Tuesday, March 31, 2009

No Foolin'; It's Out on April 1!

The ladies over at Historical Tapestry are hosting a guest post by me to mark the re-release by Sourcebooks of The Traitor's Wife. Stop by and say howdy! (You'll be seeing more on me in the blogsphere in days to come.)

By the way, she said casually, tomorrow is the official re-release date of The Traitor's Wife, though it's been in stock on Amazon and in some Barnes and Noble stores for a few days now. (That, of course, is what people inform me. I'm way too cool to check myself. I haven't checked its Amazon ranking one single time, and I didn't go near my local Barnes and Noble this weekend. Nope. Not a chance.)

Friday, March 27, 2009

Thanks, Uncle! Gifts to Eleanor de Clare From Edward II

Whatever else one might say about Edward II, he was a generous uncle--at least to his favorite niece, Eleanor de Clare. Here's some of his recorded gifts to her:

1308: 20 marks for her expenses while staying at Rockingham Castle (JCD)

May 8, 1308: 10 marks for her expenses for her journey from Rockingham to the king (JCD)

1310: 100 marks for her expenses for her journey from Northampton to Berwick-on-Tweed to join Queen Isabella, plus another 20 marks as a gift from the king (JCD)

1313: Exchequer grants for her expenses: 10 pounds on October 10; 10 pounds on October 15; 5 pounds on Oct. 27; 5 marks on Oct. 29; 10 pounds on Nov. 7; 10 marks on November 19; 4 pounds and 1 mark on December 11 (JCD)

Feb. 14, 1314: 5 marks (JCD)

Easter 1316: Livery of green cloth, trimmed and lined with miniver. (Edward II, Isabella, Prince Edward, and the Countesses of Hereford, Warwick, and Cornwall, the latter being Piers Gaveston's widow (Eleanor's sister Margaret), also received the livery) (MV)

July 9, 1322: A life interest in the manors of Melton Mowbray and Sonyngdon, with a remainder to Eleanor's son Gilbert. (Calendar of Patent Rolls; the gift was made "out of affection to Gilbert")

September 1323: 13 pieces of sturgeon (AW) (Wisely, the King sent Queen Isabella 20 pieces, thereby avoiding the specter of sturgeon wars between the queen and Eleanor.)

1323: 100 pounds toward the expenses of Eleanor's illness while she was in childbed (JCD)

May 10, 1324, Life interest in the manor of Bramelhanger, again with a remainder to Gilbert (Calendar of Charter Rolls)

April 26, 1326: Grant to Eleanor of the goods of Alan de Newenham, whose goods had been taken into the king's hands after he was indicted for "divers felonies." (Calendar of Patent Rolls)

May 18, 1326: Grant to Eleanor of the keeping of the hundred of Gosecote, to hold until Stephen de Segrave's heir came of age. (Calendar of Patent Rolls) (On May 19, Edward issued an order to make the letters regarding this grant "as hastily as possible and deliver them to the bearer without delay.")

1326: 47 caged goldfinches (RH, MP, AW) (Why the odd number of 47? Were there originally 50, of which three died? Could only 47 goldfinches be found? Inquiring minds wonder.)

200 stockfish (JCD: author does not give the date)

Sugar bought to make sweets for Eleanor (MP)

100 marks on "one brief visit" near the end of Edward II's reign) (MP)

Haines also mentions "privy dining" between uncle and niece and his accommodating her at the royal manor of Sheen, and it's also been noted by Prestwich that medicines were bought for the two of them when they were ill in 1319-20. In 1310, a messenger was given twenty marks for bringing Edward news of Eleanor (JCD), the nature of which is sadly unspecified, and in December 1325, Edward offered prayers to the Virgin for his niece's safe delivery of a child, perhaps John le Despenser or Elizabeth le Despenser (Haines).

Why all of this generosity? There are generally three explanations: (1) Edward II was very fond of Eleanor; (2) Edward II was having sexual relations with Hugh le Despenser the younger, Eleanor's husband, and wanted to keep Eleanor sweet by showering her with gifts; (3) Edward II was having an affair with Eleanor herself. There's probably no way of knowing now which was the case. Both Michael Prestwich and Roy Haines have suggested the third possibility, based on allegations by a Hainault chronicler, Robert Reading's comment that Edward II was engaged in "illicit and sinful unions," and the lack of comparable entries in Edward II's records for other ladies. This can't be ruled out, but it's notable that Edward III treated Eleanor generously once he began to rule on his own and that he considered her to be a fit companion to accompany one of his sisters to her wedding. Though Edward III's court was not a prudish one, it still seems unlikely that he would have treated Eleanor so well had she and his father been slighting his mother by engaging in flagrant adultery.

As for the second possibility, though I think it likely that Edward II and Hugh were lovers, I doubt that the gifts were made just to keep Eleanor from raising a fuss about their relationship, whatever its nature. Had Eleanor been inclined to be petulant, Edward and Hugh probably would have simply stuck her on some remote manor and let her steam in solitude. Moreover, Edward II's generosity to Eleanor long predates his attachment to Hugh, though it's true that the large gifts date from the period when Hugh was the king's favorite.

All in all, I think that the first scenario--that Edward II was fond of Eleanor and treated her as a confidante--is the most likely one. It probably helped, of course, that the king was also fond of her husband.

James Conway Davies, The Baronial Opposition to Edward II
Roy Martin Haines, Edward II
Michael Prestwich, Plantagenet England
Malcolm Vale, The Princely Court
Alison Weir, Queen Isabella

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Literary Maven Meme!

I found this meme over at Writing the Renaissance, and since Julianne said anyone could play, here I am! Feel free to join in yourself--I had fun with this one.

1. What author do you own the most books by?
Jean Plaidy. I just started reading historical fiction a few years ago, and since then, I've acquired what looks to be at least two dozen of her books. My first Plaidy, though not her best, was Follies of the King, and since it's about Edward II, it's a sentimental favorite of mine.

It's amazing where Plaidys crop up. My late mother-in-law had no interest in Jean Plaidy or historical fiction, except for books with Western themes, but she bought a lot of used books with the intention of reselling them, and my husband found a copy of Beyond the Blue Mountains in one stack.

2. What book do you own the most copies of?
Bleak House. I have various illustrated versions of it, and I have scholarly editions of it with different introductions, and I have the first bound edition--but not the original monthly numbers. I wish!

3. Did it bother you that both those questions ended with a preposition?
Sad to say, I didn't notice until you pointed it out! By the way, there's a joke about this:

Southerner to snooty lady from up north: "Where are you from?"
Snooty lady: "Here in the north we do not end sentences with prepositions."
Southerner: "OK. Where are you from, bitch?"

4. What fictional character are you secretly in love with?
Eugene Wrayburn in Our Mutual Friend. Such a handsome, charming wastrel.

5. What book have you read the most times in your life (excluding children's picture books)?
Difficult to say once we get past childhood. I seldom re-read books from beginning to end, but I do re-read passages of my favorites.

6. What was your favorite book when you were ten years old?
I probably didn't have a favorite book, but I loved a lot of series--probably then I was reading a lot of Trixie Belden books. I also admit to reading all of the Bobbsey Twins books, and another favorite was a series called the Happy Hollisters.

7. What is the worst book you've read in the past year?
A few pop into my mind instantly, but I'm zipping my mouth.

8. What is the best book you've read in the last year?
I though Manhunt, a nonfiction book by James Swanson about the capture of John Wilkes Booth, was great. It's the sort of book one wishes students were assigned in school--it makes history comes alive.

9. If you could force everyone to read one book, what would it be?
Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf, on the theory that most people end up hating books they are forced to read, and this was a book I detested and think deserves to be detested by others.

10. Who deserves to win the next Nobel Prize for literature?
Well, if I were handing them out, Anne Tyler would get it.

11. What book would you most like to see made into a movie?
I'd love to see Our Mutual Friend or Bleak House made into a movie--they've been made into TV mini-series, but it's be fun to see them on the big screen.

12. What book would you least like to see made into a movie?
I can't really think of one.

13. Describe your weirdest dream involving a writer, book, or literary character.
I vaguely remember a childhood dream where some of my favorite fictional characters appeared and hung out with me at a train station, but I can't think of anything more recent.

14. What is the most lowbrow book you read as an adult?
One of Virginia Henley's historical romances, because it was set during the reign of Edward II.

15. What is the most difficult book you've ever read?
Probably The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by Lawrence Sterne. With all of the wordplay and all of the contemporary references, it was a slow read. I've never tackled James Joyce's Ulysses, and unless I get very bored someday, I probably never will.

16. What is the most obscure Shakespeare play you've ever seen?

17. Do you prefer the French or the Russians?
I haven't read a good selection of either, but of the ones I have read, probably the Russians.

18. Roth or Updike?
Updike. I love the Rabbit novels and Gertrude and Claudius. I did enjoy Goodbye, Columbus by Roth, but I never had the urge to read any of his other books--too much male writer middle-aged angst, I guess. Of course, the Rabbit novels have a lot of that too, but at least Rabbit isn't a writer.

19. David Sedaris or Dave Eggers?
I've never read either.

20. Shakespeare, Milton, or Chaucer?
Shakespeare. I love seeing his plays in performance.

21. Austen or Eliot?
Austen. The last paragraph in Middlemarch is one that always brings tears to my eyes, but I much prefer Austen's wit to Eliot's rather somber world.

22. What is the biggest or most embarrassing gap in your reading?
I haven't read very many modern novels written outside of the US or the UK, which means that I've missed out on a lot of Nobel Prize winners.

23. What is your favorite novel?
It's a tie between Our Mutual Friend and Bleak House.

24. Favorite play?
Romeo and Juliet, until Mercutio dies. After that I'm ready to leave. Then it would be Richard III, Hamlet, or King Lear.

25. Favorite poem?
"The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" by T.S. Eliot

26. Favorite Essay?
I'm drawing a blank.

27. Favorite short story?
I can't single out one, but I love Flannery O'Connor's and Dorothy Parker's short stories.

28. Favorite work of nonfiction?
I've found so many works of nonfiction useful, it's difficult to assign a favorite.

29. Favorite writers?
Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Elizabeth Gaskell, Anne Tyler, Barbara Pym, P.D. James. In historical fiction, my favorites are Sharon Penman, Margaret Campbell Barnes, Jean Plaidy, and Brenda Honeyman/Brenda Clarke.

30. Who is the most overrated writer alive today?
Getting out the lip-zipper again.

I do find, however, that a lot of literary fiction is overrated. So much of it sounds as if it came out of a can (add a cup of angst, a cup of alienation, a dash of substance addiction, a sprinkle of adultery, mix in a bleak suburb . . .)

31. What is your desert island book?
How to Get off of a Desert Island.

32. What are you reading now?
Robert Hutchison, The House of Treason: The Rise and Fall of a Tudor Dynasty (nonfiction). I'm looking for a novel to read, and the house is full of them, but I'm having a hard time settling down to anything.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Hi, There!

Thanks to Lady Despenser, I found Sign Generator, and decided that this would be an excellent way to introduce some of the uninitiated out there to some of the prominent folks of Edward II's reign, as well as to complement her own introduction to the year 1326:

(I really have no idea how that last picture got here. Must have been one of the cats walking across the keyboard again. It would hurt their feelings if I took it off, don't you think?)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Taming of the Duke

In around 1435, Henry VI’s council decided that strict measures were required for the upbringing of a royal ward. The ward was to rise between six and seven in the morning and to say prayers, and then go and wait upon the king, where he was to hear mass with him. Our young person was also to hear daily evensong. He was to go to bed no later than ten. His household had apparently recently been purged of undesirables; instead, he was to be waited upon by squires hand-picked by the king’s council, who were to encourage him to be of good rule and good governance. When he passed the king’s lodgings, he was to be in the company of at least one of the squires. Finally, if our ward fell into bad company, the ubiquitous squires were to report this, and the names of those involved, to the council.

Were the ward to prove incorrigible, the ordinances recite, the squires could ask the council to be relieved of their duties. This was not likely, the drafters continued optimistically, since the ward had already promised the king and the council to obey whatever rules were drawn up for him.

The ward in question? John Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk (1415-1461), who was about twenty at the time these ordinances were drawn up. Sadly, it’s not known what behavior on the young duke’s part prompted this concern, but as Nicholas Orme comments, such ordinances had no known precedents for individual wards and were probably drawn up because the duke had fallen into wild living with bad companions.

Norfolk’s reaction to his new regime likewise is not recorded, nor is it known whether it had the desired effect. If he chafed at these new restrictions, he at least didn’t have long to do so, for in September 1436, immediately after his twenty-first birthday, he received livery of his inheritance and thus was free to game, whore, stay up until the wee hours, skip prayers, and engage to his heart’s content in whatever other youthful folly he espoused.

Whatever success Norfolk’s attendants might have had in inculcating other virtues in him, deep-rooted loyalty does not appear to have been one of his defining qualities, though caution might have been. He seems to have avoided firm commitments to either side in the Wars of the Roses until after the Battle of Northampton, when he allied himself with the House of York. Having fought for the Yorkist side at Towton, he was earl marshal at Edward IV’s coronation in June 1461 and was amply rewarded, but he had little time to enjoy his new status, for on November 6, 1461, he died, aged forty-six. His mother, Katherine Neville, who lived into her eighties, married the twenty-year-old John Woodville in 1465, when she was a spry young thing of sixty-five or so.


Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online edition)

Nicholas Orme, “The Education of Edward V,” Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research, November 1984.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Catch-Up Time!

This is more of a "yes, I'm still out there" post than anything else, I'm afraid. I was pretty wiped out most of last week by some flu-like bug. That and the periodic appearance of winged termites in the house kept me quiet on the blog front.

Last week, however, I did get the advance review copies for Hugh and Bess, and they're lovely! If the termites get near them, they're doomed. (Actually, they're doomed anyway, since the exterminators have been by.)

I'm also eagerly awaiting the publication of The Traitor's Wife next month, to the point where I've been scoping out its future location on the shelves of the nearby bookstores. (At the Borders nearby my house, the fiction books beginning with "Hi" are at knee level. I wonder if the manager would consent to move them all up to eye level? Or to the front of the store?)

Finally, I'm making good progress on the Buckingham novel, though Richard III might beg to disagree, since I reached the Battle of Bosworth last night.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Pious--Yes, That's Right, Pious--Elizabeth Woodville

Any Ricardian novel worthy of its genre contains a scene where Elizabeth Woodville and/or her mother dabble in witchcraft, though in both women’s cases, the allegations of witchcraft are utterly unsubstantiated. What you won’t get if you read one of these novels is any indication of Elizabeth’s acts of Christian piety and of her actions that reflect her conventional Christian beliefs, though they, unlike her supposed witchcraft, are well documented. Here are some of them:

*Elizabeth’s device was a gillyflower, or pink, which Anne F. Sutton and Livia Visser-Fuchs have pointed out was closely associated with the Virgin Mary. (“The Device of Queen Elizabeth Woodville: A Gillyflower or Pink,” The Ricardian, March 1997)

*Elizabeth founded the chapel of St. Erasmus in Westminster Abbey. (Sutton and Visser-Fuchs: “A ‘Most Benevolent Queen’: Queen Elizabeth’s Reputation, Her Piety, and Her Books,” The Ricardian, June 1995)

*Elizabeth obtained a license to attend Carthusian services at those houses that had been founded by English kings or queens (Ibid.)

*On March 5, 1466, at Elizabeth’s request, the king granted a license for a chaplain and two priests to found a fraternity of sixty priests to pray for the good estate of the king, the queen, and the Archbishop of York (Calendar of Patent Rolls, Edward IV, 1461-67, p. 516)

*Elizabeth joined the London Skinners’ Fraternity of the Assumption of the Virgin (a portrait of her appears in its records) (J. L. Laynesmith, The Last Medieval Queens)

*Elizabeth was a patron of Queen’s College, Cambridge, which named her as its “true foundress” in its statutes of 1475. The portrait of Elizabeth that graces most biographies of her is from Queen’s College. (Ibid)

*Elizabeth made pilgrimages to Canterbury Cathedral, once in the company of her four-year-old daughter, Elizabeth of York, and was a member of its fraternity (Ibid.)

*In 1481, the queen obtained a papal indulgence for those who knelt and said the Angelical Salutation, or Angelus, three times per day. The Pope explained that the queen desired “the devotion of the faithful of the realm for the said salutation to be increased.” (“’Most Benevolent Queen”)

*When Elizabeth made her will in 1492, she named as her executors John Ingelby, the prior of Sheen Charterhouse; William Sutton, vicar of St. Stephen’s Walbrook and of Ashford, Kent; and Thomas Brent, who had served as her almoner when she was queen. (Ibid)

By contrast, what is the evidence that Elizabeth practiced witchcraft? We don’t have any—only the accusations by Richard III, who was hardly a disinterested party. But as a witchy Woodville sells more books than a pious one, it’s safe to say which we’ll be seeing more of in the future.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Get Your Motivation Here!

I do have a serious post in me somewhere, I promise, but tonight's not the night. Thanks to Richard over at Historical Fiction Online, I learned of this site that lets you create your own motivational posters. Here's my maiden effort:

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

New Blog Title

Ever had one of those days when everything makes you cranky? Tonight it was my blog title (actually, I've been sick of it for a long time). So what do you think of the new one?

By the way "Medieval Woman" comes from my mishearing of the lyrics of the ELO song "Evil Woman." This, so I understand, is called a "mondegreen," and there is an entire site devoted to them. My favorite remains "There's a bathroom on the right" for "There's a bad moon on the rise," and "Like a ham and mustard shake" for "Like a hand in rusted chains."

Monday, March 02, 2009

The Reign of Edward II, as Told by You-Know-Whats

In the interest of equal time, here is the reign of Edward II told by Lolcats. Really, why buy one of those expensive biographies of Edward II when you can get the whole story here?