I would like to thank all of you who entered the drawing and posted such lovely comments about Sunne.  That meant so much to me; I never imagined that Sunne would  resonate so strongly with so many or that it would continue to attract new readers three decades and counting after its initial publication.   And I certainly never imagined that Richard’s lost grave would be found or that he’d be re-interred at Leicester Cathedral with such ceremony and world-wide attention.  Richard the rock star?   No, I definitely did not see that one coming!
I am happy to announce that the winner of a signed hardcover copy of the new British edition of Sunne is Laurie Spencer.    And the runner-up winner of a signed paperback edition is Cynthia Fuller.     As soon as I get mailing addresses from you both, I will put your copies in the post.   I know many of you will be disappointed, so I promise to hold another Sunne book drawing before the year is out.
When I was listing all the unexpected developments concerning Richard and Sunne, I neglected to mention the remarkable fact that we now know what he looked like, thanks to that forensic reconstruction of his face.   I do not see him as a blond, though.  I do not doubt that his hair was that shade as a small child, but I think it darkened as he grew into maturity.    My own hair was the color of sunlight until I was about three or so, and then it darkened, too, as is usually the case.    I suppose it is possible that his hair did not, but I am not yet willing to surrender the mental image of Richard that served as inspiration during the twelve years that it took me to write Sunne.  So I can say with certainty that my Richard was not a blond!   At least his youthful appearance has been restored; he was not yet thirty-three at the time of his death, but the portraits—all done after Bosworth when it was highly advisable to portray him in as sinister a light as possible—made him appear as if he had one foot in the grave.
We rarely get detailed descriptions of the medieval dead in the years before the age of portrait painting.  Until the 16th century, we must depend upon the chroniclers, and they were notoriously indifferent to the needs of future historical novelists.   The best we can usually hope for is a throw-away line or two.   We know that Randulph de Blundeville, the Earl of Chester in Here be Dragons, and Robert Beaumont, the Earl of Leicester in Lionheart and Ransom, were both shorter than average, for they were praised for the valor of their spirits in such small bodies.  We know that Llywelyn ab Iorwerth’s rebellious son, Gruffydd, was a big man and had put on weight during his captivity in the Tower of London, for a chronicler tells us that this was a contributing factor in his death; he was so heavy that his makeshift sheet-rope broke, hurling him to his doom.     We know that Balian d’Ibelin, the major character in my current work, Outremer, was very tall, for a chronicler reports that he was chosen to carry the young child-king, Baldwin V, to his coronation because he was the tallest man in the kingdom.
The chroniclers of that same kingdom rather unkindly describe Renaud, Lord of Sidon, as very ugly, while lauding his intelligence.   But that is positively benign compared to one Saracen chronicler’s comments about the controversial and brilliant Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick II, son of the Lionheart’s nemesis, Heinrich von Hohenstaufen, and his unhappy consort, Constance de Hauteville, Queen of Sicily in her own right.    According to Sibt Ibn al-Jawzi, “The Emperor was covered with red hair, was bald and myopic. Had he been a slave, he would not have fetched 200 dirhams at market.”     It is only fair to include a more favorable description of Frederick from the Cronica of Salimbene:   “He could read, write, sing, and compose music and songs. He was a handsome man, well-built but of medium stature.”    Which one was right?    Who knows?
William, the Archbishop of Tyre, tutor to the young king Baldwin, and author of Deeds Beyond the Sea, which is considered by many to be the finest history written by a man of the Middle Ages, provides some remarkably detailed descriptions of the highborn lords of their kingdom.   William of Montferrat was the elder brother of Conrad of Montferrat, the latter a character in Lionheart, whose fate haunted Richard in A King’s Ransom.  William came to Jerusalem to wed Sybilla, Baldwin’s sister, with the expectation that he and she would rule once Baldwin’s leprosy incapacitated or killed him.   William of Tyre brings him vividly to life in his chronicle, telling us that he was tall and handsome with blond hair, that he was “exceedingly irascible but very generous and of an open disposition and manly courage.   He never concealed any purpose but showed frankly just what he thought in his own mind.   He was fond of eating and altogether too devoted to drinking, although not to such an extent to as to injure his mind.”
William offers an even more remarkable description of King Amalric, father to the tragic Baldwin and uncle to our Henry II; Amalric’s father, Fulk of Anjou, was Henry’s grandfather.   It is worth quoting in full:
“He was a man endowed with worldly experience, very shrewd and circumspect in his deeds. He had a slight impediment of the tongue, not so much that could be considered a defect, but so that he had no elegance in spontaneous, flowing speech… His body was of pleasing stature, as if it had been measured proportionally so that he was taller than the average, but smaller than the very tall… His face was attractive… His eyes were bright, and somewhat protruding; his nose, like his brother’s, aquiline; his hair yellow, and slightly receding; his beard covered his cheeks and chin with pleasing fullness. However, he had an uncontrollable laugh, which made him shake all over… He was fat beyond measure, in such a way that he had breasts like a woman, hanging down to his belt…”
William also tells us of Amalric’s shrewdness, his ambition and courage, his greed, his taciturn nature, and his indifference to the boundaries of matrimony.   He may not have been loved by his subjects, but he commanded their respect, and if not for his untimely death, at age thirty-eight, the history of his kingdom might have been far different.
William saw Amalric clearly, aware of both his vices and his virtues, but he loved Amalric’s son.  It was William who first discovered the symptoms of that dreaded disease when Baldwin was only about ten or eleven.     Here is his description of the young leper king:
“I cannot keep my eyes dry while speaking of it. For as he began to reach the age of puberty, it became apparent that he was suffering from that most terrible disease, leprosy. Each day he grew more ill. The extremities and the face were most affected, so that the hearts of his faithful men were touched by compassion when they looked at him. Baldwin was adept at literary studies. Daily he grew more promising and developed a more loving disposition. He was handsome for his age and he was quick to learn to ride and handle horses — more so than his ancestors. He had a tenacious memory and loved to talk. He was economical, but he well remembered both favors and injuries. He resembled his father, not only in his face, but in his whole appearance. He was also like his father in his walk and in the timbre of his voice. He had a quick mind, but his speech was slow. He was, like his father, an avid listener to history and he was very willing to follow good advice.”
If only William had been so generous in his descriptions of the highborn women of Outremer.   He apparently took his vows of chastity seriously, for he says not a word about the appearances of any of them.   He calls Queen Melisende, mother to Amalric, whom he admired, “sparse.”    He says of Baldwin’s mother, Agnes de Courtenay, whom he loathed, that she was “detestable to God.”     And that is it.
Fortunately one of the Saracen chroniclers was more verbose, at least when describing Baldwin’s youngest sister, Isabella, who would one day rule as queen and, as readers of Lionheart will remember, married Henri, the Count of Champagne, only days after the murder of her husband, Conrad of Montferrat, by two Assassins as he rode through the streets of Tyre.    Imad al-Din al-Isfahani, a member of Saladin’s inner circle, seems to have been rather smitten by Isabella, describing her poetically, as follows:
“…one of the daughters of heaven; her face, shining white, appeared like the morning in the night of her very black hair.”
Moving on to Baldwin’s Angevin cousins, we have very detailed descriptions of Henry II.   We know that his hair was red, but greyed as he aged, that he kept it cropped short because he worried about going bald.   We are told that he had grey, bloodshot eyes that were “dove-like” when he was feeling peaceful but “gleamed like fire” when he was in a temper.   He was of “medium height,” and powerfully built, with a broad chest and a boxer’s arms; he was also bow-legged, which they ascribed to the long hours he spent in the saddle.   He was said to be “a man blessed with sound limbs and a handsome countenance, one upon whom men gazed a thousand times, yet took occasion to return.”   The chroniclers lauded his intelligence, his memory, his sardonic humor, and his “knowledge of all tongues spoken from the coasts of France to the River Jordan, but making use of only Latin and French.”
We know that Henry’s two eldest sons, the Young King (Hal in my books) and Richard, were taller than average, and his two youngest sons, Geoffrey and John, were shorter than average but handsome.     Thanks to an invasion of John’s tomb at Worcester Cathedral, we know that he was five feet, six inches tall, so that fits with the guess of historians that Henry would have been about five feet, nine inches, and Hal and Richard over six feet.    One who knew Richard said that “He was tall, of elegant build; the color of his hair was between red and gold; his limbs were supple and straight. He had long arms suited to wielding a sword. His long legs matched the rest of his body.”    As for Richard’s neglected wife, Berengaria, it is believed that she was only five feet, based upon a discovery of bones thought to be hers at the abbey she founded.  The most famous description of her comes from the acid pen of Richard of Devizes, who deemed her “more prudent than pretty.”   Very catchy, so it is not surprising it has been so often quoted, but Richard of Devizes never laid eyes upon her.    One chronicler who did, Ambroise, tells us she was very fair and lovely.   We do know that her younger sister was thought to be quite beautiful, so my guess is that she would not have scared any children had she ventured out without a veil.   I don’t think the breakdown of her marriage to Richard had anything to do with her appearance; they had much more serious differences to deal with, as I hope I was able to portray convincingly in Ransom.
Henry’s daughters, Mathilda and Joanna and Eleanora were all said to be lovely, and of course not a single chronicler thought to mention the hair or eye color of their celebrated mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine.    This lapse has led to some unintentional humor on the part of Eleanor’s biographers, with one assuring us that she had golden hair and blue eyes while another one tells us with equal certainty that she had black hair and eyes and a voluptuous figure.
As a dynasty, the Plantagenets seem to have been a good-looking lot, but it is such a pity that we have no portraits of any of them that are comparable to the portraits done of the Tudors.   We do have some fascinating reconstructions, though.   Click onto this YouTube link if you’ve not seen Eleanor and Richard, brought to mesmerizing life by Jude Maris, based upon their effigies at Fontevrault Abbey.  Watching them “wake up” from their long sleep is both amazing and a bit eerie.   She also does Henry II, Elizabeth Woodville, and the six wives of Henry VIII.
Lastly, here is the link to ten very interesting historical forensic reconstructions which are, of course, much more reliable than those that are done from effigies.   Here you will find Richard III in his blond incarnation and Mary, Queen of Scots, among others.   Well worth a look.

Again, thank you all for participating in the drawing, and congratulations to the winners.
June 1, 2015


  1. Stephanie Says:

    Congratulations to Laurie and Cynthia!

  2. Kasia Ogrodnik Fujcik Says:

    Congratulations to the winners. Thank you for the snippets of William of Tyre’s chronicle, Sharon. I wrote a post on leprosy and the situation of the lepers in MA for my Polish blog some time ago, mentioning both Baldwin and the young Raoul of Vermandois in it. Eleanor and Henry were the founders of quite a few leper houses. I wonder if they just fulfilled what was expected of the then royalty or was there more to this… Perhaps Eleanor, moved by her nephew’s fate, was the driving force behind the foundations. Just speculating :-)

  3. skpenman Says:

    Thanks, Kasia. But no, I don’t think Eleanor was the driving force behind their founding of leper hospitals. Henry seems have had genuine sympathy for lepers and throughout his reign, he tried to improve their sad lot. When I was visiting my friend, John, after the Richard III tour ended in 2013, he took me to see the ruins of a lazer house founded by Henry. Not much remained, but I was glad to have the opportunity to see it.
    Another highborn person with leprosy was one of the sons of Llywelyn ab Iorwerth’s good friend, Ednyved, who was also an ancestor of the Tudors–but he was a good guy, so I forgive him for that!

  4. JennyMcFie Says:

    Congratulations to the winners and your great blog x

  5. Emilie Laforge Says:

    Great new blog, Sharon. Love reading those colourful descriptions of some of our favorite Medieval figures. Everytime you mention Outremer, I get a little excited but not so much that the deadline dragon notices and tries to eat me for being annoying. ;)

  6. Kasia Ogrodnik Fujcik Says:

    Sharon, I remember that you recommended the photoshop reconstructions of the faces of Henry, Eleanor and Richard. They were great, but have you seen the one of Henry III? I have just come across it on YouTube. It’s the best one, at least IMHO. I will include the link. Could you free it, please? The reconstruction is stunning (they didn’t forget about Henry’s eyelid :-)).

  7. Kasia Ogrodnik Fujcik Says:

    Here it is:

  8. Andrew Zolnai Says:

    As I helped someone pack old magazines to ship abroad (yes less priviledged countries still want old magazines, tho the logisitics are daunting, as only 10% world get internet) I got a copy issue 277, April 2013 of Current Archaeology… and he’s mo def not portrayed as blond there LOL neither is the one pic I found on the next from Aug 2014

  9. Yvonne Says:

    Congratulations to the winners and thanks, Sharon, for this very informative post.

  10. Joan Says:

    Congratulations to the lucky winners! What a fascinating post……I’m getting excited too, for more adventures in Outremer. Richard III was not blond…no no no!

    Imad’s poetry is sublime!

    Thanks Kasia…..the reconstruction is wonderful.

  11. skpenman Says:

    No spoilers here, just a collection of the better known quotes from Game of Thrones. We all know “Lannisters always pay their debts” and “The things I do for love” and “You know nothing, Jon Snow.” But there are others that stick in our memories, too. Of the following quotes, my own favorite occurs when Tyrion stops his lunatic nephew, Joffrey, from beating Sansa. One of Joffrey’s lackeys yells that Tyrion cannot threaten the king. Tyrion says he wasn’t making threats. “I am educating my nephew. Bronn, the next time Ser Meryn speaks, kill him. Now that was a threat. See the difference?”

  12. Sharon Kay Penman Says:


    Sorry for disappearing again, but I’ve been corned by that blasted deadline dragon, who is really becoming a pest. I need to finish my current chapter before I leave for the Historical Novel Society Convention in Denver toward the end of the month, so the pressure level is rising. While the convention itself is only open to those who registered, they are holding a book signing for all attending authors and that will be open to the general public. So if any of my Facebook friends and readers who live in the Denver area would like to get books signed, I’d love to meet you; I’ll post the details later.
    June 6th is, of course, the anniversary of D-Day, well worth remembering. I know that Steven Spielberg’s epic Private Ryan is considered the definitive film about these events, but I also liked The Longest Day, for I thought it conveyed the confusion and horrors of war very effectively. Anyone else see that one?
    June 6th was also the day the Lionheart finally reached the siege of Acre in 1191. I had a lot of fun writing that scene, for I related it from the point of view of the perpetually disgruntled French king and Conrad de Montferrat, who not yet met the English king. Richard was a master at self-promotion, which absolutely infuriated his enemies, none more so than Philippe, who could only watch and fume helplessly as Richard took center stage once again, relegating him to the sidelines.
    Lionheart, page 292
    * * *
    By the time they reached the beach, it looked as if every man, woman, and child in camp had gathered at the shoreline. To the west, the sun was setting in a blaze of fiery color, the sky and sea taking on vivid shades of gold and red, drifting purple clouds haloed in shimmering lilac light. The ships entering the bay were backlit by this spectacular sunset, and Philippe wondered if Richard had timed his landing for maximum impact. The sleek war galleys were slicing through the waves like the deadly weapons they were, the royal banners of England and Outremer catching each gust of wind, the oarsmen rowing in time to the thudding drumbeats, the air vibrating with the cacophony of trumpets, pipes, and horns. And just as he’d done at Messina, Richard was standing on a raised platform in the prow of his galley, a magnet for all eyes. When the crowds erupted in wild cheering, he acknowledged their tribute by raising a lance over his head and the noise level reached painful proportions, loud enough to reach the Saracen soldiers lining the walls of the city as they, too, watched, spellbound, the arrival of the legendary Lionheart.
    Conrad was staring at the spectacle in disbelief, eyes wide and mouth open. When he finally tore his gaze away from the scene playing out in the harbor, he saw that the French king was watching him with a mordant, cynical smile, one that he now understood. “All that is lacking,” Philippe said, “is the dancing bear.”
    * * *

  13. Joan Says:

    Brilliant scene, one of my favorite. For all his flaws, Richard knew what he was about & played it to the max. It must have been overpoweringly mesmerizing to be in his charismatic presence at such times.

  14. skpenman Says:

    Here is James Hibberd’s comments on Sunday’s episode of Game of Thrones. As usual, spoilers abound, so do not read any farther if you have not yet seen it. I don’t want to commit any spoilers myself, but I am guessing I am not the only one who gave some serious consideration to bailing after one scene in particular. I will probably hang in to the bitter end because of Tyrion and Danni and her dragons, but the thought definitely crossed my mind. While reading the books, I remember thinking that Joffrey had to be the worst character in the entire series, and then we were introduced to Ramsay Snow. Well, I consider Sunday’s scene to be even worse than what happened at the Red Wedding, which probably says it all. Anyway, here is the link; Hibberd is always well worth reading and does have some interesting insights about the last episode.

  15. Kasia Ogrodnik Fujcik Says:

    Just in case Sharon is too busy to post today - 832 years ago, Henry, the young king of England, aged twenty-eight (born on 28 February 1155), died at Martel, Limousin. I am going to re-read a movingly written account of Henry’s last hours in Devil’s Brood.

  16. skpenman Says:

    Thank you, Kasia! We would not want the young king to be forgotten, and I was too busy to post until today.

    Here is my Facebook Note.

    I’m back, having fought the deadline dragon to a draw; the chapter is done!
    On the historical front, June 15th is the anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta by King John in 1215. John of course repudiated it as soon as he could, as did his son, Henry III, and grandson, Edward I—for all the good it did them. I discuss the provisions of the Runnymede charter on pages 454-458 of Here Be Dragons. It is a little-known but fascinating fact that two of the provisions were included at the demand of the barons’ ally, Llywelyn Fawr. One compelled John to make restitution of Welsh lands, liberties, and rights seized unjustly by the Crown and recognized the supremacy of Welsh law in Wales. And the other said simply, “We will restore at once the son of Llywelyn, and all the hostages from Wales and the charters delivered to us as security for peace.”
    On the quasi-medieval Game of Thrones front, here is the link to James Hibberd’s recap of last night’s finale. SPOILERS, as usual.
    I have yet to talk to any reader of the books who believes the major character who died at the end of the 5th novel is actually dead; nor do I. Not only are there clues aplenty to indicate he is not really dead, his death would invalidate his entire story arc and do major damage to the major plot-line itself. And again, this is not just me; as far as I can tell, it is the consensus of opinion among GRRM’s readers. Ah, but does GRRM agree? His is the only opinion that really counts, of course. As for the HBO episode, it certainly looked as if this character was dead and the actor is quoted as saying he’ll not be back. However, he could be lying. Or they could be lying to him. Or they could plan to bring the character back in another guise. ?????? It does seem to me, though, that the level of gory violence is reaching the saturation point. I am not squeamish; I am the woman who has been known to shoot an arrow into some poor soldier’s eye or throat, for example. But the scene with Arya was a bit too graphic for my taste. Since neither Master Martin nor the HBO writers have yet to ask for my advice, however, that does not matter much. Finally, this is a spoiler, but a small one, and since it is sure to be of interest to Games fans, I feel free to report that the Hound will be back; the actor has signed on for the next season.

  17. Malcolm Craig Says:

    Sharon, we have speculated whether a Magna Carta would have been likely had Geoffrey, rather than John, succeeded, Richard. Geoffrey’s much better political sense might have helped avoid the kind of deadlock that led to Magna Carta.

  18. Theresa Says:

    Quite a sombre end to a fairly grim season. There was one disturbing scene after another. The part with Cersei reminded me of the way female collaborators were treated after World War Two- being stripped naked, shaved and (in some cases) covered in tar) before being dragged through the streets.

    Disclaimer- While I have never lived under a foreign occupation and can see why people would be angry at those who were better off- the images are sometimes hard to watch

    At least Tyrion is still alive?

  19. skpenman Says:

    It did the same for me, too, Theresa. And he is so far. But the day Tyrion is killed is the day I walk away.

    Good luck to everyone in Houston and those areas in the bull’s eye of this new storm. The last thing they need is more rain in Texas.
    I missed a few historical events while I was gone. On June 11, 1183, Henry’s son, the Young King (Hal in my books) died of dysentery after disgracing himself by robbing abbeys in the Limousin. He made a “good death,” though, begging the forgiveness of his father and God and imploring Henry to pardon Eleanor. I knew Kasia would do him justice on his day, and she did.
    On June 13, 1483, William, Lord Hastings, was put to death at the command of Richard, Duke of Gloucester, which was not Richard’s finest hour, for Hastings was executed without a trial. I will admit that I had fun writing that council confrontation scene in Sunne, though. I rather liked Will. And I’ve seen some commentators compare Cersei’s walk of shame on the Game of Thrones finale to Jane Shore’s penance, but that does not really work. Jane was not shorn of her hair and forced to strip naked as Cersei was; that scene reminded me more of what befell women who were believed to have collaborated with the Nazis. And yes, I also enjoyed writing Jane’s penance scene in Sunne; I liked Jane, too, and luckily for her, so did the Londoners.
    Continuing on, Hal was crowned at age 15 on June 14, 1170, Henry’s second greatest mistake. The first, of course, involved those rash words spoken in one of his Angevin temper tantrums, and no, he did not say, “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?” But he said enough, of course, to send four ambitious knights galloping for the Channel with murder in mind. On that date, too, in 1381, King Richard II courageously rode out alone to meet the rebels advancing on London; it is rather sad that the high point of his life occurred at age 14 and it was downhill after that. On June 15, 1330, the Black Prince was born, and today, June 16, 1487 was the battle of Stoke Field, said to be the last battle of the Wars of the Roses. Henry Tudor won a decisive victory and Richard’s nephew, John, the Earl of Lincoln, was slain. It was believed that Francis Lovell drowned fleeing the field after they’d lost, but we now know Francis reached safety in Scotland; the last record of him occurs in 1489 and after that, he disappears from history.

  20. skpenman Says:

    Richard I, AKA the Lionheart, thought that his Third Crusade had failed because he’d been unable to recapture Jerusalem, but he did gain the kingdom another hundred years of life. It came to a bloody end, though, on June 17, 1291, when the city of Acre fell to the Mamlucks. The Mamluks showed no pity to the inhabitants, no more than the men of the First Crusade had done when they captured Jerusalem in 1099. Mercy always seems to be a scarce commodity in this part of the world, sadly. Michael Jecks is one of the writers who has written about this episode in his novel Templar’s Acre.

  21. Joan Says:

    My heart is sick with this tragedy. Such hatred is so entrenched, raging through the generations, & arising from all strata of society. It’s the reason we must maintain vigilance when seeking leaders in any of our institutions.

  22. Joan Says:

    If anyone missed the speech just now, of Cornell William Brooks, national president of NAACP, please try to find it online.

  23. skpenman Says:

    Thanks, Joan. I will Google it.

    Humanity at its best and at its worst. The families of the people massacred in church by a hate-filled terrorist offer him their forgiveness. I don’t think I could do that, but I have such admiration that they can.

  24. skpenman Says:

    My writer friend sent this to me after my Facebook rant about the season finale of Game of Thrones.

  25. skpenman Says:

    I am running around like Holly in pursuit of a squirrel, trying to get ready for the Historical Novel Society convention in Denver this week. While the convention itself is only for those who registered for it, all the attending writers are having a book signing that will be open to the general public. It will be held this Saturday, June 27th, from 5-7 PM., taking place in the hotel Atrium; the hotel is the Hyatt Regency Tech Center of Tufts Street; there is another Hyatt in Denver, so this is important.  I hope some of my readers in the Denver area can stop by. You can bring as many of my books as you like for me to sign; hey, I might even be willing to sign books by other writers, especially if I wish I’d written them myself. Speaking of other writers, check the list of those attending, for you may want to get signed books from some of them, too. I will surface again next week, but I’ll try to get onto Facebook a few times during the week.

  26. skpenman Says:

    I am back. I took a few extra days after the HNS convention to visit with a friend and see a little of Colorado. I can now cross Pike’s Peak off my Bucket List; okay, it was never on there, but it should have been, for the views were beyond spectacular. I had a very good time at the conference itself, and I was especially pleased to meet some of my Facebook friends. (Ken, you have a network that M-5 might envy) And of course I’ll have stories about David’s swordplay; I always suspected that man is as dangerous as he is charming!

    But those flying tuna-can ordeals are getting worse and worse. More and more those planes resemble cattle cars, and the weather was horrific coming and going. I’ll spare you all the gory travel details—at least until I do a blog about the trip. Speaking of which, I still have not heard from Laurie Spencer, who won the hardcover edition of Sunne and I have no way to contact her. If she does not surface soon, I am going to have to re-do the drawing and pick a new winner, open only to those of you who entered the original drawing. (I’ll give Laurie a paperback copy as a consolation prize.)

    I hope all of my American friends and readers are enjoying the holiday. July 4th is a day of great significance on the medieval calendar, too, for it was on this date in 1187 that Saladin destroyed the army of the kingdom of Jerusalem at the battle of Hattin, which is considered by military historians to be one of the most boneheaded blunders in the history of warfare. Thanks to my Israeli friend, Valerie Ben David, I was able to visit Hattin during my trip to Israel last year, and I will be eternally grateful to her for taking us out to the battlefield, which is at the back of beyond. Being able to experience that was such a blessing for a writer soon to fight that battle. I even had my own small miracle; my back pain had flared up during the trip and I was really hurting—until we reached Hattin, where my pain suddenly disappeared, enabling me to climb up the hill, which was rocky enough to have given a mountain goat pause. I still have vivid memories of that afternoon and evening, seeing the Sea of Galilee shimmering like a sapphire jewel on the horizon, exquisite torment to men half-maddened by thirst, and then watching as the sunset splashed the sky with dying colors and the day ebbed away.

    Lastly, I have good news for fans of Roberta Gellis. I know many of you have enjoyed her Roselynde Chronicles about a noble fictional family in the 12th century. I also enjoyed her mystery series about Magdalene La Batarde, the shrewd and sympathetic madame of a London whorehouse during the civil war between King Stephen and the Empress Maude. Roberta has a new one out, published in June, called Chains of Folly. I have it on my Kindle, but I dared not start it yet, or I would not even have unpacked. Books trump real life every time, don’t they?

  27. skpenman Says:

    I would like to apologize for giving you all erroneous information about Roberta Gellis yesterday. When I saw Chains of Folly’s publication date as June of 2015, I wrongly assumed that it was a new book in the series—wishful thinking on my part, I suppose. One of my readers kindly corrected my assumption. The series is now available in the e-book format, and the date referred to that. Sorry for misleading people—sometimes the only exercise I get is jumping to conclusions.
    July 6th, 1189 is the anniversary of the death of one of my favorite kings, Henry II. He was such a fascinating man, a great king who was a very flawed father and husband. While he brought many of his troubles upon himself, he did not deserve such a sad death, betrayed by the son he most loved, John. He’d just been forced to make a humiliating surrender to his son Richard and the French king, Philippe, and John’s treachery was the final blow. He is said to have turned his face to the wall and did not speak again—not until he cried out in the throes of delirium, “Shame upon a conquered king!” While historians continue to give him the credit he so deserves, the general public remembers him mainly for uttering those angry, heedless words that led to Becket’s murder and for his turbulent relationship with his queen, Eleanor. At the end of Devil’s Brood, when the newly freed Eleanor lights a candle for Henry in Winchester Cathedral, she tells her dead husband that “At least it was never dull, my darling. And you will be remembered long after we’ve all turned to dust. But so will I.” Truer words were never spoken; on Amazon.UK, my Angevin trilogy is advertised as the Eleanor of Aquitaine trilogy. Writing about Henry and Eleanor and their Devil’s Brood has been a pleasure and a privilege; I shall miss them.

  28. skpenman Says:

    I devoted yesterday’s post to the sad death of Henry II at Chinon Castle. But there were other occurrences worth mentioning. Richard, Duke of Gloucester, became King Richard III upon his coronation at Westminster Abbey. And the son for whom Henry VIII turned Christendom upside down, Edward VI, died at the young age of fifteen, possibly of consumption. It is impossible to judge what sort of king he might have been. He was highly intelligent and well educated, but he’d also shown troubling signs of religious zealotry. And his death, of course, led to the crowning of one of England’s greatest rulers, his sister Elizabeth.
    As for today’s date, one of my least favorite kings, Edward I, died on July 7, 1307. The Welsh, the Scots, and the Jews, among others, probably hoped that he’d be enjoying a fiery eternity.

  29. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Another hot and very humid day in NJ; I’m already homesick for Colorado….sigh. Meanwhile, here is something for my fellow Game of Thrones fans. Are we grasping at straws–or hairs—here?

  30. skpenman Says:

    This was a day of liberation for Anne off Cleves, for on July 9, 1540, she officially survived the end of her marriage to the Tudor Bluebeard. Do you think any of Henry’s other wives were as happy on their wedding days as Anne was on the day of her marriage’s annulment? I’d guess that Katherine of Aragon was, for she’d not been graced with second sight. I suspect that by the time the pregnant, stressed-out Anne Boleyn wed Henry, she was too exhausted to feel genuine joy. Any thoughts on that? I wouldn’t presume to guess what the enigmatic Jane Seymour was feeling, anything from triumph to terror, depending upon the role she played in snaring Henry. Silly little Catherine Howard was probably happy to be queen, but I doubt she was happy at the prospect of wedding and bedding an ailing, short-tempered, overweight man so many years her senior. And the saddest of all must have been Catherine Parr. What a miserable marital history. So it is comforting that at least one of these women—Anne of Cleves—emerged victorious.

  31. skpenman Says:

    This may be the cutest animal video I’ve ever seen—watch a patient mother raccoon teach her clumsy baby how to climb a tree.

  32. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Echo White Shepherd Rescue is seeking volunteers to drive Angel, a beautiful young white shepherd from Wilmington, NC to Milford, PA next weekend. I know some of my readers have been kind enough to offer their help in transporting Echo’s rescued dogs, so here is Angel’s itinerary, with the list of the legs that still need to be filled. If any of you can help, the contact information is at the bottom of the itinerary, or you can contact me and I’ll happily pass your message on. I remember very fondly Tristan’s pilgrimage from Florida in 2011 and how so many of you followed his progress and cheered him on. For a dog who came within hours of being put down in that FLA shelter, it was wonderful that he should suddenly have fans all over the world.

    Wilmington NC to Milford PA

    Saturday, July 18th

    Leg 1 Filled! Thank you, Lori Overton!
    Wilmington NC to Rocky Mount NC
    144 miles, 2 hrs 20 min.
    Leave 8:00am
    Arrive 10:20am

    Leg 2 NEEDED
    Rocky Mount NC to Petersburg VA
    103 miles, 1 hr 35 min
    Leave 10:30am
    Arrive 12:05pm

    Leg 3 NEEDED
    Petersburg VA to Stafford VA
    90 miles, 1 hr 30 min
    Leave 12:15pm
    Arrive 1:45pm

    Leg 4 NEEDED
    Stafford VA to Catonsville MD
    86 miles, 1 hr 45 min
    Leave 1:55pm
    Arrive 3:40pm

    Leg 5 NEEDED
    Catonsville MD to Lancaster PA
    81 miles, 1 hr 30 min
    Leave 3:50pm
    Arrive 5:20pm

    Leg 6 NEEDED
    Lancaster PA to Allentown PA
    69 miles, 1 hr 25 min
    Leave 5:30pm
    Arrive 6:55pm

    Leg 7 Filled! Thank you, Donna G.
    Allentown PA to Milford PA
    75 miles, 1 hr 30 min
    Leave 7:05pm
    Arrive 8:35pm

    Sarabeth Gordon
    Volunteer Transport Coordinator
    Echo Dogs White Shepherd Rescue

  33. Joan Says:

    The raccoon video is precious! I’ve sent it to everyone. My sister said Mama looks like she needs a drink by the end of it. I told my son, See how much work you guys are?!

    Godspeed Angel!

  34. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Yes, that was one devoted raccoon mom, Joan. The look on her face made me think she was asking herself how she could have given birth to such a klutz.

    Yesterday, July 11, 1174 was the date of death of Amalric I, King of Jerusalem, an interesting case that proves one man can have a dramatic impact upon history, even one whom most people today have never heard of. Amalric’s death was unexpected, for he was only 38, dying of dysentery he’d contracted on a recent campaign. Had he lived, the history of the Holy Land, Syria, Egypt, England, France, and Germany would have been altered.
    Saladin was able to take advantage of the kingdom’s weaknesses when it was ruled by a young leper king and torn asunder by political rivalries. Had Amalric, a strong king with an aggressive foreign policy, lived, the kingdom would not have been so vulnerable to attack. Baldwin would not have become king, disqualified once his leprosy was definitely diagnosed, nor would his sister Sybilla have become queen, making her inept husband, Guy de Lusignan, king. Without Guy to lead their army into disaster at the battle of Hattin, Saladin would not have been able to seize Jerusalem. Without the fall of Jerusalem, there would have been no Third Crusade. Richard I would not have been shipwrecked and would not have fallen into the hands of the Emperor Heinrich. It is also unlikely that he’d have died as he did, at Chalus, for his bitter war with the French king was the result of his attempts to win back the lands he’d lost to Philippe during his German captivity. In the five years that he fought Philippe after regaining his freedom, only once was Philippe able to defeat him on the field, so there is no way Philippe could have seized so much of the Angevin lands with Richard on the scene to defend them.
    But while we can say with reasonable certainty that the above events would not have happened had Amalric lived and continued to rule, we cannot predict what would have occurred with this different set of facts. It is safe to say, though, that Richard would never have died peacefully in bed at an advanced age! It is possible that Heinrich could have been overthrown by his rebellious lords, that John might not have become king, that neither Saladin nor Richard would have achieved the fame that they won by combatting each other during the Third Crusade. I find the speculation concerning Amalric’s premature death to be especially intriguing because the stakes were so high for so many countries and dynasties.
    History is a natural breeding ground for these What If questions. What if Edward I had been slain by that Assassin’s poisoned dagger in Acre? (If only!) What if Simon de Montfort had pulled off a miracle and prevailed at Evesham? If Edward IV had heeded his head, not his nether regions, and realized how foolish it would be to wed Elizabeth Woodville? Or if he’d not died at forty? What if Richard III had won the battle at Bosworth? No wonder some writers are drawn to alternative fiction!

  35. Joan Says:

    Goes to show that microorganisms are the real power brokers!

  36. Malcolm Craig Says:

    It occurs to me that both Amalric and his half-brother, Geoffrey of Anjou, died unexpectedly at age 38.

  37. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Interesting point, Mac; I hadn’t thought about that. At least Amalric wasn’t cured by Bernard of Clairvaux!

    I hope no one will feel I am cheating by recycling an earlier post. On this date in 1174, as Henry knelt before Thomas Becket’s tomb in the crypt of Canterbury Cathedral, the King of Scotland was having the worst day of his life, as I explain below. Here is the account of Henry’s amazing act of penance and the consequences that followed.
    * * *
    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.
    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 from a Japanese bookseller that was written by a medieval monk and translated by a Victorian historian.
    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.

  38. skpenman Says:

    July 14th is, of course, Bastille Day. It is on my Bucket List, albeit way down there, to be in Paris one year for the celebration. July 14th was also a day of liberation for a much abused medieval queen, Ingeborg, the Danish princess who had the bad luck to marry Philippe Capet. After she refused to consent when he attempted to end their marriage the morning after they’d apparently experienced the Wedding Night from Hell, he proceeded to treat her even worse than Henry VIII treated Katherine of Aragon. I’ve written about this before, and can post a link to the article I wrote about it if anyone is interested. But Philippe finally died on July 14, 1223, and I am happy to report that his son and grandson treated her very well for the remaining years of her life.
    I am also happy to report that one of the world’s most famous wolves is a father again. He was the lone wolf (literally as well as figuratively) who won Internet fame by roaming thousands of miles, even into California, in search of a mate. All true romantics and all animal lovers were delighted last year with the news that his perseverance paid off; he’d found his lady wolf, and they soon had a litter of cubs. Well, they have recently had a second litter. See story here.

  39. Joan Says:

    My cousin Stephen who lives in a pretty little village outside of London just wished me a Happy St. Swithun’s Day, so I will pass it on.

  40. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Rumors to the contrary, I was not kidnapped by alien beings. Nor do I have any exotic excuses to offer for my absence. Real life simply swept me up in its clutches. Writers really do need shark-filled moats to keep us safe from distractions, but that is one of the few items not offered on Amazon.
    Here is an interesting, fairly balanced review of Harper Lee’s new book that ran in the New York Times. I think the reviewer makes some valid points. I should admit my bias at the outset; I do not believe Harper Lee ever intended for this novel to be published. She had several decades in which to do so, and I find it telling that she did not. In light of her current circumstances and the vulnerabilities that age eventually inflicts us all, I remain skeptical that this was truly her wish. Having said that, I have always planned to read the novel. I have just started it, and her distinctive voice shines through in the first chapter very clearly; the humor is there and the imaginative way with words. The NY Times reviewer feels that the book fell apart in the second half, but I am not far enough into the book to judge. I would be very curious to get reader feedback on this.

  41. Joan Says:

    Sharon, thanks for including the review. I’m not sure I’ll read the book, I think I’d not like to tamper with the beloved To Kill a Mockingbird.

    Interesting what the reviewer says at the end though, that had Ms Lee not been influenced by her editor & the book written & published as she first envisioned, this fully realized story might have become a modern masterpiece. Certainly studied & debated for decades. It will be interesting to hear your thoughts once you finish it.

  42. Malcolm Craig Says:

    Sharon, I agree that it is unlikely the Nell Harper Lee actually wanted this earlier work published. The young attorney who now controls her affairs appears to be less than trustworthy. Note that the “publication decision” took place after her sister Alice died at 103. Late in life, Alice stated her belief that her younger sister was signing things she did not understand.

  43. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    It is really sad, isn’t it, Mac?

    For my fellow Game of Thrones fans, more speculation about the fate of Jon Snow.

  44. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    I’m back. For much of the time, I was off having fun, showing Stephanie the scenic wonders of New Jersey—yes, we do have them in Jersey—during her visit. Now comes the non-fun part, though; I am having my kitchen remodeled this week and never have I wished more fervently that life had a fast-forward button.
    Moving back in time, here is a remarkable story coming out of the Loire Valley. It seems Richard III may soon be joining his Angevin ancestors at Fontevrault. Yes, that startled me, too. Here is the link so you can read the story for yourselves. Now I am always in favor of calling attention to Richard, but I have to admit it never occurred to me to let him crash the Angevin party.

  45. skpenman Says:

    I found this story truly infuriating. I really hope they don’t get off with a slap on the wrist, but I suspect that will be the case.
    Since that story shows people at their worst, here is a much more heartening example of people at their best. We need reminders of that, given the current state of the world.

  46. skpenman Says:

    July 29, 1469 was not a good day for the House of York, for it was on this date that Edward was captured and taken as a prisoner to his cousin, the Earl of Warwick. However, I had great fun writing this scene and the succeeding scenes, as Edward showed he was more than a skilled battle commander and a playboy prince. He had a first-rate brain, too, and he was one of those rare men who were at their best when things were at their worst, although sadly he was at his worst when things were at their best. Warwick had always underestimated him, and that would prove to be a costly mistake. Writers usually have favorite chapters and Edward’s capture at Olney is one of mine. So, too, are the scenes with Warwick, so smugly sure he has the upper hand, while Edward smiles and complies with the demands made upon him and makes plans of his own. Plans that come to fruition when Warwick returns to Middleham and is shocked to discover that Edward has managed to summon the lords of the realm–and an army led by his young brother Richard and the loyal Will Hastings.
    The Sunne in Splendour, pages 152-153
    * * *
    The men were watching Warwick with expectant interest; several, like Jack Howard, were openly challenging. Warwick’s eyes moved from face to face, until at last he found the one he sought. Edward was standing with the Archbishop of York. The latter was resplendent in the jeweled miter and robes of a Prince of the Church, but as white of face as one being marched to the gallows. Edward had been laughing as Warwick entered the hall; he was flushed with triumph, looked surprisingly young and suddenly carefree.
    For a moment, time seemed to fragment, the intervening eight years seemed to disappear as if they’d never been, and Warwick was seeing again the jubilant nineteen year old youth who’d ridden beside him into London to deafening cheers on that long-ago February day that was to lead to the throne. And then the eerie illusion shattered and Warwick was facing a man who watched him with hard mocking eyes and a smile that promised not remembrance, but retribution.
    * * *
    July 29th was also the date in 1565 when Mary Queen of Scots made a mistake so monumental that it can be argued this was her first step on the road to the gallows at Fotheringhay Castle. I am not a fan of Mary’s, having always been a member of Team Elizabeth, but even I wish I could time-travel back to the day of her wedding to Lord Darnley and warn her not to marry him. Not that she’d have heeded me. Mary was never one for listening to good advice.

  47. Joan Says:

    I must have sensed this date upon us when I dug the DVD out yesterday & rewatched the movie of Mary Queen of Scots. Mary should have retired in France after Francis died. I can’t help but have some sympathy for the unqualified young women (& men) who were unfortunate enough to be in the succession line.

  48. skpenman Says:

    I hope that all of you who share my anger and disgust at the killing of the magnificent lion, Cecil, will sign this petition. Social shaming seems to be the only way to make this man, Walter James Palmer, pay a price for what he did. Not only did he kill an animal in danger of extinction after luring him from the safety of a game preserve, it is likely that by killing Cecil, he also doomed the young cubs in Cecil’s pride. A fine would not deter someone who’d pay over $50,000 to be able to murder a lion. He already has a felony conviction for illegally killing a black bear. He clearly did not care about Cecil’s suffering in the 40 hours between his wounding and his death. He does not seem to like being made an object of scorn, though, judging by his attempts to place all of the blame on the guides. There is really little we can do, except to speak up and say that this is wrong, this is unacceptable, and we have nothing but contempt for Walter James Palmer and those who see “big-game hunting” as a sport.

  49. Theresa Says:

    Henry VIII married Katherine Howard and had Thomas Cromwell executed on the 28th July 1540.
    I always wondered about the conversation topics that would have taken place during the wedding feast at Oatlands Palace on that day. Probably safer to say nothing.

  50. skpenman Says:

    Nothing medieval on my mind today, but July 30th, 1818 was the birthdate of Emily Bronte. Like many others, I’ve always been very interested in the Bronte sisters. I once made a visit to their family home at Haworth in the West Yorkshire moors, and it was an amazing experience to be able to see their personal effects and furniture and the couch upon which Emily had died. When I was doing research for Ransom, I was startled to learn that a strong case can be made that Charlotte died of hyperemesis gravidarum, as Joanna did in Ransom. When I was young, I was bedazzled by Wuthering Heights, but later I decided that Jane Eyre was actually the better book, at least IMHO. Any thoughts on that?
    Meanwhile, the petition on behalf of Cecil the lion has collected over a quarter million signatures already; I want to thank to all of you who signed. It has now been posted on Twitter, so I expect the number to rise significantly. (And no, I am still not on Twitter myself.)
    Lastly, my kitchen remodeling is done! My plumber is busy putting in a new sink and then re-hooking the dishwasher even as I type this. I think it looks wonderful and l will be recommending Home Depot’s kitchen remodeling unit to virtually everyone I know. But there must be some very disappointed ants outside, for they’d been invading the kitchen this summer via the old splashguard, which had been poorly installed. I’d suggested to Holly that she might want to add ants to her diet, but she was not receptive to that idea. Since I did not want to call in an exterminator and anteaters do not make the best of pets, a kitchen remodeling seemed in order!

  51. Joan Says:

    It seems that Walter James Palmer is in hiding now. Not so brave anymore now that HIS head is at stake!!! I hope that his “prize” will be confiscated, with photos of him next to it, & splashed on posters & every news media over the world. Let the world see the height of narcissism, ego, selfishness, cowardly deceit, & the damage done by such inhuman individuals.

    On a lighter note, enjoy your new kitchen, Sharon. I too had an ant problem, in the spring. It was an ongoing battle, & when I thought I’d finally won the war, a much larger ant appeared out of the blue & landed on me. Then a few days later, a massive ant arrived, minus white flag. That’s when I knew they’d sent the big guns in to exterminate ME. There was nothing to do but don armour, shield, & sword. I’ve sighed relief since, but will reinforce the battlements before next spring.

  52. skpenman Says:

    I use something called Orange Guard, Joan, all natural, and perfectly safe to use around food, people, and pets (like Holly.) I have a live and let live philosophy for most insects–all except ticks, fleas, and (shudder) roaches. But I draw the line at having my kitchen seized by commando ants. Good luck with your struggle. Below is more information in the Cecil the lion case.

    There is good news on the Cecil the lion front. The government of Zimbabwe is requesting Palmer’s extradition to face charges. I suspect the worldwide outcry has a lot to do with their decision, but I welcome it anyway. The professional guide, who has already been charged, is now talking. He claims they were both upset when they found Cecil’s collar, which indicated he was protected, that they panicked and hid the collar. But he says that Palmer then asked if they could shoot an elephant the next day. Just for the record, the wild elephant population has fallen by 64% in just the last decade; these highly intelligent, highly social animals are at even greater risk of extinction than the lions. The more we learn about elephants, the more we realize what remarkable creatures they are, with a sophisticated social system and the capacity for empathy and humor and self-awareness. I’d be surprised if, in his unending “trophy” hunts, Palmer does not already have the blood of at least one elephant on his hands. Here is the link to the extradition story; the guide’s interview with the BBC is also easily available on-line. I would like to thank all of my readers who signed the petition. I think it helped.

  53. Sharon K Penman Says:

    Here is an imaginative creation of Westeros if it were part of Europe. I know, some of us have too much time on our hands, but it is a long way till next season where we either learn that Jon Snow is not dead or fans worldwide start to drink heavily. Jon is a sympathetic character and hey, there are not that many of them on Game of Thrones, but it is not that most of his fans would find his death so devastating. It is that many of us think that if he dies now, it invalidates the entire story line, or the story line that many of us expected to play out. Anyway, here is the new map of Westeros, equating each of the kingdoms to European countries.

  54. Joan Says:

    Palmer is so completely despicable, words aren’t derogatory enough to describe this lying, cowardly, inhuman creature.

    I have long thought we should look to the elephant for guidance in life, & model ourselves on them. Our world would be a different place indeed. I’ve recently seen 2 episodes of a great docu…..The Tipping Points, one on the Arctic, the other on the Amazon forests, & if we don’t act now, the “point of no return” will happen. This docu went that one step further in explaining the perilous situation on this planet.

    On the ant front, I’ll have to try Orange Guard when they appear next spring. I was thinking of Greek fire but I guess that would be overkill?!? Plus I’d get booted out of here.

  55. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    yes, Greek Fire might be a tad over the top, Joan, but then remodeling the kitchen could probably be seen as overkill, too.

    Yesterday, August 1st, 1202 was the occasion for King John’s one great military triumph. He’d gotten word from Eleanor that she was under siege at Mirebeau Castle by John’s rival, her own grandson Arthur, the young Duke of Brittany, with his de Lusignan allies. John’s father, Henry, and brother Richard had been famed for the speed of their campaigns, but even they would have been impressed by what John accomplished. He got word on Tuesday night, July 30th, and he and his men set out at once. It was eighty miles from Le Mans to Mirebeau, but he managed to reach the besieged castle at dawn on August 1st, catching his enemies utterly by surprise and capturing them all, including Arthur and the de Lusignans.
    Here be Dragons, page 159-160
    * * *
    “And Arthur? What of Arthur, John?”
    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,” Eleanor 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, letting her lead him toward the table, and then sopped 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 now saw 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.
    * * *
    Sadly, John would soon tarnish the brightness of that victory by his subsequent actions. He treated the captured Breton lords so badly that it created a scandal; a number died in captivity, one of whom was his brother Richard’s closest friend, their cousin Andre de Chauvigny. Arthur’s sister, Eleanor, had fallen into his hands, too, and she would remain a royal prisoner for forty years. John has been criticized by this, but his son Henry deserves just as much censure, if not more, for he never felt threatened by Eleanor, not sharing John’s paranoia. Arthur, of course, survived less than a year, disappearing into one of John’s dungeons never to be seen again. It was widely believed by John’s contemporaries and later by historians, that Arthur was murdered in April of 2003 on John’s orders. I believe it, too.

  56. Malcolm Craig Says:

    On the question of Arthur’s murder, we are in good company. That is the position taken by both F.M. Powicke and Charles Petit-Dutaillis. Basically, John trusted on one and was in turn trusted by no one. That is in complete contrast with the way his brother Geoffrey had governed Brittany.

  57. skpenman Says:

    I so agree, Mack. That was John’s fatal flaw as a king and a man, one that none of his brothers shared.

    I am still running a bit behind. So for yesterday’s date, on August 2, 1100, William Rufus was slain while hunting in the New Forest. Historians are inclined to accept it as an accident; it was however, an extremely convenient death, I note in passing. And on this date in 1274, Edward I returned from Crusade to assume the reins of government, having fully recovered from his wounds when he fought off an Assassin with a poisoned dagger. Imagine how different British history would have been had he succumbed to his injuries; feel free to insert wistful sigh here.

    During the years of the Roman Republic, a senator known as Cato the Elder ended every speech he made with the words “Carthage must be destroyed.” I am beginning to feel as if I am following in his footsteps, given how often I’ve been appealing to Laurie Spencer, the winner of the hardcover edition of Sunne in my blog giveaway, to contact me. But she is either on an extended holiday or she has gone over to the dark side and declared for the Tudor usurper. I do not think I can wait any longer, so I am going to do another drawing this week, with all those who participated in the first drawing eligible again to win the hardcover copy of Sunne. Laurie, if I do not hear from you before that drawing, I will offer you a signed paperback copy as a consolation prize.

  58. Malcolm Craig Says:

    “Carthago delenda est!” Cato died, at a great age, in 149 B.C., just three years before Scipio Aemilanus actually did destroy Carthage. C’est dommage pour lui.

  59. Theresa Says:

    I first remember reading about Cato the Elder in ‘I Claudius’. As a child poor Claudius was made to read all of Cato the Censor’s speeches and if he pronounced a word wrong , his tutor (a descendant of Cato) would slap him over the head.

    From memory, Rome’s destruction of Carthage is mentioned a great deal in Robert Grave’s novel.

  60. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    It has been a long time since I read the Graves novel, Theresa, but I think you are right. Did you see the BBC series I, Claudius? I think it remains the best mini-series I’ve ever seen.

    I am going with a rerun post today, for several reasons. I could say that I have Facebook readers who’ve friended me since I posted this and therefore have not read it, which is true. I could also say that recycling is always good, which it is, and this saves me some typing, also true. But truest of all is that I am worn out trying to stave off that blasted deadline dragon, who has become insufferably cocky, so sure is he of victory. Normally I love dragons, but mine has long since worn out his welcome. If only I could be Queen of the World for a day, I’d immediately issue a decree that writers will never be subject to deadlines ever again.
    Well, enough whining. Here is that earlier post about a bloody August day 850 years ago.
    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.”
    * * *
    So many years after his death, Simon de Montfort remains a controversial figure. But even those who dislike him have to admit that his was one of history’s better exit lines.

  61. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Goodreads is one of my favorite websites, and if some of you have not checked it out, I recommend that you do so, for it is a great source for finding new books and authors. They are celebrating historical fiction this week, offering the opportunity to ask questions directly of various writers. I was honored to be included, though you all can ask me questions anytime, of course. But here is your chance to query Diana Gabaldon, Michelle Moran, Philippa Gregory, Alice Hoffman, just to name only a few of the participating authors. Here is the link. Have fun!

  62. Theresa Says:

    Sharon I saw the mini series of ‘I Claudius’ some years ago and then promptly went out and ordered a VHS copy.
    A great series which showed how enthralling historical drama can be.
    When they are done well, they are wonderful
    when they are not, then they are
    ‘The Tudors’

    Although, I do recommend the BBC mini series Elizabeth R with Glenda Jackson.

  63. skpenman Says:

    I loved the Glenda Jackson series, too, Theresa. Also The Six Wives of Henry VIII, which has stood the test of time very well.

    Today’s Facebook post.

    Regular visitors to my Facebook pages may already know that my friend Stephanie has written her first novel, for it has been mentioned occasionally, just as we keep after Ken to finish his novel about Othon de Grandson. I am happy to report that Stephanie’s book, The Scribe’s Daughter, is now available for sale. Here is the link to her website, which is a fun place to visit in and of itself.

    I know Diana Gabaldon has many fans here, me amongst them. She blazed a path of her own with her Outlander series, blending time-travel with serious historical fiction to great effect. Stephanie’s novel has no elements of time-travel, has nothing to do with the complex politics of 18th century Scotland, and contains none of Diana’s celebrated sex scenes. But her book is like Diana’s in that it is well written and a challenge to categorize. Because The Scribe’s Daughter takes place in an alien world, some readers might see it as fantasy. No dragons, though, no elements of the supernatural, no vampires. Kassia’s homeland will seem familiar to my readers, for her daily life is not all that different from a medieval scribe’s daughter. Stephanie’s characters ride horses, defend themselves with swords, rely upon candles and firelight to hold off the dark. I have always found it very interesting that so many fantasy writers look to the Middle Ages for inspiration; even George RR Martin’s Ice and Fire series is rooted in a gritty, medieval reality—well, aside from the White Walkers and Danni’s dragons. It makes perfect sense to me, though, for what could be more fun to write about?

    To check out The Scribe’s Daughter for yourselves, visit Stephanie’s website, where she has generously provided an excerpt from the first chapter.

  64. Joan Says:

    Thanks for providing Stephanie’s website link, Sharon.

    Stephanie, a big congratulations! What a great achievement. I enjoyed the excerpt & am already lured into Kassia’s story. Very intelligent & interesting writing. Kudos to you!

  65. Stephanie Says:

    Thanks so much, Joan! Sharon prodded me into the idea of writing, sometimes kicking and screaming, but I am so glad she persisted. I can’t imagine not doing it now!

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