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Preview: Medieval Woman: Blogging with Historical Fiction Writer Susan Higginbotham

Medieval Woman: Blogging with Historical Novelist Susan Higginbotham

Medieval History, and Tudors Too!

Updated: 2018-03-29T10:01:53.551-04:00


Moving House


Since I turned in my completed manuscript on Thursday, the duchesses have released me from bondage to blog again. I've decided, however, to move my blog over to WordPress. I like Blogger, but WordPress offers some features that Blogger doesn't. So hereafter, I'll be blogging at this address. I've already got a new post up.

You'll note that my new blog has a new title: History Refreshed with Susan Higginbotham. I thought "Medieval Woman" was too limiting now that I'm writing about the Tudors as well.

Because my first few blog posts didn't transfer over to WordPress, and since it will probably take a while for people to start following me at the new blog, I won't delete this blog.

Hope to see you over at the new address!

Blogging Hiatus: A Bulletin From the Duchesses


We, the Duchesses of Suffolk and Northumberland, wish to inform the gracious readers of this blog that until Susan Higginbotham delivers a completed manuscript about us to her publisher on or about August 1, 2011, she will not be posting on this blog.

(Even if it's something really interesting? Susan asks forlornly.)

(Nay, say the duchesses.)

So there you have it. Don't blame Mistress Higginbotham, please. Blame us.

Historical Novel Society--San Diego 2011


I'm back from the Historical Novel Society's fourth North American conference, held in San Diego this weekend. As promised, here's my recap, with the caveat that there was a choice of panel discussions offered and I can only report on the ones which I attended. (Sadly, I didn't take notes, as I was too busy enjoying the discussions, so I'm writing here from memory--if there's anything I got wrong, let me know.)Friday night kicked off with a dinner banquet, with Harry Turtledove as the keynote speaker. Turtledove is primarily an author of alternative history, which isn't a genre I prefer, but I found him to be an engaging and lively speaker. I definitely plan on looking into his "straight" historical novels someday.Since I've been pondering trying to write a young adult novel at some point, the first panel I attended Saturday morning was "Adult Versus Young Adult Fiction," moderated by Gina Iorio, a librarian, with Susan Coventry, C. C. Humphreys, Pamela Bauer Mueller, and Dori Jones Yang as the panelists. The impression I took away from the panel is that the only hard-and-fast rule about young adult fiction is that the protagonist has to be in his or her teens; otherwise, the fast-growing genre offers a lot of room for play and has a growing appeal for adult readers as well.Next was "Making Characters Believable," moderated by Jess Wells and featuring Gillian Bagwell, Christy English, Tony Hays, and Kathryn Johnson. I found it interesting to see how a variety of authors accomplished this challenging task.One of the hot-button topics in the historical fiction community has been the perception that in order to attract readers (and publishers), historical novels require "marquee names"--the Anne Boleyns and Eleanor of Aquitaines of the world, as opposed to lesser-known historical characters and ordinary folk. Mary Sharratt moderated the panel, which included Susanne Dunlap, C. W. Gortner, Vanitha Sankaran, and Margaret George, some who have chosen the famous for their protagonists, some of whom have not. This panel attracted a lot of audience questions. The consensus appeared to be that while there is a preference for marquee names, the well-written novel about lesser folk can find a home, provided that it tells a compelling story. The lunch speaker was agent Jennifer Weltz, who stayed around to moderate an editor's panel on "Selling Historical Fiction" with Deni Dietz (Five Star), Shana Drehs (my own editor from Sourcebooks), Heather Lazare (Crown), and Charles Spicer from St. Martin's. I didn't stick around for the entire panel, as I had to primp for my own panel discussion, but there was a very interesting discussion on the e-book phenomenon.Next up was "Whose Side Are You On? Turning the Antagonists of History into Sympathetic Protagonists," moderated by Elizabeth Kerri Mahon and featuring Emma Campion (writing about Alice Perrers), C. W. Gortner (writing about Catherine de Medici), Anne Easter Smith (writing about Richard III), and your friendly blogger (writing about Margaret of Anjou). We talked about how we went about portraying in a sympathetic light those who have been traditionally cast as history's villains.Our keynote speaker at dinner was Cecelia Holland, who gave a very short and very successful speech on the role of the historical novelist, proving that one doesn't need to give a long talk to captivate an audience! The dinner was followed by a fashion show, spanning ancient times through the nineteenth century and emceed very entertainingly by Valerie Sokol. I was one of the participants, so I can't offer pictures, but I suspect a few will be appearing on the web over the next few days.A hit of the last conference was the "Saturday Night Sex Scene" readings, which were repeated (with new scenes, of course) for this conference. I confess that I missed these, however, since at that time jet lag was beginning to tell on me and my hotel room was looking awfully good. (There were also "Friday Night Fight Scenes" for the pugilistically inclined.)On Sunday, edi[...]

Go West, Medieval Woman, Go West


On Friday at dawn, I'll be heading out to San Diego for the Historical Novel Society conference this weekend. This is my first time in attendance, as various things prevented me from going to the last several conferences, so I'm really looking forward to it! Some of my favorite writers and/or bloggers will be there, so I will have to be an extrovert for the weekend and meet and mingle!

I'll be a panelist on Whose Side Are You On? moderated by Elizabeth Keri Mahon. My co-panelists are C. W. Gortner, Anne Easter Smith, and Emma Campion, so I'm in good company! We'll be discussing what inspired us to write about historical figures who have traditionally got bad press, such as Margaret of Anjou in my case.

In addition to the panel, I'm also participating in a group book-signing and taking to the runway at the historical costume pageant on Saturday night.

I've figured out how to tweet from my cell phone, so I'll try to pass along Twitter updates as I attend the various presentations. I'll be blogging about my weekend once I return, as I know others will too, so it will be interesting to compare experiences.

See you on Monday!

The Other Jane Seymour: A Follow-Up Letter


In my last post, I mentioned that after the execution of their father, Jane Seymour and three of her sisters came to live with their aunt Elizabeth, Lady Cromwell. As the following letter to William Cecil indicates, Lady Cromwell wasn't entirely happy about having four young girls (the oldest of the four, Margaret, was twelve) thrust into her care:After the due manner of my most hearty commendations unto you, good Master Cecil, I dare not think any unkindness that my lady, your bed-fellow, and you did not, according to your promise, see the poor house of Launde. I ensure you it would have been greatly to my comfort, and I most heartily pray you, when you come into these our parts again, to take my poor house as your own, where you shall be so heartily welcome as my heart can think to the nearest friend I have in the world.Your great gentleness, many ways shewed towards me, emboldeneth me to trouble you with these my letters, whereby it may please you to understand that, where it pleased the king's majesty and his most honourable council to will me to take into my tuition my four nieces, I thought it my duty, and the rather being moved by your friendly advice declared unto me by your gentle letters, to satisfy the council's honourable requests and not to refuse them; although, if I should have declared unto my said honourable lords at that time what charge and other cares I, being now a lone woman, am troubled with, I doubt not but it would have pleased them, of their honours, to have accepted in good part my reasonable cause to have refused them. Wherefore, considering with myself the weighty burden and care which nature bindeth me to be mindful of, as well for the bestowing of my own children, as also for such poor family as my late lord and husband hath left me unprovided for, enforceth me to require your help and advice, that hereafter, about Christmas next, or shortly after then, by your good means, my said honourable lords of the council may understand that, when my said nieces have accomplished a full year with me, then my trust is that they shall be otherwhere provided for and bestowed than with me: trusting that there be places enough where they may be, better than with me; and, as I do perceive by them many ways, much more to their own contentations and pleasings. And even as I was bold to write unto the king's highness' most honourable council, that I, being a lone woman, not nigh any of my kinsfolk, whereby I the rather am destitute of friendly advice and counsel, how to use myself in the rule of such company as now I am careful of, so now I am likewise bold to declare the same unto you, being not at any time either instructed by you or any other of my said honourable lords, how to use my said nieces; considering that I have, in some cases, thought good that my said nieces should not all wholly be their own guides, but rather willing them to follow mine advice, which they have not taken in such good part as my good meaning was, nor according to my expectation in them.Trusting, therefore, so much in your worship, that you will so tender my aforesaid desire, as the same may so come to pass that my request herein may be satisfied in convenient time, and without any displeasure towards me for my good meaning. And thus I beseech the living God to send you continual health and much increase of honour. From Launde, the 25th of October, 1552.Yours always assured to her power,Elizabeth Cromwell. To the Right Honourable Sir William Cecil, Knight, one of the king's highness' privy council,Give these.Though Lady Cromwell may strike us as rather coldhearted, it can't have been easy, suddenly having four bereaved young girls dropped into her household. Nor could the girls have been the most congenial of houseguests: their father was dead, their mother was a prisoner, and they had been torn away from the luxurious existence they had known as the daughters of the very wealthy Duke of Somerset. Moreover, Lady Cromwell [...]

The Other Lady Jane


Tudor England possessed not one but two Lady Janes who were noted for their learning, whose parents aspired to marry them to the king, and who died tragically young. The first Lady Jane needs no introduction; the second probably will: Lady Jane Seymour.Jane Seymour, niece to Henry VIII's queen by the same name, was born in 1541 to Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford (later Duke of Somerset) and his wife, Anne Stanhope. She was the third of the couple's six daughters.Like their contemporary Jane Grey, Jane Seymour and her sisters received an excellent humanist education. In a letter that Mary Anne Everett Wood dates to 1548, seven-year-old Jane and her eight-year-old sister Margaret wrote to their cousin Edward VI, who would turn 11 in October 1548:It cannot be expressed, O! king most serene, with what hope and joy that literary gift which we have received from your highness has overflowed our spirit, and what a sharp spur we find it to be, in order to embrace those things and to cleave with all labour and sedulousness to those studies wherein we know your highness to take so much delight, and to be so deeply learned; wherein we also, whom your serene highness wishes to see best instructed, hope to make some advancement. And these present tokens of your singular good-will, which no power of words can do justice to, show plainly how many thanks are due from us, more than many others to your majesty; should we attempt any act or expression of thanks, your deserts, always proceeding more and more in perpetual vicissitude, would not only seem to press upon us but would certainly oppress us: especially as we have nothing, nay, we ourselves are nothing, which we do not justly owe to your highness. Wherefore, while forced to fly to your clemency, we yet doubt not that a prince of such heavenly kindness, who has loaded us with so many and so great benefits, will also add this one, that he will not think that those things are bestowed upon ungrateful persons, which belong to a grateful spirit. Whereof these letters, which are wont to be substitutes for the absent, will be but a faint proof; while we pray for all happiness to your highness, with a long continuance thereof.The most devoted servants to your majesty,Margaret Seymour,Jane Seymour. Jane's parents encouraged the girls to correspond with religious reformers, as did the parents of Jane Grey. On June 12, 1549--a few months before her father, who had been named Protector for Edward VI, was imprisoned in the Tower for the first time--the eight-year-old Jane Seymour wrote this letter to Martin Bucer and Paul Faguis, who were living in exile in England and had taken up posts at Cambridge:I have perused your letter, most reverend fathers, which has not only pleased, but highly delighted me. For I easily perceived therein your singular good-will towards me, a grace and eloquence equal to that of Cicero, together with a most abiding remembrance of me, which, as it is in most persons of very rare occurrence, I cannot sufficiently admire in you. But when I consider in what way I can recompense the sincerity of your friendship, I plainly perceive that this is quite out of my power; and that I can only offer you, as I shall do as long as I live, my warmest acknowledgments. I dare not presume to write to you how very acceptable were the books that you presented to my sister and myself, for fear lest my ineloquent commendation of them may appear impertinent. From your exceeding praise of the addresses of myself and my sister, which we might more truly be said to babble than to recite before you, I perceive your incomparable benevolence and friendship, abounding in such kind exaggeration respecting us. For neither my sister nor myself assume to ourselves a single atom of this commendation, nor have we any right to do so. My mother, thank God, is in good health: she desires her best respects to you both, and also thanks you for your salutations to her grace[...]

The Letters of Frances Grey, Marchioness of Dorset


Three letters by Frances Grey, Marchioness of Dorset and later Duchess of Suffolk, have been preserved in printed sources. Mary Anne Everett Wood, the nineteenth-century editor of Letters of Royal and Illustrious Ladies of Great Britain, knew of no others in existence. The letters appear in three separate sources: Samuel Haynes' A Collection of State Papers Relating to Affairs in the Reigns of King Henry VIII, King Edward VI, Queen Mary, and Queen Elizabeth (volume 1); Patrick Fraser Tytler's England Under the Reigns of Edward VI and Mary (volume 1); and in Wood, volume 3. The first two letters are addressed to the recently widowed Thomas Seymour, in whose household Jane Grey had been residing before the death of Seymour's royal wife, Katherine Parr. Stunned by the death of his wife from what was probably childbed fever, Seymour had decided to send his ward, Jane, back to her parents, but had since regrouped and now wished Jane to continue in his household, where his mother would be living. After Thomas wrote to Jane's parents and went in person to persuade them, Jane did return to Thomas Seymour's household, but not for long, for Thomas was arrested for treason in January 1549 and executed on March 20, 1549. (The "lady of Suffolk" Frances refers to in the first letter was her stepmother, Katherine, Duchess of Suffolk.)The recipient of the third letter, purely personal in nature, was Francis Talbot, the fifth Earl of Shrewsbury, born in 1500. Shrewsbury supported Lady Jane's accession to the throne three years after the date of the letter here, but probably reluctantly; he quickly declared his allegiance to Queen Mary. Talbot was the son of George Talbot, fourth Earl of Shrewsbury, and Anne Hastings. Through his mother, Francis was the grandson of William Hastings, murdered by the future Richard III on June 13, 1483.___________Frances to Thomas Seymour, Lord Admiral of England, September 19, 1548:Although, good Brother, I might be well encoragid to ministre such Counsaile unto you as I have in store, for that yt hath pleased you; not onlye so to take in worthe that I wrytt in my Ladie of Suffolk's Lettre, but also to require me to have in redines suche good Advises, as I shall thinke convenient against our next metyng; yet considering howe unhable I am to doe that hereto belongithe, I had rather leave with that Praise I have gotten at your Hand, then by seking more, to lose that I have alredie wune. And wheras of a Frindlye and Brotherlie good Wyll you wishe to have Jane my Doughter continuyng still in your House, I give you most hartie Thankes for your gentle Offer, trustyng nevertheles that, for the good Opinion you have in your Sister, you will be content to charge Hir with hir, who promyseth you, not onlye to be redye at all Tymes to accompt for the ordering of your deere Neese, but also to use your Counsaile and Advise in the bestowing of hir; whensoever it shall happen. Wherfor, my good Brother; my request shalbe, that I may have the Oversight of hir with your good Will; and therby I shall have good Occasion to thinke, that you do trust me in such wise; as is convenient that a Syster to be trusted of so loving a Brother. And thus my most hartye Comendations not omytted, I wyshe the holle Delyverans of your Gryefe and Contynuance of your Lordshipes Helthe. From Broadgate 19th of this September.Tour lowyng Sister and assured Frende,Francys DorssetTo the right Honorable and my very good Lorde my Lard Admirall. __________________Frances to Thomas Seymour, October 2, 1548Mine own good brother, I have received your most gentle and loving letter, wherein I do perceive your approved goodwill which you bear unto my daughter Jane, for the which I think myself most bounden to you, for that you are so desirous for to have her continue with you. I trust at our next meeting, which, according to your own appointment, shall be shortly, we shall so communicate together a[...]

Lady Jane Grey, the Abused Child?


In August 1550, Frances Grey, Marchioness of Dorset, made one of the worst mistakes of her life. She went hunting, leaving her daughter Jane at home to receive a visitor. The conversation that took place in her absence would damn her reputation for centuries.The visitor was Roger Ascham, and the account he wrote of this encounter in his book The Schoolmaster, twenty years after it occurred, has become famous—and notorious: Before I went into Germany, I came to Broadgate in Leicestershire, to take my leave of that noble lady Lady Jane Grey, to whom I was exceeding much beholding. Her parents, the duke and duchess, with all the household, gentlemen and gentlewomen, were hunting in the park. I found her in her chamber, reading Phaedo Platonis in Greek, and that with as much delight as some gentlemen would read a merry tale in Boccace. After salutation, and duty done, with some other talk, I asked her, why she would leese such pastime in the park? Smiling, she answered me; "I wist, all their sport in the park is but a shadow to that pleasure that I find in Plato. Alas! good folk, they never felt what true pleasure meant." "And how came you, madam," quoth I, "to this deep knowledge of pleasure and what did chiefly allure you unto it, seeing not many women, but very few men, have attained thereunto?" "I will tell you," quoth she, "and tell you a truth, which perchance ye will marvel at. One of the greatest benefits that ever God gave me, is, that he sent me so sharp and severe parents, and so gentle a schoolmaster. For when I am in presence either of father or mother; whether I speak, keep silence, sit, stand, or go, eat, drink, be merry, or sad, be sewing, playing, dancing, or doing any thing else; I must do it, as it were, in such weight, measure, and number, even so perfectly, as God made the world; or else I am so sharply taunted, so cruelly threatened, yea presently sometimes with pinches, nips, and bobs, and other ways (which I will not name for the honour I bear them) so without measure misordered, that I think myself in hell, till time come that I must go to Mr Elmer; who teacheth me so gently, so pleasantly, with such fair allurements to learning, that I think all the time nothing whiles I am with him. And when I am called from him, I fall on weeping, because whatsoever I do else but learning, is full of grief, trouble, fear, and whole misliking unto me. And thus my book hath been so much my pleasure, and bringeth daily to me more pleasure and more, that in respect of it, all other pleasures, in very deed, be but trifles and troubles unto me."I remember this talk gladly, both because it is so worthy of memory, and because also it was the last talk that ever I had, and the last time that ever I saw that noble and worthy lady.Ascham’s recollection, however, was not the first time he referred to his Bradgate visit. In a letter to John Sturm on December 14, 1550, in which he discussed various learned English ladies, he wrote, “This last summer . . . I turned out of my road to Leicester, where Jane Grey was living with her father. I was immediately admitted into her chamber, and found the noble damsel—Oh, ye gods!—reading Plato’s Phaedro in Greek, and so thoroughly understanding it that she caused me the greatest astonishment.” If anything disturbed Ascham about his encounter with Jane the previous summer, he did not see fit to mention it to Sturm at the time.On January 18, 1551, Ascham wrote to Jane personally:In this long travel of mine, I have passed over wide tracts of country, and seen the largest cities, I have studied the customs, institutes, laws, and religion of many men and diverse nations, with as much diligence as I was able: but in all this variety of subjects, nothing has caused in me so much wonder as my having fallen upon you last summer, a maiden of noble birth, and that too in the absence of your tutor,[...]

The Death of Henry VI


On May 21, 1471, Edward IV and his forces, having defeated their Lancastrian opponents, rode triumphantly into London. With them was a very high-profile captive: Margaret of Anjou, queen to Henry VI. Margaret was brought to the Tower, where her husband was already a prisoner. Just weeks before, the couple's son, Edward of Lancaster, had died at age seventeen at the Battle of Tewkesbury.The night his queen arrived at the Tower, Henry VI died. Though the Historie of the arrivall of Edward IV in England, and the finall recoverye of his kingdomes from Henry VI, the official account of the Yorkist triumph, claimed that the former king had died of "pure displeasure and melancholy," few believed this, then or now. The Milanese ambassador summed up the general feeling about the matter: "King Edward has not chosen to have the custody of King Henry any longer, although he was in some sense innocent, and there was no great fear about his proceedings, the prince his son and the Earl of Warwick being dead as well as all those who were for him and had any vigour, as he has caused King Henry to be secretly assassinated in the Tower, where he was a prisoner. . . . He has, in short, chosen to crush the seed."Henry VI's remains were exhumed in 1910. According to W. H. St. John Hope, who was present, some hair was still attached to the skull. The hair was "brown in colour, save in one place where it was much darker and apparently matted with blood." As W. J. White has pointed out, however, Hope did not have the qualifications to identify the substance as blood; he was an architectural historian. Dr. A. Macalister, a professor of anatomy who was also present at the exhumation, supplied Hope with a report about the condition of the remains, but made no mention of the hair or the blood. He did, however, state that "the bones of the head were unfortunately much broken," although again as White points out, this does not necessarily indicate a violent cause of death; the bones could have been broken over time, especially since the corpse had previously been exhumed in 1484 and moved from Chertsey Abbey to Windsor.Even if the evidence from the exhumation does not conclusively prove that Henry VI died a violent death, it still seems likely that he did. Henry had suffered many reversals over the years before his death, and had personally witnessed the Lancastrian defeat at Barnet, having been dragged along to the site with Edward IV's army. While the news of his son's death at Tewkesbury and his wife's being taken captive must have been shattering for Henry VI to hear, it is hard to believe that it was such an unexpected shock that it would have caused his death. And with Edward of Lancaster dead, it would have been foolish for Edward IV to keep the Lancastrian cause alive in the shape of his father.If Henry was murdered, as seems most likely, the identity of his murderer or murderers is one of the best-kept secrets in English history. Richard, Duke of Gloucester, has been credited with the deed in popular legend, but there is no evidence that he was the murderer or that he carried the deed out alone if he was. He was present at the Tower the night of Henry's death, but so were many others.The next morning, Henry VI's body was treated with all of the respect due to that of a deceased king. The Issues of the Exchequer record the following expenses:To Hugh Brice. In money paid to his own hands, for so much money expended by him, as well for wax, linen, spices, and other ordinary expenses incurred for the burial of the said Henry of Windsor, who died within the Tower of London; and for wages and rewards to divers men carrying torches from the Tower aforesaid to the cathedral church of Saint Paul's, London, and from thence accompanying the body to Chertesey. By writ, &c, —15l. 3s. 6 1/2d.To Master Richard Martyn. In money paid to him a[...]

Guest Post by D. L. Bogdan


I'm delighted to feature a guest post from D. L. Bogdan, author of Secrets of the Tudor Court and Rivals in the Tudor Court, her latest novel. I've eagerly read both novels. The first features Mary Howard, Duchess of Richmond, daughter of Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk, while the second features Thomas Howard, his duchess, and his mistress. Anyway, here's D. L. Bogdan!In my new book RIVALS IN THE TUDOR COURT, I delve into the lives of Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, his fiery wife Elizabeth Stafford, and mistress, the vulnerable and submissive Bess Holland. In the novel I try to examine why Thomas became the brutal man he was in later years while exploring a set of very unique and intense family dynamics. Married to the Lady Anne Plantagenet, daughter of Edward IV, in his early years, the couple is destined for tragedy as they lose all four of their children, followed by Anne herself. The Duke’s subsequent marriage to Elizabeth is no less tragic, though much of it seems to be of self induced—Elizabeth’s single-minded devotion to Catherine of Aragon, Thomas’ indifferent, and at times supportive, attitude toward Henry VIII’s changeable morals, his intense fear of loss, and the eventual taking of a mistress, all culminated toward the sabotage of any potential happiness the couple could have enjoyed. One of the most interesting aspects of writing this novel was getting to know Elizabeth Stafford. What little remains of her legacy indicates a strong woman ahead of her time. Her willingness to serve as messenger between the Spanish ambassador and Queen Catherine of Aragon during her fall from favor, for example, reveals a daring and loyal woman with spirit. In addition, the letters to Lord Privy Seal Cromwell outline her struggle with her abusive husband during a time when such issues were not only kept silent, but were accepted as the standard. As with some instances today, it was saddening to see the lack of support from her family. I was never able to ascertain if it was out of fear of Norfolk that her son, the Earl of Surrey, and daughter Mary Howard seemed to side with their father against her. Knowing Norfolk’s grip on power and his penchant for manipulation provides plausible reasons why it would be easier on those to side with him, but it is tragic nonetheless. Even Elizabeth’s own brother refused to help her, stating in one letter that her nature was “willful and sensual”. No matter what conclusions we can draw, we are still left with more questions than answers. One of the joys of being a novelist is trying to answer these questions through dramatic interpretation. This novel, as with its predecessor SECRETS OF THE TUDOR COURT, was a vehicle for me to explore an issue that is close to my own heart: abuse. The impact of any form of abuse is felt throughout an entire family and I wanted to share the full gamut of emotions that it can evoke; confusion, isolation, terror, anger, regret, love-hate, and blurred boundaries are just a few of them. As a survivor of domestic violence, it was important for me to share my interpretation of the Howards’ story as an illustration of hope for the abused of today, not because the story is a happy one by any means, but because of the simple fact that Elizabeth showed immense courage and strength by reaching out for help and exposing the Duke of Norfolk for what he was, despite the consequences to her reputation and relationships with her family. To have that kind of fortitude in such a dark era serves as an inspiration to me and I hope will encourage others to reach out for the help that is readily available now. We are fortunate enough to live in a time where, unlike Norfolk’s women, our cries can be heard. That more than anything is the message I hope people will take away from RIVALS IN THE TUDOR[...]

Hugh and Eleanor at Tewkesbury Abbey


I got an e-mail the other day from Stephanie Decavallas, who did this beautiful drawing (in two color schemes) of Eleanor de Clare, heroine of The Traitor's Wife, and her husband, Hugh le Despenser the younger, at Tewkesbury Abbey. Naturally, I wanted to share it with my blog readers! Which version do you prefer?



You can find the rest of Stephanie's work here (and order a print). Thanks again, Stephanie!

The Victorians Strike Again: The Tablette Booke of Ladye Mary Keyes


While checking something for a future blog post, I looked into David Baldwin's biography of Elizabeth Woodville and found this discussion of Mary Grey, younger sister of Lady Jane Grey: "In 1577, the year before she died, she compiled a memoir of the troubles that had beset her family, which was eventually published as The Tablette Booke of Ladye Mary Keyes. This provides a fascinating insight into her life at Bradgate (and the strict manner in which she, Jane, and [her sister] Katherine were brought up there), and is a unique, personal source of information for Jane's last days in the Tower."Alas, David Baldwin was caught by that dirty trickster, the Victorian Lady Novelist. Like the purported diary of Elizabeth Woodville, The Tablette Booke of Ladye Mary Keyes is fictional, though, as Leanda de Lisle notes in her book The Sisters Who Would Be Queen, it has fooled other writers besides Baldwin. It was published in 1861 by Flora Francis Wylde, who also produced an "autobiography" of her own grandmother, Flora MacDonald, described by Hugh Douglas in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography as "so full of obvious inaccuracies that it could not have been written by the heroine." The Tablette Booke is, however, great fun. Here's the splendid scene where the foster-mother of the very good Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset, confronts the very bad John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, in his prison cell and tricks him into converting to Catholicism. (I've added paragraph breaks for the reader's convenience.)He was sittinge verie melancholie in his Pryson Roome, his Armes folded and Eyes bente downe, havinge sat in that Posishon for manie Houres. Truelie harte-broken was this humbled Man, for on that Afternoone had he taken Leve of alle his Familie, wiche painefulle Partinge over, he seemed like unto One deade to everie Thinge: his Faculties appeared benumbed. Wile in this State, at about eighte o' the Clocke, the Doore was unbarred, wiche flowlie openninge, showed the rinkled Face of the ould Crone. He started from his Settel. "What com you for, Beldam, to disturbe my laste Houres? fain woulde I be alone and endevor to seeke a quiett Minde and Conscience." "Ha!" quothe she; "what saithe your Grace — a quiett Conscience? What shoulde give it to you? What have youre late Actes beene to merit suche a Bleffinge? aske youre nobel Harte, Monster!""Begone, Woman, tormente me no more; jeer not this at my miserabel Fate, but be satisfied, if youre bitter Wrathe and Malice can be appesed." He waved his Hande: "Go, I dye To-morrow at Noone." "No, dye youre Grace wille not, if my Advice and Counselle be followed.""What Advice! what woulde you have me to do?" almoste scremed the franticke Man, the Love of Life springinge up in his Veines, overcominge the Hatred and Contempte for the humbel Beinge before him; "telle me quicke, what am I to do? Take alle I have—Howses, Landes, Monie, my Jewels, Plate, alle—alle,— but, oh, spare my Life!" What a wretchedde State for this prowde Nobel to be reduced to! he hid his Face and wepte aloude.The oulde Woman eyed him withe a witheringe Looke of Scorne for manie Minutes. There was a deade Silence. At lengthe she did steppe quite close to him. "Duke of Northumberlande" saide she sternlie, foldinge her Armes, "let us speke of former Daies. Youre Spyte and Rancor was wreked on my Foster-Son, the Duke of Somersett; by youre eville Speche and more vile Counselle was that nobel Beinge put to Dethe; and it was to avenge his moste foule and cruelle Murder that I tookt a solemn Oathe to destroye you: nowe knowe, that had not youre owne Ambishon led you on, Steppe by Steppe, to worke oute youre owne Ruine, these Handes shoulde have dabbled in youre Bloud, for I woulde have stucke a Dagger in youre Harte. Naye[...]

Wedding Tips from the Royals Themselves


Did you really think that this blog was going to let the royal nuptials between Prince William and Kate Middleton pass without notice?

First, this blog is located in North Carolina, home of Krispy Kreme doughnuts, and I'm proud to say that they've done things up right for the ceremony with these Gold Ring doughnuts:


(Sadly, it looks as if you have to be in the UK to get them.)

Anyway, in a shameless attempt to get in on the royal wedding excitement, I've assembled a list of wedding tips from those who ought to know best: some medieval and Tudor rulers.

Edward II
: No wedding is complete without your best chum. And make sure he looks HOT.

Edward III: Let your mother and her boyfriend pick out your bride, and things will work out just fine.

Henry V: Get some value with your bride, like France.

Henry VI: Put your foot down when your bride says, “Honey, can you give Maine back to my uncle Charlie? Pretty please?”

Edward IV: A quiet little ceremony will do just fine.

Richard III: Don’t want your mother-in-law meddling in your wedding ceremony? No problem! Keep her in sanctuary.

Henry VII: Let your mother and the bride’s mother pick out your bride, and things will work out just fine.

Henry VIII: If at first you don’t succeed . . .

Lady Jane Grey: Whatever you do, don’t marry a guy named Dudley.

Mary I: Don’t let a little rebellion stand in the way of marrying the man you love.

Elizabeth I: Whatever you do, don’t marry a guy named Dudley.

The Execution of Edmund Dudley


On April 24, 1509, just three days after Henry VII died, “yerely in the mornyng the morow after Saint George day by thavis of the king and his councell were taken Sir Richard Empson knyght and Mr Edmund Dudeley esquire and sent as prisoners to the Tour of London.” The young king, Henry VIII, had decided to signal to the people that his reign would be much different from his father’s, and his first step was to arrest his father’s notorious, unpopular officials, Richard Empson and Edmund Dudley.Life had been good for Edmund Dudley. He was a grandson of John Sutton, Baron Dudley, who when he died as an octogenarian had managed to serve Henry V, Henry VI, Edward IV, and Richard III and to receive an annuity from Henry VII. Born around 1462, Edmund Dudley trained as a lawyer and entered Parliament. His talents attracted the notice of Henry VII, who eventually made him the president of his council. It was his zeal in collecting revenue for the king, however, that made him and Empson hugely unpopular and that would lead to disaster for them.Edmund Dudley married twice. His first wife, Anne, was the daughter of Thomas Windsor of Stanwell, Middlesex; she bore Edmund a daughter, Elizabeth, who married William Stourton. (Elizabeth and William’s son, Charles, was hanged for murder in 1557, arising out of a personal dispute.) Edmund’s second wife was Elizabeth Grey, sister of John Grey, Viscount Lisle. By her he had three sons, John, Andrew, and Jerome. Like other servants of the crown, Edmund had taken full advantage of the opportunities for profit such service offered, and he had grown wealthy in the king’s employ. His house in Candlewick Street in London sat at the corner of Cannon Street and Walbrook. An inventory taken of Edmund’s goods in August 1509, after his conviction for treason, listed the contents of a Hall, a Great Parlor, a Little Parlor, a Counting-House, a Square Chamber, a Little Chamber within the Square Chamber, a Little Square Chamber (N.B.: not to be confused with the Little Chamber within the Square Chamber), a Little House for the Bows, an Armor Chamber, a Gallery Next to the Great Chamber, a Great Chamber, a Great Wardrobe, a Little Wardrobe, a Closet without the Little Wardrobe Door, a Low Gallery by the Garden, and a Great Chamber. There was also a “Lady Litton’s Chamber,” a Buttery, and a Kitchen. His goods included several “French chairs,” tapestries, carpets, doublets of crimson velvet, black satin, and purple satin, gowns lined with fur, a riding gown of black velvet, a great coffer with two lids, cushions, a cup of silver and gilt, enameled with images of kings, a gilt cup with the Dudley arms, a basin with the arms of Edmund’s second wife, a book of statutes, a little printed book in French, two other books, seven pieces of imagery embroidered for the months of the year, and a closh board covered over with a green cloth. Edmund had a young daughter and three small sons living in 1509, but there are no signs of these children's belongings in the inventory. Perhaps by then Edmund Dudley’s wife and children had left the house and had been allowed to take their possessions with them.The charge against Dudley was that on April 22, he had “conspired with armed force to take the government of the King and realm.” The charge seems absurd; Dudley had thrived under the reign of Henry VII and surely must have been hoping to do the same under that of his son, whom he had once given a gold ring set with a pointed diamond. S. J. Gunn suggests that Dudley and Empson might have actually summoned armed men to London, either out of fear of their political enemies or in anticipation of political instability following the death of the firs[...]

The Daisy and the Bear: A Guest Post by Karen Clark


I'm happy to welcome Karen Clark to the blog today to post about her book, The Daisy and the Bear, which is already gracing my own Kindle. In the words of Margaret of Anjou herself, "C'est une huée."**If Margaret of Anjou spoke American English and used Google Translate. And there's really no earthy reason why she can't do either, is there?_______________Everyone knows about the complicated love life of Margaret of Anjou and the many men who have been put forward as candidates for Real Father of her son, Edward, Prince of Wales. Various generations of the Beaufort family, the Earl of Wiltshire, the Duke of Suffolk and even her husband, Henry VI, have been suggested. All this, of course, is mere conjecture, not in the least supported by any reliable source. It could almost be said that these names have been put forward to prevent history from stumbling on the right one – the Real Real Father of Margaret of Anjou’s son. It’s a 558 year old mystery…… that has now been solved!It wasn’t difficult to piece it all together. All I needed was an over-active imagination, a complete lack of scruples and the realisation that, of all the men Margaret knew or had dealings with, there was one name that was prominently – and consistently - missing from the list of her lovers.As everyone who has ever read a work of historical romance should know, if a couple haven’t fallen in love at first sight and married in defiance of custom and a significant authority figure, they’ve fallen in love at first sight, come to a bitter impasse over something and parted ways, become bitter and implacable enemies but, some time before the last paragraph, come together again in glorious, passionate and eternal love. And that is just what happened between Margaret of Anjou and her glorious, passional and eternal lover – Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick!In The Daisy and the Bear, I tell the story of these two unlikely lovers: their chance meeting, the joy they find in each other and their son and the destruction their thwarted love brings to England and everyone they know.Through this heady tale is woven the story of Warwick’s brother, John, and the two great loves of his life; the sweet and enduring passion that exists between the frail and angelic® Richard, Duke of Gloucester, and Warwick’s daughter (and prawn) Anne. You’ll also be delighted to know that I haven’t forgotten the Most Beautiful Woman in England, or Warwick’s other prawn, Isobel, and her unbalanced and difficult husband, George, Duke of Clarence. Young Ned, tall, handsome, libidinous king, and his witchy Woodville wife; the taciturn and hardbitten Earl of Salisbury; the noble Duke of York; various scheming and amoral Dukes of Somerset; the pathetically mad king Henry VI… They’re all there, the Yorkists you love and the Lancastrians you hate.But it’s Warwick and Margaret who take centre stage, as well they should, for theirs is a timeless tale, untold until now, that simply screamed to be written and hollers to be read.This is the Wars of the Roses like it’s never been told before. And it’s at least as historically accurate as some of the least historically accurate, award winning novels available in Leading Bookstores.Available at (in paperback) for $14.99 (cover art by Jesse Watson)Or on Kindle through Amazon ($7.99)My thanks to Susan for inviting me to visit her blog, it’s such a nice place to be!For more (and more historically sound) on the Nevills, feel free to drop by my blog: A Nevill Feast.[...]

Poetry Corner: William Wordsworth on "the Shepherd Lord"


Little did I know until this morning that the great Romantic poet William Wordsworth himself had a particular interest in the legend of Henry Clifford, the so-called "Shepherd Lord" who was supposedly brought up among sheepherders following the death of his father the day before the Battle of Towton. I'll have to save the story of the Shepherd Lord for a later post, but here, in the meantime, is Wordsworth's 1807 poem, "Song At The Feast Of Brougham Castle Upon The Restoration Of Lord Clifford, The Shepherd, To The Estates And Honours Of His Ancestors," in Poetry X 7 Jul 2003, (19 April 2011).High in the breathless Hall the Minstrel sate,And Emont’s murmur mingled with the Song.—The words of ancient time I thus translate,A festal strain that hath been silent long:— “From town to town, from tower to tower, The red rose is a gladsome flower. Her thirty years of winter past, The red rose is revived at last; She lifts her head for endless spring, For everlasting blossoming: Both roses flourish, red and white: In love and sisterly delight The two that were at strife are blended, And all old troubles now are ended.— Joy! joy to both! but most to her Who is the flower of Lancaster! Behold her how She smiles to-day On this great throng, this bright array! Fair greeting doth she send to all From every corner of the hall; But chiefly from above the board Where sits in state our rightful Lord, A Clifford to his own restored! “They came with banner, spear, and shield; And it was proved in Bosworth-field. Not long the Avenger was withstood— Earth helped him with the cry of blood: St. George was for us, and the might Of blessed Angels crowned the right. Loud voice the Land has uttered forth, We loudest in the faithful north: Our fields rejoice, our mountains ring, Our streams proclaim a welcoming; Our strong-abodes and castles see The glory of their loyalty. “How glad is Skipton at this hour— Though lonely, a deserted Tower; Knight, squire, and yeoman, page and groom, We have them at the feast of Brough’m. How glad Pendragon—though the sleep Of years be on her!—She shall reap A taste of this great pleasure, viewing As in a dream her own renewing. Rejoiced is Brough, right glad, I deem, Beside her little humble stream; And she that keepeth watch and ward Her statelier Eden’s course to guard; They both are happy at this hour, Though each is but a lonely Tower:— But here is perfect joy and pride For one fair House by Emont’s side, This day, distinguished without peer, To see her Master and to cheer— Him, and his Lady-mother dear! “Oh! it was a time forlorn When the fatherless was born— Give her wings that she may fly, Or she sees her infant die! Swords that are with slaughter wild Hunt the Mother and the Child. Who will take them from the light? —Yonder is a man in sight— Yonder is a house—but where? No, they must not enter there. To the caves, and to the brooks, To the clouds of heaven she looks; She is speechless, but her eyes Pray in ghostly agonies. Blissful Mary, Mother mild, Maid and Mother undefiled, Save a Mother and her Child! “Now who is he that bounds with joy On Carrock’s side, a Shepherd-boy? No thoughts hath he but thoughts that pass Light as the wind along the grass. Can this be He who hither came In secret, like a smothered flame? O’er whom such thankful tears were shed For shelter, and a poor man’s bread! God loves the Child; and [...]

A Rogue's Gallery: Guest Post by Nan Hawthorne


A Rogue’s Gallery By Nan HawthorneThe Crusade of 1101 surely has a permanent place in the Crusades Hall of Infamy. The three bodies that set out from Constantinople, split up instead of combining forces because of petty resentments and rivalry, and as a result none of the three ever made it out of Turkey. Out of literally many thousands of pilgrims, from noble knights to men at arms to clerics and the largest group, peasants with their entire families, fewer than about 150 escaped massacre or enslavement. Those who did survive were all leaders and their household knights. Such a shamefully dramatic story was tempting fodder for a historical novel, and the fact that there are no eyewitness accounts made it all the more tempting, and that is why I set my novel Beloved Pilgrim at the Crusade of 1101.Of course, I wanted to know just what happened to these weasel-y fellows who left their foot soldiers, clergy and peasants to the slaughter. This is what I found out about some of them.The hero of the First Crusade, Count Raymond IV of Toulouse, was the Byzantine emperor’s choice to lead the first of the three bodies of crusaders. Outnumbered by the Lombard contingent that was loyal to his archenemy, Bohemond, he was forced to turn north and east to where the man was said to be imprisoned by the Danishmend. Perhaps that is why he was so ready to sneak away when it was obvious that Kilij Arslan, the Seljuk general, would win Merzifon Plain that day. Toulouse literally slipped away in the dark. He was welcomed with opulent gifts when he reached Constantinople in spite of the dismal end to his quest. However, when he landed in Antioch, Tancred, nephew of Bohemond, had him arrested and imprisoned for his cowardly desertion. He was not jailed long, but lived just a few years longer before succumbing to a fever.Stephen of Blois, the father of the future King of England of the same name, had run from the siege of Antioch, and was said to be barred by his wife, Adela, from their home until he turned right around and went back to the Holy Land. He survived the Battle of Merzifon, but later died fighting valiantly in the Battle of Ramleh.At that same battle the Constable of the Holy Roman Empire Henry IV, Conrad, fought so valiantly, though he too had turned tail and run from Merzifon, that the Saracens treated him with honor at his surrender. They let him and his forces live, though made slaves. The redoubtable Conrad himself disappeared into slavery in Egypt, never to be heard from again.Perhaps the most sensational story is that of the Margravine Ida of Austria. She was part of the third wave of William II of Nevers. While William escaped with a handful of his household, Ida was not so lucky. Though there were legends that she went on to be married to a great Turkish leader and the mother of the even more legendary Zenga, there is no basis for this story. It is far more likely that she was tipped out of her elegant litter and trampled to death in the massacre at Herakleia.Nan Hawthorne is the author of Beloved Pilgrim, a novel of a woman who chooses to live and fight as a man during the doomed Crusade of 1101. You can find the novel at and On AmazonOn Smashwords[...]

Autism Awareness Giveaway Hop



I'm very pleased to be participating in this giveaway, because I have a special connection to autism: my 20-year-old son was diagnosed with this condition when he was two. Our family is fortunate enough to be living in an area where the attitudes about autism are generally enlightened, but as the occasional ignorant outburst by a public figure indicates, much work remains to be done. It's especially important to keep autism in the spotlight in these times of cost-cutting, where public programs assisting the disabled are always at risk.

For more information about autism, check out some of these sites:

Autism Society of North Carolina
Autism Society of America
Autism Speaks

As my contribution to this blog hop, I'm giving away one copy of my first historical novel, The Traitor's Wife. My novel, set in fourteenth-century England, is not about autism, but it does feature a king, Edward II, who was out of step with his times in many ways. I hope that reading it will help you see this period through fresh eyes--and that reading the other blog posts on this tour will help you see autism through fresh eyes as well.

The giveaway on this blog closes April 14. If you leave your e-mail address, you may want to substitute "at" for "@" and "dot" for "." to avoid getting spam.

Ten Tips for Scaffold Success


For the most part, those who found themselves facing the block in Tudor England went to their deaths gracefully, abiding by certain conventions. Here, taken from historical examples, are ten ways those condemned to death could make the best out of the worst situation: 1. Practice makes perfect. According to Eustace Chapuys, Katherine Howard asked that the block be brought to her before her execution and “placed her head on it by way of experiment.” It must have worked; no one complained that the queen put her head in the wrong place on the big day.2. Dress snappily. This wasn’t the time to have the Tudor equivalent of Tim Gunn sigh, “Oh, dear.” Anne Boleyn was elegantly and tastefully dressed in a gray or black gown, over which she wore a mantle of ermine. Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset, “was splendidly attired, as he used to be when about to attend upon the king.”3. Guilty, sort of. Even for those who were innocent of any crime, this wasn’t the time to say so; rather, the condemned man or woman would acknowledge the legality of the process that had brought him or her to the scaffold. The clever, however, could convey a good deal in what was left unsaid: Anne Boleyn, in saying, “By the law I am judged to die, and therefore I will speak nothing against it. I am come hither to accuse no man, nor to speak of that whereof I am accused and condemned to die,” carefully avoided any admission of wrongdoing while staying within the bounds of scaffold propriety.4. It could always be worse. John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, thanked the queen for granting him the nobleman's death by beheading: “And now I beseech the Queen's highness to forgive me mine offenses against her majesty, whereof I have a singular hope, forasmuch as she hath already extended her goodness & clemency so far upon me that where as she might forthwith without judgment or any further trial, have put me to most vile & cruel death, by hanging drawing, and quartering."5. Don’t get your hopes up. The approach of fast-riding horsemen caused the overexcited crowd at the execution of the popular Duke of Somerset to speculate that a pardon had arrived. The duke, knowing that this was most unlikely, helped to quiet the crowd himself, thereby averting what could have easily become a riot (and gaining points for good behavior as well).6. Don’t be stingy with the executioner. A well-paid executioner was much less likely to bungle the final job. The Duke of Somerset gave his executioner some gold rings, together with all of his clothes. Thomas More, having been persuaded to change into a less elaborate outfit than that originally planned (thereby depriving his executioner of his richest garments), made up for the deficiency by compensating his executioner with an angel (a coin) of gold.7. Avoid a wardrobe malfunction. The Duke of Somerset, after placing himself in position for the ax, had to be ordered to rise and remove his doublet because it covered his neck. The Duke of Northumberland likewise had to rise to retie his blindfold because it slipped at the last minute.8. Do a credit check first. The hapless Henry Grey, Duke of Suffolk, had to put up with the ultimate indignity: the appearance of one of his creditors on the scaffold, asking “How shall I do for the money that you do owe me?” (Suffolk managed to send him off with the words, “Go thy way to my officers.”)9. Leave ‘em laughing. Thomas More famously quipped, "I pray you, Master Lieutenant, see me safe up, and for my coming down let me shift for myself,” and advised his executioner, "Pluck u[...]

Eleanor of Aquitaine: A Medieval Queen by Christy English


I'm delighted to be hosting a guest post today by Christy English, author of To Be Queen: A Novel of the Early Life of Eleanor of Aquitaine. Christy is one of the most charming authors around, and her enthusiasm for her subject is palpable! Here, without further ado, is Christy on one of the most perenially fascinating of English queens: Like Margaret of Anjou in Susan’s lovely novel, THE QUEEN OF LAST HOPES, Eleanor of Aquitaine was queen in a time when men dominated the political scene. Raised as a young girl to be the heir to the duchy of Aquitaine, Eleanor always knew that she would have to marry in order to hold her territories safe from encroaching enemies.Before she became duchess, Eleanor’s marriage to the King of France, young Louis VII, was arranged. After her father’s death in March of 1137, the marriage negotiations were concluded by Eleanor herself with the help of her loyal churchman, the Bishop of Limoges. So in July of 1137, accompanied by 500 knights as a show of force both to Eleanor’s vassals and to her enemies, Louis came to Bordeaux where Eleanor had locked herself away upon her father’s death.In spite of Louis’ caution, there were at least two plots to kidnap Eleanor on her wedding day before the marriage could be consummated. Eleanor and Louis were forced to flee to the stronghold of Taillebourg held by her faithful vassal, the Baron of Rancon.But Eleanor was not kidnapped on her wedding day, and the marriage was consummated, making her Queen of France. The Ruins of Fortress of Taillebourg Where Eleanor and Louis Spent Their Wedding NightThe Parisians did not crown their queens, so Eleanor never had a coronation. She spent the next fifteen years of her life vying with the Church for supremacy in the heart and mind of her husband. Though Eleanor ruled her duchy and other lands, she depended on her husband for political power. Like all medieval queens, even a woman as strong as Eleanor often had to turn to the strength of men to accomplish her will.As Eleanor and Louis went on Crusade in the Holy Land, Eleanor began to feel confined by her marriage. Though she and Louis had been married for years, Eleanor had yet to have a son. Unlike most medieval queens, Eleanor held the duchy of Aquitaine in her own right and thus could not be put away in a nunnery while Louis conveniently married someone else. But in this case, it was Eleanor who longed for her freedom. And she was one of the few women in medieval Europe with the power and wealth to seek it out.It took her five years, but in March of 1152, Eleanor was granted an annulment from her husband, the King of France. Giving up the kingdom of France and its crown was no hardship though, for she married young Henry Duke of Normandy a few months later. Within two years, Henry of Normandy and Anjou had become King of the English, and on the day her second husband was crowned, Eleanor was crowned at his side. Eleanor had already given birth to one son and was pregnant with another when she became queen for the second time in her life. Eleanor of Aquitaine’s SealThough Henry and Eleanor lived to turn on each other, with Eleanor raising an armed rebellion, for fourteen years she and Henry lived and ruled in harmony. During the first decade of their marriage, Eleanor served as regent in Normandy and Anjou when Henry was in England, and would hold England for him when he was in Normandy or Anjou. Eleanor’s partnership with Henry was one that served them both. A medieval queen who ruled a major duchy in her own right, Eleanor was always a [...]

The Real Edward of Lancaster


As regular readers of this blog know, I am fascinated with medieval genealogy and with the Wars of the Roses and have continued to research these topics even while writing my current novel, which is set in Tudor England. Recently, my delving into French sources (undertaken with the aid of a professional researcher) revealed a startling fact: that Henry VI, once thought to have not set foot in France after 1432, traveled to Rouen in 1441 and sired an illegitimate son. The son's identity? None other than Edward IV.Though he left the governance of France to subordinates, the young Henry VI did in fact have an interest in his overseas possessions. Lacking self-confidence, however, he chose not to travel to France in his royal capacity. Thus, in the late summer of 1441, the nineteen-year-old king, assuming the guise of a simple archer, journeyed to France. It was not the only time the king would pose as a humble subject: in 1445, greeting his new bride, Henry pretended to be a mere squire. Dressing as an archer offered several advantages to Henry. It allowed him to dress simply, as he preferred. It also allowed him to mingle with the common soldiers and to get a feel for the conditions in which they were fighting. And--perhaps most importantly for our purposes--it showed off his manly physique. (The exhumation of Henry VI's bones in the nineteenth century revealed the king to have been strongly built.)Although the disguised Henry had initially joined the Duke of York at Pontoise, the duke, concerned about his wife's well-being, sent the young archer back to Rouen to ensure her safety. Lovely and lonely, Cecily Neville was much taken with the handsome, inexplicably well spoken young archer. Henry, meanwhile, was so overcome with the duchess's beauty that he broke his vow to remain chaste until his marriage. The result, born on April 22, 1422, was young Edward. Before returning to England, Henry had revealed his deception to the duchess, who in turn told her secret to her husband. The Duke of York had little choice except to accept the boy as his own. To do otherwise would have been to proclaim himself a cuckold, something the proud duke had no desire to do--particularly when the father was a man otherwise known for his chaste living. The duke therefore allowed his son to grow up unaware that he was the firstborn son of the King of England. Henry VI, meanwhile, suffered intense guilt over having broken his youthful vow of chastity. So crippling was his shame that when he finally married, he could not complete the marital act. Only in early 1453, after he unburdened himself in a written confession to Margaret of Anjou, was he able to consummate his marriage and father a child upon his wife. It is this confession, filed in the archives of Angers following Margaret's death and long ignored by French scholars who failed to recognize its significance, which reveals the truth about Edward IV's parentage.It is possible, of course, that the document could have been forged by someone in the French court who wished to discredit Edward IV as illegitimate. Other evidence, however, tends to corroborate the confession. Henry always seemed well disposed toward young Edward, creating him Earl of March at a very young age. Significantly, after the Duke of York fled to Ireland after Ludlow, Henry treated the Duchess of York very generously. Most telling, however, is the 1460 Act of Accord in which Henry VI disinherited his own son by Margaret of Anjou in favor of the Duke of York and his progeny. As Henry was[...]

Giveaway Winners


Thanks to all who entered Margaret's birthday giveaway! The winners (who have been notified) were pressedposies and Shannon. Happy reading!

In Which I Create a Brand-New Conspiracy Theory


As some of you might know, there's a school of thought which believes that Edward IV was poisoned and that the Woodvilles (of course) were the main suspects. The theory, first proposed by one R. E. Collins in a book whose co-author claims to have been in communication with the shade of Richard III, rests upon mighty flimsy evidence--a request by Anthony Woodville for a copy of a document authorizing him to raise troops, Anthony's proposal that his nephew the Marquis of Dorset replace him as deputy constable of the Tower, and the household ordinances drafted for Prince Edward in which it was stated, "we wil that our said sonne observe and kepe theis articles before written touchinge his person, and that he ne take upon him to give, write, sende or commande any thinge withoute thavise of the said bishop [of Rochester], lord Richard [Grey] and Erle Rivieres." Since Anthony already had been authorized to raise troops, and was merely obtaining a copy of a permission he already had at a time when trouble was looming with both the French and the Scots, it's hard to see anything sinister in that. The proposal about the Tower merely substituted one Woodville for another, and was being discussed with the constable, Lord Dudley, who had appointed Anthony as his deputy in the first place. As for Prince Edward's household ordinances, they were promulgated under the authority of Edward IV himself and were concerned with the rearing of the young boy (including such subjects as the prince's bedtime); they did not address the eventuality of who would govern the realm in case of a royal minority. There's also the problem that there's no evidence that Edward IV was poisoned, nor did contemporaries (including Richard III, who certainly could have benefited from making such an accusation) ever suggest that the Woodvilles played a role in his death. Nonetheless, the conspiracy theory has gained some fans, which means, in my opinion, that it's time to take the heat off the Woodvilles with a spanking new conspiracy theory. The villain? John de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk.Now at first glance, John, married to Edward IV's sister Elizabeth, and hitherto regarded as a bit of a nonentity, might seem an unlikely suspect. As we'll see, however, the facts of his life simply ooze with sinister implications.-- John was the only son of William de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk, Henry VI's murdered adviser. In short, he was from a Lancastrian family. Need I say more?-- John was married at a very young age to Margaret Beaufort, who we all know was an evil person, because certain historical novelists tell us so. Although the marriage was annulled when the parties were still children, it's quite possible that some of Margaret's evilness rubbed off on John.-- John was forced to marry Elizabeth, a daughter of the Duke of York, in 1458. The marriage portion the duke offered was a mere 2300 marks, paid in installments and far less than the amount the duke had offered with his first daughter, Anne. Did John spend hours on end brooding on this injustice, mayhap?-- Despite loyally supporting his brother-in-law, John never played an important role in Edward IV's reign, giving him yet another injustice to brood upon.-- Following the defeat of the Lancastrians at Tewkesbury, Margaret of Anjou spent some time in the custody of John's mother, Alice de la Pole, before being returned to France. Did Margaret--often thought to have been broken in spirit following her son's death at Tewkesbury--[...]

A Birthday Giveaway of The Queen of Last Hopes


It's Margaret of Anjou's birthday today! She was born on March 23, 1430 (or possibly March 24) in Lorraine, probably at Pont-à-Mousson or Nancy, to Rene of Anjou and his wife Isabelle, the daughter of the Duke of Lorraine. Although Margaret was the younger of Rene and Isabelle's two surviving daughters, she was the one eventually chosen to be the bride of Henry VI, as a marriage had already been arranged for her older sister.

Older sources give Margaret's year of birth as 1429, but C. N. L. Brooke and V. Ortenberg disproved this in an 1988 article in Historical Research entitled, "The Birth of Margaret of Anjou."

The Battle of Towton, where Margaret's forces were defeated on March 29, 1461, was fought just days after Margaret's thirty-first birthday.

Anyway, in honor of Margaret's birthday, I'm giving away two copies of my novel about her, The Queen of Last Hopes. One copy is reserved for a winner outside of North America. All you need to do to enter is leave a comment wishing Margaret a happy birthday! The giveaway ends March 28, as March 29 is a date Margaret would rather not think about. Please note whether you're an entrant outside North America and leave an e-mail where I can contact you. Good luck!

The Great Precedence Battle of Katherine Parr and Anne Somerset


One episode of Katherine Parr's life that almost never fails to be mentioned is the battle between her and Anne Stanhope, Duchess of Somerset, for precedence following Katherine's remarriage to Thomas Seymour. Thomas was the younger brother of Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset, Lord Protector to Edward VI. As generally reported, the Duchess of Somerset, indignant that she should have to give way to the wife of her husband's younger brother, fumed, "If master admiral [Thomas Seymour] teach his wife no better manners, I am she that will," and even physically forced the queen out of her appointed place.But is there less to this dispute than meets the eye?First, Anne never uttered the comment attributed to her. Rather, she is reported by Peter Heylyn, writing in the seventeenth century, as merely having thought it. The passage from Heylyn gets rather extravagant--so much so that it is worth quoting in full:Thomas Lord Seimour, being a man of lofty aims and aspiring thoughts, had married Queen Katharine Parr, the relict of the King deceased; who, looking on him as the brother of the Lord Protector, and being looked on as Queen dowager in the eye of the court, did not conceive that any lady could be so forgetful of her former dignity as to contend about the place. But therein she found herself deceived; for the Protector's wife, a woman of most infinite pride, and of a nature so imperious as to know no rule but her own will, would needs conceive herself to be the better woman of the two. For if the one were widow to the King deceased, the other thought herself to stand on the higher ground, in having all advantages of power above her:"For what," said she within herself [italics added], "am not I wife to the Protector, who is King in power, though not in title; a Duke in order and degree; Lord Treasurer, and Earl Marshal, and what else he pleaseth; and one who hath ennobled his highest honours by his late great victory? And did not Henry marry Katharine Parr in his doting days; when he had brought himself to such a condition by his lusts and cruelty that no lady who stood upon her honour would adventure on him? Do not all knees bow before me, and all tongues celebrate my praises, and all hands pay the tribute of obedience to me, and all eyes look upon me as the first in state; through whose hand the principal offices in the court, and chief preferments in the Church, are observed to pass? Have I so long commanded him who commands two kingdoms? And shall I now give place to her who, in her former best estate, was but Latimer's widow, and is now fain to cast herself for support and countenance into the despised bed of a younger brother? If Mr Admiral teach his wife no better manners, I am she that will; and will choose rather to remove them both,—(whether out of the court or out of the world, shall be no great matter)—than be out-shined in my own sphere, and trampled on within the verge of my jurisdiction."Unless we are to suppose that Peter Heylyn had the gift of reading the mind of a woman who had been dead for many decades when he wrote, we must put down his account of Anne's thoughts to imaginative reconstruction. The companion story of Anne's forcing the queen aside comes from a very dubious source: the Chronicle of King Henry VIII of England, or the so-called Spanish Chronicle, which also gives us the story of Katherine Howard's unlikely scaffold declaration that she would rath[...]