Friday, February 27, 2009

The Reign of Richard III as Told by LOL Cats

Not long ago, it occurred to me that with all the ink that's been spilled on Richard III, there has not yet been a telling of his story through Lolcats. Naturally, this is a situation that I thought should be remedied straightaway. (There's even one at the end for you Ricardians who patiently follow this blog, hoping that I'll see the light.)

If you ask nicely enough, maybe I'll try to do one for Edward II's reign. Maybe I'm looking up pictures on Lolcats right now. Who knows?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Search Terms O' the Month (And Last Month)

How have people reached my website lately? Let me count the ways:

was edward ii friends with the pope?

Sure! They sent each other greeting cards all of the time.

king edward ii something nice he done

Well, he made friends with the Pope, didn't he?

historical novels about the tudors

People actually write historical novels about the Tudors?

history of sir oswald spiffy

I love spiffy history.

sue higgenbotham cpa

Buddy, you are so at the wrong website.

did the woodvilles hate richard iii

Of course not! Everyone loves Richard III.

richard iii susan higginbotham

See? I told you so.

jean plaidy sex

No! No! NO!

how did kings know their protectors were loyal

Well, if they declared you a bastard, it probably wasn't a really good sign.

le despenser time team

If we're talking time machines, I would strongly advise not acquiring Gower this time round.

small timelines of edward i

Nothing about Edward Longshanks was small. Including his timelines.

skinny muscular wife whips husband

I really don't even want to think about this one.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

400 Posts, a Pretty New Cover, and a Tombstone

I just noticed that my last post was my 400th post! Happy 400th post to me!

Also, I was excited to see that the pretty new cover for Hugh and Bess is now on Amazon. (Naturally, you might ask: "Where's Hugh?" He's there--trust me--probably just went out for an ale with the boys.)

And if you're fearing that I'm going to bang on about historical accuracy in historical fiction again, no worries. Instead, enjoy this cautionary message from Tombstone Generator:

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Accuracy Redux

Over the past couple of days, a few posts have popped up dealing with the subject of historical accuracy in historical fiction, specifically with the question of how one should depict historical figures. Here, for instance, are posts by Nan Hawthorne and Literate Housewife.

It's true, as Literate Housewife points out, that fiction is just that--fiction--and that readers should never take a novel as the last word on any subject. (For that matter, the same holds true with nonfiction; mistakes aren't confined to novels.) But it's also true that for many readers, fiction is where their reading stops, which means that a fictional portrayal of a historical figure is what sticks in a reader's mind. Thus, I believe that at the very least, an author has the responsibility to treat historical figures with respect: that is, not to distort known facts or to invent episodes that paint the person in a grossly negative light.

Of course, there is the problem that with many historical figures, not that much is known about them, and even less about their motives. Writers therefore have to fill in the gaps; I've had to do so in both of my published novels and in the novel I'm writing now. But even then, there's responsible gap-filling and irresponsible gap-filling. My work in progress involves many historical figures, including Richard III and Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham. The two men are known to have encountered each other before 1483, but we don't know how they felt about each other during those years. Were they friends? Were they indifferent to each other? Hostile toward each other? I chose in my novel to make them friends, which I think is reasonable given the alliance they formed in 1483.

But say I went further than that. Say I depicted Richard and Henry not only as friends, but as young men carousing about London, engaging in group sex and raping women and boys alike. After all, I might argue (if I had a chance to argue before my lynching at the hands of furious Ricardians), there's no evidence that the two men didn't do these things, and it makes for a good story. (I'm assuming, in all of this, that I haven't added an author's note fessing up to my invention.)

Now let's go even further and say that instead of a relatively unknown writer like myself inventing a kinky Richard and Harry, someone like ______ (insert the name of the best-selling author of your choice) depicts the hapless pair in this manner. Suddenly, that portrayal has acquired a whole new credibility, hasn't it? After all, ________ sells millions of books. Surely he or she must have some basis for what he's writing. And if ________ adds a bibliography to her novel, lending it even more respectability, poor Harry and Richard don't stand a chance.

Now, there's one major flaw in my example above: Richard III is a well-known figure, who has been the subject not only of Shakespeare's famous play but the hero of many historical novels. You can go to a bookstore and find an infinite variety of Richards: the romantic Richard, the scheming Richard, the naive Richard, the studly Richard, the murderous Richard, the unmurderous Richard. Even if you don't read a single word of nonfiction about Richard III, you'll--hopefully--realize that all of these contradictory accounts can't possibly be accurate. For figures like Richard III and Anne Boleyn, then, their popularity with novelists and readers is their best protection, because no single account of them is likely to hold permanent sway over the public's imagination. Thus, though a best-selling author who depicts Richard III or Anne Boleyn in an unflattering light might have an advantage in terms of credibility over lesser-known authors, her portrayal is still going to be weighed against those of others.

But what of more obscure folk? A while back, I read a historical novel that depicted a twenty-something Katherine Woodville, with the help of her sister the queen, forcing her twelve-year-old husband (the Duke of Buckingham mentioned above) into her bed to be used as a sex toy, thereby scarring the poor boy for life. Several other novels depict Katherine in a similar vein. Now, as primary sources reveal, the historical Katherine Woodville was younger than her husband at the time of their marriage: she was around seven and he was nine. Therefore, while it's open to debate whether the couple's marriage was a happy one, there's simply no validity to the notion that Katherine was a grown woman who sexually abused her minor husband. But the average reader may not realize that, because unlike the case of Anne Boleyn, there are few competing fictional portrayals of Katherine Woodville. Worse yet, most readers can't run out and pick up a nonfiction book on Katherine Woodville to learn the truth: there aren't any, only the occasional paragraph in academic tomes that aren't readily available outside of university libraries. So Katherine, poor lady, has no one but the occasional pedantic blogger to yell in her corner when her reputation is smeared.

So yes, it's fiction, and yes, in most historical fiction, the historical figures in question are dead. But let me leave you with this thought: how would you feel if you read a grossly distorted fictional portrayal of a historical figure, knowing that he or she had living grandchildren or great-grandchildren? How would you feel if it was your own grandfather or great-grandfather who was treated in this matter?

And if slandering the recently dead is unacceptable to you, should it be any different simply because a historical figure died centuries ago?

Monday, February 16, 2009

If You Can't Say Something Nice, Don't Say Anything at All?

Hey, where did the promised other Valentine's Day posts go? Sorry, folks--I ended up going to a hockey game. (The home team lost badly, but three people received proposals of marriage on the Jumbotron, at least one of which received a favorable response.)

Anyway, Michele over at Reader's Respite has a post about Amazon reviews today that is well worth a read. It got me to thinking about a related topic: should authors of fiction give other authors of fiction negative reviews?

There is a school of thought that says they shouldn't. One reason is altruistic: that authors should stick together and be mutually supportive. Yet another is the fear that any criticism of another author will be seen as professional jealousy or sour grapes. The most compelling reason, sadly, is a defensive one: that a negative review of another author's work might lead to retaliation against the reviewing author, especially if the other author has loyal fans eager to leap to his or her defense.

On the other hand, if fiction authors won't criticize other fiction authors' work, a valuable source of opinion is lost. Many authors, after all, are excellent readers. Should they put their critical facilities on hold when they read a peer's work?

Reasonable minds can and do differ as to literary merit, of course, but historical novelists have their own special concern. Should they sit on their hands when a fellow author--either deliberately or through carelessness--distorts historical fact or slanders a historical figure? Especially when the fellow author touts himself or herself as a diligent researcher, thus giving the reader the implicit assurance that the fellow author can be trusted?

It's a frustrating dilemma. I review books for the Historical Novels Review, and I've turned in the few negative reviews I've done with a certain dread, wondering if I might be targeted by a disgruntled author or his or her fans. (So far, no--which, incidentally, works in favor of the author in question. I might well pick up the author's next work to see if I like it any better.) With books I read on my own, I've lately tended toward a defensive stance as far as this blog and Amazon are concerned: I post reviews of novels I've liked, but not of novels I haven't, unless the author is safely dead. It's irritating to have to keep my opinions to myself, especially as to matters of historical accuracy, but it also seems like a bit of a necessity in an age where some authors can muster online forces with an ease second only to that of a high school clique leader. So I console myself with this passage from Elizabeth Gaskell's Wives and Daughters:

"Mr. Wynne knows all I feel for Miss Gibson, sir. He and I have no secrets from each other."

"Well, I suppose he must represent the reeds. You know the story of King Midas's barber, who found out that his royal master had the ears of an ass beneath his hyacinthine curls. So the barber, in default of a Mr. Wynne, went to the reeds that grew on the shores of a neighbouring lake, and whispered to them, 'King Midas has the ears of an ass.' But he repeated it so often that the reeds learnt the words, and kept on saying them all day long, till at last the secret was no secret at all."

There are days when the reeds in my backyard (well, make that weeds) get a good workout. Trust me.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Not Quite There . . .

This isn't quite the Valentine that Isabella had in mind for Roger Mortimer, but maybe Edward II could modify it (courtesy of the Valentine Generator) for one of his good friends:

To my Virile Roger,

You are the knight of my armour. I want to shine with you more than any shield in the whole helmet.

The first time we blazed, I felt handsome in my face, and I was so passion that I could barely burn. I knew that we would glow together for evening.

Whenever you throb, it makes me ache madly and sigh like a lovely castle.

I will race with you passionately until the town cuddles and the day longs.

Dashing Valentine's Day!

Love, your daring man

(I promise, we'll have some better Valentine's Day posts tomorrow.)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Booking Through Thursday: Author Blogs

From today's Booking Through Thursday:

Do you read any author’s blogs? If so, are you looking for information on their next project? On the author personally? Something else?

I do read author blogs, many of which are listed in the sidebar.

My posts on this blog are reflective of what I enjoy seeing on other authors' blogs. Since I mostly read historical fiction, I like reading history-related posts, particularly about people and events with which I'm not familiar. I also like reading book reviews, author interviews, excerpts, humorous pieces, rants, and thoughts about the publishing industry. Some well-traveled authors post photographs, which are always a pleasure to see.

I'm not keen on blogs where authors post mostly about their writing-related accomplishments--favorable reviews, awards won, new contracts, etc. It's the type of information that is fine on a website, but on a blog, it's frankly a little boring, at least when it's the blog's main content. An occasional announcement or an update, such as when a book's due to be released, is a different matter, of course.

Blogs focusing primarily on the creative process don't have much appeal to me either. If I didn't write myself, I might find them of more interest, but most of the time, it occurs to me that the author's time might have been better spent writing instead of writing about writing. But I know these are of great interest to some--they just don't pique mine.

Finally, some authors post mainly about their personal lives. Probably because I'm of a rather reticent nature myself, I find this off-putting and somewhat narcissistic. (It also strikes me as unwise--is it all that safe to let complete strangers know that you're going into the hospital, and why, or that you're quarreling with your lover, or that you're experiencing financial difficulties?) But these diary-like blogs must have some appeal--no doubt some readers like the idea of being privy to the sorts of things that many people would share only with those closest to them. For me, though, it's just Too Much Information.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Review Round-Up

Poor Buckingham, in my work in progress! Things are going from bad to worse with him. While he's busy, here's some reviews I did from the November 2008 issue of Historical Novels Review:

The Black Tower
Louis Bayard, William Morrow, 2008, $24.95/C$26.95, hb, 9780061173509

In 1818, a street beggar follows Hector Carpentier to his home in the Latin Quarter, only to transform himself into Vidocq, Paris’s master detective. What does Vidocq want with Hector, whose life with his drab mother, a trio of loutish student lodgers, and an elderly boarder is a model of law-abiding obscurity? The answer puts Vidocq and the reluctant Hector on the trail of a lost prince—Marie Antoinette’s young son Louis-Charles, supposed to have died in captivity during the Revolution. Along the way, Hector will learn some startling truths about his family and acquaintances—and about himself—all while trying to evade the men who suddenly want him dead.

This was my first go at reading a novel by Bayard, and won’t be my last. Bayard’s writing is exceptionally good, clever yet unpretentious, with wonderful turns of phrase that made me go back and re-read passages for the sheer enjoyment of it. The characters drawn from real life (including Vidocq himself) are vivid, as are fictitious ones like Hector (the narrator) and his motley companions. Even the minor characters are sharply rendered. Best of all, perhaps, is the manner in which Bayard portrays the plight of young Louis-Charles, with a self-assured combination of anger, compassion, and wit that is moving yet never maudlin.

Thanks to these qualities, readers of historical fiction, literary fiction, and mystery should all thoroughly enjoy this novel.


Washington’s Lady
Nancy Moser, Bethany House, 2008, $13.99 pb, 414 pp, 9780764205002

In the summer of 1757, Martha Custis, a young widow with valuable landholdings in Virginia, has no shortage of eligible suitors from which to choose. It is Colonel George Washington, however, who soon claims her affection—and who will hold it for the rest of the couple’s long, eventful marriage.

Having known very little about Martha Washington, who narrates this novel, I found her story an absorbing one. As portrayed by Moser, the first woman to hold the title of First Lady was a shrewd businesswoman, a devoted and somewhat overindulgent mother, and a loving but by no means mindlessly obedient wife, whose support was essential to her husband’s success as a general and later as President. Moser tells her story with a palpable admiration for her subject and with occasional flashes of humor.

After reading this, I was interested enough in the historical Martha Washington to seek out a biography of her—always a high compliment to a novelist’s skill.


Deep in the Heart of Trouble
Deeanne Gist, Bethany House, 2008, $13.99 pb, 395pp, 9780764202261

In this sequel to Courting Trouble, set in 1898 Corsicana, Texas, Essie Spreckelmeyer, well into her thirties, is no longer hunting a husband. Instead, she’s devoting herself to Sullivan Oil, which she and her father own, and to the Corsicana Velocipede Club. Then Tony Morgan, the disinherited son of the owner of Morgan Oil, comes to Corsicana under an assumed name, determined to learn the oil business from the bottom. He is not counting on becoming romantically involved with a “bloomer gal” like the independent-minded Essie, who for her own part is none too happy with Sullivan Oil’s new employee.

Like its predecessor, Deep in the Heart of Trouble is well-written with believable, sympathetic characters, including Mrs. Lockhart, who uses her extensive library of romance novels to give Tony hints on courting Essie. There’s plenty of humor here, and even a mystery. Both old acquaintances of Essie and new ones should heartily enjoy this novel.

An Uncertain Dream
Judith Miller, Bethany House, 2008, $13.99 pb, 376pp, 9780764202780

In the third novel of Miller’s Postcards from Pullman series, Pullman, Illinois, is in turmoil in 1894 as its railway workers go on strike. Olivia Mott, assistant chef at the Hotel Florence, finds herself caught up in the middle of events, especially since the man she loves, Fred DeVault, is among the strikers. Meanwhile, Olivia’s friend Lady Charlotte, who had gone to live with her parents in England, travels back to America with her out-of-wedlock son after her father dies, leaving his family heavily in debt.

The last in the series, An Uncertain Dream, like its predecessors, is a realistic look at the company town of Pullman and the toll that its labor unrest takes on its citizens, including Olivia and her friends. Miller offers no pat or easy solutions to the dilemmas facing her characters, but ends her series on a hopeful note. This was a worthy ending to a well-researched and well-written trio of novels.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Joan of Kent's Marital Misadventures

Though Elizabeth Woodville was the first post-Conquest English-born queen consort, this was only through mischance. Had Edward III’s eldest son, known popularly as “the Black Prince,” survived his father, the prince’s English bride, Joan of Kent, would have become his queen. And Joan of Kent had a scandalous marital history that outdid Elizabeth’s.

Joan, born around 1328, was a granddaughter of Edward I. Her father, Edmund, Earl of Kent, was the youngest of Edward I’s sons, a product of his second marriage. Her mother was Margaret Wake, the sister of Thomas, Lord Wake.

When Isabella, Edward II’s queen, invaded England with her lover Roger Mortimer, the Earl of Kent sided with the pair against his half-brother. Later, however, he became disillusioned with the queen and Mortimer. Believing Edward II, whose funeral had been held in 1327, to be still alive, he entered into a conspiracy to rescue him from captivity and restore him to the throne. Whether Edward II was actually alive is a question way beyond the scope of this post, but suffice it to say that the conspiracy proved a fatal one for the Earl of Kent. He was beheaded on March 19, 1330. His wife, who was nine months pregnant, and her small children, including the two-year-old Joan, were imprisoned. Fortunately, the family did not suffer long, for Edward III arrested Roger Mortimer at Nottingham Castle in October 1330 and executed him a few weeks later.

The hero of the hour at Nottingham had been William de Montacute, who despite being a good decade older than the 18-year-old Edward III had become a close friend. William himself had young children, including his son William, born on June 28, 1328. Apparently because of Queen Philippa’s interest in the late earl’s children, Joan of Kent was taken from her mother’s care and raised with the young Montacutes. She also seems to have spent some time with the king’s children, but the details of her upbringing are quite murky.

At age twelve, Joan somehow became romantically involved with Thomas Holland, who was born around 1315 and thus was around thirteen years her senior. The age gap, and Joan’s extreme youth, would not have shocked her contemporaries—such gaps were common enough between partners, and a twelve-year-old girl could consent to marriage—but Thomas was clearly not of Joan’s social class. She was a king’s granddaughter and the first cousin to the reigning king; he was a younger son of Robert Holland, who had been murdered in 1328. During Edward II’s reign, Robert Holland had sided with Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, only to desert him. This act of betrayal had not ingratiated him with Edward II, who kept him in prison until he was released by Isabella and Mortimer. But there were still grudges against him, and Lancaster’s younger brother, Henry, might have sanctioned his murder.

Thomas, then, as the second son of a disgraced, turncoat lord, would not have met with overwhelming excitement on the marriage market. But Edward III’s reign offered great opportunities for men of disgraced families to redeem themselves through military service, and Thomas, who had been campaigning for the king probably since the early 1330’s, was a household knight by 1338. It was probably at court that he encountered Joan. In the spring of 1340, the couple secretly married. The marriage might well have been a love match on both sides, since Joan, who had one living brother at the time, was not an heiress. According to testimony later given before the papal courts, the couple had witnesses to their marriage, which took place around May 1340, without a priest being present. The marriage was then consummated.

The wedding, however, remained a well-kept secret, and later in 1340, Thomas went to Prussia on crusade. Joan’s elders, meanwhile, were making other matrimonial plans for her. The elder William de Montacute had been made Earl of Salisbury by Edward III in 1337, and the new earl began to look around for suitable marriages for his children. Thus, in early 1341, Joan of Kent found herself with a second husband—the younger William de Montacute, a boy of about her own age. According to her and Holland, she was coerced by her family and friends to proceed with the marriage—not surprisingly, since she was but thirteen years old and her family and friends included the king and queen themselves. Thus, Joan and William, however unwilling Joan might have been, began married life together. On February 10, 1341, they were granted the castle, town, and manor of Mold in north Wales—not the most romantic-sounding habitat for newlyweds.

Thomas Holland, meanwhile, returned home to England later in 1341 or 1342, and must have been taken aback, to put it mildly, to find his wife married to the son of the king’s close friend. Under these circumstances, he apparently decided not to contest the matter, but to bide his time until he was in a position to challenge the marriage in the papal court. Probably he did not confront the Montacute family about the marriage, for after the Earl of Salisbury’s death following a jousting accident in 1344, Holland became steward to the new earl. It must have been an uncomfortable position for Joan, but fortunately, Holland was more of a soldier than a steward.

The French campaign of 1346-47 was a turning point in Holland’s relationship with Joan. Having captured the Count of Eu at the siege of Caen in 1346, Holland was granted 80,000 florins by Edward III in exchange for his prisoner. He might not have seen all of the money, but he saw enough of it, in 1347, to begin proceedings in the papal courts to have Joan returned to him.

Many of the documents for these proceedings have survived, and have been published by Karl Wentersdorf. Nineteen-year-old William Montacute was unwilling to give up his wife, and for a time she was apparently held in seclusion by him and was prevented from obtaining independent counsel. There were changes of attorneys for both William and Joan, with William’s final attorney being a man by the splendid name of Reginald Bugwell. At last, in 1349, a verdict was issued in favor of Thomas Holland, and on November 13, 1349, a papal bull was issued ordering that Joan be restored to Holland and that the marriage be solemnized in a church ceremony. A remarkable aspect about these proceedings, which took place in Avignon, is that while much of this was going on, the Black Death was ravaging Europe; yet business, including the necessary travel between England and Avignon for the parties’ counsel, went on much as usual.

Holland and Salisbury, meanwhile, were both made Knights of the Garter when the order was founded by Edward III. Both appeared at the St. George’s festivities at Windsor in April 1349, and jousted on opposite sides of the tournament that followed. As Ian Mortimer has noted, watching the tensions between Joan’s husbands must have been far more agreeable than brooding about the pestilence.

Once the Pope dissolved Salisbury’s marriage, the earl hastened to find himself a new bride. His next one, Elizabeth Mohun, the daughter of yet another founding Garter Knight, John, Lord Mohun, presented little potential for prior marital entanglements: she was only about seven years of age at the time of her wedding to Salisbury.

It should be noted that it has been suggested by Chris Given-Wilson and Alice Curteis that Holland and Joan started an affair after Holland joined the Montacute household and that the story of the prior marriage was concocted by the pair so that Joan could be freed of Montacute. This is possible, of course, though it seems likely that such a scenario suggested itself to the papal judges, who nonetheless rejected it in favor of Holland’s version of the story.

Fortunately, William de Montacute and Joan’s marriage had produced no living children to be affected by its dissolution. Joan went on to have five children with Thomas. When her surviving brother died childless in 1352, she inherited his estates; in 1360, Thomas Holland was given the title of Earl of Kent. It was not one he enjoyed for long, however, for he died in Rouen on December 28, 1360. His later career had been a successful one, with increasing responsibility; a few months before his death, he had been appointed Edward III’s captain and lieutenant in Normandy and France.

Joan soon found consolation with another: the heir to the English throne. Edward the Black Prince, born on June 15, 1330, was still single, though various marriages had been proposed for him over the years. It is quite safe to say that Joan, twice married under faintly scandalous circumstances and an English-born mother of five children, was not considered one of his potential brides. Edward himself had had romantic entanglements, including one with a lady named Edith Willesford, which produced a son, Roger Clarendon, around 1350. (Clarendon was later executed by Henry IV for spreading rumors that Richard II was alive and for supporting Owain Glyn Dŵr.)

Edward’s long bachelorhood has given rise to speculation that he had been secretly pining to marry Joan for years, though as Edith’s case shows, he was clearly capable of finding consolation elsewhere in the meantime. Nonetheless, his marriage with Joan does appear to have been a love match. Without waiting for royal permission or a papal dispensation (needed because of their close kinship and the fact that Edward was godfather to Joan’s sons), the couple married secretly in the spring of 1361. This time, the marriage could hardly be kept secret for long, however, and by summer, a resigned Edward III was petitioning the pope to grant the couple a dispensation so that they could marry publicly. The Pope granted the king’s request on September 7, 1361. As a penance for their impetuosity, the couple was ordered to build and endow two chapels.

In October 1361, Edward and Joan were duly married (remarried, that is) at Windsor Castle by the Archbishop of Canterbury. The king and queen, along with three of their children, John of Gaunt, Edmund of Langley, and Isabella, Countess of Bedford, attended. Edward III’s younger sister, Joan, Queen of Scotland, was present also.

Edward and Joan appear to have been a loving couple. In a letter addressed to Joan following the battle of Najera in 1367, he addresses her as “my dearest and truest sweetheart and beloved companion,” and when he returned to Bordeaux from Spain, Joan met him and the couple “walked together holding hands.” Edward was also content to let Joan spend freely; in 1362, she spent 200 pounds on jeweled buttons alone. In all fairness, however, the prince himself was a lavish spender, as was his mother the queen, so Joan can hardly be blamed for joining in on the fun.

Edward died in 1376. He and Joan had had two sons together. The eldest, Edward, died young; the youngest ascended the throne as Richard II following Edward III’s death in 1377. Thus, Joan never became queen, only mother to the king. It is interesting to wonder what she might have been like as a queen consort: though she was popular with the people and had a reputation as a peacemaker during Richard II’s reign, chroniclers made much of her marital misadventures. Gossip went so far as to question Richard II’s legitimacy; Adam Usk wrote that it was said that “he was not born to a father of the royal line, but of a mother given to slippery ways—to say nothing of many other things I have heard.”

Joan of Kent died on August 14, 1385, having been in poor health that was probably exacerbated by her concern over her son John Holland, who had murdered Ralph Stafford and whose pleas for mercy from Richard II were seemingly going unheeded. (He ultimately received a pardon.) Though she died as Princess of Wales, Joan requested burial not by her royal husband at Canterbury, but at Stamford by the man she had married as a young girl: Thomas Holland.

Richard Barber, The Life and Campaigns of the Black Prince.
Chris Given-Wilson and Alice Curteis, The Royal Bastards of Medieval England.
David Green, Edward the Black Prince, Power in Medieval Europe.
Ian Mortimer, The Fears of Henry IV: The Life of England’s Self-Made King.
Ian Mortimer, The Perfect King: The Life of Edward III.
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online version).
Karl P. Wentersdorf, “The Clandestine Marriages of the Fair Maid of Kent.” Journal of Medieval History 5 (1979), pp. 203-231.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Booking Through Thursday: Too Much Information?

From today's Booking Through Thursday:

Have you ever been put off an author’s books after reading a biography of them? Or the reverse - a biography has made you love an author more?

I don't read that many biographies of authors, especially nowadays, but for the most part, I'd say no to both. Charles Dickens is my favorite author, and as reading biographies of him will show, he engaged in some very unbecoming behavior, especially involving his separation from his wife. Yet unattractive as this aspect of his personal life is, I still love his novels. As for a biography making me love an author more, I wouldn't say it's increased my affection for an author so much as it's given me another perspective on his or her books, and deepened my appreciation of them. Dickens again is a good example of this, as is Charlotte Bronte.

On the other hand, biographies have tended to confirm my existing prejudices against certain writers. For instance, I tried several novels by Anthony Trollope before giving up on his books. Not only did I find most of his novels on the dull side, and sorely in need of pruning, there was a sort of snobbishness that emanated from them. (I don't know if I would have the same reaction to them now--it's been a good twenty years since I've tried one.) When I later read in his autobiography about Anthony's dismissive attitude toward the books of his mother, Fanny--whose hard work kept the family going--my reservations about him were confirmed.

Finally, although biographies are not involved, there are living authors whose behavior has kept me from reading their books. Authors who have engaged in plagiarism or who have passed off fiction as nonfiction, authors who have engaged in bullying tactics after receiving negative or even neutral reviews, and authors who simply have too-big egos are ones whose books I won't read, even if they might have merit. Life is way too short, and my list of books to be read way too long, to bother with such people.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

The Richard III Motel: All Rooms Double Occupancy

As Lady Despenser mentioned on her blog a few days ago, Edward II has his very own hotel in San Francisco. But did you know that he's not the only Plantagenet to have entered the hotel business? Lo and behold, I was flipping through an old book on Richard III this afternoon when this fell into my lap:

With the high importance the medieval world placed on hospitality, it seems quite fitting that at least two American inns should be named for English monarchs, though I'm not entirely sure I'd care for the room service at the Edward II hotel, and I think I'd hesitate before checking in for an extended stay at the Richard III motel. Something tells me the room rates wouldn't be great at the Henry VII hotel, but the beds would probably be excellent at the Edward IV motel.

Any monarchs you think should join the hospitality business?