I am sorry that it has taken me so long to write a new blog, but as many of you know from reading my Facebook and Goodreads posts, I have been dealing with an injury that has forced me to severely limit my time at the computer. This, of course, wreaked havoc upon my deadline, gave unholy glee to my unwelcome roommate, the Deadline Dragon, and caused a lot to just slip through the cracks. I am—I hope—on the mend now, though.

In my last blog, I promised to hold a drawing for all of my readers who posted comments about any of my mysteries on that blog. I finally was able to do that drawing and the winner is Chris Torrance. I can give you a hardcover edition of Prince of Darkness or Dragon’s Lair, Chris; just let me know which one you prefer. I started thinking about it after you emerged as the winner and remembered that the first four horses in a race receive prizes. That seemed like a good idea so I drew three more names. Sara, I will be happy to give you a copy of Prince of Darkness, too; you mentioned that you would like to read that one. Rosemary and Thomas Greene , you are also winners. I am afraid you’ll have to settle for paperback editions, but you both can choose between Dragon’s Lair and Prince of Darkness. Unfortunately, I’ve about run out of copies of The Queen’s Man and Cruel as the Grave. Please contact me through my Contact Sharon feature on my website and once I have your addresses, I can send the books out.

I really enjoyed the reader responses to my last blog. So many of you provided wonderful first sentences from books you enjoyed and all of them made me want to read those books. Of course at this point, my TBR list is so long that I’d need nine lives like a cat in order to read them all. That is true for virtually all book lovers. This is why the saddest Twilight Zone episode ever was the one about the librarian who somehow survived a catastrophe, emerging to find NYC was intact but all the people were gone. I saw it as a child, so I am very fuzzy on the details. All I remember is the ending. He was naturally stunned at first, but then realized he could spend the rest of his life reading. But as he sat on the steps of the New York City library, he dropped his glasses and they broke. I think I cried when that happened.

I still have to pace myself when it comes to using the computer, so this will probably be my shortest blog ever. Not surprisingly, it is book-themed. Here is my question: What was the book you read this year that truly resonated with you, one you will long remember? This is sure to give us all dozens of new books to add to our TBR lists as we go happily off into book bankruptcy together.

For me, it was The Underdogs: children, dogs, and the power of unconditional love by Melissa Fay Greene. This was one of the most moving and inspirational stories I’ve ever read. The author tells the true story of Karen Shirk, a young woman stricken at age 24 with a neuromuscular disease that put her in a wheel chair and made her dependent upon a ventilator. She was turned down by every service dog agency in the country because she was “too disabled.” Instead of despairing, she trained her own service dog, but she was haunted by the thought of all the people who were being denied the service dogs that would have enabled them to lead productive lives, especially children.

The result was 4 Paws for Ability, the service dog academy that she founded and runs today in Ohio. The Underdogs tells the story of how this came to be, interspersed with heartbreaking glimpses into the lives of overwhelmed parents struggling desperately to help their stricken children, families whose lives would be transformed by the service dogs that Karen selected for them. As I read this remarkable book, I could only marvel at the resiliency of the human spirit and I cannot recommend it highly enough. The Amazon description of The Underdogs says it better than I could: “Written with characteristic insight, humanity, humor, and irrepressible joy, what could have been merely touching is a penetrating, compassionate exploration of larger questions about our attachments to dogs, what constitutes a productive life, and what can be accomplished with unconditional love.” I have decided that if I am ever lucky enough to win the lottery, a good portion of those winnings will go to Karen Shirk and 4 Paws for Ability. It costs over $16,000 to train one of her service dogs, most of which she finds in shelters; she helps the families to raise the money. But if ever anyone deserved a financial good angel, this is the woman.

I’d like to close by calling a few books to your attention. I do this from time to time, for even though I have not read these novels, I think they might be of interest to my history-loving, book-loving readers and friends. I will start with Samantha Wilcoxson, who has written two intriguing novels about historical figures we have come to care about. Her newest is Faithful Traitor: the story of Margaret Pole. Margaret was the daughter of George of Clarence, who was murdered—no other word for it—by Henry VIII and would later by beatified by the Catholic Church. Her second novel tells the story of a woman familiar to any readers of The Sunne in Splendour, titled Plantagenet Princess, Tudor Queen: the story of Elizabeth of York.

Moving back to the twelfth century, Hilary Benford has just written a novel about Richard I’s sister, Joanna, titled Sister of the Lionheart. I really enjoyed writing about Joanna and can well understand the magnetic pull she exerted upon Hilary. And Charlene Newcomb is continuing the story of two fictional young knights who accompanied the Lionheart to the Holy Land on the Third Crusade. The first book was titled Men of the Cross and her new one is called For King and Country. All of these books are available on Amazon’s mother ship and its satellite sites and the last time I checked, they were garnering some very enthusiastic reviews.

Lastly, there is finally a biography out of the eldest surviving son of Henry II and Eleanor, known to history as the young king and to readers of my books as Hal. It has proven to be harder to hunt down than a unicorn; I am still waiting for my copy to arrive from Amazon. But the young king’s eloquent and devoted champion, Kasia Ogrodnik, has just received her copy, I think from Book Depository. I am looking forward to reading it, albeit feeling a bit frustrated that it was not available when I was writing Devil’s Brood. I have a few reservations simply because I wonder if there was enough extant material on the young king to support a full-scale biography.

Dr Judith Everhard, the highly-regarded scholar who wrote the brilliant Brittany and the Angevins, once told me that she’d initially meant to do a biography about the “forgotten” son, Geoffrey, Duke of Brittany, only to discover that there was not enough material to warrant a biography. She wisely expanded the scope of her project to include the other Angevins, especially Henry, and I will be forever grateful to her for that, as she is the first historian to study Geoffrey and his too-brief reign in Brittany. The author of Henry, the Young King is another noted historian, Matthew Strickland, whose previous books I enjoyed greatly and found very helpful in my own writing. So if anyone can do justice to a biography of the young king, this is the man.

Well, so much for this being a brief blog. You’d think I’d know better by now. One final thought; here is the link to Kasia’s always interesting blog about the young king and his flamboyant family.

July 31, 2016


  1. Samantha Says:

    Thank you for mentioning my books, Sharon! I am privileged to be on your burgeoning TBR and cannot wait for your next book.

  2. Kasia Ogrodnik Says:

    Thank you for recommending my blog, Sharon! I’m deeply honoured. Warmest wishes and speedy recovery :)

  3. Emilie Laforge Says:

    So glad to be reDing this short blog from you, Sharon!

  4. Emilie Laforge Says:

    Hmmm, my post was more than one sentence. I hope the computer gremlins will let me repost…

  5. Celia Jelbart Says:

    The Embroiderer by Kathryn Gauci, where three generations of a family story are told against the existence of Greeks living in the Ottoman Empire, and the expulsions.
    Also The Forty Days of Musa Dagh by Frank Werfel, again Ottoman Empire near its end, but the resistance by five Armenian villages, as they esced onto a hill/ mountain, and then were rescued in the end by alliesd ships.

  6. Emilie Laforge Says:

    So glad to be reading this short blog from you, Sharon!

  7. Yvonne Connelly Says:

    So glad to learn you are feeling better! Although I love Nevada Barr’s Anna Pigeon park ranger mysteries, it was an historical novel of hers that moved me: Bittersweet, the story of two brave gay women who struggle to build a life together in Nevada despite the lack of rights for women, prejudice against gays, etc. in late 19th century America.

  8. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Thank you so much, Yvonne and Emilie and Celia. It is like old-home week here today, with two old friends posting and one I hope to meet face to face when I get to Australia. The Embroiderer sounds fascinating, Celia, for I admit I know nothing about that period of history. I’ve always viewed good historical fiction as a wonderful way to learn about the past, opening the door for readers who might otherwise not have crossed over. I recentlyI am pleased to report that I have left the dark side (IE) and crossed over to the light (Firefox). Thanks to all of you who posted such helpful feedback, banishing the last of my uncertainty. My one real concern was that I might lose all of my desktop shortcuts, which I use for my work; I’d already gotten Firefox to import my bookmarks from IE. To my delight, the shortcuts all survived the crossover with me. I think this is the start of a beautiful friendship, to steal a quote from one of Hollywood’s greatest films, Casablanca.
    Please pray for the people of Ellicott City, MD, whose town was devastated by a sudden flash flood.
    Now back to the MA. August 1st was a busy and bloody day in the MA. In 1192, Richard I fought and won the first battle of Jaffa, which I dramatized in Lionheart. It was a remarkable victory which did much to burnish the legend of the Lionheart. It seems to have been a lucky day for the Angevins, for ten years later, his brother would have his one great military triumph.
    On August 1st, 1202, John swooped down upon his nephew Arthur and the leading Breton barons as they lay siege to Eleanor in Mirebeau Castle. It was a brilliant accomplishment. Sadly, he tarnished his triumph and his reputation by treating the prisoners very badly, which stirred up much resentment against him. It is generally believed that he was responsible for Arthur’s murder the following year; it was certainly the view of his contemporaries and he never fully recovered from that.
    But if August 1st was a good day for the Angevins, it was a disastrous day for the de Montforts. On this day in August, 1265, young Simon (renamed Bran in my novels to save me from ever having to write: Simon said to Simon) and his men were taking their ease at Kenilworth Castle, bathing in the lake and entertaining themselves with the prostitutes that inevitably flocked to a medieval army. His cousin Edward was warned of this by a female spy, and staged an unusual night march to take Bran by surprise. Edward then collected Bran’s banners and headed for Evesham. Simon was expecting Bran’s arrival and when he first saw the banners in the distance, he assumed it was his son. When he went up into the bell tower of Evesham’s abbey and realized that he was looking at his doom, he faced it unflinchingly, giving us one of history’s better exit lines: “We must commend our souls to God, for our bodies are theirs.” Meanwhile, back at Kenilworth, Bran collected what was left of his scattered army and raced for Evesham. He arrived too late; the battle was over. One chronicler would comment, “Such was the murder of Evesham, for battle it was none.” But Bran got there just in time to see his father’s head on a pike. Once again reality trumps fiction, for what writer would dare to make something like that up?

    read my first Nevada Barr’s mystery, Boar Island, Yvonne, and enjoyed it immensely.

    Here is today’s Facebook Note.

  9. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Sorry for the slight confusion in the above post. I’d copied the Facebook Note and when I pasted it, for some reason Diablo decided to merge it with what I’d already said. Clearly his name is self-explanatory.

  10. skpenman Says:

    Whatever our political views, I think we can all agree this has been the most divisive campaign within memory. So I am very happy to report that here is something else we can all agree upon. Go to the links below, read about the Westeros election and then vote for the candidate of your choice. Breaching the usual veil of privacy, I am proud to say that I voted for Daenerys and Tyrian. They are not winning at the moment, though, so I am shamelessly shilling for them here. Yes, Jon Snow is a very appealing candidate and we were all very happy when he came back from the dead. But you really want to vote for the Khaleesi and the Imp—trust me on this. And if that is not enough, think DRAGONS. On a more serious note, I would like to give public thanks to the police departments of Cleveland and Philadelphia, who handled the convention demonstrators so well that violence never broke out and there were only 28 arrests in Cleveland and an amazing zero arrests in Philadelphia.

  11. skpenman Says:

    I would like to offer thanks again to all of you who urged me to switch from IE to Firefox. It has been well-nigh perfect so far.
    And on the historical front, August 4th is the date of two significant medieval battles. On August 4, 1192, Richard Lionheart won a remarkable victory at Jaffa against a much larger Saracen army. Richard was camped outside the city walls, having managed to regain control of Jaffa. Learning that re-enforcements would not be coming, Saladin staged a surprise attack upon the crusaders. He may have won a huge victory if not for a sharp-eyed Genoese who’d risen early to relieve himself and spotted the sun glinting off the shields and spears. Richard had time to rally his small force and they held off assault after assault, until late in the day he took the offensive with barely a handful of knights and scored one of the more improbable triumphs in military history. For those who haven’t read Lionheart yet (what are you waiting for???), I naturally dramatize this battle in considerable detail, for I was lucky enough to have eye-witnesses accounts from both the crusaders and the Saracens who actually fought in this conflict.
    And on August 4, 1265, another brilliant medieval general, the future Edward I, trapped his godfather and uncle, Simon de Montfort, at Evesham. Edward had earlier staged a successful assault upon Simon’s son, Bran, who was camped at Kenilworth Castle, and he used some of the captured banners so that Simon would assume this was his son arriving with the much-needed reinforcements. By the time they realized the truth, it was too late. Simon, watching the approaching army from the bell tower in Evesham, said, “They come on well. He learned that from me.” He then uttered one of history’s better exit lines, saying to his sons and soldiers, “We must commend our souls to God, for our bodies are theirs.” In the ensuing battle, a violent thunderstorm broke out over the field at the height of the battle. Simon was slain and his body horribly mutilated by Edward’s men. Simon’s eldest son died on the field with him and his younger son, Guy, was gravely wounded. Edward showed no mercy; even the squires were killed, which was highly unusual. A chronicler would later write, “Such was the murder of Evesham, for battle it was none.” Simon’s son, Bran, would arrive on the battlefield in time to see his father’s head on a pike. Simon’s widow and daughter were allowed to go into French exile. Simon’s death was not forgotten; much to Edward’s frustration, people began to make surreptitious pilgrimages to Evesham to pray to a man some saw as a saint. A saint, he most definitely was not. As I said in the Author’s Note for Falls the Shadow, “A French-born English hero, lordly champion of the commons, an honorable adven-turer, Simon continues to be as controversial and enigmatic and paradoxical a figure in our time as he was in his own.” I think he’d have been pleased, though, with the memorial stone erected in his honor at Evesham on the 700th anniversary of his death, which was unveiled by the Speaker of the House of Commons and dedicated by the Archbishop of Canterbury:

  12. Malcolm Craig Says:

    Sharon, I am pleased that you are feeling better and that you are enjoying Firefox. I will answer the question from your blog. On Cape Cod in late May, while visiting Provincetown, I went to my favorite used book store, Tim’s, as I always do. There I found a book I did not even know existed: Bluegrass - a History, by Neil V. Rosenberg. I have enjoyed listening to Bluegrass music, but my familiarity with it had been limited to Bill Monroe, Flatt & Scruggs, and the Charles River Valley Boys (’60s group made up mainly of Harvard grad students). Rosenberg’s book opened my eyes to a much more involved and extensive history of what was country music’s red-headed step-child for several decades. As a result of reading the history, I bought an album (CD) with which I had not been familiar - “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?” by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, as they got together in Nashville with various Bluegrass and country luminaries, including even Mother Maybelle Carter. It may interest you to know that while looking at one of the old books in our cottage on the Cape, I found a bookmark from Denver’s Tattered Cover Book Store, which I know about because of you. Of course, I brought the bookmark home to Tallahassee and keep it in a safe place.

  13. skpenman Says:

    Very interesting story, Mac.

    I am still on the mend, but am continuing to have to pace myself, so occasional disappearances need not have sinister connotations. I am currently in Beirut, in the midst of a serious quarrel between King Baldwin and his former tutor, the Archbishop of Tyre. At least this time, they are using words as weapons, so I don’t have to shed any blood.
    Are many of you watching the Olympics? We always get such heartening and poignant stories about the backgrounds of the Olympic athletes, many of whom overcome great obstacles to take part. This story about a young Syrian swimmer is truly amazing. She and her sister were forced to flee Syria, as thousands and thousands of their countrymen have had to do. They managed to reach Turkey and then boarded a small boat—holding only twenty people—to try to reach one of the Greek islands. The boat’s motor soon died, leaving them at the mercy of very choppy seas. This remarkable young woman—only eighteen—and her sister got into the water and for over three hours, they pulled and pushed that boat until they eventually reached land. She was quite matter of fact about it, saying, “Well, we were the only ones who knew how to swim.” She is now taking part in the Olympics under their flag, as are seven other refugee athletes, an idea as brilliant as it is humane. She even won her heat yesterday, although she is not expected to be in contention for a medal. But just getting to Rio is a triumph of monumental proportions.

  14. skpenman Says:

    I am doing better, although I still have to limit my computer time. But here are some historical events that I was not able to post about on the date in question.
    On August 5, 1063, Gruffydd ap Llywelyn, was betrayed and slain by his own men while struggling to repulse an invasion by Harold Godwinson, later King of England. Gruffydd is the only man to rule over all of Wales, from 1057 until his death, although he was called King of the Britons, not King of Wales. His wife was Ealdgyth of Mercia, who would later wed Harold. Was she willing to wed the man responsible for her husband’s death? We know virtually nothing about this woman, aside from the fact she was said to be beautiful, so we can only conjecture about her marriage to Harold. She would be widowed again three years later when Harold was slain at Hastings, but she then disappears from history, her fate unknown.
    August 5, 1100 was the coronation of Henry I, just days after his brother William Rufus’s very convenient death in the New Forest.
    August 5, 1301 is the birthdate of Edmund of Woodstock, Earl of Kent, son of Edward I and thus half-brother to Edward II. He would be executed in 1330 for engaging in a plot to free Edward II from captivity. Since Edward had been declared dead in 1327, historians have not been kind to Edmund, seeing him as gullible at best, a fool at worst. His is a complicated story and I hope I can persuade Kathryn Warner to stop by and explain it since I am urgently needed back in Narbonne to finish a scene with Joanna and Berengaria and it is bad manners to keep queens waiting.
    On August 5, 1305, William Wallace was captured near Glasgow, betrayed by a Scottish knight loyal to Edward I. He would be executed in a truly barbarous fashion (being drawn and quartered, one of Edward I’s more dubious contributions to the English judicial system). What he said at his trial could also serve as an epitaph for the last Welsh prince, Davydd ap Llywelyn, who was drawn and quartered for treason 22 years earlier: “I could not be a traitor to Edward for I was never his subject.”
    Lastly, a non-medieval event worth mentioning. On August 5, 1620, the Mayflower and Speedwell sailed from Southampton for the New World. They had to turn back when the Speedwell sprang a leak. The Mayflower would subsequently sail alone on September 6th, anchoring off the tip of Cape Cod in November after two harrowing months at sea. I have always marveled at the courage it took to sail in bygone times. When I was writing Lionheart, I watched some truly terrifying videos on YouTube of ships being tossed around like toothpicks by angry seas, and these were large ships equipped with modern technology! Imagine how it would have been to be caught in a storm in a medieval ship like Richard’s galley, the Sea-Cleaver. I would so have been a stay-at-home had I been born back then.

  15. skpenman Says:

    I may have to start flashing my passport when I venture over to Facebook—just to prove to everyone that it really is me. I am so sorry about my prolonged absences, and they are likely to continue for a while longer. My doctor says I will probably not be able to spend more time on Facebook until September. So I would like to thank all of you who so kindly sent or posted birthday wishes; that is greatly appreciated. I hope that all of my friends and readers who live in Louisiana are staying dry and safe; the stories coming out of Baton Rouge are horrific. And I hope, too, that the millions like me who are trapped in one of the worst heat waves in years will get through it somehow, with many prayers to St Willis, the wonderful man who invented air conditioning. In order to be able to at least mention history, I am now going to cheat and copy and paste a post from a few years ago.
    One of history’s more celebrated and intriguing women died on August 12, 30 BC, when Cleopatra committed suicide rather than let Octavian bring her back in triumph as a prisoner to Rome. All of the early sources say that she died after being bitten by an asp, an Egyptian cobra. A modern historian has challenged this, saying she more likely died after taking hemlock, but I’m inclined to accept the early sources. Stacy Schiff wrote a successful biography of the famed Egyptian queen, “Cleopatra: a Life”, to follow up on her wonderful biography of Ben Franklin, “A great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America”, and Margaret George has written a novel about Cleopatra which I recommend. Michelle Moran has also written an interesting novel,“Cleopatra’s Daughter,” about the fates of Cleopatra and Mark Antony’s children, who were sent back to Rome to be raised by his long-suffering wife, Antonia. Her son by Julius Caesar, Caesarian, was murdered by Octavian. He would. I suppose Cleopatra has gotten a small measure of revenge, though, for I’d guess that she is much better known today to the general public than Octavian.
    And on August 12, 1099, the Battle of Ascalon was fought, in which Godfrey de Bouillon defeated a much larger army in what is considered to be the last battle of the bloody and brutal First Crusade. Godfrey, a younger son of the Count of Boulogne, distinguished himself in battle and was among the first to breach the wall at Jerusalem. When Raymond IV, Count of Toulouse refused the kingship, it was offered to Godfrey, who accepted but refused the title of king, saying that belonged only to God. His reign was a short one; he died the following year in Jerusalem after a prolonged illness. Nearly a hundred years later, Henri, the Count of Champagne, showed the same reluctance to accept the kingship, and while he did marry the Queen of Jerusalem, Isabella, and seems to have been very happy with her during their time together, he never claimed the kingship for himself, continuing to call himself Count of Champagne or sometimes Lord of Jerusalem.
    I’d initially hoped to have Henri appear as a character in Land Beyond the Sea, but that is not going to happen….sigh. I am thinking, though, that I might one day write about Henri in a short story and make it available on Amazon, as a number of other writers are doing with their recurring characters. And yes, I realize what a challenge it would be for me to do a short story. I did manage it once, though, for the George RR Martin anthology, Dangerous Women, so it is not entirely beyond the realm of possibility.

  16. Janet Bennett Says:

    Just received word from Amazon that ‘Henry The Young King’ (Strickland) was shipped out today. Excited.

  17. Joan Says:

    Sharon, I’m happy to hear you’re feeling somewhat better. I hope you will continue to improve. And a belated Happy Birthday! I’ve been out west for a month & just catching up. It was great to leave the heat & humidity we all have endured this summer.

    Re a fave book this year, I’d have to say it was the group of novels that brought Cornwall to me & that have left me yearning for the wild Cornish coast, the sea, land, & sky, the storms & mists. The complete Poldark series by Winston Graham will likely haunt me for years, & something about his writing…… struck some deep chords. Also found the 18th century copper/tin mining very interesting. Then with The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher, I learned about the artists who flocked to Cornwall not only for the seascapes but for the quality of the light.

    I’ve ordered Summer in February by Jonathan Smith after having watched the film recently (stumbled across it not knowing a thing about the story). I had previously googled the artists who were in Cornwall around the time of the World Wars & was therefore ecstatic to find Alfred “AJ” Munnings portrayed in the film, plus several other artists. Goodreads describes the book as a disturbing & moving re-creation of a celebrated Edwardian artistic community (Lamorna group, part of the Newlyn School of Artists) enjoying the last days of a golden age soon to be shattered by WWI. Apparently the prose of J Smith is economical, with a beauty & richness that belies his simple style. How exciting is that?!?

    If anyone can recommend other similar books, I’ll be forever in your debt.

  18. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Joan, have you ever read Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca? This classic novel is set in Cornwall and is very atmospheric.

    I am sorry for the long absence, but this has been a rough summer. I recently had a MRI of the spine, but what I really need is a full body transplant; Natalie Dormer’s would be nice. Since that would involve time travel to the future, it is probably best that I rely upon the magic my chiropractor can usually conjure up. Meanwhile, I suddenly began to have serious vision problems, serious enough to keep me off Facebook. It turns out I had developed a secondary cataract. This is easily treated but I had to wait weeks for the laser surgery. I was finally able to get it done this week. Within a day, my vision was back to normal and I was able to abandon my backup plan to train Holly as a seeing eye dog.
    Now many of us are dealing with an unwelcome visitor, Hermine. I hope that all of my friends and readers in the path of this storm are staying safe and dry. Not a good ending to the summer.
    I will try to begin catching up with some of the Today in History posts that fell by the wayside in August. But first here are the results of the Game of Thrones election. The winners are Jon Snow and his running mate, Lyanna Mormont, with 35% . Daenerys and Tyrion came in second with 32%, and Littlefinger and Sansa scored 31%. Sounds as if Westeros is as divided as we are, doesn’t it? Oh, and Cersei managed to garner 2% of the vote; who says the age of miracles is dead?

  19. Joan Says:

    Well you haven’t lost your sense of humor in all your pain, Sharon. Hope you don’t mind if I had a few good laughs. My best wishes continue for a good solid recovery.

    I’ve been toying with reading Rebecca for awhile now, not sure if it’ll be too gothic for me. As long as I don’t come across any “she suffered her voluminous golden red tresses to tremble over her shoulders, cascading down her quivering back”.

    “Lila” by Marilynne Robinson was another interesting book I read recently. Deep & powerful, I didn’t expect it to be so loaded. Big impact! Will read Gilead too. But first, Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd (Oxford World’s Classics with their great intros). Ah, if I had it to do over again, I’d take a few different paths….sigh.

  20. Malcolm Craig Says:

    Glad the laser procedure went as well as expected, Sharon. I hope Hermine is kinder to you than she was to us. Not as bad as Kate in ‘85, but we just got our power back this afternoon, after 2 1/2 days without it. Inconvenience for us, but no serious damage. Just finished reading The Virgin in the Ice. I had not realized that was the chronicle in which Cadfael met his heroic but unexpected son, just after Hugh Beringar greeted the son he and Aline were expecting.

  21. skpenman Says:

    Mac, I am so sorry to hear this. Losing power in the summer is an ordeal, especially a Florida summer. The Virgin in the Ice was the first Brother Cadfael book I read in the series. I picked it up in a Shrewsbury bookshop on my way into Wales, and once I read it, I enjoyed it so much that I actually drove all the way back to Shrewsbury to buy the earlier books in the series, not having had any luck finding them in Welsh bookshops. It remains my favorite one of the series.

    It has been years since I read Rebecca, Joan, but I don’t remember that it struck me as overly-Gothic. It definitely does not have overblown language, thankfully! Nor does she romanticize the characters at all. Much of the time, the “hero” is about as charming as Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights.

    We were lucky in New Jersey, spared Hermine’s wrath. I hope none of my readers in less fortunate states were affected by this nasty summer’s-end storm. We are fortunate to live in a time when we receive advance warning of nature’s coming fury. An excellent account of a time in our history when people were not so lucky is Isaac’s Storm, by Erik Larson, which dramatically describes the catastrophe that happened to the coastal city of Galveson, Texas when it was hit by a surprise September hurricane in 1900.
    Here is an interesting video that depicts the burning of London 350 years ago. It destroyed virtually all of the city, leaving thousands homeless. Surprisingly, there are only six recorded deaths, but many historians have pointed out that the lives of the poor were not documented in the 17th century, so the death toll is likely much higher. My favorite museum, the Museum of London, has a fascinating scale model of London; you can watch as the fire starts and then spreads from wooden house to wooden house in this still-medieval city. Below is also a link to more information about the Great Fire.

  22. Joan Says:

    Okay, Rebecca is on my list.

  23. Malcolm Craig Says:

    Interesting links, Sharon. I wonder if Charles II’s baker kept his position after the fire. The song “Wasn’t That a Might Storm?” was inspired by the 1900 Galveston storm disaster. John Lomax, recording for the Library of Congress, taped the Reverend “Sin-Killer” Griffin, as he sang it at a Texas prison in 1934. Going through the LC collection in the early ’60s, Eric Von Schmidt found the song, and he shared it with Tom Rush. I have heard Tom sing it many times, both live and on CD. In late December 2012, this was the song Tom chose as the finale for the group performance he staged at Symphony Hall in Boston. Oldest son Andy and I had flown up to attend that special event.

  24. skpenman Says:

    That was very interesting about the Galveston storm song, Mac. How wonderful that you were able to attend Tom’s finale.

    It will take me a while to be able to start making regular appearances here, as I am still playing catch-up for all the time I lost this summer as various body parts no longer seemed user-friendly. Why is it that Real Life is so relentless? It is bad enough, after all, that I am stuck with a Deadline Dragon for a roommate. But there are a few glimmers of light along the horizon. Less than two months until the election is over. And football is back!
    Meanwhile, today is the birthdate 859 years ago, September 8th, 1157, of the most famous of the Devil’s Brood, Eleanor’s favorite son, Richard. I couldn’t resist posting from a scene in Time and Chance, a scene frozen in amber, in which Henry and Eleanor’s marriage was still whole and happy and they still thought the world was theirs for the taking. Interestingly, this was the first and only time that Henry was actually present for the birth of one of their children.
    Time and Chance, page 53
    * * *
    Somewhere along the way from the castle, Henry had found a garden to raid, for he was carrying an armful of Michaelmas daisies. These he handed to Petronilla, rather sheepishly, for romantic gestures did not come easily to him. Crossing the chamber in several strides, he leaned over the bed to give his wife a kiss. (omission)
    “Are you hurting, love?”
    Eleanor’s smile was tired, but happy. “Not at all,” she lied. “By now the babes just pop right out, like a cork from a bottle.”
    Henry laughed. “Well….where is the little cork?”
    A wet nurse came forward from the shadows, bobbing a shy curtsy before holding out a swaddled form for his inspection. Henry touched the ringlets of reddish-gold hair, the exact shade of his own, and grinned when the baby’s hand closed around his finger. “Look at the size of him,” he marveled, and as his eyes met Eleanor’s, the same thought was in both their minds: heartfelt relief that God had given them such a robust, sturdy son. No parent who’d lost a child could ever take health or survival for granted again.
    “We still have not decided what to name him,” Henry reminded his wife. “I fancy Geoffrey, after my father.”
    “The next one,” she promised. “I have a name already in mind for this little lad.”
    He cocked a brow. “Need I remind you that it is unseemly to name a child after a former husband?”
    Eleanor’s lashes were drooping and her smile turned into a sleepy yawn. “I would not name a stray dog after Louis,” she declared, holding out her arms for her new baby. She was surprised by the intensity of emotion she felt as she gazed down into that small, flushed face. Had God sent him to fill the aching void left by Will’s death? “I want,” she said, “to name him Richard.”
    * * *

  25. Charlotte Wolfe Says:

    Like everyone else, I eagerly await your next book. Being new to your blog, maybe you’ve answered this, but I am curious, so I ask. Do you write just one book at a time? If your next book to be published is not a book about Justin, when next we meet Aline, will she be a pre-teen? I hope not! :)
    Thanks for all the great reads, and may you stay on the mend!

  26. Malcolm Craig Says:

    Good that they saved Geoffrey for their 4th son. I think the personality and approach to governance of that Geoffrey favored their grandfather’s more than Richard’s did. Unlike his grandfather, Geoffrey of Brittany was fortunate enough to have a compatible spouse - but sadly for only five years. I may have misled you about the role of “Wasn’t That a Mighty Storm?” at Symphony Hall. It simply ended that performance by Tom Rush and many friends. Andy and I saw Tom again in Tarpon Spring back in February - still going strong at 75!

  27. Joan Says:

    Barack Obama on the campaign trail!!!


    I, along with all the people I know up here in Canada, & all those they know, will miss this outstanding President. We have never lost faith in him, we prayed for his strength to hold out as he kept banging his head up against that congressional brick wall. Perhaps one of the reasons for dislike of the man is that he shames us. His qualities as a human being are impeccable, he is unique as a role model. And he has fought relentlessly for the things he cares about. The strength of Michelle & his strong family values have gone a long way towards his success. I have no doubt that his legacy will be great. And if all this isn’t enough, he has a smile that lights up the world!!

  28. skpenman Says:

    Michelle Obama has such a marvelous sense of humor, Joan. The NBA basketball star, Steph Curry, was on the Ellen de Generis talk show this week at the same time as Michelle. He plays golf with the president and was complaining playfully about Obama’s trash talking during the game, saying he uses the same cadence that makes his speeches so memorable. Ellen and Michelle advised hm to talk trash right back at Barak, and Michelle suggested that he say his swing had been affected by the shade cast by the president’s ears!
    My laptop was living up to his name this week—Diablo—giving me so much grief that I wasn’t able to do much on-line posting. He is behaving himself for the moment, so I wanted to share this. Many of you have read and enjoyed Stephanie Churchill’s The Scribe’s Daughter, so this guest blog is sure to appeal to you. And her reasons for choosing historical fantasy over historical fiction are interesting and very tempting. By the time I finished the blog, I was stricken with envy! Anyway, here is the link.

  29. skpenman Says:

    Hi, Charlotte. Your comment had to be approved for some reason and I just discovered it. I know there are writers out there who can work on more than one book at a time, but I could never multi-task like that. The most I can do is to think ahead to a future book, for they all take a lot of mental musing before I actually start to write one. The game plan is still to do another mystery after finishing The Land Beyond the Sea; Justin has been waiting so patiently that he deserves to be rewarded. :-) And not to worry; I do not intend to take any quantum leaps in time; so the next mystery will pick up more or less where Prince of Darkness ended, in 1194.

  30. Joan Says:

    That’s hilarious, Sharon. Those ears just add to his character. I have spent the last couple of days listening to Dana Carvey who still has to be the funniest guy out there. His impression of you-know-who is the only good thing about that whole psychotic business.

    Have you read any of Ron Chernow’s books? I just ordered “Alexander Hamilton” (wouldn’t have known about it if not for the cast of the musical). It will be somewhat intimidating, it’s a big one & I’ll bet small print. If I enjoy Chernow’s style, I’d like to go on to “1776″.

  31. skpenman Says:

    No, I am not familiar with Ron Chernow’s books, Joan. A biography, I assume? I am fascinated by America’s colonial period and our revolutionary war; at one point, I seriously considered writing a novel about that period. Let us know what you think of it. I’ve read a history called 1776 and recommend it very much. Same for the film of the same name which was originally a Broadway show.

    I suspect that many of you are, like me, counting down the days until the election is over. So I am going to do my part to boost American sagging morale—and hopefully that in other countries, too—by posting stories that restore our faith in humanity, stories to make us smile, and probably photos of cute animals, a sure winner. Now that my vision has been restored and Diablo had his latest demons exorcised by the Geek Squad, I will also be able to resume my Today in History posts; but those are not likely to cheer anyone up. As my friend and fellow writer, Stephanie Churchill, so aptly put it: “And they lived happily ever after…..said no Plantagenet ever.” Anyway, here is a remarkable story of two orphans who bonded in a Chinese orphanage and have now improbably been reunited.

  32. Joan Says:

    Thank you for your always positive outlook, Sharon. Yes, Chernow’s books are bios, he also wrote one on Washington. I started the book yesterday & loving his writing style & what appears to be impeccable research from what the critics say. The cast of the musical Hamilton ate, slept, & breathed with it. It will be a long haul though, the pages packed with quite small print.

    Have a lovely weekend.

  33. skpenman Says:

    Thanks, Joan, I will add this to my Wish List.

    I am still struggling to get back on-track after losing so much writing and researching time this summer. Okay, I let myself be distracted yesterday by the football games and will take some time off tonight to watch my Eagles defeat the Bears. (Sorry, David.) Keeping to my promise to cheer us up at a time when we desperately need it, here is a post of mine from several years ago that includes two acts of kindness by strangers that meant the world to the recipients.
    On September 7, 1151, Geoffrey le Bel, the Count of Anjou, died suddenly upon his return from a Paris conference with the French king; it must have vexed him greatly that his death would be seen as validation of the prophecy of Bernard of Clairvaux, who’d warned he would die within a month. September 7th was the date of another Angevin event of significance; for in 1191, Geoffrey’s grandson Richard defeated Saladin at the battle of Arsuf. And on September 7th, 1533, the only “good Tudor” was born, Elizabeth, who would become a great queen.
    And here are two very touching stories of random acts of kindness. If you read these stories, it will make you feel better about the human race and remind us all that we don’t always know how deeply we can impact the lives of strangers.

  34. skpenman Says:

    Well, I am still making progress with the book-sort of. The trouble is that my last four chapters insisted upon breeding like sex-crazed rabbits, each one splitting into two. So I feel as if I am merely treading water instead of getting closer to that elusive shoreline. Thanks to everyone for being so understanding of my frequent absences from Facebook this summer. I may not have the most readers, but I definitely have the best! Here is a post from several years ago about today’s historical happenings.
    September 23rd, 1158 is the birthday of my personal favorite of the Devil’s Brood, Henry and Eleanor’s third surviving son, Geoffrey, Duke of Brittany. There was just a year between Geoffrey and Richard, which may have accounted for the constant friction between them. Geoffrey, of course, has gotten short shrift by historians as he was the only son not to wear a crown, and as a result, they tended to accept at face value the critical judgments passed on Geoffrey by the contemporary chroniclers. One historian even went so far to as to claim Geoffrey was motivated by “mindless malice.” It was Geoffrey’s bad luck that there were no Breton chroniclers to record his reign over the duchy or to put his actions in the proper perspective. When seen through a Breton prism, his conduct is far more comprehensible, if not always admirable. I have often recommended Dr Judith Everard’s excellent study of 12th century Brittany, Brittany and the Angevins, and I recommend it again for anyone wanting to understand Geoffrey’s career and the turbulent relationship between the Bretons and the English and French monarchs.
    No one should doubt that the death of one man can exert a profound impact upon history. Richard’s carelessness at the siege of Chalus not only altered English history, it changed the course of German history and would bring untold miseries to the people of Languedoc because of the Albigensian Crusade. Perhaps Geoffrey’s death in that French tournament did not have such far-reaching consequences, but it is interesting to speculate what might have happened had Geoffrey not died so prematurely. My own belief is that there would not have been a King John and there would have been a King Arthur, for in a contest for the English crown between Geoffrey and John, my money would have been on Geoffrey. That is assuming, of course, that the trajectory of Richard’s life would remain the same, with him dying at Chalus without an heir of his body.
    While this date is memorable to me because of Geoffrey, it is also the date of the battle of Blore Heath in 1459, the first major battle of the War of the Roses. I did not get to dramatize it in Sunne, unfortunately, for it was an unusual battle. Queen Marguerite had instructed Lord Audley to ambush a force led by the Yorkist commander, the Earl of Salisbury, brother to Cecily Neville and father of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick; there is an unsubstantiated tradition that Marguerite was present at the battle. Although Salisbury was considerably outnumbered, he managed to prevail. Audley was slain and when they saw that victory was going to the Yorkists, five hundred Lancastrians switched sides in the midst of the battle and attacked their own, which helps to explain the paranoia of the Lancastrians at Barnet Heath, when in the confusion of the fog, the Earl of Oxford collided with the men led by John Neville.

  35. skpenman Says:

    In keeping with my promise to post items that cheer us up in these stressful times, I have good news for my fellow book lovers. Bernard Cornwell has a new entry in his spectacular Saxon series about the incorrigible yet lovable Uhtred. It is called The Flame Bearer and will be available in the UK, Canada, and Australia on October 6th; in the US, it will not be published till November 29th. Impatient American readers can always buy it from Book Depository, of course. The next two books will not be published till next year, but they are both well worth the wait. Margaret George has a new historical novel coming out next March; called The Confessions of Young Nero, it is set in imperial Rome and caused me to revise many of my preconceived notions about Nero—shades of Richard III! And one of my favorite medieval mystery writers has a new one coming out next February, The Proud Sinner. Barbara Peters, Priscilla’s publisher and editor, made an interesting observation in the Foreword, pointing out that the story evokes faint echoes of The Canterbury Tales crossed with Agatha Christie’s mystery, And Then There Were None, with seven arrogant abbots snowbound at Tyndal Priory, where they find themselves stalked by a killer. Priscilla is very adroit at ratcheting up suspense while sprinkling the plot with red herrings; I am up to Chapter 30 and I still cannot figure out who the villain is!
    Since I also promised to post photos of cute animals, I shared a Facebook photo of Holly at her play date last week. Unfortunately, I can’t post one here, but if you are Facebook friends with me, you can check it out there. Holly is well worth a click of your mouse!

  36. skpenman Says:

    I would like to wish a Happy Rosh Hashanah to my Jewish friends and readers, as their New Year began at sundown today. And I have a link to a heartening story about three bears rescued from lives of misery in Albania.

    On October 2nd, 1187, Jerusalem yielded to Saladin, an event that would trigger the Third Crusade. Balian d’Ibelin was the savior of the city—the only thing that Kingdom of Heaven got right—persuading Saladin to accept its surrender rather than taking it by storm, thus sparing it the bloodbath that occurred when the men of the First Crusade captured it in 1099.

    On October 2nd, 1452, the future Richard III was born at Fotheringhay Castle, the youngest son of the Duke of York and Cecily Neville. For centuries, Richard’s lost grave seemed certain to be the sad epilogue to his turbulent, often tragic life, and too-brief reign. Even now, it still seems almost miraculous to me that he should be entombed at Leicester Cathedral, given the funeral and honorable burial that was denied him after his death at Bosworth Field.

    And on October 2nd, 1470, Edward IV and Richard were forced to flee England when John Neville switched sides, declaring his loyalty to his brother, the Earl of Warwick. It had to be a great shock for Edward, going from King of England to fugitive in one dizzying turn of Fortune’s Wheel. And for his young brother Richard, it must have added insult to injury that this day of such desperation was his eighteenth birthday. As they sought refuge in Burgundy, few in England expected them to return. But it was always dangerous to underestimate Edward of York, who was at his best in adversity. He would defy all odds by coming back to reclaim his crown, and Richard would be at his side through it all, sharing betrayal, exile, and then the battles that would restore the House of York to power.

  37. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    I want to start with an interesting article about the underestimated intellects of horses. Too often you hear people dismiss them as unintelligent, but anyone who has been around horses knows better. My mom grew up on a Kentucky farm and she had fascinating stories of the horses on their farm, all of whom had distinctive personalities. Humankind owes horses a great debt for civilization could not have developed as we know it without them; sadly, it is a debt that has gone unpaid, for they have not been treated as well as they deserve. Here is the link to the story; I am sure it will surprise many people.

    I want to alert everyone that what follows is a rerun, for it was posted last year. Hopefully, many of you have memories as defective as mine and you will not remember reading it! This was one of the most challenging scenes I ever had to write; others include Henry II’s penance scene at Canterbury Cathedral and Richard III’s death at Bosworth.

    On October 3rd, 1283, Davydd ap Gruffydd, Llywelyn ap Gruffydd’s younger brother, was put to death by Edward I in the most brutal way possible—hanged, then cut down while he was still alive, then eviscerated and drawn and quartered. Davydd is sometimes said to be the first man to suffer this barbaric punishment, but there were at least two other cases in which this horrific penalty was imposed. But in Davydd’s trial and execution, we have the origins of the state trial. Waging war against the king was not a crime in medieval England, not until Edward chose to make it one, classifying it as high treason. Even so, he ordered no executions after Evesham, probably because almost all of Simon de Montfort’s supporters died on the field with him, but also because Davydd was more vulnerable than the de Montfort partisans, with no one to speak up for him. The author of The Law of Treason in England in the Middle Ages pointed out that “The king could make an example of Davydd with impunity.” And after his death, drawing and quartering became the standard form of execution for those convicted of high treason. Readers of Sunne may remember that the Earl of Somerset was very relieved when Richard told him after the battle of Tewkesbury that he and the others charged with treason would be beheaded, not drawn and quartered; the fourth Edward did not share the first Edward’s vindictive nature. Davydd claimed the title Prince of Wales after Llywelyn was slain in 1282, but he was overshadowed even in death by his more renowned brother, who is known in Wales as Ein Llyw Olaf—Our Last Leader.
    Davydd’s dreadful fate posed a challenge for me. I did not want to dwell upon his dying agonies and I doubted that my readers did, either; moreover, my mother vowed that she’d never forgive me if I did that. So I chose to write about his last hours, confined to a dungeon at Shrewsbury Castle, knowing what awaited him with the coming of dawn. In a way, this was even worse, though, for the suffering of the mind can be even more intolerable than the suffering of the body.
    The Reckoning. Page 563
    * * *
    His last meal lay untouched by the door. They’d given him a double helping of some sort of fish stew and a full flagon of ale—execution eve charity. He’d brought the flagon back to the bed, and he reached for it now, swallowed and grimaced at the flat, tepid taste. The cell was damp and chilly, but his tunic was splotched with sweat; although he could not remember his dream, he’d wager it held a gallows and a grave. But no….not a grave. Passing strange, for he’d not wanted to be buried in England and now Edward had seen to it. Even the Saracens did not deny a man decent burial. Only the most Christian King of England would think of that.
    He’d never doubted his courage, not ever. Until today, it had not even crossed his mind that his nerve might fail him. But how could flesh and blood and bone not shrink from such deliberately drawn-out suffering? How could he be sure that he’d be able to face it without flinching?
    He was not accustomed to asking hard questions; that had never been his way. But he’d had three months and more of solitary confinement, time in which he’d been forced to confront the consequences of his actions, after a lifetime of evading them. There was no room to run in a prison cell.
    He’d always gotten his strength from his utter confidence, from his faith in his own abilities. What could he fall back on now? The Almighty was said to be deaf to the prayers of an excommunicate. Even though he did not believe that God was on England’s side, divine mercy might well be as scarce as Edward’s. Those charges flung at him in the Chapter House were crimes only in English eyes, not in his. But he had no lack of sins to answer for, a lifetime’s worth if truth be told. How could he be sure that God would understand? Llywelyn never had.
    Reaching for the flagon, he drank again. Well, if God would not get him through the morrow’s ordeal, that left only pride. He smiled bleakly at that, seeing the twisted humor in it. For if pride was to be his deliverance, it had also been his downfall. If not for pride and jealousy, would the bond between brothers have frayed so badly? If not for pride, it might have held fast—and Wales with it.
    Leaning back against the wall, he made a careless move, almost knocking the flagon over with his chain; he righted it just in time. “I’ll admit it,” he said. “I got more than I bargained for. But fair is fair, Llywelyn. Even you cannot deny that it is also more than I deserve.”
    He could not remember when he’d begun to talk to his brother. It had been a joke at first, a self-mocking attempt to deny his pain, and perhaps, too, an expression of his hunger to hear a voice, even his own, to escape the smothering burden of silence, for he’d never been utterly alone before, not like this. But although he jeered at his own need—telling himself that confiding in the dead offered distinct advantages over confessing to the living—it had given him an odd sort of comfort, and he was fast learning to take comfort anywhere he could find it.
    He lay down on the blanket again, closed his eyes. But sleep wouldn’t come, and he swore suddenly, savagely. “So I lied, Llywelyn! Mayhap I do deserve it. Is that what you’d have me say? You want me to confess my sins? For that, I’d need more time than I’ve got, much more…..”
    He was lying again, though. There was time. So be it, then. Wales, the greatest casualty of his war. Just as Llywelyn had foreseen. “We’d become aliens in our own land,” he’d warned, “denied our own laws, our own language, even our yesterdays, for a conquered people are not allowed a prideful past. Worst of all, we’d be leaving our children and grand-children a legacy of misery and loss, a future bereft of hope.”
    More than a prophecy. An epitaph for Wales, for Llywelyn’s doomed principality. Davydd knew it had never been his, not truly. He’d ruled over a domain in its death throes. But if he could not be blamed for losing the war, he could be for starting it.
    Elizabeth, I’m so sorry, lass, so sorry….His eyes were stinging, his breathing growing ragged and hurtful. Where was she? Still held at Rhuddlan Castle? What would happen to her now? Would Edward convent-cage her like Gwenllian and Gwladys? Or would he think it safer to shackle her with another wedding band? Marry her off to a man of his choosing, lock her away in some remote English keep until the world forgot about her, and she alone remembered that she’d once been the wife of a Welsh prince.
    He’d known, of course, that if he fell into English hands, he was a dead man. But he’d not expected Edward to take vengeance upon Elizabeth or his daughters. He’d thought his sons would be spared, too, that their youth would save them, for Owain was only three and Llelo five. The worst he’d feared was that they’d be taken as hostages, reared at the English court as he and Rhodri had been. Merciful Christ, if only he’d realized what Edward had intended!
    Edward would never let them go. They would grow to manhood behind the walls of Bristol Castle. They would not know the joys and dangers and temptations that life could offer a man. They would learn naught of friendship or the urgency and sweetness of bedding a woman. They’d never have sons of their own. They would never see Wales again, and as their memories faded, they’d forget the world they’d known before Bristol Castle. They would forget him, forget Elizabeth, and not even know why they were doomed to live out their days as prisoners of an English king.
    * * *
    Davydd was executed the next morning and even his many enemies acknowledged that he died with courage. For some reason, that reminds me of dialogue from my favorite film, The Lion in Winter. Richard, Geoffrey, and John have been flung into a dungeon at Chinon by their father and they are awaiting their fate. Richard declares defiantly that he’ll not beg for his life. Geoffrey lashes out, calling his brother a prideful fool and saying it does not matter how a man falls. Richard looks at him and says that it matters when the fall is all there is. The wording might not be exact, but the sentiment is one I think Davydd would have agreed with.

  38. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    On October 4th, 1160, the unfortunate French princes, Alys, daughter of Louis VII, long-suffering betrothed of the Lionheart, was born. Her life got off to a rough start, as her mother died in childbirth. As most of you know, she became a political pawn, as Henry refused to allow the marriage to take place, and indeed, rumors began circulating that Henry had taken her as his mistress. I don’t think he did, for Henry had his flaws, but the one thing he was not was an idiot, and it would have been the height of idiocy to bed the French king’s daughter and his own son’s fiancée. Poor Alys was then caught up in the power play between Richard and Philippe. And when she was finally freed, Philippe, who was about as warm and fuzzy as a cactus, married her off to a teenage boy half her age. But she got the last laugh, for I am sure he expected her marriage to be childless given her age, which would then have given him a claim to her new husband’s lands. She did have a daughter, though, and Eleanor of Castille, queen of Edward I, traces her descent to Alys.
    Also on October 4th, 1539, Henry VIII wed Anne of Clives. I wouldn’t say that was the wedding night from Hell, since Philippe’s wedding night with the Danish princess, Ingeborg, was even worse, though it probably came close. But Henry’s sudden aversion to Anne was her Get Out of Jail Free Card, making her the most fortunate of his six wives.

  39. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    All of the people in the path of Hurricane Matthew need prayers and luck, for this is a monster storm. It has devastated Haiti and battered the Bahamas and is now bearing down on Florida. I hope all of my Florida friends and readers stay safe from the worst of Matthew’s fury. I think the rest of us on the US East Coast will be luckier, as they are predicting it will not continue on up the coast.
    And here is an eloquent and touching farewell to a beloved dog, a pain all pet lovers have experienced too often.

  40. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Such sad stories in the wake of this hurricane. The last I heard, at least eight hundred people died in Haiti. It seems that most Floridians heeded the call to evacuate, but the property damage will be devastating. I have friends in North Carolina, so I am really hoping that the forecasters are right and it will then take a sharp turn east away from their coast.
    On a happier subject, here is a video that no one can watch without smiling. Meet Nora the polar bear as she discovers a wading pool filled with ice. It is hilarious. And following it on YouTube is a longer film about Nora’s history. f

  41. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    On October 12, 1176, William d’Aubigny, Earl of Arundel, died. He is best known for wedding Queen Adeliza, the widow of Henry I. Elizabeth Chadwick’s Lady of the English, gives us a very appealing account of their courtship and marriage.
    On October 12, 1216, King John—who was not having a good year—lost his crown jewels in The Wash.
    On October 12, 1459, the Battle of Ludford Bridge was almost fought. The Yorkist army was already skittish, for they saw the king’s standard flying in the Lancastrian camp and were hesitant about opposing the king himself, even a figurehead king like poor Henry VI. The death blow to their chances occurred that night when Andrew Trollope and six hundred of his men defected to the Lancastrians. The Duke of York and the Earls of Warwick and Salisbury retreated to Ludlow Castle and then fled the country, York and his younger son Edmund going to Wales and then to Ireland, his elder son Edward going to Calais with the Earl of Warwick. York’s wife, Cecily Neville, and her two young sons, George and Richard, were left in Ludlow, awaiting the Lancastrian army the next day on the steps of the high cross. It is interesting to speculate how history might have been changed had Edward been the son to accompany his father to Ireland. If he had, he’d have been with York at Sandal Castle the following December, when York rashly left the castle and fell into a Lancastrian trap. Would Edward have been the one to die on Wakefield Bridge instead of Edmund? Might there have been a King Edmund? It is impossible to answer the first question, but I don’t think a King Edmund was in the cards. Edward won over the Londoners with his personal charm and then won the crown itself on the battlefield. Take him out of the equation and who knows what might have happened.
    On October 12, 1492, the crew of Columbus’s Pinta sighted land—the Bahamas—although Columbus remained convinced until his death that he’d found a way to the East Indies.
    And on October 12, 1537, the future Edward VI was born. Jane Seymour, his mother, would soon die of childbed fever, so she did not get to enjoy the triumph of doing what neither Katherine of Aragon or Anne Boleyn could—give Henry VIII his longed-for son.

  42. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Here are the historical events that occurred yesterday, October 14th.
    The best-known event was the Battle of Hastings, a battle that changed history in ways that are still reverberating today. As we all know, William the Bastard—more politely known to posterity as William the Conqueror—was the victor, and the Saxon King Harold Godwinson was slain on the field. Helen Hollick has written a novel about Harold and Elizabeth Chadwick’s novel, The Conquest, also deals with this period in English history from the vantage point of both Normans and Saxons; Elizabeth has a very good description of the Battle of Hastings.
    On October 14, 1322, Robert Bruce defeated Edward II at the battle of Byland, forcing Edward to accept Scottish independence.
    According to Wikipedia, one result of the implementation of the Gregorian calendar was that there was no October 14th in 1582 in the countries of Italy, Poland, Portugal, and Spain. Please don’t ask me why other countries got to enjoy the 14th, for I haven’t a clue. But I bet at least one of my readers will know!
    And on October 14, 1586, Mary Queen of Scots went on trial on a number of charges, including conspiracy and the planned assassination of her cousin Elizabeth. I think the best novel about Mary is still Margaret George’s Mary Queen of Scots.

  43. Joan Says:

    I agree, Margaret George’s novel is outstanding. And must order Elizabeth Chadwick’s “The Conquest”.

  44. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    I think you’ll like it, Joann.

    I am a few days late on this post, but I hope it is worth waiting for. October 13th was an incredibly busy day from a historical standpoint. So fasten your seat belts for this one.

    On October 13, 54 AD, the Roman emperor Claudius was poisoned. I am sure that thousands are like me, having gleaned most of what we know about Claudius from the brilliant television series, I, Claudius, based upon the equally brilliant novel by Robert Graves. The wonderful actor Derek Jacobi played Claudius as a very sympathetic character who was extraordinarily unlucky in his choice of wives, including the notorious Messalina and Agrippina, who is believed to have murdered him to gain the crown for her son, Nero. The series is available on DVD for those who’ve never seen this classic. And Margaret George’s gripping new novel, The Confessions of Young Nero, will be coming out next spring; Claudius, Messalina, Nero, and his notorious mother, Agrippina, are all in it.

    On October 13, 1162, Leonora, the second daughter of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, was born. She would become Queen of Castile, winning the affection of her husband and his subjects. She is one of the two children who outlived their mother, the other being John. She seems to have had a happy marriage, but there was much tragedy in her life due to the deaths of so many of her children; she was devastated by the death of her husband, too, too stricken even to attend his funeral. The abbot of Mont St Michel was her godfather. Like all of Henry and Eleanor’s children, she was said to be very attractive, and a later Spanish chronicle described her as having dark hair.

    On October 13, 1278, Llywelyn ap Gruffydd wed Ellen de Montfort at Worcester Cathedral. They’d actually been wed by proxy but Edward I then had the bride kidnapped by a pirate in his pay and held her prisoner for 3 years as he sought to extract as many concessions as possible from Llywelyn. Edward paid for the wedding and then blackmailed Llywelyn into making even more concessions on the eve of the wedding. Knowing his sense of humor, I do not think it was coincidence that he scheduled it on October 13th, which was the feast day of St Edward. Llywelyn and Ellen’s marriage appears to have been a happy one, but I doubt that they enjoyed the wedding itself.

    On October 13, 1307, the grasping, unscrupulous French King, Philippe IV, ordered the arrest of the Templars. You will occasionally see October 13, 1244 give as the birthdate of the last Grand Master, Jacques de Molay, but there is no evidence for that as we are not even sure of the date of his birth year.

    On October 13, 1399, Henry IV was crowned at Westminster as the first Lancastrian king, having deposed and probably murdered his cousin Richard II, his usurpation laying the seeds for the Wars of the Roses. Brian Wainwright has written an excellent novel about Henry’s reign, Within the Fetterlock.

    On October 13, 1453, the only child of Marguerite d’Anjou and the hapless Henry VI was born, Edward of Lancaster, who would die at seventeen at the battle of Tewkesbury.
    It is sometimes claimed that October 13, 1537 was the birthday of the Nine Days Queen, Jane Grey, but that is open to dispute, with some historians believing that she was born earlier than that, possibly even in 1536. Susan Higginbotham has written a novel about Jane, Her Highness, the Traitor. I’ve always had great sympathy for Jane, the ultimate political pawn.

  45. Joan Says:

    Loved Susan Higginbotham’s novel & yes, Jane’s life is heartbreaking. It’s startling to see (in docus) the name JANE carved into the wall of one of the Tower rooms, along with others.

  46. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Being high-born was not always an advantage, Joan, especially to the young women who were married off as pawns, occasionally with disastrous results.

    Continuing with my mission to cheer us up in these very stressful times, here is an article sure to make you all smile. Our Canadian neighbors want to cheer us up, too, and they have made a video reminding us of all that is wonderful about America and Americans. Here is the link. This is my own favorite of the Canadian comments:
    Gatsby, Huck Fin, Moby Dick, Scarlet Letter, Grapes of Wrath, Mockingbird, Catcher in the Rye… got literature down #tellamericaitsgreat Thank you, Canada! We think you guys are great, too.

  47. Joan Says:

    I totally agree. I have to update my Flash before I can watch the video but it really is true, we Canadians feel a strong affinity with the US & are very aware of & appreciative of the greatness that comes out of America.

    I have 2 personal experiences that are worth mentioning. My daughter & son-in-law lived in DC just after 9/11, for 3-1/2 years while he researched with NHI in genetics. It was cutting edge & a perfect fit for his brilliant scientific mind. They came back to Canada, however, & hasn’t found anything to match that experience. Research is high priority in America, unlike here. My son-in-law is still associated with that lab & on a trip back, had the immense honour of a meeting with a colleague & Joe Biden over a beer! He’s been offered positions back in the US but they want to raise their children in Can.

    Then there’s my own experience of having found a brilliant American author with a beautiful humanitarian spirit, who inspires us constantly & provokes us to think about the important things in life. Sharon, because of your inspiration, your novels, your blog, & authors you introduce, I’ve developed interests that never stop surprising me & for which I’ll be forever grateful.

  48. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Thank you, Joan! We are very lucky to have you Canadians as our next-door neighbors.

    One of England’s most notorious kings, John, died on October 19th, 1216 at Newark, apparently of dysentery, which was a deadly disease in the MA; those it claimed included Henry II’s son Hal, Edward I, King Amalric of Jerusalem, and Henry V. John’s death may have saved the throne for his son, for the English lords then rallied to young Henry and the French were defeated. I’ve been asked occasionally if John really said some of the things he says in his death scene in Here Be Dragons. The answer is no; there was no one around to take down his last words, as he was abandoned by his last loyal courtiers once they realized he was dying. Sic transit Gloria mundi—thus passes the glory of the world. But I think—hope– I did justice to the real John. We know he had a sardonic sense of humor, so I can see him jesting about auctioning off his choice body parts when the abbot asked him if they could have his heart and bowels for burial at Croxton’s abbey of St John the Evangelist. And I find it easy to imagine John really saying this, too:
    * * *
    As the spasm passed, John lay back, closed his eyes. “I think I always knew…”
    “Knew what, my liege?”
    John turned his head, looked at the abbot for a long time without answering. “I always knew, he said, “that I’d die alone…”
    * * *
    Also on October 19th, 1330, Queen Isabella’s lover, Roger Mortimer, was arrested at Nottingham Castle on the orders of the young King Edward III, after using a secret passage to get into the castle; how cool is that? Well, not so cool for Roger, who’d be executed the following month.
    And on October 19th, 1469, Fernando of Aragon wed Isabella of Castile. Christopher Gortner’s The Queen’s Vow dramatizes the life of this controversial and powerful queen.
    Lastly, it may not be medieval, but on October 19th, 1781, Lord Cornwallis surrendered to George Washington at Yorktown, ending our Revolutionary War. Actually, Lord Cornwallis did not attend himself; he claimed to be sick and sent someone else to surrender his sword rather than have to yield to a colonial. Bad form, Lord C, definitely bad form.

  49. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    I am not sure if it shows at the same time all over the country, but PBS is airing a documentary tonight at 9 PM EST about the making of the Broadway sensation, Hamilton. I’m really looking forward to this one.
    And here is a touching story about a five-year-old autistic boy named Kainoa meeting his service dog, Tornado, for the first time. Dogs do so much for humans. Earlier in the summer, I recommended a remarkable book, Underdogs, the story of a woman with severe health problems of her own who has formed a rescue group to pair needy children with canine guardian angels. She gets most of her dogs from shelters and then trains them to assist children with special needs; she also works with the families to help them raise the money needed, for it costs a lot to train one of these dogs. Here is the link to Kainoa’s story.
    And here is a link to Underdogs.

  50. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    As some of you know, I am a football fan, and I don’t really follow baseball. But who could resist a curse, especially one caused by a goat? So I’ve always had a soft spot for the Chicago Cubs and am happy to see them in the World Series. Yes, I know Cleveland fans deserve a title, too; the fates definitely owe you for the Cleveland Browns. But you still have LeBron James. Anyway, here is an entertaining article about the Cubs and the curse, written by a long-suffering Cubs fan. As for me, Go, Cubbies!

  51. Malcolm Craig Says:

    This World Series reminds me of 1979, Pirates vs. Orioles, in which I had nothing against either team and did not care who won. I just wanted entertaining games. It will be the first championship in 68 or 108 years, depending on which way it goes. Got to like Terry Francona, who guided Red Sox to their first two championships since 1918, when Babe Ruth was still pitching. On the other hand, David Ross of the Cubs is from Tallahassee and played as a 12-year-old at Winthrop Park, where I later coached for two decades. He also caught the final strike when Red Sox won 2013 Series. I will be happy either way.

  52. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Who do you usually root for, Mac?

    Some very interesting events occurred on yesterday’s date, October 25th. Here we go.
    On October 25, 1102, William Clito, Count of Flanders, was born. He was the son of Robert, the Duke of Normandy, and thus nephew to Henry I. Henry was not a loving uncle, though, and after he captured Robert in 1106, he made several attempts to get William Clito into his hands; luckily for William, he did not succeed. But William’s fortunes changed dramatically with the sinking of the White Ship, for many then saw him as the obvious male heir and preferred him to Henry’s daughter Maude. It is hard to say what may have happened had William not been wounded in July 1128 at the siege of Aalst. Gangrene set in and he died at only twenty-five, thus making it easier for Henry to force Maude upon his reluctant barons. His father, Robert, survived him by six years, dying in 1134 after over 28 years as Henry’s prisoner.
    On October 25, 1147, the Seljuk Turks decimated the army of the German king Conrad at Dorylaeum, which definitely got the fiasco known as the Second Crusade off to a terrible start.
    On October 25, 1154, Henry II’s Angevin luck continued to hold. Stephen died on that date, thus allowing Henry to claim the English crown at the age of 21. It probably would have been very difficult for the impatient Henry to have to wait around if Stephen had lived another decade or so after the peace pact that named him as Stephen’s heir.
    On October 25, 1400, the great poet and story teller, Geoffrey Chaucer, died. As a writer, I admit I find this the most interesting happening on October 25th. But there was one more event, admittedly better known.
    The battle of Agincourt took place on October 25, 1415, one of the great battles of the MA. Henry V was the victor, of course, and the French suffered a calamitous defeat. I highly recommend Bernard Cornwell’s Agincourt for a dramatic account of this battle.

  53. Malcolm Craig Says:

    Sharon, I have rooted for my native team, Red Sox, since age 4. I also rooted for Atlanta Braves from mid-’70s through ’90s, when WTBS televised their games here. That was an hereditary affection, stemming for early Boston Nationals and Beaneaters, then Braves.

  54. Joan Says:

    For quiz lovers, here’s one…..”Which founding father are you?” on the Oxford University blog.

  55. Joan Says:

    It’s the Oxford University Press blog.

  56. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Thanks, Joan. I’ll check it out. My favorite Founding Father is Ben Franklin; how he would have loved the internet.

    Here is a story that made me smile as I read it, and they are few and hard to find these days. Enjoy, everyone.

  57. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Happy Halloween to everyone, though in the US, the scariest day of the year falls on November 8th this year.
    October 31, 1147 was the date of death of a man I’ve always admired, Robert Fitz Roy, Earl of Gloucester, illegitimate son of King Henry I and half-brother to the Empress Maude. He was an honorable man who’d have been a good king, probably a far better ruler than either Stephen or his sister. Below are two scenes from Saints. The first scene is one of the few times when Robert’s self-control cracked. Maude is embittered that men still refuse to acknowledge her because she is a woman and her outburst touches a raw nerve with Robert.
    Saints, page 343-344
    * * *
    Rising, she began to pace. “To have come so close and then to have it all snatched away like this….it is so unfair, Robert, so damnably unfair!”
    “Life is unfair,” he said, sounding so stoical, so rational, and so dispassionate that she was suddenly angry, a scalding, seething, impotent rage that spared no one—not herself, not Robert, not God.
    “You think I do not know that? When has life ever been fair to women? Just think upon how easy it was for Stephen to steal my crown, and how bitter and bloody has been my struggle to win it back. Even after we’d caged Stephen at Bristol Castle, he was still a rival, still a threat…and why? Because he was so much braver or more clever or capable than me ? No…because I was a woman, for it always came back to that. I’ll not deny that I made mistakes, but you do not know what it is like, Robert, to be judged so unfairly, to be rejected not for what you’ve done, but for what you are. It is a poison that seeps into the soul, that makes you half-crazed with the need to prove yourself…”
    She stopped to catch her breath, and only then did she see the look on Robert’s face, one of disbelief and then utter and overwhelming fury, burning as hot as her own anger, hotter even, for being so long suppressed.
    “I do not know what it is like?” he said incredulously. “I was our father’s firstborn son, but was I his heir? No, I was just his bastard. He trusted me and relied upon me and needed me. But none of that mattered, not even after the White Ship sank and he lost his only lawfully be-gotten son. He was so desperate to have an heir of his body that he dragged you back—unwilling—from Germany, forced you into a marriage that he knew was doomed, and then risked rebellion by ramming you down the throats of his barons. And all the while, he had a son capable of ruling after him—he had me! But I was the son born of his sin, so I was not worthy to be king. As if I could have blundered any worse than you or Stephen!”
    Maude was stunned. She stared at him, too stricken for words, not knowing what to say even if she’d been capable of speech. Robert seemed equally shattered by his outburst; his face was suddenly ashen. He started to speak, then turned abruptly and walked out.
    * * *
    In the next scene, Maude has come to Robert to apologize, something she rarely did.
    p. 345
    “I am sorry, Robert. I do not say that as often as I ought, but never have I meant it more. You have been my rod and my staff, more loyal than I deserved. You would have made a very good king.”
    His shoulders twitched, in a half-shrug. “Well, better than Stephen, for certes,” he said, with the faintest glimmer of a smile.
    “Robert.” Her mouth was suddenly dry. “I am never going to be queen, am I?”
    “No,” he said quietly, “you are not.”
    She’d known what he would say. But his uncompromising, honest answer robbed her of any last shreds of hope. She averted her face, briefly, and he, too, looked away, not willing to watch the death of a dream.
    “Maude.” She turned back to face him, slowly, and he said, “You are not giving up?”
    “You know better than that, Robert. I may have lost, but I’ll not let Henry lose, too. I shall fight for my son as long as I have breath in my body. He must not be cheated of the crown that is his birthright.”
    She saw sympathy in his eyes, and what mattered more, respect. “I will do whatever I can,” he vowed, “to make sure that does not happen.” And in that moment, she realized the truth—that he’d been fighting for Henry all along.
    * * *

  58. Joan Says:

    Ben Franklin was the result I got! Lovely story of the puppies. My daughter (in on a course) & I had some animal fun when we went out to her friend’s ranch for dinner. They have a houseful of kids & pets….. a mama dog & her 2 pups who are twice her size, a found little black kitten whom mama dog took as her own pup, hence kitty thinks she’s a dog, a bearded lizard, & a hampster. Not to mention all the horses in the stables. But the best news ever is that my granddaughters are finally going to get their own puppies next year. It seems that West Highland Scottish White Terriers are a good dog for a family with allergies.

  59. skpenman Says:

    Ben Franklin is my favorite Founding Father, Joan. How he would have loved the computer age and the internet! I am posting below the link to the quiz, as I did on Facebook. What a great menagerie your daughter’s friend has!

    On my continuing quest to distract us from reality, here are two fun tests about America’s founding fathers. Oddly, on both tests, I scored as James Madison. I really wanted to identify with my favorite founding father, Ben Franklin, so I kept taking the first test until we connected; it took me five tries, though!

  60. skpenman Says:

    Congratulations to all my friends and readers who are Chicago Cubs fans, and my sympathies to Cleveland fans; being an Eagles fan, I know a lot about disappointments.
    On the historical front from yesterday, November 2nd is another important day on the medieval Church calendar, All Soul’s Day. And two of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville’s children were born on November 2nd, their ill-fated son Edward in 1470 and their fifth daughter Anne, later the Countess of Surrey, in 1475.

  61. Joan Says:


  62. Joan Says:

    My daughter Alanna just informed me that she’s wearing a pantsuit at work today in support of Hillary! That’s hilarious, but good for her. Hey, we love America! Because she & her husband lived in DC for a time, they went back to witness Obama’s inauguration. Then went to their own Ball that evening with a group of 500. My 1st grandchild has dual citizenship.

  63. Joan Says:

    Evil won over good yesterday. God help you, America. And God help this world. I am in deep mourning.

  64. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    This has to be a quick note–I am having computer woes again, this time trouble with my back up, Spock. I wanted to mention that Devil’s Brood is highlighted today on at a bargain price. Here is the link for those interested.…/2016-11-12/B0015DWKEK

  65. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    My favorite website, is holding an election for medieval rulers. Among the candidates are Eleanor of Aquitaine, William the Conqueror, and Richard III. Want to bet that Eleanor will mention to Henry in the Hereafter that he did not make the list? Here is the link; go vote! It is embarrassing and baffling that American voters turn out in such low numbers; 47% of eligible voters did not bother to vote last week. Surely we can do better here?

  66. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    I am posting this on all my Facebook pages in the hopes that others will sign this petition. I feel strongly that intelligent social mammals like dolphins and orcas should not be kept in captivity at all; that they would be compelled to jump through hoops of fire is obscene. I don’t know if a petition will help their plight, but it is worth trying.

  67. bonnie mutchler Says:

    I’ve only one question. Justin has been wandering the wilderness for 11 years and being mad about him, I would love to see him rescued. Will this be any time soon?

  68. Joan Says:

    Brava Sharon for your Nov 14 post!

    Colson Whitehead won the National Book Award for “The Underground Railroad”. I’d added the book to my TBR list when I first heard about it. I hope it sells out in America (specifically), where much soul searching is long overdue.

  69. Joan Says:

    Sharon here is the cast of Hamilton doing what artists do best, which is having the courage to speak out to the world.

  70. Joan Says:

    Sharon I’ve sent a link which needs to be freed. Amazing people, the Hamilton cast! Thanks!

  71. skpenman Says:

    Bonnie, I can’t type much, as I explain in the post below, but I do hope to do another Justin mystery after I complete The Land Beyond the Sea. More on that when I am feeling better.

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

  72. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    It feels like forever since I was able to post on Facebook and my blog and Goodreads, but I’ve been going through a rough patch, still struggling with that pinched nerve, a very nasty foe. I hope my American friends and readers had a good Thanksgiving. Now that I am feeling a little better, I hope to start posting more regularly again. I do have good news to report. The new Bernard Cornwell book in his spectacular Saxon series is now out in the US; It came out in the UK in October. The title is The Flame-thrower and it is wonderful; he just keeps getting better and better. And the evil entity masquerading as a HP laptop is dead. Yes, Diablo chose the middle of my health crisis to have a major meltdown and his demons could not be exorcised. Because he was still under warranty, HP gave me a replacement computer and I am taking some comfort in imagining Diablo rotting away in some computer landfill; it would have been more satisfying, though, if I’d been able to drive a stake through his heart.

  73. Joan Says:

    I’m so happy to hear you’re doing much better, Sharon. I’m into the 2nd Robert Carey book & can see why you love them so much. They are brilliant! Not surprisingly, I have fallen for Carey, another name on the lengthening list of smitten females. Why aren’t there men like that around these days?!?

  74. skpenman Says:

    I am so glad you are enjoying the Carey novels, Joan. He was a remarkable man, definitely a charmer, and PF Chisholm has done him justice. The new one, A Clash of Spheres, is due out in March.

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

  75. Joan Says:

    I’m into Christmas music & happened upon Joni Mitchell’s River. Love this track. I hope this is the right site.

  76. Joan Says:

    Sharon, I have a post waiting to be set free. It’s Joni Mitchell’s River. Thanks

  77. Malcolm Craig Says:

    Merry Christmas (almost!), Sharon.

  78. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    I feel as if I’ve been away for years instead of weeks. I really missed you guys; your interactions with one another are always interesting and often very funny. I’d expect no less from people who have such good taste in books, of course!

    I have decided that if I want a character in one of my books to suffer, I will let him or her be stricken with a pinched nerve. I will reserve that only for those who truly deserve it, though, for the medievals did not have the benefit of modern pain meds or, in my case, the prednisone that finally succeeded in relieving the swelling and inflammation and therefore the pain. There are disadvantages of living in the 21st century, but not when it comes to medical care. I am very happy to report that I am now well on the mend and look forward to a new year in which Facebook is once more part of my daily routine.

    I think most people will be very glad to see the last of 2016, for numerous reasons. It was a year of losses; too many deaths, too often the result of terrorism or tragedy. Many of us suffered personal losses and there was also the loss of people we may not have known, but who were worthy of admiration, people who made a difference and who will be missed. This week it was Carrie Fisher, a woman who died too young, a woman of courage and compassion. Her willingness to discuss her struggles with bi-polar disorder was very brave and I do not doubt that she helped so many just by her candor alone, by her refusal to be ashamed of it. She was a worthy role model and set an example that I hope will not be forgotten.

    And on December 29th in 1170, a momentous event occurred, one that rocked the Angevin world when Henry’s angry, heedless words sent four knights to Canterbury, where they assassinated Thomas Becket in his own cathedral. Becket seems to have had a yearning for martyrdom, for he went out of his way to infuriate Henry and had several opportunities to escape the killers, who seem to have been a bit hesitant at first to murder an archbishop. Henry did not say “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?” but his actual words were enough to set the tragedy in motion; to find out what he really said, read the scene in Time and Chance! I admit, at the risk of sounding ghoulish, that I enjoyed writing the assassination scene. It was high drama and writers are all hooked on that, whether we are willing to admit it or not. And I love having eye-witness accounts to draw upon, as I did in Lionheart. Several of the men who were present when Becket was slain put pen to parchment and described the scene in compelling detail, even down to reporting the dialogue between the archbishop and his killers.

  79. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    PS I am actually planning to put up a new blog, too!

  80. Jennifer la grenouille Says:

    Hello, Sharon. I’m glad to find that you have a blog! I just finished The Sunne in Splendor earlier in December and boy, oh boy, have you started something. After turning it in to the library, I came home with sixteen more books on the Wars of the Roses and Richard III! I had never studied this period of history before and Sunne was my first introduction to it (and to your works!) and I’m glad it was. I appreciate your attention to detail and the humanity you brought to these people (not merely characters). After I finished reading it, I posted a Facebook confession that I felt a little silly mourning the deaths of people who died over 500 years ago, but there I was feeling terribly sad for Richard.
    I hope your pinched nerve is well and truly gone! I was similarly afflicted this summer and that pain is no joke!

  81. skpenman Says:

    Since I was unable to wish you all a Merry Christmas, I wanted to be sure to wish everyone a Happy (and safe) New Year. It will take me weeks to catch up on all the December historical events, some of them very significant, at least to medieval nerds like us. But I won’t play catch-up tonight. Instead I am posting a link that I have shared in the past. But that was several years ago and it is well worth repeating. I have many new Facebook friends since then who may not have seen it. It is, quite simply, the best Flash-mob ever. Take a few minutes to watch as these young Moscow dancers assemble to put on a dazzling performance of Putting on the Ritz, one that even involves a new bride. The sheer delight on the faces of the audience is in itself delightful; I cannot imagine anyone watching this without smiling.

  82. skpenman Says:

    I hope all of you had an enjoyable New Year’s Eve and I really, really hope that 2017 will be a better year for all of us.

    December 30th was a dreadful day for the House of York, for on this date in 1460, the Duke of York rashly ventured out from Sandal Castle to confront a Lancastrian force that lured him into a trap. The result was a devastating defeat for the Yorkists. The duke died on the field, the Earl of Salisbury was executed after the battle, and the most controversial killing occurred on Wakefield Bridge when the duke’s seventeen year old son, Edmund, was slain by Lord Clifford. Their heads were placed on York’s Micklegate Bar, but the Lancastrians did not have long to savor their triumph. Just three months later, Edward of York won a great victory against them at Towton, said to be the bloodiest battle ever fought on English soil, a victory that secured the crown for the young commander, who was still a month shy of his nineteenth birthday on that snowy March day. Think about that; what an amazing accomplishment for someone so young. Military historians are constantly praising battle commanders like the Lionheart, Edward I, and Henry V. But Edward of York was a brilliant general, too, and does not always get enough credit for that.

    We often discuss History’s What Ifs here. Well, I think the battle fought outside Sandal Castle presents a very interesting What If. After they’d fled Ludlow Castle before the advancing Lancastrian army in 1159, the Duke of York set out for Ireland, taking with him his second son, Edmund. The Earl of Warwick chose exile in Calais and the duke’s eldest son, Edward, accompanied him. If Edward had been the one to remain with his father, then he would have been at Sandal Castle on that cold December day when the duke made his fateful, foolish decision to leave the castle and confront the Lancastrian force that had ambushed his foraging party. How would Edward’s presence there have changed history?

    The simple answer would be that he’d have died instead of his younger brother. But I am not convinced that would have happened. Edward would soon prove himself to be a superb battle commander, as I mention above, a far better general than either his father or his cousin Warwick. Edward was also supremely self-confident, even at a very young age. And lastly, Edward had what Napoleon considered critical in a general—luck; when told that a general was skilled, he would always say, “But is he lucky?” Edward’s luck would become legendary and to his enemies it must have seemed as if he had as many lives as a cat. So that legendary luck may have enabled him to escape capture during the battle of Wakefield. It is even possible that there would not have been a battle had Edward been there. He would have understood the risk they’d be taking in leaving the safety of the castle, and he would have had the self-assurance to do what Edmund could not—speak up and argue against it. Since we also know that Edward could charm the birds out of the trees or a nun into bed with him if he so chose, his argument might well have carried the day. All speculation, of course, but fun. I can only say for a certainty that I hated murdering Edmund on Wakefield Bridge; he was my first victim and I did not yet know that all of my books would be so blood-soaked and happy endings as rare as unicorns.

  83. skpenman Says:

    I hope the new year is getting off to a good start for all of my Facebook friends and readers. A cartoon in my local paper aptly summed up the almost universal opinion of 2016. It showed the old year popping up in Hell and explaining to the Devil, “Well, it was either this or the Witness Protection Program.” Now on to January 5th, which was a busy day in history.
    Richard, Earl of Cornwall and later Holy Roman Emperor, younger brother of Henry III and a major character in Falls the Shadow, was born on this date in 1209.
    In 1463, the French poet Francois Villon, as celebrated for his poetry as he was notorious for his wild life, was banished from his beloved Paris for 10 years. He was a thief, once was sentenced to be hanged for killing a priest in a tavern brawl, and ran up quite a “rap sheet” in his 32 years. We actually don’t know how old he was when he died, but he was 32 when he disappeared from Paris and was never heard from again.
    In 1465, another French poet died. Unlike Francois Villon, who’d been born into poverty, Charles, the Duke of Orleans, came from the upper classes. His first wife was a queen, his cousin Isabelle of Valois, widow of Richard II; Isabelle had been a child bride, but she remained very loyal to Richard and refused to consider a marriage to the future Henry V, son of the man she saw as a usurper, Henry IV. Henry IV eventually allowed her to return to France, where she wed Charles, but sadly, died in childbirth, at only 19. Charles fought at Agincourt and was found alive after the battle, buried under a pile of bodies. He would spend the next 25 years as a prisoner of the English. He was treated fairly leniently, but 25 years! During his captivity, he wrote most of his poems, which understandably had a melancholy tone. He was finally freed in 1440, returned to France, and wed for the third time. He appeared in the classic novel, In a Dark Wood Wandering, by Hella Haasse, and he is also a major character in Margaret Frazer’s mystery, The Maiden’s Tale.
    On January 5th, 1477, Charles, Duke of Burgundy, was slain at the battle of Nancy. His body was not found until days later, partially eaten by wolves or other scavengers. Charles was the husband of Margaret of York, sister to Edward IV and Richard III, and appears in one scene in Sunne. He was known as Charles the Bold or Charles the Rash. I favor the latter, for he had a talent for making enemies and showed increasingly poor judgment in his last years.
    On January 5th, 1589, the controversial French queen, Catherine de Medici, died, at age 69. Catherine is given a three-dimensional portrayal in C.W. Gortner’s novel, The Confessions of Catherine de Medici.
    Lastly, on January 5th, 1592, the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan was born. His fame rests today on the splendid mausoleum he built as a tribute to his beloved wife, Muntaz-I-Mahal. We know it today as the Taj Mahal, surely one of the most beautiful buildings in the world. Shah Jahan had planned to build an identical tomb for himself, only in black marble, but his son did not inherit his father’s romantic streak and he did not honor Shah’s dying wishes.

  84. Mac Craig Says:

    Of course, Charles d’Orleans was also the father of King Louis XII, who late in life married a daughter of Henry Tudor.

  85. Joan Says:

    Good morning Sharon, so glad to see you back here. I hope your new year is going well despite the miserable winter out there. Here’s my hope for the new year…..that we all try to be a bit kinder each day. This was reinforced for me just now by this story.

    Charlie Brotman, 89 years young, was interviewed on CNN……he has just been dumped as the inauguration parade announcer after a 60 year run. The shocking thing is he’d been informed BY EMAIL!!!!! Yet, as he confided on air, once he got over the shock plus suicidal tendencies (he was honest enough to admit), he still had nothing but kind words for the new announcer. Informed by email! What a sad commentary on this world of ours!!!

  86. skpenman Says:

    I love your New Year’s resolution, Joan. kindness is so desperately needed these days! Since people feel free to end relationships and even marriages via texts or e-mails, I suppose we should not be surprised by this misuse of e-mails. Still sad, though.

    I hope all my Facebook friends and readers came through the storms okay; this weekend, most of us in the US were at ground zero, with flooding on the West Coast, snow and flooding in the South, and snow and blizzards in the mid-Atlantic states and New England. We got eight inches of snow here, but it could have been much worse. The Weather Channel says 49 of the 50 states had snow on the ground—and no, it is not the one you’d expect; the snowless state is Florida, not Hawaii, which had snow capping its mountains on the Big Island. Now to continue catching up on my historical posts. Oh, yes, and go, Green Bay!

    January 6th was Epiphany, an important medieval holiday, and a busy day, historically speaking.

    On this date in 1066, Harold Godwinson was crowned King of England. His reign would be a brief one, cut short by William the Conqueror at the battle of Hastings. Helen Hollick has written an interesting novel about Harold, which was published in the UK as Harold the King, but was published in the US under the title, I am the Chosen King. Maybe the publisher worried that American readers wouldn’t know there was a King Harold?

    January 1169. Henry II and Thomas Becket met at Montmiral in an attempt to reconcile their differences, at the urgings of the French king, Louis. It did not go well, for once again Becket qualified his submission by adding “saving the Honour of God.” Since Henry was convinced that whenever Becket did not agree with a royal act, he’d declare it contrary to the Honour of God, this was not acceptable to him. He was eloquent enough to convince their audience, even the French king, who asked Becket, in unwitting irony, if he wished to be more than a saint. See page 392 of Time and Chance for this scene.

    On January 6th, 1205, Philip of Swabia (the only good Hohenstaufen), youngest brother of Richard’s nemesis, Heinrich von Hohenstaufen, was crowned King of the Romans for the second time. He’d originally been crowned in 1198, but the Germans were split between him and Richard’s nephew Otto, who’d also been elected. Philip would eventually prevail over Otto, only to be tragically assassinated in 1208. Philip seems to have been an admirable individual, the anti-Heinrich, if you will, and if only I spoke German, I’d have loved to give him a book of his own.

    Another ruler was crowned on January 6th, this time in 1286, but he could not be more unlike the upstanding, sympathetic Philip–Philippe le Bel, or Philippe IV, King of France. Philippe was a nasty piece of work, persecuting the Jews and Lombards and bringing about the destruction of the Templars.

    On January 6th, 1367, Richard II was born. He became king at age 10, and his reign was neither happy nor successful. Sadly for him, his finest moment occurred at age 14 during the Peasant’s Revolt; from there, it was all downhill.

    On January 6th, 1412, Joan of Arc was born—maybe.

    And of course it is time for the Tudors to crash the party again. On this date in 1540, Henry VIII wed wife #4, Anne of Cleves. I think we can safely say that neither bride nor groom enjoyed their wedding night. My sympathies are naturally with Anne.

    Lastly, this was not medieval, but another important wedding took place on this date in 1759, beginning a marriage that was much happier than Henry and Anne’s, when George Washington wed the wealthy young widow, Martha Custis.

  87. Joan Says:

    Boy, am I behind the times!! Good thing we didn’t have email when my ex & I broke up. That really would have done him in!

    Re Mr Brotman above, I think his “suicidal thought” was meant to be tongue-in-cheek. At least I hope so. He came across as someone who enjoys life too much.

  88. skpenman Says:

    I agree with that, Joan. Impressive that he could reach such a venerable age with his enthusiasm intact, isn’t it?

    Here is a catch-up post for December; I initially posted it three years ago, but am counting on the fact that most of your memories are as unreliable as mine.
    Richard I’s queen, Berengaria, died on December 23rd, 1230, at about age 60. She was buried at L’Epau, the abbey she founded during her long widowhood. As I’ve said at other times, I do not think history has been fair to Berengaria, faulting her for not being another Eleanor of Aquitaine and not giving her enough credit for the quiet courage she displayed on crusade and during her long struggle with her brother-in-law, John, who treated her rather shabbily after Richard’s death. A good example of how dismissive historians can be is a comment by Elizabeth Hallam, who has written her current entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Ms. Hallam reports that chroniclers described her as beautiful and prudent, but then adds that Richard of Devizes’s snide comment that she was more prudent than pretty is more convincing. Yet Richard of Devizes never laid eyes upon Berengaria, whereas Ambroise, who was far more complimentary, did. So why does she give greater credence to Richard of Devizes? Because he was snarkier? I’ve said this before, too, that I see her as a young woman who was dealt a bad hand and played it as best she could. But she remains an elusive figure, an elegant ghost who did not share her secrets and left few footprints in the sands of history. At least she has a street named after her in Le Mans.

  89. Joan Says:

    Here’s to Berengaria who has a story. She obviously abounded in qualities like courage & stamina & grace, qualities that many self-indulgent know-it-all 21st century women would know nothing about!!!!!

  90. Joan Says:

    Sharon, I promise I’ll not bring up the subject again but have to give a WOW to Obama’s farewell address. A man to emulate, a family to emulate, a class act, & this includes Joe Biden & his wife.

    And too too soon, we will have to settle for slime in the oval office-turned sewer!

  91. Magnificent Says:

    Fantastic Perspective

  92. strony internetowe słupsk Says:

    Yeah bookmaking this wasn at a bad determination outstanding post!

Leave a Reply