I can think of no better way to end the year than to do an interview with my fellow writer, David Blixt, about his latest novel and whatever subjects that come up in the course of our conversation; with David, you never know.

Sharon: Here we are again, David.

David: Thanks for inviting me. Though I’m not sure why you had me lay out a plastic drop cloth before I could sit down…

Sharon: Oh, you never know how these interviews will turn out.

David: Ominous. Have you been watching Dexter?

Sharon: Possibly. So David, you have a new novel out. Tell me about it.

David: It’s about the woman who basically invented undercover reporting, Nellie Bly.

Sharon: The title is “What Girls Are Good For”. Provocative, especially today.

David: I know. It was the publisher’s choice, and it makes me nervous. But it’s also totally appropriate. It’s the title of the newspaper article printed by the Pittsburgh Dispatch that made young Elizabeth Cochrane so angry she penned a letter to the editor. That letter was too explosive for them to publish, but they hired her as a reporter for her unique perspective.

Sharon: And what perspective was that?

David: That women who work were not evil or fallen or unwholesome. The article posited that “A woman’s sphere is encompassed by a single word: home.” Saddled with the pen-name Nellie Bly, Elizabeth set out to refute that by humanizing working women. Her first series was called “Factory Girls”, with her showing portraits of these young ladies who all had to work to survive.

Sharon: I take it these weren’t the traditional schoolteachers and nurses.

David: Not at all. She interviewed women who worked in barbwire factories, steel mills, shoe factories, cigar rolling plants, hinge manufacturing. She did so well in humanizing them that management started complaining to the newspaper, and she was sent to report on flower shows instead.

Sharon: That sounds very frustrating.

David: It was. She rebelled by insisting the paper pay her way to Mexico to be their foreign correspondent there. After five months she was chased out for exposing corruption in the Mexican government.

Sharon: I like her already. But you said undercover reporting.

David: Yeah, she was the first of what become known in the newspaper business as the “Stunt Girls”, which was dismissive as hell considering what she achieved. In 1887 she feigned madness and got herself committed to the insane asylum on Blackwell’s Island – Roosevelt Island today. That’s what she’s probably most famous for, along with her trip around the world two years later.

Sharon: How far in her life does “What Girls Are Good For” go?

David: Through the aftermath of the insane asylum exposé. She released her experience in a book, “10 Days In A Madhouse”. But reporting was a little different at the time. She related a lot of events as scenes, not a single narrative. And there’s a great deal she left out, especially the brutal character assassination by a rival newspaper that she had fooled into reporting on her insanity. The whole last third of the novel is the full story of the asylum and the grand jury investigation her story provoked.

Sharon: Was there a particularly hard scene to write?

David: There were two. One is when Nellie’s life is threatened in Mexico. The other was during her stay in the madhouse, her very worst night there, where they tried to dose her with chloral. That was rough, involving a lot of things about her that have only been hinted at to that point.

Sharon: This book feels very timely. When did you start on this?

David: Believe it or not, I started this in April of 2016, before Trump or the #MeToo movement blew up so huge.  I was reading about female action stars in the silent film era, and I noted how at least half of the characters they played were based on Nellie Bly. She was even the basis for Lois Lane in Superman comics. I didn’t know much about her, so I looked her up and instantly dropped everything else to focus on her.

Sharon: Speaking of Superman, I remember you’re a fan of comic books. Do you have a writing Kryptonite?

David: Facebook, definitely. Facebook has really slowed my writing output, especially in the current political climate. And I read too much of the news. I like to debate current events and keep informed. It’s important, I think. But it’s also killer for getting momentum in my writing.

Sharon: I’m always asked about writer’s block. I’m sure you are, too. But have you ever gotten reader’s block?

David: Oh yes! I mostly read research these days, not for fun. And when I do, I binge something entirely outside of historical fiction. I went through the entire Dresden Files series this summer – a wizard living in Chicago, very noir. What I’m trying to be better about is reading books by fellow authors in my field. I have a project I’m working on that hopefully will help with that.

Sharon: Can you tell us more?

David: Can’t talk about it yet.

Sharon:  Onward, then.  How many unfinished books do you have at present?

David: Six or seven. Plus the Nellie Bly sequel I haven’t started yet.

Sharon: Seems a wee bit fickle. Have you considered choosing the one that attracts you most?  Or the one I want you to write next?  Can we expect a fifth Star-Cross’d novel soon?

David:  I’m working on it. But “soon” might be optimistic. There are a couple other novels I’ll have finished before that one. But all the research is done, and I’ve started it. And I’ve been recording the audiobooks. The Master Of Verona came out last year, and Voice Of The Falconer is coming in December.

Sharon: I adore those books. Has it been fun revisiting them?

David: Not only fun, but helpful as I plot future storylines. I’ve been reminded of threads I hinted at – especially a connection to the Holy Roman Emperor that is going to help the next novel a lot.

Sharon: One of the many things we share is a passion for medieval stories. Is that home base for you?

David: Yes and no. The majority of the stories I have in mind take place somewhere between 1300 and 1600. I chalk it up to my three decades of performing Shakespeare. But I’m also attracted to people. Nellie Bly is a great example. I want to write about fascinating people of different eras to illuminate our own.

Sharon: You mention Shakespeare. Are we getting another Will & Kit novel?

David: Absolutely. It’s going to be called “Fire At Will”, and it will be Shakespeare and Marlowe accidentally causing the Spanish Armada attack.

Sharon: You have three series going at present, and I understand you’ll have another with Nellie Bly. Do you want each series to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

David: I’m placing ties in all of them, though very tenuous ones. In What Girls Are Good For, it’s only a couple Shakespeare and Dante references. But there’s a coin that will show up in all the series at some point. And I like to drop references to other works of historical fiction, like The Name Of The Rose, when characters overlap. I’m actually looking to find a way to tie the next Star-Cross’d book to your novel The Reckoning.

Sharon: Do you do that often, hide secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

David: I sprinkled anagrams through all the Star-Cross’d novels. I call out friends all the time. There’s a sword maker in Chicago named Neil Massey. I put him in a couple novels for fun as the armorer for my characters – things like that. I amuse myself, mostly.

Sharon: I’m glad to hear you amuse someone.

David: Oh Sharon. You know you’re amused by me.

Sharon: Not in the way you think. Remember the drop cloth.

David: Right. Well, look at the time— (rises to go)

Sharon: Smart lad. You’re lucky I enjoy your writing. Also that you’re a decent actor with a very nice family.

David: That gets me by in a lot of places.

Sharon: Say hello to Jan and the kids, by the way.

David: Hello to Jan and the kids, by the way.

(Sharon lifts crossbow from the wall as David flees for his life)

Sharon: Damn. Should have put the plastic down by the door…

It is obvious that David and I are good friends; either that, or we were drinking when we did this interview.  Seriously, I am always happy to be able to alert my readers about a new David Blixt novel.  His Star-Cross’d series, set in medieval Italy, is mesmerizing.  It has some of the most compelling characters I’ve ever encountered between the pages of a book and they are people who actually lived!   I always thought the Plantagenets led highly improbable lives.   Well, even a swash-buckling soldier king like the Lionheart is cast into the shade by Cangrande della Scala, who ruled Verona in 14th century Italy and whose adventures read like fiction—but they are not.  He was an acclaimed battle commander, a shrewd politician—think of him as Machiavelli’s role model—a patron of the celebrated poet Dante; he even managed to get a role in Boccaccio’s Decameron!   You can meet him in The Master of Verona and David’s subsequent books.   And for a change of pace, try his hilarious spoof about the young Will Shakespeare, Her Majesty’s Will.  For me, it will be Nellie Bly and What Girls are Good For.    Below is a link to David’s website; when you see all he’s accomplished, you may wonder if he has a clone chained up in the basement, and I would not put it past him.   Did I mention that he is also a gifted actor and playwright and skilled in the use of medieval swords and rapiers?   He always denies those rumors that in his spare time he leaps tall buildings at a single bound and is faster than a speeding bullet.   The jury is still out on that one.

December 22, 2018


  1. skpenman Says:

    For some reason, the link to David’s website did not come through correctly. Try this one.

  2. Priscilla Says:

    David has really gotten me interested in Nellie Bly! Excellent interview. But now I am curious. How is Sharon’s aim with the crossbow? Did David escape to write the sequel?

  3. Stephanie Says:

    David’s interviews are always highlights for me. Thanks for posting this, Sharon. And David, next time you have to flee like that, throw a cheesecake at her. It will distract her long enough for your getaway.

  4. skpenman Says:

    Stephanie, stop telling the world about my guilty pleasures! On the other hand, who doesn’t love cheesecake? So you’re forgiven.

    I hope my Facebook friends and readers who celebrate Christmas had a wonderful day with their friends and families.
    December 29th was the date of one of the most shocking events of the Middle Ages, the murder of Thomas Becket in his own cathedral. Henry’s angry, heedless words had set it in motion and he would pay a high price for his careless rage, Becket’s death casting a shadow across his reputation, stirring up all sorts of trouble with the Church, and probably causing Henry some personal grief himself, for it was said of him that once he loved, he never entirely turned his affections away from that person. I think he likely mourned the Becket he remembered, the friend who’d been as close as a brother. I was originally planning to post a scene from Becket’s death in Time and Chance, but decided instead to go with Henry’s penance scene the following year at Canterbury Cathedral. Humbled and shaken by the rebellion of his own queen and sons, he made a spectacular act of contrition, submitting to a flogging by the monks and then holding an all-night vigil by the slain archbishop’s tomb.
    Devil’s Brood, pages 246-247
    * * *
    He’d not been able to invoke the saint’s presence, but it was easier to imagine Thomas’s earthly spirit lurking in the shadows, watching his abasement with sardonic amusement. (omission) Had the man he’d known and trusted and loved ever truly existed? Or had he been a fiction from the very first? Henry desperately wanted to know the answer, an answer only Thomas Becket could give him.
    “It is just the two of us now, Thomas. No one else can hear our secrets, so why not talk to pass the time? We have hours to go till dawn, time enough for honesty if nothing else.”
    He waited, heaving a sigh that echoed in the stillness. “Come, Thomas, hold up your part of the conversation. You need not do anything dramatic, like loosing a thunderbolt or performing one of your miracles. But at the least, you could extinguish a few candles to show you are paying attention. Surely that is not too much to ask?
    Henry leaned forward, rested his head upon his drawn-up knees. He was either burning up with fever or losing his mind. “Sancte Thoma,” he mumbled, “requiescat in pace.” But there was as much pain as mockery in his voice, and when he looked up, he saw the crypt through a haze of hot tears. “Do you know why I did not grieve for you when you died, Thomas? Because I’d already done my grieving. I trusted you, I had faith in you, I loved you more than my own brother. And then you turned on me. But it need not have been that way. You could have served both me and the Almighty, and what a partnership we could have forged, what we could not have done together!”
    His tears were falling faster now, but there was no one to see them. “I am truly and grievously sorry that our paths led us to this place, this night. I do mourn you, Thomas. But do I think you are a saint? God’s truth, I do not know. You are the only one who can answer that question, my lord archbishop. We both know you could never resist a challenge. So take it up. Prove my doubts are unfounded. Prove me wrong.”
    Dropping to his knees, he winced at the pain that action caused his fevered, battered body. “St Thomas,” he said in a low, husky voice, “guard my realm.”
    * * *
    And Becket did, at least in the eyes of his medieval contemporaries, for at the same time that Henry was praying before his tomb, the Scots king was being captured at the siege of Alnwick, thus effectively ending the rebellion against him.
    Henry’s penance scene was one of the most challenging I’ve ever written. It seemed out of character for him, so I had to make sure the scene was firmly rooted in the Middle Ages, reflecting the beliefs of the time. That old axiom that there are no atheists in foxholes can apply equally well to the medieval world. Henry was not one of the more pious of English kings and he was far less superstitious than many of his contemporaries. But he still believed in God and divine punishment and could not be sure that his old friend turned enemy was not a saint, however unlikely it seemed to him. I needed to reveal Henry’s heart and mind in this scene and was not certain I could pull it off. But when I began to write, I was amazed and grateful by how easy it was. It all fell into place perfectly. When I did Henry’s monologue in the crypt, it was almost as if he were whispering in my ear. It turned out to be one of my all-time favorite scenes—and I am happy to report that the feedback from my editors and readers was all I could have hoped for, too. But as I reread the scene prior to posting it on Facebook, it made me realize anew how much I miss writing about Henry and Eleanor and their Devil’s Brood….sigh.

  5. skpenman Says:

    I hope the new year is getting off to a good start for my friends Down Under, and that it will be a better, kinder year for all of us, including our battered Mother Earth. Now on to medieval history.

    December 30th, 1460 was the date of the battle of Wakefield, in which a Lancastrian force defeated the Yorkists when they rashly ventured out from Sandal Castle. The Duke of York and the Earl of Salisbury were among those who lost their lives. The death that shocked people, though, was that of the Duke of York’s seventeen year old son, Edmund, who was captured after the battle and murdered in cold blood by Lord Clifford. Edmund was the first character that I had to kill, and it was a challenge. I didn’t realize then how much blood there’d eventually be on my hands, but writers always remember our “first.” Even after so many years, when I reread that scene on the bridge at Wakefield, I feel a sense of loss, and from what readers have told me, they do, too. RIP, Edmund, I wish your life had not been cut short so brutally.

    Here’s an interesting “What if?” query about this battle. The Duke of York’s eldest son, Edward, was not with him at Wakefield, having chosen to go with his cousin, the Earl of Warwick when the Yorkists split up. But what if Edmund had gone with Warwick and Edward with his father? Would the outcome have been the same? Might there have been a King Edmund on the English throne? I don’t think so, for Edward’s successes were due both to his military acumen and his personal charm and charisma. In fact, I think it is possible that if Edward had been at Sandal Castle on that fateful December day, he might have convinced the Yorkists that it would be folly to take the Lancastrians’ bait. I don’t doubt that he’d have seen the danger and even though he was just 18, he was already supremely confident. He was also a brilliant battle commander, as he would prove in just three months, winning the bloodiest battle ever fought on British soil. Historians talk about Richard the Lionheart, Edward I, and Henry V when discussing England’s most notable soldier kings, and justifiably so. But I think Edward IV ought to be included in those discussions. So I am not sure that Wakefield would ever have happened if he’d been with their father instead of Edmund. Readers? What do you think?

    On today’s date, December 31th, Leopold V, the Duke of Austria died in 1194, a particularly gruesome death that convinced his contemporaries he was being punished by God for having defied the Church by laying hands upon a crusader king. He had remained defiant, even threatening to kill Richard’s hostages if Richard did not send his niece to Austria to marry Leeopold’s son, one of the many conditions of Richard’s release. Richard had not wanted to do this, but to save his hostages, he yielded. His ten year old niece was on her way to Vienna when word spread of Leopold’s death. She was able to return home, but ironically, given the future that lay ahead of her—held prisoner by John and then John’s son for forty years—it would have been better for her if the marriage had taken place.

    The circumstances of Leopold’s death probably gave even the German emperor a few uneasy moments. He’d crushed his ankle when his horse rolled on him, and when it turned black, his doctors warned that only amputation could save his life. But none of them were willing to attempt it, including his own teenage sons. So Leopold himself held an axe against his ankle and ordered his steward to strike it with a mallet. It took three tries to chop the ankle off, and it did not save Leopold. He was lucky, though, that he was able to reconcile with the Church on his deathbed, for he’d been excommunicated for the part he’d played in Richard’s abduction and imprisonment. But when he expressed contrition, his cousin, the Archbishop of Salisbury, absolved him of his sins after he promised to return Richard’s hostages and repay his share of the ransom. Before the archbishop would permit him to be buried in consecrated ground, though, he extracted a vow at graveside from Leopold’s eldest son, that he would honor Leopold’s deathbed promise.

  6. skpenman Says:

    Today I thought it would be interesting to chat about one of the most interesting—if unsuccessful—medieval kings, the youngest of Henry and Eleanor’s Devil’s Brood. You can still find histories, even biographies, of King John that declare he was born on December 24, 1167. They are wrong. John was born in 1166. Had he been born in 1167, he could not have been Henry’s, for he and Eleanor were apart when she’d have needed to conceive for a December 1167 birth. Curiously,, while some of John’s biographers get this wrong, none of Eleanor’s do, all correctly placing John’s birth in 1166. How did this confusion develop? A misreading of an entry in the chronicle of Robert de Torigny, abbot of Mont St Michel, erroneously placing it in 1167. So how about John’s Christmas Eve birth? Again, there is no evidence to support this traditional date. Since he was christened John, an entirely new name not found in the family trees of either of his parents, it seems reasonable to assume he was named after the saint whose day it was, St John the Evangelist, which means that he was born on December 27, 1166. Since we know John had a perverse sense of humor, I suspect he’d have been amused to know that something so simple as his birthdate was capable of causing such confusion.

    John was Eleanor’s tenth child, her eighth with Henry; one chronicler mentioned a ninth child who was either stillborn or died young, but that has not been verified. Surviving at least ten trips to the birthing chamber is a remarkable accomplishment for any woman, especially one in the Middle Ages. Eleanor was forty-two at the time of John’s birth, and a strong case can be made that she’d just learned of Henry’s liaison with Fair Rosamund Clifford, one that was serious enough for him to have ensconced the girl at Woodstock palace. So how welcome was this fourth son, needed neither as an heir nor a spare, a son who might well have been a living reminder of an unhappy time in her life and her marriage?

    No historian can truthfully answer that, of course, although some have tried. Fortunately, historical novelists have greater latitude in such matters and I can say for a certainty that my fictional Eleanor did indeed have ambivalent feelings toward her last child. Is she, then, to blame for John’s problem personality? Well, both Henry and Eleanor made their share of parental mistakes; they failed to instill any sense of brotherly solidarity in their sons, and not only did they have favorites, they compounded that sin by making it abundantly clear; for Henry, it was Hal and then, after his death, John, and for Eleanor, it was always Richard. But I think Henry has to shoulder most of the blame for the man that John became, for he was the primary influence during John’s formative years, Eleanor being held prisoner from the time that John was seven until he was nigh on twenty-three. The last of the Angevin eaglets was undoubtedly clever, capable, undeserving of the mocking sobriquet given by his enemies, “John Softsword.” But for whatever reasons, he seems to have been the most emotionally damaged of the Devil’s Brood, and his kingship would be a failure. He is, however, great fun to write about, so I am already looking forward to his return to center stage in my next Justin de Quincy mystery.

  7. Susan Says:

    Speaking of books, Sharon, do you have information on the publication date of the Land Beyond the Sea? Secondly, when might there be a next de Quincy mystery? We Justin fans have been waiting a long time!!!

  8. skpenman Says:

    I didn’t get to post this yesterday, but it is definitely worth mentioning. On January 3rd, 1431, Joan of Arc was turned over by the English to the Bishop of Beauvais. Her trial began on the 9th and she was burned at the stake for heresy on May 30th, 1431, at the age of nineteen. Her trial was a farce; the bishop did not even have jurisdiction to try the case. It was politically motivated; the Duke of Bedford had claimed the French throne for his nephew, Henry VI, and by accusing Joan of heresy, the English hoped to cast doubts upon the legitimacy of the French king, Charles VII, who abandoned Joan to her fate. Twenty-five years after her death, the Pope Calixtus III launched an investigation into her sham of a trial. She was proclaimed innocent of heresy and declared a martyr—twenty-five years too late. She was not canonized by the Catholic Church, though, until 1920. She is one of the five patron saints of France, sharing that honor with St Denis, St Martin of Tours, St Louis IX, and St Theresa of Lisieux. Joan is perhaps one of the best examples of real life being more improbable than fiction. No historical novelist would have dared to invent her story!

    Back to January 4th. On this date in 1066, Edward the Confessor died, setting the stage for the fateful battle of Hastings, which resulted in the death of King Harold and the seizure of power by William, the Duke of Normandy, known in his own time as William the Bastard and in history as William the Conqueror; I think we can assume that he preferred the latter epithet. Helen Hollick has written a moving novel about this period of English history, titled I am the Chosen King in the US, published in the UK and Down Under as Harold the King.

    There was another happening on January 4th in 1903, not in the least medieval, but both bizarre and sad. I was not sure if I should even mention it, for it shows humankind at its worst. But it also shows that we’ve made some progress in how we treat the other denizens of our planet. A circus elephant named Topsy was electrocuted after having been declared dangerous after killing three men; one of them was a sadistic trainer who tried to feed her a lit cigarette. They’d actually planned to hang her until the ASPCA objected. Thomas Edison, of all people, suggested that they electrocute her and he actually filmed it. As you can probably tell, my sympathies are with Topsy. These highly intelligent animals have been exploited by men for centuries; you think they wanted to cross the Alps with Hannibal? (I would still love to know how he managed to pull that off.)
    Have a good weekend, everyone. Fly, Eagles, fly!

  9. Sharon K Penman Says:

    Playing catch-up again, I am looking back to January 6th. It is Epiphany, of course, which was an important holiday in the MA. And it was the day that the Eagles upset the Bears, bringing joy to Eagles Nation, but I will not dwell on it out of sympathy for my friends who are Bears fans. So…back to history. Harold Godwinson was crowned on this date in 1066, but his reign was to be short-lived; in October, he was slain at the battle of Hastings. As I mentioned recently, Helen Hollick has written a novel about Harold. And on this date in 1169, the French king and the papal legate coaxed Henry and Thomas Becket to meet. Here is a paragraph from that scene on p. 390-391 of Time and Chance.
    * * *
    The Bishop of Sens had just come into view, and as the crowd parted, Henry saw Thomas Becket. This was their first meeting in more than four years and his immediate, unbidden thought was that those years had not been kind to Thomas. Becket had always been of slender build; now he was gaunt. Fair-skinned by nature, his was now the sickly pallor of the ailing. Henry suddenly believed those stories he’d heard of Becket’s deprivations and denials, no longer dismissed them as self-promotion. The archbishop’s eyes were hollowed, his dark hair well salted with silver, and his black beard had gone white. Only his height was as Henry had remembered. His throat tightened unexpectedly; could this be the man who’d once playfully tussled with him over a crimson cloak?
    * * *
    But their reconciliation ended in acrimony when Becket again insisted upon doing homage to the English king “saving the honor of God.” Even the French king sided with Henry at Montmirail, asking him reproachfully if he wished to be more than a saint. No, but I do think he had yearnings, conscious or not, for martyrdom.
    On January 6, 1367, the future King Richard II was born. And in 1540, Henry VIII wed Anne of Cleves; their marriage would end in six months, probably to their mutual relief. We know that Henry was displeased with Anne and it is likely that she did not find him attractive, either, for the days when he’d been the handsomest prince in Europe were decades past; given Henry’s sordid matrimonial history, Anne must have been thankful that he was resorting to an annulment and not the axe.

  10. Sharon K Penman Says:

    Many of you may have already seen this video, for it quickly and understandably went viral. But for those who missed it, here is a California firefighter surfing when he gets some unexpected company.

  11. Sharon K Penman Says:

    Susan, I am sorry for the delay in responding, but your post was erroneously tagged as spam! I don’t have a publication date yet for The Land Beyond the Sea; sometimes it seems that the writer is always the last to know. :-) And I am happy to report that I am planning to write another Justin mystery now that The Land Beyond the Sea is done. Justin is a good lad, has been waiting very patiently while those pushy Angevins claimed center stage.

  12. Sharon K Penman Says:

    I wanted to wish my American Facebook friends good luck with the miserable winter weather currently battering the country from coast to coast, with worse to come this weekend. Now, here is today’s entry for historical happenings on this date.
    On January 15th, 1478, a rather sad marriage took place, between the second son of Edward IV, Richard, and Anne Mowbray, daughter of the Duke of Norfolk. He was not yet five years old; she was around the same age. The idea of marriage between such young children is something hard for us to fathom today, and their wedding seems even more pathetic because we know that they both died so young, Anne three years later in 1481 and Richard most likely in 1183. Sad.
    Those pushy Tudors have crashed today’s party, for on this date in 1535, Henry VIII declared himself the head of the English Church and on January 15th in 1559, his brilliant daughter Elizabeth was crowned as Queen of England.

  13. Sharon K Penman Says:

    It seems like I am expressing concern for my Facebook friends in the path of winter storms every day. Now it is Harper wreaking havoc as it heads east. Stay safe, guys. Here are some historical musings to take your minds off the bad weather.
    On January 16, 27 BC, Octavian was granted the title of Augustus by the Roman Senate, marking the beginning of the Roman Empire.
    On January 16, 1245, Henry III’s second son, Edmund, was born. Edmund was a character in Falls the Shadow and The Reckoning, and I became quite fond of him and his French wife, Blanche. The history of kings is rife with troublesome younger brothers like George of Clarence. Edmund was an anomaly, for he was loyal to his own elder brother, Edward I. He was also the founder of the House of Lancaster, but I forgive him for that. 
    On January 16th, 1325, the poet Petrach’s beloved Laura was wed to a man named Hughes de Sade; it was Petrach, of course, who would give Laura literary immortality.
    On January 16th, 1409, Rene, the Duke of Anjou, King of Naples and titular King of Jerusalem, was born. Rene was the father of Marguerite d’Anjou, the Red Queen of Lancaster. Although he was known as Good King Rene, I’ve always regarded him with a jaundiced eye, for he did little to ease the last years of his unhappy daughter, who was dependent upon a small pension given her by the French king.
    And also on January 16th, 1362, a prosperous German city, Rungholt, sank below the waves when a powerful storm surge of the North Sea engulfed the island of Strand. A medieval Atlantis, Rungholt, would give rise to legends like that other “lost city,” with people claiming that they could hear the church bells of Rungholt chiming beneath the waters of the North Sea.

  14. Sharon K Penman Says:

    Well, here I am again, worrying about all of you in Harper’s path. Stay safe and warm this weekend. How many more days till spring?
    This link is to a story that has nothing whatsoever to do with medieval history, but I found it very interesting and so I wanted to share it. Robert Frost’s famous poem, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, is now part of the public domain; all of his works are as of January 1st. When I was reading about that development, I found this remarkable account of the misplaced comma. We all know how erroneous punctuation can alter the meaning of a sentence. One famous example is “Let’s eat, Grandma” which changes dramatically if you omit the comma, “Let’s eat Grandma.” But in this case, a Dartmouth professor took it upon himself to move a comma in Frost’s poem and altered the sentence entirely.

  15. skpenman Says:

    As so many of us hunker down before Harper hits, here is something interesting to read about historical pets. I admit I was rather taken with the idea of an alligator swimming around in a White House bathtub. I was surprised that they did not include Mary Queen of Scot’s devoted little dog, who is said to have followed her to the scaffold and crept out from under her skirts after she’d been beheaded.

    And January 17th 1706 is the birthdate of one of America’s Founding Fathers, the remarkable Ben Franklin, who is definitely my own favorite. In his 84 years, he accomplished enough for a dozen lifetimes. Franklin invented the lightning rod, bifocals, swim fins, and urinary catheters, among other things. He is credited with discovering the Gulf Stream. He began Philadelphia’s first volunteer fire company and started the first subscription library in the colonies. He was America’s first Postmaster General. Oh, and without his diplomatic skills, France would not have entered the war against England and the colonist’s rebellion would have ended in failure. He was also more charming than the law should allow and very witty. I’ll confine myself to just one example. Commenting about the gifted but prickly John Adams, he observed wryly that “John Adams is a man of great—if intermittent—magnanimity.”

  16. skpenman Says:

    I hope all of Harper’s victims are staying safe and warm. Much of the US is experiencing temperatures only a polar bear could enjoy, but you still might want to venture outside briefly tonight to see the eclipse of the Super Blood Wolf Moon; I am surely not the only one to think that would be a good name for a rock band. Here is the link. Weather permitting, all of us in North and South America should be able to see it. This is also true for small pockets in Europe, but sadly, my friends Down Under are out of luck.

  17. Joan Says:

    Commas, eh?
    Frost’s poem will always remind me of the year my brother suffered a stroke that paralysed half his body & left him with serious aphasia. A great love of his, Robert Frost’s poetry helped us immensely with his speech therapy.

    Thrilling to watch the lunar eclipse!

    I must start reading David Blixt’s novels soon! Very intriguing interview.

  18. skpenman Says:

    That is a wonderful story, Joan. Has your brother been able to make a full recovery?
    As for David’s books, you won’t be disappointed. He is very gifted and very funny and I learned a great deal about medieval Italy from his Star-crossed series.

    I have some happy news about When Christ and His Saints Slept. We’ve been told that it will be available for sale as an audio book on February 12th, although it does not seem to be available yet for pre-ordering. Now I have to play catch-up again with my Today in History posts.
    January 19, 1486 was the wedding day of Elizabeth of York and Henry Tudor. She seems to have been both kind-hearted and pragmatic, for she managed to make the best of a forced marriage to the usurper, and the utterly unsentimental Henry actually mourned her death. But this could not have been a happy wedding day for her, a young and beautiful woman shoved into bed with the avowed enemy of her House, a man whose official portrait looks like a wanted poster and who displayed all the warmth and charm of a Bill Belichick press conference. I hope she found happiness in her children, though she had to endure the tragic loss of her eldest son, Arthur. Her second son, Henry, was said to have adored her, and I wonder if she might have been a settling influence upon him if she’d not died so young.

  19. skpenman Says:

    I am working on the Author’s Note, which is always more challenging for me than writing the book itself. I think it is similar to an actor feeling comfortable on stage, but getting nervous if he is asked to go on a talk show.
    I was looking back through previous Facebook posts to see if anything of historical importance happened on this date. I did find one item, although it does not involve characters I have written about. But in this old post, I included an amazing story about a diver and a dolphin in need, and I couldn’t resist reposting it tonight. So here we go to January 24, 1328, when Edward III, age 16, wed the 14 year old Philippa of Hainault. I believe there is some uncertainty about her actual birth date and she could have been younger, though. They would have 13 children and the marriage seems to have been a happy one, despite his notorious affair with Alice de Perrers.
    And here is my dolphin story which occurred in 2013, and was fortunately captured on video to reassure the cynics among us. Dolphins seem to be well disposed toward humans; there are a number of documented cases in which they saved people from drowning or from sharks. I guess this clever dolphin decided turn-about was fair play.

  20. skpenman Says:

    I hope you all are braced for the next Polar Vortex, which will be impacting much of the US and Canada; my sympathies, too, to my friends Down Under, where it has been hellishly hot. Now here is my entry for Today in Medieval History.
    On January 27th, 1186, Constance de Hauteville, aunt of the Sicilian king William II, was wed to Heinrich von Hohenstaufen, King of Germany, and heir to the Holy Roman Empire. She was thirty-one, he was twenty, and I think we can safely say that theirs was not a loving marriage. Heinrich was well educated, fluent in Latin, a poet like his enemy, the English king Richard, and very intelligent. He was also a sociopath. Wives of sociopaths rarely lived happily ever after. But Constance was a remarkable woman, courageous and resourceful. The more I learned about her, the more I found myself wanting to write about her. I did not expect to be able to do it, though. But then I was asked to write a short story for George R.R. Martin and Gardner Debois’s anthology, Dangerous Woman. Once I stopped laughing at the idea of me doing a short story, I started to give it serious consideration, and the result was The Queen in Exile, which may be the first short story to have an Author’s Note! While Constance also appears briefly in Lionheart and she has several scenes in A King’s Ransom, I was very pleased to have this opportunity to give her more time on center-stage.
    Her life was filled with high drama. Left behind in Salerno by Heinrich, she came close to being killed when the citizens rebelled against her hated husband. She was saved in the nick of time, but was then turned over to Heinrich’s enemy, Tancred, King of Sicily. Tancred treated her well, and eventually sent her under guard to be a hostage of the pope. She seized her chance when they encountered some of Heinrich’s imperial guard on their way to Rome, and they came to her rescue after she’d identified herself as their empress. Because of their age difference and her failure to conceive during the first eight years of their marriage, Constance was widely believed to be barren. But to the amazement and skepticism of the medieval world, she became pregnant in the spring of 1194, and was delivered of a healthy son in late December of that year, who would later gain greater fame than either of his parents. She was forty by then and Heinrich’s enemies—who were legion and well-deserved—claimed the entire pregnancy was a hoax, a scheme concocted by Heinrich to get a male heir. Constance was outraged by this malicious slander and countered it by inviting the women of the town of Jesi to watch her give birth, determined that none would be able to deny the legitimacy of her son. Heinrich’s cruelties soon drove the Sicilians into rebellion and Constance is said to have conspired with them. Heinrich apparently believed it, and her future looked very bleak, for now that she’d given him a son, he no longer needed her to lay claim to the Sicilian crown.
    . I have great admiration for Constance, wed to a man who had neither honor nor mercy. She deserved so much better, and I am grateful to that medieval mosquito who infected Heinrich with malaria and brought about his unexpected and sudden death in 1197—assuming that he did die of malaria, for dysentery has also been suggested, as has poison. While there is no evidence of the latter, if it was true, the question would not have been, Who would have wanted to murder Heinrich? It would have been, Who would not have wanted to murder him?
    Constance at once took control of her island kingdom, expelled Heinrich’s hated Germans, and devoted the remaining year of her life to safeguarding the Sicilian throne for her young son. Sadly, she died too soon, at only forty-four, but before her death, she entrusted young Frederick to a very powerful patron, Pope Innocent III. It was a shrewd move and would benefit Frederick greatly as he launched his remarkable career, becoming King of Sicily, then Holy Roman Emperor, and even King of Jerusalem. Constance has been neglected by history, as is too often the case with women. But Dante placed her in Paradise.

  21. skpenman Says:

    For those who still deny the existence of climate change—and we know who they are—I would mention that while much of the US is suffering under some of the coldest temperatures ever recorded, Down Under they are enduring one of the worst heat waves in Australia’s history. The climate is indeed changing and we can expect greater volatility, wilder storms, devastating droughts, horrific flooding, much of which we are already experiencing. I hope my friends in the US and Canada stay safe and warm for the next few days, and that my friends in Australia get some relief from their hellish summer. Below is a post about Anne Boleyn; it goes back a few years, so I am hoping most of you won’t remember it.

  22. skpenman Says:

    Oops. For some reason, the rest of the post was vaporized. Trying again.

    On January 29, 1536, Anne Boleyn was prematurely delivered of a stillborn son. Less than four months later, she was dead, sacrificed to Henry’s obsession with having a male heir—and possibly his roving eye, which had already alighted upon Jane Seymour, whom he wed eleven days after Anne’s execution. Henry was a class act. It is widely believed that Anne’s “failure” to give Henry a living son sealed her doom; this was the belief at the time, too, the Spanish ambassador Chapuys writing “She has miscarried of her savior.” However, the creator of one of the best websites about Anne, the Anne Boleyn Files, does not agree. You can read her argument for yourself here. I personally believe the miscarriage did mark a fatal turning point in their relationship, but then, I am certainly not an expert when it comes to the Tudors. In fact, when I typed the opening sentence in this post, I was amused to find I’d written that Anne Neville was the one delivered of a stillborn son. We know where my sympathies lie, of course, but I do spare some of it for Anne Boleyn. Whatever her flaws, she did not deserve the death she got, any more than Katherine of Aragon or silly little Katherine Howard did

  23. skpenman Says:

    I am posting some stunning photos of Lake Michigan, transformed into a frozen wonderland—as long as you don’t have to venture outside to admire it. It seems as if almost all of my readers and Facebook friends are being buffeted and battered by Mother Nature this week. We are freezing in much of the US and Canada, sweltering Down Under, and now the UK is being hit with bitter cold and snow. Yikes.
    Back on the history front, on January 23rd, 1264, the King of France lit a fuse that would set off an explosion in England. Simon de Montfort and his fellow barons had compelled Henry, the English king, to accept restrictions upon royal power in the Provisions of Oxford, which they saw as a natural corollary of the Magna Carta. When civil war loomed, both sides agreed to submit to the arbitration of the French King, Louis, who was also Henry’s brother-in-law. Simon was unable to attend, having broken his leg in a fall from his horse, and he was recuperating at Kenilworth Castle when he got the decision. Louis had ruled against the barons and in favor of his fellow king on all counts, even annulling the Provisions of Oxford although this went well beyond the scope of his authority. The Mise of Amiens was so one-sided that it made rebellion all but inevitable and four months later, the king’s army would meet Simon de Montfort and the barons on the battlefield at Lewes.
    I dramatize this event in Chapter 29 of Falls the Shadow. Here is the closing scene of that chapter, on page 395, after Simon has gotten the bad news and asks for a moment alone with his wife, Nell, who was, of course, the sister of the English king.
    * * *
    Dusk was fast falling; the last of the candles had guttered out and only a hearth fire now held the dark at bay. “Shall I send for a cresset lamp?” Nell asked, and Simon shook his head, held out his hand. She came slowly from the shadows, sat beside him on the bed. Taking her hand, he brought it to his lips, pressed a kiss into her palm. After a time, he said:
    “Henry may be God’s greatest fool, but he is still your brother. And Richard…he will likely oppose us, too, Nell.”
    “I know,” she said softly. She’d never truly thought it would ever come to this, never thought the day might dawn when her husband and sons would face her brothers and nephews across a battlefield. She shared Simon’s confidence, but not his darker moods. Hers was a world of sunrises, not sunsets, a world in which hope flourished and faith was rewarded, and she clung to that comforting certainty all the more now that her need was so great.
    “I trust in you, Simon,” she said, “and I trust in God. Whatever happens, it will be for the best, for us and for England.”
    * * *

  24. Sharon K Penman Says:

    This post is aimed at my American readers and anyone else in other countries who watched our Super Bowl. Since I have friends in Boston, I won’t say that this was one of the most boring SBs that I can remember. I’ll say only that it could not measure up to last year’s epic SB, coincidentally won by my Eagles. I did think the NFL commercial was hilarious. But for me and my fellow Game of Throne fans, the highlight had to be the shocking revelation that the Bud Light kingdom is in Westeros. See the story below for a link to the actual ad and some very funny comments on Twitter, including one by George R.R. Martin.

  25. skpenman Says:

    I am very happy to report that I finally finished the Author’s Note for The Land Beyond the Sea. Many of you know that I find these very challenging since I whine about it from time to time. I think it is similar to an actor feeling comfortable when he can stick to a script but getting nervous if he has to appear on a talk show and be himself. I do think they are important for historical novelists, though, since they give us the opportunity to let our readers know if we’ve taken any liberties with historical fact or to explain why we chose one set of conflicting facts over another. Next on the agenda will be the map, and then I should have some time to catch my breath before the copy edited manuscript comes back.
    Since you all know how much I love dogs (and other animals), I am sure it won’t surprise you that I was fascinated to read about a Florida woman who suffered a stroke and was saved by her two Labrador retrievers, who raced out of the house when she gasped for them to get help, returning with a neighbor who called 911. Dogs have often come to the aid of humans in need, sometimes total strangers, but this story sounds so Lassie-like that it is probably a good idea that there is video evidence, all captured on this lucky woman’s home camera. Here is the link; enjoy.

  26. skpenman Says:

    I am already falling behind in my Today in History posts, for February was an eventful month for medievals, at least the ones I write about. Here are two consequential occurrences that happened on today’s date.

    February 7th, 1102 was the birthdate of the Empress Maude, AKA Matilda, the almost-queen of England. She failed, of course, to claim her father’s crown, but her son Henry succeeded where she had not, becoming king at 21 and forging the dynasty so much more interesting than those upstart Tudors.

  27. skpenman Says:

    Okay, this is the second time only part of my post was copied and pasted onto this website. Trying again.

    Also, on February 7th, this time in 1478, George, Duke of Clarence, was found guilty of high treason and sentenced to death after a trial presided over by his brother, Edward. Legend has it he was drowned in a butt of malmsey, but that is rather unlikely. George is probably the worst brother ever inflicted upon a medieval king. Yes, worse than John. True, John did his best to see that Big Brother Richard rotted in a German or French dungeon, but he did have some redeeming qualities. He was intelligent, for one, and seems to have been genuinely interested in governing; he also shared the Angevin sardonic sense of humor. I honestly can’t think of any virtues that George possessed. He was shallow, selfish, showed no aptitude for anything other than causing trouble, and had no more understanding of loyalty than a hungry shark. I need to get inside the heads of my characters in order to bring them to life on the printed page and I can tell you all that being inside George’s head was not something I’d ever recommend.

  28. Joan Says:

    I just discovered the opera Anna Bolena on youtube. Have been listening to some opera faves recently & now tackling this 3 hour plus production a bit at a time. Anna Netrebko, gorgeous soprano, plays Anne Boleyn & Elina Garaca is Jane Seymour. The tenor as Henry VIII isn’t a name I know.

    Getting into some of those characters’ heads must be very scary indeed! Requiring a good deal of courage!

    Love, love your Author’s Note after the novel ends. Always fascinating, it’s a bit more time with the story before we unwillingly & sadly, close the book.

  29. Joan Says:

    …..and thank you Dante!

  30. skpenman Says:

    Yes, definitely, Joan! David’s portrayal of medieval Italy is riveting.

    I hope all of my readers are coping with this endless winter (and summer, of course, Down Under.) A huge snow “event” in the Seattle region, too much rain in California, more icy weather in the Midwest, and a nasty storm battering the UK. Maybe it is time to run up the white flag and hope Mother Nature shows some mercy? Now on to historical happenings. I confess this particular post is not a new one, but it is over three years old, so I am hoping that you all have faulty memories like mine!

    February 2nd was an important day on the medieval Church calendar—Candlemas. And this date resonated in several of my novels. February 2nd, 1141 was the battle of Lincoln, in which Stephen was defeated and taken prisoner by Robert, the Earl of Gloucester, on behalf of his sister, the Empress Maude. At the risk of seeming blood-thirsty, I like writing of battles and this was a good one, filled with high drama and suspense. February 2nd was also the date of an important Yorkist battle, at Mortimer’s Cross in 1461. Edward, who’d become Duke of York and head of his fractured family upon the death of his father at the battle of Wakefield barely a month ago, was trying to prevent Owen Tudor and reinforcements coming out of Wales from joining the Lancastrians, and he forced a battle not far from Wigmore. Even before the fighting began, he faced a challenge when a parhelion appeared in the sky, a phenomenon that made it look as if there were three suns overhead. Naturally this frightened his soldiers, but the quick-witted Edward cried out that the suns represented the Holy Trinity and was an omen of victory; he would later adopt this as his cognizance, the Sunne in Splendour. Having staved off disaster, he then proceeded to defeat the Lancastrians, captured Owen Tudor, and had him executed—not surprising, since the heads of his father and brother and uncle were even then on poles above Micklegate Bar in York. Edward then went on to receive a hero’s welcome by the city of London and shattered the Lancastrian hopes in a savage battle fought in a snowstorm at Towton on Palm Sunday. What is truly remarkable is that Edward was not yet nineteen years old.

    I thought of Edward’s parhelion when I was reading a chronicler’s account of the building of Richard I’s beloved “saucy castle, “ Chateau Gaillard. I was familiar with the exchange between the kings over Chateau Gaillard. Philippe, fuming at seeing this formidable stronghold rising up on the Vexin border, vowed that he would take it if its walls were made of steel. When he was told this, Richard laughed and said he’d hold it if its walls were made of butter. But there is another story about Gaillard not as well known. In the spring of 1198, Richard was personally supervising the construction, as he often did, when a shower of blood suddenly fell from the skies. Naturally, this freaked out everyone—everyone but Richard. The chronicler reported that “The king was not dismayed at this, nor did he relax in promoting the work in which he took so great delight.” Now I confess my first reaction to this story was an uncharitable one, wondering if the chronicler, William of Newburgh, had been hitting the wine when he wrote this. Shower of rain and blood? But when I Googled it, I discovered that red rain has indeed fallen at various times, and there were even some unsettling photos of a red rain in India that really did look like blood. Clearly strong-willed men like Richard and Edward were not as superstitious as their brethren.

    For me, though, February 2nd has another, sadder meaning, for on this date in 1237, Joanna, daughter of King John and wife of Llywelyn Fawr, died at Aber and was buried at Llanfaes, where her grieving husband established a friary in honor of her memory. Below is that scene from Falls the Shadow, page 26
    * * *
    Joanna closed her eyes, tears squeezing through her lashes. So much she wanted to stay, but she had not the strength. “Beloved…promise me…”
    Llywelyn stiffened. She’d fought so hard to gain the crown for their son. Did she mean to bind him now with a deathbed bow? He waited, dreading what she would ask of him, to safeguard the succession for Davydd. Knowing there was but one certain way to do that—to cage Gruddydd again. And how could he do that to his son? How could he condemn him to a life shut away from the sun? But how could he deny Joanna? Could he let her go to her grave without that comfort?
    “Llywelyn…pray for me,” she gasped, and only then did he fully accept it, that she was indeed dying, was already lost to him, beyond earthly cares, worldly ambitions.
    “I will, Joanna.” He swallowed with difficulty, brought her hand up, pressing her lips against her palm. “You will have my every prayer.”
    “Bury me at…at Llanfaes…”
    His head jerked up. He had an island manor at Llanfaes; it was there that Joanna had been confined after he had discovered her infidelity. “Why, Joanna? Why Llanfaes?”
    Her mouth curved upward. “Because…I was so happy there. You came to me, forgave me…”
    “Oh, Christ, Joanna…” His voice broke; he pulled her into an anguished embrace, held her close.
    * * *

  31. skpenman Says:

    I am taking a break from working on the copy-edited manuscript to visit my Facebook friends and chat about this date in medieval history, for it was quite a busy day. February 10th was the date of death of two dukes, a king, one of those treacherous Stanleys, and the worst king-consort ever. Only two of them—maybe two and a half—were worth mourning.

    On February 10, 1126, William, the ninth Duke of Aquitaine, also known as the first troubadour duke, died after a long and eventful life. He had a keen sense of humor so he may have been amused that today he is mainly remembered as the grandfather of our Eleanor. But he also had a healthy ego, so maybe not. I would have grieved for him—unless I was one of his wives!

    On February 10, 1134, Robert, the Duke of Normandy died after being held prisoner by his not-so-loving younger brother, Henry I, for twenty-eight years. Robert seems to have been a feckless sort, certainly no match for the ruthlessness of Brother Henry, but he probably didn’t deserve nearly three decades of captivity.

    On February 10, 1163, Baldwin III, King of Jerusalem, died. He was only in his 33rd year and by all accounts was a good king, an adroit politician, and a courageous battle commander. He also seems to have been a genuine good guy, charming, affable, and handsome. His death dramatically changed the history of the Holy Land, for he’d not yet had children with his beautiful bride, the seventeen year old Byzantine princess, Theodora, and so the crown passed to his younger brother Amalric, the Count of Jaffa. Amalric had none of Baldwin’s charisma, being taciturn and introverted. He proved to be a capable king, though, but he, too, died prematurely, leaving a thirteen year old son as his heir, the boy who would tragically become known to history as the Leper king. Had Baldwin not died so young or had Amalric lived long enough for his queen, also a Byzantine princess, to give him another son, the kingdom’s doomed march to Armageddon might not have happened. There is no doubt that Saladin is one of history’s more fascinating figures, a brilliant politician, but his great victory at Hattin was based in part upon the disunity among his Christian foes, just as the first crusaders took advantage of Saracen discord to carve out the kingdom of Outremer eighty-some years earlier. Baldwin III does not appear as a character in my new novel, being dead by the time the book opens, but Amalric makes a few appearances and his son is a major character, of course. Had I lived then, I would definitely have mourned Baldwin.

    On February 10, 1495, William, Lord Stanley, was executed by Henry Tudor, accused of treason, irony at its best. Party time!

    Lastly, on February 10, 1567, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, was messily murdered, a death that was richly deserved. One of my favorite scenes from the wonderful film, Mary, Queen of Scots, had Elizabeth (the incomparable Glenda Jackson) and Cecil practically falling on the floor laughing upon learning that Mary had been foolish enough to take their bait and marry Darnley.

  32. skpenman Says:

    Sorry to disappear again, but I’ve had to devote most of my waking hours to working on the copy-edited manuscript of The Land Beyond the Sea. This is never fun, for by this time, writers have become thoroughly sick of their own books, having had to dwell upon them at great length as they tried to make the manuscripts ready for submission, then going over their books again with their editors, and then with copy editors. The longer the book, the more tedious it becomes; I remember being so eager to escape Sunne that I’d was almost ready to root for Henry Tudor at Bosworth!

    Today’s historical post is a few days late. On February 13, 1177, Eleanor and Henry’s daughter Joanna, age eleven, wed William de Hauteville and was crowned as Queen of Sicily. It seems as if she and William had a happy marriage, although I doubt that she was thrilled about his harem of Saracen slave-girls. Yes, medieval women were realists when it came to male fidelity, but I suspect Joanna would have seen a harem as a bit much. Certainly “my” Joanna thought so. Joanna has always been a favorite of mine, the daughter most like Eleanor, and I was delighted to give her so much time on center stage in Ransom.

    And on February 13, 1542, silly little Catherine Howard became yet another victim of her husband’s monstrous ego. When Henry VIII discovered that she’d had a colorful past prior to their marriage, he was so outraged that he pushed a bill of attainder through Parliament making it treason for an “unchaste” woman to marry the king, then sent Catherine to the Tower, where she was beheaded on this date. It could be very dangerous to be a Tudor Queen, and I am not just thinking of Bluebeard’s wives. Jane Grey paid with her life for her family’s all-consuming ambition. So did Catherine Howard, although she had none of Jane’s intelligence or education, which makes her pathetic story all the sadder. Marriage to the aging, ailing, hot-tempered Henry was more than punishment enough for any sins of her feckless youth. Despite the legend, though, she did not say that she died the Queen of England but would rather have died the wife of Thomas Culpepper. Those about to be executed in Tudor England did not make defiant gallows speeches, wanting to spare their family from royal retribution. But Catherine really did ask for the block to be brought to her the night before her execution; she wanted to practice kneeling and putting her head upon it so she would be sure to do it correctly come the morning. How pitiful is that?

  33. Sharon K Penman Says:

    A quick escape from the copy-edited manuscript morass to say Hi. Copy editing is absolutely essential and I have great admiration for those who undertake this challenging task. It takes a laser-like concentration, a good memory, and a high tolerance for boredom since the copy editor does not get to read for the plot or the characters; they have to focus on details, not the big picture. Having said that, there has never been a writer who enjoyed the experience either. Even with a good copy editor, it can be stressful; with a bad one, it can be sheer torture. I am very lucky, for I’ve only had two really bad copy editors in my long career, one who was intent upon rewriting the book for me—not in his job description—and one who was—to put it politely—very anal-retentive. To give you an idea of the flavor of his work, I had written that Richard closed his eyes. He queried, “First establish that his eyes are open?” Unfortunately, this was Sunne, my first book, and therefore my first copy-editing experience, so I suffered in silence for much too long, assuming this sort of insanity was the norm.
    Happily, the copy editing for The Land Beyond the Sea really does fall into the normal range. It is still time-consuming, though, and naturally I had to deal with computer sabotage. I was horrified to discover this weekend that Mischief, my current laptop, had deleted all of my responses to CE queries after the fifth chapter. I learned long ago never to waste time trying to figure out why computers do things, but this does seem a bit extreme, no? Anyway, before I disappear again to into the editing swamp, here is a Today in History post for everyone, very late, of course.
    On February 1st, 1327, Edward III was crowned King of England; he was only 14 and the government remained in the hands of his mother, Queen Isabella, and her lover, Roger Mortimer. Jumping forward a few centuries, on February 1st, 1587, a conflicted Elizabeth I finally signed the death warrant for her cousin, Mary, Queen of Scots. And on a much happier, albeit non-medieval, occasion, Abraham Lincoln signed the Thirteenth Amendment on February 1st, 1865 after it had been approved by the House and the Senate, and then sent it to the states for ratification. It would eventually be ratified by the requisite number of states in December of 1865. The Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery in the United States, completing what had begun with Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. My British readers can be proud that your parliament abolished slavery thirty years earlier than your cousins in the colonies.

  34. Sharon K Penman Says:

    I feel as if I am playing hide and seek with a dragon again, but at least a Copy Editing Dragon won’t take up residence the way my Deadline Dragons always do. He does require constant attention, though, so I have to keep this brief. For today’s history post, I am looking back to a dramatic day in February of 1194 involving one of my favorite characters, Eleanor of Aquitaine. I miss writing about the Angevins….sigh.

    On February 4th, 1194, Richard Lionheart was finally freed from his German captivity after paying an astronomical ransom. He’d been held for one year, six weeks, and three days. But two days earlier, he’d been double-crossed by Heinrich, who announced to the assemblage of German and English lords and prelates that he’d had a new offer from the French king and Richard’s brother John and, with an utter lack of shame, invited Richard to better it.
    From A King’s Ransom, Chapter Twenty
    * * *
    While Richard glanced down at the letters, the Archbishop of Rouen hastily translated Heinrich’s comments for Eleanor. The letters were indeed from Philippe and John and, as Richard read what was being offered and what it could mean for him, his numbed disbelief gave way to despair and then, murderous rage.
    His fist clenched around the letters and he flung them to the floor at Heinrich’s feet. But before he could speak, his mother was beside him. “Wait, Richard, wait!” She was clinging to his arm with such urgency that she actually succeeded in pulling him back from the dais. “Look around you,” she said, her voice shaking, but her eyes blazing with green fire. “Look!”
    He did and saw at once what she meant. Virtually every German in the hall was staring at Heinrich as if he’d suddenly revealed himself to be the Anti-Christ. Not a word had yet been said, but their expressions of horror and disgust left no doubt as to how they felt about their emperor’s eleventh-hour surprise. “Let them speak first,” Eleanor hissed. “Let the Germans handle this.”
    * * *
    The Germans did handle it; led by Richard’s friend, the Archbishop-elect of Cologne, they forced Heinrich to honor the original terms for Richard’s release. But Heinrich saved face by insisting that Richard would not be freed unless he did homage to the German emperor. Richard was outraged and refused, but again his mother interceded, convincing him that he had no choice. He was then freed on February 4th, although the forced act of homage left some deep psychic scars. I very much doubt that he’d have regained his freedom if not for Eleanor’s fierce, maternal devotion. Unlike Henry, Richard had always been willing to rely upon her intelligence and political acumen and they made a formidable team. Had Henry only been as sensible, he and Eleanor would have made a formidable team, too.

    Now I hear a dragon calling my name again. Did I mention how much I miss writing about the Angevins?

  35. Joan Says:

    Interesting insights into copy editing! But what a drag it must be for the author. “Richard closed his eyes….cause you see they’d been open, I mean apart from the constant blinking!”

  36. Sharon K Penman Says:

    Fortunately, he was not typical of copy editors, Joan. It was just my bad luck that this was my initial introduction to copy editing and so I suffered longer than necessary before I finally worked up the courage to speak to my editor about it.

    A quick visit to say hi before I disappear back into the void, AKA the copy-edited manuscript. I also have good news to share. I don’t know how many of you have been following the soap-opera saga of Justice and Liberty, two bald eagles who are the stars of a DC web-cam. They’ve been a devoted pair, together for 14 years, which is impressive even by human standards. But then Justice suddenly disappeared. Liberty remained at their nest, where she was soon being courted by other male bald eagles. She eventually accepted one and they flew off together, presumably into the sunset. Then a plot twist—Justice re-appeared as abruptly as he’d disappeared. We have no idea where he was or what he was doing during his time going walkabout—or flyabout. He must have had a plausible explanation, though, for on Friday, he was reunited with Liberty, who seems to have forgiven him, their 14 years together counting for more than a brief fling with that other eagle. Not totally a happy ending, for the eggs in their nest are not expected to hatch. But there’s always next year. And they are still doing better than another celebrity eagle couple, Mr President and First Lady; according to their webcam, they did not even lay any eggs at all this year. The story below has links to more news about Justice and Liberty and also a link to their webcam.

  37. Joan Says:

    3 cheers for the happily re-united, albeit chickless couple!! Lovely story!

  38. Sharon K Penman Says:

    I would bet that their reunion made a lot of people happy, Joan. We are starved for happy endings these days.

    I am sorry for having disappeared again, but I got a nasty surprise recently; I discovered that the copy editor for my new book had made some incorrect changes in dialogue without querying me about them first, as is customary. So I’ve been literally working around the clock to restore the original dialogue, which meant that real life came to a screeching halt. This week I was able to get the manuscript off to my editor, but now I have to go back to working upon my income tax records in preparation for seeing my CPA next week. Before I tackle that depressing task, I wanted to zip over to Facebook and Goodreads. It is so sad, but not surprising, that I have to yet again express my sorrow for a murderous attack upon innocent civilians, this time in New Zealand. There truly are monsters who walk among us and often there is no way to tell—not until it is too late. I know all our hearts go out to the victims of the two mosque shootings and to the people of New Zealand, who are experiencing a horror that has become all too familiar.

    I went looking in my archived posts for something to cheer us up, and came upon an amusing
    story of a mischievous medieval cat and a monk who was probably not happy with his cat’s contribution to his work. For all of us who love cats, we will nod and smile as we read this. There is a constant in our world, after all—our feline friends have not changed at all down through the centuries. Here is a photo of the evidence and an interesting article about cats, mice, and medievals.

  39. skpenman Says:

    A quick hi, for I am not free yet, just going temporarily AWOL. I wanted to alert my readers that today and tomorrow you can get Stephanie Churchill’s The Scribe’s Daughter for free. I really liked this book and you cannot beat that price! So do check it out here.

  40. Joan Says:

    We have an important role model in Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand. A woman of admiration who has more balls than 95% of male power figures. Courageous & pro-active, she refuses to wait for the next mass killing to get action on gun control! And REFUSES to name the perpetrator in public forums! Brava Brava Brava!!!

  41. skpenman Says:

    I so agree with this, Joan. At least New Zealanders had a leader able to offer comfort in a time of such tragedy and then to take action to make sure it never happens again.

    I feel as if I received a pardon, for the copy edited manuscript is done and I’ve waded through the tax swamp without being sucked down into the quicksand. Now I can catch my breath and start chatting with my readers again! Lots of interesting historical occurrences in the month of March, so I’ll be kept busy trying to catch up. Meanwhile, here is another update about those eagles in need of marital counseling, Liberty and Justice. They seem to have reconciled, but he is continuing his wandering ways and how patient will she be? They need to keep an eye peeled for a sneaky raccoon, too.

  42. Joan Says:


  43. skpenman Says:

    Has spring arrived yet in Canada, Joan? it is just teasing us here, getting our hopes up only to dash them again.

    I see glimmers of light at the end of the tunnel, so here I am to do one of my favorite things—chatting about history with my readers. Since I was missing for much of March, I have a lot of catching up to do. The post below is three years old, but I am assuming most of you have the same faulty memories that I do and you won’t remember much about it.

  44. skpenman Says:

    Okay, either my computer or my website is having fun at my expense. I do hope they are not in cahoots! Most of my post never made it here, is floating around in cyberspace, I guess. So I am trying again.

    I see glimmers of light at the end of the tunnel, so here I am to do one of my favorite things—chatting about history with my readers. Since I was missing for much of March, I have a lot of catching up to do. The post below is three years old, but I am assuming most of you have the same faulty memories that I do and you won’t remember much about it.

  45. skpenman Says:

    Something is definitely wrong. It was an interesting post, too, about Edward IV’s daughter Cecily, the Lancastrian king Henry IV, and the double-dealing Thomas Seymour, who probably broke young Elizabeth Tudor’s heart. You can find it on any of my Facebook pages or my Goodreads page as I try to track down the culprit.

  46. skpenman Says:

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

  47. skpenman Says:

    I should be working on a map of Outremer and Tripoli, but it is more fun to play hooky again and post about one of our favorite medieval queens, the remarkable Eleanor of Aquitaine. So here is a catch-up post about a very eventful date in Eleanor’s life, one that literally did change history.
    One of history’s most consequential divorces occurred on this date. On March 21, 1152, Louis Capet and Eleanor of Aquitaine’s marriage was annulled at Beaugency on the grounds of consanguinity. Think how history would have changed if Louis had elected to stay the course. If Eleanor had not given birth to a son, France could have had a Queen Marie, as the Salic Law was not in force then. There would have been no Philippe Capet, no St Louis, no Philippe the Fair—shedding no tears here, folks. But there would have been no Plantagenets as we know them! Yes, Henry II would still have become king—most likely. But without Eleanor’s Aquitaine, maybe not? And without Eleanor as his queen, no Devil’s Brood. Take her DNA out of the mix, and the Plantagenet dynasty would have been an entirely different breed of cat. If the Chaos Theory is applied (the argument that a butterfly’s flapping wings could give rise to a hurricane) , history as we know it would have been utterly altered. For better or worse? Who knows? But my history would definitely have been changed for the worse without Richard III to write about. I’d have still been a lawyer—shudder. So I shall drink a toast today to the Beaugency annulment, thanking my lucky stars that Louis set Eleanor free to hook up with Henry just two months later. As Eleanor says to her sons in The Lion in Winter, “Such, my darlings, is the role that sex plays in history.”

  48. skpenman Says:

    This is for my fellow Game of Throners. Someone actually took the time and trouble to rate all 67 episodes. Since it is obviously very subjective, it is sure to have people disagreeing with it. For me, almost any scene with Tyrion in it is a winner. Same for the dragons.
    I know there are still some of you who have steadfastly refused to scramble onto the Game of Thrones bandwagon, and I am in awe of your fortitude. Not many of us have the will power to resist a global phenomenon. But for you, I have a Today in History post that is only a few days late.
    March 24, 1603 was the date of death for the woman I always call (with a smile) “the only good Tudor,” Elizabeth I. She was sixty-nine and her death does not seem to have been a peaceful one. For a powerful account of her last years, I highly recommend Margaret George’s Elizabeth I, which I can’t resist thinking of as The Lioness in Winter.

  49. skpenman Says:

    I have another Game of Thrones story for my fellow fans, this one a sometimes snarky recap of the preceding seven seasons, not a bad idea in light of all the high drama and betrayals and the staggering body count. I will put the link at the end of this post. Now…this next item is for everyone. Medieval humor is not easy to find, but the other night I came across something that my friend and fellow writer Stephanie Churchill had sent me a while back. It made me laugh then and again when I re-read it, so I wanted to share it here—and if you don’t think it is as funny as I did, blame Stephanie.

    After a long journey, a knight returned to his lord’s castle with prisoners, bags of gold, and much plunder. The lord was naturally delighted and said, “Tell me of your exploits.”
    The knight said, “I have been robbing and stealing on your behalf for weeks, my lord, burning the villages and lands of your enemies in the North.”
    The lord gasped in horror. “But I have no enemies in the North!”
    The knight considered that for a moment. “Well, you do now.”

    And here is the link to the Game of Thrones story.

  50. skpenman Says:

    Even though I am a few days late, I couldn’t ignore the passing of my favorite queen. So here is a post about the ultimate survivor.

    April 1st, 1204 is the death date of one of the most remarkable women of the Middle Ages, Eleanor of Aquitaine. She was queen of England and France, yet she is known to posterity by neither title, and I think that would have pleased her, for her love of her duchy was the lodestar of her life. She was in her eightieth year, a vast age for her time and a respectable one for ours, having outlived two husbands and enemies beyond counting. But she also outlived eight of her ten children, including her favorite son. She endured much tragedy in her life, but surely one of her worst ordeals must have been to watch helplessly as Richard paid in pain for his earthly sins. She rallied, though, to gain the throne for her youngest son, John. Yet I wonder if she believed their dynasty would survive, for she knew that John, for all of his cleverness and ambition, had some serious character flaws, with one that would prove fatal to a king—his inability to trust others, which made it impossible for them to trust him.
    I did not dramatize her death in Here Be Dragons; John and Joanna learned of it from a distance. Since Dragons, Eleanor has taken a starring role in five more of my historical novels, plus all four of my mysteries. So I felt that I owed her a death scene and I wrote one for her in A King’s Ransom. It occurred in the epilogue, so I gave her the last word. I suspect she would have enjoyed that. Here it is, A King’s Ransom, page 657
    * * *
    Richenza slipped quietly into the chamber, holding a candle aloft. At her wordless query, Dame Amaria shook her head, saying that the queen had not regained consciousness. “But she was talking, my lady.”
    “She’s done that before,” Richenza said sadly. She yearned for some last lucid moments with her grandmother, but Eleanor’s fevered murmurings were incoherent, not meant for them.
    “This was different, my lady. She said ‘Harry’ and ‘Richard’ so very clearly. It was ….it was as if she were speaking to them, that they were right here in the chamber with us. The doctor insisted it was the fever, but I do not think so. See for yourself.”
    Richenza turned toward the bed and her eyes widened. It had been a long time since her grandmother had looked as she did now—at peace. It was as if all the pain and grief of her last years had been erased, and the candlelight was kind, hinting at the great beauty she’d once been in the sculptured hollows of her cheekbones and the flushed color restored by fever. Leaning over, Richenza took the dying woman’s hand.
    “Grandame?” Eleanor did not respond, but Richenza was suddenly sure she was listening to other voices, for the corners of her mouth were curving in what could have been a smile.
    * * *
    Writing about Eleanor was great fun and I am glad I can still do so in my mysteries. My one regret was that I was not allowed to call her by the name she herself would have used: Alienor. Elizabeth Chadwick was luckier than me in that regard and what better way to end this post than to remind readers that Elizabeth’s novels about Eleanor are out there, too, for that shrinking minority who’ve not yet read them. It can be fun for readers to see how different writers interpret a historical character or happening, especially when they know the authors in question take their research very seriously, as both Elizabeth and I do. Readers have this opportunity, too, when it comes to Gloriana, or as I jokingly call her, the only good Tudor. Margaret George and Susan Kay have both written superb novels about Elizabeth Tudor. Margaret’s book covers the last years of Elizabeth’s reign and Susan Kay’s book encompass the entirety of the Tudor queen’s turbulent life.

  51. skpenman Says:

    I know many of my readers also enjoy Priscilla Royal’s medieval mystery series set in England during the reign of Edward I. Since there has been a change in the publication schedule of her next book, The Twice-hanged Man, I wanted to pass that information on. This mystery was originally to be published in February by Source-books/Poisoned Pen Press, but there has been a delay. It is now expected to be published during the first week of August, both the hardcover and trade paperback. The e-book will be available at the same time or shortly thereafter. I am not sure if a pub date has been set yet for Australia, but will pass it on as soon as we know. They have recently decided to go with another book jacket, so if you would like to see the original cover, below is the link to Priscilla’s website. The Twice-Hanged Man had its genesis in the account of a medieval man who actually survived being hanged. I was fortunate enough to be able to read the galley proofs and I think it is one of her best yet, with some very unexpected plot twists sure to delight her readers. I was also very interested in the Welsh-English hostility that was always simmering just beneath the surface of daily life in the Marches—and yes, most of my sympathies went to the Welsh!

  52. skpenman Says:

    “April is the cruelest month….” So spoke the poet, T.S. Eliott, accusing the spring of stirring up unwelcome memories and pain. But April is also the cruelest month for those of us who love medieval history and write about it. An alarming number of my characters breathed their last in the month of April. Eleanor of Aquitaine. Llywelyn Fawr. Edward IV. Richard the Lionheart. And now Baldwin, the King of Jerusalem, whom you’ll get to meet in The Land Beyond the Sea. Trying to put a positive spin on it, this high casualty count did allow me to write some dramatic death scenes, one of which I am posting below. April 6th must have been one of the most heartbreaking days of Eleanor of Aquitaine’s long, eventful life, and one of the happiest for her youngest son, John.

    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 his 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.
    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.
    * * *

  53. skpenman Says:

    I am cheating a bit in recycling an old post, but it is six years old, so I am gambling that none of you have memories scary-good enough to remember it. Readers often ask me if I have favorite characters and of course I do, though I am not sure if a writer should admit that. It is rather like a mother confiding that she loves Johnny more than little Suzie. But if I were to compile a list of favorite characters, Edward IV would definitely be on that list, for he was great fun to write about. I was charmed by his sense of humor and his refusal to take himself that seriously, which made for some lively scenes with Elizabeth Woodville, who took herself very, very seriously indeed. So here is that resurrected post, the cyberspace cobwebs having been dusted off.

    The Yorkist king, Edward IV, died on April 9th, 1483, just weeks from his forty-first birthday. We do not know the exact cause of death, though pneumonia has been suggested, and it has also been suggested that his health had deteriorated because of his self-indulgent lifestyle; Philippe de Commines claimed it was apoplexy. I saw no reason to doubt Mancini’s report that he’d caught a chill while boating on the river and it grew progressively worse. He lingered for ten days before dying, and his death would have dramatic repercussions. Had he not died so prematurely, the history of England would have been drastically different, for had he lived until his eldest son and heir came of age, I do not think there would have been a Tudor dynasty, which would have been catastrophic for screen writers and historical novelists, and not so good for a playwright named Shakespeare, either. I have always seen Edward as one of those men who were at their best when things were at their worst and vice versa. Historians have differed in their assessment of his reign, but I can say for a certainty that he was great fun to write about. He was buried at Windsor in the Chapel of St George; sadly, his tomb of black marble was never completed, for his dynasty would not long survive him. Here is Edward’s death scene in Sunne, page 662-663
    * * *
    “You’d best prepare yourself, my lady. It’ll not be long.”
    She knew he meant to be kind, but she had to fight the urge to spit at him, to scream that he was wrong, that she didn’t want to hear it. She touched her fingers again to her father’s face, and as she did, his eyes opened. They were glazed a brilliant blue with fever, were sunken back in his head. But they were lucid, looked at her with full awareness for the first time in hours.
    “Yes, Papa, yes! I’m right here.”
    “Sorry….so sorry….”
    “For what, Papa? You’ve nothing to be sorry about, nothing at all.” She could see him straining to speak, and knew she should urge him to be still, but she could not; these last moments of coherent communication were too precious to lose.
    “Sweet Bess….so loved.” He made an uncertain movement; she knew he was searching for her hand and quickly laced her fingers through his.
    “Don’t worry, Papa. Please don’t worry.”
    “Do you know….what be the worst….worst sins?”
    She bent closer, not sure if she’d heard him correctly. “No, Papa. What be the worst sins?”
    The corner of his mouth twitched, in what she knew to be the last smile she’d ever see him give.
    “The worst be,” he whispered, “those about be found out.”
    Bess didn’t understand. “Rest now, Papa. It will be all right for us, truly it will. Rest now.”
    * * *

  54. skpenman Says:

    I hope all of my readers in the path of this outrageous April blizzard are staying warm and safe. There is something very perverse about a snowstorm wreaking havoc at a time when we ought to be admiring the cherry blossoms in DC, looking for the first robins, and—for American football fans like me—counting the days till the draft. But at least this unwelcome visitor won’t hang around for too long. Now….onto my true passion—medieval history.
    On April 11th, 1240, the Welsh prince Llywelyn Fawr died at the abbey of Aberconwy, having taken holy vows in his last hours; this became quite popular, even fashionable in the 13th century. He was sixty-seven and had ruled Gwynedd since the age of 21. While he never claimed the actual title of Prince of Wales as his grandson Llywelyn ap Gruffydd would do, he was the Prince of Wales in all but name. He is one of the few figures in British history to be known by the sobriquet The Great and I think he well deserved it. He is also one-half of one of history’s better love stories. As many of you probably suspect, in my pantheon of historical characters, he is one of my favorites. Below is his death scene from Falls the Shadow, pages 114-116.
    * * *
    Llywelyn awoke with a gasp. He lay still for a time, listening to his own labored breathing. More and more his lungs were putting him in mind of a broken bellows, he never seemed to get enough air. He wondered almost impersonally how long they could operate at such a crippled capacity. He wondered, too, how long his spirit would be tethered like this.
    A log still burned in the hearth, and as his eyes adjusted to the flickering firelight, he saw a shadow move. “I’m awake,” he said, glad of the company, and then, when he realized who was keeping vigil, his smile flashed, sudden, radiant. “I’d almost given up on you, lad,” he confessed, and Llelo moved forward, sat beside him on the bed.
    Llywelyn was quiet for some moments. “Of all the books of the Scriptures, I’ve always found the most comfort in Ecclesiastes. It tells us that time and chance happen to all men—“
    “I know what it says, that everything has its season, its time—even death. Is that what you’d have me believe, Grandpapa, that it is your time?”
    “Yes.” Llywelyn shoved a pillow behind his shoulders. The pain was back—by now an old and familiar foe—spreading down his arm, up to his neck. But he did not want the boy to know. He found a smile, said, “It has been more than three years, after all. Joanna grows impatient—and I’ve never been one to keep a lady waiting.”
    Llelo’s head jerked up. “How can you do that? How can you jest about dying?”
    He sounded angry. Llywelyn looked at him, at last said quietly, “What other way is there?”
    Without warning, Llelo’s eyes filled with tears. He sought without success to blink them back, then felt his grandfather’s hand on his.
    “Try not to grieve too much, lad. I’ve not been cheated; I’ve had a long life, with more than my share of joys. I sired sons and daughters. No man had better friends. I found two women to love, and a fair number to bed with. And I die knowing that Wales is in good hands…”
    Llelo frowned. “Davydd?” he mumbled and his grandfather nodded.
    “Yes, Davydd….and you, Llelo.”
    He heard the boy’s intake of breath. “Me?”
    “Davydd has no son. God may yet bless him with one. But if not, he’ll need an heir. And in all of Christendom, he could do no better than you, Llelo.”
    As young as he was, Llelo had learned some hard lessons in self-control. But he’d never felt the need for defenses with his grandfather and Llywelyn could see the boy’s confusion, could see the conflict of pride and excitement and guilt.
    Llywelyn shifted his position; the pain was starting to ease somewhat. He was very tired and not at all sure that he should have shared his dream with the boy. But then Llelo said, “Do you truly have so much faith in me?” and there was wonderment in his voice.
    Llywelyn swallowed with difficulty. He nodded, then leaned forward and gathered his grandson into his arms. Llelo clung tightly; he made no sound, but Llywelyn could feel him trembling. “I’d be lying if I said I had no regrets, Llelo. But I was not lying when I told you I believe it is my time.” After a long silence, he said, very softly, “I should have liked, though, to have seen the man you will become.”
    * * *
    April 11th, 1471 was also the day upon which the Londoners opened the gates of their city to Edward IV, just a month after he’d ended his exile by landing on the Yorkshire coast with his brother Richard and a small band of supporters. Before another month would pass, the Earl of Warwick would die at Barnet Heath, the Lancastrian army would be routed at Tewkesbury, and Edward would face no further challenges to his sovereignty. Sadly, he himself would do what his enemies could not—ruin his health and doom his dynasty with his premature death.

  55. Sharon K Penman Says:

    I am always thrilled when a hidden or forgotten bit of history of comes to light, so I was fascinated to learn that a dedicated researcher has established where William Shakespeare lived during his time in London. This is why I think of history as a tide, sweeping in and sometimes leaving a treasure behind on the sand as it withdraws. For example, we now know Eleanor of Aquitaine was born two years later than the traditional date of 1122. We have learned more about Llywelyn Fawr’s children since I wrote Here be Dragons. The mother of Henry II’s illegitimate son William of Salisbury has been identified. And of course it would be well-nigh impossible to top the discovery made in a Leicster car park—the lost grave of Richard III.
    And for my fellow Game of Throners, here is a marvelous video of the Changing of the Guard with some help from the Night Watch. Actually, even those of you who don’t watch the show will enjoy this, especially the looks of dawning delight on the faces of the watching tourists.

  56. Joan Says:

    It’s frustrating to be outside the GOT circle. Have always missed the beginning of the series (& too anal to barge in after the fact) so have decided to splurge & buy the DVD set once the entire series is on Amazon!

    Sharon, re our weather up here, it still varies & the winds are terrible, but can’t complain after our cold winter.

  57. skpenman Says:

    I was planning to post today about last night’s Game of Thrones and the battle of Barnet, which took place on April 14, 1471. But when I got home, I checked my email and there was one from a friend, alerting me that Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris is on fire. This is truly heartbreaking. Notre Dame is one of my favorite cathedrals and I cannot imagine Paris without it. The spire has already collapsed. This is a terrible blow to those who love history and to people of faith. Please pray that some of it can be saved.

  58. Joan Says:

    Yes it was shocking & heartbreaking watching it burn, Sharon. We mourn the tragedy with heavy hearts.

  59. skpenman Says:

    It seems almost miraculous that the medieval rose windows somehow survived the conflagration at Notre Dame. I found it somehow comforting that the world seems to be mourning with the French people.
    I’d naturally like to chat about Sunday’s episode of Game of Thrones. But I missed posting about an important date on the medieval calendar—April 14, 1471, the day when the battle of Barnet was fought between the forces of Edward IV and the Earl of Warwick.
    This was the first major battle I’d “fought,” and it set the bar high for drama—the eerie, dense fog blanketing the field, Richard’s vanguard outflanking the enemy, and then the Earl of Oxford returning to the field after shattering Edward’s left wing and accidentally attacking his own side. The victory went to Edward and among the dead were the Earl of Warwick and his brother John. But Warwick’s allies still had to be defeated, for on that same Easter Sunday, Queen Marguerite and her seventeen year old son landed at Weymouth, ending seven years of French exile. So Edward and I would have another battle to fight in just three weeks.
    This was the battle in which Richard, age 18, proved himself to his brother. Hard for us to imagine men commanding armies at 18 or 19, isn’t it?
    Sunne, page 401
    * * *
    In the third hour, Exeter’s line began to give way before them. Slowly at first, and then more rapidly, they were falling back. Richard’s men found a last surge of strength, flung themselves forward, shouting for York. The Lancastrians were in confusion, no longer giving resistance. The thought now was of flight and men broke ranks, began to scatter.
    The fog was thinning at last. Men were becoming visible on Richard’s left, men who wore the colors of York. He understood then; the van had joined with the center. Ned had smashed through Johnny’s wing.
    The Sunne banner of York gleamed white and gold. Edward’s white polished armor was dulled with dirt, dented and scratched, dark with the blood of other men. He moved forward; men parted to let him pass. Reaching Richard, he raised his visor. Richard saw he was smiling.
    Richard felt no elation, neither triumph nor relief…not yet. Only numbness, a weariness of body and mind unlike anything he’d ever experienced. Slowly he lowered his sword to the ground, let the bloodied blade touch the grass.
    * * *
    Many men died on that spring morning at Barnet Heath, the most famous being Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick and his brother, John, the Earl of Montague, who rode into battle against York wearing their colors under his armor. Torn between loyalty to his brothers and his Yorkist cousins, he has always seemed a tragic figure to me.
    This next death is not at all medieval, but is well worthy of note. On April 14, 1865, the greatest American president, Abraham Lincoln, was shot by John Wilkes Booth at Ford Theatre. He never regained consciousness, dying early the next morning. Coincidentally, there was a disturbing story in the Philadelphia Inquirer this week about John Wilkes Booth. There have always been rumors that the man shot in that barn was not Booth, rumors usually dismissed. But by using the facial recognition techniques relied upon by police departments and forensic experts, a claim is now being made that Booth did indeed survive, living under two different aliases in Texas and Oklahoma, not dying until almost forty years after the assassination of President Lincoln. I admit I do not want to believe it, for I’d hate to think that Booth evaded earthly justice for a murder that brought so much suffering to so many. Here is the link to the story.

  60. skpenman Says:

    I would like to wish a Happy Passover and a Happy Easter to my Jewish and Christian readers. I heard on the news today that Easter services at Notre Dame were cancelled for the first time in nine centuries and was overwhelmed by sadness. While the iconic cathedral is the heart of France, cited by one historian as the embodiment of civilization, and one of the most popular tourist sights in the world, it is more than that. It is also the church of many Parisians and so I was glad to learn that plans are in the works to build a temporary edifice for worshippers on the site. Attending a religious service in one of the great cathedrals is an experience that no one soon forgets. I never visited Paris without visiting Notre Dame, where I always lit candles for the souls of some of the men and women I’d loved writing about—and yes, that included Eleanor and Henry and their turbulent brood. I never missed lighting a candle for their forgotten son, Geoffrey, who’d been buried in that magnificent cathedral in August, 1186.

    Today’s History Post ventures from the Middle Ages. Wednesday was the date of death of my favorite Founding Father, Benjamin Franklin, who died of pleurisy on April 17, 1790. He was 84, a respectable age today and a vast one back in the 18th century. About fifteen years ago, I did some extensive research about colonial America and the Revolutionary War. It was a way of escaping from a painful reality, for I was taking care of my dad then as this wonderful man fought a battle he could not hope to win with Alzheimer’s. I became fascinated with this period of history in general and Ben Franklin in particular. He’d always been a favorite of mine and the more I learned about him, the more convinced I became that America owes its independence to two men, George Washington, who miraculously managed to hold the colonial army together, and Ben Franklin, who bedazzled the French court into throwing in with the Americans; had they not done so, I think it exceedingly likely that the British would eventually have prevailed.
    Being a writer, I found myself seriously tempted to write about this period in our history; it really was our first civil war. John Adams, who was in a position to know, once commented that 25% of the population were rebels, 25% were Tories, and the rest were on the fence, hesitant to commit themselves. I even went so far as to envision two fictional families, one in Boston that supported independence and one in Philadelphia that supported the crown. I was looking forward to bringing Ben into the storyline, naturally; he’d be as much fun to write about as he must have been to know in person. But that would end up as a book not written, which I do regret, especially on days like this. Rest in peace, Ben; you earned it. And if any of my readers have some free time, use it to find out more about this remarkable man.

  61. Joan Says:

    Such interesting posts!
    Sharon, how beautiful those lit candles for your beloved friends, Eleanor, Henry & others.
    Re Benjamin Franklin, we would have been the richer for the novel you weren’t able to write. From what you have told us about your parents, they must have been very special & wonderful people.
    Have a lovely Easter Day!

  62. skpenman Says:

    Thank you, Joan. I hope your Easter was as memorable as mine was.

    Before getting to medieval history, I have to ask my fellow Game of Thrones fans if they loved last night’s episode as much as I did? I won’t mention specifics since I am sure there are people who’ve not been able to watch it yet, but I thought it hit all the right notes and a number of the scenes were very touching and/or powerful. One small spoiler: there was a Ghost sighting!
    Now back to a time without dragons. This is late, but Nell de Montfort was fun to write about and I felt I owed her a mention. So here it is.

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

  63. skpenman Says:

    One of the drawbacks of life in the 21st century is that we are intimate witnesses to history as it happens. My mother often told my brother and me that weeks and often months would go by before news of world and national tragedies would trickle into their small rural corner of Kentucky. They were shocked by these tragedies, of course, but they were spared the immediacy of the suffering and that made it easier to deal with. In our time, we turn on the television or computer and watch the horror and slaughter as it is happening. We bleed with the victims of a Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, the dying after a terrorist attack on two New Zealand mosques, and now those who died in the Easter massacres that took place throughout Sri Lanka. Many people find it overwhelming. I am not sure human beings were meant to cope with so much heartbreak, but it is our fate to be born at a time when communication is instantaneous and modern technology makes mass murder far too easy. All we can do is to grieve for the loss of more innocents, offer prayers for their shattered families, and brace ourselves for yet more suffering.
    Sorry to sound so bleak, but it is hard not to be pessimistic, given the sad state of our country and the world in general. So I seek refuge from reality in a fantasy television show that is even more violent than the world we live in or in the books I write, where the landscape is usually littered with bodies by the last page. Which is why I like that quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson: “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”
    My Today in History post is late, as usual. April 23rd seems to have been a very popular day for significant events. In 1014, the Irish king Brian Boru was killed; Morgan Llywelyn wrote a novel about this remarkable man called The Lion of Ireland. In 1151, Adeliza of Louvain, the widow of King Henry I, died at the nunnery of Affigem. I always found her to be a sympathetic figure and was glad she had a second act after Henry’s death, wedding the Earl of Arundel and becoming a mother. She only appeared in one chapter in Saints, but she is a prominent character in Elizabeth Chadwick’s Lady of the English, sharing star billing with her stepdaughter and friend, the Empress Maude. In 1348, Edward III created the Order of the Garter. In 1445, the fifteen-year-old Marguerite d’Anjou wed Henry VI. William Shakespeare died on April 23, 1616 and is traditionally said to have been born on this date in 1564. That wasn’t medieval, of course, but Will definitely deserves a mention. And I’ve always had a soft spot for Charles II, who was crowned on April 23rd in 1661.

  64. Sharon K Penman Says:

    For Game of Thrones fans—we are legion—winter is not only here, we are about to be trapped in a blizzard of grieving as characters we love meet bloody ends. Stay strong, guys. Valar Morghulis.
    April 28th was the birthdate in 1442 of one of my favorite kings, Edward IV, a favorite with me because he was always so much fun to write about. Edward was not only the life of the party, he was a writer’s dream character—swaggering, shrewd, and sardonic, if you’ll forgive the alliteration.
    And I have good news for those who enjoy David Blixt’s books as much as I do. We get two books in less than a year! His What Girls are Good For, a novel about Nellie Bly, was published last November, and I just learned that he has a new one coming out in a few days. Shakespeareans should also be interested, or anyone who just appreciates good writing. Here is the link.

  65. skpenman Says:

    Yesterday, I posted about David Blixt’s new book, Shakespeare’s Secrets, and while I am eager to read it, we still have to pay for the privilege.

  66. Joan Says:

    Sounds delicious!!!

  67. skpenman Says:

    I just realized that my last post was brutally chopped. I’d wanted to let readers know they could get David Blixt’s novel, Master of Verona, for free as an e-book on Amazon that day. Too late now, I suppose, but I’ll check. Really bad when my own website is sabotaging me!
    Here is today’s Facebook post. Wonder if I can put it up safely.

    A belated Happy May Day to my readers and a reminder to my fellow Game of Throners that there are just four days to go till more of our favorite characters die. I was astonished by some of the criticism by reviewers that HBO had somehow copped out by killing “only” six characters. With three more episodes still to go, they could hardly have staged a massacre at Winterfell, not unless they planned to devote the rest of the season to Cersei gloating about her victory. My only quibble with the episode was that it looked as if it had been filmed at midnight at the bottom of a mineshaft; in other words, it was dark (literally, not figuratively) even by GOT’s murky standards. Now….on to my Today in History post. It is a rerun, I freely admit, but surely the statute of limitations does not stretch past four or five years? So we venture back into the past.
    May 2nd was an interesting day on the historical calendar. On May 2nd, 1230, William de Braose, grandson of Maude de Braose, who’d been starved to death in one of King John’s dungeons, was publicly hanged by Llywelyn Fawr, having been caught in the bedchamber of Llywelyn’s beloved wife, Joanna. I say “beloved” because there is no other explanation for what he did—he forgave her and eventually restored her to favor, even though doing so was a great political risk. In the MA, cuckolded husbands were figures of fun, especially older men married to younger women, as was the case with Llywelyn and Joanna. His risk was compounded by the fact that Joanna’s lover was, like her, Norman-French, so Llywelyn’s Welsh subjects were even more outraged by her behavior. If the skeptics need additional proof that Llywelyn loved his wife, upon her death, he established a Franciscan friary in her honor, a gesture right up there with Edward I’s Eleanor crosses for his deceased queen.
    I hope I have not spoiled the suspense for new readers to Dragons. I also want to say that few speculations have offended me as much as the later suggestion by some English historians that Joanna had not committed adultery, that she was complicit in Llywelyn’s scheme to lure William de Braose to his death. I do not even know where to start with this lunacy. First of all, it is an outrageous insult to the Welsh, to a great prince, and to his wife. Moreover, there was no reason whatsoever for Llywelyn to have set de Braose up like that; not only was he on good political terms with de Braose at the time, his son Davydd was plight-trothed to de Braose’s young daughter, Isabella, and amazingly enough, the marriage proceeded even after de Braose’s execution. Lastly, anyone who could believe this would have to be woefully ignorant of medieval life and politics. A prince of Llywelyn’s stature and importance would never have impugned his wife’s honor like that, or his own honor, making him vulnerable to mockery and ridicule while ruining her reputation.
    Okay, end of rant. May 2nd was also the date in 1536 when Anne Boleyn was arrested and taken to the Tower of London, which would, as we know, soon lead to her execution. Anne certainly had her share of flaws, probably one reason why she continues to fascinate people so many centuries after her death. But I doubt that anyone–certainly no historian that I am aware of—believes that she was guilty of adultery and incest. Henry had truly become a monster by then, willing to sacrifice several innocent men in order to rid himself of a wife he no longer wanted. I have always thought that the Lord Mayor was one of the most courageous men in Tudor England, for he dared to say publicly after Anne’s sham of a trial that no proof had been offered of her guilt.
    Hmmm…I am still in rant mode, so here goes another one. The most ludicrous historical speculation I’ve ever encountered was an article written some years ago in which Henri, the Count of Champagne, nephew to the Lionheart and the French king, and husband to Isabella, Queen of Jerusalem, was accused of being the one behind the murder of Isabella’s former husband, Conrad of Montferrat. This author totally ignored the fact that not a single contemporary cast the slightest suspicion on Henri, who was very highly regarded both by the Franks and the Saracens. Thanks to the Duke of Burgundy and the Bishop of Beauvais, Richard was accused of the killing, as readers of Lionheart and Ransom will remember, and a reputable Saracen chronicler lay the blame at Saladin’s door. But no historians today believe that either man had any involvement in Conrad’s death, for it would have benefited neither one, and it is safe to say that people rarely if ever act against their own self-interest. One chronicler reported that Conrad had offended the deadly sect, the Assassins, by seizing one of their ships, and they retaliated when he refused to release the crew or cargo. Historians have always accepted that as a plausible explanation, especially given what we know of Conrad’s impetuous nature. So how, then, did Henri suddenly become the object of suspicion in the mind of one writer? Because no one had ever suggested it before, and no, I am not making that up; that was the gist of his argument. Apparently, the fact that no one had ever considered Henri as a suspect was enough for him to conclude that Henri was so cold-bloodedly ambitious that he’d commit murder and treason just on the chance that he might then step into Conrad’s shoes. That Henri was reluctant to marry Isabella initially and never called himself King of Jerusalem were shrugged off as inconvenient facts, I guess. This cockamamie theory was first advanced nearly fifty years ago, and would probably have flourished in the Age of the Internet where no conspiracy theory seems too implausible to find some believers. And now I really am done ranting for the night!

  68. skpenman Says:

    This date resonated with me as it marks the death of a queen and the birthday of a would-be queen if her husband’s claim to the crown had been successful. And since I wrote about both women, I wanted to acknowledge them today. As Samwell Tarley said on Game of Thrones, death is forgetting and being forgotten.
    On May 3rd, 1152, Stephen’s queen, Matilda, died, and he never seems to have recovered from her loss. I liked Matilda and tried to give her a death scene she deserved. Saints, page 627.
    * * *
    Matilda had always envisioned time as a river, flowing forward inexorably into the future, forcing people to keep up with the current as best they could. No more, though. Time had become tidal. Lying in the shuttered dark of an unfamiliar bedchamber, she could feel it receding toward the horizon, leaving her stranded upon the shore. As a little girl in Boulogne, she’d often walked along the beach, throwing back the starfish trapped by the ebbing tide. Now, forty years later, when it was her turn to be marooned by the retreating waves, there was no one to save her as she’d saved the starfish, but she did not mourn for herself. Dying was not so terrible, for all that people feared it so. She was in God’s Hands, a feather floating on the wind, waiting to see if He would call her home.
    * * *
    On May 3rd, 1415, Cecily Neville was born, and she gave birth to her daughter Margaret on May 3rd, 1446—the ultimate birthday present. This happened in my own family, as my grandmother and my mother shared the same birthday, February 19th.
    I had such a long post yesterday that I forgot to mention this. On May 2nd, 1194, Richard I gave Portsmouth its first charter before sailing for Normandy; he and Eleanor would never set foot on English soil again. Richard seems to have been interested in making Portsmouth the base for an English navy; he showed a flair for naval warfare during his time on Crusade and he was planning to use his beloved Chateau Gaillard as a means of controlling river traffic on the Seine.

  69. skpenman Says:

    I am sorry to report that I may be falling off the radar screen for a while; I have to do more proof-reading for my publisher and another Deadline Dragon has taken up residence until I am able to get it done. I’ll do my best to give him the slip and stop by now and then in the next few weeks. Meanwhile, here is a very old post about the Battle of Tewkesbury.

    On May 4, 1471, the battle of Tewkesbury was fought between the Yorkists and Lancastrians. The victory would go to Edward and the hopes of Lancaster would die with their prince, leaving Marguerite d’Anjou to endure a living death for the next eleven years. When she finally did die, few noticed. The French king did ask for her dogs, though; Louis XI loved dogs.
    As odd as it may sound, I enjoyed writing about the battle of Tewkesbury. The battle itself and the events leading up to it were very dramatic and most writers are hopelessly addicted to drama; it is in our DNA. I got to write about the wild race—with Marguerite determined to cross the River Severn to safety and Edward just as determined to stop her from joining with Welsh rebels and postponing their reckoning. The battle itself included an ambush, rather rare in medieval battles, a betrayal, which was not so rare, and a bloody confrontation between two of the Lancastrian leaders, which was beyond rare. Edward showed why he is considered a superior medieval general, Richard showed why Edward had entrusted him with the vanguard despite his youth, and George…Well, George was George, taking credit for ordering his men to kill the young Lancastrian prince.
    Tewkesbury is one of my favorite English towns and I have loved its cathedral since my first visit so many years ago. I have never entered it without feeling a strong sense of the past, without envisioning the ghosts of those long dead soldiers as they huddled in the shadows and listened as the abbot sought to keep Edward from entering in pursuit of them. He would pardon the men who’d sought sanctuary in the abbey church—all but the Earl of Somerset and thirteen Lancastrian captains who were taken by force and tried for treason before the Earl Marshal and the Lord Constable, Edward’s eighteen-year-old brother Richard—who grew up in a hurry even by medieval standards. They were found guilty, of course, and beheaded the next morning in the town’s market square, in the shadow of the stone high cross. Edward waived the penalty of disembowelment, the gruesome death for treason since Edward I had ordered it for the Welsh prince, Davydd ap Gruffydd. Unlike the first Edward, the fourth one was capable of showing mercy to his enemies—and sparing a man a drawn and quartered death was definitely a mercy.

  70. Sharon K Penman Says:

    I am making a quick visit while the Deadline Dragon is napping. It will probably take at least another week before I plow through the last of the copy-edited ms…sigh. Meanwhile, I want to wish a Happy Mother’s Day to all of my friends and readers who have been blessed with children in their lives. And I hope the flooding in New Orleans and the earlier flooding in Houston has not affected any of you? Now, before I have to disappear again, I am actually going to post ahead of time about a historical event that occurred on tomorrow’s date since I cannot be sure the Deadline Dragon will be napping then. Or I might be so heartbroken or infuriated by tonight’s Game of Thrones episode that I am not fit company for man nor beast nor readers. So….my thoughts on a strong-willed young woman who also happened to be a Tudor; ah, well, no one’s perfect, right?

    On May 13, 1515, Henry VIII’s younger sister Mary Tudor wed the man she loved, Charles Brandon. In October of 1514, the 18 year old princess had been wed against her will to the 52 year old French king, Louis XII. To secure her consent to the marriage, Brother Henry promised her that she could choose her next husband if she outlived Louis, as seemed likely. As it happened, the marriage lasted less than three months; he died in January 1515, with gossip having it that he’d worn himself out in the bedchamber with his beautiful young bride. (This would be a great plot device in a mystery novel; young woman kills her aging rich husband with a weapon impossible for police to detect—sex.) Mary was now free to wed the man she loved, her brother’s friend, Charles Brandon. But she did not trust Henry to keep his promise and so she wed Charles while still in France and presented her irate brother with a fait accompli. An astute judge of character, that girl. If Mary were able to watch cable television in the Afterlife, she’d have been astonished by the Showtime series, The Tudors, in which she was renamed Margaret, the name of her sister, and wed to the King of Portugal, whom she then murdered.

  71. Sharon K Penman Says:

    I signed a petition urging the release of an elephant from her long confinement at the Johannesburg Zoo. The story below offers more details. If you read it and agree with me that Lammie deserves to spend her final years in an elephant sanctuary, please sign the petition, too, and share it with your friends. Thank you all for considering it.

    Here is the link to the petition.

  72. skpenman Says:

    I am playing hooky again while the Deadline Dragon naps. I have a historical happening to post and I also have a video of the Mother of Dragons, AKA Emilia Clarke, being honored and embarrassed at the Warriors-Rockets game in Houston last week. It is sure to make you all smile (even you hold-outs who’ve never seen her dragons in action) and since I suspect few Game of Thrones fans will find much to smile about after tonight’s finale, I wanted to give you one last opportunity for carefree laughter untainted by disappointment or anger with the HBO writers.
    On the historical front, May 12, 1191 was the date of the marriage of Richard of England and Berengaria of Navarre. I’ve said before that I was surprised to find that the marriage seemed to get off to a promising start given its sad ending, but they were polar opposites in so many ways and that rarely makes for a long and happy marriage. I had fun writing these Lionheart scenes, though, as Richard ambushes the women with his nonchalant suggestion that he and Berengaria wed that weekend. In his best oblivious mode, he cannot understand why Joanna is so dismayed. When she demands to know how they could possibly pull off a royal wedding in just a few days, he casually counters,
    “How hard could it be? I assume Berenguela did not intend to get married stark naked, so she must have a suitable gown in her coffers. I thought we’d have her coronation at the same time.” Richard glanced over at his mute betrothed and smiled. “I daresay you’ll be the first and the last Queen of England ever to be crowned in Cyprus, little dove.”
    And in that, he was right. She was.
    Ironically, although I don’t think she found much happiness in marriage to Richard, he bestowed some of his own celebrity status upon her. Just as he is one of the best known medieval kings, she is better known than many of the other women who wed English kings. How many of them have a street in a French city named after them? Or how many were portrayed in a Hollywood film in which she snatches Richard’s sword and refuses to give it back as he is about to rush off to fight the Saracens? I have my friend Owen to thank for calling this to my attention, since I’ve not seen this epic for myself; he says she also scolds him as “Dick Plantagenet” and that alone would be worth the price of admission.

  73. skpenman Says:

    I am very happy to report that my Deadline Dragon has departed the premises. She waited until I took my copy-edited manuscript to the PO—dragons are short on trust. She was last seen flying east. I like to think she’s heading for the Shadowlands where she’ll hook up with Drogon and become a real mother of dragons. I’m holding off making any public comments about GOT since some of my readers may not have had a chance to see the finale yet. So more on that later. I’ll also start trying to catch up with some of my Today in History posts, starting with the one below.

    May 21st, 1172 was the date of the Compromise of Avranches, where Henry II made peace with the Church for that rather awkward assassination of the Archbishop of Canterbury by several of his knights
    Devil’s Brood, pages 24-25
    * * *
    When Henry finally emerged from the church, the spectators were disappointed anew, for he was not bareheaded and barefoot and clad only in his shirt A few men explained knowingly that he was spared the usual mortification because he’d not been excommunicated, but most of the bystanders took a more cynical view, that kings were always accorded special treatment, even by the Almighty. Henry knelt upon the paving stones, only then removing his cap, and received public absolution by the Cardinals Albert and Theodwin. When he rose, the cardinals and the Bishop of Avranches led him back in to the cathedral, a symbolic act of reconciliation with the Church and the Almighty.
    The dissatisfied onlookers dispersed when they realized the show was over. Roger, Bishop of Worcester, stood alone for a moment before slowly reentering the church, for he had been close enough to Henry to hear him say softly after the absolution, “Check, Thomas, and mate.”
    * * *
    Henry would, of course, later make a genuine and much more spectacular act of atonement, submitting to a scourging and keeping an all-night vigil by the tomb of his martyred archbishop and one-time friend. And I am so glad he did, for that was such a powerful scene to write!
    May 21st, 1471 was also the date of death of the hapless Lancastrian king, Henry VI, who died in the Tower—of melancholy, grieving over the death of his son at the battle of Tewkesbury, according to Yorkist spokesmen There may have been a few people who actually believed that, doubtless the same trusting souls who were eager to buy medieval bridges and swampland, having been assured it was prime real estate.
    On a personal note, May 21st, 1912 was my dad’s birthday. He’d always wanted to live to reach one hundred; he did not make it but he did reach ninety-three. He liked to tell us that his generation saw changes more dramatic than any in the history of mankind and I think he was right, for he went from the horse and buggy to the age of space travel. As a boy, he and his grandfather took a horse and wagon from Atlantic City to Philadelphia; it was an all-day trip to cover those fifty miles He lived to make that same trip in an hour’s time He saw the birth of radio, talking movies, television, anti-biotics, men on the moon, and computers, although he never had any desire to master the latter Future generations will see dramatic changes, too, but they won’t be going from a semi-medieval life style to a world beyond imagining, as he did.

  74. skpenman Says:

    I hope none of my readers were affected by those terrifying tornadoes and flooding that are causing so much suffering in the American Midwest. Today starts the Memorial Day weekend in the US and I believe it is also a bank holiday in the UK? How about Down Under? So I hope you all get to enjoy the first taste of summer and take the time to remember the men and women who died in the defense of their country.
    Playing catch-up again for my Today in History posts, May 14, 1264 was the battle of Lewes, in which Simon de Montfort defeated and captured Henry III. This was one of my favorite battles for it was so dramatic and filled with unexpected turns and twists. Lewes was protected by the river but vulnerable to attack from the west, from the Downs, and Simon made a night march to take the royal army by surprise at dawn the next morning. Edward made a major mistake by leaving the field in pursuit of the panicked Londoners, wanting revenge for the time Londoners had pelted his mother with mud, ripe fruit, and curses; he actually pursued them for several miles. Simon, a gifted military commander, realized what was happening when Edward’s vanguard chased after the Londoners and led his reserve against Henry’s left flank, a surprise strike that gave him the victory. Henry’s brother Richard was captured after taking refuge in a mill. Then Edward fought his way into the priory where his father was trapped instead of fleeing to continue the war. And of course it was a family affair. Simon was wed to Henry’s sister and his sons and Edward were first cousins and childhood companions; Simon himself was Edward’s godfather. What writer wouldn’t want to fight a battle like that?
    Simon was a man of many contradictions, with his share of flaws. But he genuinely believed that even a king should have accountability and this French-born baron would call the first parliament in which both knights and burgesses from the towns would attend and be elected. Unlike most rebellions, Simon’s supporters were fighting for a cause, not personal grievances. Simon was said to have given a stirring pre-battle speech; this is the one I gave to him. “This day we fight for justice, for Christ’s poor, for the weal of England, for the promises broken and the trust betrayed. Our cause is just, our quarrel good.” Henry’s rebuttal that as the king, he was answerable only to God did not have quite the same resonance.

  75. skpenman Says:

    I don’t know what is going on here, for only half of the post appeared. I will see if I can post the remainder. It is really bad when my own website starts sabotaging me.

    I remember trekking the bridle path that Simon’s army would have taken up Offham Hill, not sure we were going the right way, but following Geoff, my English godson, who insisted he knew where we were going, and he did. Eventually we came out upon the Downs and there was the town of Lewes lying below us, just as Simon and his men would have seen it so many centuries ago. History seemed very close at that moment.
    Here is a brief scene from Falls the Shadow, page 452-453. Edward has just returned to the battlefield after his pursuit and slaughter of the fleeing Londoners.
    * * * * *
    They drew rein on the crest of the hill, where their first glimpse of the battlefield seemed to confirm Edward’s every expectation. The battle was over, part of the town in flames. Bodies beyond counting lay sprawled in the sun, some already stripped by looters. Men were searching the field for friends or gain, others tending to the wounded, still others chasing loose horses. Only to the south, beyond the priory, did sporadic fighting continue, and that flurry of action degenerated, even as they watched, into a rout.
    Edward laughed. “The dolts, they’re going to blunder right into the mudflats! Simon will lose even more men in that marsh than he did in the river.”
    “Do you think he still lives, Ned?” Hal asked hesitantly, for he could not imagine Simon dead, any more than he could the sun plummeting from the sky.
    “No,” Edward said flatly. “He’s not a man to be taken alive.” Turning in the saddle, he raised his voice. “We’ll give our horses a brief rest; they’ve been roughly used this day. But the sooner we get back to the castle, the sooner we can begin celebrating!”
    Some of them were ready to celebrate then and there, and wineskins were soon passing back and forth. It was left to Davydd, the outsider, to stumble onto the truth. Moving to the edge of the bluff, he gazed down at the battlefield. So many widows, so many orphans made this day. And not all the tears shed for de Montfort would be English. Llywelyn had suffered a defeat, too, lost an ally worth his weight in gold. Davydd’s eyes shifted from the trampled meadows to the town. Blood of Christ! For a long moment, he sat motionless in the saddle, scarcely breathing. Could it be that he’d wagered once again on the wrong horse?
    His sudden shout drew all eyes. Edward was moving toward him, though without haste. Davydd spurred his stallion away from the bluff. “If we won the battle,” he said tautly, “why is the castle under siege?”
    * * * * *

  76. Joan Says:

    So many interesting posts! I love your “rants”, Sharon, defending the truth, and you would know! Fistbumps going round in MA heaven!
    Matilda’s death scene is so sadly beautiful.
    Simon de Montfort one of my favorite of your novels.

  77. Joan Says:

    Correction……one of my favorite figures in your novels

  78. Sharon K Penman Says:

    Here is my post for yesterday, a rather long one, and then a shorter one for today.
    By June 1st, 1191, Richard Coeur de Lion had complete control of Cyprus. His fury at the way Isaac Comnenus had maltreated his shipwrecked men and threatened his sister and betrothed was real enough, but as soon as he’d glanced at a map, he’d seen what a valuable supply base the island would be for the Kingdom of Jerusalem, just a day’s sail away from the Syrian coast. He gave the self-proclaimed emperor enough rope to hang himself, and Isaac obliged by sneaking away in the night after agreeing to the terms Richard had demanded of him. In this scene from Lionheart, Berengaria, now Richard’s wife, is puzzled by how calm he is after getting word that Isaac had disavowed their pact and he explains why Cyprus is of such strategic importance to Outremer.
    Lionheart, Pages 255-256
    “But…but why did you agree to make peace with Isaac, then?”
    “Because it seemed like I might get what I wanted without having to fight for it. He agreed to swear fealty to me and pledged his full support to recapture Jerusalem. If he honored the terms, we’d have gotten a thousand men, the promise of Cypriot harvests, and money I could put toward the cost of the campaign. Naturally, I trusted him about as much as I’d trust a viper, so I demanded his daughter as a hostage and the surrender of his castles. If he’d kept faith, I’d have been satisfied with that.”
    “Did you think he would keep faith?”
    He smiled without answering and went to the door to admit his squires. (Omission)
    His squires had assisted Richard with his hauberk and he was buckling his scabbard. Berengaria was still trying to come to terms with this new knowledge, that Richard had been two steps ahead of the Cypriot emperor from the very first. If Isaac were not such a monster, she might have felt a twinge of pity for him. But she did not doubt he deserved whatever Richard had in mind for him, and now that it had been explained to her, she could see that holding Cyprus would be very beneficial to the Holy Land. Yet how could Richard spare the time to defeat Isaac when they were awaiting him at the siege of Acre?
    “What of the men at Acre, Richard? Will they not be upset by this delay?”
    “It will not take that long.”
    “How long would it take to conquer an entire country?” She’d not realized she’d spoken the words aloud, not until Richard paused on his way to the door.
    “Well,” he said, “I wagered Andre that we could do it in a fortnight.” And then he was gone, leaving her alone in their marriage bed, a bride of four days, staring at that closing door.
    * * *
    When it came to military matters, Richard was usually right, and that proved to be the case, too, in Cyprus. The Cypriots were delighted to be rid of Isaac and Richard agreed to issue a charter confirming the laws and rights as they’d been in the days before Isaac had usurped the throne, but of course he exacted a high price for this privilege, imposing a steep levy upon their goods to help finance the crusade; like most medieval kings, Richard was very good at squeezing money from people. He sold Cyprus to the Templars and later bestowed it upon Guy de Lusignan to get him out of Outremer and pave the way for Conrad of Montferrat’s kingship. Guy didn’t live long enough to enjoy his new possession, but his older brother Amaury made the most of it, getting Richard’s nemesis, Heinrich von Hohenstaufen, to recognize him as the Cypriot king. Amaury would use Cyprus as a stepping stone to a far more prestigious crown, that of Jerusalem itself, but the de Lusignan family continued to rule the island long after the kingdom of Jerusalem was only a memory. And if you think the Angevins had a colorful history, you should read what the de Lusignans got up to on Cyprus!
    Also on June 1st, this time in 1533, Anne Boleyn was crowned as England’s queen. I wonder if she felt that her race had been won as the crown was placed upon her head. Or did she perhaps have any forebodings for the future? Anyone who totally trusted Henry had to be one of God’s great fools, and Anne was not a fool. But she was insecure and arrogant, a dangerous combination for a woman wed to a man now convinced that his will and God’s Will were one and the same. My own feeling is that the only one of Henry’s six wives to be truly happy on her wedding day was Katherine of Aragon, for I think she loved her golden young prince and would never have believed it had she been told what a monster he would later become. I think the BBC production, The Six Wives of Henry VIII, has stood the test of time and remains the most compelling and convincing account of his sad and sordid marital history.

    Today’s date is a slower medieval news day. On June 2, 1420, Henry V married Catherine of Valois as part of the treaty of Troyes. She would be soon widowed, after having given him a son, the unfortunate Henry VI. Catherine was to be the mother of one king and the grandmother of another, but I am guessing she is mainly remembered today by romantics who fancy the story of her secret marriage to the dashing Welshman, Owen Tudor. She died of apparent complications from childbirth in 1437. Owen survived to be executed by Edward IV. Henry V was lucky enough to be immortalized in one of Shakespeare’s plays. I always thought it strange that Shakespeare ignored the high drama provided by our favorite Plantagenets, those wonderfully dysfunctional Angevins. Yes, I know he did one about John, but how about our Henry? Henry’s problems with his sons would have given Lear a run for his money.

  79. Sharon K Penman Says:

    Thanks, Joan. That is always very good to hear!

  80. Sharon K Penman Says:

    I wanted to wish “Ramadan Kareem” to my Muslim readers now that Ramadan has begun. In The Land Beyond the Sea, I had to check before any scene involving my Muslim characters to see when Ramadan occurred in that year, for it is a time of fasting—just as I’ve always taken care to acknowledge dietary restrictions for my Christian characters; no eating venison during Lent, for example. I have occasionally had fun, though, with the mythical barnacle goose, supposedly hatched in the sea and thus able to be eaten on fast days. See The Reckoning, pages 406-407. And in anticipation of tomorrow’s 75th anniversary of D-Day, the invasion of Normandy by the allied forces, here is a brief video of a 97 year old paratrooper, Tom Rice, repeating the jump that he made on June 6th, 1944; of course, then it was dark and people were shooting at him.

    Going much farther back in history, Edward I was luckier than he deserved, IMHO. One of the ways in which he was lucky was that he was blessed with a brother both competent and very loyal, not always the case for brothers of kings; George of Clarence, anyone? Edmund, Earl of Lancaster and Leicester, died on June 5, 1296, at age 51 while besieging Bordeaux for Edward. I found him quite sympathetic, as anyone reading Shadow and The Reckoning can probably tell.
    Edmund is sometimes called Edmund Crouchback because he took part in Edward’s crusade. He was wed to Blanche of Artois, queen-consort of Navarre, who was the granddaughter of Blanche of Castile, Eleanor of Aquitaine’s grand-daughter. Edmund received the earldom of Leicester after Simon de Montfort’s death at Evesham. He and Blanche had several children; their son Thomas was executed after rebelling against Edward II. Edmund appears in Falls the Shadow and The Reckoning and Blanche appears in The Reckoning; although a minor character, I found her great fun to write about. She suffered a terrible tragedy when her young son from her marriage to the King of Navarre died when his nurse accidentally dropped him from a castle battlement. No, I do not know what happened to the nurse. Blanche’s daughter Joan by the King of Navarre would wed King Philip IV of France, he of Templar infamy; Joan was therefore the mother of three French kings and a Queen of England, Isabella, controversial consort of Edward II.

  81. skpenman Says:

    Today is the 75th anniversary of D-Day, a truly remarkable military achievement. I know that Steven Spielberg’s epic Private Ryan is considered the definitive film about the Normandy invasion, but I also liked The Longest Day, for I thought it conveyed the confusion and horrors of war very effectively. Anyone else see that one? D-Day always makes me think of an experience I had in Luxembourg a number of years ago. On my first trip to Europe, where I planned to live in England while researching Sunne, I flew Islandic Airlines, for it was offering bargain rates. The flight destination was Luxembourg, but that was fine with me. So after an overnight stay in Reykjevik, I flew to Luxembourg, which is a very beautiful country. While there, I visited the American Cemetery where over five thousand US soldiers were buried. I’ve never forgotten the sight of those rows of gleaming white crosses, seeming to stretch into infinity. One woman was there to visit her brother’s grave and I remember, too, watching sadly as she knelt by his grave and wept. I don’t think I’ve ever visited another cemetery that moved me as much as this one did, although I did have the same emotional reaction to the memorial of the USS Arizona in Honolulu and the Vietnam Wall in Washington, DC. Have any of my readers been to the Luxembourg cemetery? Have you visited other cemeteries that made a profound impression on you?

  82. skpenman Says:

    Here is an example of how powerful kindness and compassion can be. This story of a little boy’s meltdown and a young woman’s empathy made my day; I hope you all find it as heartening as I did. I also have a Today in History post and will be back with that one later.

  83. skpenman Says:

    One of my wonderful readers posted on another of my Facebook pages that Amazon is now offering the ebook edition of Time and Chance for only $1.99. I don’t know how long this special promotion lasts; I wouldn’t have known it at all if not for Melody’s sharp eye. But if any of my readers would like an ebook version, you cannot beat this price.

  84. skpenman Says:

    Yesterday, Melody, one of my readers, kindly alerted us on my fan club page that Time and Chance was being offered by Amazon’s mother ship at only $1.99. I was happy to spread the word after thanking her, and when I checked today, I found that it is still priced at $1.99. This is sending sales soaring, of course! So if any of you don’t have it as an ebook, you can still buy it at this bargain rate. And Canadian readers can also buy it at this price. (Thinking of you, Joan.) Sadly, Amazon UK and Amazon Australia passed on the party. I still have stuff to post about, so more later.

  85. skpenman Says:

    I meant to post this over the weekend, but I was sidetracked after being told that Time and Chance was being offered at a bargain price on Amazon; naturally, I had to share that news.

  86. skpenman Says:

    It happened again. Only part of the post got through. I will try again.
    I meant to post this over the weekend, but I was sidetracked after being told that Time and Chance was being offered at a bargain price on Amazon; naturally, I had to share that news.

  87. skpenman Says:

    This is ridiculous. Sabotaged by my own blog! I will try again later.

  88. Joan Says:

    Not fun when the enemy is your own blog!
    I will check with friends who read Ebooks re Time and Chance. What a deal!
    The Vietnam Wall struck me profoundly! This was THE war of our generation, tragically lunatic. Conscientious objectors flooded Canada & I met many through my brother in Montreal, then years later sat in their classes at university here.
    My next dream trip is Amsterdam (maternal heritage) & Luxembourg is a short jaunt from there.
    A slightly dated musical film by Julie Taymor, Across the Universe, is a little gem that I’ve watched countless times.

  89. Sharon K Penman Says:

    I agree, Joan; my memories of the Viet Nam War years remain very vivid and troubling even today.

    Not only do I have the world’s best readers, you are the most patient ones, too, politely putting up with my abrupt disappearances and random re-appearances. I’ve been trying to catch up on all that fell through the cracks while I was working on The Land Beyond the Sea—health issues, home repairs, and the like. The last two weeks have been unusually hectic; I saw so many doctors I began to feel like an extra on the set of Grey’s Anatomy. ☹ But I can finally catch my breath and start posting again.
    June 11, 1183 must surely have been one of the most tragic days of Henry II’s life, for it was on that date that his eldest son, known to history as the young king and as Hal in my books, died of dysentery at age 28, after yet another rebellion, one in which he’d become little better than a bandit. On his deathbed, he’d pleaded for Henry to come to him, but after having been shot at twice by Hal’s men under a flag of safe conduct, Henry wisely refused. It is quite possible that he did not truly believe that Hal was dying, either. Once it was too late, though, he must have tormented himself with vain regrets, for the chroniclers related his anguish in heartrending detail
    .* * *
    Devil’s Brood, page 327
    Hal had been sincere when he said he did not deserve forgiveness; there could be few epiphanies as dramatic as one brought about by the awareness of impending death. But no matter how often he told himself that his punishment was just and fitting, he was anguished by his father’s rejection. If the man he’d finally become in the last week of his life could try to accept Henry’s judgment, the boy he’d always been cried out for mercy, needing his father to bring light into the encroaching darkness of his world, to say he understood and the slate of his misdeeds was wiped clean—just as he’d done time and time again.
    * * *
    Still on Page 327, when the Bishop of Agen arrives with a message from Henry for his son.
    * * *
    “Have…have you really come from my father?”
    “Indeed, my liege.” Bishop Bertrand was so shaken by Hal’s shocking decline that he unfastened his own pater noster from his belt and placed it on the pillow next to Hal, then reached out and took the young king’s hot, dry hand in his. “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
    * * *
    June 11th was also the birthday of another major character of mine, Anne Neville, who was born on this date in 1456. She died young, during a solar eclipse of the sun (which no novelist would have dared to invent) in March of 1485, only in her 29th year.
    Somehow those ubiquitous Tudors always manage to crash the party, for on June 11, 1509, Henry VIII wed his brother’s widow, Catherine of Aragon. We know it was a happy day for them both, although knowing what we do, many of us probably wish we could go back in time, take Catherine aside, and cry, “Girl, run for the hills!”

  90. Sharon K Penman Says:

    As Europe is suffering under an intense and dangerous heat wave (as high as 40C or 106F) it seems a good time to post this photo for those who have not yet seen it. If we are looking for an iconic photo to illustrate the impact of climate change on our planet, here it is.
    Back to medieval history. On June 26, 1483, Richard III claimed the English throne; he would be crowned on July 6th. As we know, the crown brought him neither security nor happiness, but his brief reign did earn him eternal notoriety thanks to a playwright named Shakespeare. And more than five centuries after his death at Bosworth, his story would enable an unhappy lawyer to become a historical novelist. Thank you, Richard.

  91. skpenman Says:

    It seems all I do lately is apologize for my disappearances. But I’ve been so busy fending off doctors (joke) that I’ve truly had no time for anything else. Not that I am complaining about all the tests, even if I do sometimes feel like a medical guinea pig. We always do better when we can identify the enemy, after all; how else can we devise a suitable battle plan? Probably because my spiritual home is the MA, I have always felt a sense of genuine wonderment that we have access to medical treatments that would have been unimaginable to people in earlier centuries. Despite the passage of so much time, it still seems so tragic to me that so many died of ailments or injuries that could so easily be treated today, and yes, I was thinking of young Baldwin, the Leper King of Jerusalem.
    Aside from the loss of time, I am doing well, and will eventually be able to surface again on a regular basis. Meanwhile, I hope that all of my American readers and Facebook friends have a very peaceful July 4th. A screen writer friend and I share an unusual holiday tradition; we recently were delighted to learn that we both have been doing the same thing for years—watching the film 1776 on July 4th! That is a tradition I’d be happy to share with you all, reminding us of the remarkable men who would become known to history as our Founding Fathers.

  92. Sharon K Penman Says:

    Here is today’s post on Facebook. Unfortunately, my blog is still being bratty about photos so I cannot include the cover for The Land Beyond the Sea. If you want to see it, you can go to any of my Facebook pages or go to Amazon, where it is already available for pre-ordering.

    I hope to be able to resume posting regularly on Facebook soon. Some of my readers have expressed concern, so I want to reassure you all that I am okay; I just had to deal with some health “issues” I’d been postponing while I worked on the book. (That tells you all you need to know about writers and our priorities, doesn’t it?) For now, I am concerned very much about my friends and readers in the path of this new hurricane; please pray that the New Orleans levees hold back the Mississippi, which is already at twenty feet. As many of you know, I was lucky enough to live in New Orleans for a year and it remains a city very dear to my heart.

    I am finally able to provide some real information about The Land Beyond the Sea. This is the cover we will be using in the US; my British publisher is still working on theirs. This is a replica of a painting by a nineteenth century French artist, depicting the Battle of Montgisard between Baldwin IV and Saladin. It is not all that accurate from a historical perspective, but we decided to go with it anyway because of the dramatic, visual impact. I did request, though, that I could add a sentence to the Author’s Note explaining this, and yes, that is probably a text-book definition of obsessive-compulsive!

    We also have a publication date—March 3rd of next year. I confess I was rather surprised myself that there would be a longer than usual delay in publication, but so many factors go into a decision like this, including publicity and marketing considerations. I am also happy to report that my British publisher is bringing the book out next March, too, so my British readers won’t have to choose between another delay or incurring expensive transatlantic mailing costs.

    To make it up to you all for my random, erratic appearances on Facebook, I am going to start doing some book giveaways in coming weeks. Sadly, I have no extra hardcover copies of Sunne, Dragons, or Saints. But from time to time, I will offer a signed copy of one of my other books: The Reckoning, Time and Chance, Devil’s Brood, Lionheart, and A King’s Ransom. As in past giveaways, you need only post a comment on my blog to enter and the winner can choose which of the books that he or she prefers. I hope to get started in August with this. Meanwhile, what better way to close today than to give a loud cheer for the US soccer team’s remarkable fourth World Cup win. And yes, I admit I may be swayed by the fact that one of their players, Julie Ertz, is married to our Eagles star tight end, Zak Ertz.

  93. Sharon K Penman Says:

    Being in Paris to celebrate Bastille Day has long been on my Bucket List, as has being there on the third Thursday in November when the Beaujolais Nouveau is released; okay, there are some oddities on my list. But Bastille Day is an important holiday to the French and to those of us who love France. So what better way to mark it than by watching the most memorable scene from Casablanca? No matter how often I watch it, it still gives me chills. And as an added bonus today, this link also offers an interesting analysis as to why this scene resonates so powerfully with people.

  94. skpenman Says:

    How unusual is it to have the temperature soar to 100 degrees in NJ? Or to get tornado warnings and then tornadoes? Or honest-to-God blizzards in South Jersey, where no child ever got to experience a White Christmas? Based on our past experience, these are signs of the coming Apocalypse…..or a changing climate as time runs out.
    I have finally escaped the medical maze and can no longer hear the baying of the bloodhounds hot on my trail, sent out by the posse of physicians set upon tracking me down. Can you tell that I am in need of a medieval novel to write? I really do need an outlet for my inclination toward high drama, for Facebook posts don’t do the trick. It has been much too long since I got to shed blood or betray an ally or lay siege to a desert stronghold, all of which I was able to do frequently in The Land Beyond the Sea.
    But for now I am trapped in a writer’s limbo, that dreaded time when we are “between books.” One reason why I so enjoyed writing sequels or trilogies, etc, is that I could then slide seamlessly from one book into the next. It helped, too, to have the same historical characters hanging around the house for years, but when they finally moved on, a ghostly silence settled in. Imagine how empty the house—and my head—felt after spending 12 years with the Yorkists? The Angevins were just as quick to stake their claim, and even though Henry has been dead since Devil’s Brood, I still miss him.
    Okay, onward and upward. As a peace offering for my frequent disappearances, I am posting a link that has been shared before, but it is amusing enough and clever enough to warrant a rerun. Besides, I am sure some of you missed it the first time around. Here is a list of abridged classic novels. I think my favorite is the concise summary of Moby Dick: “Man vs whale. The whale wins.” Or War and Peace: “Everyone is sad. It snows.”

  95. Bunnie Says:

    Does this mean maybe a new Justin novel?? You could write about the Angevins again :)

  96. skpenman Says:

    That is the game plan, Bunnie. Justin has been downright saintly about waiting in the wings, so I think it is time to reward the lad with some time again on center stage. Besides, it will be set partially in Wales, so I ought to be able to bring the young Llywelyn ab Iorwerth into the action!

  97. Bunnie Says:

    That is great news on both counts!

  98. skpenman Says:

    I know there are many, many animal lovers here, so I am posting this in hopes that those of you who agree with me will sign this petition. Happy is an elephant at the Bronx Zoo who has been kept in solitary confinement for more than a decade. For such an intelligent, social creature, this amounts to torture. The ironically named Happy does not deserve this and there is a movement to get her removed to an elephant sanctuary so she may spend her twilight years in relative freedom with her own kind. This link will take you to the petition and an article about Happy’s sad history. There is also an article from the New York Times, calling her “the world’s loneliest elephant.” That article calling attention to Happy’s plight was written in 2015! Is Happy going to be freed only by death?

Leave a Reply