WINNERS OF THE PROUD SINNER BOOK DRAWING AND FIRST CHAPTER OF WINE OF VIOLENCE

We have a winner in our drawing for a copy of Priscilla Royal’s new medieval mystery, The Proud Sinner.  In fact, because of Priscilla’s generosity, we have two winners—Pat K. and Margaret Skea.  Pat and Margaret, congratulations.  I am sure you’ll really enjoy The Proud Sinner; I know I did.  You can contact Priscilla via her Facebook page or website or me via the Contact Sharon option on my website.  Margaret is a writer, too, author of two novels set in sixteenth century Scotland, Turn of the Tide and A House Divided.  She is also the recipient of a grant by Creative Scotland, and is currently in Germany researching her next book, a novel about Katharina Luther.  Here is a link to her website.   https://margaretskea.com/
Priscilla’s publisher, Poisoned Pen Press, has just brought out a new edition of her first medieval mystery, Wine of Violence.   I was very pleased when they asked me to write a new forward for it, as this gave me an opportunity to explain why I think this is such an excellent series.   I have gotten permission from Poisoned Pen Press to post the first chapter of Wine of Violence on my blog.   If you have not read Wine yet, I am sure you’ll want to do so after reading this chapter.  Enjoy!

*     *     *    *   *

WINE OF VIOLENCE

Chapter One

During the dark morning hours of a winter day in the year 1270, an aged prioress realized she was dying.
To her surprise the dying was much easier than she had ever imagined. The crushing pain in her chest was gone and she felt herself drifting upward with an extraordinary lightness. She was floating above the rush-covered floor, over which a dusting of sweet scented petals had been scattered, and away from that narrow convent cot where her earthly remains lay so still. Indeed, she wasn’t frightened. She was very much at peace.
Below her, a semi-circle of nuns continued to chant with haunting harmony, their warm breath circling around her in the bitterly cold air. Many had tears in their eyes at her death, she noted, especially Sister Christina, whose grief meant the most to the old prioress. She could not have loved the nun more if she had been a child of her own body, but Christina had become the child of her soul instead, and, knowing the young woman would remain in the world, the old prioress could leave it with an easier spirit. She smiled.
Still sitting by the convent bed was Sister Anne. The sub-infirmarian to the priory was pale with fatigue and her shoulders hunched as she bent over the hollow body that the prioress had just quitted. The old prioress shook her head. No, good sister, she thought, now is the time for prayer, not your concoctions. How often had she told the nun that when God wanted a soul, all those earthly herbs and potions would be useless? Yet the kind sister had been able to ease the mortal pain of her passing. For that I am grateful, the old prioress thought, and as she watched the nun lean over, testing for breath from the quiet body, she hoped Sister Anne would, as she should, find a comfort in giving that relief.
Against the wall stood Brother Rupert in front of her favorite tapestry of St. Mary Magdalene sitting at the feet of Our Lord. The good brother’s eyes were red from weeping, his head bowed in grief. How she wished to comfort him! He looked so frail to her now, his monk’s habit far too big for his diminished frame. Maybe he would join her soon?
She mustn’t hope. Earthly associations should have no place in Heaven, but she was insufficiently distanced from the world not to believe Heaven would be a happier place with Brother Rupert by her side, as he had been for more years than either could truly remember.
Heaven? Was she really going to Heaven, she wondered. A cold gust of doubt cut through the warm breath of the nuns and chilled her. Was that invisible hand lifting her young soul from her age-ravaged body really the hand of an angel of God?
She shivered. She had always tried to be worthy of God’s grace, serving Him to the best of her ability. She had tried to be humble, dutiful, and she thought she had confessed all her sins to Brother Rupert just before falling into the strange sleep that had preceded this freeing of her soul.
An icy uncertainty nipped at her. Had she remembered all her sins? Might the Prince of Darkness have blinded her, making her forget some critical imperfection? Some sin of omission perhaps? Was her soul truly cleansed or was there some small rotting spot that would fling her into a purgatorial pit where pain was as sharp as the agonies of hell?
An unformed impression, a memory, something nagged at her.
It wasn’t too late, she thought. Brother Rupert was standing near. Surely she could still reach him if she could just think of…
Then it came to her. Oh, but the mercy of God was indeed great! He had granted her the understanding to see the tragic error both she and Brother Rupert had made. Now she must get the message to the good priest. She must!
She struggled to reach her confessor, willing her soul toward the weeping man.
“Brother! Brother!” she cried. “I must tell you one thing more!”
She stretched out her hand, struggling to grasp him, reaching for the crude wooden cross he wore on a thin leather strap around his neck.
But something seemed to hold her back; some black force scrabbled to keep her soul from deliverance.
The priest had not heard her cry. He did not see her fighting to reach him.
She must tell him. She must! After all her years devoted to God, Satan should not win her soul over such a misunderstanding, a judgement she’d made with imperfect knowledge and mortal blindness. An innocent person would be hurt, even die, if she did not. She could not have that fouling her conscience.
She fought harder to reach her confessor, twisting, crying, moaning for help.
Suddenly a hand materialized from the tapestry. It grasped the old prioress firmly and pulled her back to the ground. It was a woman’s hand, and the touch was warm.
The old prioress looked up and saw St. Mary Magdalene smiling.
“Tell me, my child,” the saintly voice said. “I will tell Our Lord.” She gestured to the glowing man at whose feet she sat. “And He will forgive all as He always has.”
The old prioress wanted to weep for joy.
“Please tell him that I accused wrongly. It was not the one we feared, but rather the other!” she gasped.
And with that, the world turned black.

His heart pounded. His lungs hurt as he gulped cold ocean air through his open and toothless mouth. Stinging sweat trickled down his reddened, unevenly shaven face, and Brother Rupert rubbed the sleeve of his rough robe across his age-dulled eyes.
Once he could have walked the familiar path between town and priory with ease. Now his legs ached with the effort of climbing and he had to will himself to the top of the sandy, scrub-grass covered hill.
“I’m getting old. I am getting old,” he muttered, as the moist wind stabbed each one of his joints.
At the hilltop, he stopped to rest and looked back into the distance. The morning sun of early spring had burned off the thickest fog, but the walls of Tyndal Priory, a double house of priests and nuns in the French Order of Fontevraud, were mere shadows in the drifting haze.
It didn’t matter. He could have shut his eyes and seen each stone of every building clearly. Since the winter of 1236, when Eleanor of Provence had come to England as the now aging King Henry’s wife, Brother Rupert had been chaplain, scribe, and administrating secretary to the recently deceased Felicia, Prioress of Tyndal. He had lived at the priory long before that, however, indeed from a day in his thirteenth summer when his rich merchant father proudly dedicated him to this woman-ruled Order so favored by kings, queens, and other elite of the realm. His father might have given him to the religious life as an oblate, but the boy came as a willing and eager offering. The monastic walls provided a secure refuge from a world he found frightening, a world filled with violence and lust.
Suddenly his eyes overflowed with tears, and he wiped his gnarled fingers across them hurriedly. “Ah, but I loved you, I did, and I miss you,” he said, watching as a swirling gust of mist seemed to lift his words into the sky and scatter them. “And for the sake of all our souls I will put the matter right, my lady. I promise you that.”
His words were fervent with an almost prayerful intensity.
Then he sighed, stretched the stiffness from his legs and started down the hill, tentatively at first, unsure in his footing. Once protected from the sea breeze, he could feel the warmth of the sun and his steps quickened.
His mood improved and he smiled. Indeed, in the warmth he now felt he could almost sense that the eyes of God were upon him.
They were not. They were human.
*     *      *     *      *
April 2, 2017

25 Responses to “WINNERS OF THE PROUD SINNER BOOK DRAWING AND FIRST CHAPTER OF WINE OF VIOLENCE”

  1. Judi Abbott Says:

    I have this on my to be purchased list. Sooner rather than later!!! Thank you for introducing me to this wonderful author!

  2. Margaret Skea Says:

    Thank you to Priscilla and to Sharon - I’m excited to be one of the winners and looking forward to reading the book once I’ve met my deadline ‘dragon’ - my first of two books on Katharina Luther needs to be finished by the end of this month - a Slightly daunting task as I always find the last couple of chapters challenging.

  3. skpenman Says:

    All who visit my Facebook pages know that I am a fan of P.F. Chisholm’s marvelous mysteries, set in 16th century England and Scotland and revolving around Sir Robert Carey, a cousin of Queen Elizabeth Tudor. Diana Gabaldon shares my enthusiasm for Chisholm’s writing and she has written an eloquent essay about the latest Chisholm mystery, A Clash of Spheres, which will be published on Tuesday, April 4th. I was fortunate enough to be able to read an ARC (advance reading copy) and I can echo Diana’s every word. Real life screeched to a halt while I was ensconced in Robert Carey’s world, so be prepared to disappear for a few days while you read the book. Here is the link to Poison Pen Press, and below is Diana’s commentary. https://poisonedpenpress.com/books/clash-spheres-sir-robert-carey-mystery-8/
    The following essay is by New York Times best-selling author of the Outlander series, Diana Gabaldon.
    This is one of the most entertaining, elegant and deeply emotional books I’ve read in years. (I’m tempted just to write “EEEEEEEEE!” to sum up my response to it, but that seems inadequate, if heartfelt.)
    I’ve loved the Robert Carey series since the first book (A Famine of Horses), and every one thereafter has had all the elements that made the first so engaging: a fascinating look at little-known parts of Elizabethan history, wonderfully immersive details, hilarious dialogue, adventurous situations, and—above all—characters drawn with a deftness that catches the essence of a soul in a few words.
    Sir Robert is the center of it all, of course, but the story certainly doesn’t stop with him. He’s surrounded by a constantly evolving (and revolving) constellation of courtiers, reivers, Borderers (often synonymous with reivers), Sergeant Dodd (his surly, dour, stubborn, honorable sidekick), scholars, assassins, spies, royalty, and (to be sure) women. One woman in particular; the unattainable Elizabeth Widdrington, unhappily married to a cruel older husband and much too honorable to take Robert Carey as her lover, much as she wants to.
    This one’s not an ordinary historical novel
    All of this would be more than enough for your ordinary historical novel…but this one’s not an ordinary historical novel: it’s an orrery—you’ve doubtless seen one, even if you didn’t know what it’s called—it’s a mechanical model of the solar system. And those you’ve seen have undoubtedly been designed to fit the Copernican theory of astronomy: to wit, with the sun in the center and the various planets orbiting it at varying distances. But it was not always thus…
    Back in Sir Robert’s day—i.e., the late sixteenth century—there were competing views of the stars and their movements, and scholars who espoused the Ptolemaic system, in which the planets and the Sun all (naturally) circled the Earth, were more popular than the upstart (and obviously deluded) Copernicans. Only in a P.F. Chisholm novel will you have a delayed-fuse plot that centers (you should pardon the expression) on a formal scientific disputation regarding the position of the Sun in the solar system, held at the Royal Court of Scotland, between the King and an itinerant Jewish healer.
    Not that there aren’t plenty of other plots orbiting that one: religious persecution, murder in several shades, rejected lovers of all stripes and persuasions, and the head-butting politics of the constantly feuding Border surnames.
    Passing without touching
    The novel is an orrery, though; the underlying structure of the book reflects all the intricacies with which people orbit each other, mostly passing without touching, turning a light face or a dark as they travel through their personal space, their orbits influenced by love, jealousy, ambition, greed, insecurity, fear, revenge, longing, frustration, friendship and its loss—and the soul-wrenching effects of being responsible for other people.
    And at the center of it all is a tenderly human compassion that sheds its light through this system of moving bodies, for everyone from the King of Scotland to Sergeant Dodd’s horse.
    I finished reading the book, and immediately read it again. Been a long time since that’s happened.
    — Diana Gabaldon (2017)
    To learn more, read an excerpt, or to purchase, visit: A Clash of Spheres

  4. skpenman Says:

    I would like to wish a belated Happy Easter and Happy Passover to my readers and friends. I am so sorry for my long absence, but it was not by choice. Because of a recent flare-up of back pain, I’ve had to severely limit my time at the computer and yes, the Deadline Dragon is downright gleeful about this, the rotten reptile.
    April is one of the most prolific months when it comes to significant medieval happenings and I’ve already missed so many that it will probably take me into the summer to catch up. But I shall try, beginning with this post about the death of the Lionheart on April 6, 1199, since it gives me a chance to write about Eleanor, too, which is one of my favorite things to do. This had to have been one of the most tragic events of her long and turbulent life. I was watching a 60 Minutes show last night that included a heartbreaking interview with the parents of children slain at Newtown, and something was said that really resonated with me. I’d never realized it but there is no word for a parent who has lost a child. We become orphans when our parents die, a widow or widower when we lose a spouse. But it is as if we recognize that this is a grief for which there are no words. Here is my post, which includes passages from A King’s Ransom.
    On April 6, 1199 at 7 PM, Richard I of England, AKA the Lionheart, died at the age of forty-one eleven days after he’d been shot by a crossbow at the siege of Chalus, a wound brought about by his own carelessness, for he’d neglected to wear his hauberk and his legendary luck finally ran out. It was not an easy death, for gangrene is a painful way to die. Eleanor was with him as he drew his last breath, having raced from Fontevrault Abbey to Chalus after getting word of hi fatal injury. His queen, Berengaria, was not.
    A King’s Ransom, pages 597-599
    * * *
    Richard’s eyes opened when she took his hand in hers. He’d been sure she’d get there in time, for she’d never let him down, never. “So sorry, Maman….” So many regrets. That he’d not made peace with his father. That he’d not been able to free the Holy City from the Saracens. That Philip could not have been Berenguela’s. That the French king had not drowned in the Epte. That he’d taken the time to put on his hauberk. That his mother must now watch him die.
    She held his hand against her cheek. “You’ve been shriven, Richard?”
    “Yes….So many sins….Took half a day….”
    He was dying as he lived, and that made it so much harder for those who loved him. But then she remembered what she’d been told about his father’s wretched last hours. After learning that John had betrayed him, he’d turned his face to the wall and had not spoken again. Only as his fever burned higher had he cried out, “Shame upon a conquered king.” An anguished epitaph for a life that had once held such bright promise. No, better that Richard laugh at Death than die as Harry had. His body was wracked with pain, but at least he was not suffering Harry’s agony of spirit. She could not have borne that.
    (omission)
    Time had no meaning any longer. She assumed hours were passing, but she refused all offers of food or drink. How long would God torment him like this? Leaning over, she kissed his forehead. “You can stop fighting now, my dearest. Your race is done.”
    He’d not spoken for some time and she was not sure he could hear her, but then he said, “Did….I….win?”
    “Yes, Richard, you did. You kept the faith.” She did not remember the rest of the scriptural verse. She would later wonder how she could have sounded so calm, so composed. But it was the last gift she could give him. “Go to God, my beloved son.”
    After that, he was still. They could hear church bells chiming in the distance. Somewhere Vespers was being rung, people were at Mass, life was going on. Andre had not thought there was a need for words of farewell, not between them. But now he found himself approaching the bed, suddenly afraid that he’d waited too long. “Richard.” He held his breath, then, until the other man opened his eyes. “Listen to me,” he said hoarsely. “You will not be forgotten. A hundred years from now, men will be sitting around campfires and telling the legends of the Lionheart.”
    The corner of Richard’s mouth twitched. “Only….a hundred years?” he whispered, and Andre and Eleanor saw his last smile through a haze of hot tears.
    * * *

  5. skpenman Says:

    A few random thoughts. First of all, I want to thank all of you for your very kind expressions of sympathy about my on-going back sabotage. You guys are the best! And I have some good news. I’ve been told that in May Netflix will begin broadcasting the second season of The Last Kingdom, based upon the Bernard Cornwell series that we so love. Also, I wanted to express my admiration to Prince Harry for being so candid about his grieving for the loss of his mother and for encouraging people to consider therapy when they are struggling. Princess Diana had a positive impact on public opinion when she was photographed cuddling a baby with AIDS, and her sons are following in her footsteps. We live in an age in which celebrities wield considerable influence and it is encouraging when they choose to use that clout for good. Lastly, I am about to besiege Kerak Castle, which was once in Outremer and today is in Jordan. Wish me luck; hopefully, I’ll not need it.

  6. skpenman Says:

    April 23rd is World Book Day. How many of you knew that? I confess I didn’t. I am guessing that it was not coincidental that this date was chosen to celebrate books, for it is the traditional birthdate and death date of England’s greatest playwright, William Shakespeare. For medieval events, Adeliza of Louvain, the widow of Henry I of England, died on this date in 1151. She is a major character in Elizabeth Chadwick’s Lady of the English, which I highly recommend.
    I hope you all are having an enjoyable weekend. Mine is looking up, for I am about to launch an attack upon one of the de Lusignans. As my readers know, they usually deserve all the grief they get, but in this case, Amaury is lucky and the d’Ibelin brothers ride to his rescue. I’ll have more fun in the next chapter, when I can besiege the great crusader castle at Kerak.

  7. skpenman Says:

    I am so sorry that my visits here continue to be hit or miss. Between trying to coddle a troublesome back and keeping the Deadline Dragon at bay and now laying siege to Kerak Castle, my nerves are vibrating like a drawn bowstring these days. I will do my best to assure you from time to time that I am still amongst the living and have not joined the Witness Protection Plan. Here is an old post from 2012 that I hope none of you remember since I hate to have to foist reruns upon you.

  8. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Mark July 16th on your calendars, my fellow Game of Throners, for that is when it finally, finally comes back. Also, HBO is giving serious consideration to spinoffs of the series. Now…has anyone heard news—or even rumors—about when we can expect the 6th book from Master Martin?
    http://ew.com/tv/2017/05/04/game-of-thrones-prequels-spinoffs/
    http://money.cnn.com/2017/05/04/media/game-of-thrones-spinoff-hbo/index.html

  9. skpenman Says:

    Writers and publishers and readers are living during a revolution: I believe the advent of the Internet and e-books has been the most transformational development involving books since the invention of the Gutenberg Press. I think it terrifies publishers, but for the most part, writers and readers have learned to embrace it. Just speaking for myself, I could not imagine writing one of my historical sagas on an electric typewriter the way I did for Sunne back in the Dark Ages, and research is far easier now than it was in those bleak Pre-Internet days. But this is only one example of the way technology has changed the way we do things. Here is an interesting list of twenty things made obsolete by these changes.
    https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/columnist/komando/2017/05/05/20-things-we-dont-do-anymore-because-technology/101250148/

  10. skpenman Says:

    “On the day of her wedding, Isabella awoke to the sound of screaming.”

    That is the opening sentence of the chapter that is keeping me stranded at Kerak Castle and off Facebook. Readers of Lionheart may remember Isabella, who would become Queen of Jerusalem. She definitely has my sympathies. Imagine being compelled to make a marriage that neither she nor her mother and stepfather want, a marriage that will shackle her to political enemies of her parents, and indeed, they soon will refuse to allow her to visit her mother. She finds herself in a desolate, desert fortress midst a landscape as barren as the moon (not that she’d know that, of course.), not far from the Salt Sea, now called the Dead Sea. Now she also finds herself under siege by Saladin and a large Saracen army. Oh, and she is only eleven years old.
    The siege of Kerak also is the source for one of the more famous anecdotes regarding Saladin. The mother of the young groom (he was 17) was not a shrinking violet and undaunted by the arrival of a sieging army in the middle of the wedding festivities. She had a dish from the feast sent out to Saladin under a flag of truce, saying she’d not have anyone go hungry at her son’s wedding. Saladin thanked her, then asked in which tower the bridal couple were lodged. When told that, he promised that he’d not have any of his siege engines aim at that particular tower.
    Now back to the siege. Happy Mother’s Day to my American readers.

  11. skpenman Says:

    The siege of Kerak in 1183 lasted about a month. Mine feels as if it lasted for a year or two, but that is an optical illusion. I am sorry I did not get to visit it during my trip to Israel (it is now in Jordan, of course), but there are numerous videos of the castle on YouTube, which can be a writer’s second-best friend, the best one being Google, which is a true blessing for quick research questions. The siege ended when Saladin withdrew his army at the approach of the leper king, Baldwin, and his army. Meanwhile, because Kerak only had one entrance, it was cut off from the world—and its rescuers—when the besieged destroyed the bridge across their deep moat to keep the Saracens from forcing their way into the castle with the retreating defenders. It was not a drawbridge, but an actual bridge, an unusual set-up that I’d not encountered before. The castles in Outremer were constructed to be as difficult to enter as possible, with single postern gates that usually were entered at an angle, and far more arrow slits than windows. So Kerak seemed like a very gloomy place to young Isabella. And Saladin would try again the next year to capture Kerak, so I get to do this all over again in the next chapter. Isabella and I can hardly wait. ☹
    Meanwhile, here is a funny story about Huck the Roof Dog, who likes to survey the neighborhood from his family’s roof. So many passersby were knocking on their door to alert them that they put up a sign in their front yard, assuring people that “Yes, we know he’s up there.” Huck sounds like a cool dog, so of course he has become an Instagram star.
    http://www.today.com/pets/meet-huck-roof-dog-dog-who-likes-hang-out-his-t111682

  12. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    I believe this petition has been posted on my Facebook pages before, but I wanted to increase its visibility. We all knew Leicester hoped to benefit via a flood of tourist money by Richard III’s honorable burial in the cathedral. I am okay with that, too, but not with this new money-making scheme. I don’t know that I’d go so far as to label it “sacrilege,” but it certainly seems exploitative to me and I don’t think it should be done. In all honesty, I have my doubts that a petition will change their minds, but it does offer a chance to vent for those who do not approve. So if you feel the way I do, vent!
    https://www.change.org/p/leicester-cathedral-stop-this-sacrilege

  13. skpenman Says:

    We are all in mourning today. I feel heartbroken by the latest terrorist atrocity in Manchester—and outraged that there are monsters among us capable of such cruelty. I will never understand how anyone could aim their evil at the innocent, and it is all the more shocking when children are deliberately targeted. Our sympathy and prayers are with our British brethren. Our former motherland remains very dear to Americans. There is some consolation in knowing that such tragedies always show people at their best, strangers helping strangers, sharing their grief and embracing their common humanity, as in the story below.
    http://us.cnn.com/2017/05/23/europe/manchester-arena-explosion-free-taxi-rides/index.html

  14. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    It is painful to read this, a tribute to the twenty-two loving souls we lost at Manchester, but I think we owe it to them to remember, never to forget them. That seems very appropriate now, for Monday is Memorial Day in the US.
    http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-40012738

  15. skpenman Says:

    I am sorry that I continue to be so scarce around here. I’ve been working hard at fending off the deadline dragon, while still dealing with more pain than I deserve. (My sins are just not that spectacular to warrant this!) Poor little Isabella can’t catch a break, either. She is twelve now, isolated at a dangerous desert fortresses with the In-Laws from Hell and Saladin has decided to take another crack at Kerak Castle, so she is facing her second siege in less than a year. I suspect she is also wondering just what sort of sins she could have committed to bring all this down on her head. Meanwhile, how is this for a wonderfully odd historical nugget? Saladin’s brother, al-Adil, is making ready to join him at the siege. He’d been ruling Egypt very effectively for the sultan for a number of years, but he has now been given command of Aleppo (yes, that very sad city had a troubled past even back in the MA.). He’d had to leave his family behind in Egypt and it took a while for him to be able to arrange safe transportation for them from Egypt to Syria. In the scene I am about to write, he will be reunited with his wives, concubines, children, household retainers, servants, and slaves. Naturally their caravan includes a large number of horses, mules, and camels. And according to one medieval chronicler, the family’s pet giraffe! No way I could resist writing about that.

  16. Mac Craig Says:

    On Wednesday, at a retirement party (not mine!), I saw my friend Sara, for whom you signed a copy of Sunne in Leicester, during the Richard III Tour. We discussed your upcoming historical novel and agreed that we should both wait patiently. It was a shame that Isabella’s best husband was fated to perish in that strange accident.

  17. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    I have been trying since Sunday evening to write about the latest terrorist atrocity, but words have failed me. I feel overwhelmed by the human capacity for evil, as so many of you must feel, too. But I was able to take some comfort in this message from the family of Christine Archibald, a young Canadian woman who’d moved to London to be with her fiancé and who died in his arms. What a memorable epitaph: Tell them Chrissy sent you.

    The first London Bridge attack victim to be identified was Canadian national Christine Archibald, 30, who had moved to London to be with her fiance.

    “Please honor her by making your community a better place,” a spokesperson for her family said. “Volunteer your time and labor or donate to a homeless shelter. Tell them Chrissy sent you.”

  18. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    The siege of Kerak continues; at the rate I’m going, mine is going to last longer than the real one. At least al-Adil’s family’s tame giraffe is safely on the way to her new home in Aleppo. So before I get back to operating mangonels and smashing towers and making life miserable for the castle residents, here is an important medieval date for the Angevins.
    The young king was dying in a manor house at Martel in the Limousin, stricken with what they called the bloody flux and we call dysentery. He’d sent word to his father, but Henry did not believe him, for he’d lied again and again and twice Henry had been shot at when trusting to a flag of truce.
    P. 527 of Devil’s Brood. The Count of Perche and the Bishop of Agen have arrived with a message from Henry.
    * * *
    “King Henry bade me tell you that he freely and gladly grants you full forgiveness for your sins, and that he has never ceased to love you.”
    Hal’s lashes swept down, shadowing his cheeks like fans as tears seeped from the corners of his eyes. “Thank you,” he whispered, although the bishop was not sure if it was meant for him, for Henry, or for the Almighty.
    “I bring more than words,” he said and, taking a small leather pouch from around his neck, he shook out a sapphire ring set in beaten gold. He started to tell Hal that this was Henry’s ring, but saw there was no need, for Hal could not have shown more reverence if he’d produced a holy relic.
    “He does forgive me, then!” he cried and gave the bishop such a dazzling smile that for a moment the ravages of his illness were forgotten and they could almost believe this was the young king of cherished memory, the golden boy more beautiful than a fallen angel, able to ensnare hearts with such dangerous ease. Then the illusion passed and they were looking at a man gaunt, hollow-eyed, suffering, and all too mortal. Too weak to do it himself, Hal looked entreatingly at the bishop, saying, “Please….” When the bishop slid the ring onto his finger, he smiled again and closed his eyes.
    * * *
    Hal lingered for a while longer, drawing his last breath at twilight on Saturday, the eleventh day of June, 1183, the festival of the blessed St Barnabas the Apostle. Despite having lived his last weeks as little better than a bandit, he was genuinely mourned.

  19. skpenman Says:

    The news is horrible again, with shootings in VA and San Francisco. And the tragedy in London is heartbreaking. So far 12 confirmed dead, but they say dozens are missing. The image of desperate mothers throwing their children out of windows is beyond horrific. There seems to have been at least one miracle; according to an eye-witness, a woman threw her baby from the 9th floor and a man managed to catch it. I hope that is true. Below is the post I wrote earlier in the day when I was thinking only of fictional suffering and sorrows.
    I am happy to report that the second siege of Kerak is finally over. I then went on to ravage Samaria and ended the chapter by killing off a major character. Luckily, I am not squeamish about bloodshed, at least on the printed page.
    Last week I mentioned in a post that Saladin’s brother, al-Adil, and his family had a pet giraffe. That was the sort of fascinating tidbit that I love to work into my novels, which is one reason why I so enjoyed writing Lionheart. I had my best contemporary sources by far for that book, including two chronicles written by men who’d accompanied Richard on crusade and two written by men who personally knew Saladin. Oh, the rich details they scattered through their histories! I learned about the French king’s white falcon that he lost over Acre; he offered a large reward for its return and was enraged when it was captured and given to Saladin. There was Richard’s more infamous encounter with a hawk in Sicily, a scene so much fun to write that I had to struggle not to laugh aloud. Then there was the celebrated Fauvel, the chestnut stallion that Richard came to cherish. Or Richard wading ashore at Jaffa, a sword in one hand, a crossbow in the other, a description that came from a man who was an actual eye-witness to the events at Jaffa. Richard’s near=death encounter with the mystery malady, Arnaldia, and another close call with malaria. Saladin’s bouts with colic. Remarkable details about how a medieval army was organized and an account of Richard’s attack on a huge Saracen ship, where his sailors dived into the sea and tied up the enemy ship’s rudders, causing it to wallow helplessly. Chroniclers rarely make life that easy for historical novelists.
    I mention all this because I found another intriguing side-story, and like the giraffe, I couldn’t resist weaving it into the narrative of my current book. Al-Sania was a member of al-Adil’s inner circle, running his chancellory after al-Adil took command in Aleppo. He’d been born and raised a Christian, but he converted to Islam after falling in love with a Muslim girl. What a back-story he must have had! He was controversial in Aleppo because he hired so many Syrian Christians to help run the chancellory, causing the local residents (called Aleppans) to make sardonic jokes about it. It is so rare to be given glimpses of the lives of people lower down on the social pyramid and I am delighted to be able to share it with my readers.

  20. skpenman Says:

    I hope all my readers are enjoying the weekend, and a special shout-out to my American male readers who are lucky enough to have children on this Father’s Day. Sadly, medieval fathers too often came up short, at least the ones I write about. Since King John has flaws beyond counting, it is only fair to give him credit when he did something right, and he seems to have been a good father, both to all his illegitimate children and to those he had with Isabelle. (This is for you, Owen!) Below are some occurrences on this date in history.
    On June 18, 1155, Frederick Barbarossa, father of Richard’s nemesis, Heinrich, was crowned Holy Roman emperor by Pope Adrian IV, who is the only Englishman to occupy the papal throne. Frederick is considered one of the great rulers of the Middle Ages, and it is intriguing to speculate how the Third Crusade may have gone had he not drowned on his way to the Holy Land.
    On June 18, 1429, Joan of Arc led the French in a decisive victory over the English at the battle of Patay, a triumph that helped to turn the tide in the One Hundred Years’ War.
    Lastly, on June 18, 1942, Paul McCartney was born in Liverpool, England. So today is his 75th birthday. Hope it is a good one, Sir Paul, who was known to those of us of a “certain age” as the Cute Beatle.

  21. skpenman Says:

    I am feeling like the Grim Reaper for the bodies are falling fast and furious in Outremer. I had to kill off a major character in the last chapter and I will be bloodying my hands with two deaths in the next chapter…..yikes. Anyone who has read my books knows that by the end, the landscape is usually littered with bodies. But I rarely have to deal out so many deaths in such close succession. I think one of the hardest deaths I’ve had to write was that of Ellen de Montfort, wife of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd. Here is a scene from her death in childbirth chapter on June 19, 1282.
    The Reckoning, p. 485
    The chamber was deep in shadows. Llywelyn was alone with his wife, sitting very still in a chair by the bed. He did not look up as they entered, not until Elizabeth said his name. He showed no surprise at sight of Davydd, showed no emotion at all. Davydd stepped forward, still not knowing what he would say. “Llywelyn….” He stopped, started again. “I’m sorry. Christ, but I’m so sorry….How does she?”
    Llywelyn was holding Ellen’s hand in his, staring down at the jeweled wedding band, the ring she’d called her talisman, her luck. Just when Davydd had decided he was not going to answer, he said tonelessly, “She is dead.”

  22. skpenman Says:

    Another day, another squabble with the Deadline Dragon, who has so outworn his welcome. I am currently doing medical research which is not fun; if I spend too much time dwelling on the grim details of a disease, I start to worry that I’m infected with it, too! Well, not always; so far I have not been worrying that I contracted Baldwin’s leprosy. We tend to think of it as a disease of the past, but that is not exactly true. I’ve read that 250,000 people worldwide have leprosy, most of them in India. It is estimated that a person is diagnosed with it every two minutes, but in the US, only 150 people a year contract it. The difference is that we now have the means to treat it, whereas Baldwin had little to combat it besides prayer. And of course we now know that it is nowhere near as contagious as people once thought and up to 90% of the population has a natural immunity to it. This is hardly the most cheerful way to begin a post, but at least I am sparing you all a detailed discussion of the symptoms!
    On the historical front, June 21st, 1377 was the death date of the Plantagenet king, Edward III. He was not yet 65, so I think we can consider his death in our favorite What If game. Had he lived for another ten years, for example, his grandson Richard would have followed him to the throne as a man grown, not a child, and that would surely have changed British history; for better or for worse, who knows? Watching from the Hereafter, Henry II might have felt a twinge or two of envy for Edward’s parenting skills He had five sons and they gave him none of the troubles and grief that Henry’s four sons gave him. Edward is known for his devotion to his wife, Philippa, and then for his infatuation with his mistress, Alice Perrers. I have been trying to think if he has ever been the subject of a novel, but nothing came to mind. Readers?

  23. Mac Craig Says:

    My recollection is that Edward had slowed down considerably, perhaps afflicted with what we now call Alzheimer’s. His eldest son, the Black Prince, who died the year before his father, was born while Edward III was still in his teens. In some ways, his having so many sons led indirectly to the War of the Roses.

  24. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Interesting post, Mac, thanks.

    Probably many of my fellow Game of Throners have seen this already, but for the slower ones like me, here is the trailer for the new season. Yes, after waiting two or three centuries, we now have to wait less than three weeks. Winter is coming.
    http://ew.com/tv/2017/06/21/game-of-thrones-season-7-new-trailer/?xid=email-email-gameofthrones-2017062112PM-tout1&utm_source=wordpress.com&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=game-of-thrones&utm_content=2017062112PM

  25. Theresa Says:

    Can’t wait for GOT.

    As for Edward the Third, the only novel I can recall with him (in a small part) was Anya Seton’s Katherine.

    On a non Royal note, however June 25 1903 was the birth date of Eric Arthur Blair later to become George Orwell. Only say this because I recently saw the stage adaptation of his novel “1984″ (some might say quite relevant for these times)

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