Friday, May 29, 2009

Meme Time! What Would Your Characters Do?

Thanks to Gabriele, instead of spending lunchtime patiently fact-checking and proofreading the final draft of the Buckingham novel, I'm doing this meme. Pick 10 characters at random, then answer how they will react in various given situations. So here goes, courtesy of my Buckingham novel:

1. Katherine Woodville, Duchess of Buckingham
2. Anne Neville, Duchess of Gloucester, later Queen of England
3. Elizabeth Woodville, Queen of England
4. Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick
5. Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham
6. William, Lord Hastings
7. Edward IV
8. Robert Stillington, Bishop of Bath and Wells
9. George, Duke of Clarence
10.Richard, Duke of Gloucester, later King Richard III

4 invites 3 and 8 to dinner at their house. What happens?

Warwick says to Elizabeth Woodville, "Hey, sorry that I offed your father and your brother, but a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do, you know?" Warwick then says to Stillington, "Hey, you haven't performed any secret marriages I might want to know about, have you?" An uneasy silence descends, broken only by the arrival of a lot of meat, which fortunately keeps everyone occupied for the rest of the evening.

9 tries to get 5 to go to a strip club. What happens?

Harry agrees to George's invitation, but he really wishes that Richard was the one who was taking him. Actually, he really wishes that Richard was the one stripping. Oh, my.

You need to stay at a friend's house for a night. Who do you choose: 1 or 6?

Depended on whether I wanted to sleep in a comfy bed (Katherine) or get lucky (Hastings). Come to think of it, with Hastings I'd have a chance to do both. So, sorry, Kate--I'll have to go with Hastings. (Can you say "cougar"?)

2 and 7 are making out. 10 walks in. What is their reaction?

Having caught his wife and his brother Edward making out, Richard cries, "Ned! This is all the doing of the vile Woodvilles, isn't it? How they have corrupted you!" Then after a beat, he asks, "This does mean you're going to give me a larger share of the Warwick lands, right?"

3 falls in love with 6. 8 is jealous. What happens?

Elizabeth Woodville in love with William Hastings, and Stillington jealous! Well, Elizabeth and William poison Edward IV, in hopes of marrying, but before they can do so, jealous Stillington persuades Gloucester to cut William's head off for treason. There might be a journal article here, "The Events of 1483: A New Explanation," come to think of it . . .

4 jumps you in a dark alleyway. Who comes to your rescue: 10, 2, or 7?

Well, after Warwick jumps me, I'm not sure that his daughter Anne would be of much help, and Richard is probably too busy plotting to seize the throne to really care. So Edward IV comes to my rescue, probably in the hopes of getting lucky.

1 decides to start a cooking show. Fifteen minutes later, what is happening?

Kate very sensibly decides to call in a guest hostess, Anne, Duchess of Gloucester, who demonstrates the recipes she learned while George was hiding her in the cookshop.

3 has to marry either 8, 4, or 9. Whom do they choose?

Elizabeth Woodville has to marry Stillington, Warwick, or Clarence? She marries Stillington secretly, and they have a son, named Perkin Warbeck.

7 kidnaps 2 and demands something from 5 for 2's release. What is it?

Edward IV kidnaps Anne and tells Buckingham that he'll release her if he just shuts up about wanting his Bohun lands and some more responsibility.

Everyone gangs up on 3. Does 3 have a chance in hell?

Oh, yes! Elizabeth will just make everyone kneel before her.

Everyone is invited to 2 and 10's wedding except for 8. How do they react?

Stillington doesn't get invited to Richard and Anne's wedding? He starts a rumor that the Woodvilles intercepted his wedding invitation.

Why is 6 afraid of 7?

Hastings afraid of Edward IV? Sounds like Jane Shore was a little indiscreet about the day Jane Shore paid a visit to Hastings at the mint "just to see how the coinage is made."

1 arrives late for 2 and 10's wedding. What happens, and why were they late?

Kate is late to Richard and Anne's wedding? Well, in my novel, Kate is busy primping in hopes of getting lucky with her husband Harry and loses track of the time. Were I writing the Ricardian Novel to End All Ricardian Novels, though, Kate would be delayed by her inability to find the toad needed to cast a spell on the happy couple.

5 and 9 get roaring drunk and end up at your house. What happens?

Buckingham and Clarence get roaring drunk? Aside from ending up at my house, this actually does happen in my Buckingham novel, so I'm going to make you wait until around 2010 to find out. I'm so mean.

9 murders 2's best friend. What does 2 do to get back at them?

Clarence murders Anne's best friend? Well, Anne tells her brother-in-law Edward IV, "You know, I'm really getting tired of Clarence, aren't you? Have you ever thought of drowning him in a vat of malmsey?"

6 and 1 are in mortal peril and only one of them can survive. Does 6 save themself or 1?

Hastings and Katherine in mortal peril? Hey, Hastings is a gentleman, and he would of course save the lady. But he might try to get lucky first.

8 and 3 go camping. For some reason they forgot to bring along any food. What do they do?

Ah, Elizabeth Woodville and Stillington on a camping trip. But they did remember to bring servants, who make a quick run to the store! So pretty soon, they're happily toasting marshmallows together, never fear.

5 is in a crash and is critically injured. What does 9 do?

Clarence, seeing Harry's misfortune, calls for wine and gives a little to the injured Harry until help arrives. Then he drinks the rest himself, telling himself that he deserves a little something to calm his nerves.

Some Recent Historical Fiction Reads

Here are reviews of mine that appeared in the February 2009 Historical Novels Review:

A Constant Heart
Siri Mitchell, Bethany House, 2008, $13.99 pb, 384pp, 9780764204319

Facing an arranged marriage to the Earl of Lytham, a stranger, seventeen-year-old Marget is reassured somewhat when her betrothed sends her an astrolabe and a romantic sonnet. Yet when Marget meets her husband at last, the earl, still embittered from his first marriage to a beautiful, unfaithful wife, is barely civil to his new countess. Life is no better at Queen Elizabeth’s court, where the newcomer Marget is shunned.

Determined to win the affection of her husband by proving herself useful to him in his frantic quest for royal favor, Marget becomes friends with Lady de Winter, who advises Marget that in order to make her way at court, Marget must obscure her natural beauty with layers of white paint. Slowly, Marget finds acceptance among the queen’s ladies—but is Lady de Winter acting in her best interests?

Mitchell vividly depicts the atmosphere of Elizabeth’s court, as poisoned by jealousy, back-biting, and intrigue as are the women who damage their looks and their health with lead paint. Her newlyweds, struggling to build a successful relationship with each other and to maintain their integrity in a setting that is hardly conducive to such goals, provide an interesting—and fresh--perspective on a familiar period.


Bedlam South
Mark Grisham and David Donaldson, State Street Press, 2008, $24.95 hb, 324pp, 9780764204319

In 1863, Alabama native Dr. Joseph Bryarly reluctantly accepts an invitation from a family friend, Confederate President Jefferson Davis, to leave his post at London’s notorious Bethlem Royal Hospital to become Chief Superintendent of Wingate Asylum in Richmond, Virginia. Meanwhile, young Zeke Gibson gleefully joins the Army of Northern Virginia, where he is reunited with his older brother, Billy, a corporal. The Battle of Gettysburg, however, soon sends the Gibson brothers in separate directions, while nightmare-plagued Joseph finds that he has exchanged the living hell of London’s Bedlam for that of Richmond’s Bedlam South.

Co-written by childhood friends who utilized the novel to blend their interests in psychology and the Civil War, Bedlam South has all of the elements of a wartime epic as it moves with ease between battlefields, the asylum, gracious and humble homes, prisons, bordellos, and city streets, with episodes that show its men and women at their worst--and at their best. It’s a fast-paced and well-plotted story, with a varied and large cast of characters, sympathetic and complex protagonists, a couple of romances, and some staggering coincidences. I recommend it highly.


The Ancient Ocean Blues
Jack Mitchell, Tundra Books, 2008, $9.95/C$11.99 pb, 188pp, 9780887768323

Though young Marcus Oppius Sabinus is less than thrilled when his cousin Gaius sends him on a spy mission, Marcus does find this preferable to helping Gaius in his everyday business of buying elections through bribery. Soon, therefore, he’s traveling to Athens, in the company of a Greek publisher and Marcus’s fiancée, Paulla (who stows away in hopes of improving her acquaintance with the heroic Aulus Lucinus Spurinna, not for the pleasure of Marcus’s company). Needless to say, smooth sailing does not lie ahead.

Narrated in a breezy, humorous style by Marcus, this was a fun read in which the carefully researched history went down painlessly and where the historical figures (including Gaius Oppius) easily mixed with the fictitious ones, several of whom first appeared in Mitchell’s previous novel, The Roman Conspiracy. I especially enjoyed Paulla, a connoisseur of romances who turns out to be anything but a starry-eyed romantic. Young adults, even those not normally interested in the ancient world, will find this an engaging read.


Coming soon, search terms!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Monday, May 25, 2009

In Memory of a Fallen Soldier: Edward le Despenser

Edward le Despenser was the second son of Hugh le Despenser the younger and Eleanor de Clare. He was born before November 23, 1315, when Edward II issued a license for John de Cromwell and his wife, Idonia, to grant certain lands to Robert Baldock, who was to regrant them with a life estate to Idonia, with remainder interests for Hugh, his father, and Edward.

Edward’s whereabouts following the destruction of his father and grandfather at the hands of Queen Isabella and Roger Mortimer are unknown, but he was probably among the children who were imprisoned with Eleanor de Clare in the Tower from November 1326 to February 1328. Though Edward’s exact age is unknown, he was evidently too young to be considered a threat to the regime, unlike his eldest brother, Hugh, who was around 18 in 1326 and who was imprisoned until 1331.

In November 1334, Edward came into the life estates he had been granted in 1315. His lands included Essendine in Rutland. As Jane Austen noted, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife,” and Edward proved the wisdom of this remark by finding a wife just a few months later, for he married Anne Ferrers at Groby on April 20, 1335. Anne was the sister of Henry, Lord Ferrers, who was married to Isabella de Verdon. Isabella was a daughter of Elizabeth de Burgh, Eleanor de Clare’s younger sister.

Edward’s short marriage was a fruitful one, producing four sons, Edward, Hugh, Thomas, and Henry. Edward, the eldest, who ultimately inherited the Despenser estates when his uncle Hugh died without heirs in 1349, was born at Essendine on March 24, 1336.

Like his brothers Hugh and Gilbert, Edward served in Edward III’s military campaigns. In 1338, he had a protection to serve in France with his brother-in-law Henry Ferrers. In 1342, he accompanied his brother Hugh overseas. Hugh’s forces, originally headed for Gascony, were diverted to Brest to assist the forces of the Countess of Montfort, whose side in the Breton civil war Edward III was backing. Hugh’s forces later joined the Earl of Northampton at Morlaix, where the English, badly outnumbered, achieved a victory of sorts over French troops on September 30, 1342. Unfortunately, it was Edward’s last battle: as the chronicler Murimuth notes, he was the highest-ranking English casualty there.

Though Edward was probably only in his late twenties when he died in battle, he nonetheless managed to leave a worthy legacy behind him in the shape of his four sons, two of whom, Edward and Henry, were among the most colorful characters of the late fourteenth century. Each deserves a post to himself, but the younger Edward in his short life (he died at age thirty-nine) acquired a reputation as a model of chivalry; he is the “kneeling knight” depicted at Tewkesbury Abbey. Henry, who entered the Church but never lost his taste for military activity, became known as the “Fighting Bishop of Norwich.” Thomas, who fought at Rheims, died in 1381. Hugh, who died in 1374, was survived by a son, naturally named Hugh. The younger Hugh was governor to the fourteen-year-old Henry V, but died in 1401 before he had been at his post for very long.

Through his eldest son, Edward also can claim among his direct descendants Anne, queen to Richard III.

Christopher Allmand, Henry V
Calendar of Patent Rolls
Complete Peerage
Martyn John Lawrence, Power, Ambition and Political Rehabilitation: The Despensers, c.1281–1400 (unpublished dissertation, University of York).

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Review: Henry and Clara by Thomas Mallon

On April 14, 1865, an engaged couple, Henry Rathbone and Clara Harris, accepted the Lincolns' last-minute invitation to join them in their box at Ford's Theatre. For the nation, the impact of that night's tragedy would be felt at once; for Henry and Clara, the denouement of their own private tragedy occurred years later.

Henry and Clara follows the titular couple from their childhood in Albany, New York, where Henry's widowed, ambitious mother sets her cap at Clara's widowed father, Ira Harris, whom Pauline Rathbone sees as a promising politician. A marriage soon follows, and young Henry and Clara find themselves stepbrother and stepsister. Though neither child cares much for the other's parent, Henry and Clara soon gravitate toward each other, and as they mature their feelings grow into romantic love. Before they can marry, though, they must overcome the opposition of their parents, and the outbreak of the Civil War throws yet another obstacle into their path.

There is another difficulty, one the determined and devoted Clara doesn't much want to acknowledge: Henry. For Clara, the mercurial Henry is Byronic, but the horrors of war soon disclose how fragile Henry's psyche truly is. Nonetheless, Clara, deeply in love and not willing to give up easily, presses on with her marriage plans, even after the Lincoln assassination strips yet another layer of sanity from Henry.

Though the story Henry and Clara tells is a tragic one, Mallon's wry narrative voice and his sharp eye prevent it from being a gloomy one. His characterizations are superb, with Clara, the main viewpoint character, being a particular success. Even as Clara becomes more isolated and her situation more grim, she never turns into the pathetic victim she might have become with a less skilled author.

If there's a rough patch in the novel, it's at the beginning, where the immersion into Albany politics may be too much for some readers. Persevere, though, and you'll be well rewarded. This was one of the best historical novels I've read.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Three Cheers for the BBC!

I have a Google alert set up for "Edward II," and though I get some things of interest that way, I also get a lot of worthless alerts, mostly to shopping sites. So when I saw my alert today, I thought at first it was another shopping alert. Then I looked closer and gave a great big whoop, for I see that the BBC has reissued the 1970 telecast of "Edward II" on DVD! Finally!

This telecast starred Ian McKellen as Edward II, and is an excellent adaptation of the Marlowe play. My university library of choice has an old VHS copy, which couldn't be taken off premises, so I had to watch it sitting in a carrel, wondering if some undergraduate would come up behind me during the poker scene and say, "Ewwww!" Needless to say, I'm delighted about finally being able to buy a copy of my own. I'm also delighted that the play, which is seldom produced in the US outside of major cities, will get a wider audience. (The Derek Jarman film, while interesting and well-acted, loses Marlowe's play in its emphasis on twentieth-century sexual politics.) It's the Marlowe play that got me interested in Edward II and got me to writing my own novel, so I owe this playwright a big thanks!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Q &A with Sandra Gulland--and a Giveaway!

As part of her blog tour to celebrate the paperback release of Mistress of the Sun, the story of Louise de la Vallière, I'd like to welcome Sandra Gulland to my corner of the blogsphere! I read Sandra's Josephine Bonaparte trilogy when I was just beginning to write historical fiction. Not only did I learn quite a bit about Josephine from it, I also learned a great deal about the craft of writing. So I'm particularly pleased she's stopping by here.

SH: What drew you to the character of Louise in particular? In general, are there qualities that tend to draw you to a historical character?

SG: What initially drew me to Louise was her extraordinary horsemanship. She could stand a cantering horse. She could out-ride and out-hunt the Sun King, who was himself an amazing athlete. I wondered how this came about. Certainly, it wasn't typical of women in the 17th century (much less today). Clearly, she had spent a lot of time with the guys in the stables and out in the fields.

I have to care deeply about my main character, so the most important quality, for me, has to do with having a sympathetic nature. The other essential is that there be something unexplained, something that provokes my curiosity. With Josephine, it was the fact that her remarkable future had been foretold. For Louise de la Vallière, it was her horsemanship.

SH: I’ve seen several different covers for Mistress of the Sun. Do you have a favorite? Why?

SG: I'm crazy in love with the cover of the Canadian hardcover edition, the one with the big eyes. I think it captures Petite's innocent, yet almost hypnotic and somewhat mystical allure. Poetically, I think it gets to the heart of what the novel is about. Plus, it's so gorgeous, simply lush. It communicates that the novel is historical, without confining it only to readers of historical fiction. It has a literary appeal, as well as romantic: a great combination, in my mind. I don't think I will ever love a cover as much as I love this one.

SH: Is there a character you’d like to write about, but don’t think you ever will? Why?

SG: I'm tempted by Joan of Arc — but she's so intimidating. Plus, there would have to be a question about her I wanted to solve.

I'm also, curiously, tempted by Saint Vincent de Paul. Now that would be a challenge! I've read biographies about him, but the one story that intrigues me is that he was, apparently, very popular as a confessor to the society ladies because he would forgive every sin. Imagine the story possibilities that might open up!

SH: Other than historical fiction, is there a genre you enjoy reading in particular? As a reader, do you have any “guilty pleasures”?

SG: I like literary fiction, especially literary historical fiction. In the historical vein, I've found it difficult, lately, to read works set close to the period I'm working in. Some recent works I've read and admired (Blonde, by Oates, for example) were set in the last century.

I did read a "guilty pleasure" book recently: Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer. (Hasn't everyone read this book?) I thought it well done, but I was quite happy to return to my non-vampire world.


Thanks for the interview, Sandra! Now, here's your chance to win a paperback copy of Mistress of the Sun. Just leave a comment here by midnight May 25 (US EST) telling me which of Sandra's covers below is your favorite. (The winner will get the book with the second cover--the US paperback.)

Me? My favorite's the first one. I'd love to wear a dress like that, and my cats would love to shed on it.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

That's One Way of Looking at It

While double-checking the facts for my Buckingham novel (it will be getting another title), I came across this little gem of a letter in the Calendar of State Papers, Milan (online here). The "enclosed copy" refers to an account of the Battle of St. Albans:

22. The Bishop of Novara, Milanese Ambassador at Rome, to Francesco Sforza, Duke of Milan.
From England we have the news which you will see by the enclosed copy. Although it is not good for those who are dead, yet it cannot fail to favour our proceedings, because it will make the French a little more cautious, as during these differences between the English, they had become great and daily became greater.
Rome, the 4th July, 1455.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

A Woodville Meets a Boleyn

One of the fascinating things about doing historical research is seeing how people's paths cross. The William Boleyn who was appointed to a commission with Anthony Woodville in November 1482 was the grandfather of none other than Anne Boleyn:

Nov. 12. Commission to the king's kinsman Anthony, earl Ryvers, Henry Heydon, Westminster. William Boleyn, Richard Suthwell, John Fyncham, Henry Spylman and James Hoberd, certain dissentions having arisen between William Lumnour on the one part and Thomas Brygge of Manyngton, co. Norfolk, 'gentilman,' and Margaret his wife on the other, to summon the parties and other persons and examine them and put their examinations in writing and to enquire by inquest into certain felonies, murders, trespasses and offences committed by the said Thomas and Margaret Brygge late the wife of William Lumnour and to certify thereon to the king and council in the quinzaine of Midsummer next.

[Patent Rolls, 1476-1485]

It's probably safe to say that if this commission actually had a chance to meet, its members would have never predicted that Anthony would be dead in less than eight months and that William's as-yet-unborn granddaughter would end up as queen of England!

Friday, May 15, 2009

A New Richard III Novel: This Time

One of my friends from the Richard III Society, Joan Szechtman, has written a novel about Richard III, which is due out shortly from Basset Books. It's called This Time, and it has a twist: instead of dying on Bosworth Field, Richard is brought by a team of Americans into present-day Portland, Oregon.

Normally, I don't go for time-travel, but this was an enjoyable read, not the least for Richard's various fish-out-of-water experiences as he copes with modern-day technology and modern-day mores, especially when he meets Sarah, a Jewish divorcee. Joan writes in an engaging style, with excellent dialogue, and her solution to the mystery of the Princes in the Tower, though very different from my own, is quite plausible. Richard is sympathetic without being too good to be true, and the modern-day characters are vivid and likable.

This Time, scheduled for release on June 1, is the first book in a three-book series. Ordering information (along with photographs and an assortment of Richard-related links), is on Joan's website.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Dorset the Evil Guardian?

While doing some research for a blog post last night, I looked up the entry for Thomas Grey, first Marquess of Dorset, in W. E. Hampton's Memorials of the Wars of the Roses. This book, put out by the Richard III Society in 1979, contains descriptions of memorials and tombs connected to various Wars of the Roses personages, with a potted biography of each one. Though most of the biographies are fairly straightforward, Hampton's account of Dorset, Elizabeth Woodville's eldest son by her first marriage, is a rather different affair.

After a more or less factual recounting of Dorset's life, Hampton suddenly changes tack and launches into an account of Dorset's supposed sexual exploits with his female wards, the daughters of John Neville, Marquess Montagu. He writes that Dorset appears to have fathered a bastard daughter on Elizabeth Neville, Lady Scrope of Masham, though Hampton rather damages his case by noting that the father could have been Dorset's son instead. (Dorset senior, Dorset junior, what's the difference?) Hampton then moves to the case of Anne Neville, married to Sir William Stonor. "The marriage took place at the end of 1481, and almost immediately afterwards she rode to join the Marquis in Taunton Castle. She wrote from there to Stonor in February, 1482, having, as she says, been with the Marquess longer than anticipated. In August she presented Stonor with a son . . ."

By this, Hampton apparently is implying that while Anne was staying with Dorset, he took the opportunity to father a child upon her, which was passed off as Stonor's. Aside from the fact that there's no apparent reason that Anne couldn't have been pregnant with Stonor's child before she went to visit her guardian, the actual letter by Anne hardly implies such debauchery. Here it is, from the Stonor Letters and Papers (thanks to the Internet Archive):


27 FEBRUARY [1482]

Syr, I recomaund me unto you in my most h[ert]y wise, right joyfull to here of yowre helthe: liketh you to knowe, at the writyng of this bill I was in good helthe, thynkyng long sith I saw you, and if I had knowen that I shold hav ben this long tyme from you I wold have be moche lother then I was to have comyn into this ferre Countrey. But I trust it shall not be long or I shall see you here, and else I wold be sorye on good feith. Syr, I am moche byholdyng to my lady, for she maketh right
moche of me, and to all the company, officers and other. I have early trust uppon your comyng unto the tyme of thassise, and else I wold have send Herry Tye to you long or this tyme. I have deiyvered a bill to Herry Tye of suche gownes as I wold have for this Ester. And I beseche oure blessed lord preserve you. From the Castell of Taunton the xxvij day of Februarer.

Your new wyf Anne Stonor.

Nowhere does this quite sweet letter mention Dorset, though the reference to "my lady" probably refers to Dorset's wife, Cicely Bonville. Would Cicely be making "right moche" of a young lady who was carrying on an affair with her husband? Would a young lady who was being sexually exploited natter on happily about her Easter gowns?

But it gets worse. Next, we're told that "His [Dorset's] treatment of Clarence's son, young Warwick (before 1483) may have caused the boy to be mentally retarded."

There are two rather big problems with this statement. First, as Hazel Pierce, the biographer of Margaret, Countess of Salisbury, points out, the evidence that the Earl of Warwick (Margaret's younger brother, Edward, who was executed by Henry VII on probably trumped-up charges) was mentally retarded rests on a single statement by Edward Hall that Warwick had been imprisoned for so long "'out of al company of men, and sight of beates, in so much that he coulde not descerne a Goose from a Capon.'" (An online version of Hall renders this passage as, "And Earl Edward, who had been imprisoned since childhood, so far removed from the sight of man and beast that he could not easily tell a chicken from a goose, although he had deserved no punishment by his own wrongdoing and had been brought to this by another man’s fault.") Read reasonably, this statement does not imply that Warwick was mentally deficient, simply that long imprisonment had left him ignorant and naive. Pierce also notes that in a later petition to Henry VIII excusing her brother's alleged treasonous behavior, Margaret described her brother only as unworldly and inexperienced, though it would have been to her advantage to describe him as mentally deficient had he been so. Henry VII himself never described Warwick as being mentally retarded ("idiot" is presumably the word that would have been used at the time), and neither did Richard III, though doing so would have been to both men's advantage given the potential threat to the crown the boy presented to them.

Assuming for the sake of argument, however, that Warwick was indeed mentally retarded, how on earth can Hampton assume that Dorset was responsible? If Warwick was retarded from birth (in February 1475), Dorset can hardly be blamed; if Warwick was normal at birth and was later damaged by childhood neglect or abuse, Dorset is only one of several possible culprits who had charge of Warwick before Henry VII took him over in 1485. Dorset did not obtain the wardship of Warwick until September 1480, over two years after Warwick's father, the Duke of Clarence, was executed; in the interim, Warwick was a ward of Edward IV. After Richard III took the throne, Warwick was put in the care of Queen Anne, though he spent most of Richard III's reign at far-off Sheriff Hutton. There is not a shred of evidence, however, that any of these people or their servants neglected or mistreated the boy before his long imprisonment at the hands of Henry VII began--and that includes Dorset. Indeed, Dorset in particular had an excellent incentive to treat Warwick well: he had many daughters, and might well have planned to marry one of them to Warwick.

Having thoroughly slandered Dorset, Hampton fortunately passes over Elizabeth Woodville's tomb in silence, but a trip to Salisbury Cathedral gives rise to the comment that Bishop Lionel Woodville, by a concubine "had a son, Stephen Gardiner, who became Bishop of Winchester." Evidently, Lionel Woodville had access to one of the earliest sperm banks in history: Lionel died in 1484, whereas modern historians put Stephen Gardiner's date of birth as being in the late 1490's.

Friday, May 08, 2009

I'm Not Cheap

While checking my Amazon ranking (it's a compulsion, and will someday be duly recognized as such in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), I noticed that a merchant was attempting to sell the Lulu version of Hugh and Bess for a whopping $364. The name of the seller: cheapbargainbook. (Two other sellers are trying for a more modest $90 or so.)

Somehow I doubt anyone will be paying this (especially since the Sourcebooks edition, which has been revised slightly, is coming out on August 1), but if you do, you deserve a little something extra, maybe a DNA sample or something. (I'd offer to be an egg donor, but I'm way too old.) Just shoot me an e-mail with proof of purchase and I'll arrange it.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

A Letter From Henry, Duke of Buckingham

Much to the frustration of the historical novelist who chooses Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, as a main character, few of his records survive. Many records were destroyed in 1483, where the Vaughan family raided Brecon Castle after Henry left it for his ill-fated rebellion against Richard III, and more were destroyed by Welsh rebels after Henry VII came to the throne in 1485.

Here, however, is a transcription of one letter by Henry that's held at the Staffordshire Record Office. No smoking guns here, folks (no "My well beloved Richard. I have taken care of the business in the Tower that you asked me to. Repairs will be needed to the staircase now. Now do I get my Bohun lands?") Rather, this is simply a letter to an unknown recipient who apparently had claimed an interest in some of Henry's lands:


Welbeloved in oure hartie maner we grete you wele And
wheras you make clayme to our Manors of Penshurst and
Yensfeld with other landes comprised in your bill which we
with our counsaile at your instance have herd and examined
We do you to wite that seing our father whom god assayle
long before the bargein made betwene us and Syr Will[ia]m
Sutton had the said Manors by letters patentes of King
Henry conteyning clause of warrantye We ar not advised
to make you enny further aunswere untill the king and
his counsaile be made prevye to the title that in case it be
found for you we maye have satisfacc[i]on in value of his
graces lands otherwhere And in the mean tyme we requyre
you to quiet your self ffrom London the xxti daie of Julye


Penshurst and Yensfield had been granted to Henry's grandfather, Humphrey Stafford, first Duke of Buckingham, by Henry VI in 1447, after the death of their previous owner, Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, so it's not clear to me on what grounds the recipient made his claim. Evidently, Henry himself was not impressed. In 1519, however, Henry's son Edward Stafford, the third Duke of Buckingham, wrote a letter to Sir Edward Chamberlain in which he acknowledged Chamberlain's claim to Penshurst and other manors in Kent and stated that his council had agreed to offer Chamberlain some recompense. Perhaps the Chamberlain claim is related to the one made against Henry years before.

One interesting point about Henry's letter is its signature, shown in the first picture below. Compare it to the second signature, taken from the famous fragment that contains the signatures and mottoes of Edward V, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, and Henry. In the "three signatures" document, Harry seems to have added his first name "Harre" almost as an afterthought.

Friday, May 01, 2009

April Showers Bring . . . Search Terms!

Searches people used in April to find my website (for those who have asked, my server keeps track of them):

the life during the reign of edward the first

Ah, those were the days, my friend.

kind edward ii

Alianore will love that one.

hugh despenser the still young

What were his beauty secrets?

why do isabella and edward break up?

They have relationship issues, and he's just not that into her anyway.

fun image of joan of acre england

That Joan was a party gal, all right!

when did elizabeth the 1 have a brother

Not nearly soon enough, in her father's opinion.

what does the duchess father gain from the marriage to the duke

Almost always, a son-in-law.

did richard iii have a motive

You mean people think he did something wrong? That sweet-looking chap?

who is susan higginbotham

It took a lot of bad adolescent poetry before I figured that one out.

hugh despenser bridge

Undoubtedly he charged a hefty toll to get across.