New winners of Sunne book drawing and fun in Denver

I have waited for over two months for the winner of my Sunne book giveaway, Laurie Spencer, to contact me, having no way to contact her myself.   But to no avail, so I finally decided it was only fair to do the drawing over again; that probably means that Laurie will surface as soon as the new blog is posted….sigh.   I can provide a signed paperback edition, though, as a consolation prize when she does.   Meanwhile, there are two new winners in the re-drawing for the commemorative hardcover edition of Sunne, for when I pulled out one number, another one had attached to it, like a limpet to a ship’s hull.  Since they emerged at the same time, it seemed only right to call them both winners.   So…..Anna Kallumpram and Chris Torrance, please contact me so I can arrange to personalize and mail your copies to you.  You can post a comment on this blog, use the Contact Sharon feature on my website, go to one of my Facebook pages, or e-mail me at

I have a very important battle scene looming in the next Outremer chapter and am really looking forward to it.  At the risk of sounding bloodthirsty, I enjoy fighting battles, find it very therapeutic—unless a favorite character has to die, of course.  Fortunately, that is not the case in this battle.    But because of this coming bloodshed, I will have to keep this blog shorter than usual.

I love Colorado in general and Denver in particular; in the good old days, they used to send me to the Tattered Cover on every book tour, but sadly, that has not been the case in recent years.   So I jumped at the opportunity to attend the Historical Novel Society convention in Denver last June, and I am so glad I did.  One of my favorite Kurt Vonnegut quotes is a commentary on the anti-social tendencies of authors; he claimed that most writers dragged themselves about in public like gut-shot grizzly bears.    Not always true, though, for I had a wonderful time attending panel discussions and catching up with friends like Priscilla Royal, Barbara Peters, Margaret George, Anne Easter Smith, Judith Starkey, Mary Tod, and David Blixt, among others; I also enjoyed meeting Charlene Newcomb, who has written a novel set during the Third Crusade,   Men of the Cross.   Because this was the largest of the HNS conventions to date, with over 450 writers and aspiring writers attending, it was inevitable that some of us would be like ships passing in the night; for example, Helen Hollick and I missed each other altogether and Christopher Gortner and I got to exchange hugs, but had no time to chat.    As an added bonus, I got to meet some of my Facebook friends at a book signing that was open to the public, and Karen King, a very gifted artist, gave me a beautiful portfolio of paintings she’d done of several of my characters: Llywelyn and Joanna, Richard III and Anne Neville, and Llywelyn ap Gruffydd.    My blog continues to make it very difficult to insert images into the narrative—one reason why we will soon be moving it—but I will do my best to include one of Karen’s paintings for you all to see.

For me, the highlights of the weekend were David Blixt’s swordplay sessions on Friday.  David and his actor friend, Brandon, put on a phenomenal show, first showing us how to kill with medieval swords and axes, and then how to kill with rapiers and other Renaissance weapons…..often while playing out scenes from Shakespeare!   David and Brandon are  experienced Shakespearean actors and would have been superb soldiers in the armies of the Lionheart, the Yorkist kings, or Cangrande della Scala, Lord of Verona in David’s magnificent Star-Cross’d series set in 14th century Italy.   After showing us how it is done, David and Brandon then offered lessons in how to lop off heads and skewer evil-doers.  Most of those in the class happily gave it a try, but I played the “senior citizen with a bad back card” and watched just as happily from the sidelines.   You’ll understand if I am able to include a photo from that session; you’ll notice that the broadsword I am holding is almost as tall as I am!

David, Sharon, & Broadsword

Sharon holding a broadsword with David Blixt

I stayed over in Denver after the convention ended in order to visit with a Colorado friend, Enda Junkins, who’d accompanied Paula Mildenhall and me on our memorable trip to Israel last year.   We had a very enjoyable dinner with Mary Tod and Margaret George and the next day Enda enabled me to cross Pike’s Peak off my Bucket List by driving me up to the top of that summit.   Well, it actually was not on my Bucket List, but it should have been, for the views were spectacular.   Only one slight problem—I found I couldn’t breathe very well at 14, 0000 feet!   Apart from a train trip through the Alps many years ago, I’d never been at such a height, for the highest peak in my beloved Snowdonia is less than 4,000 feet.    But the journey was well worth being out of breath and I highly recommend it for those of you visiting Colorado in the future.

The trip would have been perfect if only I’d been able to ask Scotty to beam me up or had my own private jet or a dragon to ride like Danni in Game of Thrones.   I was stuck flying United, though, with all the attendant joys that flying offers us these days.   Delays, bad weather, an almost-diversion to Colorado Springs, more delays, a cancelled flight, and during the actual time trapped in the flying tuna cans, all the comforts enjoyed by Roman galley slaves chained to their oars.  I know, travel is still easier for us than it was for people for most of history, but that is not always much consolation at 35,000 feet when we find ourselves forced to get very up close and personal with our seatmates because airlines keep shrinking the seats in order to squeeze even more into every row.

Okay, end of rant; it did help.   I will be waiting to hear from you, Anna and Chris.   And I promise to hold another drawing for the hardcover edition of Sunne before the end of the year.  Meanwhile, please wish me luck with the upcoming battle.
August 8, 2015

112 Responses to “New winners of Sunne book drawing and fun in Denver”

  1. Stephanie Says:

    Yay Anna and Chris!!!!

  2. Teresa O'Rourke Says:

    Best of luck with battle scene, look forward to reading it

  3. Mary Tod Says:

    HNS Denver was indeed awesome! And a wonderful dinner it was, Sharon. I was so delighted to spend time with you, Enda and Margaret. Wishing you lots of great writing with your battle scene.

  4. Marsha Says:

    Wonderful blog post! Congratulations to the winners. Denver sounded like an amazing time. Wish I could’ve gone. Best of luck with the upcoming battle scene. xx

  5. Lenora Smith Says:

    I’mlooking forward, like everyone else, to reading about Outermer! It’s been such a long spell sence A King’s Ransom. But I know it’s necessary because the end results are magnificent!! Stay healthy! ✌️

  6. Joan Says:

    What fun at the convention. The swordplay sessions must have been great, & paired with Shakespeare? What a treat. I just watched a docu in which a blacksmith forged one of the superior Ulfbehrt swords (which were made 800-1000 AD), using the crucible method of creating a steel ingot as it would have been done back then. The finished product was a marvel.

    Good luck with the battle scene, Sharon.

  7. Celia Jelbart Says:

    How I would like to meet you some time. Years ago we had friends from Australia living in Colorado Springs, so I have landed at that airport.
    Enjoy your books Anna and Chris.

  8. Stephanie Says:

    Joan, I don’t know if you saw my post on Sharon’s last entry, but I wanted to be sure to thank you for your kind words regarding my book. :-)

  9. Elaine Cougler Says:

    I so enjoyed meeting you at the conference, Sharon, both for the fact that you’ve been my favorite author ever since I found Sunne and because you were such a delight to talk with. I, too, am happy to wait for the next book as I know what a treasure it will be. Happy writing!

  10. Cynthia Fuller Says:

    Great post, Sharon! Loved hearing about Denver. And really enjoyed re-reading Sunne, using the soft cover copy I won from you a couple of months ago. Thanks again for pulling my name, and congrats to the new winners.

  11. skpenman Says:

    Mary, that was such a fun evening; Enda and I liked the restaurant so much we went back there for dinner on Monday.
    Celia, I really do expect us to be able to meet, for I am very serious about making my Australian trip happen–and before I’m too old to travel. :-) Wasn’t that a good conference, Elaine?

    Here is today’s Facebook post.
    When we think of “cute” animals, sloths do not usually come to mind. But here is a brief video of an undeniably cute baby sloth in the London zoo, who has a stuffed toy as his surrogate mom.
    On the historical front, Rania and maybe Koby will post about the grand sweep of events on August 9th. Only one caught my attention, though. On this date in 1173, construction began on the Tower of Pisa. I’ve not seen it in person, though I’d like to, so there is yet another reason for going back to Italy.

  12. Joan Says:

    Now that’s a pretty fun photo! What a lovely picture of you, Sharon! David Blixt could star in a film about the MA. I’m so full of compliments today. Love the sloth. I gave my granddaughters a gem of a book on the work an organization (forget which one) is doing with sloths, the pictures & the text are wonderful.

    Stephanie I did see your response, I checked in. Your writing has your signature all over it. And I only know this from things you’ve posted. I do hope we’ll see a paper copy of your novel one day?!? Sharon is indeed an inspiration. How lucky we all are.

  13. Moira Ford Says:

    Great blog as usual. Miss not having a new book to read from you. Have you a rough date of release of Outremer?

  14. Yvonne Connelly Says:

    Great photeo! And a message to Joan. I too just watched the PBS show about the Viking swords (thank you, husband, for your tech skills - actually got it to come up on the TV). Just can’t imagine people actually lifting and heaving these things - but guess they were strong guys — David must have been giggling in Denver at this room full of women writers!

  15. Chris Torrance Says:

    Love the photo Sharon - that sword looks really heavy. Having a bad back myself I can understand you not wanting to swing it about! Greatly looking forward to receiving my copy of Sunne and also looking forward with anticipation to Outremer!

  16. Kathleen Arconti Says:

    So looking forward forward to reading more battle scenes! Hope the Chicago is in your future!

  17. Dayle Jacob Says:

    Your battle scene in Sunne was the catalyst for my education in all things Sharon Kay Penman! I was smelling the blood, sweat and steel and hearing the clashing of swords when I asked myself, “WHO WROTE THIS BOOK?” I admit, I was surprised to find a feminine name on the cover but to this day it is still my favorite book and my favorite author! Thank you!

  18. Kasia Ogrodnik Fujcik Says:

    Happy Birthday, dearest Sharon! I hope that my birthday e-mail has safely reached your e-mail box.

  19. Malcolm Craig Says:

    Sharon catches up with me every year on this date. Sent my good wishes both by U.S. mail and electronically.

  20. skpenman Says:

    I had the best ever birthday yesterday, so truly magical that I have decided not to have any more, for they’d have to be anticlimactic. I would like to thank all of my Facebook friends who participated in the Surprise portion of the celebration. You made me very happy. I hope to get back to normal this weekend, and that will include making regular posts again on Facebook. For now, I am savoring my memories of an absolutely perfect day. Thanks, too, to all of you who posted birthday good wishes here. How did we ever get along without Facebook and social media?

  21. Gabriele Says:

    Happy Birthday, Sharon.

    Big swords are fun. Here’s me with a nice whopper. :)

    A fencing lesson with David Blixt sounds like fun. We really need to get all you cool guys and gals to Europe some day where I can travel without going near an airport. ;)

  22. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    This plea is for my fellow animal lovers here. An attempt is being made to end the long solitary confinement of an elephant at the Bronx Zoo. As most people know, elephants are very social animals, so this sort of isolation is a form of cruelty, intentional or not. For those who agree with me, I hope you will sign this petition, too.

  23. Kasia Ogrodnik Fujcik Says:

    Sharon, I hope that both, my birthday e-mail and my birthday card have safely reached your e-mail and mail box :-)

  24. Joan Says:

    Belated Happy Birthday Sharon! And sounds like it was a great day.

    Gabriele, now I’m jealous. Would love to handle one of those.

  25. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Thanks to all of you who’ve wished me a Happy Birthday—it was wonderful.

    Here is today’s Facebook Note.

    August 17th was a significant date in the lives of three kings and their sons. On August 17, 1153, Stephen’s eldest son and heir, Eustace, suddenly died under mysterious circumstances; the most widely accepted view is that he choked to death on a mouthful of eels, although poison has also been suggested. (Conspiracy theories were as popular in the MA as they are today, and Lord knows, Eustace had made legions of enemies, most of whom would have been delighted by his death.) For his contemporaries and probably even his grieving father—most likely the only one truly to mourn him—there was no question as to why he died. It was widely believed that he’d been struck down by God for his impious acts, in particular the sacking of an abbey not long before his unexpected death. It was a lucky death for England, as there is nothing in Eustace’s brutal and bloody record to indicate he’d have been a good king. On the very same day of his death, the future Henry II’s wife, Eleanor, was giving birth to the first of their five sons. And yes, people definitely took note of the timing, seeing it as proof that Henry’s star was in the ascendancy while Stephen’s was sinking. Henry and Eleanor’s new son was christened William, but he would never become king, sadly dying in early childhood at the age of three; not surprisingly, childhood mortality was high in the MA.

    It can be argued that neither Eustace nor William were lucky in light of their respective fates. The same can be said of another king’s son born on August 17th, this time in 1473, the second son of the Yorkist king, Edward IV and his Woodville queen. He was named Richard, probably to honor Edward’s father, but quite likely also to honor his youngest brother, Richard, who’d supported Edward so loyally in his quest to regain his crown. As we all know, this Richard was no luckier than Eustace or William, going down in history as one of the “Little Princes in the Tower,” his fate unknown. As readers of Sunne know, I believe Richard died with his elder brother in the summer of 1483, when he was only ten. Others are convinced he survived and was actually Perkin Warbeck, who advanced a claim to the crown and paid for it with his life. All we can say for a certainty is that the bright promise his parents must have imagined for him on the day of his birth never came to pass.

    Obviously the deaths of these kings’ sons changed the course of history. I think Eustace’s death was a blessing of sorts, for it led to the crowning of one of England’s greatest kings, Henry II, founder of the Plantagenet dynasty. (Without them, I might have been trapped practicing law!) It is interesting to speculate what might have happened had little William grown to manhood. Is it possible that his survival could have spared his family the internal turmoil, dissension, and jealousy that tore them apart? Or would he merely have been one more son to give Henry grey hairs and grief on his way to his sad death at Chinon? Impossible to say, but fun to speculate about.

  26. Malcolm Craig Says:

    Unless there were infants whose early death was not reported (unlikely in royal families), it is remarkable that 9 of Eleanor’s 10 children survived childhood, though only 2 of the 10 were still living at the end of their mother’s long life. As we know from Matilda of Brittany, the brief life of a royal grandchild could be barely mentioned in surviving written records of the 12th century. Sharon, I know you are familiar with David Baldwin’s theory in “The Lost Prince” that Richard of York survived in obscurity until 1550.

  27. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    I know that there are many Diana Gabaldon fans here, as well as many who enjoy the mysteries of P.F. Chisholm, who also writes historical novels under her real name, Patricia Finney. You will definitely be interested in watching this video of both writers at my favorite bookstore, the Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale, AZ. It is a long video, but can be watched in segments if need be. I’ve never met Patricia, although I am totally devoted to her Robert Carey, the main character in her P.F. Chisholm mysteries. I do know Diana, although honesty compels me to admit not all that well.  She has a wonderful sense of humor, which is on full display in this video. Since there is so much wry humor in the Chisholm mysteries, I assumed that Patricia is also an amusing speaker, and she did not disappoint. So the video is undoubtedly entertaining. It is also informative. You will learn about Diana’s family legend (which turns out to be true) and Patricia’s surprising discoveries about her own family tree. You will find out what they plan to write in the future, what Diana thinks of the proposed cover for her upcoming adult Outlander coloring book, and the flight in which her laptop provided the only light in the entire cabin. They also pull the veil back a bit, allowing readers a glimpse of how writers work. Anyone wondering about the value of book tours should watch this video! My thanks to Barbara Peters for sharing it with me. I am delighted to be able to share it now with all of you.

  28. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    The news lately has been so sad—those firefighters dying in Washington, that antiquities professor being beheaded by ISIS barbarians, all the homes destroyed in these ongoing wildfires—that I thought it would be a good idea to post something sure to make you all smile. This was already posted on my fan club page, but not elsewhere: the results of the annual Bulwer-Lytton contest for the worst opening line in a novel. (He was the Victorian author who began one story “It was a dark and stormy night.”) Be sure to read my favorite entry about Morris being stranded in a life-raft; I tried to copy and paste it here but the website won’t allow it. I would have given the grand prize to Morris’s author, Charlie Hill of New Zealand, but then no one asked me. Maybe for the best; I wouldn’t want them to start looking at my books to see if one of my own opening lines qualified for the contest!

  29. skpenman Says:

    A friend sent me this and I wanted to share here, as I know many of you will be wondering if you should upgrade to Windows 10. You ought to be able to find the answers to all your questions here. It convinced me—I’ve reserved a copy, won over by the price (free) and the good reviews that Windows 10 has been earning.

  30. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    August 21, 1165 was a day of great happiness for the French king, Louis VII, for after four daughters, his third wife gave birth to his longed-for son. So joyful was Louis that Philippe was known as Dieu-donne, God-given. Philippe must be considered one of the great French kings, for he vastly expanded the territory of the French Crown during his long reign of 43 years. I have been able to find little to admire about the man himself, though. While not a soldier of Richard’s caliber, he was effective at sieges, and he was undeniably intelligent, if not as well educated as the Angevins. He was also utterly unsentimental, pragmatic, and stubborn. Henry II had saved his throne for him on several occasions early in his reign, but he did all he could to turn Henry’s sons against him and, with Richard’s help, hounded Henry to his miserable death at Chinon. He was more anti-Semitic than his contemporary monarchs, said to have believed in the Blood Libel, expelling the Jews from Paris at the start of his reign, and burning eighty Jews to death in Bray in 1192 after the Countess of Champagne (his half-sister Marie) had hanged a Christian who’d murdered a Jew. His reputation was then in tatters because of his abandonment of the crusade, and cynical medieval rulers often found that persecuting Jews was one way to regain public favor. He showed no honor whatsoever after Richard was captured and turned over to the Holy Roman Emperor, scheming and conniving and doing his utmost to make sure the crusader king never saw the light of day again. He wanted to repudiate his first wife ostensibly because she had failed to give him an heir—she was fourteen at the time! He treated his second wife, the Danish princess Ingeborg, with deliberate brutality after disavowing her the day after their marriage, at times even denying her the right to attend Mass. He deserves recognition for his accomplishments, leaving the French monarchy much stronger than he’d found it, but I think he’d have been a difficult man to love.
    Philippe’s birth was not a source of joy to Henry, who naturally wanted Louis to remain without a male heir. In Time and Chance, Henry has just had to retreat after a failed campaign in Wales when he gets the news that Louis has finally sired a son. Fortunately for Henry, a sweet young thing named Rosamund Clifford happens to be there to offer him comfort. When they meet in the gardens at Chester Castle, she says shyly, “I was worried about you, my lord. That letter seemed to trouble you so….”
    “This letter I was just ripping to shreds?” Henry at once regretted the sarcasm; why take out his temper on the lass? “You might as well be the first to know. All of Paris is re-joicing; it’s a wonder we cannot hear the church bells pealing across the Channel. The Al-mighty has finally taken pity upon the French king. On the fourth Sunday of August, his queen gave him a son.” Of course Henry could not have guessed that this little boy would eventually destroy the Angevin empire.
    Moving ahead twenty-one years and we have the death of my own favorite of the Devil’s Brood, Geoffrey, Duke of Brittany, Henry and Eleanor’s “forgotten” son. He died after being trampled in a French tournament, just a month shy of his twenty-eighth birthday in 1186. Geoffrey has been as ignored by historians as he was by his own parents, for he was the only one of their sons not to become a king, and his successful career in Brittany was not brought to light until the publication of Dr Judith Everard’s excellent Brittany and the Angevins. I owe her such a huge debt, for it was her research that enabled me to do justice to Geoffrey in Devil’s Brood. It is too sad to quote from Geoffrey’s death scene in my novel, so I’d rather close with a brief passage from his wedding night. He’d been betrothed to Constance, the heiress to Brittany, since childhood, and she was a reluctant bride, for she blamed Henry for deposing her father. But Geoffrey wins her over, much to her surprise, and their marriage gets off to a promising start.
    * * *
    She awoke the next morning just before dawn, with a dull headache, a dry mouth, and total recall of the extraordinary events of her wedding night. Propping herself up on her elbow, she studied the man beside her. He looked younger in his sleep, less guarded, and she realized that the flighty Enora was right, after all; her new husband was easy on the eye. Best of all, he was quick-witted and clever and ambitious. We will make effective partners. We will be good for Brittany and good for each other, and who would ever have imagined it?
    * * *
    And they were—good for Brittany and for each other. Sadly, they had so little time together—just five years. I have no doubt that English, Breton, and French history would have been changed if Geoffrey had not chosen to ride in that tourney on that hot August afternoon.

  31. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Here is last year’s post about the battle at Bosworth Field, as I did not think I could improve on it. This also saves me a lot of typing, too, of course. :-)

    August 22nd is a sad day for all Ricardians, of course, for on this date in 1485, Richard III, the last Plantagenet king, was slain at the battle of Redmore Plain, now known as Bosworth Field. Many of us feel that the most despicable thing Tudor did was to date his reign from the day before Bosworth so he could then charge the men who’d fought for Richard, their lawful king, with treason. This was an act worthy to have come from the warped, brilliant brain of Tywin Lannister. The anniversary of Bosworth resonates even more with Ricardians because of the discover of Richard’s lost grave and what we now know about his brutal last moments, testified to by the grievous wounds he suffered. I think I’m glad I did not know all that when I was writing this chapter. It was challenging enough as it was to write; it took me three weeks to get Richard out of his tent and onto the battlefield.
    Below is a scene from Sunne, page 1197-1198 (paging from the new anniversary edition of Sunne published last year by Macmillan) The fighting has been going on for some time; Richard’s friend and ally, Jack Howard, is dead, and he has just learned that the Earl of Northumberland intends to remain on the ridge in defiance of his summons. Francis Lovell has been deputized by the others to convince Richard to withdraw, to remind him how many men will fight for him north of the Trent.
    * * *
    He found Richard and Brecher on the crest of the hill. Richard turned as he came up, gestured off to the northwest.
    “There, Francis, you see the standard? The Dragon of Cadwallader. Henry Tudor, the would-be king.” He looked at Francis and smiled. “God has not forsaken me, after all.”
    Francis stepped closer, brown eyes looking into Richard’s blue ones. “Dickon. Dickon, you realize the risk?”
    Richard’s smile didn’t waver; the sudden animation in his face was startling but somehow Francis did not find it reassuring.
    “Yes,” Richard said readily, “but it is a risk worth the taking. He’s blundered, Francis. He’s stayed put while the battle line shifted away from him.”
    Others had joined them. Rob and Dick Ratcliffe and Will Catesby. Catesby was staring at Richard in utter disbelief. Too appalled for tact, he blurted out, “You cannot mean to go after Tudor, Your Grace! To get to him, you’d have to cut clean across Will Stanley’s army. If he chose to move against you, you’d not have a prayer in Hell.”
    Richard’s eyes shifted briefly to Catesby, without interest, as if listening to a language he couldn’t quite comprehend. When he spoke, it was to Francis.
    “If Tudor’s dead, the battle’s done. You do see that Francis? There is no other way to make an end to this.”
    He didn’t wait for Francis to reply, signaled for White Surrey to be led forward. The stallion was lathered, blowing froth, chest and haunches encased in armor no longer burnished, streaked with blood and dust. But he quivered expectantly as Richard reached for the pommel and, as soon as he felt Richard’s weight securely in the saddle, he danced sideways on the trampled grass, eager to run.
    Richard stroked his neck. Never had he felt so at one with the animal; as if the stallion’s pulsing, mettlesome spirit had infused life into his own depleted reserves, he felt his fatigue fall away, aches and bruises and pain forgotten. The men around him came into sudden sharp focus, sun and sky forming a dazzling backdrop of blue over their heads, in which birds wheeled and circled, as if bearing witness to the battle taking place below. Richard raised up in his stirrups; his voice was husky, hoarse from shouting, and the knights of his household crowded in closer, straining to hear
    “The battle’s all but lost. One chance remains for victory. Tudor’s within range, protected only by his guard and the knights of his body. But it means passing in plain view of Stanley’s army. I’d not order any man to this; I do ask, instead. Who’ll ride with me to seek Tudor?”
    The only sound Richard could hear came from White Surrey. The stallion snorted, sucked air into his lungs in loud, wheezing gulps. Richard’s own breathing sounded scarcely less labored to his ears. And then someone shouted, “Loyaulte me lie!” It was Richard’s own motto, adopted by him at age sixteen in defiance of the conflicting claims upon his heart. Loyalty Binds Me. Others now took it up, chanted his name and the battle cry of his House, “Richard and York!” And then the hill exploded into action. Men were yelling for their horses, snapping shut vizors, grabbing for lance and sword. Men who accepted without question that his quarrel was good, his right to the crown just. A pledge of faith to be redeemed in blood if need be.
    * * *
    And Richard’s gamble almost worked. He came very close to reaching Tudor, who was saved only by Stanley’s treachery. It is such a lovely twist of irony that Stanley would later be executed by Tudor for treason. Northumberland also learned that Richard was loved in the North and Yorkshiremen had not forgotten Redmore Plain. As for me, I hope very much that memories of Richard’s charge gave Tudor nightmares for the rest of his life On this day it seems very appropriate to thank those who found Richard’s lost grave and made it possible for him to buried with honor and respect—the archeologists involved in the dig, the University of Leicester and the city council, Ricardians everywhere, and of course Richard’s very distant kinsman who donated his DNA to make the identification beyond dispute. As for myself, I did not really expect them to find their royal needle in that concrete haystack, but once they reported their discovery, I never doubted that they’d found Richard. Thanks are due above all to Philippa Langley. Richard could have used a guardian angel at Bosworth, but at least he found one five centuries later in Philippa.

  32. Malcolm Craig Says:

    Sharon, you know that, for obvious reasons, the marriage night of Constance and Geoffrey is one of my favorite parts of Devil’s Brood. If and when Devil’s Brood is reprinted, I trust it will include my two minor “Breton insider” corrections on page 406: Alan de Vitré (not Rohan); Richemundie (not Richenundie).

    Thank you for the charming e-card you sent me, and I hope your enjoyment of the birthday celebration was enhanced by all the cards from your friends. As an early participant in the benevolent conspiracy, I was able to add several of our tour friends who had not yet been included.

  33. Gabriele Says:

    I missed the exact day to post this, but on Auguat 10, 1628, the Vasa, King Gustav Adolf of Sweden’s pretty new ship, sank on her virgin voyage right in Stockholm’s harbour. 333 years later, she was raised again and is now the main part of a very interesting museum. I blogged a bit about her here:

  34. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Many of you have probably seen this video already, for it quickly went viral. The first link is to the shorter version, showing a mama bear and her five cubs (yes, five!) cooling off in a NJ family’s backyard pool and playing with the toys. For bear lovers, the second link is to a much longer video of the bears’ visit, with sound effects from the watching human family, who had mixed feelings about their furry visitors. My sympathies are with the mother bear; imagine trying to ride herd on five mischievous babies…..yikes.

  35. Theresa Says:

    I always have to read the last part of Sunne very quickly. It makes me too sad.

  36. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Thanks for posting this link, Gabrielle. Very interesting.
    Mac, that was one of my own favorite scenes in Devil’s Brood, too. Actually I enjoyed almost any scene in which Geoffrey appeared. Some characters are more fun to write about than others.

    So many important historical events occurred on an August 24th that I’ll practically have to write a novella to mention them all. In chronological order, here they are
    August 24, 79 BC Mt Vesuvius erupted and destroyed the towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum, on the day after the festival of the Roman god of fire, Vulcan. For years, it was thought that Mt Vesuvius erupted on August 24th, 79 AD, destroying Pompeii and two other towns, but some historians now think it occurred in October. I don’t know which date is correct, but here is an eye-witness account of the tragedy.
    August 24, 410 AD The Visigoths sacked the city of Rome. And on August 24th, 455 AD, it happened again, or almost did; this time it was the Vandals who were about to sack the city. But after their king met with Pope Leo, the Vandals turned around and left Rome in their dust I saw a movie about this as a child and I remember being fascinated, wanting so much to know what the pope could have said to convince the Vandal king to spare the city. It was disillusioning years later to learn that this mystery was so easily solved—the mother of all bribes.
    August 24, 1113 Geoffrey le Bel, Count of Anjou, reluctant husband of the Empress Maude, father of Henry II, was born.
    August 24, 1200 King John wed 12 year old Isabelle d’Angouleme
    August 24, 1215 Pope Innocent III obligingly annulled the Magna Carta, unwillingly signed by John barely two months earlier
    August 24, 1217 In a sea battle fought off the coast of Sandwich, the English prevailed over the French. The pirate chieftain Eustace the Monk was captured and beheaded on the deck of his own ship. John’s illegitimate son, Richard, an important character in Here be Dragons, was one of the heroes of this battle—and am I the only fascinated by the fact that John would have named not one, but two sons after the brother he’d tried to destroy? An interesting aside; if my memory serves, the English sailors threw powdered lime into the French ships, blinding some of the crew.
    August 24, 1349 In a panic as the bubonic plague swept across Europe, people looked for scapegoats and, sadly to be expected, blamed the Jews. Over six thousand men, women, and children died in the German town of Mainz. In a scenario reminiscent of the massacre of the Jews of York in 1191, the Mainz Jews, trapped in their barricaded houses and knowing they were doomed, set fire to their homes and died in the inferno. It was never easy to be a Jew in the MA, but it was particularly dangerous to be a German Jew, for the worst pogroms occurred in the German cities, starting with the First Crusade.
    Lastly, on August 24, 1572, the St Barnabas Day massacre began in Paris, with the slaughter of at least two thousand French Huguenots. The killing then spread into the countryside; it is impossible to be sure of the number of people who lost their lives, with 10,000 often given as the most likely figure. The man who would become my favorite French king, the 19 year old Henri of Navarre, who’d just wed the king’s sister, Marguerite of Valois, was saved by his bride, although he was then forced to embrace the Catholic faith. He was held at the royal court, but when he was able to escape in 1576, he at once renounced his forced baptism and proclaimed himself still a Huguenot. His marriage to Marguerite failed and ironically he would later voluntarily become a Catholic when that was price of kingship, supposedly saying “Paris is worth a Mass.” These bloody events are dramatized by C.W. Gortner in his novel, The Confessions of Catherine de Medici,, which I recommend.

  37. Sharon K Penman Says:

    Apologies for the above post, as one of my infamous typos infiltrated it. It should, of course, be St Bartholomew’s Day!
    I don’t think DB is likely to be reprinted in the near future, Mac. :-(

    Two medieval deaths to report on August 25th. Hugh, Duke of Burgundy, died in 1192 at Acre, after falling ill. At the time, Richard was gravely ill at Jaffa, hovering near death from an attack of malaria, but according to the chroniclers, this news set him on the road to recovery. And in 1482, Marguerite d’Anjou died, alone and forgotten–at least her body did. I think her heart died on the field with her son at Tewkesbury eleven years earlier.

  38. Theresa Says:

    Henry IV was more pragmatic in his approach to religion than most princes of his era. A quality shared perhaps by his grandson Charles II amongst other things.

  39. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    I am a bit confused by your post, Theresa. Henry IV, the first Lancastrian, was not the grandfather of Charles II, who was a Stuart. Did you have another Henry in mind? Maybe a French king?

    Life slows down as summer ends. The football season has not started yet. Nor as the new television season. We are being bombarded by political lunacy, though, so we are desperately in need of an escape from reality. What better time to do some speculating about the convoluted, arcane Game of Thrones plot? So here is a new theory about Jon Snow’s identity. I don’t buy it myself, but as I said, we’re in need of diversion.

  40. Malcolm Craig Says:

    I can explain the genealogy behind Theresa’s statement. Charles I of England was married to Henrietta Maria, daughter of Henry IV of France. Charles II of England (one of our favorites) was thus the grandson of that Henry IV. I think her comparison of grandfather and grandson is apt. Henry felt that Paris was well worth a mass, and Charles did not want to go on his travels again.

  41. Theresa Says:

    Thank you for clearing that up Malcolm. I was referring to Henry IV of France. I was called away before I could type the remainder.

  42. Joan Says:

    Political lunacy ++++++. What a circus! The founding fathers must be spinning in their graves!

    Luckily, there are books, books, books! The writing of Winston Graham in his Poldark series is enchanting me these days. Finally purchased Hand of Fire, & Priscilla Royal’s Medieval Mystery series has taken me totally unawares…..the brilliance! but must say more about my little theory another time. And CW Gortner’s Elizabeth spymaster series blew me away! All that along with ragweed pollen, ach-choo!

  43. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    I figured it was a French king, but thanks for confirming it, Theresa and Mac!
    So true, Joan. Books may be our last refuge. How do non-readers cope?

    Most of you probably have heard of the butterfly effect—the theory that even a very minor action can have very complex results. This article shows that there can be a butterfly effect in acts of kindness. A very heartening story at a time when we need one.

  44. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    On August 29th, 1189, Eleanor and Henry’s son John wed the heiress to the rich estates of Gloucester. For a woman who might have become queen of England, she is oddly invisible. Even her name is uncertain. She is usually called Isabel, but she’s also been called Avisa and Hawisa. John and Isabel were second cousins—she was the granddaughter of Robert of Gloucester, the Empress Maude’s brother and mainstay—and because they did not seek a dispensation, the Archbishop of Canterbury placed their lands under Interdict, although the Pope later lifted it. One story has it that this was done with the proviso that John and Isabel were not to have sexual relations, but I don’t know if this is true or not. It couldn’t have helped marital relations when John agreed in 1193 to put Isabel aside and marry the unfortunate Alys, Philippe’s sister, who was Henry’s alleged mistress and Richard’s long-time betrothed. But John’s failure to seek a dispensation gave him a convenient Get out of Jail card, allowing him to seek an annulment soon after he became king. He then showed how a crafty king can have his cake and eat it, too, taking his former wife into wardship as an unmarried heiress! This allowed him to enjoy the revenues from Isabel’s lands while keeping her in limbo.
    John then wed the twelve year old Isabelle d’Angouleme, who was said to be quite beautiful; chroniclers were scandalized that John often stayed in her bed till noon. So while it was usual to postpone consummating a marriage when the bride was very young, it would appear that John jumped the gun, so to speak. Fortunately for Isabelle, she did not get pregnant for six years. In that, she was luckier than Henry Tudor’s mother, who gave birth to him at age thirteen, and was never able to have another child. Isabelle, of course, proved to be very fertile, presenting John with two sons and three daughters, and then giving her second husband a baker’s dozen. Slight exaggeration there, but she produced enough children to make life difficult for Henry III. They swarmed the English royal court like locusts and much of his unpopularity could be traced to his attempts to provide for his rapacious half-brothers and sisters.
    Poor Isabel of Gloucester; she gets shoved off center stage even here, eclipsed by John’s gorgeous trophy wife. She was about twenty-two at the time of her marriage to John, and she survived John by a year, dying at age fifty in October, 1217. She made two subsequent marriages, but not until she was past her childbearing years, so she was denied the opportunity to have children because John kept her in wardship for 15 years. In 1214, the Earl of Essex paid John the huge sum of 20, 000 marks to wed her; it is possible the earl was coerced into this. He and Isabel were understandably outraged when John retained control of the most valuable manor, Bristol, and they joined the rebellion against him in 1216. The earl died that year of injuries suffered in a tournament, and Isabel wed Hubert de Burgh in 1217, dying just a month after that marriage. If we know little about Richard’s Berengaria, we know nothing about Isabel, another one of medieval history’s female ghosts.

  45. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Two important historical figures died on August 31st, one of whom I find quite intriguing and one whom I do not. On this date in 1422, Henry V died at the age of 35, his premature death dramatically changing the course of English history, for he was succeeded by his young son, the hapless Henry VI, who would find himself caught up in the Wars of the Roses. Henry V is considered to be one of England’s great warrior kings, but I have never been drawn to this man. I acknowledge he was a superb soldier, but I have never had any inclination to write about him. On the other hand, I find the other man who died on August 31st (1218) to be quite intriguing: al Malik al-Adil, the younger brother of Saladin, who would later become Sultan of Egypt. He was a very competent commander, better than his more celebrated brother, and a very shrewd politician, an astute practitioner of the most dangerous game of all—the pursuit of power. He made a few appearances in Lionheart, having become very friendly with Richard, who called him “my brother.” Richard even knighted one of al-Adil’s sons! He will appear again in Outremer. Already he has gotten two important scenes, one with Balian d’Ibelin and one with his favorite wife as Cairo braces for the planned invasion by the army of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Because he is so much fun to write about, I am sure he’ll have much more time on center stage. But if you are still determined to read about Henry V, you can find him in Bernard Cornwell’s brilliant novel about his most famous victory, Agincourt.

  46. Joan Says:

    Agincourt is what got me hooked on Bernard Cornwell, & interestingly, in line with your views on Henry V, I don’t remember much at all about him. It was everything else that mesmerized me.

    What a thing to behold, the Lionheart & Malik al-Adil astride their stallions in the desert. Talk about a time-slip moment to come upon!

  47. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Thanks, Joan. I actually wrote a long response to your comments yesterday but when I tried to post it, Dracarys gave a dragon burp and it disappeared in a puff of smoke. I was so aggravated that I hadn’t the heart to resurrect the lost post.

    September 3rd is another one of those days when a lot was happening from a historical standpoint, although only one such happening was medieval. On September 3, 1192, Richard I and Saladin signed the peace treaty (actually a truce) that officially ended the Third Crusade and gave Christians access again to Jerusalem. Richard was still very ill from malaria at the time and had not fully recovered when he left sailed from Acre a month later; had he only known what was in store for him, he may have considered starting life anew in Outremer. Saladin’s future was equally bleak, for he’d worn himself out with the constant warfare and died the following March, by which time Richard was an involuntary guest of the Holy Roman Emperor, Heinrich.
    In non-medieval occurrences: On this date in 31 BC, the battle of Actium was fought, resulting in a victory for Octavian and a defeat for Mark Antony that would doom him and his lover, Cleopatra. Even further back, on this date in 490 BC, Pheidippides, a Greek messenger, purportedly ran from Marathon to Athens to deliver the news of a great Greek victory, after which he dropped over dead—or so the story goes, according to Plutarch. Other historians have been a bit more skeptical. But whether this happened or not, we continue to run marathons to this day—well, I don’t, not being a masochist!
    Lastly, on this date in 1666, the Great Fire of London began; before it was done, 80% of the city had burned.

  48. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    September 4th 1199 was the death date for one of my favorite female characters, Joanna, Queen of Sicily and Countess of Toulouse, the daughter most like her celebrated mother. Joanna really put me through the wringer; not that it was much fun for her, either. It always seems so sad to me when my characters die of ailments that could be treated in the 21st century. It doesn’t seem fair that they are doomed for the sin of being born in the wrong century.
    It is also the birthdate in 1454 of the Duke of Buckingham; any reader of Sunne knows my opinion of him. A pity his mother did not practice birth control.

  49. Theresa Says:

    I remember identifying Buckingham as the culprit after his telling comment to Richard about young Edward’s family. From memory it was rather chilling.

    5th September 1548 saw Queen Catherine Parr die in childbirth. The poor woman endured three unpleasant years being wife to Henry VIIII at his worst (physically and mentally) Unfortunately her next marriage was to Sir Thomas Seymour who was aptly described by the future Queen Elizabeth I as being ‘a man of much wit but very little judgement.’

  50. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    I agree, Theresa. It is remarkable that Elizabeth could have reacted with such control upon being told of Seymour’s death, for she was only 14!

    Two intriguing women died on this date, Constance, Duchess of Brittany in 1201 and Henry VIII’s last wife, Catherine Parr, in 1548. The story that Constance died of leprosy is not credible. In view of her age (forty), the fact that she had two pregnancies in two years, and that she died not long after giving birth, it seems obvious that she died of the complications of childbirth, all too common in those times. Constance’s life ended too soon, but she seems to have been more fortunate than many of her highborn medieval sisters, for two of her three marriages are believed to have been happy ones, and her premature death spared her knowing the tragic fate of both her children by Geoffrey, Arthur murdered and Aenor held captive for forty years until released by death. I feel very sorry for Catherine; her sad story is well known to anyone interested in history. It seems especially unfair that she managed to outlive Henry VIII, only to have her heart broken by the man she truly wanted to marry. I would wager that the Tudors executed more people in the 118 years that they ruled England than the Plantagenets did in the 331 years that their dynasty reigned. But Thomas Seymour definitely deserved his date with the axe.

  51. Joan Says:

    A curse on dragon burps. I’ll send some Zantac, super dragon strength.

    I was back with the Lionheart & Malik al-Adil last night when watching Lawrence of Arabia, hadn’t seen it in a dragon’s age. Naturally this image came to mind again, seeing Lawrence & Ali together in the desert. I’ve been online ever since & want to purchase The 7 Pillars of Wisdom. I understand we have to get the right edition. Have you a recommendation, Sharon, as I assume you have read it? Years ago, I wasn’t interested so much in the history, more into the masterpiece itself (& well, yes, Peter O’Toole & Omar Sharif), but that has all changed. Also didn’t know anything about the real man & am ecstatic that he was a poet as well. His quotations from the autobio are very seductive.

  52. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    “Everything I was dreaming of is gone. I want to bury my children and sit beside them until I die.” These heartrending words come from the father of Aylan Kurdi, the three year old boy whose body washed up on a Turkish beach after yet another tragedy in the Mediterranean; Aylan’s father also lost his wife and his five year old son. We do not even know the number of people who’ve drowned this year as desperate refugees flee the horrors of civil war and the terror of life under ISIS; we’ll likely never know.
    The stories have been horrific—800 lives lost in the sinking of one ship, 71 bodies found in an abandoned truck along an Austrian highway, hundreds of families stranded in Hungary. But few images have evoked the emotion that the photo of Aylan’s little body did. Will governments be motivated to do more in what may well be the greatest humanitarian crisis of our times? It is hard to say, for there are no easy solutions. I find it encouraging, though, that individuals worldwide are stepping forward to help, realizing that the accident of birth is all that separates them from the refugees risking death at sea, crawling under barbed wire fences, and pushing baby strollers along Hungarian roads in searing summer heat. The pharmacist who once had a thriving practice in Mosul, the college student from Kobani, the children even younger than Aylan—they could be us. They are us. The rest of the world seems unable to combat the evil of ISIS; aside from giving much more aid to the Kurds, what can we do? We can try to alleviate the suffering of the victims, though I know the sheer scope of it is overwhelming. For those who want to help, here are some links.

  53. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Several significant happenings on this day, unlike yesterday’s historical black hole. On September 7, 1151, Geoffrey, Count of Anjou, husband to the Empress Maude and father of the future Henry II, died unexpectedly on his way home from a meeting with the French king in Paris. He was only 38. During the Paris conference, Geoffrey had crossed verbal swords with Bernard, the Abbot of Clairvaux, who would later be canonized by the Church. Bernard was convinced that his views and God’s views were always one and the same and he’d been very unhappy with Geoffrey’s sardonic skepticism about that. He foresaw Geoffrey’s death within a month unless he repented of his manifold sins and when Geoffrey did die within that time, I am sure that many were very impressed. There is no evidence that Henry was, though. Geoffrey had gone swimming in a nearby river to cool off on a hot day and caught a chill. Henry, ever the pragmatist, seems to have seen that as a more likely cause-and-effect than Bernard’s ominous prediction. The evidence indicates that Henry had an excellent relationship with Geoffrey and I always found it very sad that he managed to alienate all of his own sons. If only he’d taken Geoffrey as a role model. Men rarely relinquished power in the MA; Henry certainly never did. But Geoffrey won Normandy by his sword and yet he then handed it all over to Henry, who was then just 17.
    Also on September 7, 1191, Henry’s son Richard won a decisive victory against Saladin at Arsuf. Here is a link to a very good description of the battle. Or you can always read or re-read Lionheart!
    And on September 7, 1533, Anne Boleyn gave birth to a daughter, named Elizabeth after Henry’s mother. At the time, her birth was seen as a disappointment, a mere girl instead of the son that Henry so desperately wanted. It has been argued that Anne’s downfall began on this date and indeed, she faced the executioner at the Tower less than three years later. There is no doubt that little Elizabeth was deeply scarred by her mother’s murder—for murder it was. There is also no doubt that she proved herself to be one of England’s greatest monarchs. There is no evidence, though, that Henry had any appreciation of irony.

  54. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    More than one historical event occurred today, but I’ll get to them later. For now I am letting “my” Angevins take center stage. On September 8th in 1157, Eleanor gave birth to her third son, the only time that Henry was on hand for one of her lying-ins. Since I miss writing about Henry and Eleanor, I am going to put up an excerpt from the childbirth scene. Time and Chance pages 51-53
    * * *
    Henry swung away from the window with an explosive oath. “By the blood of Christ, enough of this! For all we know, she gave birth hours ago and the fool midwife has forgotten to send word!”
    As he headed for the door, Will scrambled to his feet. “Harry, do nothing rash! You’ll just upset the women if you go charging in, and what good will that do Eleanor?”
    “The lad is right,” Becket observed calmly. “You cannot hasten the birth. The babe will be born in God’s time, no sooner, no later.”
    Seeing Henry’s hesitation, Will hastily groped for further persuasion. “The child might come even faster if you’re not there,” he insisted. “Everyone knows that hovering over a pot will not make it cook any faster.”
    Henry gave his brother a look that was incredulous, irked, and amused in equal measure. “That is not an analogy I’d suggest you make in Eleanor’s hearing,” he said dryly. “What would the two of you have me do, then?”
    “You can pray,” Becket said and Henry scowled, unwilling to entrust Eleanor’s safety to another higher power, even the Almighty’s. But it was then that they heard the footsteps out in the stairwell.
    When the messenger came catapulting through the doorway, Henry’s spirits soared, for no man would be in such a hurry to deliver dire news. Skidding to a halt in the floor rushes, the messenger dropped to his knees before his king. “God has indeed smiled upon you, my liege. He has given you a fine son.”
    * * *
    Petronilla poured a cupful of wine, carefully carried it back to her sister’s bed. “Here, Eleanor, drink this. God knows, you’ve earned it.”
    Eleanor thought so, too. “You’d think this would get easier. I’m getting enough practice, for certes.”
    She heard laughter beyond her range of vision and a low, throaty voice teased, “Well, dearest, what would you tell a farmer who had an overabundant harvest? To plant less, of course!”
    Eleanor was amused by that impudent familiarity, for no daughter of Aquitaine could be offended by bawdy humor. Moreover, she was quite fond of the speaker, Henry’s cousin Maud, Countess of Chester. “I am not complaining about the frequency of the planting,” she said. “I’d just rather not reap a crop every year.”
    Maud retrieved the wine cup, setting it on the table within Eleanor’s reach. “After four crops in five years, I’d think not!”
    “It proves,” Petronilla chimed in, “that letting a field lie fallow truly does make it more fertile.”
    Maud’s eyes shone wickedly. “Nigh on fifteen years fallow, was it not, Eleanor?”
    Sometimes it astonished Eleanor to remember that she’d actually endured fifteen years as France’s bored, unhappy queen. “But you may be sure I was blamed for those barren harvests,” she said, with a twisted smile. “As if I could cultivate soil without seed!”
    “Does that truly surprise you? Women have been taking the blame ever since Eve listened to that fork-tongued serpent, who most assuredly was male.” Maud turned then toward the door, smiling. “To judge by the commotion outside, either we are under siege or Harry has just arrived.”
    Somewhere along the way from the castle, Henry had found a garden to raid, for he was carrying an armful of Michaelmas daisies. These he handed to Petronilla, rather sheepishly, for romantic gestures did not come easily to him. (omission)
    “Are you hurting, love?”
    Eleanor’s smile was tired, but happy. “Not at all,” she lied. “By now the babies just pop right out, like a cork from a bottle.”
    Henry laughed. “Well….where is the little cork?”
    A wet-nurse came forward from the shadows, bobbing a shy curtsy before holding out a swaddled form for his inspection. Henry touched the ringlets of reddish-gold hair, the exact shade as his own, and grinned when the baby’s hand closed around his finger. “Look at the size of him,” he marveled, and as his eyes met Eleanor’s, the same thought was in both their minds: heartfelt relief that God had given them such a robust, sturdy son. No parent who’d lost a child could ever take health or survival for granted again.
    “We still have not decided what to name him,” Henry reminded his wife. “I fancy Geoffrey, after my father.”
    “The next one,” she promised. “I have a name already in mind for this little lad.”
    He cocked a brow. “Need I remind you that it is unseemly to name a child after a former husband?”
    Eleanor’s lashes were drooping and her smile turned into a sleepy yawn. “I would not name a stray dog after Louis,” she declared, holding out her arms for her new baby. She was surprised by the intensity of emotion she felt as she gazed down into that small, flushed face. Why was this son so special? Had God sent him to fill the aching void left by Will’s death? “I want,” she said, “to name him Richard.”
    * * *
    Will, of course, was their first son, born in 1153, who died in 1156. That is another interesting historical What if. Had he lived, the history of the Angevins and England would have been quite different, although it is impossible to say if the changes would have been for better or worse. I found something vaguely sad about this scene, for all was golden at that moment in Henry’s world. He was very happy with his queen, who’d now given him the “heir and a spare,” had his young brother at his side, and his trusted chancellor and good friend, Thomas Becket, to guard his back. I doubt that he’d have believed it had he been warned that it would all sour in coming years, with his brother dead, his queen alienated to the point that she became involved in rebellion, and the friend he loved transformed into an obstinate enemy. He even found that it was possible for a king to have too many sons.

  55. Joan Says:

    The excerpt above is one of the great examples of why we all love your writing so much, Sharon!

  56. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Thanks, Joan. I needed to hear that, especially today.

    Sorry for disappearing, but I’ve been trapped in Outremer, squashed by a huge, heavy writer’s block. I don’t know when I’ll be able to wriggle free, but I’ll try to post messages whenever I can stretch out far enough to reach the computer. This is definitely one of those times when being a lawyer doesn’t sound quite as awful as it usually does to me; I might have to ask writer friends to organize a rescue party and write this blasted chapter for me. Meanwhile, here are a few links to Downton Abbey stories.

  57. Malcolm Craig Says:

    Perhaps you can unwind watching tonight’s football game, Sharon. That ought to be enough to blow your writer’s block away. If that does not work, watch some English football at 8:30 A. M. Sunday: Tottenham Hotspur playing Sunderland at the Stadium of Light. Black Cats were Alf Wight a/k/a James Herriot’s team, and Sylvia Leybourne (a reader of yours living in Denver) and I both root for them now. Trying to figure out what is going on should clear your mind.

  58. Malcolm Craig Says:

    Oops! Sylvia Leybourne Meredith is my fellow Sunderland supporter. We discovered our joint fandom on your Facebook page some time ago. Hope my suggestions are helpful.

  59. skpenman Says:

    Football always helps, Mac!

    The Writer’s Block has shifted a few feet, so I still feel trapped but no longer quite as flattened. At least I can share the good news with my fellow Bernard Cornwell fans. The television series based upon his brilliant Saxon series, titled The Last Kingdom, premieres in the US on BBC America on Saturday, October 10th. I am sorry that I don’t know the schedule for the UK, Canada, or Down Under; if readers who do know will post it, I am sure people will be grateful. Here is a quote from Alexander Dreymon, who plays Uhtred: “Contrary to what many Saxons and Danes think of him, he’s trustworthy, loyal, and honest, though he can be a real d—k.” Sounds as if he knows his man, doesn’t it? This is the verdict by Matt Roush, the TV Guide critic: “A robust lesson in little-known British history soaked in barbarian savagery, this rugged saga is just the thing for those whose appetites for medieval mayhem hasn’t been satisfied by Vikings and Game of Thrones.”

  60. skpenman Says:

    Still squeezing blood out of that rock (AKA Chapter 17) but a slight glimmer of hope on the horizon—I may get to shed some real (well, literary real) blood in a couple of scenes. That should perk me up.
    Meanwhile, here is a photo that I think many of you will want to see. Rainbows are nature’s gift to us all, aren’t they? I still remember one I saw arched over Conwy Castle many years ago, truly spectacular. Some will find this one healing—I hope.

  61. skpenman Says:

    Happy Rosh Hashanah to my Jewish friends and readers.
    And for my fellow (American) football addicts, Game On!

  62. Malcolm Craig Says:

    My favorite rainbow was looking across the bay toward Avranches from the causeway between Mont St.-Michel and Pontorson in March 1973. While we were returning from le Mont with my visiting mother and aunt, I stopped the car. Allys took a photo, which I posted on Facebook some time ago. My next visit to Mont St.-Michel was on the Eleanor Tour in June 2011. It was delightful to be able to spend the night there.

  63. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Yes, that was a special stop on our tour, Mac. That must have been a spectacular rainbow with the abbey as a background.

    I am still fighting a war on two fronts—with a challenging chapter and my familiar foe, the deadline dragon. But I got to spill a little blood yesterday and that usually perks me up. Also the start of football season is sure to help, too.

    On September 14, 1141, the retreat known as the Rout of Winchester began. This siege was great fun to write about just for the sheer drama of it, but I also remember my sense of horror that something so similar could be occurring in our own time. For as I was writing about the siege of Winchester and the suffering of its citizens, the Serbs were besieging the city of Sarajevo and civilians were dying by the day, even children targeted by snipers. It would prove to be the longest siege of a capital city in the history of modern warfare, lasting from 1992 until 1996. Imagine living for nearly four years under constant bombardment. Of course that is something that the citizens of Kobani and Aleppo can understand all too well.

    Also on September 14th in 1321, one of the greatest medieval poets, Dante Alighieri, died in exile; he was only 56. For readers interested in this complex, brilliant man, I highly recommend David Blixt’s Star-crossed series, in which Dante and his son, Pietro, are major characters. The first of four books (so far) is the Master of Verona, where you’ll also get to meet a larger-than-life character who seems to have come straight out of a Hollywood swashbuckler starring Errol Flynn, but Cangrande della Scala actually lived and did all of the amazing and outrageous things that David’s Cangrande does. He was a lot like the Lionheart in some ways, swaggering, arrogant, charming, and fearless. But he also put me in mind of Machiavelli. All in all, a fascinating man, and I am grateful to David’s books for bringing him to my attention; I confess I’d never heard of him until I read Master of Verona.

  64. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    I am sure this will be as interesting to you all as it is to me. It’s history, it’s medieval, and it’s Welsh, after all. Aside from a dragon or two, what more could we ask for?

  65. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Good news for Game of Thrones fans.

  66. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Who does not want a chance to win something free? And for us, what could be better than a free book? Okay, maybe a free Mercedes, but we live in the real world, at least when we are not dwelling in fictional realms. So here is the good news. Stephanie is doing a book giveaway for her first novel, The Scribe’s Daughter. The rules are simple; just post a comment on her website and you’re in. Here is the link.!Want-a-free-book/c1q8z/55f9d7f10cf2e15340f019bc

  67. skpenman Says:

    I am getting ready to fight that major battle, with luck in the next day or so (time out for a few football games tomorrow, of course.) But I took a brief break to post this heartwarming story. They are sadly as rare as dragon’s teeth, so we need to share them whenever we can find one.

  68. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    A good night for Game of Thrones fans. It finally won the Best Drama Emmy and the brilliant Peter Dinklage won again for his mesmerizing portrayal of Tyrion. In fact, they won twelve in all, breaking the record previously held by The West Wing.
    The less said about football, though, the better. :-(

  69. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Yom Kippur began tonight at sunset. This is the Jewish day of atonement, something all people could benefit from.
    The battle is finally about to begin. So if I disappear for a few more days, that only means I’m busy killing people. Wish me luck.

  70. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    I am still trapped in Outremer, about to fight a major battle. The actual battle was over in less than two hours, but at the rate I’ve been going, mine will take two weeks….sigh. Since I haven’t been able to post much on Facebook, I thought I’d share a few paragraphs of the chapter so you can see what I’ve been up to. (I’ve also been dealing with my laptop going rogue, but that is another story.) Anyway, here is a brief glimpse of Outremer; the sultan is, of course, Saladin; Taqi al-Din is his nephew, Isa a friend, and al-Quts the Arabic name for Jerusalem.
    * * * * *
    Taqi al-Din’s teeth gleamed whitely in the flare of torchlight. “Uncle, have you heard? The cowards are fleeing back into Asqalan, not daring to fight us!”
    “Not cowards,” the sultan said mildly. “They just know how to count.”
    Taqi al-Din shrugged off the correction. “But whilst they cower behind their city walls, the road to al-Quts lies open to us. God has truly blessed us, Uncle, for the infidel kingdom is ours for the taking.”
    Isa did not fully trust Taqi al-Din. While he’d proved himself to be a fierce fighter, one without fear, Isa thought he was too impulsive, too emotional, and too ambitious. But the sultan loved him, almost like a brother rather than a nephew, for they were close in age, and so Isa took care to keep his misgivings to himself. “He is right, my lord,” he said, and Salah al-Din smiled.
    * * * * *

  71. Joan Says:

    Yup, signature Penman all right. Whetting of the appetite & gets the adrenaline going for more!

  72. Joan Says:

    On the subject of old books, there’s a fun article in the History Girls blog. Just scroll down till you see a small picture of a used bookstore with the word VELLICORE over it. This word means “the strange wistfulness of used bookstores”. The aroma of old books is mentioned (sigh….). And yes, this scent has been bottled! It’s called “In the Library” & the main note in the scent was copied by a perfumier (sp?) from a favorite novel published in 1927!

  73. Joan Says:

    VELLICHOR is the proper spelling.

  74. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    I think the old-book-smell is more enticing than the new-car-smell, Joan.

    First blood spilled today! I hope I don’t sound too ghoulish for being happy about that, but it means the end is in sight and I won’t really be trapped in this chapter till the end of time.
    Here is a bargain from Amazon. For tomorrow only, September 25th, Amazon is offering their Amazon Prime at only $67 instead of its usual $99; this is to celebrate all the Emmy awards they won on Sunday. I am a huge fan of Amazon Prime, have been a member for years; just forall the books that I buy, it is well worth the price to me. So here is the link; check out what they have to say about its benefits so you can decide if you’d like to take advantage of the sale.
    And here is another bargain to check out. My friend Valerie alerted me today that a historical mystery is available for free on Kindle. I have not read any of the books in the series, but it is set in France during their Revolution in the 18th century, so that does sound interesting. And Valerie recommends it highly. The title is Cavalier of the Apocalypse by Suzanne Alleyn. I don’t know if it is available for free just on Amazon’s mother ship.

  75. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    I am so relieved to be able to report that the battle is finally over. Now there is only the ugly aftermath to deal with—ugly even for the winners, as the casualty count on both sides was very high. Real life is always much messier than fiction, never more so than when warfare is concerned. Most writers show this, but Hollywood is all too often guilty of turning death into a cool video game.
    On to another subject—ironically—for few television shows have been as gory or violent as Game of Thrones. But here is a Vanity Fair article about the fate of Jon Snow, of intense interest to almost all of us Gamers.

  76. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    On October 1st, ;11189, Gerard de Ridefort, Grand Master of the Templars, was slain in battle at the siege of Acre. He is one of the villains in my novel Outremer, for his baneful influence led to the disaster at Hattin; he was also directly responsible for a bloody defeat at the battle of Cresson Springs. He managed to escape both catastrophes, so I always saw his death at Acre as payment for a debt long overdue.
    October 1st, 1207 is also the birthdate for John’s eldest son, the future Henry III, who appears as a character in my Welsh trilogy novels. Unlike Gerard, Henry was not a villain. But his reign was a good argument against hereditary kingship. He did, however, leave a spectacular legacy: Westminster Abbey.
    I hope that all of you in the path of Hurricane Joaquin stay safe and dry. We in Jersey are currently under a state of emergency; even though the weather forecasters are not yet sure if Joaquin will strike us, we are expecting another storm with very heavy rains and a high risk of flooding tomorrow. Such a shame we could not bottle up all this excess rainfall and ship it to our drought-stricken friends in CA and the Far West.

  77. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    October 2nd is an important date on the Penman calendar. On this date in 1187, the city of Jerusalem surrendered to Saladin after Balian d’Ibelin convinced him to agree to a peaceful takeover rather than to take the city by storm as he’d vowed to do—vengeance for the blood bath staged by the men of the First Crusade when they captured Jerusalem in 1099. Balian saved thousands of lives and spared thousands from slavery when he persuaded Saladin to allow the people to ransom themselves; he also contributed greatly to Saladin’s reputation by keeping the sultan from carrying out that blood-vow. Had Saladin massacred the city’s inhabitants, it is unlikely that his legend would have burned so brightly, for one of the aspects of that legend was his generosity to fallen foes. Balian really deserves considerable credit for what he accomplished via pleading and threats, but history has generally ignored him. Well, he did attract the notice of Ridley Scott, but the director did him no favor, transforming one of the most powerful lords of Outremer into an illegitimate French blacksmith.
    October 2nd is also the birthday of a man dear to many of our hearts—the future Richard III was born in 1452 at Fotheringhay Castle, better known as the site of Mary, Queen of Scots’ execution—at least to non-Yorkists.
    I am actually writing this post tonight (October 1st) for we are getting a nasty storm tomorrow and they are warning of widespread loss of power. And this is not even Joaquin! Good luck to all my friends and readers on the water-logged East Coast this weekend.
    PS It is now Friday and it looks as if Joaquin will be heading out to sea—a huge break for those of us already dealing with bad flooding.

  78. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    A miserable day for most of us living on the East Coast of the US. Scary flooding in SC and NC. Where I live, we were spared Hurricane Joaquin, but were still hammered by a nasty Nor’easter that caused some serious coastal flooding; one house down in Cape May was actually washed into the sea. And there is a ship missing, caught in the hurricane; the Coast Guard is searching for them, but so far, no luck. All in all, a wretched beginning to what is usually the loveliest month of the year, October, and with yet another school shooting, the 45th in the US so far this year.
    Moving from terrible happenings in our time to one in the 13th century. On October 3rd, 1283, Davydd ap Gruffydd, Llywelyn ap Gruffydd’s younger brother, was put to death by Edward I in the most brutal way possible—hanged, then cut down while he was still alive, then eviscerated and drawn and quartered. Davydd is sometimes said to be the first man to suffer this barbaric punishment, but there were at least two other cases in which this horrific penalty was imposed. But in Davydd’s trial and execution, we have the origins of the state trial. Waging war against the king was not a crime in medieval England, not until Edward chose to make it one, classifying it as high treason. Even so, he ordered no executions after Evesham, probably because almost all of Simon de Montfort’s supporters died on the field with him, but also because Davydd was more vulnerable than the de Montfort partisans, with no one to speak up for him. The author of The Law of Treason in England in the Middle Ages pointed out that “The king could make an example of Davydd with impunity.” And after his death, drawing and quartering became the standard form of execution for those convicted of high treason. Readers of Sunne may remember that the Earl of Somerset was very relieved when Richard told him after the battle of Tewkesbury that he and the others charged with treason would be beheaded, not drawn and quartered; the fourth Edward did not share the first Edward’s vindictive nature. Davydd claimed the title Prince of Wales after Llywelyn was slain in 1282, but he was overshadowed even in death by his more renowned brother, who is known in Wales as Ein Llyw Olaf—Our Last Leader.
    Davydd’s dreadful fate posed a challenge for me. I did not want to dwell upon his dying agonies and I doubted that my readers did, either; moreover, my mother vowed that she’d never forgive me if I did that. So I chose to write about his last hours, confined to a dungeon at Shrewsbury Castle, knowing what awaited him with the coming of dawn. In a way, this was even worse, though, for the suffering of the mind can be even more intolerable than the suffering of the body.
    The Reckoning. Page 563
    * * *
    His last meal lay untouched by the door. They’d given him a double helping of some sort of fish stew and a full flagon of ale—execution eve charity. He’d brought the flagon back to the bed, and he reached for it now, swallowed and grimaced at the flat, tepid taste. The cell was damp and chilly, but his tunic was splotched with sweat; although he could not remember his dream, he’d wager it held a gallows and a grave. But no….not a grave. Passing strange, for he’d not wanted to be buried in England and now Edward had seen to it. Even the Saracens did not deny a man decent burial. Only the most Christian King of England would think of that.
    He’d never doubted his courage, not ever. Until today, it had not even crossed his mind that his nerve might fail him. But how could flesh and blood and bone not shrink from such deliberately drawn-out suffering? How could he be sure that he’d be able to face it without flinching?
    He was not accustomed to asking hard questions; that had never been his way. But he’d had three months and more of solitary confinement, time in which he’d been forced to confront the consequences of his actions, after a lifetime of evading them. There was no room to run in a prison cell.
    He’d always gotten his strength from his utter confidence, from his faith in his own abilities. What could he fall back on now? The Almighty was said to be deaf to the prayers of an excommunicate. Even though he did not believe that God was on England’s side, divine mercy might well be as scarce as Edward’s. Those charges flung at him in the Chapter House were crimes only in English eyes, not in his. But he had no lack of sins to answer for, a lifetime’s worth if truth be told. How could he be sure that God would understand? Llywelyn never had.
    Reaching for the flagon, he drank again. Well, if God would not get him through the morrow’s ordeal, that left only pride. He smiled bleakly at that, seeing the twisted humor in it. For if pride was to be his deliverance, it had also been his downfall. If not for pride and jealousy, would the bond between brothers have frayed so badly? If not for pride, it might have held fast—and Wales with it.
    Leaning back against the wall, he made a careless move, almost knocking the flagon over with his chain; he righted it just in time. “I’ll admit it,” he said. “I got more than I bargained for. But fair is fair, Llywelyn. Even you cannot deny that it is also more than I deserve.”
    He could not remember when he’d begun to talk to his brother. It had been a joke at first, a self-mocking attempt to deny his pain, and perhaps, too, an expression of his hunger to hear a voice, even his own, to escape the smothering burden of silence, for he’d never been utterly alone before, not like this. But although he jeered at his own need—telling himself that confiding in the dead offered distinct advantages over confessing to the living—it had given him an odd sort of comfort, and he was fast learning to take comfort anywhere he could find it.
    He lay down on the blanket again, closed his eyes. But sleep wouldn’t come, and he swore suddenly, savagely. “So I lied, Llywelyn! Mayhap I do deserve it. Is that what you’d have me say? You want me to confess my sins? For that, I’d need more time than I’ve got, much more…..”
    He was lying again, though. There was time. So be it, then. Wales, the greatest casualty of his war. Just as Llywelyn had foreseen. “We’d become aliens in our own land,” he’d warned, “denied our own laws, our own language, even our yesterdays, for a conquered people are not allowed a prideful past. Worst of all, we’d be leaving our children and grand-children a legacy of misery and loss, a future bereft of hope.”
    More than a prophecy. An epitaph for Wales, for Llywelyn’s doomed principality. Davydd knew it had never been his, not truly. He’d ruled over a domain in its death throes. But if he could not be blamed for losing the war, he could be for starting it.
    Elizabeth, I’m so sorry, lass, so sorry….His eyes were stinging, his breathing growing ragged and hurtful. Where was she? Still held at Rhuddlan Castle? What would happen to her now? Would Edward convent-cage her like Gwenllian and Gwladys? Or would he think it safer to shackle her with another wedding band? Marry her off to a man of his choosing, lock her away in some remote English keep until the world forgot about her, and she alone remembered that she’d once been the wife of a Welsh prince.
    He’d known, of course, that if he fell into English hands, he was a dead man. But he’d not expected Edward to take vengeance upon Elizabeth or his daughters. He’d thought his sons would be spared, too, that their youth would save them, for Owain was only three and Llelo five. The worst he’d feared was that they’d be taken as hostages, reared at the English court as he and Rhodri had been. Merciful Christ, if only he’d realized what Edward had intended!
    Edward would never let them go. They would grow to manhood behind the walls of Bristol Castle. They would not know the joys and dangers and temptations that life could offer a man. They would learn naught of friendship or the urgency and sweetness of bedding a woman. They’d never have sons of their own. They would never see Wales again, and as their memories faded, they’d forget the world they’d known before Bristol Castle. They would forget him, forget Elizabeth, and not even know why they were doomed to live out their days as prisoners of an English king.
    * * *
    Davydd was executed the next morning and even his many enemies acknowledged that he died with courage. For some reason, that reminds me of dialogue from my favorite film, The Lion in Winter. Richard, Geoffrey, and John have been flung into a dungeon at Chinon by their father and they are awaiting their fate. Richard declares defiantly that he’ll not beg for his life. Geoffrey lashes out, calling his brother a prideful fool and saying it does not matter how a man falls. Richard looks at him and says that it matters when the fall is all there is. The wording might not be exact, but the sentiment is one I think Davydd would have agreed with.

  79. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Here is a link to a story about the largest animal migration on earth; it will now be streamed live. Ah, the marvels of technology, and I can say that even though the Geek Squad’s Friday exorcism of Dracarys was in vain.

  80. skpenman Says:

    The sun has actually come out again; we’d almost forgotten what it looks like. My sympathy and good wishes to my friends and readers in SC, which is suffering terribly from flooding. My sympathies, too, to Detroit Lions fans, who were bludgeoned by a huge referee error last night, calling up memories of that infamous Fail Mary mistake by a substitute referee against Green Bay a few years ago. One minor consolation of being an Eagles fan; we don’t need to rely upon referee bad calls to lose, can do that all on our own.
    Here is a fun view of the word if it were ruled by Readers.

  81. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    On this date in 1542, Mary Stuart, the future Queen of Scotland and France, was born. I once posted that Mary never met a bad decision she did not run to embrace, and several of my readers told me they thought that was funny. I think it was also quite true. Mary seems to have been a dreadful judge of character. She was also impulsive to a fault, and rarely considered the consequences of her actions. I concede that her life was not an easy one. But who could have had a more traumatic childhood and girlhood than her cousin Elizabeth? She withstood her trial by fire, though, and went on to become one of England’s greatest rulers.
    Here is yet another reason to want to visit Wales—a spectacular show of the aurora borealis.

  82. Malcolm Craig Says:

    Sharon, I remember seeing the Northern lights when we still lived on the South Shore, 20 miles south of Boston. It was during the fall when you and I were both 12. Thank you for the the link to this spectacle - another reason to be in Wales or Yorkshire. BTW, I have begun rereading When Christ and His Saints Slept, my introduction to the SKP canon, in September 2002, just over 13 years ago. As I have told you, a friend and colleague who was also a tax attorney provided that introduction by loaning your earliest novel (by historical chronology) to me. Returning to Saints, I can see why I was immediately attracted to your work - splendid writing and as much historical accuracy as one could muster from the 12th century.

  83. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    I have been so fortunate, Mac, for my books have led me to some very special friendships, none of which would have happened otherwise, for our lives would not have intersected.
    I envy your glimpse of the Northern Lights. I’d had no luck myself, either in MN or Alaska.

  84. Theresa Says:

    Margaret George’s novel about Mary Queen of Scots is worth the time.

    9th October 19 AD was the day in which the future Emperor’s Claudius’s brother Germanicus died. The events leading up to his death were memorably portrayed in the novel ‘I Claudius’.

  85. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Any Margaret George book is worth the time, Theresa! I especially liked her novel about Elizabeth Tudor in her autumn years.

    American fans of Bernard Cornwall’s Saxon series, good news. The TV series based upon these books begins tonight in the US on BBC America, 10 PM EST, titled after the first book, The Last Kingdom. The advance reviews I’ve read so far have been favorable, comparing it to the series, The Vikings. I assume it will premiere in the UK and Down Under soon, too, if it has not already done so. And UK readers can now order the latest Cornwall book in this series, Warriors of the Storm; it will be published in the US in January. For those of you who’ve not read any of these books, set in 9th century England, I recommend them highly. His major character, Uthred, a Saxon captured and raised as a Dane, is a marvelous creation, bold, swaggering, sardonic; perhaps his most amusing and endearing trait is that he usually realizes when he is about to do something utterly reckless or foolish, but he then goes ahead and does it anyway.

  86. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    By now, most of you expect me to be MIA on Football Sunday. My sympathies to Ravens and KC fans, for you both suffered heartbreaking losses, and for KC, the loss of your star RB, too.
    I’m done shedding fictional blood, at least for the next chapter. So onto the historical front:
    On October 12, 1176, William d’Aubigny, Earl of Arundel, died. He is best known for wedding Queen Adeliza, the widow of Henry I. Elizabeth Chadwick’s Lady of the English, gives us a very appealing account of their courtship and marriage.
    On October 12, 1216, King John—who was not having a good year—lost his crown jewels in The Wash.
    On October 12, 1459, the Battle of Ludford Bridge was almost fought. The Yorkist army was already skittish, for they saw the king’s standard flying in the Lancastrian camp and were hesitant about opposing the king himself, even a figurehead king like poor Henry VI. The death blow to their chances occurred that night when Andrew Trollope and six hundred of his men defected to the Lancastrians. The Duke of York and the Earls of Warwick and Salisbury retreated to Ludlow Castle and then fled the country, York and his younger son Edmund going to Wales and then to Ireland, his elder son Edward going to Calais with the Earl of Warwick. York’s wife, Cecily Neville, and her two young sons, George and Richard, were left in Ludlow, awaiting the Lancastrian army the next day on the steps of the high cross. It is interesting to speculate how history might have been changed had Edward been the son to accompany his father to Ireland. If he had, he’d have been with York at Sandal Castle the following December, when York rashly left the castle and fell into a Lancastrian trap. Would Edward have been the one to die on Wakefield Bridge instead of Edmund? Might there have been a King Edmund? It is impossible to answer the first question, but I don’t think a King Edmund was in the cards. Edward won over the Londoners with his personal charm and then won the crown itself on the battlefield. Take him out of the equation and who knows what might have happened.
    On October 12, 1492, the crew of Columbus’s Pinta sighted land—the Bahamas—although Columbus remained convinced until his death that he’d found a way to the East Indies.
    And on October 12, 1537, the future Edward VI was born. Jane Seymour, his mother, would soon die of childbed fever, so she did not get to enjoy the triumph of doing what neither Katherine of Aragon or Anne Boleyn could—give Henry VIII his longed-for son. On our Facebook pages, we occasionally have interesting threads in which we pick a particular historical figure and then speculate what he or she would have liked or loathed about life in our times. We have had some very imaginative and often amusing posts at such times, but my own favorite is one posted by Rania during one of these threads. She picked Henry VIII and said she would like to be present when he learned that it was the man, not the woman, who determined the sex of a child.

  87. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    You won’t believe all that happened on October 13th in history. So fasten your seat belts.
    On October 13th, 54 AD, the Roman emperor Claudius was poisoned. According to the wonderful BBC series, I, Claudius, the poisoner was his unloving wife, Agrippina, who wanted to pave the way for her son Nero. Margaret George is currently at work on a novel about Nero and Boudica; I’m counting the days till that one comes out!
    On October 13th, 1162, Henry II and Eleanor’s second daughter and namesake, later known as Leonora, was born. She has been overshadowed somewhat by her better known sisters, Joanna and Matilda, but she had a very interesting life and apparently a very happy marriage.
    On October 13, 1259, the Provisions of Westminster were adopted. This was a revision of the Provisions of Oxford, adopted the year before, which have sometimes been called England’s first written constitution, meant to curtail the powers of the monarchy. Readers of Falls the Shadow will remember how important these provisions were to Simon de Montfort. Henry III managed to get them annulled, leading to the Second Barons’ Rebellion and the battles of Lewes and Evesham.
    On October 13, 1278, Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, Prince of Wales, was finally able to marry Eleanor de Montfort (Ellen in my novels) at Worcester Cathedral. Edward had paid pirates to kidnap Ellen on her way to join Llywelyn in Wales and then held her hostage for three years. But he paid for the lavish wedding—the man did have a sense of humor, although in this case, it was definitely flavored with malice.
    On October 13, 1307, Philippe IV of France (a nasty piece of work if ever there was one) ordered the arrest of the Knights Templar, in one of the more blatant injustices of the Middle Ages.
    On October 13th, 1399, the first Lancastrian king, Henry IV, was crowned, having forced the abdication of his cousin, Richard II. Brian Wainwright’s Within the Fetterlock and Edith Pargeter’s A Bloody Field by Shrewsbury are excellent novels about this period in British history.
    And on October 13th, 1453, Marguerite d’Anjou, queen of Henry VI, gave birth to a son, named Edward. The Yorkists were highly skeptical of his paternity, but that was only to be expected under the circumstances. It didn’t help that Henry was reputed to have asked if the boy had been sired by the Holy Ghost. No one can prove that Edward was Henry’s son, just as no one can prove that he was not. Actually, that can be said of any historical figure, so I think we should give the queen the benefit of the doubt. What is indisputable is that Marguerite was fiercely devoted to her only child.

  88. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Several of my Facebook friends were unhappy that they don’t get BBC America and thus could not watch The Last Kingdom, which premiered on that channel Saturday night. One of my Goodreads friends has informed me that the entire episode is being shown on their website. Here is the link. For those who’ve seen it, what do you think? I’ll be tuning in again on Saturday.
    On the historical front, October 14th 1066 was the date of the battle of Hastings, during which the Saxon king, Harold, was slain. The victory of the Duke of Normandy, William, later called the Conqueror, dramatically changed the course of history, not just in England. Helen Hollick has written a novel about the last Saxon King, Harold, and Elizabeth Chadwick’s The Conquest depicts this momentous event through the eyes of several fictional characters, both Saxon and Norman-French.

  89. Malcolm Craig Says:

    Adeliza’s William was the son of William d’Aubigny Pincerna (the Butler), whose origin was in the Norman Cotentin and who appears frequently in the records of Henry I’s reign. A contemporary during Henry’s reign, who lived well into the chaotic reign of Stephen, was William d’Aubigny Brito (the Breton), who was likely from an area north of Rennes. Rereading Saints (Maude has just blown her big opportunity in 1141) inspired me to reread Chapter 5 (Reign of Henry I) of my unfinished dissertation. Trust me, my prose was much more pedestrian than Sharon’s is.

  90. Malcolm Craig Says:

    One wonders what contemporaries thought about all those children Adeliza and William had together. Perhaps the barren marriage with the old king was not due to her?

  91. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Many of you enjoyed Margaret Skea’s first novel, Turn of the Tide, set in 16th century Scotland. I am happy to report that the second book, A House Divided, was published in the UK today. Here is the link. Here is the link for American readers.
    The history of Scotland is fascinating and there have not been that many novels written about it. So if you are interested in learning more about this compelling, violent, and intriguing period, do check out Margaret’s books.
    Sorry I have not been around as much lately, but between the deadline dragon and unwelcome reality intrusions, life has been more chaotic than usual. I have hopes that November will calm down a bit. Meanwhile, October 15th, 1501 was the wedding date of Henry VIII’s older brother Arthur and Katherine of Aragon. Imagine how differently English history would have been if Arthur had not died so young. Of course that might have been disastrous for all those authors and screenwriters who have flourished writing about the dysfunctional Tudor dynasty.
    Go, Saints! (For my UK and Australian readers—it’s American football.)

  92. skpenman Says:

    The newest Bernard Cornwell novel in his splendid Saxon series is now out in the UK. It won’t be published in the US, though, until January. I’ll never understand why publishers do this. Many readers are not willing to wait months to read a new book by a favorite author. I ordered my copy of Warriors of the Storm from Amazon.UK, and I loved it! Meanwhile, the second episode of the BBC series will run on BBC America this coming Saturday. It is shaping up to be a good year for Uhtred—and for Master Cornwell.

  93. Malcolm Craig Says:

    Go, Black Cats! Beat the Baggies. (For Sharon’s American readers, it’s UK football.) Sharon, I did not realize you rooted for the New Orleans team. Based on last night’s result, your support seems to have helped.

  94. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    I cheer for several teams, Mac, besides the Eagles: Saints, Green Bay, Broncos, San Francisco. It might be heresy for an Eagles fan, but I also like Eli and the Giants. I didn’t know you are a soccer fan.

    Here is an interesting review of the first two episodes of The Last Kingdom. As for me, I am still watching, but still also waiting for that magic moment when it becomes Must See TV. So far it hasn’t happened for me. I think part of the problem is that this is not “my” Uhtred. For one thing, he does not resemble my mental image of the character. He is easy on the eye, which helps, so he may grow on me as the series continues. Uhtred is such a larger-than-life character that maybe there was bound to be some disappointment. What do the rest of you think?

  95. Malcolm Craig Says:

    Packers were my favorite NFL team growing up in New England. I liked the name, and they were on TV vs. Lions on every Thanksgiving. Giants were on TV then, with no New England team. How in the world could I root for N.Y. team? I have followed World cup for decades, bur English Premier League on U.S. TV has kindled my interest in the game.

  96. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Have you given up on the Packers now, Mac?

    Today is the death date of one of my more controversial characters, King John, who died on October 19, 1216, two months shy of his fiftieth birthday. By our standards, a man dying at fifty has been cheated, but John lived longer than all but one of Henry and Eleanor’s eight children. Only his sister Leonora lived longer and she died soon after her fifty-second birthday. None of them even lived as long as Henry did—fifty-six.
    Here is John’s deathbed scene from Here be Dragons, pages 497-498
    * * *
    John awoke to blackness and burning pain, to panic. He could not see, and when he cried out, no one answered him. His mind clouded by sleep and the abbot’s draught, he could not remember where he was or why he was suffering, and he tried to rise from the bed but had not the strength, lay there helplessly in the dark until the door opened and the abbot entered.
    He saw at once what had happened, began to offer profuse apologies. “The shutter blew open, my lord, and the candles guttered out. I went to fetch a lamp, did not think you’d awaken.”
    The lamp was a crude one, no more than a wick floating in a bowl of fish oil, but its feeble light was the most welcome sight John had ever seen. For once he submitted willingly to the abbot’s ministrations, let the monk squeeze water onto his swollen lips, bathe the sweat from his forehead. “Fetch the bishop,” he whispered, saw the abbot look away in sudden distress.
    “My liege, he…he’s gone. He and John Marshal left hours ago. They said it was urgent they reach my lords of Pembroke and Chester as soon as possible, in order to see to the safety of the young k—of your son.” He flushed, then added remorsefully, “You were so ill, my lord, and it seemed so unlikely you’d recover your wits….”
    “I understand….” And John did. Peter des Roches was his friend. But when a king died, his power died with him. He mumbled something too low for the abbot to hear. He could not be sure but it sounded as if John had said, “Sic transit Gloria mundi.” Thus passes the glory of the world. He gave John a look of surprised approval, glad that John seemed to be focusing his thoughts now as he ought, upon the Hereafter. “Your Grace, I….I have a great favor to ask of you. Not for me, but for my abbey.”
    That came as no surprise. How tired he was, so very tired. He roused himself with an effort, said, “Ask, then. Let yours be the last favor I grant.”
    “My liege, if you only would….I know that you said you wanted to be buried in the Benedictine priory of St Mary at Worcester, before the shrine of St Wulfstan. But I wondered if….if you might consider….if we could have your heart and bowels for burial at Croxton?”
    John’s eyes opened—wide. “What?”
    “If you’d consent, my lord, it would be such an honor. We’d bury them at the High Altar and say Masses for your soul—“ He broke off, dismayed and bewildered, for John was laughing. His laughter was unsteady, rasping and harsh, but it was unmistakably laughter.
    “IF only I’d known there’d be….be such a demand,” he gasped, “we could have auctioned off the…the choice parts….” The horrified look on the abbot’s face only made him laugh all the more, until he could not laugh and breathe at the same time, began to choke.
    Thoroughly alarmed, the abbot propped him up with pillows, hastened to give him wine. As the spasm passed, he lay back, closed his eyes. “I think I always knew….”
    “Knew what, my lord?”
    John turned his head, looked at him for a long time without answering. “I always knew,” he said, “that I’d die alone…..”
    * * *
    Today we find it hard to understand the medieval custom of portioning out the organs of a dead king, but it was not that uncommon. John’s son, Henry III, was buried at Westminster Abbey but he requested that his heart be buried at Fontevrault Abbey, where his mother had been buried. According to one of my French histories of the abbey, it was eventually done, but not until after the death of Henry’s widow; she apparently was not willing to relinquish it during her lifetime. John’s brother Richard was buried at Fontevrault, but with typical Angevin snarkiness, he left his entrails to the treacherous lords of Poitou, one last insult from the grave. He bequeathed his heart to his loyal Normans and it somehow survived through the centuries at Rouen. A French forensic specialist was able to examine it while I was writing Ransom. Perfect timing for me, as he ruled out one of the many legends about Richard’s death—that he’d been hit by a poisoned arrow. He also eliminated septicemia as a cause of death, confirming that the Lionheart died of gangrene. John is believed to have died of dysentery, like his elder brother Hal; it was one of the great killers of the MA, also striking down Edward I, Henry V, and Amalric, King of Jerusalem.

  97. Malcolm Craig Says:

    Sharon, I assume the result of last night’s game pleased you. I can still root for Packers if they are not playing Patriots (New England loyalty). If your support of Eagles goes back to ’50s, did you have any favorite players. I always liked Chuck Bednarik, the hard-nosed Ivy Leaguer from PA coal country who played both ways.

  98. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    I root for the Pats, Mac, for I see every victory by Tom Brady as a defeat for Roger Goodell! And no, I didn’t really start following the Eagles until the start of the Andy Reid era.

    October 21st is the birth date of Edward and Richard’s bratty brother, George of Clarence, in 1449. It is also the death date in 1204 of Robert Beaumont, Earl of Leicester, one of the heroes of the Third Crusade and a friend of the Lionheart. And on October 21, 1221, Constance of Brittany’s daughter, Alix de Thourars, died. There is some confusion about her birthdate, but whether it was 1200 or 1201, she was very young to lose her life. Like so many medieval women, she died in childbirth, as Constance probably did, too.
    Back to Brother George, he really had no redeeming qualities, seems to have been motivated by jealousy for his entire life. But I have to admit that he was fun to write about; the troublemakers usually are!

  99. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    I haven’t been able to get onto Facebook for a while now, as I had a house guest, new computer woes, an upcoming visit with my British editor, who’s spending a few weeks in the States, and of course my usual squabbling with a too-familiar foe, ye old deadline dragon. Ever the optimist, I hope that life slows down a bit now.
    Catching up on past historical happenings, October 25th was a busy date. In 1154, King Stephen died, thus clearing the way for Henry Fitz Empress to take the English throne at the young age of 21. The best verdict upon Stephen was one passed by a chronicler of the time, who said “He was a mild man, gentle and god, and did no justice.” Medieval kings needed to inspire respect and fear, and the amiable, easy-going Stephen, who wanted to be liked, struggled to do either. On the same date in 1400, the famed poet, Geoffrey Chaucer, died. And on October 26, 1415, the battle of Agincourt was fought, resulting in a disastrous defeat for the French and a resounding victory for one of England’s best soldier-kings, Henry V. I highly recommend Bernard Cornwell’s stand-alone novel, Agincourt, for those who’d like to know what it felt like to take part in medieval combat. Sometimes I suspect BC must do a little time-traveling on the side, so brilliantly does he fight historical battles, ranging from Uhthred’s shield wall to Richard Sharpe and his riflemen.

  100. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    That should have read “good,” not “god,” of course. Some of my kings had delusions of grandeur and often confused their will with that of the Almighty’s, but not Stephen.

  101. Malcolm Craig Says:

    I finished rereading Saints yesterday, just one day after the anniversary of Stephen’s death, which of course occurs quite close to the end of the novel. It was just as great a pleasure to read as it was 13 years ago, when I was first introduced to your work. I have much more to say, but I will save that for a private message later in the week.

  102. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Thank you so much, Mac. I’m so glad you enjoyed Saints; otherwise we might never have become friends and I wouldn’t have had that important information you discovered about Geoffrey and Constance’s “forgotten” daughter!

    I’m behind schedule again; sorry about that. October 26, 899 was the death date of the only English king to be honored with the sobriquet Great—the Saxon king, Alfred. He is currently one of the co-stars in the BBC America series, The Last Kingdom, based on Bernard Cornwell’s wonderful Saxon series. In the books, Uthred is not Alfred’s friend, more of an adversary, but in the course of their often troubled relationship, Uhtred does develop a grudging respect for the Saxon ruler. I admit I was not too fond of BC’s fictional Alfred, but he is being played by a very interesting actor on the BBC series and whenever he is on screen, I want to see what he is going to do next. The series has not caught me the way the books did, but the last episode was the best one so far, at least IMHO. What do you guys think of the series so far? Do you agree with me about the actor playing Alfred?
    October 27th, 1156 was the birthdate of one of history’s unfairly maligned men, the ill-fated Raimond de St Gilles, Count of Toulouse, who had a brief happy marriage to the Lionheart’s sister Joanna, and ended up as the most prominent victim of the power-grab known to history as the Albigensian Crusade. Raimond deserves a society to rehabilitate his slandered name and honor as much as Richard III, but Richard was luckier in that respect.

  103. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    So what occurred on October 30th in medieval history? There was a rebellion by the Welsh in 1294; if we are lucky, Rhys will post about it. And on this date in 1485, something happened that would prove to be a great gift for novelists and Hollywood script writers—the start of the Tudor dynasty with the coronation of Henry Tudor. I was tempted to add “boo, hiss!” but I am going to be a grownup today.
    I won’t be able to post about this morrow, as I am having lunch with my British editor; as much as I’d like it to be in London, it’s Philadelphia. But since I’ll be out of touch, I want to mention today that October 31st, 1147 was the date of death of a character I liked a lot; he was that rarity, a man of ability and honor—Robert Fitz Roy, Earl of Gloucester, half-brother to the Empress Maude. Had he not been born out of wedlock, Robert would have been a fine king. One of my favorite “Robert scenes” was the one in which he finally exploded and shocked his sister with some bitter truths.
    When Christ and his Saints Slept, pages 343-345
    * * *
    Rising, Maude began to pace. “To come so close and then to have it all snatched away like this….it is so unfair, Robert, so damnably unfair!”
    “Life is unfair,” he said, sounding so stoical, so rational, and so dispassionate that she was suddenly angry, a scalding, seething impotent rage that spared no one—not herself, not Robert, not God.
    “You think I do not know that? When has life ever been fair to women? Just think upon how easy it was for Stephen to steal my crown, and how bitter and bloody has been my struggle to win it back. Even after we’d caged Stephen at Bristol Castle, he was still a rival, still a threat….and why? Because he was so much braver or more clever or capable than me? No….because I was a woman, for it always came back to that. I’ll not deny that I made mistakes, but you do not know what it is like, Robert, to be judged so unfairly, to be judged not for what you’ve done but for what you are. It is a poison that seeps into the soul, that makes you half crazed with the need to prove yourself…..”
    She stopped to catch her breath, and only then did she see the look on Robert’s face, one of disbelief and then utter and overwhelming fury, burning as hot as her own anger, hotter even, for being so long suppressed.
    “I do not know what it is like?” he said incredulously. “I was our father’s firstborn son, but was I his heir? No, I was just his bastard. He trusted me and relied upon me and needed me. But none of that mattered, not even after the White Ship sank and he lost his only lawfully begotten son. He was so desperate to have an heir of his body that he dragged you back—unwillingly—from Germany, forced you into a marriage that he knew was doomed, and then risked rebellion by ramming you down the throats of his barons. And all the while, he had a son capable of ruling after him—he had me! But I was the son born of his sin, so I was not worthy to be king. As if I could have blundered any worse than you or Stephen!”
    Maude was stunned. She stared at him, too stricken for words, not knowing what to say even if she’d been capable of speech. Robert seemed equally shattered by his outburst; his face was suddenly ashen. He started to speak, then turned abruptly and walked out.
    * * *
    Maude spent a sleepless night and with the coming of light, she went to find her brother.
    * * *
    “I am sorry, Robert. I do not say that as often as I ought, but never have I meant it more. You have been my rod and my staff, more loyal than I deserved. You would have made a very good king.”
    His shoulders twitched, in a half-shrug. “Well, better than Stephen, for certes,” he said, with the faintest glimmer of a smile.
    “Our father was a fool,” she said, and he did not dispute her.
    “Robert.” Her mouth was suddenly dry. “I am never going to be queen, am I?”
    “No,” he said quietly, “you are not.”
    She’d known what he would say. But his uncompromising, honest answer robbed her of any last shreds of hope. She averted her face, briefly, and he, too, looked away, not willing to watch the death of a dream.
    “Maude.” She turned back to face him and he said, “You are not giving up?
    “You know better than that, Robert. I may have lost, but I’ll not let Henry lose, too. I shall fight for my son as long as I have breath in my body. He must not be cheated of the crown that is his birthright.”
    She saw sympathy in his eyes, and what mattered more, respect. “I will do whatever I can,” he vowed, “to make sure that does not happen.” And in that moment, she realized the truth—that he’d been fighting for Henry all along.

  104. Malcolm Craig Says:

    I enjoyed this scene (and many others!) during my recent rereading of Saints.

  105. Sharon K Penman Says:

    Thanks, Mac!

    A belated Happy Halloween to one and all. I hope my fellow football fans spent the day as I did, cheering on their favorite teams. With the exception of a few teams I really, really do not like, I always find myself feeling sympathy for the losing teams. Imagine how long that flight from London back to Detroit must seem to the Lions, who were clobbered by the Kansas City Chiefs. And I don’t even want to think about the plane ride from New Orleans to New York for the Giants after losing such a heartbreaker; I admit I was rooting for the Saints, but unlike most Eagles fans, I don’t dislike the Giants and usually wish them well unless they are playing the Eagles.
    Here is a book bargain for my fellow medieval geeks. I am such a fan of Dana Stabenow’s brilliant mysteries set in her home state, Alaska. So even though I have not yet read her first foray into the Middle Ages, I am sure these books will be up to her usual high standard. Here is a chance to buy the first of her 14th century novels about the granddaughter of Marco Polo for only 99 cents on
    And on November 1st, 1179, one of my least favorite kings became one, for this was the coronation of Philippe Capet, Louis VII’s fourteen year old son, who would become such a burr under the Angevin saddle.

  106. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    On this date in 1483, the Duke of Buckingham was executed in Salisbury after his rebellion failed. I wrote a scene in Sunne in which Richard received word of his death. I could have set it anywhere in the city, but because I thought Salisbury Cathedral was so beautiful, I chose to set it in the cloisters there, a deceptively peaceful place given the turmoil in Richard’s life.
    The Sunne in Splendour, pages 1037-1039
    * * * * *
    Shaded by cedar trees, bathed in blinding sunlight, the cloisters of St Mary’s offered a refuge of awesome beauty, an almost unearthly quiet. Richard was seated on a bench in the south walkway; he looked up as they approached, rose to his feet.
    By comment consent, they all moved up the east walkway, sought the greater privacy of the chapter house. Richard waited until Francis had closed the door and then said only, “It is done?”
    Francis nodded, waited for questions that didn’t come. (omission) “Will Hastings tried to warn me,” Richard said at last, not looking at either man as he spoke. “He told me I was a fool to trust Buckingham. ‘Ned made more than his share of mistakes,’ he said, ‘but Buckingham was not one of them.’ Buckingham, he said, was mine.”
    It was the first time in more than four months that Francis could recall Richard mentioning Will Hastings’s name, a stark silence dating from that June day when he’d summarily ordered Hastings to his death. Francis drew a quick breath, said, “Christ, Dickon, Hastings was jealous of Buckingham, that’s all! He did not have second sight, did not suspect any more than the rest of us what Buckingham had in mind. He was right about Buckingham, but for the wrong reasons.”
    “If truth be told,” Jack interrupted, “none of us had much liking for the man. But it is one thing to dislike a man for his arrogance, for the way power seemed to have gone to his head, and quite another to think him capable of treason, of child-murder. You cannot blame yourself because you trusted the man. He’d given you reason for trust, after all.”
    “Yes,” Richard said tonelessly, “I trusted him. And because I did, my brother’s sons are dead.” He turned to face them both, saw that neither one knew how to answer him. “Tell me,” he said abruptly. “Tell me how he died, Francis.”
    “Badly.” Francis made an involuntary grimace. “Very badly. Right up to the time he was taken out to the block, he kept begging for an audience with you, though what in God’s name he thought that would accomplish….”
    “I told him there was no way on God’s earth you’d ever consent to see him and he….well, he forgot all pride, all dignity.” A shadow of distaste crossed Francis’s face, bordering on revulsion. “I’ve never seen a man show his fear so nakedly,” he said slowly.
    “Does that surprise you so much, Francis? After all, the man knew he was facing eternal damnation. Would you not be fearful to go before the Throne of God with so great a sin on your soul?”
    Francis was shaking his head. “No, Jack,” he said thoughtfully, “I do not think it was that sort of fear. It seemed to be purely physical, a fear of the axe, of death itself. When he saw there was no hope, he began to plead for time, for a day’s grace. He reminded the priests that it was All Soul’s Day, entreated them to intercede with you, Dickon, to persuade you to postpone the execution until the morrow.”
    “Did he, by God?” Richard was staring at Francis. “And that is all today did mean to him….that it is All Soul’s Day?”
    Francis was at a loss. “Dickon?”
    Richard turned away. He could feel it starting to slip, the rigid self-control he’d been clinging to these past three weeks, and he bit down now on his lower lip until he tasted blood.
    “Today,” he said unevenly, “would have been Edward’s thirteenth birthday.”
    * * *

  107. Joan Says:

    Just gettting caught up on a month of posts. I too love that powerful scene between Maude & Robert. Scenes like this close the time gap between then & now & speak of our common humanity. The feeling of connectedness to past figures was one of the most satisfying results of my journey into the MA.

    Also thanks for mentioning Margaret Skea, Sharon. On my list now.

  108. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Thank you, Joan! Many of my readers really enjoy Margaret’s writing.

    Here is something fun to watch—a live polar bear camera. Visiting the polar bears in Churchill, Canada is on my Bucket List, but so far down that it’s not likely I’ll ever get to cross it off. This is the next best thing.

  109. skpenman Says:

    I have good news for fans of Pauline Toohey’s Pull of the Yew tree, which was set in fifteenth century Ireland. The sequel is now out, Melting of the Mettle. It starts five years later, in 1475, and Ricardians take note: Edward IV makes an appearance.

  110. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    I haven’t been able to post for the past few days as a friend was visiting. And then on Sunday, I suddenly lost my internet access. For once it was not my computer’s fault; the culprit was my modem and my security system router, which were suddenly in conflict. Naturally I was soon suffering severe withdrawal pangs, and not even the Eagles’ victory over the hated Cowboys Sunday night did much for my mood. But Comcast came to the rescue today, so I am once more able to contact the outside world. This week, then, I’ll be trying to catch up on those historical events that fell through the cracks while I was otherwise occupied.
    November 6th is a day I could not possibly ignore; it would be like neglecting Mardi Gras or the day the swallows come back to Capistrano. Several eventful happenings on this date, at least eventful to my books.
    On November 6th, 1153, the Treaty of Wallingford was signed. This momentous treaty ended the civil war that had torn England asunder for almost two decades. Under the terms, the young challenger, Henry Fitz Empress, recognized Stephan as king and Stephen agreed to name Henry as his heir. We probably have some eels to thank for this, as I doubt Stephen would have agreed if his eldest son Eustace had not died so conveniently back in August; I suspect it was easier for Stephen to rationalize disinheriting his younger son William, since he’d not been raised with the expectation of becoming king one day. I think that Stephen was exhausted, emotionally and physically, still grieving the loss of his queen and son, worn down by the demands of a kingship that he may never have wanted all that much. (I tend to see his wily brother, the Bishop of Winchester, as the moving force in that usurpation.) It is possible, even likely, that this treaty was the cause for the rumor in later centuries that Henry was Stephen’s son, for surely it is the only time a civil war ended with an adoption! Once again, Henry’s fabled luck came through for him, as it would until the last year of his life. Stephen could easily have lived for another ten years. He did not survive the Treaty of Wallingford by even a year, dying on October 25th, 1154, at age 58, and a month later, Henry Fitz Empress became King of England at just 21.
    November 6th was also the day of a significant battle in 1282. Edward was holding the island called Mon by the Welsh and Anglesey by the English, and he meant to build a pontoon boat bridge from the island to the mainland so he could launch an attack into the heart of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd’s Gwynedd. On November 6th, John Peckham, the Archbishop of Canterbury, had come to Llywelyn’s palace at Aber under a flag of truce in an attempt to convince the Welsh prince that he ought to submit to the English Crown. It was on this day, though, that the English on the island, led by a brash knight, Luke de Tany, crossed their bridge onto the mainland. They’d ventured several miles inland when the Welsh struck. The English seem to have been taken by surprise, oddly enough, and fled back toward their bridge. Here is what happened next, as described in The Reckoning, page 506.
    * * *
    “Llywelyn!” Davydd reined in his roan beside his brother, sending up a wild spray of sand….Davydd’s face was streaked with sweat and a smear of blood that did not appear to be his; his eyes were blazing with excitement, greener than any cat’s. “I’ve an idea,” he panted. “Let’s see if we cannot set fire to the bridge!”
    That same thought had occurred to Llywelyn, and he’d just put some of his bowmen to the task; several men were searching for wood that would be quick to kindle, as others hastily improvised makeshift fire arrows, knotting them with cloth that could be ignited. Turning in the saddle now to see if they would have time before the English reached the safety of the island, Llywelyn caught his breath, transfixed by what had just occurred out in the straits. “There is no need,” he said, “not now. Look!”
    Davydd swung his mount around to see. “Jesus God,” he murmured softly, almost reverently, for the bridge was breaking up.
    * * *
    The bridge had not been made to withstand the panicked rout, and it was dangerously overloaded. It was also high tide and the currents in the Menai Straits were treacherous. When a large section of the deck collapsed, the sinking boats rapidly took on water, and the straits were soon filled with floundering men and horses. The Welsh then sealed the bridge’s doom by prying up the grappling hooks that had been meant to anchor the bridge, which then snapped sideways, flinging the last of the soldiers into the water. At least one hundred and fifty men died. Fifteen knights drowned that day, including Luke de Tany, and while that may not seem like much to us, it was a shock to their world. Knights did not expect to die in battle in the 13th century; at the worst, they expected to be captured and ransomed, not to drown in icy waters as Welsh arrows seared the air overhead.
    November 6th, was the date in 1429 when the young Henry VI was crowned; although he’d actually become king at nine months after the premature death of his father, his coronation was not held until he was eight. This was also the birthday in 1479 of Juana of Castile, sister of Katherine of Aragon, who would tragically be known in history as Juana la Loca, Juana the Mad. Christopher Gortner’s The Last Queen does justice to Juana’s sad story, and I highly recommend it.

  111. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    November 10th, 1177 was a dark day in the history of medieval Wales, for it was on that date that Llywelyn ap Gruffydd made a forced peace with the English king, Edward I. Not surprisingly—for Edward was not known for showing mercy to a defeated foe—his terms were harsh ones. Llywelyn had to yield the four cantrefs east of the River Conwy and all land already seized by Edward. He was allowed to retain control of the island of Mon, but only as a vassal, compelled to pay a thousand marks a year to the royal coffers and if he died without an heir of his body, it would revert to the Crown. He had to pay a staggering fine of fifty thousand pounds (later remitted by Edward in an act of calculated generosity) and yield ten highborn hostages, free his brother Owain and the man who’d plotted to assassinate him. He must swear homage and fealty to Edward and forfeit the homage of all but five lords of Gwynedd, all others to owe homage only to the English king.
    The Reckoning, page 259.
    * * *
    Llywelyn was permitted to retain the title that was now only a courtesy, Prince of Wales, a hollow mockery that seemed to him the cruelest kindness of all.
    On November 9th, Llywelyn came to Aberconwy Abbey to accept Edward’s terms, feeling like a man asked to preside over his own execution. A remembered scrap of Scriptures kept echoing in his ears like a funeral dirge: “Jerusalem is ruined and Judah is fallen.” Gwynedd had been gutted by a pen, just as surely as any sword thrust. He’d lost more than the lands listed upon parchment; he’d lost the last thirty years of his life, for Gwynedd had been reduced to the boundaries imposed upon the Welsh by the Treaty of Woodstock in 1247. Llywelyn had been just nineteen then, new to power and to defeat. That had been his first loss to England, and his last—until now, until the Treaty of Aberconwy, which destroyed a lifetime’s labor in the time it took to affix his great seal to the accord. Never had he known such despair. And the worst was still to come, for on the morrow he must ride to Rhuddlan Castle, there make a formal and public surrender to the English king.
    * * *
    Edward had one final surprise for Llywelyn when they met on November 10th at Rhuddlan Castle. Llywelyn had been assured that his wife, Ellen de Montfort, held hostage by Edward for the past two years, would be released, but Edward reneged, insisting that Ellen would not be freed until Llywelyn had proved his good faith and loyalty. Since Ken John is working (diligently, we hope) on a novel about Othon de Grandison (known as Otto in The Reckoning), I could not resist quoting one more paragraph of the chapter, for Othon/Otto was just as shocked as Llywelyn by Edward’s surprise; he’d been the one to deliver the king’s assurances to the Welsh prince. Again, from the Reckoning, pages 266-267.
    * * *
    The tension did not subside. One spark and the air itself might kindle, Otto de Grandison thought morosely, not at all happy with this unexpected turn of events. Had he so misread Edward, ignored the strings trailing from the offer to restore the prince’s lady? Had it truly been his mistake? He thought not, but it was now, for kings did not err. He gave Llywelyn an apologetic look, then turned at the sound of a muffled shout. Striding to the window, he unlatched the shutters. “My liege, the Welsh prisoners have just ridden into the bailey.”
    * * *
    It was never easy to serve a king, especially for a man of honor.

  112. Annmarie York Says:

    Yes, that’s a good idea. I’m not so disciplined, so I have different scraps of paper or sometimes I email myself an idea. I probably need to get better organized some time

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