil Baczyński, one of the most remarkable poets of the Generation of Columbuses, is killed in action by a German sniper in Pałac Blanka [Blank Palace]. His poems survive the war thanks to one of his friends, who hides a copy of them at the poet’s request.

    One of the greatest and irreparable losses during the Uprising.

  70. skpenman Says:

    I am a Benedict Cumberbatch fan, too, but of course who isn’t?

    Here is a link that I posted on Facebook, a funny cartoon about Game of Thrones that probably voices what many of us feel.

  71. Kasia Says:

    I’m sure Mr Martin must have laughed his head off… Thanks for sharing, Sharon :-)

  72. Gabriele Says:

    As long as he doesn’t kill Hodor.

    Or Arya. I think then his wife will get at him, and that would be worse than the gang in that cartoon. ;)

  73. skpenman Says:

    This post is a few days late for it refers back to August 1, 1202, when John gained his first and only great military triumph, swooping down upon Mirebeau Castle, where his mother, Eleanor, and daughter, Joanna, had taken refuge, now under siege by an army led by Eleanor’s own grandson and John’s nephew, Arthur, the young Duke of Brittany, and his de Lusignan allies. Eleanor managed to get a messenger off to John as the siege began, but he was eighty miles away and none expected him to get there before the castle fell to Arthur and Eleanor was taken prisoner. His father Henry and brother Richard had been famed for their lightning-like assaults, seeming to appear out of nowhere to the great vexation and fear of their foes; the French king was once heard to complain sourly that Henry must have learned how to fly. But mere mortals could not match their derring-do, and John was nothing if not mortal. Neither Eleanor nor his Breton adversaries imagined that he could get there in time. But he did, rescuing his mother and capturing all of the leaders of the besieging army, including Arthur. Here is a brief scene from Here be Dragons, pages 159-160
    * * *
    Eleanor had never seen John so elated; there was about him an intense, surging excitement, an intoxication of the senses bordering upon euphoria. “And Arthur? What of Arthur?”
    John’s eyes showed suddenly gold “Arthur and Hugh and Geoffrey de Lusignan, all taken. They were breakfasting on pigeon pie, had not even time to draw their swords. And their faces….” He laughed again. “Ah, Madame, to see their faces!”
    “You have indeed won a great victory,” she said, then put her hand upon his arm. “Come now, sit and I’ll send for food. Do you even remember when you’ve last eaten?”
    “No,” he admitted. “Why? Think you that I’m in need of sobering up?” He grinned, let her lead him toward the table, and then stopped without warning, swung about to face her. “Arthur and the de Lusignans were not alone in their disbelief…were they?” he challenged. “You never expected me to come to your defense, never expected me to reach you in time, never expected much of me at all, did you..Mother?”
    Eleanor saw now how exhausted he truly was; his voice was slurred, husky with fatigue, his eyes hollowed and feverishly bright, at once triumphant and accusing. “It was not a question of faith, John,” she said carefully. “Do you not realize the extent of your victory? You have done what most men would swear to be impossible, covered some eighty miles as if you’d put wings to your horse, arrived in time to save me from capture, to take the town, all your enemies. That is a feat more than remarkable, it is well nigh miraculous” She paused, and then said that which she knew he’d waited all his life to hear, what she could at last say in utter sincerity. “Not even Richard could have hoped to equal what you did this day.”
    John looked at her, saying nothing for a time. “I should have known that the highest praise you could offer would be a comparison with my sainted brother. Well, that is an honor I think I’ll decline, Madame. I’ve no longer any inclination to compete with a ghost.”
    “Ah, Johnny….” Eleanor was suddenly and overwhelmingly aware of her own exhaustion, of the toll these last days had taken. “I am proud of you, I swear it,” she said softly. But she’d waited too long. John had already turned away.
    * * *
    There is a story that the members of the Algonquin Round Table, whose most famous member was Dorothy Parker, were discussing a man none of them liked. One of them then said of this pariah, “He is his own worst enemy.” The sharp-tongued critic Alexander Woollcott at once shot back, “Not while I am living.” (At least I think it was Woollcott)
    Well, this anecdote could easily apply to John, who was his own worst enemy and yet had his share of men eager to claim that honor. Not surprisingly, he soon tarnished his brilliant victory at Mirebeau by treating the captured barons and knights so badly that one of his most important vassals went over to the other side out of disgust. Some of the prisoners were starved to death, and sadly, it has been suggested that Richard’s cousin and close friend, Andre de Chauvigny, was one of them; we know he was taken prisoner at Mirebeau, having chosen Arthur over John after Richard’s death, and he was dead before the year was out. As for Arthur, he disappeared behind the walls of Rouen Castle and was never seen again; John’s contemporaries and later historians and future historical novelists like me all reached the same grim conclusion—that John had Arthur murdered. Arthur’s heir, his sister, Eleanor, was taken to England and never knew a day of freedom again, being kept in comfortable confinement, first by John and then by his son, Henry III, for the next thirty-nine years until her death in August of 1241.

  74. skpenman Says:

    Many of you have probably seen this, but I wanted to share it for those who have not. Interesting photos.

  75. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Next season on Game of Thrones we will be visiting the exotic realm of Dorne, which does sound like it might be a more appealing place to live than some of the other sites we’ve seen in the first three seasons. So here is a preview of Dorne—AKA Spain. I’d definitely prefer it to the Wall.
    PS Last night, the Geek Squad did a two hour exorcism of Melusine, so I might be able to put off the Windows 7 vs 8 decision for a while.

  76. Gabriele Says:

    I prefer the Wall. Spain is too warm for my taste.

    Windows 7.
    Windows 8 is the unholy offspring of Bill Gates’ minions and Melusine, or Morgana, or some other dark creature that wants you to get an aching shoulder and fingerprints on the screen.

  77. Loretta Livingstone Says:

    Thank you so much for your answer, Sharon. I have just started reading Priscilla Royal’s books now. I opted for these as they are closest to the century I am most interested in, but plan to read Margaret Frazer later. Thanks again.

  78. Jewell Hausmann Says:

    Just finished King’s Ransom. It has been my summer companion and it was totally appropriate that as I sat on the porch today (9/10), I mourned with an excess of tears the end of summer and the deaths of Richard, Joanna and beloved Eleanor. It was a wonderful experience to totally immerse myself in Ransom. (I finished all your mysteries with Justin.) And I can’t wait until the next one. I may reread Sunne for the fourth time now, while waiting. Is your health up to the proposed tour of Eleanor in 2015? Sorry I’m not on Facebook. Please take care of yourself. Much gratitude for your wonderful work!

    All the best, Jewell

  79. Hand of Fire: book club with Judith Starkston | hergraceslibrary Says:

    [...] a cool thing happened this weekend with my book club meeting. A few months ago, while reading Sharon Kay Penman’s blog, she put up one of her infamous Book Bankruptcy Blogs. In it, I noticed a name I recognized – [...]

  80. Jake Dusza Says:

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