My White Wolves, II



I am sorry for the delay in posting this sequel to my blog about my white shepherd, Shadow, but I’ve had some pain issues that limited my time at the computer. I am having a better day , so I am going to see if I can tell Tristan’s story. After Shadow’s death, I was not sure I’d ever be ready to adopt another shepherd. Several months later, that wound was still very raw, but I did want to take in another dog, knowing how many there are in desperate need of good homes. So I finally decided to adopt a dog unlikely to find a family. I began to check the Echo White Shepherds Rescue page and there I found Tristan, then called Hank. He did not sound as if people would be banging down the doors to adopt him for he was nine, which is elderly for a shepherd, and not in good health, so skinny you could count his ribs and unsteady on his feet; his coat was also very thin in patches. All in all, he looked rather bedraggled. I contacted Joan, the woman who’d rescued him from a high-kill FLA shelter, and she told me his sad story. She pulled him from the shelter on his very last day and the shelter staff tried to talk her out of taking him, suggesting she take a younger, healthier dog. Luckily for Tristan, she paid them no heed; I came to consider her Tris’s Echo Angel and I daresay he’d have agreed with me.

We did not know his history, of course; he’d been found as a stray. He was so emaciated that he may have been on his own for quite a while; either that or he’d been owned by someone who’d not bothered to feed him very often. His behavior made it obvious that he’d not been an indoor dog, probably chained up in a backyard, the sad fate of far too many dogs. Joan was able to find someone who agreed to take him in temporarily as a foster; she had half a dozen dogs at her own house then, so there was simply no room. My main concern was that he was friendly with other dogs, as I still had my poodle, Chelsea, and Joan was able to assure me that he was getting along well with his foster family’s dog. So I applied, was approved, and then we set about planning to get Tristan from FLA to NJ.

What followed was a fascinating odyssey. Echo White Shepherd Rescue—an amazing organization—lined up thirteen kind-hearted volunteers, each one to drive Tris for an hour or two. They kept me informed of his progress and I shared it on Facebook: He is now in SC, he has reached Raleigh, etc. His pilgrimage was followed with great enthusiasm, and I could only marvel that this dog, who’d come within an hour of being euthanized, was now being cheered on by people all over the globe. One of my readers said it was like tracking Santa’s sleigh on Christmas Eve, but my favorite comment came from my Australian friend, Glenne, who said it was like passing the Olympic Torch. My friend Rachael and I drove down to MD to meet his final escorts, a delightful couple named Lizbeth and Paul. Tristan must have been bewildered, but I was told he’d endured the travel with equanimity, and when we were ready to go, he hopped willingly into the back seat of my car. We then drove right into a monsoon, the most intense rainstorm I’d encountered in years, so bad we had to keep pulling off the road since at times I could not even be sure we were still on it. I could only hope that this was not an ill omen.

My new shepherd was now renamed Tristan; surely no one is surprised that I picked a medieval name? He showed himself to be friendly to Chelsea, who was used to living with dogs who towered above her like redwood trees dwarfing a sapling. A visit to my vet revealed that he weighed only sixty-four pounds, had some arthritis in his spine, and was likely between eight and nine years old. I would later learn that he was fearful of thunderstorms and whenever he’d creep to my side and tremble as the heavens roared overhead, I felt such sadness, imaging how terrifying it must have been for him in FLA, a state that has some of the most savage storms in the country.

He was quite intelligent, as most shepherds are, although he was not at all interested in the traditional dog obedience class; I suspect he found it boring to keep walking in circles and repeating the same commands. I eventually took him for private lessons and there he excelled. For probably the first time in years, he was getting enough to eat and he began to thrive. His limp disappeared and his skimpy coat became so plush and thick that a polar bear might well have envied it. And to my surprise, this frail senior citizen morphed into Godzilla, going from that emaciated sixty-four pounds to a robust ninety-five pounds, increasing his body weight by fully a third. I hope to be able to add a few photos, as my blog is still balking at that. I would like to share one of Tristan and Holly and one of Tris, looking like the lord of the manor.

Tristan and Holly

Tristan and Holly

Tristan loved to play with toys, perhaps because he’d never had any, his favorite being a stuffed duck that my friend Jim kindly sent him—addressed to Tristan Penman! He loved riding in the car, going for walks in the woods, and catching balls or toys in his mouth; no matter how high they were thrown, he never missed a single one. He was not pals with my poodle, Chelsea, but they got along well. She was quite ill by then, for she’d gone into kidney failure the same week that Shadow had died, and there was only so much the vet could do. She died in May and Tristan became an only child—until I was browsing Petfinder in December and came across a little spaniel up for adoption at Last Chance Ranch in Quakertown, PA.

It was love at first sight and I was delighted when they approved me to adopt her. She’d been found wandering the streets of Philadelphia, with no collar or microchip, and when no one came to claim her, she was turned over to Last Chance. She was still so friendly and trusting that we assumed she could not have been on her own for too long, but the rest of her history remains a mystery. I decided Tristan was too old for a two hundred mile round trip, and so I left him home when I drove up to get Holly, thinking there’d be no trouble since he’d been fine with Chelsea. It did not quite turn out that way, though.

I knew that dogs should meet on neutral ground, so I parked by a small park across the street from my house, then went to introduce Tristan to his new roommate. Holly was very friendly. He was not. He did not growl. He did not bristle or stiffen. There were no overt signs of hostility. But I was picking up a bad vibe. So did Holly, for she suddenly shrieked and dove under the car. Once I got them into the house, I put her in Tristan’s crate, which he’d only used for the first few days. I was quite upset, for I was already smitten with this little girl and did not want to have to return her to the rescue group. Yet unless I could be sure she’d be safe with Tristan, I’d have no choice.

Tristan had apparently decided he liked being an only child, for he regarded this interloper quite coolly. He’d showed no signs of aggression, though, so I soon felt it was safe to let them interact under my supervision. What followed was hilarious. Spaniels are sweet dogs, if not considered the sharpest knives in the drawer, but Holly was blessed with brains as well as beauty, and she set about winning him over. Tristan would be lying on his bed and she’d come over to snuggle next to him. He’d get up and stalk away, for all the world like an elderly uncle who does not want to babysit the kids. She was not daunted by his rejections, continued her campaign. When he felt she was being too pushy, he’d give a low, warning growl. She’d immediately flip over onto her back in the submissive puppy pose and bat those long golden lashes up at him. Watching, I would think, “Tristan, you’re toast.” And sure enough, in less than a week, she had him right where she wanted him, under one of her feathery, delicate paws. He was too old and too large for them to be genuine playmates, but their mutual affection was quite touching and I am sure they enjoyed each other’s company. As much as dogs bond with people, most of them need time with their own tribe, too.

Those of you who have friended me on Facebook already know the end of Tristan’s story. My vet had been treating his arthritis of the spine, using acupuncture and chiropractic as well as more traditional methods. But in November of 2012, he suddenly began to experience considerable pain in his spine. Nothing seemed to help. I did not realize how serious it was, though, until he started to have difficulty walking. To show you what an excellent doctor my friend John Phillips is, he diagnosed Tristan’s condition as a collapse of his spinal column, and that from three thousand miles away in England. He was right. My vet tried a massive dose of steroids as a Hail Mary pass, to no avail. Tristan died on November 16, 2012. I’d only had him for twenty months, but it was a comfort to know that those were probably the best months of his life.

March 9, 2016

64 Responses to “My White Wolves, II”

  1. Brenda S Says:

    A beautiful tribute to a gorgeous companion. Thank you for sharing these tidbits of his personality with us.

  2. Donna Jordan Says:

    What a beautiful story. I really appreciate a person that will give an animal, that has a limited amount of time left, a chance to have a beautiful life. I wish that for all Gods creatures. Oddly enough, I feel like that even for animals that are raised on small family farms. At least they had pastures, grass, the outdoors, while they had life. You are a kind heart Sharon. I know that’s why I love your books so much!! Love, Donna

  3. Wanda Says:

    Very touching. I read with tears streaming. Thank you for sharing such a beautiful story.

  4. Owen Mayo Says:

    Such a dear and loveable boy who so obviously appreciated the happy months he had with you Sharon. We have both shed so many tears over Shadow and Tris, but also have some warm and comforting memories of them both, and photos that will be with us forever. Loving dogs is a joy while we have them, but when we lose them it is devastating. I loved your dogs at a distance, and I am so pleased you have been able to meet my Roxie in the fur and flesh at Bosworth.

  5. Ellie Says:

    I remember that shy, skinny boy, and the monsoonal rain on that day. I had to cross the Susquehanna River to get home, and the water was blowing across the bridge. xoxo

  6. Scott Kuhn Says:

    I actually live in the Quakertown area and am very familiar with Last Chance Ranch, my son even got his dog there. They do a lot of good in our area. Just got done When Christ and his Saints Slept….. You did not teach your spaniel some of the tricks Eleanor used on Harry did you????

    Thank you for such an illuminating book, it got me to thinking a lot about those who are dispossessed and how limited one’s vision can be if they just look on the surface.

    Your writing has given me many thoughtful and insightful moments…Thank you.

  7. Joan Says:

    Thanks Sharon. What a heartwarming story. I must read it to my granddaughters……those 2 young girls madly in love with dogs but unable to have one due to allergies in the family. They’ll have a few chuckles along with a few tears, no doubt. But what a lovely friend Tristan was (he was no Hank!) Cutest photo with the 2 of them together. Holly is a real sweetheart.

    Re Downton, have to say I was happy with that “Hollywood” ending. Julian Fellowes had no choice but to give us what we’d waited for so patiently & loyally. (because we have been patient! with some of the writing!) But get this! During the entire last hour, we in Ontario had a crime alert flashing across the screen intermittently, paired with that awful siren-type noise which blanked out the sound. I almost threw my remote at the screen. So am looking forward to a rerun…..the sooner the better! Just have to say Yay Edith, Yay Anna, Bates, & baby, Yay Isabelle. And long live the Dowager.

    The Bafta tribute before the show was fantastic. I had no idea Julian Ovenden had a gorgeous tenor voice. When he began, I noticed the look on Maggie Smith’s face, head tilted, wistful smile, as if she were 20 again, gazing at this dreamy young fellow before her. (Or was that me?) Since then, I have been online listening to him sing the old Broadway hits with Sierra Boggess. I think he is the height of Romanticism! Big sigh…..

  8. Grace DeBoer Says:

    Sharon, you have so much love in you for these dogs. I have tears welling up in my eyes and knowing how rescues are so thankful, since we have two beagles now, I’m sure Tristan loved and appreciated living with you.

  9. skpenman Says:

    Joan, I was delighted that they provided the happy ending for almost all of the Downton characters. There is enough grief in real life; I’ve reached the stage where I want fictional characters to be happy! Of course in ten years or so, their lives would all be turned upside down by the rise to power of Adolf Hitler, but we can assume they were trapped in time, like a dragonfly in amber.

    I seem unable to keep pace with history, for I’ve missed several important medieval happenings in the first part of March. So, trying to catch up, here is a post about one of Henry II’s sons.
    On March 7th, 1226, Henry II’s illegitimate son, William Longspee (Longsword), Earl of Salisbury died. He has appeared in Here de Dragons, A King’s Ransom, and in several of my mysteries, cast in a sympathetic light, although I was wrong about his age in all the books except Ransom. When I wrote Dragons and the mysteries, we did not know the identity of his mother, so historians could only speculate as to his age. But in the wonderful way that historical discoveries turn up like gold nuggets, we now know she was Ida de Tosney, subsequently the Countess of Norfolk. As a result of this new knowledge, we know William was much younger than originally believed. I mention his likely birth year in Ransom, 1177, but I will have to stick with the older William in any future mysteries since I can’t go back and rewrite the earlier ones. Thank heaven for Author’s Notes!

  10. Joan Says:

    How apt that you used “dragonfly in amber”, Sharon, just as I’ve been admiring the new cover of Diana Gabaldon’s book by that name.

    And yes, enough grief, not the least of which is the deplorable, toxic, frightening situation going on south of my border! I’ve sent more prayers up for a good outcome, a way out of the cesspool.

  11. skpenman Says:

    Such sad stores coming out of LA and other states that are facing historic flooding. What is even more tragic is that most of the people don’t have flood insurance.
    Now here is another one of my belated Today in History posts.
    March 4th, 1193 is the usual date given for the death of the sultan of Egypt, Sallah al-Din, known to the crusaders and to history as Saladin, although Baha al-Din Ibn Shaddad says it occurred on March 3rd. In his chronicle, The Rare and Excellent History of Saladin, Baha al-Din provides an eye-witness account of Saladin’s final illness. He tells us that the sultan became ill on February 20th, “struck by a bilious fever,” describing how he steadily became weaker. By the eight day, “his mind wandered.” On the tenth day of his illness, they treated him with two enemas and he was given barley water to drink. But he continued to decline. “His death occurred after the dawn prayer on Wednesday, 27 Safar 589 (3 March 1193). After dawn had broken, Qadi al-Fadil made haste and was present for his death. I arrived when he was already dead and transported to God’s favor and the seat of His grace. It was related to me that, when the Shaykh Abu ja’far reached in God’s word ‘There is no god but He and in Him have I trusted,’ the sultan smiled, his face beamed with joy and he surrendered his soul to his Lord.”

    Richard was the prisoner of the Holy Roman Emperor and word of Saladin’s death and the subsequent rivalry among his sons did not reach the English king for several months, courtesy of a letter from the Doge of Venice. Here is part of the scene from A King’s Ransom, page 224.
    * * *.
    Richard was on his feet now, striding back and forth. “The French king and my brother have much to answer for. And so does that scorpion on the German throne. Had I been able to reach England, it would not have taken me long to put Johnny and Philippe on the run. I could then have made plans to return to the Holy Land, just as I’d promised Henri and the Almighty. Now…who knows how long it will be ere I am free to fulfill my vow?”
    He whirled suddenly, demanding of his clerk, “Does any of this make sense to you, Fulk? Why has God let this happen? Saladin’s death offers a rare opportunity to regain the most sacred city in Christendom and yet I cannot take advantage of it!”
    The easy answer would be to say it was not for them to question the ways of the Almighty. But Fulk was not one to offer easy answers, nor would Richard have accepted them. “I do not know what to tell you, my liege. I do not understand, either.”
    “Eventually Saladin’s brother will prevail, for he is much more capable than his nephews. Now could have been the time to strike, yet here I am, thwarted not by the Saracens, but by another Christian ruler!” Richard spat out a few virulent oaths, none of which eased his frustration or his fury. Sitting down again, he slumped back wearily in the window-seat next to his clerk. “Saladin was a far better man than Philippe or Heinrich,” he said at last. “A man of courage and honor. It is a great pity that he must be forever denied the grace of God.”
    Fulk sighed, thinking what Philippe or Heinrich would have made of such a statement. Sometimes it seemed to him that his king went out of his way to provide weapons for his enemies to use against him.
    * * *

  12. skpenman Says:

    On March 13, 1271 occurred one of the most shocking crimes of the Middle Ages, in part because of the high birth of the killers and the victim and in part because of the scene of the murder—during Mass at the church of San Silvestro in Viterbo, Italy. It had its roots in a battle, the one at Evesham in 1265 in which Simon de Montfort was defeated and slain by Henry III’s son, Edward, who also happened to be Simon’s godson and nephew by marriage, as Simon was wed to Henry’s sister, Nell. Simon’s eldest son Harry also died at Evesham, and his third son Guy was seriously wounded, although he did eventually recover and managed to escape, where he began a new life in Italy. The second son Bran was a victim, too, of Evesham, for he’d been supposed to join his father and brothers at Evesham with reinforcements. Instead, he gave Edward an opportunity to ambush and defeat his men. By the time he got to Evsham, it was in time to see his father’s head on a pike. He later joined Guy in Italy, but he never got over Evsham, for he struggled under a double burden—grief and guilt. Here is a scene from The Reckoning, page 41-42. Guy has just learned that their first cousin Hal, Henry III’s nephew, is in Viterbo and he at once vows to avenge his father and brother’s deaths. At that moment, Bran, suffering from a monumental hangover, stumbles into the hall.
    * * *
    Bran paused, blinking in the surge of sunlight, looking puzzled and a little wary to see the hall in such turmoil. Grabbing Bran’s scabbard from the back of a chair, Guy strode forward, thrust it at his brother. “We’ve no time to lose, Bran. Hal is here, right here in Viterbo! I still cannot believe it, cannot believe God could be so good to us. But Christ, why could it not have been Ned?”
    Bran had always believed the folklore that a sudden shock could sober a man. He discovered now that it wasn’t so. No matter how he tried to focus his thoughts, to banish the wine-fumes from his brain, he could not cut through the confusion. Drink did not numb as easily as it once had, so why now? Why now when he had such need for clear thinking? He looked at his brother, seeing not Guy but Harry, his constant, unseen companion, for who was more faithful than a ghost? Who understood better than the dead that there was no forgiveness, in this life or the next? What did Guy know of remorse, relentless and ever-present, goading a man toward madness? What did Guy know of that? And he must not ever learn!
    “Guy, listen to me!” Why did his voice sound so slurred, echo so strangely in his own ears? Why could he not find the right words? “But it is Hal, not Ned. Hal. And he…he was not even at Evesham!”
    He saw at once that he’d not gotten through to Guy; the look on his brother’s face was one of disbelief, not comprehension. “Why are you so set upon destroying yourself? What will it change? You cannot even say that Papa would want this, Guy, for you know he would not!”
    It was a cry of desperation, honest as only a plea utterly without hope can be. But Guy reacted as if he’d been struck a physical blow. His head came up, breath hissing through clenched teeth, eyes narrowing into slits of incredulous rage.
    “You dare to talk of what Papa would have wanted, you who killed him! He and Harry died because of you, because of your criminal carelessness, your God-cursed folly! Where were you when we most needed you? Camped by the lake at Kenilworth Castle, out in the open so your men could bathe, by God, so Ned could come down on you like a hawk on a pigeon! And Papa never knowing, keeping faith with you till the last. Even when we realized that Ned had used your banners as bait, we assumed you’d fought and lost, not that you’d let yourself be ambushed like some green, witless stripling, never that! Does it comfort you any, that our father went to his death still believing in you, never knowing how you’d betrayed him? I watched him die, damn you, and Harry and all the others. Not you, Bran—me! And mayhap this is why I did not die that day myself, so I could avenge our father, avenge Evesham!”
    Sweat stood out on Guy’s forehead; his chest heaved as if he’d been running. He drew a deep, constricted breath, then said, more calmly, but no less contemptuously, “You can come with me or not as you choose. But is it not enough that you failed Papa at Evesham? Are you truly going to fail him at Viterbo, too?”
    Bran’s throat had closed up, cutting off speech. But he had nothing to say. No denials to make. No excuses to offer. Every embittered accusation that Guy had flung at him was one already embedded in his soul, five years festering. He could not defend himself. Nor could he save himself. All he could do was what he did now—reach for the sword that Guy was holding out to him.
    * * *
    Hal’s death truly shocked medieval public opinion, for the de Montforts burst into the church during Mass. Guy struck down a priest who tried to interfere and stabbed his cousin as he clung to the altar. The killing is well documented; we even know what Guy said when Hal pleaded for mercy, “You shall have the mercy you showed my father and brother.” But there are several mysteries about this gory murder. Hal made no attempt to defend himself. And other than the priest, no one came to his aid even though the church was filled with men, some of them surely Hal’s own household knights. Nor did anyone attempt to stop the de Montfort brothers when they fled the scene after the killing was done.
    Guy and Bran earned the unrelenting enmity of their cousin Edward for this crime. But Guy was wed to the daughter of a powerful Italian count; moreover, he’d inherited his father’s battlefield brilliance, and there was no shortage of men willing to ignore his crime in order to have him fighting on their side. In 1283, Guy was even appointed as captain-general of the papal forces in Romagna! But in 1287, he was captured during a naval battle and imprisoned in Sicily. The vast sum of eight thousand ounces of gold was offered to ransom him by his family and friends, but the ransom was refused and he died after several years in captivity; one report said that he committed suicide. It is generally believed that Edward exerted the considerable power of the English Crown to make sure he would never be released.
    Bran’s day of reckoning came much sooner. He was dead, apparently of malaria, in a matter of months, after wandering the swampy wastelands of the Maremma, truly a lost soul. I’ve always felt that to him, death was a mercy, for he obviously could not live with what he’d failed to do at Evesham and what he had done at Viterbo.
    The church still exists, although it is not open to the public. But there is a plaque in the piazza telling passersby what happened there on March 13, 1271. I’ve never forgotten how close the past seemed to me as I stood there, staring down at the paving stones and finding it all too easy to envision them soaked in blood.

  13. skpenman Says:

    Here is a link to the HBO trailer for the new Game of Thrones season. They continue to be as mysterious as possible. April 24th seems like a long time away.

  14. skpenman Says:

    I came across this old March 15th post and decided to repeat it, partly because Stephane’s quip made me laugh and partly because I feel confident that very few will remember something I posted four years ago. We’re all in favor of recycling, right? Stephanie has very generously offered to show me how to set up an Author Page, so I hope that will be up soon, at which time those who’ve friended me on my personal Facebook page will have to migrate over to the new page. I’m not happy about this, but Facebook doesn’t care. Anyway, here is that old post.
    Several of my Facebook friends teased me because I’d called yesterday a “slow history day,” or as Stephanie put it, “Et tu, Sharon?” I explained that I was not dissing Julius Caesar, but simply being true to my laser-like focus on the MA. But I did forget an important medieval death that occurred on March 15, 1190, all the more unforgivable since it was mentioned prominently in Lionheart, and I’d like to thank my friend Kasia for reminding me that Isabelle of Hainaut, the first wife of the French king, Philippe Capet, died a month shy of her 20th birthday, after giving birth to two stillborn twin sons. She sounds like a fascinating young woman, for she’d managed to outwit Philippe at the tender age of 14 when he attempted to end their marriage on the bogus grounds that she’d failed to give him a son. She took to the streets of Senlis clad in a penitent’s shift, going from church to church to pray that her lord husband be saved from his evil advisers, and got so much sympathy from the public that Philippe was forced to relent and take her back. And the clever girl then deflected Philippe’s anger at having his royal will thwarted when he offered to wed her to any highborn lord in his realm. “Sire,” she said, sweetly and demurely, “it does not please God for a mortal man to lie in the bed in which you have lain.”

  15. skpenman Says:

    I am two days late on this, but on On March 14th, 1471, Edward of York, his brother Richard, and their small band of exiles landed on the Yorkshire coast near the fishing village of Ravenspur. They had sailed from Flushing on the 11th in heavy seas, losing the ship that carried their horses but evading the English fleet under command of the Earl of Warwick’s kinsman, the Bastard of Fauconberg. They’d planned to land in Norfolk, where they had Yorkist support, but when Edward prudently sent a scouting party ashore first, they learned that the Duke of Norfolk was under arrest and the Lancastrian Duke of Oxford was on the alert for them. They put out to sea again, then their ships were scattered in a storm. Richard and the three hundred men under his command came ashore near Ravenspur, and must have had a nerve-wracking night until in the morning they were able to find Edward and Will Hastings and the five hundred men on their ship and then unite with Edward’s brother-in-law Anthony Woodville and his two hundred men. Not a large army to attempt what many thought to be impossible—recover a lost throne. But Edward was one of those men at their best when things were at their worst, and paradoxically, at his worst when all was going well. He was blessed, too, with a brother he could trust implicitly, a luxury few kings enjoyed. And so they set forth bravely on their all or nothing gamble. .

  16. skpenman Says:

    Happy St Patrick’s Day, everyone. And for Downton Abbey fans, here is fun link that shows us what the cast members look like in real life. Wait till you see Phyllis Logan, the actress who played Mrs. Hughes!

  17. skpenman Says:

    What better time to post this than St Patrick’s Day? Some of these sites were already discovered by the Game of Thrones guys, with a number of scenes filmed here.…/ireland-most-beautiful-plac…/index.html

  18. skpenman Says:

    Wednesday was the date of death in 1185 of one of history’s most tragic figures, the courageous young man known as the Leper King, Baldwin IV of Jerusalem. He was not yet twenty-four, and died knowing that his kingdom was not likely to long survive him, for it was being torn apart by inner turmoil and threatened by the most dangerous of its Saracen foes, the man whom history would know as Saladin. Baldwin was stricken with this cruel disease while still a child, but he was still crowned at age thirteen upon his father’s unexpected death, for at that time, his leprosy was suspected but not yet definitively diagnosed. Here is a brief scene from Outremer, after Baldwin, now fourteen, has discovered the truth that they’d kept from him and has confronted William of Tyre, his tutor, who would become Archbishop of Tyre and the author of one of the great histories of the MA.
    * * *
    “Why?” Little more than a whisper. “Why me?”
    William had been asked that before, of course, in the years since he’d become an arch-deacon. A cry that must surely have echoed down through the centuries, every time a parent buried a child, a wife bled to death in the birthing chamber, a husband was struck down on the field of battle, a man or woman was faced with a wasting disease, an unbearable loss. He’d told them what he’d been taught, the words he’d offered to Maria when her daughter died, that it was not for mortal man to understand the ways of the Almighty. He had quoted from Scriptures–Now we seek through a glass, darkly, but then face to face—often having to explain the meaning to the illiterate, that whilst on earth, their knowledge was imperfect, upon that glorious day when they were admitted into the Kingdom of God, all would become clear. He found now that he could not say that to Baldwin, and so he gave the boy an answer of wrenching honesty.
    “I…I do not know, Baldwin.”
    Baldwin regarded him searchingly. “I know what men say of lepers. That they are morally unclean. That leprosy is the disease of the damned, punishment for their sins.” His voice wavered, but then he broke William’s heart by mustering up a small smile. “IF this is indeed leprosy, I have not had a chance to commit any sins great enough to deserve this, William.”
    * * *

  19. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    March 20, 1469 was the date of birth of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville’s daughter Cecily. Here is what I wrote about Cecily for the new AN for the 30th anniversary edition of Sunne; it had to be edited out of the hardcover AN for Sunne because of space concerns, but the new e-book edition of Sunne in the UK and the US has the new AN in its entirety.
    * * *
    We also know more about the life of Edward’s daughter Cecily, for since Sunne’s publication, it has been established that she wed Ralph Scrope in late 1484. He was the son of Thomas, Lord Scrope, but we know little about this brief marriage. Henry Tudor had it annulled upon becoming king so that he could marry her to his uncle, John, Viscount Welles. He was in his forties and Cecily only eighteen, but what little evidence there is suggests the marriage was a happy one. They had two daughters, both of whom died before the viscount’s death in 1499. Cecily had often been in attendance to her sister the queen, but in 1502, she made what had to be a love match with a man of much lesser status, a mere esquire, William Kyme. Tudor was furious, banishing her from court and confiscating her estates. But she had an unlikely champion in Tudor’s mother, Margaret Beaufort, who’d apparently become fond of Cecily, and she interceded with her son on Cecily’s behalf. After the death of her beloved sister, Elizabeth, in 1503, Cecily and her husband retired from the court and settled on the Isle of Wight. She and William had a son, Richard, born in 1505 and a daughter, Margaret, born in 1507. Since Cecily died on August 24, 1507, she may have died from the complications of childbirth. This marriage, too, appears to have been a happy one. I would like to think so, for this daughter of York, said by Sir Thomas More to have been “not so fortunate as fair,” had suffered more than her share of sorrow in her thirty-eight years.
    * * *

    On March 20th, 1413, the first Lancastrian king, Henry IV, died. His health had deteriorated in the last years of his life and at one time, he apparently suffered from a disfiguring skin condition. Some claimed he’d been inflicted with leprosy as divine punishment for the execution of a prelate, the Archbishop of York, who’d taken part in a rebellion against Henry. But according to his entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, his bones were examined in the 19th century and they concluded that he showed no signs of leprosy. I confess I wondered if 19th century science was advanced enough to draw such a conclusion, but I simply don’t know enough about Henry’s life to have a horse in that race. It had been predicted that he would die in Jerusalem, which must have discouraged him from taking part in any crusades, but he collapsed and died in the Jerusalem Chamber of the abbot of Westminster…..or so it is said. He is a major character in Brian Wainwright’s excellent novel Within the Fetterlock

    Lastly, on March 20, 1549, Thomas Seymour was beheaded. Among his crimes was the suspicion that he’d seduced the young princess, Elizabeth. She was kept under close watch by hostile observers, and when they flung the news of his death at her, she responded with remarkable coolness, saying that “Today died a man of much wit, but little wisdom.” Of course by then she’d already learned one of life’s most painful lessons, that there was no one she dared trust.

  20. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    On March 21st, 1152, a royal marriage ended, and the history of Christendom was forever changed. At Beaugency, France, Louis VII of France and Eleanor of Aquitaine were declared to have been related within the prohibited degree, and their marriage was therefore annulled on grounds of consanguinity. Within two months, Eleanor would horrify Louis by wedding the young Duke of Normandy, Henry Fitz Empress, and to add insult to injury, she and Henry were related to the same degree as she and Louis were. Below is a scene from When Christ and his Saints Slept, beginning on p 613, between Eleanor and her nemesis, Bernard, the Abbot of Clairvaux, who would later be canonized by the Catholic Church and who famously proclaimed that the Angevins were from the Devil and to the Devil they’d go. Henry and Eleanor’s sons seemed to have felt that gave them bragging rights. Anyway, I give you the queen and the cleric.

    * * *
    Abbot Bernard greeted her with frigid formality. He so resembled one of the patriarchs of old—pale and haggard, burning dark eyes and flowing long hair—that Eleanor wondered cynically if he’d deliberately cultivated the image. “I understand,” she said, “that you convinced Louis not to bring my daughters to Beaugency to bid me farewell. He told me that he would have done so—if not for you, my lord abbot.”
    He was quite untroubled by the accusation. “That is true,” he said calmly. “I thought it was for the best. Such a meeting was bound to be painful.”
    “Am I to believe, then, that you were acting out of Christian kindness?”
    “I care for all of God’s lost lambs, Madame, even the foolish ones who keep straying into the hills where wolves prowl and dangers lurk. The Lord forgives much, provided that there is true repentance. It is always possible to come back into the fold, into grace.”
    “With you as my guide? I’d rather take my chances with the wolves.”
    “Take care, Madame, lest you imperil your immortal soul. You do but prove I have good reason to keep your daughters away from your baneful influence.” As wrathful as he was, the abbot still remembered to keep his voice down, for this was not a conversation for others to hear. “Your lack of gratitude should not surprise me, though, given your lamentable lack of decorum and discretion—“
    “Gratitude? My apologies, my lord abbot. It seems I’ve been maligning you unfairly, for you do have a sense of humor, after all!”
    “It is foolhardy to court danger, Madame, but it is lunacy to court damnation. You do indeed owe me a debt of gratitude. If not for my forbearance, you might have been cast aside for adultery rather than consanguinity.”
    “It is also foolhardy, my lord abbot, to hold your foes too cheaply. Your convictions to the contrary, most women are not idiots. I could not have been accused of adultery, for you have no proof, and well you know it. And even if you’d found men willing to swear falsely that it was so, a verdict of adultery would have prohibited Louis from marrying again…as you well know, too.”
    “I see no point in continuing this conversation. If you would spit upon salvation, so be it, then. I leave your sins to God. Fortunately for the king and for France, he is now free of your unholy spell, free to choose a wife devout and docile and virtuous, a wife who will give him the heir you could not.”
    Eleanor’s eyes shone with a greenish glitter. “What a pity,” she said, that the Blessed Virgin Mary is not available, for she would have suited his needs admirably.”
    Bernard drew in his breath with a sibilant hiss. “You are an evil woman, wanton and truly wicked, and you will indeed suffer for—“
    “No—no, she is not!” Neither Eleanor nor the abbot had heard Louis’s approach, and they both spun around at the sudden sound of his voice. “You are wrong, Abbot Bernard,” he said, with a firmness Eleanor had seen him show all too rarely. “I know her far better than you, and there is no evil in her soul, only a misguided sense of…of levity.”
    There’d been times when she’d yearned for words sharp enough to draw blood, to leave ugly scars. She’d blamed Louis for much that had gone wrong in their marriage, for not being bolder or able to laugh at life’s perversities, for not being more like the swaggering, spirited, roguish men of her House, for no longer heeding her advice as he’d done in their first years together, for loving God far more than he could ever love her, and for the reluctant desire and sense of shame that he’d brought to their marriage bed.
    But she’d not hated him for those failings—anger and frustration and occasional contempt, but not hatred. That had come only after Antioch, after Louis had accused her of harboring an incestuous passion for her uncle and threatened to have her bound and gagged and dragged away by force if need be. Ever a realist, she’d yielded, far too proud to fight a war she could not hope to win; she was learning that women must pick their battles with care, that strategy mattered more than strength. Eventually Louis had apologized and swore upon the True Cross that he knew her to be innocent. But by then it was too late. By then her uncle had been slain by the Turks, his impaled head rotting above the caliph’s palace in the hot Baghdad sun, and Eleanor could not look upon her husband without Raymond’s doomed and bloodied spectre coming between them.
    But now that she’d regained her freedom, she found herself remembering how it had been at first for them, a fifteen year old bride and her sixteen year old bridegroom, shyly appealing, awed by her beauty and eager to please her. Before he’d begun to yearn for the peace of the cloister, before those poor souls had died in the flames of a Vitry church, before the miscarriage and daughters instead of sons, before his hair shirt and her disgrace, before the crusade and Antioch and Raymond’s needless death, before Abbot Bernard. For a poignant moment, she could see that long-lost youth reflected in the depths of translucent blue eyes. And then the memory faded and she was looking at a man decent and ineffectual and despairing, a man she could pity but not respect and never love.
    * * *
    Of course we now know that Eleanor was actually born in 1124, not the traditional date of 1122, so she was an even younger bride than we’d realized—only thirteen. It is interesting to speculate how different their history might have been had she given him even one of the sons she’d give Henry. We also know that it was the husband who determines the sex of the child, an ironic twist that Eleanor might have appreciated. But I suspect that she’d rather have had the glorious chaos of life with Henry, even with its bittersweet ending, than whatever Louis could have offered her. As I have her think in one of my novels, she was not made for safe harbors.

  21. Malcolm Craig Says:

    This splendid scene brings to mind Peter the Venerable’s rebuke to Bernard, quoted by Henry Adams on p. 352 of Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres:

    You perform all the difficult religious duties, you fast,; you watch; you suffer; but you will not endure the easy ones - you do not love (non vis levia ferre, ut diligas).

  22. skpenman Says:

    I’d not read that one, Mac, thanks. I tend to side with Henry and Eleanor; Bernard is not one of my favorite medieval people either. But every now and then I come across something he did that was quite admirable. At the start of the Second Crusade, anti-Jewish riots broke out in German cities, and Bernard hurried to Germany to stop the slaughter. And I recently discovered that he had great sympathy for lepers.

    March 23, 1429 was the birthdate of Marguerite d’Anjou, the French-born queen of Henry VI. She was a courageous, stubborn, proud, ruthless woman who’d been dealt a bad hand in her marriage to Henry, whose misfortunate was that he’d been born a king’s son. Here are a few Marguerite scenes from Sunne. The first is on p. 20, at Ludlow, where seven year old Richard has his first glimpse of the Lancastrian queen.
    * * *
    His first impression, quite simply, was one of awe. Marguerite d’Anjou was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen, as beautiful as the queens of Joan’s bedtime tales. All in gold and black, like the swallowtail butterflies he’d chased all summer in such futile fascination. Her eyes were huge and black, blacker even than the rosaries of Whitby jet so favored by his mother. Her mouth was scarlet, her skin like snow, her dark hair covered by a headdress of golden gauze, her face framed in floating folds of a glittery shimmering material that seemed to be made from sunlight; he’d ever seen anything like it, couldn’t keep his eyes from it. Or from her.
    * * *

    The next scene on P73 takes place at St Mary’s abbey in York, when Marguerite has just gotten the devastating news of the Yorkist victory at Towton.
    * * *
    Weighed down by her sodden skirts, unable to catch her breath, watching as the abbot floundered beside her in the snow, while her servant struggled to maintain his own footing and gingerly extended his hand toward her, Marguerite suddenly began to laugh, jagged bursts of strangled mirth, the sound of which nightmares are made.
    “Madame, you mustn’t give way!” The abbot, less timid than her servant at laying hands upon royalty, grabbed her shoulders, shook her vigorously.
    “But it is so very amusing; surely you see that? I’ve a little boy and a sweet helpless fool asleep in your lodging and no money and I’ve just been told I no longer have an army and look at us, my lord abbot, Sacre Dieu, look at us! If I do not laugh,” she gasped, “I might believe all this was truly happening, and happening to me!”
    “Madame…” The abbot hesitated, and then plunged ahead courageously. “You need not flee, you know. York would not harm a woman, still less a child. Your lives would be safe with him, I do believe that. Stay here, Madame. Entreat York’s mercy, accept him as king. Even if you reach Scotland, what then? Ah, Madame, can you not let it be?”
    The lantern light no longer fell on her face; he could not discern her expression. But he heard her intake of breath, a sibilant hiss of feline intensity. Her hand jerked from his. “Oui, Monseigneur,” she spat. “On my deathbed!”
    * * *
    Lastly, on Pages 344-345, is a scene the night before the battle of Tewkesbury between Marguerite and Edmund Beaufort, the Duke of Somerset. She has just agreed to go with his daring battle plan—on one condition, that her son is to be kept away from the fighting.
    * * *
    “I cannot make you a promise like that,” he said, tiredly and very gently. “You know I cannot. I’d give my life to keep him safe; we all would. But I cannot forbid him, Madame. No one can. He thinks he is of an age to command. His pride demands it. He knows that York was not yet nineteen when he did win at Towton. Worse, he knows that Gloucester is himself just eighteen now. I cannot forbid him, Madame.
    “The true command of the center will rest with Wenlock, not Prince Edward. And I think he will agree to remain mounted during the battle.” For a moment, he had an image of Edward’s white, set face. “In fact, I am sure of it. But further than that, he will not go. And more than that, I cannot do.”
    Marguerite nodded, and he saw that she’d not expected to prevail. “No, I suppose you cannot,” she said tonelessly. She shrugged, wouldn’t meet his eyes. “Well, then, we’d best tell the others what we plan for the morrow, my lord.”
    She let him take her hands in his; they were like ice, bloodless. “You have it all, Somerset,” she whispered. “It is all in your hands…The vanguard, the battle, the fate of Lancaster.” She drew a ragged breath. “The life of my son.”
    * * *

  23. skpenman Says:

    Yesterday, March 24, 1603 was the date of death for the woman I always call (with a smile) “the only good Tudor,” Elizabeth I. She was sixty-nine and her death does not seem to have been a peaceful one. She is fortunate in that she has had two brilliant novels about her, which is more than many historical figures can say. Legacy by Susan Kay, covers Elizabeth’s entire life, and Margaret George deals with her last years in Elizabeth I, which I can’t resist thinking of as The Lioness in Winter. I highly recommend both novels.

    March 25th in 1306 saw the coronation of Robert the Bruce as King of Scotland.
    March 25th was also the birthdate of Blanche of Lancaster; 1345 is traditionally given as the year of her birth, but I’ve also seen it as 1346. She was a great heiress, and in 1359, she wed her third cousin, John of Gaunt. They had seven children, so she was usually pregnant during her nine year marriage, which is believed to have been a happy one. Only three of her children survived, but one would become the first Lancastrian king, Henry IV. She died in 1368, of what may have been the bubonic plague, at only twenty-one or twenty-two, and her husband grieved greatly for her. I tend to envision her as soft-spoken and fair, a lovely ghost who would haunt her husband’s memory with a rustle of silken skirts and a swirl of silvery blonde hair, an ethereal creature of moonlight, ivory, and lace, forever young. She inspired the major character in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Book of the Duchess, and was sympathetically portrayed in Anya Seton’s classic novel, Katherine. Katherine is, of course, Katherine Swynford, one-half of one of the more famous love affairs of the Middle Ages; she was governess to Blanche and John’s children and, after Blanche’s death, his mistress, and eventually his third wife, a marriage that scandalized his world and delighted all of us who are secret romantics at heart. Yet he requested to be buried next to Blanche.

  24. skpenman Says:

    On Friday, March 26, 1199, Richard I was struck by a crossbow bolt as he inspected the siege at the castle of Chalus Chabrol in the Limousin. I am giving away no plot twists for new readers to report that his was a very painful death and a needless one, easily avoided if only he’d bothered to wear his hauberk. I suspect that many who loved Richard were furious with him even as they mourned him, for his sudden death changed history in so many ways, both for countries and for individuals. A brief scene from Ransom, pages 576-577
    * * *
    The sky along the horizon was glowing like the embers of a dying fire as this last Friday in March ebbed away. There was still enough daylight remaining for Richard to assess Chalus’s weaknesses, though. (omission)
    One of Richard’s sergeants had set up his large rectangular shield, and he and Mercadier were standing behind it as they debated where the castle seemed most vulnerable to an assault. They were soon joined by William de Braose. (omission) Glancing at Richard’s crossbow, he said, “You’ll get few chances to make use of that, sire. Our crossbowmen have kept the castle defenders off the walls for much of the day, aside from one lunatic by the gatehouse.”
    Richard arched a brow. “Why call him a lunatic, Will?”
    “See for yourself, my liege.” The Marcher lord gestured and Richard squinted until he located the lone man on the castle battlements When he did, he burst out laughing, for this enemy crossbowman was using a large frying pan as a shield, deflecting the bolts coming his way with surprising dexterity. De Braose and Mercadier were not surprised by his reaction, for they’d known this was just the sort of mad gallantry to appeal to Richard. But because chivalry was as alien a tongue to them as the languages spoken in Cathay, they saw the knave wielding a frying pan as nothing more than a nuisance to be eliminated, sooner rather than later.
    When the crossbowman used his makeshift shield to turn aside another bolt, Richard gave him a playful, mocking salute. He was still laughing when the crossbowman aimed at him and he was slow, therefore, in ducking for cover behind his shield. The bolt struck him in the left shoulder, just above his collarbone. The impact was great enough to stagger him, although he managed to keep his balance, grabbing the edge of the shield to steady himself. There was no pain, not yet, but he’d suffered enough wounds to know that would not last. His first coherent thought was relief that dusk was fast falling, for when he glanced around hastily, it was clear that none of his men had seen him hit. Only de Braose and Mercadier had been close enough to see what had happened, and while their dismay was obvious even in the fading light, he knew they were too battle-wise to cry out, to let others know that their king had just been shot.
    * * *
    It was perhaps inevitable that sooner or later, Richard’s recklessness would outrun his fabled luck, but it is interesting that a contributing factor in his death was his sense of humor; had he not been so amused by the crossbowman’s frying pan shield, he might have been able to duck in time. Another of his flaws, his impulsiveness, would also play a role in what followed, as those of you who’ve read Ransom will remember. And yes, this is the same infamous William de Braose who became one of Johns’ primary supporters until their fatal falling-out, dramatized in Here Be Dragons.

  25. skpenman Says:

    I hope all of my readers who celebrate Easter had as good a day as I did.
    Here is a fun quiz from one of my favorite websites, What century do you belong in? Not surprisingly, I suppose, I would be most at home in the eleventh century. I have my doubts, though, because of four words—indoor plumbing, central heat.

  26. skpenman Says:

    I have a favor to ask. A young man from the UK contacted me recently with a favor of his own to ask. His family has been going through a rough patch, dealing with some serious health issues. His mother will be celebrating her sixtieth birthday on April 8th and he wants to make it a special one for her in light of their family struggles. She enjoys my books, so he was hoping that I could send her a birthday card. I was happy to do more than that and have mailed two signed copies of my recent books as a birthday surprise. He thinks that she would love to receive birthday greetings from others, too, and found a way to make that possible while still protecting her privacy; clearly she has a very clever son! Here is the e-mail address. I am hoping that many of you will be willing to send her birthday greetings; she is one of us, a book lover, after all. Her name is Heather, and her son and I would be very grateful if you help to brighten her birthday.

  27. Joan Says:

    21st century here! Hmmm…..

  28. skpenman Says:

    I think you are the lucky one, Joan!

    Thank you all so much for your generous response to my request yesterday, that you send birthday greeting to Heather, one of my British readers whose family is dealing with more than their share of problems. Her son was amazed when he checked and found that there were 80 Happy Birthday wishes. I told him there’d be more; he now agrees with me that I have the world’s best readers. Heather’s birthday is April 8th, so there is still time to send her greetings at

    April 1st, 1204 is the death date of one of the most remarkable women of the Middle Ages, Eleanor of Aquitaine. She was queen of England and France, yet she is known to posterity by neither title, and I think that would have pleased her, for her love of her duchy was the lodestar of her life. She was in her eightieth year, a vast age for her time and a respectable one for ours, having outlived two husbands and enemies beyond counting. But she also outlived eight of her ten children, including her favorite son. She endured much tragedy in her life, but surely one of her worst ordeals must have been to watch helplessly as Richard paid in pain for his earthly sins. She rallied, though, to gain the throne for her youngest son, John. Yet I wonder if she believed their dynasty would survive, for she knew that John, for all of his cleverness and ambition, had some serious character flaws, with one that would prove fatal to a king—his inability to trust others, which made it impossible for them to trust him.
    I did not dramatize her death in Here Be Dragons; John and Joanna learned of it from a distance. Since Dragons, Eleanor has taken a starring role in five more of my historical novels, plus all four of my mysteries. So I felt that I owed her a death scene and I wrote one for her in A King’s Ransom. It occurred in the epilogue, so I gave her the last word. I suspect she would enjoy that. Here it is, A King’s Ransom, page 657
    * * *
    Richenza slipped quietly into the chamber, holding a candle aloft. At her wordless query, Dame Amaria shook her head, saying that the queen had not regained consciousness. “But she was talking, my lady.”
    “She’s done that before,” Richenza said sadly. She yearned for some last lucid moments with her grandmother, but Eleanor’s fevered murmurings were incoherent, not meant for them.
    “This was different, my lady. She said ‘Harry’ and ‘Richard’ so very clearly. It was ….it was as if she were speaking to them, that they were right here in the chamber with us. The doctor insisted it was the fever, but I do not think so. See for yourself.”
    Richenza turned toward the bed and her eyes widened. It had been a long time since her grandmother had looked as she did now—at peace. It was as if all the pain and grief of her last years had been erased, and the candlelight was kind, hinting at the great beauty she’d once been in the sculptured hollows of her cheekbones and the flushed color restored by fever. Leaning over, Richenza took the dying woman’s hand.
    “Grandame?” Eleanor did not respond, but Richenza was suddenly sure she was listening to other voices, for the corners of her mouth were curving in what could have been a smile.
    * * *

  29. Malcolm Craig Says:

    As we both know, Sharon, it is unfortunate that Geoffrey died so soon. Based on his rule in Brittany, he could trust other men and be trusted by them. Of course, with King Geoffrey, there might have been no Magna Carta.

  30. skpenman Says:

    Interesting point, Mac. It is fascinating to speculate about the many What Ifs if Geoffrey had not died in that tournament.

    With just three and a half weeks until Game of Thrones finally returns for the new season, this seems like a good time for some speculation. Here are five questions prompted by the HBO trailer, and no, one of them is not “Is Jon Snow really dead?”
    Sorry to have disappeared again for a few days, but I was dealing with lots of bloodshed and then a deathbed vigil. I know what a shock this will be to my readers—not! Yes, characters will be dying in The Land Beyond the Sea, and not always the ones who most deserve it.
    Oh, and Go, Wildcats! Meaningless, I know, except for college basketball fans. Hey, I need something to tide me over until football season starts again.

  31. Joan Says:

    An article caught my eye today on the Oxford University Press blog…….”Hamilton the musical: America then told by America now”. Last week the main cast members were interviewed by Charlie Rose in the theatre. It captured me, the brilliance & energy of this group & knew I’d have to see this musical when they go on tour. You can still watch the interview on C Rose’s website. This couldn’t be more timely. On all levels, this production promises a rich rewarding experience.

  32. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    I’d love to see it, too, Joan.

    There are so many incidents in which the death of one man changed the course of history. Abraham Lincoln, Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great all come to mind. England’s history would certainly have been different if Richard III had not died at Bosworth, or if Edward VI had lived to a ripe old age, denying the throne to his half-sister Elizabeth. The death of Henry I’s sole legitimate son on the White Ship sinking is another example. As is the death of Richard I.
    The Lionheart died at 7 PM on Tuesday, April 6th in 1199. He was forty-one and had reigned less than ten years. I always thought it surprising that he’d lived as long as he did. In Lionheart, I had a scene where Richard was gravely ill with what they called quartan fever and we call malaria. He was hallucinating and in his fevered dream, he was tormented by his brother John and the French king, who boasted of what they planned to do to his kingdom once he was dead. He was then visited by Brother Geoffrey, who explained cheerfully that, unlike John, he’d have been willing to wait to claim the crown. “Face it, Richard, you’ll never make old bones. Other men lust after women. You lust after Death, always have. You’ve been chasing after her like a lovesick lad, and sooner or later, she’ll take pity and let you catch her.”
    And at Chalus, she did.
    Richard’s death was a great shock to his contemporaries, and obviously had a dramatic impact upon English and French history. But it also affected German history and the history of the region of France known today as the Languedoc. Heinrich von Hohenstaufen’s sudden death at the age of 32 was also one of those deaths that changed history, resulting in the election to the imperial throne of Richard’s nephew, Otto, son of his sister Matilda. Otto gained the crown in large measure because he had the backing of his uncle; Richard used both his political clout and his money to make it happen. But Richard’s death took away that support. Compared to Richard, John was a weak reed, and when Otto’s troubles began, he did not have the help of the one man who might have been able to right his sinking ship of state.
    The fate of Languedoc is even more closely tied to Richard’s careless encounter with that Chalus crossbowman. Ten years later, Languedoc would be ravaged by the so-called Albigensian crusade, one of the darker episodes on the history of the medieval Church, in which the threat of heresy was used as an excuse to steal the lands of the southern lords and to introduce the Inquisition. This would not have happened if Richard were still alive in 1209. He would never have permitted French troops to invade a land he considered within the Angevin sphere of influence. The Dukes of Aquitaine had claimed Toulouse since the time of Eleanor’s grandmother, and the ties were even stronger by 1209, for they were blood ties; the Count of Toulouse was Richard’s brother by marriage and his young son was Richard’s nephew. Had Richard been alive to cast his formidable shadow over Toulouse, the Albigensian crusade would not have happened—at least not then. I think it was inevitable that the south would have been conquered; its culture was too worldly, its society too tolerant, its lands too rich. But these horrors would have been visited upon later generations, and the people ruled by Count Raimond, the young Viscount of Carcassonne, and the lords of 13th century Languedoc would have been spared the persecution, the massacres, and the Inquisition.
    Richard’s death had personal as well as political consequences, of course. It devastated his mother, who was with him when he died. His sister Joanna was said to be inconsolable. His illegitimate son was reported by one chronicler to have slain the Viscount of Limoges, whom he blamed for his father’s death; although that chronicler, Roger de Hoveden, is one of the most reliable of the 12th century historians, historians in our age tend to discount this story because no other source confirms it. But that it was believed by some shows the depth of a son’s grief and rage. Although Richard had pardoned the man who’d shot him, after his death, Mercadier had the man put to a gruesome death, indicating this cynical mercenary mourned his king. And the one and only time that Berengaria ventures from the shadows, the only time that we catch a glimpse of the woman, not the queen, comes from the account of St Hugh of Lincoln, who stopped by her castle at Beaufort en Valle to offer her comfort on his way to preside over Richard’s funeral at Fontevrault Abbey. Here is what was written of that meeting:
    “Hearing, however, that Queen Berengaria was staying in the castle of Beaufort, he left the high road and journeyed through a wild forest region to that town in order to comfort her for the death of her husband. His words went straight to the soul of the sorrowing and almost broken-hearted widow and calmed her grief in a wonderful way.”
    So we know that Berengaria grieved upon learning of Richard’s death, but did she weep for Richard himself? For what might have been? Perhaps for herself, envisioning a hard future without Richard’s protection? Or for all of those reasons? We do not know, for she took her secrets to the grave. She was just twenty-nine when Richard died, but she never married again, her long widowhood stretching more than thirty years. Richard had provided generously for her, but John treated her very shabbily, and it would be the French king, Philippe, who would eventually come to her aid. She settled in Le Mans, where today there is a street named after La Reine Berengere, and her lovely effigy rests in the abbey that she founded in her last years, on the outskirts of the city.
    Richard, of course, rests at Fontevrault Abbey, having asked to be buried at his father’s feet as a gesture of repentance. Eleanor is buried there, too, as are Joanna and her son. The interloper is Isabelle d’Angouleme, John’s second wife, who died at the abbey after having to seek shelter there from the wrath of the French king; originally buried in the nuns’ cemetery, she was moved into the church with her Angevin in-laws at the request of her son, Henry III. When I’ve been at Fontevrault, I’ve sometimes thought that Berengaria belonged there more than Isabelle. But would she have wanted that? Whatever her feelings for Richard might have been, I suspect she might not have wanted to share eternity with Eleanor.

  33. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Well, I am starting to think that spring is just an urban myth, like alligators living in the NYC sewer system or the man with a hook lurking in lovers’ lanes. The forecast for tomorrow includes that dreaded four letter word—snow. And other one, cold.
    At least things are heating up in Westeros. Just sixteen days until the new season starts, in case anyone is counting. Meanwhile, here is something to tide us over till then.

  34. skpenman Says:

    On this date in 1483, Edward IV died, just a few weeks shy of his 41st birthday. We sometimes play the What If game here. Well, Edward’s death offers a gigantic What if. Had he not died prematurely, had he lived another ten or fifteen years, the consequences of that would be mind-boggling. His son would have been grown at the time of his eventual death and most likely would have succeeded to the throne. It is impossible to say what would have happened then. We can only be sure of the obvious. No King Richard III. No Shakespeare play. No Sunne in Splendour. No Tudors! Would England have remained Catholic? Or would it have heeded Martin Luther’s siren song? Who knows? But it is fascinating to speculate about it.
    April 9th 1137 was also the death date of Eleanor’s father, William, the 10th Duke of Aquitaine, He was only thirty-eight. And on this date in 1413, Henry V was crowned as King of England.
    April 9th is often given as the death date for Richard III and Anne Neville’s son, Edward of Middleham. I’ve always been skeptical of this; it sounded like Tudor propaganda, for if Richard’s son had died on the same day as his brother, it would seem as if it was the punishment of God for his sin in claiming the throne and supposedly putting his nephews to death. The Croyland Chronicler was not a friend to Richard, but this is what he wrote:
    “However, in a short time after, it was fully seen how vain are the thoughts of a man who desires to establish his interests without the aid of God. For, in the following month of April, on a day not very far distant from the anniversary of king Edward, this only son of his, in whom all the hopes of the royal succession, fortified with so many oaths, were centred, was seized with an illness of but short duration, and died at Middleham Castle, in the year of our Lord, 1484, being the first of the reign of the said king Richard. On hearing the news of this, at Nottingham, where they were then residing, you might have seen his father and mother in a state almost bordering on madness, by reason of their sudden grief.”
    * * *
    Outlander fans probably already know that the new season begins tonight on Starz; sadly, still 15 days to wait for Game of Thrones. Oh, and it is snowing here, with snow flake the size of baseballs. Maybe I should have named my new laptop Mother Nature instead of Diablo, for she seems to share his perverse sense of humor.

  35. Malcolm Craig Says:

    If Edward IV’s older son had died young of natural causes, there would have been a different Richard III - his younger brother. With Edward IV’s reign lasting through the end of the century, Henry Tudor might have lived out his life as a fugitive in Brittany.

  36. skpenman Says:

    Very good point, Mac! I especially like the thought of Tudor living as a fugitive, preferably an impoverished one.

    On April 10th, 1191, Richard and his fleet sailed from Messina on the way to the Holy Land. It would have been a very colorful sight.
    Here is the description of their departure from Messina in Lionheart, page 204.
    * * *
    It was not until Wednesday in Holy Week that the royal fleet was ready to sail and most of the city turned out for the event, thankful that this foreign army was finally departing but also delighting in this extraordinary spectacle. More than two hundred ships and seventeen thousand soldiers and sailors. Large transport vessels called busses. Naves that relied only upon sails. And the ships that drew all eyes and evoked admiring murmurs from the townspeople—the sleek, deadly war galleys, painted in bright colors, their gunwales hung with shields, the red and gold banners of the English king streaming from their mastheads. The crusade of Richard Coeur de Lion was at last under way.
    After such a dramatic departure from Messina, what followed was anticlimactic. The wind died and the fleet found itself becalmed off the coast of Calabria. They were forced to drop anchor and wait. After the sun set in a blood-red haze, many took comfort from the glow of the lantern placed aloft in Richard’s galley. He’d promised to light it each and every night, a guiding beacon for his ships, reassuring proof of his presence in the midst of the dark, ominous Greek Sea. The next day the winds picked up, but they remained weak and variable, and not much progress was made. Yet so far the voyage had been calm and for that, seventeen thousand souls were utterly thankful.
    * * *
    But two days later they ran into a savage Good Friday storm that scattered the fleet and put Joanna and Berengaria in peril when their ship ran aground off the Cyprus coast. But that occurred in another chapter, one I had great fun writing. I could usually count on the Lionheart to provide me with a Hollywood moment now and then.

  37. skpenman Says:

    On April 11, 1240, the greatest of the Welsh princes—at least IMHO—Llywelyn ab Iorwerth died at Aberconwy Abbey, having taking holy vows on his deathbed. He is better known to history as Llywelyn Fawr—Llywelyn the Great, deservedly so.
    Falls the Shadow, pages 115-116, scene between the dying Welsh prince and his young grandson, Llywelyn ap Gruffydd. The boy has smuggled holy water from the church, hoping that if Llywelyn rubs it on his chest, he might recover. Llywelyn refuses, quoting from his favorite verse of Scriptures, Ecclesiastes, that everything has its season. But that is not what his grandson wants to hear.
    * * *
    “Is that what you’d have me believe, Grandpapa, that it is your time?”
    “Yes.” Llywelyn shoved a pillow behind his shoulders. The pain was back—by now an old and familiar foe—spreading down his arm, up to his neck. But he did not want the boy to know. He found a smile, said, “It has been more than three years, after all. Joanna grows impatient—and I’ve never been one to keep a lady waiting.”
    Llelo’s head jerked up. “How can you do that? How can you jest about dying?”
    He sounded angry. Llywelyn looked at him, at last said quietly, “What other way is there?”
    Without warning, Llelo’s eyes filled with tears. He sought without success to blink them back, then felt his grandfather’s hand on his.
    “Try not to grieve too much, lad. I’ve not been cheated. I’ve had a long life, with more than my share of joys. I sired sons and daughters. No man had better friends. I found two women to love, and a fair number to bed with. And I die knowing that Wales is in good hands….”
    Llelo frowned. “Davydd?” he mumbled and his grandfather nodded.
    “Yes, Davydd….and you, Llelo.”
    He heard the boy’s intake of breath. “Me?’
    “Davydd has no son. God may yet bless him with one. But if not, he’ll need an heir. And in all of Christendom, he could do no better than you, Llelo.”
    As young as he was, Llelo had learned some hard lessons in self-control. But he’d never felt the need for defenses with his grandfather and Llywelyn could see the boy’s confusion, could see the conflict of pride and excitement and guilt.
    Llywelyn shifted his position; the pain was starting to ease somewhat. He was very tired and not at all sure that he should have shared his dream with the boy. But then Llelo said, “Do you truly have so much faith in me?” and there was wonderment in his voice.
    Llywelyn swallowed with difficulty. He nodded, then leaned forward and gathered his grandson into his arms. Llelo clung tightly; he made no sound, but Llywelyn could feel him trembling. “I’d be lying if I said I had no regrets, Llelo. But I was not lying when I told you that I believe it is my time.” After a long silence, he said, very softly, “I should have liked, though, to have seen the man you will become.”
    * * *

  38. skpenman Says:

    April is proving to be a bloody month; I have to fight two battles in less than a fortnight. The first one is done, but I am about to start some serious bloodshed in the second one. The research for this one was challenging; I was spoiled by having all those first-person accounts of battles in Lionheart. I’ve found that YouTube is quite useful for getting mental images of the topography of a battlefield. My trip to Israel helped greatly, too. I’ll try to surface now and then, but for a while, I’ll be anchored on the Marjayoun Plain in Southern Lebanon; wish me luck. Meanwhile, back at the ranch:
    On April 13, 1275, Eleanor de Montfort, Countess of Leicester, daughter and sister of kings, widow of Simon de Montfort, died in exile at Montargis, France. At least Kasia did not forget and she posted about it. So here is a belated recognition of the death of a woman who knew both great joy and great tragedy in her sixty years.
    The Reckoning, pages 137-138
    * * *
    Nell’s dreams were deeply rooted in her yesterdays. They were, for the most part, tranquil and reassuringly familiar. With the blurring of time’s boundaries, her loved ones were restored to her, her family was once more intact, inviolate. She awakened from such dreams with regret, often with confusion. So it was now. The darkness was aswirl with floating lights; they swam before her dazzled eyes like phosphorescent fish in a black, black sea. For a moment she was lost, adrift on unknown currents. But as her eyes adjusted to the dark, the fish transformed themselves into the flickering flames of a servant’s candelabra, and she returned to reality with a rueful smile. This was no alien world. She was in her chamber at Montargis, on an April eve in Holy Week, and although death waited in the shadows, she had nothing to fear, for she had made her peace with God.
    There was a great comfort in knowing that all had been done. Her confessor had shriven her of her earthly sins, her will had been made, and she’d arranged for largesse to be distributed to members of her household, to the nuns and villagers who’d sought to make her exile easier. Nothing remained now except her farewells.
    “I want Ellen to have my jewels, Marguerite, except for my ruby pendant. That is for you. I’ve named Amaury as my heir, for Ellen will have Llywelyn to look after her, and the Church would not allow Guy to inherit. Dearest, will you and Philippe entreat Edward on my behalf, ask him to allow my will to be carried out? And….and urge him to be fair to my son. Amaury is innocent, should not have to pay for Guy’s sins. Make Edward see that, Marguerite, make him see that he ought to let Amaury come home…”
    “Of course we will, Nell.” Marguerite tried to sound confident, as if she truly believed that Edward would heed them. But then, she doubted if Nell believed it, either. “Nell, you must not give up. I spoke to your doctor and he still has hope, thinks you might yet rally….”
    “Simon does not think so,” Nell said softly and then smiled at the startled, dismayed looks on their faces. “My wits are not wandering. I always knew that Simon would come for me when my time was night. And now….now he is close at hand. I can feel his presence….”
    “Truly, Mama?” Ellen whispered, sounding both awed and envious.
    “Truly, love. And you know your father; he’s never been one for waiting. He always swore that I’d be late for the Last Judgment…” Nell lay back weakly on the pillow, fighting for breath. “I will not let his first words to me be ‘I told you so’” she said, summoning up one last smile, and her children discovered that it was possible to laugh while blinking back tears.
    * * *

  39. skpenman Says:

    April 14, 1471 was a very significant date for the House of York. On this day, the battle of Barnet was fought between the forces of Edward IV and the Earl of Warwick. This was the first major battle I’d “fought,” and it set the bar high for drama—the eerie, dense fog blanketing the field, Richard’s vanguard outflanking the enemy, and then the Earl of Oxford returning to the field after shattering Edward’s left wing and accidentally attacking his own side. It was eighteen year old Richard’s first taste of battle and he acquitted himself well. The victory went to Edward and among the dead were the Earl of Warwick and his brother John. But Warwick’s allies still had to be defeated, for on that same Easter Sunday, Queen Marguerite and her seventeen year old son landed at Weymouth, ending seven years of French exile. So Edward and I would have another battle to fight in just three weeks.

  40. skpenman Says:

    The battle is over! The blood has been spilled and the bodies have been buried. It was definitely one of the more challenging battles I’ve had to fight, for it was determined by several WTF mistakes, and I needed to make my readers understand how smart men could do some very stupid things. So now I am resuming contact with the real world and trying to catch up on all that fell by the wayside when I was busy wreaking havoc at Marj Ayun.
    Below is a lovely letter from Matthew, who went to such trouble to make his mother’s 60th birthday a memorable one. You, my wonderful readers, responded with such generosity that Heather received over 150 birthday greetings. So thank you again—you guys are the best!
    Also I have had to activate my Facebook Author’s Page since my personal page has frozen because I hit the 5,000 cut-off, not allowing me to add any more friends. I will post the link later today and repeatedly until everyone gets the word; you’ll need to join that page so we can continue with our Facebook family community. Actually, I did not activate it myself, being lucky enough to have Stephanie as my friend; I’d asked her to help me with it and she kindly and mercifully (given my legendary technological issues) took it upon herself to create one for me and then activated it today.
    Now, here is Matthew’s message. Lots more later.
    Hi, I’m Matthew, the “young man from the UK” that Sharon mentioned in an earlier post, who was trying to make his Mum’s 60th Birthday a truly special one. Sharon was kind enough to reply to my request and also suggest that she contact you, her fans. And you certainly didn’t disappoint!

    I want to thank you all for your help in making my Mum’s 60th Birthday a truly special one. Mum is delighted with all the messages and ecards you very kindly sent her from all four corners of the globe. It was a really nice surprise that truly made her day. She had a lovely Birthday and a big part of that is thanks to you all, your kindness and your generosity. It certainly made it a memorable one!

    Mum also sends her thanks for making her 60th Birthday a special one, and asks me to tell you that she hopes to write to thank you properly soon. It may be a little while though, as unfortunately she has problems with her hands and they are really bad at the moment so she can’t type. But she will write to thank you when she is able to.

    Thank you all, from me, my family and especially my Mum. You are a truly amazing group of people. And thank you Sharon for your own kindness, generosity and suggesting this in the first place. You’ve created a wonderful community brought together by a shared interest in the stories you write. Thank you.

    All the Best,


  41. skpenman Says:

    Here is the link to the new Facebook Author’s Page that the amazing Stephanie Churchill, fellow author and friend extraordinaire, has created for me. As I understand it, all you have to do is to click that you like it.
    I am so not happy about this, but Facebook is giving me no choice. Once I hit the 5,000 mark, I could no longer accept friend requests, and they would think I’d snubbed them. :-(

  42. skpenman Says:

    Was it T.S. Eliot who said that April was the cruelest month? That has certainly proven to be true in the past week or so as some very bright stars of the entertainment world were lost—the phenomenon known as Prince and two very talented actresses, Patty Duke and Doris Roberts. They will be missed.
    I would like to send Passover good wishes to all of my Jewish friends and readers, and to remind everyone that today is Earth Day. Sorry to end on such a bleak note, but time is running out for Mother Earth and all her denizens, too many of whom are still living in denial.
    Oh, and I want to remind you all that my personal Facebook page has been replaced by my new Author’s Page, which is so not my doing….sigh. Here is the link to the new page.

  43. skpenman Says:

    Okay, folks. One day to go. Of course it is already tomorrow Down Under, isn’t it? Does this mean you get to see the show way before the rest of us? I suppose I should clarify that this message is meant for my fellow Game of Thrones addicts; rumor has it that there are some people who do not watch the show. To ease us through the remaining hours, here is an interview with Emilia Clarke, whose favorite word comes not from the Dothraki but High Valerian—Dracarys. Since I actually named one of my computers Dracarys, clearly I agree with Danerys’s alter-ego. As some of you may remember, it did not turn out so well for my Dracarys. He had a major meltdown that fried his mother-board after only one year of computer life, during which time he gave me little but grief. I cannot even count the times I wanted to see him suffer the same fate as the evil slave trader. But here is the link to the interview.

  44. Theresa Says:

    I have seen the first episode Sharon, but like Dad I will keep Mum.

    On April 23rd 1616 died the playwright of whom it was said, ‘He was not of an age, but for all time.’
    Does anyone have a particular favorite? Mine was always the Scottish play.

    Of course he could be a little careless with the truth, especially in some of his historical plays…

  45. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Thanks for making me smile with your post, Theresa. I think I’d go with Julius Caesar and–for the sheer lyrical poetry of the language–Richard II.

    This is for my fellow Gamers—James Hibberd’s amusing recap of last night’s episode of Game of Thrones. Don’t read it if you have not watched the episode yet. This link will also take you to other interesting articles and interviews. I don’t want to commit any spoilers so I will confine myself to a few cryptic comments. Brienne, you go, girl! Are the Sand Snakes set to challenge Ramsay for the Sociopath of the Series title? I do not like Arya’s storyline at all. Did Cersei really have an introspective, insightful moment? If there is any justice in the Westeros universe—and we know there isn’t, sadly—Ghost will get to rip Alliser’s throat out, very slowly. Where was Danni’s dragon when she really needed him? I guess dragons are not as loyal as dogs or dyrewolves. And will I be the only one who’ll be watching the opening credits very closely next week?

  46. Theresa Says:

    Glad you liked it Sharon.

    With regards to GOT and the new season. I loved the part with Brienne. But the Dorne segment was a bit “meh”.

    Another King died on 21 April 1509. Apparently the news was heard with “much rejoicing by his subjects.” According to Sir Thomas More’s words. But I could be wrong there.

  47. skpenman Says:

    I’d have been rejoicing, Theresa!

    Sorry for being AWOL for a few days, but I was dealing with another back flare-up, another borderline bladder infection for Holly, some challenges with the current chapter in which Balian matches wits with Saladin, lots of drama for my fellow Eagles fans (the football team, not the band, though I like them, too.) and some temper tantrums from Diablo, who has been living up to his name again.
    Today we celebrate the birthday on August 28, 1442 of Edward, eldest son of the Duke of York and Cecily Neville. (Just in passing, no, I do not believe he was the result of a liaison between the proud duchess and an archer; I think that is about as likely as my chances of finding a unicorn in my garden tomorrow morning.) Speaking of unicorns, anyone read that short story by James Thurber, in which a husband tells his ill-tempered wife that there is a unicorn in their garden, which does not end well for the wife.
    Getting back to Edward of York, I confess that he is one of my favorite characters. There are very few I enjoyed writing about as much as Edward, and I missed him very much after he had to die. I think it was his sense of humor that I found so appealing; Edward took little in life too seriously, including himself, and it was great fun writing his scenes with his wife, who took everything with deadly seriousness. He had interesting flaws, too; perfect people are rather boring, both in person and in fiction. You can usually tell if I do not like a character in one of my books; he will have no sense of humor whatsoever and will be cheap in the bargain; paging Henry Tudor. But I play fair. You all know Edward I is not one of my favorite kings, but he did have a sharp sense of humor and I let the readers see that, as well as other admirable qualities like his courage, intelligence, affection for his wife. Now his father, Henry III, was by no means a villain; he was a decent man simply in over his head, a convincing argument against hereditary kingship. Naturally I loved writing about the Welsh princes, who offered me a rare opportunity to surprise my readers. I think that will be true as well for the new novel.
    I think I probably had the most fun, though, with the Angevins, for Henry and Eleanor and their Devil’s Brood were all born scene-stealers, quick-witted, sardonic, dramatic, ruthless, and always entertaining. I am going to miss them even more than I missed Edward once Sunne was finished. Fortunately, writers are fickle and we move on, so I am now having fun in Outremer with another cast of colorful characters, for as my favorite writer, Mark Twain, expressed it so well—Truth is always stranger than Fiction, for fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities, and Truth isn’t. Certainly not when the Plantagenets were involved.
    PS This was also the date in 1192 that Conrad of Montferrat, newly named as King of Jerusalem was murdered in the streets of Tyre by two of the feared cult, the Assassins. I didn’t get to give him many scenes in Lionheart since he was at odds with Richard, who supported Conrad’s rival, Guy de Lusignan, not one of Richard’s better decisions; the bitter feuding between Richard and the French king, Philippe Capet, led both of them astray more than once.

  48. skpenman Says:

    I am playing hooky from Outremer to say Hi and to post something for my fellow animal lovers, a remarkable story of a German shepherd’s heroics. When his family’s house caught fire, he led the firefighters through thick smoke to find the children, ages 2 and 4. The family is in the hospital but they are expected to make a full recovery. Maxx had to be rushed to the vet but he is expected to make a full recovery, too.
    Dogs are truly amazing creatures; what other animals sacrifice their own lives to save the people they love? Sometimes people they do not even know. The most incredible dog rescue story I ever heard happened on the Oregon coast a number of years ago. A 15-year-old girl was caught in a riptide and carried out to sea. Exhausted from fighting it, she was barely able to stay afloat, calling out weakly for help. Luckily for her a couple was walking on the beach with their Labrador retriever. The humans did not hear her but the dog did. Pulling the leash from his owner’s hand, he plunged into the ocean and swam out to the drowning girl. When she grabbed hold of his collar and fur, he turned and dragged her back to shore, undoubtedly saving her life. What is so noteworthy is that this girl was a total stranger to him. And here comes the most incredible part of the story. The dog was totally blind. He swam out to her by following the sound of her voice, and got back to the beach by following the cries of his owners, who’d realized what was happening. This rescue got a lot of publicity at the time and he even made the front cover of People Magazine.
    There are many stories of dogs like Maxx, alerting their people to fires, even venturing into the flames as Maxx did, their devotion overcoming their instinctive fear of fire. And sometimes they astonish us by their level of comprehension. This next account happened in Philadelphia about ten years ago. A toddler knocked the screen out of a window and clambered out onto the roof of their row house. When neighbors noticed, they called 911 and ran to bang on the child’s door. And then the family dog, a shepherd like Maxx, climbed out onto the roof, too. Reaching the little boy, she put her body between him and the edge of the roof and kept him there until his father was able to rescue him. This story made the local news, too.
    Coincidentally, there was a hero dog story in today’s news. In Virginia, a three-year-old boy wandered off into the woods by his home, accompanied by the family dachshund. For nine hours, searchers frantically hunted for him. There was a happy ending, for he was found alive and okay, with only scratches and bruises from his ordeal. But searchers gave credit to his dog. She’d remained with him during the night and then barked to attract attention. I suspect she’ll be getting lots of steak in coming weeks.
    Now back to Outremer. Have a good weekend, everybody.

  49. skpenman Says:

  50. skpenman Says:

    Oops. Diablo played one of his nasty tricks on me. Here is the full post for today.
    Here is James Hibberd’s recap of last night’s episode of Game of Thrones. He always has a few laugh-out-loud moments in these recaps, and this is no exception. I confess I had a “I’m done” moment last night, and I am sure I had a lot of company. But I can’t abandon Tyrion; also, I’ve invested five years in this series, so I will hang in there, as will most of the Thrones fans. I bet they do lose some, though.

  51. Theresa Says:

    Sharon just when we thought a character couldn’t get more disgusting, we are proved wrong.
    I was tempted to get up and leave after that scene. But I stayed till the end…Yes

    Although if anything happens to Tyrion then I will be switching off forever.

  52. skpenman Says:

    I’m with you, Theresa. Spare Tyrion, the dragons, and Ghost!

    Here is an interesting interview with Kit Harrington, Jon Snow’s alter ego. He actually had to lie to his fellow cast members and tell them he was really leaving the show, which made him feel miserable. The irony is that they wasted all that effort for nothing. I have yet to meet a single Game of Thrones fan who did not believe Jon was going to be resurrected.
    On the historical front, May 3rd, 1152 was the death date of Stephen’s queen, Matilda; he was devastated by her death and I don’t think he ever fully recovered.
    I liked Matilda because she changed in the course of the novel. She was a traditional medieval queen and wife when the book began, but as their world was torn apart by war, she rose to the occasion magnificently, developing self-confidence and even boldness as she labored on Stephen’s behalf.
    Part of Matilda’s death scene, Saints, page 627-628
    * * *
    Matilda had always envisioned time as a river, flowing forward inexorably into the future, forcing people to keep up with the current as best they could. No more, though. Time had become tidal. Lying in the shuttered dark of an unfamiliar bedchamber, she could feel it receding toward the horizon, leaving her stranded upon the shore. As a little girl in Boulogne, she’d often walked along the beach, throwing back the starfish trapped by the ebbing tide. Now, forty years later, when it was her turn to be marooned by the retreating waves, there was no one to save her as she’d saved the starfish, but she did not mourn for herself. Dying was not so terrible, for all that people feared it so. She was in God’s Hands, a feather floating on the wind, waiting to see if He would call her home.
    “Stephen…..” Not even a whisper in her own ears, but he somehow heard her and leaned over, vivid blue eyes of their lost youth, awash now in tears. “Look after Constance….” But who would look after him? Surely the Almighty would, for even his worst mistakes were well-intentioned. Did this too-clever son of Maude’s have such a good heart? No….God would judge what mattered most.
    Stephen was kissing her hand, pressing it against his wet cheek. His beard was grizzled with silver, like an early frost. How old he seemed of a sudden. She wanted to tell him one last time that she loved him, to promise that she’d be waiting for him at Heaven’s Gate. But she could not catch her breath. She closed her eyes and when she opened them again, the room was filling with light. She could hear sobbing, but it seemed to be coming from a great distance. It grew more and more faint, until at last she could not hear it at all.
    * * *

  53. skpenman Says:

    I will eventually get around to doing a new blog, honestly. Just as soon as I can finish my current chapter. Come to think of it, that is what I used to say to my mom as a child, when she’d want me to turn out the light and go to sleep.

    May 4th is the anniversary of the great battle fought in 1471 which resulted in a total triumph for the Yorkist king, Edward. It was one of the most challenging battles I’ve had to write about, in part because so much was going on. And of course the chase itself was very dramatic as Marguerite sought desperately to cross the River Severn and Edward moved heaven and earth to catch her before she could slip away into Wales. It may sound strange to pick a “favorite” battle, but this one is mine, speaking strictly as a writer. It had everything—that mad dash for the Severn, a reckless gamble by the Duke of Somerset in an all or nothing throw of the dice, suspense, improbable plot twists, a stunning scene of vengeance that no author would have dared to invent; those who’ve read Sunne will know which one I mean. I meant to quote from a passage involving Edward or Richard, but I decided instead to give center stage to the courageous, honorable and doomed Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset.
    Sunne in Splendour, page 477
    * * * * *
    The Sunne of York bannered the field, swept all before it. The heart had gone from the Lancastrian army. They’d seen their vanguard slaughtered, seen their leaders turn upon each other. Now men cast aside their weapons, sought only to save themselves, and Somerset alone tried to hold them against York.
    Devon was dead. So was Somerset’s brother, John Beaufort. Prince Edouard had long since fled the field, urged on by the bodyguards sworn to see to his safety. Somerset’s men drowned trying to cross the Avon, died trying to reach the sanctuary of the abbey. Somerset found himself upon a field with his dead and the exultant soldiers of the White Rose, and as he raged among them, cursing and sobbing, even death seemed to elude him, until at last he sank to his knees, had not the strength to rise, to lift his sword, watching through a red wavering haze the death of the House of Lancaster.
    * * * *
    On a thoroughly different note, May 4th 1929 is the birthday of the utterly unforgettable actress, Audrey Hepburn. It is much harder to pick my favorite Audrey Hepburn film than it is to pick my favorite medieval battle, but I think maybe it is the bittersweet Robin and Marian

  54. skpenman Says:

    I want to let my Canadian friends and readers know that we are all sending you our hopes and prayers that the horrific fires will soon be under control and people can return to their homes. Sadly, many will have no homes to return to.
    May 5, 1191 was the day of one of Richard’s most dramatic rescues. For five days, his wife and betrothed had been trapped on a ship off the coast of Cyprus, desperately fending off the enticements and then the threats by the Cypriot despot, Isaac Comnenus, who wanted to get them ashore to hold them as hostages. Knowing he could take them by force, they’d stalled for time by promising to come ashore the next day. This is how one of the chroniclers
    who’d accompanied Richard on crusade describes it:
    “While the queens were burning with gnawing anxiety, God sent them prompt help. On that same Sunday, while they were gloomily discussing and bewailing their situation to each other and gazing out across the sea, two ships appeared in the distance among the foaming peaks of the rolling waves, sailing rapidly toward them, tossing about like little crows. The queens were still doubtful as to what this was when they caught sight of some other ships following them. An enormous number of ships were heading directly toward the port at great speed…They were overjoyed, the more so because help is all the more welcome to those who have despaired of it.”
    The author of the Itinerarium and the second major crusader chronicler, Ambroise, were clearly writers at heart, for their chronicles are much more lively and colorful than the usual staid, dry accounts we get from medieval monks. I enjoyed writing my Cypriot scenes, for the chroniclers showed Joanna to be her mother’s daughter in the way she matched wits with Isaac, finding excuses to avoid leaving their ship. And at the risk of a little immodesty, I think my account is even more dramatic than those found in the Itinerarium and Ambroise:
    * * *
    “It happened with such suddenness that men were not sure at first if they could trust their senses. There was nothing to the west but sea and sky and those two ships tacking against the wind. And then the horizon was filled with sails, stretching as far as the eye could see. A moment of stunned disbelief gave way almost at once to pandemonium, and for the rest of their lives, there would be men who vowed they’d never experienced an emotion as over-whelming as the joy of deliverance on a May Sunday off the coast of Cyprus.
    “The sharp-eyed sailors spotted it first. ‘The Sea-Cleaver! The king’s galley!’ But Richard’s women needed to see it for themselves, scarcely breathing until it came into focus, looking like a Norse long-ship, its hull as red as the sunset, its sails catching the wind, and streaming from its masthead the banner emblazed with the royal lion of England. “
    * * *
    Lionheart may be the most visual book I’ve ever written. It was certainly the one in which I had the most detailed contemporary sources to draw upon, chronicles written by men who were eye-witnesses to the events I was writing about. For a writer, it doesn’t get any better than that.

  55. skpenman Says:

    I hope all of my friends and readers who are fortunate enough to be mothers are having a good day with your loved ones. Not as peaceful elsewhere. In the fictional world of Outremer, I am about to commit mass murder—the deaths of nearly 1,000 men does qualify, right?
    I am sure most, if not all, of us are thoroughly disgusted with the US primary campaigning. Apparently, so are the pundits at CNN, for they have decided to cover politics in Westeros, instead, with predictably hilarious results.

  56. Joan Says:

    Thank you Sharon for your kind wishes. I was in Calgary a week ago & thought for sure there would be even a faint whiff of smoke in the air but it has been blowing eastward. Terrible disaster, though must say how proud I am & grateful that the situation is being handled so well, with no loss of life directly related to the inferno.

    Re the campaigning, disgusted doesn’t begin to describe what most of us are feeling. And what bad timing that I should choose this year to finally learn something about the complicated system of primaries, caucuses, the convention, etc. And the worst is yet to come! With the whole world watching! Unbelievable!

    And now I’ll let you get back to your blood-letting.

  57. Sharon K Penman Says:

    I am so glad you don’t live near the fires, Joan. I believe they are under control by now, right? It is a frightening thought, but we are going to be seeing more and more of massive fires like this.

    Sorry for the disappearing act again, but I was hiding from the deadline dragon. I did get the chapter done, though, and the blood of 1,500 men is now on my hands. The medievals were very casual when it came to numbers, but in this case, historians accept it as true.
    I hope none of my readers and Facebook friends have been affected by the scary weather afflicting parts of the US and that none of my Canadian friends had to deal with that epic forest fire.
    On the historical front, May 12, 1191 was the date of the marriage of Richard of England and Berengaria of Navarre. I’ve said before that I was surprised to find that the marriage seemed to get off to a promising start given its sad ending, but they were polar opposites in so many ways and that rarely makes for a long and happy marriage. I had fun writing these Lionheart scenes, though, as Richard ambushes the women with his nonchalant suggestion that he and Berengaria wed that weekend. In his best oblivious mode, he cannot understand why Joanna is so dismayed. When she demands to know how they could possibly pull off a royal wedding in just a few days, he casually counters,
    “How hard could it be? I assume Berenguela did not intend to get married stark naked, so she must have a suitable gown in her coffers. I thought we’d have her coronation at the same time.” Richard glanced over at his mute betrothed and smiled. “I daresay you’ll be the first and the last Queen of England ever to be crowned in Cyprus, little dove.”
    And in that, he was right. She was.
    Ironically, although I don’t think she found much happiness in marriage to Richard, he bestowed some of his own celebrity status upon her. Just as he is one of the best known medieval kings, she is better known than many of the other women who wed English kings. How many of them have a street in a French city named after them? Or how many were portrayed in a Hollywood film in which she snatches Richard’s sword and refuses to give it back as he is about to rush off to fight the Saracens? I have my friend Owen to thank for calling this to my attention, since I’ve not seen this epic for myself; he says she also scolds him as “Dick Plantagenet” and that alone would be worth the price of admission.

  58. Sharon K Penman Says:

    May 14, 1264 was the battle of Lewes, in which Simon de Montfort defeated and captured Henry III. This was one of my favorite battles for it was so dramatic and filled with unexpected turns and twists. Lewes was protected by the river but vulnerable to attack from the west, from the Downs, and Simon made a night march to take the royal army by surprise at dawn the next morning. Edward made a major mistake by leaving the field in pursuit of the panicked Londoners, wanting revenge for the time Londoners had pelted his mother with mud, ripe fruit, and curses; he actually pursued them for several miles. Simon, a gifted military commander, realized what was happening when Edward’s vanguard chased after the Londoners and led his reserve against Henry’s left flank, a surprise strike that gave him the victory. Henry’s brother Richard was captured after taking refuge in a mill. Then Edward fought his way into the priory where his father was trapped instead of fleeing to continue the war. And of course it was a family affair. Simon was wed to Henry’s sister and his sons and Edward were first cousins and childhood companions; Simon himself was Edward’s godfather. What writer wouldn’t want to fight a battle like that?
    Simon was a man of many contradictions, with his share of flaws. But he genuinely believed that even a king should have accountability and this French-born baron would call the first parliament in which both knights and burgesses from the towns would attend and be elected. Unlike most rebellions, Simon’s supporters were fighting for a cause, not personal grievances. Simon was said to have given a stirring pre-battle speech; this is the one I gave to him. “This day we fight for justice, for Christ’s poor, for the weal of England, for the promises broken and the trust betrayed. Our cause is just, our quarrel good.” Henry’s rebuttal that as the king, he was answerable only to God did not have quite the same resonance. 
    I remember trekking the bridle path that Simon’s army would have taken up Offham Hill, not sure we were going the right way, but following Geoff, my English godson, who insisted he knew where we were going, and he did. Eventually we came out upon the Downs and there was the town of Lewes lying below us, just as Simon and his men would have seen it so many centuries ago. History seemed very close at that moment.

  59. Sharon K Penman Says:

    Here is James Hibberd’s Game of Thrones recap for last night’s episode. Enjoy. I thought this was one of their best episodes.
    I am actually going to be able to put up a new blog later today; will wonders never cease?

  60. Joan Says:

    Sharon, I caught up with the Alberta fire news & see that the area has grown to about 355,000 hectares, fire spreading north & east & may have reached the Saskatchewan border by now. On Monday another 8000 evacuees left the area. Heavy rainfall seems to be the only answer. I agree, this inferno is a grim forecast of what’s ahead.

  61. Léa Says:

    Wonderful to give a second chance to these poor dogs.
    Many people I know don’t want to adopt an old dog because they’re afraid (s)he might harm children if (s)he was ill-treated before being abandonned.

  62. sad classical radio Says:

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