My White Wolves

After I lost my shepherd Cody, I found it helped to write a blog about this remarkable dog. But it will be four years in January since the death of my shepherd Shadow and until now I have not been able to write about him. Perhaps it was because he was young and I’d never lost a young dog before; it is easier to accept the death of a beloved pet if he or she lived out their natural life span. Perhaps it was because Shadow’s history was so tragic. Or because I still miss him so much.

In the past, when I’d lost a dog or cat, I’d always gotten another one, in part because it made the grieving easier and in part because I knew so many pets are in such desperate need of homes. But after Cody’s death, I found it difficult to bring another shepherd into my home and my life. I almost adopted a very nice shepherd mix from Echo White Shepherd Rescue, only realizing at the eleventh hour that I was not ready. So I waited, occasionally checking out the shepherds on Petfinder. But on the night that I found Shadow, I was not yet looking for a dog to adopt. I’d just read an article about training shepherds and there at the bottom of the page was a photo of the saddest shepherd I’d ever seen. He was painfully skinny and his eyes held nothing but despair and fear. When I clicked onto his photo, I learned that he was called Boo and he’d been picked up by animal control as a stray. Because he was a shepherd and because he was so obviously terrified, the shelter employees were wary of him, understanding that a fearful dog could sometimes be a dangerous one. But Shadow’s luck was about to change; one of the shelter employees worked with the Burlington County Rescue Alliance and she was drawn to this frightened young dog. Susan entered his cage and sat down quietly. After a while, he crawled over and put his head in her lap. She took him home with her that night.

She soon discovered how horribly he’d been abused. He was afraid of leashes, belts, brooms, anything that triggered memories of being beaten. If she raised her hand near his head, he flinched and whimpered. Once she happened to lift her foot in his vicinity and he pancaked, dropped flat, and began to tremble. Dogs may not have the power of speech, but he was offering compelling and heartbreaking testimony that he’d been beaten and kicked by his previous owners, subjected to so much cruelty that he’d come to expect such treatment, even though he could not understand why that was so. And yet in the two weeks that she fostered him, she never saw him show any sign of aggression, even fear-driven aggression. So her rescue group put him up for adoption on Petfinder.

I did not think I was ready to adopt again, but I was haunted by his sorrowful eyes and I felt compelled to contact her. A week later, I was driving up to meet him. I’d been approved to adopt him and while I realized it would be a challenge to gain the trust of a dog so abused, I could never have driven away without him. So after the papers were signed and I’d written a check, she coaxed him into my car and his new life began.

It did not get off to the best of starts; he was understandably scared to death, and then scared me when he squeezed into the front seat and tried to crouch down at my feet, this while we were going fifty miles an hour. By the time we got home, we both were exhausted. My poodle Chelsea offered a friendly greeting, but it didn’t help. He fled into the guest bedroom and huddled against the door leading into the garage, shaking like a leaf. I let him stay there, coming to sit beside him from time to time and talk soothingly. He did eat and I thought that was a good sign, but I wondered if I’d be able to forge a bond with this traumatized boy.

In the days that followed, I spoke softly and let him progress at his own pace. I’d heard stories from friends in rescue work of dogs that took months to overcome their fear; some never could. But Boo—now renamed Shadow—was desperately eager to please. He’d obviously never had toys before and was soon playing happily with them. Judging from his appearance, he may never have been given enough to eat, and he began to show great enthusiasm for mealtimes. In a surprisingly brief time, he literally became my shadow, always wanting to be with me, preferably touching me, pillowing his head on my foot as I worked. He began to put on weight. The first time he barked at the mailman, I don’t know which of us was more surprised. He got along with Chelsea, began to enjoy riding in the car, and watched me constantly. And then he had an epiphany. He realized that he need never be afraid again, and he was filled with joy.

“Boo"

When he was Boo

I’ve had many wonderful dogs over the years, but I l do not think any dog loved me as much as Shadow did. Once he became convinced that he would not be hurt again, that he could trust me, he was so grateful for that. I was surprised that this transformation had happened so quickly, and even more surprised by the way he began to respond to other people. No longer so painfully skinny—he went from 63 pounds to 80—and with a plush white coat that looked like ermine, he was a stunningly beautiful dog and whenever I walked him, he attracted attention. It was like going out with a rock star, for most people have never seen a white German shepherd and they reacted as if he were a unicorn. I’ve had shepherds all my life, and they have been bred to be one-person or one-family dogs. As long as they’ve been trained, they are civil with strangers, but somewhat aloof. Not Shadow. When his admirers flocked around him, he was delighted; I joked that he’d begun to channel his inner golden retriever. I understood why he’d come to love me so quickly and wholeheartedly; I was the first person to give him love. I was amazed, though, that he was willing to trust others, too, this dog who’d never been given any reason for trust. But for the first time in his life, he felt safe and loved and he blossomed in his new world.

We soon developed routines. He was always sitting by my bed in the morning, waiting for me to awake. He insisted upon coming into the bathroom when I took a bath, determined to protect me from drowning or the infamous land shark. Every night he followed me upstairs, where he hopped on my bed and wriggled around like a silver dolphin. Then he’d jump down and pad next door to the spare bedroom that he’d claimed as his own, stretching out on the bed and putting his head on the pillow with a sigh of contentment; some mornings I discovered that he’d even pulled the blanket up over his shoulders in his sleep. I wish I’d thought to take photos of Shadow’s bedtime ritual, but I never imagined our time would be so limited.

I’d adopted him in early May. As the year turned cold, his appetite began to falter, and my vet was as puzzled as I was by this. He did not seem sick or in pain, but I sensed something was wrong. My vet did some diagnostic tests, and eventually an ultrasound revealed a mass in his liver. At my vet’s recommendation, I immediately took Shadow to a clinic in North Jersey that specialized in cancer treatment.

I was fearing the worst, but an x-ray revealed an unexpected and hopeful diagnosis. Not cancer. He had a severe diaphragmatic hernia, caused by blunt force trauma. When I told the vets that we strongly suspected he’d been kicked, they confirmed that was the likely cause of his injury. We arranged for surgery the next day. While they warned me that it was possible the surgery would fail, they felt there was an excellent chance that he’d make a full recovery. It was hard to leave him, for he looked stricken when they took him away, letting out a little moan of protest, yet without the surgery, he would die. It was as simple as that.

The surgery went very well and two days later, I was allowed to take him home to convalesce. What occurred next was remarkable. At the time, I was deeply touched; now it hurts to remember. When they led Shadow into the vet’s office and he saw me, he began to talk. That is the only way I can describe it. Overcome with joy that I’d come back for him, he wanted to tell me about his ordeal, how frightened he’d been, fearing I’d abandoned him. For more than ten minutes, he “talked” to me, not barking or growling or whining. His tone rose and fell exactly as our voices do when we converse with others. I’d never seen a dog do this, and neither had the vet; she even called in some of her colleagues to listen to him.

Shadow

Shadow on the couch

I don’t know who was happier, me or Shadow. He was in some discomfort for it had been major surgery. But he was so excited to be home that it did not seem to matter. At least not for three days. I’d gone to get him on a Monday. On Thursday there was a sudden change in his breathing; it became very fast and shallow. I at once rushed him to my vet, where they discovered that his lungs were filling with fluid. They drained it and he seemed better, so I was able to take him home.

But the next night, his breathing became labored again. By the time I got him to my vet, he could barely breathe. After consulting with the clinic surgeon, my vet took an x-ray that confirmed his fears—pulmonary edema. There was nothing we could do except end his suffering. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done and when I got home, the house felt as empty as my heart.

Anyone who has lost a beloved pet knows how much it hurts. Even knowing that I’d done all I could for him did not help. He proved to be as loyal in death as he was in life, always hovering on the far edges of memory, my faithful silver ghost. It was the injustice that I found hardest to accept. He’d enduring so much fear and misery in his young life, only having nine brief months in which he felt safe and cherished. A friend reminded me that dogs do not experience time in the way that we do, that they live utterly in the moment. So for Shadow, he said, those nine months were infinite. I so hope he is right.

Shadow’s story touched many of my friends and readers, and I like to think that some of them may have been moved to adopt from shelters or rescue groups. In my case, the road eventually led to Florida and another white shepherd, Tristan, whose history will be related in My White Wolves, Part II.

November 11, 2015

87 Responses to “My White Wolves”

  1. Peggy Tabar Says:

    Thank you for sharing one of the most touching, heartwarming stories I’ve heard. You and Shadow were perfect for each other.

  2. Debra Says:

    Sharon -
    I am so glad you shared Shadow’s story. It is heartwarming and heartbreaking all at the same time. The time you gave Shadow, the love and care and companionship that you gave one another, is the best living creatures can do for each other.

    Thank you for all you do for us, your readers, and to the animals that you love.

    Best-
    Debra Northart

  3. Celia Jelbart Says:

    The saddest part is that he did not have the many years, that unfortunately post operation he had only a few days, but the beauty of the love, the fact that his beautiful gentle nature was not harmed by the violence he had experienced. I cannot understand how they could be that horrid, how could they do such things.
    Looking forward to White Wolves II.

  4. Brenna Says:

    I remember the day you discovered Shadow and shared your journey with him because it was the same time you introduced us to Echo White Shepherd Rescue. I became a transporter for them that same time and have fallen in love with just about every dog I have traveled with. Nothing ever comes close to the first one-Hopper. He was so skinny and scared and covered in his own mess but the hour plus we had in the car together, changed us both. He kept his head on my shoulder and let me pet him and gave kisses when I said something he agreed warranted a reaction. He jumped out of my car with much more confidence than he went in and I decided to adopt a rescue dog on the spot. Now unfortunately, I am highly allergic to shepherds (something I also discovered with Hopper after my entire face broke out in hives) but while it limits my ability to adopt them, it does not stop the transporting! I don’t know whatever happened to him, but I hope he experienced as much love and devotion as Shadow. We adopted Mr. Dougal two years ago who was a bait dog in a dog fighting ring and watched this terrified, aggressive, anti-social animal blossom into a loving, sweet natured, still very talkative boy. Lots of love you and hugs to you Sharon as you remember Shadow.

  5. Patricia Hinds Says:

    Beautifully expressed of course- I’m all teary. I can still weep over every animal we’ve lost- some more than others, but they do grab our hearts!

  6. Owen Mayo Says:

    November 11th, 2015, 22.02 pm UK time

    I never had the pleasure of meeting Shadow in the flesh and fur as Sharon so eloquently describes it. I fell in love with him at a distance, thanks to the photos and episodes Sharon sent me by email. I had my first real experience of the bond that forms between a dog and a human in January 2010, when Roxie came into my life full time at the age of six months. My son had bought her at the age of seven weeks and for the first six months of her life she lived with him and his girlfriend, visiting my wife and myself when they came for Sunday lunch. She was a cute little bundle, a female Boxer, and we were fond of her, but only saw her once a week. When she was six months old, my son, who is in the army, was posted away and his girlfriend finished with him because she wanted someone who would be there to take her out at weekends. She did not want Roxie, and my son, before he left for his posting told us he thought he would have to part with her. To everyone’s surprise my reaction was “Over my dead body.” Surprise because I had never shown any interest in having a dog previously. Being recently retired, I soon learned the pleasure of taking this little girl for walks and playing with her, and she became my 24/7 companion and eventual “youngest grand daughter” (all my human grand daughters live abroad or at a great distance) because I fell totally under her spell. Sharon and I, both being dog lovers, found another common interest, exchanging photos and stories of our dogs as well as historical information. When she adopted Shadow, we even exchanged emails between our two dogs, (how daft does it get) and Shadow somehow found his way into my heart as he did with Sharon. I worked with his photos on my computer, enhancing and editing them in different ways which Sharon seemed to like. Then, after a tragically short time, I received the devastating news that his operation had not been a success after all. His photos still are here in my studio as I write this with tears running down my face, as much in memory of Sharon’s loss as the loss of the beautiful boy we had both grown to love. I shall never forget him, and although I never had the pleasure of running my fingers through his fur and hugging him physically, I still feel so close to him that it seems like I did. The photo of him on the couch is my favourite, and I look in his eyes and see the love and gratitude he felt at having discovered the joy that life had to offer after the treatment he had previously suffered. I, thankfully, still have my Roxie, who is now halfway through her seventh year. Every day she and I go to a Woodland Trust area near my home and she is able to run free, chase squirrels, and fetch back the ball I throw for her and when we are home she enjoys the cuddles and companionship as much as I have learned, quite late in life, can be shared between a human and a dog. Shadow was a special part of my life, albeit for only a short time, and I hope one day to meet him at the Rainbow Bridge.

  7. Christine Says:

    What a beautiful and heartbreaking tribute. I’ve adopted two shelter pets, and they have been the best animals I’ve ever had. The point where they finally learn that they will never be abused again is the most amazing moment. So glad Shadow had those 9 months of love and comfort.

    And may the people who hurt him rot in hell

  8. Cindy Says:

    Thank you for sharing Shadows’s story, I’m so glad he found his way to you to live out what time was left to him in happiness and joy. To see an animal blossom once they’be been removed from an unhappy setting is one of the joys of rescue.

  9. Eadie Says:

    Such a lovely tribute. Each one leaves footprints on our heart.

  10. Scott Says:

    My Border Collie, Robbie has a similar story but a happier ending. When we adapted him he was afraid of hard surfaces and water. Hard surfaces no longer bother him but water still does. We got Rob at less than a year old and he has reach the age of at least 14. I see signs of aging and I know he doesn’t have much more time, but he has had a good life and I will miss him when he goes.

  11. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Pray for the people of Paris, for there are truly monsters who walk amongst us. The first link below lists ways to help, and the second one gives us some much needed proof of our humanity; soon after the horror, Parisians took to social media to offer shelter to tourists and visitors stranded in Paris now, with flights grounded and the borders closed. Today Americans are making the same offer for French visitors unable to get home.
    http://www.syracuse.com/us-news/index.ssf/2015/11/how_to_help_paris_ways_to_help_victims_of_terror_attacks_in_france.html

    http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/paris-terror-attacks/strandedinus-americans-open-homes-strangers-stranded-after-paris-attacks-n463431

  12. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    It seemed appropriate to post this today, probably the film’s most powerful scene. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HM-E2H1ChJM Vive la France.

  13. Maritza Says:

    I’ve always said that dogs are a gift from a very benevolent God. Their steadfast love for their human family is unconditional and all-encompassing. I’ve adopted 2 abandoned babies–my shepherd-chow mix, Pepper, and an Australian Cattle Dog, Rosie. Each lived to be 14; I had “the decision” at the end of their lives to contend with. I held them in my arms as the vet did what he had to do & it was one of the most precious moments of my life. I will love them always & have thanked God countless times for bringing them into my life. Those of us that have had a beloved pet are richer for it. Those who abuse or neglect a pet are monsters. Thank you, Sharon, for this story; it was truly beautiful to read, especially during these dark days when we are all processing & dealing with the tragedy in Paris & the fearfulness that has resulted from the scourge of barbarians who dare to bring God into their evil. We Christians remember Jesus’ supplication to “deliver us from evil.” These past few days I have taken special note of these simple words echoed so long ago; I say them as a talisman against the hate & envision them as a candle in the window on a dark night.

  14. Joan Says:

    Thank you for that, Sharon.

    Vive la France!!!

  15. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Thank you all for posting about your beloved dogs, too.

    I am trying to play catch-up for some of the Today in History posts that I’ve missed this month.
    November 9, 1389 is the birthdate of a young woman whose appeal continues to shine across the centuries—at least to me. Isabella of Valois was the daughter of a French king and at age six she became Queen of England when she wed Richard II. Richard was still grieving for his late wife, Anne of Bohemia, and it is likely that he saw this marriage to a child bride as a way to avoid having to form a marital bond before he was emotionally ready for one. Whatever his motivation, he apparently treated little Isabella very kindly and she became quite attached to him, as she would soon prove. Four years after their marriage, Richard was deposed by his cousin, who then claimed the English crown as Henry IV, the first Lancastrian monarch. Henry thought the ten year old Isabella would make a good bride for his son, the future Henry V. But Isabella would have none of it. This brave child defied the new king, refused to wed his son, and once she became convinced that Richard was dead, she went into deep mourning. Eventually she proved to be such an embarrassment that Henry agreed to allow her to return to France. I have encountered too many stories over the years of medieval women who were married off against their will, so I have always been impressed by Isabella’s resolve and courage, especially in light of her age. In 1406, Isabella, then seventeen, wed her cousin, Charles, the Duke of Orleans. Sadly, she died in childbirth at the age of nineteen.
    Her younger sister was treated more kindly by fortune. Catherine wed the man spurned by the young Isabella, Henry V, and gave him a son, the future Henry VI. The widowed Catherine then took up with a dashing Welshman, Owain Tudor, and her grandson would eventually claim the English throne as Henry VII.

  16. Joan Says:

    So much interesting history in this post that I’m going to spend the rest of the day online.

  17. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Another catching-up post for November.
    November 13, 1143 was the date of death of Fulk, Count of Anjou and King of Jerusalem, husband to Queen Melisende; I’ve always been interested in this capable, strong-willed woman, the subject of a very good biography by Sharan Newman, Defending the City of God. Fulk died as the result of a gruesome hunting accident. His skull was crushed by the saddle when his horse stumbled and fell on top of him. According to my favorite medieval historian, William of Tyre, “his brains gushed forth from both ears and nostrils.” (I hope no one is reading this while eating a late lunch.) Fulk lingered in a coma for three days before finally dying. Fulk was, of course, the father of Geoffrey of Anjou and thus the grandfather of Henry II. One of his daughters wed the Count of Flanders and a second daughter was widowed by the sinking of the White Ship and later became Abbess of Fontevrault. By Melisende, he was also the father of two Kings of Jerusalem and was therefore the grandfather of Isabella, who appears in Lionheart.
    November 13, 1160 was the wedding date for Louis VII and Adele of Blois, who would later do what his first two wives could not, give him a son. Louis’s second wife had died the month previously, after giving birth to his unfortunate daughter Alys, so he did not have much of a mourning period. By marrying Adele, Louis thus became brother-in-law as well as father-in-law to her brothers, for they were betrothed to his daughters by Eleanor. I had fun doing a scene in Lionheart in which Henri of Champagne tried to explain his convoluted family tree.
    And November 13, 1312 was the birthday of the future Edward III. This must have been a very happy day for Edward II and Isabella, who did not have many of them—at least not together.

  18. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    One of my Facebook friends posted this already, but I am sure many of you did not see it, and it is well worth repeating. This has been such a horrific week that we desperately need some laughter to leaven the sorrow and fears, and this will definitely elicit some LOL moments, It also puts Henry VIII in the bad light he so richly deserves. Enjoy. http://the-toast.net/2015/11/11/unsolicited-advice-for-the-six-wives-of-henry-viii-working-within-their-social-parameters-and-not-suggesting-they-just-invent-feminism-because-thats-anachronistic/

  19. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    My congratulations to my fellow football fans whose teams played well yesterday. My sympathies to those whose teams did not and my deepest condolences to fans of the Ravens, who won but also lost their QB for the rest of the year; they truly have been suffering through the season from Hell. As for other Eagles fans, I invite you to join me in my hunt for a Chip Kelly voodoo doll and some very sharp needles.
    Two historical happenings of interest to Yorkists. On November 22, 1428, Richard Neville, AKA the Kingmaker, was born, and on November 23, 1503, Margaret of York, Duchess of Burgundy and sister to Edward IV and Richard III, died at age 57, which seems positively ancient when you consider the premature deaths of all of her brothers. Anne Easter Smith has written a novel about Margaret, which many of my readers have recommended.

  20. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    We can always try to escape the violence in the real world by dwelling upon the violence in GRRM’s fictional world; hard to say which is bloodier. Anyway, more Jon Snow speculation to pass the time. http://money.cnn.com/2015/11/23/media/jon-snow-promo-poster-game-of-thrones/index.html

  21. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    I would like to wish all of my American Facebook friends and readers a very special Thanksgiving tomorrow. A friend of mine calls it a “gratitude holiday,” and I like that. It is good for our emotional and mental health if we remind ourselves occasionally of all we have to be thankful for. High on my list would be my amazing readers; I feel so fortunate that I’ve been able to connect with so many of you via Facebook. How writers down through the centuries would have loved an opportunity like that! And out of curiosity, I’d love to know if other nations have a holiday similar to our Thanksgiving. I know Canada does; in October, right? How about other countries? Readers?
    Today, November 25th is St Catherine’s Day; she was a popular saint in the MA. Two very significant events happened on her saint’s day. In 1120, the White Ship sank off Barfleur, dramatically changing the course of English and French history. And in 1177, an important battle was fought at Mont Gisard in Outremer between an army led by Saladin and the greatly outnumbered forces of the young leper king, Baldwin IV. I’ll probably discuss these occurrences at greater depth later. Meanwhile, Happy Thanksgiving. For those of you flying or driving during the holiday, safe travels. And for my Facebook friends living in other countries, I hope you all have a very nice Thursday. 

  22. Joan Says:

    Happy & a safe Thanksgiving, Sharon & everyone south of us. Yes we did celebrate in Oct & I was lucky enough to have had a lakeside holiday on Lake Winnipeg with my Mom, sisters, etc. & all this before a family wedding the following weekend. We were also treated to a fantastic storm at the lake, very exciting for the lake takes on the look of ocean at those times. We had the candelabra lit & cooked a delicious breakfast on the wood stove. There was even pumpkin pie left over from the Thanksgiving feast!

  23. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Thanks, Joan. Your Thanksgiving sounds lovely.

    I hope all who celebrated Thanksgiving enjoyed the holiday as much as my family and I did. For my fellow football fans, congratulations to Lions and Panthers and Bears fans (yes, that is you, David Blixt!) My sympathies to Tony Romo for his injury and to Green Bay fans….sigh. Eagles fans, the mob forms in center city tomorrow to march on Chip Kelly’s house; pitchforks provided, torches are optional.
    Today On November 27, 1095, Pope Urban called for a crusade to rescue Jerusalem from the infidels, which led to the First Crusade and the deaths of thousands of people—not only all who died during this initial foray to the Holy Land, but all who died in subsequent crusades. There is disagreement about how many crusades there were; some say seven, others nine. The first was the most successful in military terms, for they managed to capture Jerusalem; it was also the bloodiest, resulting in the brutal massacres of noncombatants in the captured cities. The second was a fiasco, probably better known for what did or did not happen between Eleanor and her uncle in Antioch. The third is the most famous because of the two larger than life commanders who captured the public imagination, in their time and in succeeding centuries—Saladin and the Lionheart. The fourth ended with a shameful assault upon the city of Constantinople, so they never even got to the Holy Land. The fifth has been largely forgotten, from 1217-122. The sixth involved the Emperor Frederick II, who was excommunicated at the time and who pragmatically struck a deal with the Saracens that enabled him to assume control of the Holy City instead of fighting for it; Henry III’s brother, Richard of Cornwall, also took part in this one. The seventh was another failure, resulting in the capture of the French king, Louis IX, son of Blanche in yesterday’s Facebook Note, later canonized by the Catholic Church. Twenty-some years later, Louis gave it another shot; this ill-advised venture ended in his death in Tunisia. Some historians count Edward I’s unsuccessful campaign against the brutal Sultan Baibars in 1271-1272; my readers will remember this one for the unsuccessful attempt upon Edward’s life by one of the storied Assassins.
    In-between the organized blood-letting, there were minor skirmishings and the infamous Children’s Crusade of 1212, in which children of France and Germany were said to have spontaneously vowed to liberate the Holy Land. As you’d expect, that did not end well. In recent years, some historians have cast doubts upon the story, and it is hard not to hope they are right. Dante placed the belligerent troubadour Bertran de Born in one of his circles of Hell for stirring up strife between Henry and his sons. I’m sure it never occurred to Dante, but I’d have put Pope Urban in one of those circles, too. Here is the link to a funny website envisioning historical events through the prism of Facebook. Both Richard and the Saracens “unfriend” the Pope, but of course he perseveres; sadly, medieval popes always did. http://coolmaterial.com/roundup/if-historical-events-had-facebook-statuses-part-2/
    And on November 27th, 1198, one of the more interesting and admirable women of the MA died in Palermo at the age of forty-four, Constance de Hauteville, aunt to Joanna’s husband, King William, and unhappy wife to Richard’s nemesis, the emperor Heinrich. We all know about Eleanor’s rebellion against Henry. Few know that Constance courageously took part in a rebellion against Heinrich for the most honorable of reasons—to spare her beloved Sicily any more suffering under Heinrich’s iron rule. I have written a short story (yes, me!) about Constance, which appears in the George RR Martin anthology, Dangerous Women under the title Queen in Exile.

  24. Malcolm Craig Says:

    And a delightful short story it is. You should write more of them.

  25. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Thank, Mac! Actually I am thinking about doing that after my current opus is done, so you must be a soothsayer.

    My congratulations to my fellow (American) football fans whose teams won yesterday, and condolences to those not as lucky. I hope my American readers had a very good Thanksgiving, too. Now to history. I am still catching up on some November dates, as follows. On November 10, 1433, Charles the Bold (or the Rash) was born; he was the husband of Margaret of York and reluctantly gave refuge to Edward and Richard when they were forced to flee England. He has the dubious distinction of being the only great prince to be eaten by wolves; after his death at the siege of Nancy in 1477, by the time his body was found, it had been partially devoured by animals. He appears in one scene of Sunne and I am sure he is a character in Anne Easter Smith’s novel about Margaret, Daughter of York.
    On November 10, 1480, Bridget, the youngest daughter of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville was born. She was sent to Dartford Priory to become a nun in 1487 at the painfully young age of seven years. Was she happy with a vocation that was forced upon her? We’ll never know; I’ve seen it claimed that she had an illegitimate child as a nun, but I do not think this claim has been corroborated. We certainly know there were many unwilling nuns in the MA, girls sequestered at an early age like Bridget or Gwenllian, others compelled by family to take vows to in squabbles over inheritances, some who were compelled by circumstances or sudden poverty. The histories mention runaway nuns. But it is certainly possible that she was quite content to serve God; for her sake, I hope so.
    On November 10, 1483, Martin Luther was born, to the grief of popes everywhere. And although it is not medieval, on November 10, 1566, Robert Devereaux, the Earl of Essex was born, to the subsequent grief of Elizabeth I.

  26. Malcolm Craig Says:

    I am not likely a soothsayer, though I did win 25 cents as a college freshman, betting on Cassius Clay to beat Sonny Liston (despite the cheating in Liston’s corner). Charles “the Rash” is a much better translation of Charles le Téméraire, and well deserved besides. Patriots’ O.T. loss was ameliorated by the fact that it was to the Broncos, and not to that buffoon in Buffalo. Besides, Sunderland is resurgent, with two straight wins and escape from the dreaded relegation zone. My fellow Black Cats’ supporter among your readers is a big fan of the Broncos and other Denver teams.

  27. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    I posted this link on my Facebook page yesterday and it occurred to me that some of my blog readers might like to sign this petition, too. Here is the link to the story of Andy, the polar bear slowly being strangled by his tracking collar. https://www.change.org/p/university-of-alberta-save-andy-the-polar-bear?recruiter=17090969&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=facebook&utm_campaign=autopublish&utm_term=des-lg-action_alert-reason_msg&fb_ref=Default

  28. Malcolm Craig Says:

    One more thing, Sharon, in relation to your blog. I happen to reading a history of Tudor and Stuart England, so I know exactly who Essex was and what he did. The Met Opera simulcasts will be showing the third opera in Donizetti’s Tudor trilogy, “Roberto Devereux,” in April. We have already seen “Anna Bolena” and “Maria Stuarda,” who also lost their heads, of course. In the current book, I am just reaching the happy reign of Charles II. During the enthusiastic greeting he received in London in May 1660, our Charles “was heard to observe that since his subjects were obviously so delighted to see him back it was doubtless his own fault that he had been absent so long.”

  29. skpenman Says:

    I didn’t know you were an opera fan, Mac. I confess that is a form of music that has never drawn me in, despite efforts by friends to make me see the light. That sounds like Charles, doesn’t it?

    Stephanie has an interesting discussion of historical research on her blog, also offering a behind-the veil glimpse of writers at work. It isn’t always pretty! I cannot count the times my computer has been spared an ugly demise simply because I did not have an axe in the house. Here is the link to her blog. http://www.stephaniechurchillauthor.com/#!You-mean-you-did-research/c1q8z/5658ac7b0cf2a3b83ffadf28 She also has an insightful review up about a writer I think I’d like to read, Matthew Harffy. Lastly, she is running a Christmas special for her first novel, The Scribe’s Daughter; for now it is available as an e-book for only $2.99.
    December 2nd was another slow news day in the medieval world. But my Polish friend Kasia once called my attention to an interesting sidelight to the battle of Bremule in 1119, and I think it is worth repeating. She said that prior to the battle “Louis VI of France offered to fight Henry I in person. In the twelfth century warfare the idea of a heroic single combat was a common one. Individuals were ready to take up the challenge and responsibility in order to avoid greater losses and settle the dispute even before the fighting in serious began. Louis was ready to take up such responsibility and proposed to fight between the two armies, but Henry refused. If he had agreed they were to fight “separated by a swift stream and a rickety plank bridge” (Tournament, p. 5), a thought that their armies found highly amusing, for both kings were rather stout men, and who knows what would have happened if they fought on the bridge:-)” The citation is to David Crouch’s excellent book. Henry I was about as chivalrous as a stump, so it is not surprising that this would have not have appealed to him in the least; he won the battle decisively, by the way.
    This incident reminded me of the scene in Ransom in which the French suggested that they settle their differences with the English by having five champions fight for each side. Richard said he’d be delighted to do that, on one condition—that he and Philippe be two of the champions. The French then dropped that idea like the proverbial hot potato. You’re shocked by that, right?

  30. Malcolm Craig Says:

    That sounds just like Richard and Philippe! Too bad James II did not have his brother’s common and political sense. Only one more reign left - Queen Anne’s - in the Tudor-Stuart book; then I can return to the Medieval period, where we belong. A good friend suggested that I watch the Met Opera simulcasts when they came to Tallahassee in 2009. At age 64, I did so and have never stopped attending. F.S.U. has a very good music/opera department, and I now attend the live performances. Culture comes in many forms, including splendid historical fiction.

  31. skpenman Says:

    Isn’t it fun to discover a new passion in life, Mac? So many people get to explore those roads not traveled by once they have more time in retirement.

    I am sure the stricken people of San Bernadino are in our thoughts and prayers. It is hard to know what to say when yet another horror like this happens. Modern technology has made mass killing all too easy. I do not think the essence of human nature has changed much over the centuries; the difference is that medieval monsters were limited by the weapons at their disposal.
    Turning from the worst of human nature to the best—those who strive to help those in need, be they people or animals—a Facebook friend, Gerri Leen, has come out with an anthology of stories to benefit Friends of Homeless Animals Rescue in Virginia. The title is A Quiet Shelter There and here is the link to Amazon for those who’d like to check it out. It is available both in paperback and as an e-book, the latter at a can’t-beat-it price of $1.00! http://www.amazon.com/Quiet-Shelter-There-Gerri-Leen-ebook/dp/B01711TZM4/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1449086100&sr=1-1&keywords=a+quiet+shelter+there I have the greatest respect for those like Gerri and my friends in Echo White Shepherd Rescue who devote so much of their time and energy to help suffering animals. It is never easy and sometimes they get their hearts broken a dozen times a day. But they tell me it is always worth it when they are able to find a loving home for a dog or cat who has never had one. And for that small minority who object to care being given to animals when so many people are in need, it is not an either/or choice. My friends in animal rescue are usually the first to help when a family is dispossessed by fire or someone Is taken very ill and cannot afford health insurance. In fact, studies have conclusively proven that people who care about animals are more empathetic and sensitive to the feelings of others, yet another good reason for parents to let their children have pets!

  32. Malcolm Craig Says:

    As you well know, Sharon, writers never retire.

  33. Joan Says:

    I’ve added “A Quiet Shelter” to my list & look forward to reading it myself before passing it to my granddaughters. Had a sneak peek. And I agree, Sharon, that many or most who care about animals care about all living things.

    I’ve also checked out Stephanie’s latest on her blog. The review is wonderful, her writing interesting & such fun to read. So thanks for these 2 sites.

    I immersed myself in Opera for several years & still enjoy my favorites. Attending a performance was the one thing I didn’t get to do in Italy, to my great disappointment, as I was there off-season. What would we be without culture, & I agree, Malcolm, splendid historical fiction is an important part of it.

    I love this by Rilke: “If your daily life seems poor, do not blame it; blame yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth its riches……”

  34. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    So true, Mac. To paraphrase Charleton Heston, “you’ll have to pry my pen out of my cold, dead had!”
    I like the quote by Rilke, Joan.

    Happy Hanukkah to my Jewish friends and readers.
    Here is a touching and heartening story of a man who sacrificed his life to save a friend during the San Bernadino murders. When we see horrific evidence every day of what the worst of people are capable of, we need to remember that there are many more like Shannon Johnson.
    http://6abc.com/news/san-bernardino-survivor-says-victim-shannon-johnson-saved-her-life/1112586/
    December 7th was a slow day in medieval history, but it is, of course, a date that is burned into the collective memories of Americans, what President Roosevelt called “a day of infamy.” On December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese, thus bringing the US into WWII. I hope all visitors to Hawaii visit the USS Arizona Memorial; it is a very moving experience.
    Lastly, I want to assure my fellow Eagles fans that they did not hallucinate yesterday’s win over the Patriots at Gillette Field. It really happened.

  35. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    December 8th mattered to the Angevins. On this date in 1154, Henry and Eleanor landed in England to claim the crown and begin the Plantagenet dynasty. Henry insisted upon sailing in a savage gale, a very bad habit of his that could not have endeared him to his sailors, courtiers, or his wife. Eleanor must have been especially frustrated when he did this in 1174, for their young children, Joanna and John, sailed with the fleet, and Eleanor, about to begin her long English confinement, had no say in the matter. Henry passed on this insanity gene to son Richard, who attempted to sail from Portsmouth to Barfleur in a storm in May, 1194, so desperate was he to get to Normandy and challenge the French king. The winds were so strong that he was forced to return to Portsmouth, and there he waited for favorable weather, doubtless because Eleanor played the mother card and refused to let him try it again.
    Also on December 8th, 1174, the captive Scots King William the Lion was compelled to sign the treaty of Falaise, which was highly favorable to the English. William had no leverage for he was languishing at the time as a captive in one of Henry’s castles. It is always easier to strike a deal with a prisoner, after all.
    And Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots and bad decisions, was born on this date in 1542.
    Lastly, for those of us who grew up in the age of the Beatles, on December 8, 1980, John Lennon was murdered in New York City by a deranged fan; he was only forty at the time, so the world lost so many years of music.

  36. Joan Says:

    And this is the time of year we hear his poignant song. I’ve often wondered about your life in the US Sharon, in that profoundly interesting era we grew up in. I so value growing up in a time of so many important & powerful socio-political movements. Musically too, such a massive transition period. And we always mourn the loss of John Lennon at this time & his brilliant contribution to that world.

  37. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    I do, too, Joan. I think we were fortunate.

    I actually posted this about a year or two ago, but I have lots of new Faebook friends since then; also, many of you probably have memories as bad as mine so you won’t remember it! I may as well admit I am addicted to Christmas music. I start listening to it earlier than all but Santa and his elves and am one of the last holdouts when it comes time to pulling the plug for the season. Of course one year I also kept my Christmas tree up well into February. So when I found this posted on the Mediev-l list, naturally I could not resist checking it out and then sharing it with you all. So here is Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer—in Latin. This link gives you the lyrics, but it also has a link for those of you with a burning curiosity to hear how it sounds. http://thurible.net/2013/12/12/rudolphus/ I may be tone-deaf, but I’d never have recognized the Rudolph melody; it sounds a little like a funeral dirge to me.
    Since we’re on the subject, we usually have at least one posting about Christmas songs every December. So….what are your favorite Christmas songs or carols? And do you have any that make you want to kick Santa and reach for something stronger than eggnog? For me, my favorite is What Child is This, set to the music of the hauntingly beautiful Greensleeves. I also love Silent Night, The Little Drummer Boy (my dad’s favorite) Christmas Eve—Sarajevo by Trans-Siberian Orchestra, I’ll be Home for Christmas (the saddest of them all, IMHO) and yes, Dominick the Christmas donkey. The one I absolutely loathe is I saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus, followed by Santa, Baby. I am not fond of All I want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth, either. As you can tell, I don’t much like novelty Christmas songs—even though I do like Rudolph, the outcast reindeer (preferably not in Latin) and I confess I can’t help smiling when I hear Grandma got run over by a reindeer, if only for the sheer absurdity of it, It helps, too, if a song is not played over and over ad nauseam. Okay…..what about all of you? Which songs are your favorites? And which ones have you gritting your teeth?

  38. skpenman Says:

    December 11th is always a sad day for me, as it was on this date in 1282 that Llywelyn ap Gruffydd was slain at Cilmeri, and with him died any hopes for Welsh independence. There were so many deaths in my books, deaths that changed history, usually for the worst. But few deaths were as difficult for me to write as the death of the man the Welsh would call Ein Llyw Olaf—Our Last Leader. More than twenty years ago, I was driving along a Welsh road as darkness came on, thinking what a challenge it would be to write of Llywelyn’s tragic end. Suddenly it was as if I heard a voice, so clear and vivid that it was almost as if the words had been spoken aloud. A man ought to die with his own language echoing in his ears. When the time came to write that scene, I remembered.
    From The Reckoning, page 534.
    * * *
    “Is it true?” he asked. “Are you the Welsh prince?”
    Llywelyn labored to draw enough air into his lungs. “I am Llywelyn, son of Gruffydd, son of Llywelyn Fawr, Prince of Wales and Lord of Eryri,” he said, softly but distinctly, “and I have urgent need of a priest.”
    The young Englishman seemed momentarily nonplussed. “I’d fetch one,” he said hesitantly, “if it were up to me.” Kneeling in the snow, he unhooked his flask, supported Llywelyn’s head while he drank. “There will be a doctor at the castle,” he said, and then, surprisingly, “I’m Martin.”
    “Thank you, Martin,” Llywelyn whispered, and drank again. He was almost amused by their solicitude, their determination to keep him from dying. He could envision no worse fate than to be handed over, alive and helpless, to Edward. But he did not fear it, for he knew it would not come to pass. He’d be dead ere they reached Buellt Castle, mayhap much sooner. He measured his life now not in hours or even moments, but in breaths, and he would answer for his sins to Almighty God, not the English king.
    Another of the soldiers was coming back. “Here, Martin, put this about him.”
    Martin took the blanket. “He’s in a bad way, Fulk,” he murmured, as if Llywelyn ought not to hear. Fulk picked up the lantern, and swore under his breath at the sight of the blood-soaked snow.
    “Christ,” he said, and then, to Llywelyn, almost fiercely, “You hold on, hear? We’re going to get you to a doctor, for the king wants you alive!”
    Llywelyn gazed up at him, marveling. “Indeed,” he said, “God forbid that I should disoblige the English king by dying.” It was only when he saw that Fulk and Martin were uncomprehending that he realized he’d lapsed into Welsh. But he made no effort to summon back his store of Norman-French. A man ought to die with his own language echoing in his ears.
    The English soldiers were discussing his wound in troubled tones. But their voices seemed to be coming now from a distance, growing fainter and fainter until they no longer reached Llywelyn. He heard only the slowing sound of his heartbeat, and he opened his eyes, looked up at the darkening sky.
    * * *
    When they realized Llywelyn was dead, the English soldiers cut off his head so they would have proof of his death to show King Edward. After they rode away, Llywelyn’s squire Trevor crept out of hiding.
    Page 536.
    * * *
    They’d left a blanket behind, blood-drenched by the decapitating. Trever reached for it, began to drape it over Llywelyn’s body, taking great care. By the time it was done to his satisfaction, he’d gotten blood all over himself, too, but he did not mind, for it was his lord’s blood. Sitting down in the snow beside the body, he said, “I’ll not leave you, my lord. I’ll not leave you.”
    And that was how Goronwy found them, long after the battle of Llanganten had been fought and lost.
    * * *
    Llywelyn’s brother Davydd claimed the crown, vowing to continue the fight against the English. But the Welsh knew it was over. A poetic people, they expressed their grief in anguished elegies, none more impassioned and heart-rending than the one written by Llywelyn’s court bard, Gruffydd ab yr Ynad Goch.
    See you not that the stars have fallen?
    Have you no belief in God, foolish men?
    See you not that the world is ending?
    Even after so many centuries, the pain of that lament transfixes us, allowing us to share their sorrow, their uncomprehending rage, and their understanding that Wales had suffered a mortal blow when their prince had been struck by that English spear. Ah, God, that the sea should cover the land! What is left us that we should linger? That haunting cri de coeur was Llywelyn ap Gruffyd’s true epitaph.

  39. Joan Says:

    And as difficult for us to read. The only thing that saved us was the tender beauty of your words.

  40. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Thank you, Joan. Definitely the saddest of all my books.

    Some histories claim that December 12, 1212 was the date of death of Henry II’’s illegitimate son, Geoffrey, the reluctant Archbishop of York; this has a symmetrical appeal: 12/12/12. But other histories say otherwise; all we can be sure of is that he died in December, and in exile, for he had even more problems with his half-brother John than he’d had with the Lionheart. Geoffrey had inherited his share of the combustible Angevin temper; moreover, he’d been devoted to his father and I don’t think he ever forgive Richard or John for making Henry’s last days so wretched. He had many admirable qualities, but he was ill-suited for the Church, as he himself recognized; Henry, of course, never thought to consult his sons when he was determining their futures for them. Geoffrey’s years as archbishop were turbulent ones; he even excommunicated a convent of nuns at one point! But I still find his loyalty to Henry very touching.
    A friend posted a photo of Michael and Kirk Douglas on one of my Facebook pages the other day, on the occasion of the senior Douglas’s 99th birthday—yes, 99th! This reminded me of an earlier post of mine and I am recycling it here, for that gives me another opportunity to recommend a fascinating book and film that many consider a classic. So here it is.
    * * *
    December 9th, 1165, was the date of death for the Scots King known as Malcolm the Maiden, who was only twenty-four at the time. He suffered from ill health and it has been suggested he may have died of Paget’s Disease. He was unmarried and was succeeded by his brother William the Lion, whom we discussed earlier this week.
    Moving on to the non-medieval, the renowned English poet, John Milton, was born on December 9th, 1608. And the actor and writer Kirk Douglas was born on this day in 1916. I had to mention this because of an act of kindness by Mr. Douglas this summer. I had mentioned in one of my blogs that I’d loved his book about the making of the classic film, Spartacus, and the ending of the Blacklist. To my astonishment, I received a handwritten note from him, telling me he was pleased that I’d enjoyed it. I have no idea how this was brought to his attention, but he made my day, week, and month! For those who have not read “I am Spartacus,” you are in for a wonderful reading experience, as entertaining as it is informative, as amusing as it is insightful. And if anyone has not yet seen this brilliant film, I urge you to remedy that before the year is out. It has more than stood the test of time and should not be missed.

  41. Malcolm Craig Says:

    Sharon, at one point I thought of doing my senior thesis on on the illegitimate Geoffrey, rather than his legitimate namesake. Glad I chose the second Geoffrey, whose career gave me the opportunity to live in and love Brittany. Though Henry tried, I fear that he failed to get his dealings with any of his sons right. Perhaps he had no chance for failure with William Longsword, since he was so much younger than his brothers.

    I well remember you telling us about that thoughtful gesture by Kirk Douglas. Those of us fortunate enough to join you on tour were impressed by your continual thoughtfulness and consideration for the feelings of others, and we cherish the experience.

  42. Gabriele Says:

    Malcolm,
    I got Anna Bolena and Maria Stuarda on DVD in several versions. I know them so well I can sing along by now. Though I’m not sure what the neighbours would think about that. ;)

    I have pretty much all of Donizetti’s operas on CD and/or DVD except some of the less well known ‘comic’ ones. I got the complete Verdi and Bellini on DVD, too. And pretty much everything by Wagner. My collection of LPs and CDs is even larger. Opera is just great! I’ve loved it since I listened to Aida when still in my mother’s womb. :)

  43. Malcolm Craig Says:

    “La Fille du Régiment” is my favorite Donizetti opera. Of course, I prefer the version in French, a language with which I am very familiar. My “conversion” to opera happened, through a friend, at age 64. Think of all the years I missed! Fascination with the Middle Ages goes back to my early teens - I have never been quite certain what was its origin. My M.A. in Medieval Studies is from the University of Toronto. My wife and I thus spent a school year in Canada, then another in France (Brittany) 5 years later. The rising soprano whom I follow closely, Layla Claire, is from British Columbia and received much of her training in Montréal.

  44. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Mac, I am so glad you settled on “our” Geoffrey, too! it is rather sad that Henry’s good intentions always went off the rails where his sons were concerned. His insistence upon foisting a career in the Church for Geoffrey is perhaps the best example of his misguided meddling. Actually none of his sons would have been a good fit for a Church career, would they? I do believe Henry loved his sons; he just failed to understand them, spectacularly so.

    I was incommunicado yesterday, of course, it being a football day. But there were a few interesting medieval events happening on this date in history, as follows:
    On December 14, 1553, my favorite French king, Henri of Navarre, was born. If only I’d had nine lives like a cat, I’d have loved to write about him…sigh.
    On December 14, 1287, one of the worst floods in history occurred. It was known as the St Lucia’s flood because it happened the day after St Lucy’s Day. A dike broke during a savage storm and it is estimated that 50,000 people were drowned in the Netherlands and northern Germany. Hundreds also died in England. The flood changed the history of the Netherlands by creating direct sea access for the village of Amsterdam, which allowed it to become a major port city.
    On December 14, 1476 (maybe) Vlad the Impaler died. Prince of Wallachia, he earned a reputation in his lifetime for great cruelty, as his name indicates. But his real notoriety came in the 19th century when the novelist Bram Stoker chose Vlad’s family name—Dracul—for his infamous vampire, Dracula. I am sure Stoker never dreamed that vampires would become sex symbols in our time!
    And on December 14th, 1542, King James V of Scotland died. He was the son of Margaret Tudor and the father of the little girl who would become known to history as Mary, Queen of Scots.

  45. Malcolm Craig Says:

    Another win for Eagles - still tied for 1st in their division. Patriots returned to form. Gronk’s return certainly did not hurt.

  46. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    I am glad he’s back; poor Tom was almost reduced to throwing to himself, Mac! I expect the Eagles to lose to the Cards tomorrow, but then I never expected them to go into Forborough and defeat the Pats—still not sure that was not a mass hallucination.

    I had a bad back “episode” which kept me off the computer for a while. But I am not feeling like a human pretzel at the moment so I thought I could risk making a quick Facebook visit. Here are the happenings for December 17th in medieval history.
    Baldwin, Count of Hainaut and Count of Flanders died on that date in 1195. He was the father of Philippe Capet’s unfortunate wife, Isabelle, who died in childbirth at age twenty. He’d wed the sister of Philip d’Alsace, the Count of Flanders, who appears as a character in Devil’s Brood and Lionheart and will pop up again in my current novel. When Philip died at the siege of Acre without a legitimate heir to succeed him, Flanders passed to Baldwin, his brother-in-law. Philip had been wed to the niece of Eleanor, daughter of her sister Petronilla, and he’d claimed her inheritance of Vermandois after contending she’d been unfaithful; some historians and some of his contemporaries were skeptical of that, but it did not help his wife or the poor soul whom Philip alleged to have been her lover; he met a very unpleasant end.
    To show how impossibly entangled the lives of these people were, Baldwin’s son, also a Baldwin, succeeded him as Count of Flanders and wed the daughter of Marie of Champagne, the younger sister of Henri in Lionheart, and he was said to have loved her “with a fervent love.” Both he and his Marie died young, though, victims of that shameful farce known as the Fourth Crusade, which never reached the Holy Land, choosing instead to sack the Christian city of Constantinople. Baldwin was then named as the first Latin Emperor of what we today call the Byzantine Empire, and died as a prisoner in Bulgaria, most likely put to death. Marie, not knowing of this, had sailed to join him at Acre, where she then took ill and died.
    With such cheerful offerings, you all must wish I’d stayed off-line for a while longer!

  47. Joan Says:

    I hope your back cooperates though the holiday season & on that note I wish you, Sharon, & other blog folk, a happy & fun Christmas, putting aside the woes of the world, & may 2016 keep you healthy, with new joys & adventures.

  48. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Thank you, Joan. I hope you have a peaceful and memorable Christmas, too.

    My latest health setback is keeping me off the computer, unfortunately. But I am still thinking of my Facebook friends and worrying about the precarious state of our world. I am sure many feel as I do—overwhelmed by the relentless drumbeat of bad news, the horror stories of genuine evil (ISIS) and shameless politicians appealing to the worst of human nature and the usual tragedies that strike us all (fires, accidents, crime, etc.). More than ever, we desperately need proof that there are still good people out there. So now and then I like to post stories that show us at our best. That seems particularly appropriate in Christmas week. Below is a link to a story of amazing courage. It occurred this week in Kenya when a bus was ambushed by terrorists with ties to ISIS. These are the same killers who attacked that school back in April, singling out Christian students for execution, and leaving over 150 young people dead. This time they demanded that the passengers leave the bus and separate the Christians from the others. Instead the passengers—about a hundred of them, mainly women—chose to put their own lives at risk by defying the killers. They gave head scarves to the Christian women, hid others on the bus, and challenged the terrorists either to kill them all or to leave them alone. They not only saved the lives of the twelve Christian women on the bus, they gave hope to the rest of us. The next time we despair of mankind’s capacity for cruelty and bigotry, I hope we can remember the courage and compassion of those Muslim women facing death on a lonely road in Kenya.
    http://www.cnn.com/2015/12/22/africa/kenya-bus-attack-al-shabaab-muslim-christians/index.html

  49. skpenman Says:

    I’m still not able to spend as much time at the computer as I’d like. But there is no way I was not going to stop by to wish my friends and readers a Merry Christmas. I hope those of you in the south were spared those deadly tornadoes yesterday, a scary side-effect of this weirdly warm weather hitting half the country.
    The other day I posted an uplifting story about Muslim women in Kenya risking their own lives to save Christian passengers when their bus was attacked by terrorists. Here is another story sure to warm our hearts, this one going back to WWII and a POW camp, where the Jewish prisoners were ordered to assemble outside their barracks. One man said “We are not going to do this, “and told all 2,700 prisoners to step forward. When the camp commandant angrily challenged him, he said calmly, “We are all Jews,” and did not back down even when a gun was put to his head. There were at least 200 Jewish prisoners among the men, and there is no doubt that he saved their lives. Amazingly, he never told his family about his heroic act, and his son did not discover it until after his death. But the men who witnessed it never forgot it and he is the only American soldier to be recognized as a Righteous Gentile by the state of Israel. Here is the link to this inspiring story. http://www.cnn.com/2015/12/21/europe/us-pow-holocaust-hero/

  50. Malcolm Craig Says:

    That is an inspirational story, Sharon. You and I were both born later in 1945. My father was fortunate not to have to go overseas during his three and half years in the Army Air Corps as a meteorologist. None of us can know how we would act in such a dire situation, but the Sergeant certainly displayed true heroism and human decency.

  51. Malcolm Craig Says:

    Joyeux Noël à toi, Sharon. You are more likely to read my message here than on Facebook, with your thousands of followers.

  52. skpenman Says:

    It is so true, Mac, that we do not know how we’d react until actually put to the test. This man passed with flying colors!

    I am sorry to report that I am still desperately counting the days till my chiropractor gets back from Christmas vacation. On his next holiday, I plan to smuggle myself along.
    Such sad weather-related news from almost everywhere. I hope all my Facebook friends in Texas are safe; same for my friends in Yorkshire. A tragic ending to the year for so many.
    I know almost all of you are animal lovers, so please send some positive vibes my way tomorrow when my spaniel, Holly, goes in for surgery to remove bladder stones. I was blind-sided by this diagnosis and I confess I am rather nervous, probably because the last time one of my dogs had surgery, he did not survive.
    Lastly, here are some medieval musings about one of the Angevins.
    You will still find histories, even biographies, of King John that declare he was born on December 24, 1167. They are wrong. John was born in 1166. Had he been born in 1167, he could not have been Henry’s, for he and Eleanor were apart when she’d have needed to conceive for a December 1167 birth. Interestingly, while some of John’s biographers get this wrong, none of Eleanor’s do, all correctly placing John’s birth in 1166. How did this confusion develop? A misreading of an entry in the chronicle of Robert de Torigny, abbot of Mont St Michel, erroneously placing it in 1167. So how about John’s Christmas Eve birth? Again, there is no evidence to support this traditional date. Since he was christened John, an entirely new name not found in the family trees of either of his parents, it seems reasonable to assume he was named after the saint whose day it was, St John the Evangelist, which means that he was born on December 27, 1166.
    John was Eleanor’s tenth child, her eighth with Henry; one chronicler mentioned a ninth child who was either stillborn or died young, but that has not been verified. Surviving at least ten trips to the birthing chamber is a remarkable accomplishment for any woman, especially one in the Middle Ages. Eleanor was forty-two at the time of John’s birth, and a strong case can be made that she’d just learned of Henry’s liaison with Fair Rosamund Clifford, one that was serious enough for him to have ensconced the girl at Woodstock palace. So how welcome was this fourth son, needed neither as an heir nor a spare, a son who might well have been a living reminder of an unhappy time in her life and her marriage?
    No historian can truthfully answer that, of course, although some have tried. Fortunately, historical novelists have greater latitude in such matters and I can say for a certainty that my fictional Eleanor did indeed have ambivalent feelings toward her last child. Is she, then, to blame for John’s problem personality? Well, both Henry and Eleanor made their share of parental mistakes; they failed to instill any sense of brotherly solidarity in their sons, and not only did they have favorites, they compounded that sin by making it abundantly clear. But I think Henry has to shoulder most of the blame for the man that John became, for he was the primary influence during John’s formative years, Eleanor being held prisoner from the time that John was seven until he was nigh on twenty-three. The last of the Angevin eaglets was undoubtedly clever, capable, undeserving of the mocking sobriquet given by his enemies, “John Softsword.” But for whatever reasons, he seems to have been the most emotionally damaged of the Devil’s Brood, and his kingship would be a failure. He is, however, great fun to write about! .

  53. Joan Says:

    Holly, I hope your surgery was successful & wish you a speedy recovery! Woof woof.

  54. skpenman Says:

    Thanks, Joan. It was successful.

    Thanks to all of you who’ve expressed sympathy for my back pain and Holly’s health crisis. I am greatly relieved to report that she came through the surgery well and I was able to bring her home. She is not a happy camper, of course, but at least the worst is over. As for me, five days and counting until my chiropractor comes back from his Christmas holiday!
    Meanwhile, I’d like to wish everyone a safe and enjoyable New Year’s Eve. Let’s hope the new year will be a better one for the world; It could hardly get much worse, could it?

  55. skpenman Says:

    I am guessing that few of us are sorry to see 2015 slink off into the night. I am sure that many of us had some bright and shining moments in those twelve months, but for the world at large, too often its history was written in blood. So it seems fitting that it ended with yet another loss, silencing the soaring voice of the gifted Natalie Cole, R.I.P.
    I hope 2016 has gotten off to a good start for my Facebook friends and readers. Holly and I are still in limbo. Forget Waiting for Godot; all that matters at Penman Manor is waiting for Dr David Hadley, three days and counting. We are also waiting for the arrival tomorrow of Holly’s surgical suit. The mailman will probably be surprised to find me camping out on the porch for him, and even more surprised to get the sort of welcome usually reserved for rock stars and royalty. I refuse to let myself contemplate what will happen if the suit does not work and Holly has to keep wearing the Cone of Shame for another nine days. Has anyone else ever used this for their dogs post-surgery? If you have and found it was useless, please lie to me; I am in need of even false hopes!
    I am sorry to be the bearer of bad tidings, this time concerning Master George RR Martin. He has admitted that his new novel will not be done by the time the HBO series returns in April. Here is the link to the story. http://www.ew.com/article/2016/01/02/george-rr-martin-thrones-winds-of-winter?xid=email-gameofthrones-20160102-mainimg Since I devote so many of my waking hours to fending off my own deadline dragon, I hesitate to join the critical chorus. But I could suggest to Master Martin that he do with Winds of Winter what I did with Lionheart: make two books out of it. Okay, that would make eight books in the series, but that is significant only if they are supposed to match the seven kingdoms, right? Since I have not been consulted, however, I’d say the chances of this happening are slim and none and slim has left town.
    Signing off now to go hand-feed Holly her lunch…sigh.

  56. Joan Says:

    I’m so happy that Holly is doing well, albeit half hidden in her Cone of Shame. I remember well trying to pacify our cats while healing in those contraptions, reminiscent of the Shovel Hats (is that the name??) in the Regency Era. At least the hats had a few adornments.

    For anyone who’s interested, the Oxford University Press has launched a new hub celebrating Shakespeare, 2016 being the 400th anniv of his death. I’ll include the Oup blog site with the info, in the next comment, which I thank you in advance for releasing, Sharon. And hope your doc makes your Manor his first visit.

    And I agree, the world has lost another great songstress in Natalie Cole.

  57. Joan Says:

    This site has the info on the new blog called “Illuminating Shakespeare”. It sounds exciting.

    http://blog.oup.com/2015/12/shakespeare-religion-gods-catholic-protestant-infographic/

  58. Gabriele Says:

    Martin tried the two books thing with Feasts and Dance, and it didn’t sit well with a lot of readers (I refuse to call those people fans who assume he’s lost interest in finishing the series just because he has a life besides his writing, something I find all too often on ‘fan’ sites these days). But I suppose the story started sprouting subplot tentacles like some evil Cthulhu and he has a hard time sorting that mess out to create a good book. Plus he can’t go back and change things already printed - I remember Martin said that he would have liked to write the whole series before getting it published but that was impossible (he needed an income, among other things). One of the things he’d have changed was the age of the kids; they started out too young.

    Tolkien was better off, having lived in a time without internet. Imagine how some ‘fans’ would have breathed down his neck about finishing that damn Silmarillion already. ;)

  59. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    It is such a pity that years could not be returned for a refund. So far, I’m less than enamored with 2016. My spaniel’s post-surgery recovery has been an ordeal for both of us. My chiropractor is doing his best to get me mobile (without pain) again, but it will take a while. And now my main laptop has died. No, I did not kill it, only because I had no axe in the house. The hard drive had a meltdown and nothing can be recovered from it. Thank God I have Carbonite backing up my data, but it will be a huge hassle to get everything transferred to my new laptop. I haven’t decided on the name yet; in the past, I’ve gone with names like Demon Spawn and RC (Rosemary’s Baby and Melusine, the Demon Countess of Anjou. I took a different approach with my late, unlamented laptop, calling it Dracarys, which my fellow Game of Thrones fans will appreciate, but in the year I had it, it gave me nothing but grief. So I’ve decided it was not a good choice to throw my lot in with the Targaryns, and I am going instead with the only good Lannister, Tyrion. I suppose I could align with the Starks but they have a survival rate worse than those with Plantagenet blood did under the Tudors.
    Because the year has been so much fun so far, I have not been able to spend time on Facebook and have suffered occasional withdrawal pangs; I also don’t trust certain parties who are given to staging coups. (No names mentioned, Ken and Stephanie.) But my chiropractor is back from his Christmas vacation, welcomed by me and his other patients the way the Parisians greeted the troops who liberated their city from the Nazis. Holly gets her stitches out next Monday. BTW, the surgical suit did work, enabling me to ditch the catastrophic plastic cone, although it is so tight-fitting she looks like a sausage bursting out of its skin. And I hope to get the new laptop set up and ready to go in the next day or two. So with luck, I won’t be such a stranger here once all of this gets straightened out.
    Lastly, here is some Game of Thrones news, both good and bad. It is not returning till April 24th this year, but they are seriously considering adding an eighth season. http://www.ew.com/article/2016/01/07/game-thrones-season-7-8?xid=email-gameofthrones-20160107-readstory

  60. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Sorry for the long absence, but I’ve been caught between Scylla and Charybdis, having to deal with continuing back pain and ongoing computer woes—yes, my brand new computer had me thinking he’d joined the late, unlamented Dracarys on the dark side. Drararys’s hard drive was fried when he crashed and burned so the Geek Squad could not recover anything. Thank God I had Carbonite backing my data up! I highly recommend this service; it costs $59 a year and is well worth every penny. Their technician downloaded all of Dracarys’s data onto the new computer for me, which was a great relief.
    But I still had some problems with the new one, Tyrion. The most amusing thing he did was to balk at letting me access the Geek Squad website; it was almost as if he knew they were the enemy. I also lost my e-mail access, but a Geek Squad tech was able to resolve that problem for me. He blamed the refusal to access their website on Microsoft Edge, which was causing a few of the other problems I was having. But I’ve continued to have trouble with the display driver, whatever that is. I was unable to get this corrected on-line because my connection was “intermittent” according to the Geek Squad and they were concerned they could damage the computer if the connection was interrupted while they were in the midst of their repairs. Fortunately, Comcast sent out one of their technicians yesterday to repair my security system, and he volunteered to check the internet connection. He immediately discovered the problem and resolved it, as well as correcting a few mistakes made in the past by other techs. If only I were royal, I’d have knighted this dear man!
    I typed this on Spock, my backup, while the Geek Squad did some on-line repairs to Tyrion’s display driver. I have decided to rename Tyrion, though. He has not been behaving in the least like the Tyrion we know and love, acting more like one of the lawless, troublemaking Lannisters. In the past few days, I’d started to call him X for expletive, but now that he has had his demons exorcised, he has been behaving much better and deserves a better name. Since he is capable of being wonderful at one moment and utterly frustrating at the next, I think I have a computer version of Uhtred on my hands. How many times have you laughed aloud at some of Uthred’s antics or marveled at his courage, only to want to smack him upside his head for his recklessness or obstinacy? Sometimes on the same page, right? One of the more intriguing aspects of Uhtred’s character is that he always knows when he is about to do something unwise or downright foolhardy, yet he invariably goes ahead and does it anyway.
    As far as my back pain is concerned, this is an old and familiar foe, but sometimes it is worse than at others—like now. Sooner or later, though, my wonderful chiropractor manages to chase it into the shadows, where it will await its next opportunity to pounce. I hope that I will soon be able to return to regular Facebook and Goodreads postings. Meanwhile, I have to share this story for my fellow Game of Thrones fans. Clearly, we are legion, as proved by my experience last week with a Carbonite tech. To download the data, he needed to know the names of the two computers and I told him that the dead computer was Dracarys and the new one was Tyrion. He made no comment and set the download in motion for me. But when he signed off, he added these words: Valar morghulis.

  61. skpenman Says:

    So far Uhtred is behaving himself in a swaggering sort of way, much like his fictional namesake. So of course this was when my reliable backup, Spock, decided he wanted some attention, too, and fell into a computer coma. Who could make stuff like this up?
    Many of you know that I often mention books that I have not had a chance to read myself but are ones that I think might interest my readers. So here is a link to Daughter of Destiny by Nicole Evelina, which is a retelling of that timeless tale of Guinevere and Arthur.
    http://nicoleevelina.com/the-books/guineveres-tale/daughter-of-destiny-book-1/ You can check it out here and there are links, too, to Amazon and other book sites if you want to buy it.
    I also want to send warm vibes to all of you in the path of the nasty winter storm that is battering the Midwest now and will invade the East Coast on Friday. Stay safe and warm if you can. And please remember your pets. A sad story broke here today of two dogs whose owners had left them outside to freeze to death; yes, it is that cold here.

  62. skpenman Says:

    While I’ve been absent from Facebook, we suffered several losses in the world of the arts, men whose deaths dim the light, like clouds covering the sun—the incomparable David Bowie, the brilliant actor Alan Rickman, and now Glenn Frry, the voice of one of my favorite rock bands, the Eagles. Who has not sung along to Hotel California? They will all be greatly missed.
    I hope to catch up on so many of the historical happenings that I have been unable to comment upon, so I will start with yesterday’s date.
    January 19, 1486 was the wedding day of Elizabeth of York and Henry Tudor. She seems to have been both kind-hearted and pragmatic, for she managed to make the best of a forced marriage to the usurper, and the utterly unsentimental Henry actually mourned her death. But this could not have been a happy wedding day for her, a young and beautiful woman shoved into bed with the avowed enemy of her House, a man whose official portrait looks like a wanted poster and who displayed all the warmth and charm of a Bill Belichick press conference. I hope she found happiness in her children, though she had to endure the tragic loss of her eldest son, Arthur. Her second son, Henry, was said to have adored her, and I wonder if she might have been a settling influence upon him if she’d not died so young.

  63. skpenman Says:

    Like eighty million others who are unlucky enough to live in the path of the monster storm Jonas, I am hunkering down and hoping that any power outages will be brief; Sunday is the day of the divisional title games, after all! For my fellow sufferers, please stay warm and safe and, above all, stay indoors.
    On the historical front, today I am still catching up. On January 20th, 1265, a significant event occurred in English history. On this date, Simon de Montfort summoned what many historians consider to be the first English parliament. Simon requested that the counties and towns each send two representatives, insisting that they be elected. This parliament was also the first time that knights and townspeople attended such a session together. So let’s pause and give credit where due to the arrogant French aristocrat who cracked open democracy’s door, however briefly, for of course Henry III refused to recognize it. One of my favorite characters in Falls the Shadow was Thomas Fitz Thomas, the Lord Mayor of London, who became one of Simon’s most steadfast allies, although he would pay a high price for his courage and devotion to his city; he was imprisoned for four years by the vengeful Edward I and his health suffered greatly during his captivity.
    And this next item is for my Polish friend Kasia. On January 20th, 1320, Wladyslaw Lokietek was crowned King of Poland. He was quite short and Lokietek actually translates as “elbow high.” But I think he was a moral giant, for he sought to establish a uniform legal code that gave Jews equal rights with Christians, and this was 1320, people. So let’s pause to remember Wladyslaw, too, today, as we count down the days till spring.

  64. Joan Says:

    Keep safe & warm Sharon, & everyone else in Jonas’ path. It’s good to see you back with all your hilarious computer stories. Not funny of course, but must admit I had some laughs with my morning coffee! And I do hope you see some relief with your backpain.

    The recent loss of such artists is indeed tragic, it’s hard to accept that Alan Rickman’s brilliant acting career has ended. It isn’t fair. We love you Alan Rickman, you have enriched our lives.

  65. Gabriele Says:

    I called my old computer Varus and the new laptop Arminius. No wonder they are not on speaking terms in the home internet most of the time. :P That problem can be solved by the use of an external hard drive, though. It’s a bit more of a hassle but works fine as my own little frumentarii spy network. :D

    Varus is actually quite reliable, albeit slow. *knocks on wood* Makes him a good writing computer still. Arminius has some spiffy new features, but he keeps hiding data from me. Those dang photos are never where I thought I’d saved them.

  66. skpenman Says:

    I love those names, Gabriele. No Nero or Boudica? Margaret George is working on a novel in which they both appear as charactes.
    Varus sounds lik my Spock, who is usually trustworthy. And I am happy to report he is out of his coma, for his new charger arrived today.

    I hope all in the path of the Blizzard of 2016 rode it out safely. My family and I were lucky, but many NJ residents were not, for the flooding was extensive along the coast, worse even than Hurricane Sandy in many places. How much longer until spring?
    Anyone contemplating January 25th for a wedding might want to think twice, for this date has a rocky track record. On this day in 1308, Edward II wed Isabella, daughter of the King of France; there has been some uncertainty about her birth date but historians now believe it was in late 1295, so she was twelve at the time. Many royal marriages did not end well, but few imploded as spectacularly as theirs did. At least not until the sixteenth century, when Henry VIII secretly wed Anne Boleyn on January 25th, 1533. He proclaimed her the love of his life and broke with the Church of Rome in order to have her. Three years later, of course, she would die on Tower Green at his command.

  67. Gabriele Says:

    I can imagine Spock would be reliable, but I suspect the menu comes in Klingon. :)

    I was never interested in Boudica to an extent I’d write about her or name a laptop for her. And Nero is definitely out - I don’t think my sound card would survive him. :P What fascinates me about Arminius is his past as a decorated Roman officer and member of the equestrian order. What made a man like him turn against Rome? Boudica’s reasons are easy to understand; there’s not enough inner conflict for my taste. Cartimandua would be more interesting. But I got enough plotbunnies at it is and I don’t need more ideas for novels the next ten years or so - especially since my writing speed is rather Martinesque. ;)

  68. skpenman Says:

    I agree, Gabriele; I have always found Arminius to be an intriguing figure.

    And if Martinesque is not a word, it should be!

    . Since the new laptop, Uhtred, is behaving himself for now and my chiropractor is working his magic again, I hope to resume contact with the real world again. Here is another of my catch-up posts.
    On January 23rd, 1264, the King of France lit a fuse that would set off an explosion in England. Simon de Montfort and his fellow barons had compelled Henry, the English king, to accept restrictions upon royal power in the Provisions of Oxford, which they saw as a natural corollary of the Magna Carta. When civil war loomed, both sides agreed to submit to the arbitration of the French King, Louis, who was also Henry’s brother-in-law. Simon was unable to attend, having broken his leg in a fall from his horse, and he was recuperating at Kenilworth Castle when he got the decision. Louis had ruled against the barons and in favor of his fellow king on all counts, even annulling the Provisions of Oxford although this went well beyond the scope of his authority. The Mise of Amiens was so one-sided that it made rebellion all but inevitable and four months later, the king’s army would meet Simon de Montfort and the barons on the battlefield at Lewes.
    I dramatize this event in Chapter 29 of Falls the Shadow. Here is the closing scene of that chapter, on page 395, after Simon has gotten the bad news and asks for a moment alone with his wife, Nell, who was, of course, the sister of the English king.
    * * *
    Dusk was fast falling; the last of the candles had guttered out and only a hearth fire now held the dark at bay. “Shall I send for a cresset lamp?” Nell asked, and Simon shook his head, held out his hand. She came slowly from the shadows, sat beside him on the bed. Taking her hand, he brought it to his lips, pressed a kiss into her palm. After a time, he said:
    “Henry may be God’s greatest fool, but he is still your brother. And Richard…he will likely oppose us, too, Nell.”
    “I know,” she said softly. She’d never truly thought it would ever come to this, never thought the day might dawn when her husband and sons would face her brothers and nephews across a battlefield. She shared Simon’s confidence, but not his darker moods. Hers was a world of sunrises, not sunsets, a world in which hope flourished and faith was rewarded, and she clung to that comforting certainty all the more now that her need was so great.
    “I trust in you, Simon,” she said, “and I trust in God. Whatever happens, it will be for the best, for us and for England.”

  69. skpenman Says:

    I hope you all won’t think I’m cheating to post an earlier entry, but I’ve lost so much time fighting off my computer demons and dealing with chronic back pain that I am willing to cut a few corners. Besides, this particular entry is over three years old, so I assume no one will remember it; I certainly didn’t! Some things never change, for I was moaning back then, too, about deadlines. So here it is.
    A quick escape from Deadline Doomland to report that on February 1st, 1327, Edward III was crowned King of England; he was only 14 and the government remained in the hands of his mother, Queen Isabella, and her lover, Roger Mortimer. Jumping forward a few centuries, on February 1st, 1587, a conflicted Elizabeth I finally signed the death warrant for her cousin, Mary, Queen of Scots. And on a much happier, albeit non-medieval, occasion, Abraham Lincoln signed the Thirteenth Amendment on February 1st, 1865 after it had been approved by the House and the Senate, and then sent it to the states for ratification. It would eventually be ratified by the requisite number of states in December of 1865. The Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery in the United States, completing what had begun with Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. This is covered in Steven Spielberg’s powerful film, Lincoln.

  70. Malcolm Craig Says:

    It does look familiar.

  71. skpenman Says:

    I am making another quick escape while the deadline dragon is napping. Too much happening on this date to ignore. February 2nd was an important day on the medieval Church calendar—Candlemas. And this date resonated in several of my novels. February 2nd, 1141 was the battle of Lincoln, in which Stephen was defeated and taken prisoner by Robert, the Earl of Gloucester, on behalf of his sister, the Empress Maude. At the risk of seeming blood-thirsty, I like writing of battles and this was a good one, filled with high drama and suspense. February 2nd was also the date of an important Yorkist battle, at Mortimer’s Cross in 1461. Edward, who’d become Duke of York and head of his fractured family upon the death of his father at the battle of Wakefield barely a month ago, was trying to prevent Owen Tudor and reinforcements coming out of Wales from joining the Lancastrians, and he forced a battle not far from Wigmore. Even before the fighting began, he faced a challenge when a parhelion appeared in the sky, a phenomenon that made it look as if there were three suns overhead. Naturally this frightened his soldiers, but the quick-witted Edward cried out that the suns represented the Holy Trinity and was an omen of victory; he would later adopt this as his cognizance, the Sunne in Splendour. Having staved off disaster, he then proceeded to defeat the Lancastrians, captured Owen Tudor, and had him executed—not surprising, since the heads of his father and brother and uncle were even then on poles above Micklegate Bar in York. Edward then went on to receive a hero’s welcome by the city of London and shattered the Lancastrian hopes in a savage battle fought in a snowstorm at Towton on Palm Sunday. What is truly remarkable is that Edward was not yet nineteen years old.
    I thought of Edward’s parhelion when I was reading a chronicler’s account of the building of Richard I’s beloved “saucy castle, “ Chateau Gaillard. I was familiar with the exchange between the kings over Chateau Gaillard. Philippe, fuming at seeing this formidable stronghold rising up on the Vexin border, vowed that he would take it if its walls were made of steel. When he was told this, Richard laughed and said he’d hold it if its walls were made of butter. But there is another story about Gaillard not as well known. In the spring of 1198, Richard was personally supervising the construction, as he often did, when a shower of blood suddenly fell from the skies. Naturally, this freaked out everyone—everyone but Richard. The chronicler reported that “The king was not dismayed at this, nor did he relax in promoting the work in which he took so great delight.” Now I confess my first reaction to this story was an uncharitable one, wondering if the chronicler, William of Newburgh, had been hitting the wine when he wrote this. Shower of rain and blood? But when I Googled it, I discovered that red rain has indeed fallen at various times, and there were even some unsettling photos of a red rain in India that really did look like blood. Clearly strong-willed men like Richard and Edward were not as superstitious as their brethren.
    For me, though, February 2nd has another, sadder meaning, for on this date in 1237, Joanna, daughter of King John and wife of Llywelyn Fawr, died at Aber and was buried at Llanfaes, where her grieving husband established a friary in honor of her memory. Below is that scene from Falls the Shadow, page 26
    * * *
    Joanna closed her eyes, tears squeezing through her lashes. So much she wanted to stay, but she had not the strength. “Beloved…promise me…”
    Llywelyn stiffened. She’d fought so hard to gain the crown for their son. Did she mean to bind him now with a deathbed bow? He waited, dreading what she would ask of him, to safeguard the succession for Davydd. Knowing there was but one certain way to do that—to cage Gruddydd again. And how could he do that to his son? How could he condemn him to a life shut away from the sun? But how could he deny Joanna? Could he let her go to her grave without that comfort?
    “Llywelyn…pray for me,” she gasped, and only then did he fully accept it, that she was indeed dying, was already lost to him, beyond earthly cares, worldly ambitions.
    “I will, Joanna.” He swallowed with difficulty, brought her hand up, pressing her lips against her palm. “You will have my every prayer.”
    “Bury me at…at Llanfaes…”
    His head jerked up. He had an island manor at Llanfaes; it was there that Joanna had been confined after he had discovered her infidelity. “Why, Joanna? Why Llanfaes?”
    Her mouth curved upward. “Because…I was so happy there. You came to me, forgave me…”
    “Oh, Christ, Joanna…” His voice broke; he pulled her into an anguished embrace, held her close.
    * * *

  72. skpenman Says:

    Many of my readers share my enjoyment of Priscilla Royal’s excellent medieval mysteries; she has created such a vivid, realistic world that I am even willing to forgive her Prioress Eleanor for being a supporter of Edward I! I am happy, therefore, to announce that Priscilla’s newest mystery, Land of Shadows, is now out. Here is the Amazon link. http://www.amazon.com/Land-Shadows-Medieval-Mystery-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B01A6EQ10C/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1454519491&sr=1-1&keywords=priscilla+royal I hope to have an interview with Priscilla up on my blog in the near future.

  73. Joan Says:

    Oh goody, another novel, another interview with Priscilla Royal! After I read the first of this incredible series, I noticed that first in her biblio list was “The Lais of Marie of France”. So I read about Marie, where her inspiration came from, how her works were hugely entertaining, highly instructive, & had as major themes the different types of love. Since then I’ve seen the adventures of Prioress Eleanor & Brother Thomas as “The Lais of Priscilla Royal”. I wonder if this 12th book will be the final in the series?!?

  74. skpenman Says:

    I love that, Joan, am sure Priscilla will, too. Ad no, I am happy to assure you that she has no plans to end the series. So we can look forward to more adventures with Prioress Eleanor, Brother Thomas, Sister Anne and the rest.

    This is what I posted several years ago and am repeating now since no one is likely to remember it and that saves me a lot of typing. In Ransom, we see Eleanor at her best, fighting tooth and nail to save her son.
    On February 4th, 1194, Richard Lionheart was finally freed from his German captivity after paying an astronomical ransom. He’d been held for one year, six weeks, and three days. But two days earlier, he’d been double-crossed by Heinrich, who announced to the assemblage of German and English lords and prelates that he’d had a new offer from the French king and Richard’s brother John and, with an utter lack of shame, invited Richard to better it.
    From A King’s Ransom, Chapter Twenty
    * * *
    While Richard glanced down at the letters, the Archbishop of Rouen hastily translated Heinrich’s comments for Eleanor. The letters were indeed from Philippe and John and, as Richard read what was being offered and what it could mean for him, his numbed disbelief gave way to despair and then, murderous rage.
    His fist clenched around the letters and he flung them to the floor at Heinrich’s feet. But before he could speak, his mother was beside him. “Wait, Richard, wait!” She was clinging to his arm with such urgency that she actually succeeded in pulling him back from the dais. “Look around you,” she said, her voice shaking, but her eyes blazing with green fire. “Look!”
    He did and saw at once what she meant. Virtually every German in the hall was staring at Heinrich as if he’d suddenly revealed himself to be the Anti-Christ. Not a word had yet been said, but their expressions of horror and disgust left no doubt as to how they felt about their emperor’s eleventh-hour surprise. “Let them speak first,” Eleanor hissed. “Let the Germans handle this.”
    * * *
    The Germans did handle it; led by Richard’s friend, the Archbishop-elect of Cologne, they forced Heinrich to honor the original terms for Richard’s release. But Heinrich saved face by insisting that Richard would not be freed unless he did homage to the German emperor. Richard was outraged and refused, but again his mother interceded, convincing him that he had no choice. He was then freed on February 4th, although the forced act of homage left some deep psychic scars. But he’d not have regained his freedom if not for his mother, and to his credit, he realized that. How different the history of the Angevins would have been if Henry had been able to value his queen’s intelligence and political skills as their son did. Henry did not even allow her a say in the governing of her own Aquitaine and that would cost him dearly. Richard entrusted her with his kingdom and she saved it for him.

  75. Susan Says:

    Dear Sharon, I have read all of your books but am new to your blog. Now that the Plantagenet series has ended, will you be writing any more medieval mysteries? The ones you wrote were excellent. By the way, when can we expect your next book?

    Susan

  76. Malcolm Craig Says:

    This was a wonderful part of A King’s Ransom, Sharon. You whetted our appetites for your upcoming novel with the readings you gave during the Richard III Tour. At least Richard had the satisfaction of Heinrich’s departure during his own lifetime. Like his mother, Richard tolerated the misdeeds of brother John more than he should have, to the great detriment of Geoffrey’s progeny.

  77. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    In the past, many of my readers have donated to Gracie’s Gifts, a very worthwhile cause that grew out of one of life’s greatest wounds—the loss of a child. Here is the message again as the new drive has started. Anyone interested in providing blankets for babies in need can contact Patrice Batyski via her Facebook page or me.
    GRACIE’S GIFTS

    On March 6, 2002, my granddaughter Gracie was born with fatal osteogenesis imperfecta (brittle bone disease). She lived a precious 19 hours.
    While in the hospital, Gracie received a home-made blanket, Every year, on March 6, in Gracie’s honor, my daughter Holly collects new blankets - store-bought and home-made, and donates them to Temple University Hospital’s maternity ward. Temple encompasses the poorest section of Philadelphia, and these blankets are sometimes the only new item the baby receives.
    We are looking forward to collecting 1,000 blankets to donate. Any new blankets, store bought or hand made, will be greatly appreciated.
    Thank you for your past and continued generosity.

  78. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    I hope that all of my American friends and readers enjoy the Super Bowl; I don’t know if they televise it in other countries, but it wouldn’t surprise me. I confess I’m enough of a sentimentalist to hope Peyton gets his Hollywood ending and rides off into the sunset a winner. But I harbor no bad feelings for Cam and the Panthers, so I wouldn’t be heartbroken if they win what will probably be the first of many such wins. And yes, there are a few teams whom I would begrudge a SB win no matter who they were playing; since many of you know I am an Eagles fan, you can probably guess the identity of one of those teams.
    On the historical front, my favorite non-medieval king, Charles II, died on February 6th, 1685. Charles would make a great character in a novel and I am sorry I won’t be able to give him an extended turn on center stage. But you can spend time with him in Priya Parmer’s excellent novel about his most famous mistress, Nell Gwyn. http://www.amazon.com/Exit-Actress-Novel-Priya-Parmar/dp/B0057DCMAG/ref=pd_sim_b_5

  79. skpenman Says:

    IF I can meet my deadline, Susan, The Land Beyond the Sea will be published toward the end of 2017. After that, I am giving serious consideration to doing another mystery; I’ve missed having Justin hanging around the house.

    Thank you, Mac. I agree that Eleanor and Richard were more indulgent with John than he deserved. He was always great fun to write about, but I would not have wanted him as my king.

  80. Malcolm Craig Says:

    Sharon, as you know, Charles II is also my favorite post-medieval English monarch. It had not occurred to me until one of your readers made the point in this blog that Henri IV was his grandsire. Their personalities fit together perfectly! I have always wanted to believe the legend that Henri instructed his troops to sing “Auprès de ma blonde (il fait bon dormir!)” as they marched to Paris.

  81. Marie Heggood Says:

    Sharon, that is fabulous news that you are thinking of writing a new ‘Justin’ mystery. I love your historical novels, but have missed Justin also.

  82. Joan Says:

    To read a novel about Charles II by Sharon Penman would be an adventure of a lifetime!!

  83. Sammy Egidio Says:

    Nice post, when can we expect the next one?

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