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News from Sharon Kay Penman January 2011

Devil's Brood

Devil's Brood

"Devil’s Brood does an excellent job of rendering a complex series of historical events comprehensible. Those unfamiliar with Plantagenet history will probably want to read Time and Chance first, but this long-awaited volume delivers all you can expect from Penman: a story so immediate and real that you’ll feel like you’ve lived it."
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     I know that not all of my readers follow my blogs on a regular basis and I know, too, that many of you are not Facebook aficionados, so it is likely that you have not heard the news about Lionheart and my Eleanor of Aquitaine tour.  For those who already know, I apologize for the rerun.  For those who do not, there have been some interesting developments in recent months.

      First of all, I finished Lionheart in November, and I am delighted (and relieved) to report that my editor is very happy with it.   I do not have an exact publication date yet, of course, but it is very likely that G.P. Putnam’s will be publishing it in the US this coming October; when I have information about the British publication, I will pass that along, too. 

       There was a major development earlier in the year, however.  I’d slowly begun to realize that there was no way in the world that I could meet the December, 2010 dead-line.  So much research, so little time!   Part of the problem was that I had only two years to finish Lionheart and I usually have three for one of my “sagas.”   It was also Richard’s fault.  If he’d stayed at home where he belonged, I wouldn’t have been faced with such daunting research challenges.  But instead he compiled more medieval frequent flyer miles than Marco Polo—France, Italy, Sicily, Crete, Rhodes, Cyprus, the Holy Land, Austria, and Germany—although in fairness to him, those last two countries were not on his original itinerary.

       Nor did it help that I had so many amazing chronicles at my disposal, including two written by men who accompanied Richard on crusade and two by men who were members of Saladin’s inner circle, truly a surfeit of riches.   I’d never before had first-hand accounts of battles or so many fascinating details of daily life in the Holy Land, and I am sure it will come as no surprise that I wanted to share as much as possible with you all.   The chroniclers described Richard’s mood on his wedding day, Saladin’s bouts with colic, Richard’s love for a Cypriot stallion named Fauvel, the French king’s dismay when his favorite falcon flew away at the siege of Acre, terrifying storms at sea, Saladin’s kindness to a Christian woman whose child had been stolen by thieves.   I was often given the exact words spoken by Richard or Saladin, told about the dire diseases that stalked the army encampment at Acre, learned that the residents of the Holy Land called bananas “apples of paradise” and enjoyed a dessert of syrup mixed with snow that was brought down from the mountains in carts covered with straw.   So it has been a very enjoyable experience—tracking the Lionheart from Marseille to Messina to Famagusta to Acre—but there was always that accursed deadline looming on the horizon.

       I needed a knight in shining armor to ride to my rescue, and they are in short supply in the 21st century.  Fortunately, I had something better than a knight errant, a dear friend who shares my love of history in general and the MA in particular—Valerie LaMont.  My Facebook friends know that her husband Lowell exorcises my computer’s demons.  Well, Valerie exorcised my deadline demons by coming up with an idea that was so simple and yet so brilliant.  Why not tell Richard’s story in two parts?

        This is, of course, the modus operandi I’ve used in the past for my Welsh trilogy and my Angevin trilogy, and Richard’s life lends itself admirably to such an approach.  Happily, my publisher thought so, too.  So I will be writing two more books about the Angevins.  Lionheart will deal with the Richard of legend, Coeur de Lion, ending as he departs the Holy Land and sails for home in October of 1192.  Luckily for him, he has no idea what lies ahead—an unlikely encounter with pirates, shipwreck, capture, imprisonment, ransom, and betrayal.  All of that will be covered in the second book, A King’s Ransom, dealing with the man behind the myth, as well as with the start of his brother John’s reign.

         Now…I have news about Richard’s mother.   A few months ago, I was approached by Academic Travel Abroad, a professional tour operator in Washington, D.C., asking if I’d be interested in conducting a tour of Eleanor of Aquitaine’s France.  I think you can guess what my response was.   Academic Travel Abroad has sixty years of experience in the educational travel field, and it has been a pleasure to work with them as they put this project together.   We used Facebook and my blog to get reader feedback, and the result is a ten day tour, from June 4th to June 13th, 2011.    We will be visiting all of the places that Eleanor loved--Fontevrault Abbey, Chinon, Poitiers, Angers, Le Mans, and Mont St Michel, among others.   We will use Fontevrault as a base to explore the Loire Valley and will be staying at the wonderful Abbaye Royale Hotel, which was once the abbey’s lazar-house.   The tour will begin and end in Paris.   I’ve been told that all of the single slots have already been booked, but other spaces remain and the agency will be happy to match people up with roommates if they request it.   Here is the itinerary, dates, costs, and all the necessary details, etc. This itinerary is also available for viewing on my blog, and one of my readers has kindly added photos of the sites we’ll visit.  It sounds as if it will be a truly magical trip, and I hope some of you can make it.  One of the reasons why I was so interested in this tour was that it would afford me a rare opportunity to meet some of my readers and fellow Eleanor-addicts!

In the Footsteps of Eleanor of Aquitaine
An educational tour led by acclaimed author
Sharon Kay Penman

June 4-13, 2011

Join acclaimed author Sharon Kay Penman on a journey to France this June to retrace the life of Eleanor of Aquitaine!

Eleanor—Duchess of Aquitaine and Gascony, Countess of Poitou, Queen of the French and Queen of England, mother to future kings and queens—was one of the most extraordinary women of her time, and continues to hold a fascination for us today!

Ms. Penman, author of seven historical novels including the Henry II Trilogy: When Christ and His Saints Slept, Time and Chance, and Devils’ Brood, and four medieval mysteries surrounding Queen Eleanor, leads this exceptional tour.

Travel back into the French Middle Ages and imagine the life of one of its most captivating royal figures.

Visit Paris where Eleanor married the French King Louis VII. Then travel into Normandy and Anjou, domains of her second husband, King Henry II of England. Explore the Aquitaine, richest medieval duchy in the south of France, where troubadours originated the daring idea of Courtly Love, and where Eleanor was born and raised in the court of her ducal ancestors.

Finally, find Eleanor and Henry in the Royal Abbey of Fontevraud, their last resting place, where Ms. Penman will read from her forthcoming book, Lionheart.

Day-by-Day Itinerary

Day 1, Saturday June 4

Depart the U.S. on independent overnight flights to Paris.

Day 2, Sunday June 5

Arrive in Paris this morning and check into the Hotel Trianon Rive Gauche, well situated for exploring medieval Paris and the world of Eleanor and Henry. Enjoy some free time to settle into your hotel. Meet fellow travelers at a welcome reception and dinner. (R, D)

Day 3, Monday June 6

Begin exploring the Middle Ages in France with a full day in Paris. Included are visits to the Louvre, the Cluny Museum and Notre Dame. At the Louvre see the gift Eleanor gave to Louis VII on their marriage - the only artifact of Eleanor’s known to exist. Enjoy free time to explore the world famous collections. At the Cluny Museum, a Gothic mansion housing The National Museum of the Middle Ages, discover a magnificent collection of tapestries, paintings, illuminated manuscripts, stained glass and everyday objects from the medieval period; conclude the day at the Cathedral of Notre Dame, one of the finest examples of French Gothic Architecture. (B)

Day 4, Tuesday June 7

Leave Paris for Normandy this morning by private coach. Visit the Castle of Falaise, ancient seat of the Dukes of Normandy and fortress residence of

Henry and Eleanor. Continue to Mont-St-Michel, a tiny tidal island just off the coast.  Home to the ancient Norman Benedictine Monastery, this UNESCO World Heritage site was a major pilgrimage destination in the Middle Ages. Check into La Mère Poulard Hotel located on the island, just footsteps from the abbey. Visit the abbey and church in the late afternoon, free of crowds, a rare opportunity. (B,D)

Day 5, Wednesday June 8

Drive south to Le Mans, where the Empress Matilda and Count Geoffrey of Anjou were married and their son, Henry II was baptized. Explore the well-preserved Cité Plantagenet which is completely separate from the hustle of the modern day town; walk through the cobbled streets lined with half-timbered houses and ornate stone façades, including the Maison du Pilier rouge, recognizable by its red-painted wooden structure. Admire the Cathedral of Saint-Julien, built between the 11th and 15th centuries, one of the largest cathedrals in France. See also the Bishop’s House, the Town Hall, Notre-Dame-du-Pré and Maison-Dieu de Coeffort. Leave Le Mans for Fontevraud, the royal abbey where Eleanor spent her final years and is buried with Henry and much of her family. Check into the delightful Hotel Abbaye Royale de Fontevraud, situated on the abbey grounds .(B)

Day 6, Thursday June 9

Journey to Poitiers today, the heart of Eleanor’s domains. Follow in the footsteps of the Duchess with a local professor. Begin at the Palace of Justice, the seat of the Dukes of Aquitaine. Admire several churches that relate to major events in Eleanor’s life, including the 12th century Cathedral Saint-Pierre, where Eleanor and Henry were married; St Hilaire where Richard was invested as Duke of Aquitaine and the Romanesque church of Notre-Dame-la-Grande which was part of the palace enclosure during Eleanor’s reign. On the way back to Fontevraud, pause at a local winery: no trip to the Loire Valley would be complete without stopping to enjoy the finest vintages this region has to offer. (B)

Day 7, Friday June 10

Begin the day with a reading by Sharon Kay Penman from her yet to be published book, Lionheart, a very special treat for her fans. You’ll have free time to explore Saumur on market day. Of particular note is the Château of Saumur, a fortified stronghold above the town. Later journey to Chinon, to visit the Château de Chinon, one of Henry’s favorite residences and the setting for The Lion In Winter. Henry, who later died here, was responsible for construction of almost all of the massive structure. End the day with a special dinner in Fontevraud and a private evening tour of the Abbey, and say a goodnight to Eleanor and Henry. (B, D)

Day 8, Saturday June 11

Travel to Angers, once the capital of the historic province of Anjou, and the heart of Henry’s Angevin empire. Explore the massive and ancient castle, the Château d’Angers; and the Cathedral of St. Maurice a fine balance of Romanesque and gothic architecture. The interior walls are decorated with a beautiful collection of medieval tapestries woven between 1376 and 1381, the largest, The Angers Apocalypse is on display in the castle. Check into the Hotel Mercure and enjoy an evening on your own in Angers. (B)

Day 9, Sunday June 12

Bid Adieu to Eleanor and Henry before traveling back to Paris, stopping on the way at Chartres Cathedral, considered one of the finest examples of the French High Gothic style. Arrive in time for lunch before touring the cathedral on a guided visit. Continue to Paris, returning to the Hotel Trianon Rive Gauche. Gather for a festive farewell dinner in Paris. (B, D)

Day 10 Monday June 13

Transfer to Charles de Gaulle airport for individual return flights to the United States. (B)

Tour Costs

Price per person in a double: $3,595

For a single room, add: $795

To reserve your place please call: (800) 556-7896


These costs include: 

Full program of activities and events in France via motor coach, as described in the itinerary.   

Group transfers to and from Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport 

Eight nights accommodation in France as described in the itinerary, based on double occupancy. 

Continental breakfast daily, five dinners and a wine tasting. 

All gratuities, taxes and porterage. 

Pre departure materials, including a reading list.  

Medevac insurance 

Headphones for touring  

Engaging readings and talks by Sharon Kay Penman· 

The services of an ATA tour manager throughout to handle logistics· 

The assistance of ATA’s professional Travel Services Department which includes at Travel Communications Specialist and a Travel Counselor for pre-departure customer service and individual requests.

What is not included: 

Transatlantic airfare 

Expenses incurred by Academic Travel Abroad in making individual travel arrangements before or after the program. 

Passport photos and fees 

Refreshments other than those offered as part of the group meals Items of a personal nature such as laundry/valet, personal telephone calls, alcoholic beverages, a-la-carte, room service, etc. 

Other items not specifically mentioned as included.

A limited number of single rooms are available at extra cost on a first-come, first served basis, but availability cannot be guaranteed. Academic Travel Abroad will assist persons requesting a roommate. However, neither a single room nor a share can be guaranteed. Participants will be notified if we are unsuccessful in finding a suitable roommate. In this case, the single supplement will be charged.

Payment Schedule

$500 deposit upon application. Balance due upon receipt of invoice, 90 days before departure. Acceptable forms of payment are personal check, Visa, MasterCard, or American Express. If final payment is not received by 60 days prior to departure, your space is subject to cancellation.

Cancellation and Refunds

All cancellations must be submitted in writing to Academic Travel Abroad, Inc.

(ATA). After confirmation on the tour, a nonrefundable processing fee of $300 per person will be charged upon written cancellation. Written cancellation between 90-61 days of departure: full refund, minus your deposit (including nonrefundable processing fee). Written cancellation between 60 and 31 days prior to departure:50% refund of the tour price. Written cancellation within 30 days prior to departure: no refund. 

Cancellation on day of departure or after tour departs:

no refund. No refund for unused portions of tour, including, but not limited to, missed meals, hotel nights and sightseeing. Cancellation of program by ATA: full refund. Cancellation of the program after departure by ATA: full refund of all land fees, less the cost of service up to the time of the group’s return. NOTE: ATA does not accept liability for any airline cancellation penalty incurred by the purchase of a nonrefundable airline ticket to the tour departure city and return. We strongly urge applicants to consider purchasing trip cancellation insurance.

A Note About the Itinerary

While every effort will be made to carry out the program as planned, the itinerary as described is subject to modification and change by ATA. The program cost is based upon current airfares, tariffs, and currency values in effect January 2011and assumes that a minimum of 20 participants will join the program. While we will do everything possible to maintain the listed price, it is subject to change. If it is necessary to levy a surcharge, notification will be given before time of invoicing (approximately 90 days prior to departure). In the event of cancellation due to a surcharge, all monies are fully refundable except for processing fee.


We strongly recommend the purchase of trip cancellation insurance, which is available for coverage of expenses in conjunction with cancellation due to illness or accident. Baggage insurance is also recommended. In the event that you must cancel your participation in a travel program, trip cancellation insurance may be the only source of reimbursement. We will send you a brochure from our travel insurance provider, or you may obtain coverage through a company of your choice.

Health Recommendations

To enjoy your travels to the fullest you should be in good physical and mental health. Any physical condition requiring special attention, diets, or treatment must be reported in writing when the reservation is made. We reserve the right to decline to accept or retain any person as a tour member should such a person’s health, mental condition, physical infirmity, or attitude jeopardize the operation of the tour or the enjoyment of other participants.


Read Carefully: Responsibility Statement and Liability Disclaimer

Academic Travel Abroad (ATA), a professional tour operator, acts only as an agent for the respective suppliers by making arrangements for transportation, accommodations, and other services. ATA shall not be held liable for personal injury, death, property damage or accident, delay or irregularity arising out of any act or omission of these suppliers. ATA reserves the right, without penalty, to make changes in the published itinerary whenever, in their judgment, conditions warrant, or if they deem it necessary for the comfort, convenience, or safety of tour participants. ATA also reserves the right, without penalty, to withdraw the tour announced, to decline to accept any person as a participant in a tour, or to require any participant to withdraw from the tour at any time, when such action is determined by tour staff to be in the best interests of the health, safety or general welfare of the tour group or the individual participant, subject only to the requirement that the recoverable portion of the total amount paid that corresponds to the cost of unused services and accommodations be refunded, if any. Participants are encouraged to purchase airline tickets no sooner than 60days before the tour begins to avoid airline cancellation penalties if a tour is canceled or otherwise modified subsequent to the participant’s purchase of those tickets. ATA accepts no liability for the purchase of non-refundable airline tickets to the tour departure city and return. Baggage and personal effects are at all times the sole responsibility of the participant. Dates, schedules, program details, and costs, although provided in good faith based on information available at the time of publication of this brochure are subject to change and revision.


The undersigned has read carefully the Responsibility Statement and Liability Disclaimer set forth above, the schedule of activities for this tour, as well as the terms and conditions of application and participation as set forth in the tour literature, and recognizes and accepts any risk associated with the tour and the conditions, including the refund policy, set forth in the tour brochure(s). The undersigned further acknowledges that there are many risks and uncertainties inherent in any travel tour, including but not limited to the hazards of various modes of transportation, forces of nature, acts or omissions of foreign governments, terrorism, war or insurrection, theft, illness, and damage to person or property due to the negligent acts or omissions of tour staff or others. Inconsideration of, and as part payment for, the right to participate in the tour, the undersigned, on behalf of himself, his dependents, heirs, executors, administrators and assigns, agrees to release (Client organization), its Regents, officers, employees, representatives or agents, the United States, and ATA and its officers, employees and agents, from liability for personal injury, death, property damage or loss suffered by any person in connection with this tour, even if caused by the negligence (but not the reckless, willful, or fraudulent conduct) of tour staff or other related persons or entities. In addition, by registering for this tour, the applicant certifies that he or she is mentally and physically capable of full participation in this tour.


Click here to download the reservation form (pdf file)

You may also call (800) 556-7896 or send via fax to (202) 342-0317 to reserve your space.


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