Friday, February 29, 2008

Have Chair, Will Research

One of the more enjoyable things for me about writing historical fiction is doing the research, but it can be a challenge at times. Fortunately, I have help, as you can see by the pictures below.

That's Michael Hicks' Warwick the Kingmaker that Stripes and Onslow are working on, and Onslow's taking a break from reading Arlene Okerlund's Elizabeth: England's Slandered Queen.

Unfortunately, a difference seems to be arising between them (as it so often does) as to the mystery of the Princes in the Tower. That may well explain some of the hissing that went on this morning.

Oh, and Happy Leap Year!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Booking Through Thursday: Heroine

From Booking Through Thursday:

Who is your favorite female lead character? And why? (And yes, of course, you can name more than one . . . I always have trouble narrowing down these things to one name, why should I force you to?)

Like most who are answering this, I have more than one. I'll have to agree with those who named Jane Eyre, and I also like Lucy Snowe from Bronte's Villette. Lucy is similar to Jane in many ways, but even more alone in the world, so her achievement in finally finding a niche for herself is all the more commendable.

With Jane Austen, I rather prefer Anne Elliot from Persuasion. Anne is older than other Austen heroines and doesn't have the sparkling wit of Elizabeth or Emma, but she has integrity, intelligence, loyalty, and a quiet strength that make her most appealing.

Someone mentioned Mildred from Barbara Pym's Excellent Women. I agree with that, and also like Jane from Pym's Jane and Prudence. Both have an appealingly sardonic streak about them.

I'm fond of Lizzie from Our Mutual Friend. Like most Dickens heroines, she's a little on the perfect side, but I like her anyway. She's strong, self-reliant, and gentle, and the scenes where she saves Eugene Wrayburn (one of my favorite heroes, by the way) from drowning, then marries him when she believes him to be dying, are very moving. I also like Bella from the same novel. (Bet you didn't know that the nicknames of two of the minor characters in The Traitor's Wife, Elizabeth "Lizzie" le Despenser and Isabel "Bella" de Hastings are veiled tributes to the heroines of Our Mutual Friend.)

I'm trying to think of a heroine from historical fiction to put on the list. (Of course, I'm rather fond of my own heroines, Eleanor de Clare and Bess de Montacute.) It's difficult, because the novels I prefer feature real historical figures, and it all depends on how they're portrayed. If one counts A Tree Grows in Brooklyn as historical fiction, Francie Nolan--a gritty, sensitive, talented girl growing up in turn of the century Brooklyn, is a favorite of mine. I'm sure there are others. It's a question I'll ponder throughout the day.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Richard Woodville, Third Earl Rivers

Here's another Woodville mini-biography I've posted on my website:

By far the least known brother of Elizabeth Woodville is Richard, who eventually became the third Earl Rivers.

Richard seems to have been the second oldest Woodville brother. Cora Scofield in her biography of Edward IV refers to his having been pardoned in 1462 for his adherence to the Lancastrian cause; his father and older brother, Anthony, had been pardoned the previous July. His brother John was born around 1445 (he is said to have been 20 in 1465), and Anthony is said to have been born around 1440.

In 1465, Richard was made a Knight of the Bath, along with his brother John, as part of the festivities preceding Elizabeth’s coronation. In 1467, Edward IV attempted to have him appointed Prior of the Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem, though he was not a member of the order; the royal intervention failed, however, when the order elected its own chosen candidate.

Scofield writes that in 1469, Richard captured Thomas Danvers, who was accused of plotting with Edward IV’s Lancastrian enemies. Later in 1469, the Earl of Warwick, taking advantage of unrest in the country, issued a manifesto condemning “the deceitful, covetous rule and guiding of certain seditious persons,” including the elder Richard Woodville, Anthony Woodville, and “Sir John Woodville and his brothers.” The elder Richard and John were seized and executed, and Anthony appears to have either eluded capture or to have been captured by men who were reluctant to execute him. Richard must have been in danger himself during this time, but nothing indicates his whereabouts. In November 1470, however, during the readeption of Henry VI, he was issued a pardon by the Warwick-controlled government. It seems likely that he would have fought for Edward IV at Barnet and Tewkesbury in 1471, but his presence is not mentioned there; perhaps as a mere knight who did not play a notable part in the battle he was simply too lowly to mention.

Richard played little part in the remainder of Edward IV’s reign. J. R. Lander states in Crown and Nobility that he was “employed on various embassies and commissions” and notes that he found no evidence of grants made to him. He owned Wymington in Bedfordshire, where he served as a justice of the peace. Wymington was a manor that had been in his family. Was he considered ineffectual or incompetent, or was he simply a man who preferred the life of a country gentleman to a public role? Perhaps after having witnessed the strife of the previous decades, including the violent deaths of his father and his brother, he was content to live an existence of relative obscurity.

Following Edward IV’s death in April, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, having seized and imprisoned Richard Woodville’s brother Anthony at Northampton, confiscated Anthony’s land. According to Rosemary Horrox in Richard III: A Study in Service, the soon-to-be king seized Richard Woodville’s manor of Wymington as well on May 19, 1483, despite the fact that Richard Woodville stood accused of no crime. (Though Richard III has been praised for his enlightened legislation, he wasn’t much concerned with legal niceties when his own interests were involved.)

Given this high-handedness and the subsequent executions of Anthony and of Elizabeth Woodville’s son Richard Grey, it is not surprising that Richard Woodville, along with his brother Lionel Woodville, joined the interconnected series of uprisings against Richard III in the fall of 1483 known as Buckingham’s rebellion. (Richard and Lionel were brothers-in-law of Buckingham.) Richard Woodville was among the rebels who rose at Newbury. This rising, like all of the others, collapsed in the wake of Richard III’s swift reaction and Buckingham’s own capture and execution.

Richard Woodville, along with many other rebels, was attainted in the Parliament of 1484. As Richard III had executed his own brother-in-law, Thomas St. Leger, for his role in the uprising, as well as sundry other rebels, one wonders why Richard Woodville was spared. He does not seem to have fled abroad. Perhaps he went into sanctuary like his brother Lionel. In any case, by 1485, Richard III was trying to win over some of his former opponents. He pardoned Richard Woodville in March 1485 in exchange for a bond of 1,000 marks and a pledge of good behavior.

Whether Richard joined Henry Tudor’s forces at Bosworth is unknown. Following Richard III’s defeat there, Richard Woodville was restored to his estates, including those of his father, and became the third Earl Rivers, the title that his father and his brother Anthony had held before him. He took part in some of the ceremonial occasions of Henry VII’s reign, participating in the coronation of his niece Elizabeth of York and apparently at the christening of her first child, Arthur. During the reign, he served on commissions of the peace in Bedfordshire and Northhamptonshire and was among those commissioned to take musters of archers. Richard was also commissioned to investigate treasons, felonies, and conspiracies in Hereford in 1486 and to try petitions presented to Parliament in 1487. I have found nothing indicating whether he was at the battle of Stoke.

Though Elizabeth Woodville is generally condemned for using her queenly status to enrich her grasping family, Richard’s case illustrates how exaggerated this accusation is. Richard acquired neither great wealth nor power while his sister was queen; his lands came from his own family, not from royal largesse. Like his younger brother Edward, who also gained little materially from his royal connection, he does not even seem to have married.

Richard died on March 6, 1491, without issue. He was the last of the Woodville brothers. In his will, he requested burial at the Abbey of St. James at Northampton and bequeathed his lands to his nephew Thomas, Marquis of Dorset (Elizabeth Woodville’s surviving son by her first husband). He asked that the underwood at Grafton be sold so as to “buy a bell to be a tenor at Grafton to the bells now there, for a remembrance of the last of my blood.”

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Booking Through Thursday: Format

From Booking Through Thursday:

All other things (like price and storage space) being equal, given a choice in a perfect world, would you rather have paperbacks in your library? Or hardcovers? And why?

Strangely, this is a hard question to answer! Hardbacks seem more durable, but I find trade paperbacks (not mass market paperbacks) physically easier to read. On balance, I think I'll say trade paperbacks, because they take up less space and I therefore have more room for books!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Mr. Despenser Collects Himself?

I woke this morning to the interesting, if unappetizing, news that remains of a corpse found at Hulton Abbey in Staffordshire have been identified by an anthropologist, Mary Lewis, as being those of Hugh le Despenser the younger, husband of the heroine of The Traitor's Wife. (Sorry, had to stick a little promo in here!)

In the article (which isn't for the faint of stomach; the graphic picture of Hugh being disemboweled is also included), Lewis notes that the body had been chopped into pieces, beheaded, and stabbed in the stomach (i.e., for disemboweling). This, of course, is how the unfortunate Hugh died. The body was of a man over 35 (Hugh would have been probably about 40) and could be dated between 1050 and 1385. Hugh died in 1326.

I, however, am not convinced that this body is Hugh's. As the Telegraph article points out, Hulton Abbey belonged to the estates of Hugh's sister-in-law, Margaret de Clare, and her husband, Hugh d'Audley. The Audleys had no love for the Despensers: after the battle of Boroughbridge in 1322 and before the fall of Edward II and the Despensers in 1326, Audley was a royal prisoner, and his wife, Margaret, was confined to Sempringham priory. It seems unlikely that they would have wanted Hugh le Despenser buried on their estates, or that the Despenser family would have wanted him buried there.

Moreover, Hugh's body parts seem to have been on display until at least December 15, 1330. That's when "the friends of Hugh le Despenser the younger" were given permission by Edward III to "collect his bones . . . and to carry them whither they may wish."** The order was directed to officials in London, York, Bristol, Carlisle, and Dover, these being the cities that were displaying part of Hugh. Hugh's widow, Eleanor, at this time had some land, though she had been forced to sign over her most valuable estates to the crown earlier in 1330. Moreover, by January 1331, she had been restored to all of her lands, including Tewkesbury, the abbey of which contains Hugh's tomb. So there would seem to be no good reason why she would have to bury Hugh, or parts of him, on land belonging to her sister and her husband when she had perfectly good land of her own to bury Hugh's body parts.

So whose corpse is this? Personally, I suspect it was someone killed after the battle of Boroughbridge, when Edward II, who could be ruthless, executed a number of those who had rebelled against him. Most of these men seem to have died by hanging, with no dismemberment following, but some are known to have been decapitated and may have been quartered as well. As Audley had been in rebellion against Edward II, it would make sense if one of his executed followers was subsequently buried on Audley's estates.

I'll be interested to see what Alianore, Lady D, and other Edward II/Despenser scholars have to say on this matter!

**Because of the following passage in Charles Dickens' Our Mutual Friend, I have never been able to read this order with a straight face. In the chapter entitled "Mr. Wegg Looks After Himself," Silas Wegg, an amputee, is paying a visit to Mr. Venus, an articulator of bones who has come into possession of one of Wegg's legs:

'Where am I?' asks Mr Wegg.

'You're somewhere in the back shop across the yard, sir; and speaking quite candidly, I wish I'd never bought you of the Hospital Porter.'

'Now, look here, what did you give for me?'

'Well,' replies Venus, blowing his tea: his head and face peering out of the darkness, over the smoke of it, as if he were modernizing the old original rise in his family: 'you were one of a warious lot, and I don't know.'

Silas puts his point in the improved form of 'What will you take for me?'

'Well,' replies Venus, still blowing his tea, 'I'm not prepared, at a moment's notice, to tell you, Mr Wegg.'

'Come! According to your own account I'm not worth much,' Wegg reasons persuasively.

'Not for miscellaneous working in, I grant you, Mr Wegg; but you might turn out valuable yet, as a--' here Mr Venus takes a gulp of tea, so hot that it makes him choke, and sets his weak eyes watering; 'as a Monstrosity, if you'll excuse me.'

Repressing an indignant look, indicative of anything but a disposition to excuse him, Silas pursues his point.

'I think you know me, Mr Venus, and I think you know I never bargain.'

Mr Venus takes gulps of hot tea, shutting his eyes at every gulp, and opening them again in a spasmodic manner; but does not commit himself to assent.

'I have a prospect of getting on in life and elevating myself by my own independent exertions,' says Wegg, feelingly, 'and I shouldn't like--I tell you openly I should NOT like--under such circumstances, to be what I may call dispersed, a part of me here, and a part of me there, but should wish to collect myself like a genteel person.'

Thursday, February 14, 2008

In Which the Intelligence Quotient of This Blog Takes Yet Another Sharp Descent

OK, I'm still feeling brain-dead. So here's some results from the BBC's very own Valentine Name Generator:

Queen Isabella = Snuggles
Edward II = Atlas
Roger Mortimer = Poochie Woochie
Piers Gaveston = Drum Sticks
Hugh le Despenser = Pumpkin
Eleanor de Clare = Yum Yums
Edward III = Gold Member
Philippa of Hainault = Snuggles (Isabella isn't going to like that one bit, dearie.)

Elizabeth Woodville = Miffy
Edward IV = Drum Sticks (is there something we don't know about him and William Hastings?)
William Hastings = Drum Sticks (oh, there's definitely something here)
Harry Buckingham = Horny Honey (too much time alone on the Welsh border?)
Richard III = Donkey Derby (that's what you get for killing those sweet little Princes)

Henry Tudor = Shnookums
Elizabeth of York = Angel Pie

Henry VIII = Snoopy
Catharine of Aragon = Love Bunny
Anne Boleyn = Sex kitten
Jane Seymour = Tufty
Anne of Cleves = Cutiepops
Katherine Howard = Fairy Cake
Katherine Parr = Miffy

Elizabeth I = Snuggles (again?)

And for the man who wrote, "What's in a name?":

William Shakespeare = Diggler

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Romance Cover Generator

It being near Valentine's Day, and my brain being rather tired tonight (no unkind comments, please), I went looking for something easy to do for my blog and found this Romance Novel Generator. Here's some results (as you can see, the word count is quite limited):

Thursday, February 07, 2008

John Woodville and His Elderly Bride

As I mentioned earlier, I've been posting mini-biographies of the various Woodville family members on my website. Here's the latest:

John Woodville, described as being age 20 in 1465, was probably the second or third of Elizabeth Woodville’s brothers.

John is notorious, of course, for marrying Katherine Neville, Duchess of Norfolk, a wealthy widow well into her sixties at the time. Katherine was a sister of Cecily, Duchess of York, and of Richard Neville, Earl of Salisbury; she thus was aunt both to Edward IV and to his mentor, the Earl of Warwick. She was no stranger to the marriage rite, having been married first to John Mowbray, the second Duke of Norfolk, who died in 1432. Her second marriage, which took place before January 27, 1442, was an unlicensed match to Sir Thomas Strangways, a knight who had been in her husband’s service. Sir Thomas had died by August 25, 1443, on which date Katherine married John Beaumont, first Viscount Beaumont. Katherine’s third husband was killed at the Battle of Northampton in 1460. His widow was about sixty at the time.

Katherine and John married in January 1465, just a few months after Edward IV had announced his marriage to Elizabeth Woodville. William Worcester decried the match as a “diabolical marriage” (though he thought the lady was eighty), and it has been roundly denounced by historians and novelists, particularly of the Ricardian bent, as a shocking example of Woodville greed. While John’s motives were undoubtedly mercenary and the age gap an unusual one, nothing supports the notion that the elderly lady was forced into the match by the Woodvilles or by her nephew the king or that she found it offensive or degrading. Outwardly, at least, she and her family seem to have been on good terms with the Woodvilles. At the banquet following Elizabeth’s coronation a few months after the marriage, Katherine was seated at a table with the queen’s mother. Her grandson, John Mowbray, the fourth Duke of Norfolk (who was about the same age as her new husband) played a prominent role at the coronation, where he fulfilled his hereditary duties as marshall of England. Perhaps Katherine happened to find the young man’s company congenial.

On May 23, 1465, as part of the ceremonies leading up to Elizabeth’s coronation, John was made a Knight of the Bath, along with his brother Richard and several dozen other men. In 1467, Edward granted him the reversion of certain of Katherine’s dower lands. These had been forfeited by William, second Viscount Beaumont, Katherine’s Lancastrian stepson from her third marriage.

John served as the queen’s Master of Horse, for which he received forty pounds per year. Like his father and his brother Anthony, he was fond of tournaments. In 1467, he fought in one alongside the king’s closest friend, William Hastings; the king and Anthony Woodville fought on the other side. The following year, he and Anthony were among the English entourage that escorted Margaret, Edward IV’s youngest sister, to Burgundy for her wedding to its duke. John was named the Prince of the Tournament that followed the wedding ceremony.

In June 1469, John accompanied Edward IV on a pilgrimage to Bury St. Edmunds and Walsingham. (One of the king’s other companions was the king’s youngest brother, Richard, Duke of Gloucester. This seems to be the first and last time recorded time Richard’s and John’s paths intersected, though they had likely encountered each other at court before that.) Trouble, however, was brewing in the person of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, who had allied himself with the king’s other brother, George, Duke of Clarence. Warwick had several grudges against the crown, not the least of which was the growing influence of the Woodvilles at court. In a manifesto issued from Calais, he targeted Anthony and John Woodville and their father, along with several other men, as royal favorites that were harming the realm. The king sent the Woodville men away for their safety, but to no avail in the case of John and his father. On August 12, 1469, the two were captured by Warwick’s troops and beheaded outside Coventry without trial.

John’s burial place, like that of his father, is unknown. On May 29, 1475, however, Anthony Woodville granted land to Eton College; the indenture speaks of the “rele love and singular devocion” that John bore the college, which Edward IV had come close to abolishing because of its associations with Henry VI but which had regained some royal favor by the late 1460’s. Perhaps Anthony intended that his brother’s body be moved to Eton. Each year on October 30, a hearse with wax candles was to be erected and an obit held for John’s soul; the college was also to say daily masses for the king and queen, their children, Anthony, his late parents and John, and his other siblings. John was also remembered by Walter Blount, Lord Mountjoy, who asked in his will that masses be said for John and his father.

Katherine, John’s aged widow, was to survive her youthful groom by fourteen years. She was issued robes for Richard III’s coronation in 1483 and died later that year.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Over at Yesterday Revisited . . .

I have an interview with Barbara Passaris, author of Through Tempest Forged, set in revolutionary-era Virginia. Check out the interview (and the book)!

Saturday, February 02, 2008

New Poll, And a Useful Site for Us Yanks

Finally, there's a new poll in the sidebar. Keep scrolling down, you'll find it!

In getting ready for my reading (look in the trusty sidebar), I ran across this Wikipedia site that I found useful: embedded pronunciations of UK place names. I feel much better knowing how to pronounce "Berwick" and "Hereford" now! (Unless this is some sort of sinister conspiracy to delude us poor Americans into thinking we're pronouncing the names the right way, when we're really not. Nah. Must be too much Fox News in the background today.) It needs some adding to, though, so if you know how to pronounce "Warwick," I'm sure someone will appreciate your input!