Friday, July 29, 2011

Moving House

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

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

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

Hope to see you over at the new address!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Blogging Hiatus: A Bulletin From the Duchesses

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

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

(Nay, say the duchesses.)

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

Monday, June 20, 2011

Historical Novel Society--San Diego 2011

I'm back from the Historical Novel Society's fourth North American conference, held in San Diego this weekend. As promised, here's my recap, with the caveat that there was a choice of panel discussions offered and I can only report on the ones which I attended. (Sadly, I didn't take notes, as I was too busy enjoying the discussions, so I'm writing here from memory--if there's anything I got wrong, let me know.)

Friday night kicked off with a dinner banquet, with Harry Turtledove as the keynote speaker. Turtledove is primarily an author of alternative history, which isn't a genre I prefer, but I found him to be an engaging and lively speaker. I definitely plan on looking into his "straight" historical novels someday.

Since I've been pondering trying to write a young adult novel at some point, the first panel I attended Saturday morning was "Adult Versus Young Adult Fiction," moderated by Gina Iorio, a librarian, with Susan Coventry, C. C. Humphreys, Pamela Bauer Mueller, and Dori Jones Yang as the panelists. The impression I took away from the panel is that the only hard-and-fast rule about young adult fiction is that the protagonist has to be in his or her teens; otherwise, the fast-growing genre offers a lot of room for play and has a growing appeal for adult readers as well.

Next was "Making Characters Believable," moderated by Jess Wells and featuring Gillian Bagwell, Christy English, Tony Hays, and Kathryn Johnson. I found it interesting to see how a variety of authors accomplished this challenging task.

One of the hot-button topics in the historical fiction community has been the perception that in order to attract readers (and publishers), historical novels require "marquee names"--the Anne Boleyns and Eleanor of Aquitaines of the world, as opposed to lesser-known historical characters and ordinary folk. Mary Sharratt moderated the panel, which included Susanne Dunlap, C. W. Gortner, Vanitha Sankaran, and Margaret George, some who have chosen the famous for their protagonists, some of whom have not. This panel attracted a lot of audience questions. The consensus appeared to be that while there is a preference for marquee names, the well-written novel about lesser folk can find a home, provided that it tells a compelling story.

The lunch speaker was agent Jennifer Weltz, who stayed around to moderate an editor's panel on "Selling Historical Fiction" with Deni Dietz (Five Star), Shana Drehs (my own editor from Sourcebooks), Heather Lazare (Crown), and Charles Spicer from St. Martin's. I didn't stick around for the entire panel, as I had to primp for my own panel discussion, but there was a very interesting discussion on the e-book phenomenon.

Next up was "Whose Side Are You On? Turning the Antagonists of History into Sympathetic Protagonists," moderated by Elizabeth Kerri Mahon and featuring Emma Campion (writing about Alice Perrers), C. W. Gortner (writing about Catherine de Medici), Anne Easter Smith (writing about Richard III), and your friendly blogger (writing about Margaret of Anjou). We talked about how we went about portraying in a sympathetic light those who have been traditionally cast as history's villains.

Our keynote speaker at dinner was Cecelia Holland, who gave a very short and very successful speech on the role of the historical novelist, proving that one doesn't need to give a long talk to captivate an audience! The dinner was followed by a fashion show, spanning ancient times through the nineteenth century and emceed very entertainingly by Valerie Sokol. I was one of the participants, so I can't offer pictures, but I suspect a few will be appearing on the web over the next few days.

A hit of the last conference was the "Saturday Night Sex Scene" readings, which were repeated (with new scenes, of course) for this conference. I confess that I missed these, however, since at that time jet lag was beginning to tell on me and my hotel room was looking awfully good. (There were also "Friday Night Fight Scenes" for the pugilistically inclined.)

On Sunday, editor jay Dixon, novelist Sarah Mallory, and librarian Barbara Sedlock offered a program on "Library Research." Sedlock gave us a brief rundown on ways to find repositories of primary source materials on line, complete with a nifty handout, which I'll be utilizing soon. Mallory reminded us that while research is essential for the historical novel, the author needs to avoid the trap of turning the finished product into an "information dump." Dixon gave us cautionary tales of the novelist who doesn't do enough research, and also offered some helpful reminders on British versus American usage and a cheat sheet for addressing the nobility.

The last session I attended was "Writing Biographical Fiction: How Much Fiction, How Much Fact?" moderated by Frederick Ramsay and featuring Margaret George, Cecelia Holland, Joyce Elson Moore, and Susan Vreeland as panelists. I have to say that this was my favorite panel of the conference, and I really regret not being able to recap what was said. The panelists offered a variety of opinions on such topics as to how one should treat pastimes that might offend modern sensibilities, such as bear-baiting, and the moderator asked good questions and drew out each of the authors (none of whom were showboaters). (Another reason I liked this panel was because every person on it was wearing spectacles. Glasses rule!)

One of the best aspects of the conference, however, was what took place before, after, and in-between discussions--getting to mingle with readers, bloggers, and fellow authors. I seldom get a chance to do this in person, so it was a real boon for me. I would mention some of the people I met, but I have a terrible head for names and faces, and I'm afraid I'd leave someone out. If I met you, it was a delight!*

I also enjoyed San Diego itself, though I didn't get to venture out much except for during a few hours on Friday afternoon. My hotel room had a fine view of the Santa Fe train depot, and there are few things I find more soothing than the sound of train whistles blowing in the night.

Looking forward to the HNS North American Conference for 2013!

*Unless you're the man who, when I mentioned at breakfast that I had thought I had seen you on a certain website, you responded, "Oh, I've been on lots of sites!" and shoved a multi-page handout about your prize-winning books in my face and told me to read it, without bothering to ask me anything about my own self or whether I was interested in seeing said handout. When you scooted off seconds later to speak to someone who was evidently of more use to you, there's a reason I let someone else have your seat next to me. You lost a potential reader that morning, dude, and you're not getting her back until you use the manners your mother taught you.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Go West, Medieval Woman, Go West

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

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

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

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

See you on Monday!

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

The Other Jane Seymour: A Follow-Up Letter

In my last post, I mentioned that after the execution of their father, Jane Seymour and three of her sisters came to live with their aunt Elizabeth, Lady Cromwell. As the following letter to William Cecil indicates, Lady Cromwell wasn't entirely happy about having four young girls (the oldest of the four, Margaret, was twelve) thrust into her care:

After the due manner of my most hearty commendations unto you, good Master Cecil, I dare not think any unkindness that my lady, your bed-fellow, and you did not, according to your promise, see the poor house of Launde. I ensure you it would have been greatly to my comfort, and I most heartily pray you, when you come into these our parts again, to take my poor house as your own, where you shall be so heartily welcome as my heart can think to the nearest friend I have in the world.

Your great gentleness, many ways shewed towards me, emboldeneth me to trouble you with these my letters, whereby it may please you to understand that, where it pleased the king's majesty and his most honourable council to will me to take into my tuition my four nieces, I thought it my duty, and the rather being moved by your friendly advice declared unto me by your gentle letters, to satisfy the council's honourable requests and not to refuse them; although, if I should have declared unto my said honourable lords at that time what charge and other cares I, being now a lone woman, am troubled with, I doubt not but it would have pleased them, of their honours, to have accepted in good part my reasonable cause to have refused them. Wherefore, considering with myself the weighty burden and care which nature bindeth me to be mindful of, as well for the bestowing of my own children, as also for such poor family as my late lord and husband hath left me unprovided for, enforceth me to require your help and advice, that hereafter, about Christmas next, or shortly after then, by your good means, my said honourable lords of the council may understand that, when my said nieces have accomplished a full year with me, then my trust is that they shall be otherwhere provided for and bestowed than with me: trusting that there be places enough where they may be, better than with me; and, as I do perceive by them many ways, much more to their own contentations and pleasings. And even as I was bold to write unto the king's highness' most honourable council, that I, being a lone woman, not nigh any of my kinsfolk, whereby I the rather am destitute of friendly advice and counsel, how to use myself in the rule of such company as now I am careful of, so now I am likewise bold to declare the same unto you, being not at any time either instructed by you or any other of my said honourable lords, how to use my said nieces; considering that I have, in some cases, thought good that my said nieces should not all wholly be their own guides, but rather willing them to follow mine advice, which they have not taken in such good part as my good meaning was, nor according to my expectation in them.

Trusting, therefore, so much in your worship, that you will so tender my aforesaid desire, as the same may so come to pass that my request herein may be satisfied in convenient time, and without any displeasure towards me for my good meaning. And thus I beseech the living God to send you continual health and much increase of honour. From Launde, the 25th of October, 1552.

Yours always assured to her power,

Elizabeth Cromwell.

To the Right Honourable Sir William Cecil, Knight, one of the king's highness' privy council,
Give these.

Though Lady Cromwell may strike us as rather coldhearted, it can't have been easy, suddenly having four bereaved young girls dropped into her household. Nor could the girls have been the most congenial of houseguests: their father was dead, their mother was a prisoner, and they had been torn away from the luxurious existence they had known as the daughters of the very wealthy Duke of Somerset. Moreover, Lady Cromwell herself was a widow; her husband had died in 1551, leaving her with five children of her own to support. Now instead of five young people in the house, she had nine.

Lady Cromwell's letter must have produced at least some of the desired effect: on November 1, 1552, the council, which had originally granted her 50 pounds per annum for each girl, increased this sum to 100 marks per girl. Whether this made relations between Lady Cromwell and her nieces more amicable is unknown, but in August 1553, Mary I released the Duchess of Somerset from the Tower, after which she presumably reclaimed custody of her children. Lady Cromwell herself ceased to be a "lone woman" in the spring of 1554: she married John Paulet, Marquess of Winchester.


John Strype, ed. Ecclesiastical Memorials, relating chiefly to Religion and the Reformation of it, and the emergencies of the Church of England under King Henry VIII, King Edward VI, and Queen Mary. Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1822.

Mary Anne Everett Wood, ed. Letters of Royal and Illustrious Ladies. London: Henry Colburn, 1846.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

The Other Lady Jane

Tudor England possessed not one but two Lady Janes who were noted for their learning, whose parents aspired to marry them to the king, and who died tragically young. The first Lady Jane needs no introduction; the second probably will: Lady Jane Seymour.

Jane Seymour, niece to Henry VIII's queen by the same name, was born in 1541 to Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford (later Duke of Somerset) and his wife, Anne Stanhope. She was the third of the couple's six daughters.

Like their contemporary Jane Grey, Jane Seymour and her sisters received an excellent humanist education. In a letter that Mary Anne Everett Wood dates to 1548, seven-year-old Jane and her eight-year-old sister Margaret wrote to their cousin Edward VI, who would turn 11 in October 1548:

It cannot be expressed, O! king most serene, with what hope and joy that literary gift which we have received from your highness has overflowed our spirit, and what a sharp spur we find it to be, in order to embrace those things and to cleave with all labour and sedulousness to those studies wherein we know your highness to take so much delight, and to be so deeply learned; wherein we also, whom your serene highness wishes to see best instructed, hope to make some advancement. And these present tokens of your singular good-will, which no power of words can do justice to, show plainly how many thanks are due from us, more than many others to your majesty; should we attempt any act or expression of thanks, your deserts, always proceeding more and more in perpetual vicissitude, would not only seem to press upon us but would certainly oppress us: especially as we have nothing, nay, we ourselves are nothing, which we do not justly owe to your highness. Wherefore, while forced to fly to your clemency, we yet doubt not that a prince of such heavenly kindness, who has loaded us with so many and so great benefits, will also add this one, that he will not think that those things are bestowed upon ungrateful persons, which belong to a grateful spirit. Whereof these letters, which are wont to be substitutes for the absent, will be but a faint proof; while we pray for all happiness to your highness, with a long continuance thereof.

The most devoted servants to your majesty,

Margaret Seymour,
Jane Seymour.

Jane's parents encouraged the girls to correspond with religious reformers, as did the parents of Jane Grey. On June 12, 1549--a few months before her father, who had been named Protector for Edward VI, was imprisoned in the Tower for the first time--the eight-year-old Jane Seymour wrote this letter to Martin Bucer and Paul Faguis, who were living in exile in England and had taken up posts at Cambridge:

I have perused your letter, most reverend fathers, which has not only pleased, but highly delighted me. For I easily perceived therein your singular good-will towards me, a grace and eloquence equal to that of Cicero, together with a most abiding remembrance of me, which, as it is in most persons of very rare occurrence, I cannot sufficiently admire in you. But when I consider in what way I can recompense the sincerity of your friendship, I plainly perceive that this is quite out of my power; and that I can only offer you, as I shall do as long as I live, my warmest acknowledgments. I dare not presume to write to you how very acceptable were the books that you presented to my sister and myself, for fear lest my ineloquent commendation of them may appear impertinent. From your exceeding praise of the addresses of myself and my sister, which we might more truly be said to babble than to recite before you, I perceive your incomparable benevolence and friendship, abounding in such kind exaggeration respecting us. For neither my sister nor myself assume to ourselves a single atom of this commendation, nor have we any right to do so. My mother, thank God, is in good health: she desires her best respects to you both, and also thanks you for your salutations to her grace. Farewell, both of you, and may your life long be preserved! Dated at Sion, June 12, 1549.

Your attached well wisher,


Jane and her sisters were tutored by John Crane, as well as by Nicholas Denisot, a French humanist and poet. It was through the latter's efforts that Jane and her older sisters, Anne and Margaret, became published authors in 1550. Their book, published in Paris, was The Hecatodistichon, a collection of 104 Latin distichs commemorating the recently deceased Marguerite de Navarre. The following year, another edition, Le Tombeau de Marguerite de Valois, was published with translations from the Latin into French, Greek, and Italian. It was not until the twentieth century that the sisters' efforts were translated into English, first by Brenda Hosington and second by Patricia Demers. Demers' translation of the first three distichs appears below:

1. Ann. This holy urn covers the ashes of the queen of Navarre, an urn covering a great body with mean earth.
2. Margaret. Here the queen, the nurturing Margaret, who excels any woman of either a greater name or piety, lies dead.
3. Jane. Nurturing Margaret lies dead, but in body only; neither was she dor- mant in mind earlier, while she lived, nor does she only lie dead now.

The sisters' literary efforts attracted praise from the French poet Pierre de Ronsard, who wrote odes in the girls' honor, and from Nicholas Grimald, who composed five poems in honor of the sisters. The verses addressed to Jane, edited by Steve Spanoudis, can be found here and read in part:

"The worthy feates that now so much set forth your noble name,
So have inure, they still increast, may more encrease your fame."

Grimald also praised young Jane's linguistic abilities, crediting her with knowledge of Latin, French, Italian, and Spanish.

The publication of The Hecatodistichon had coincided with an upswing in the Seymour family fortunes: the girls' father, the Duke of Somerset, had been released from the Tower and restored to the king's council, though not to his position as Protector. In October 1551, however, Jane Seymour's life took a tragic turn. Her father was once again arrested and sent to the Tower; this time, Jane's mother was imprisoned as well. Among the accusations against Somerset was that he was attempting to persuade Edward VI to marry his daughter Jane. Jehan Scheyfve, the Spanish ambassador, reported that Somerset had admitted as much: "This point he seems partly to have confessed, saying that history showed that the Kings of England had usually married in the country, and that he would have done nothing without the Council's consent."

Jane, however, was not destined to be a king's consort but a felon's daughter. On January 22, 1552, the Duke of Somerset, having been convicted of felony, was beheaded on Tower Hill. Because Jane's mother remained a prisoner in the Tower, Jane and three of her sisters, Margaret, Mary, and Catherine, were sent to live with their aunt Elizabeth Cromwell, a widowed sister of Somerset. The king provided four hundred marks per year for the girls' maintenance. (Elizabeth Cromwell was well situated to sympathize with her nieces' plight; her husband, Gregory Cromwell, was the son of Henry VIII's chief minister Thomas Cromwell, whose own career had ended on the scaffold.)

Following Mary I's successful fight for her throne, Jane's mother was released from the Tower. Jane's own fortunes improved: she went to court as one of the queen's maids. There she became friendly with another teenage maid of honor: Katherine Grey, the younger sister of the executed Jane Grey. There was an obvious basis for friendship: not only were the young women close in age and well educated, they had both suffered through the executions of their fathers and the blighting of their own prospects.

One day at court, Jane Seymour fell ill and was sent to her mother at Hanworth to recover. Katherine Grey accompanied her. There, Katherine caught the eye of Jane's brother Edward, Earl of Hertford (a title he had lost after his father's execution but would regain in Elizabeth's reign).

Jane then assumed the role that she is most famous for: that of go-between in the ill-fated romance of Hertford and Katherine. The couple carried their courtship from Mary's court into Elizabeth's. Although Katherine's mother, Frances, Duchess of Suffolk, approved of the couple's relationship and drafted a letter to Elizabeth pleading for her to allow them to marry, Frances died before the letter could be sent. As Hertford's own mother was opposed to the match, Hertford and Katherine were left with Jane Seymour and her servant Glynne, who carried tokens and messages for the lovers, as their sole allies. Finally, in Jane's presence, the couple agreed to marry the next time Elizabeth should go on an outing and leave the young women behind.

The three young people were taking an enormous risk. Katherine stood so close to the throne that her marriage was a matter of state. Youthful passion could explain Katherine and Hertford's actions, but what motivated Jane--affection for her brother and her friend, a romantic nature, a love of intrigue, or something else--is unknown. Perhaps after a childhood spent as a model pupil, followed by the downfall and death of her father, she had become reckless.

In November or December 1560, the couple finally had their chance to marry when Elizabeth went on a hunting trip, leaving her maids behind. Jane and Katherine slipped off the next morning to Hertford's house at Cannon Row, after which Jane hastened to find a priest to perform the marriage. Jane was the only witness to the marriage. Afterward, she gave ten pounds to the priest--the name of whom neither Hertford or Katherine knew--and dutifully offered the newlyweds "comfects and other banqueting meats." The couple, however, preferred to consummate their marriage immediately, after which Katherine and Jane returned to court.

Over the next few months, Hertford and Katherine continued to meet secretly, sometimes with the help of Jane, who went with Katherine several times to Cannon Row. The inevitable soon occurred: Katherine became pregnant.

Jane could be of no help to her, for on March 19, 1561, at age nineteen, she died at court. It has been suggested that she had been ailing for some time, but her death at court, instead of at her mother's home, suggests to me that her illness was a sudden one. Unaware of the intrigue in which her maid had been involved, Elizabeth gave Jane a grand funeral:

The sam day of Marche [March 25, 1461] at after-none at Westmynster [was brought] from the quen('s) armere my lade Jane Semer, with [all the quire] of the abbay, with ijC. of (the) quen('s) cowrt, the wyche she was [one] of the quen('s) mayd(s) and in grett faver, and a iiiixx morners of [men and] women, of lordes and lades, and gentylmen and gentyllwomen, all in blake, be-syd odur of the quen('s) preve chambur, and she [had] a grett baner of armes bornne, and master Clarenshux was the harold, and master Skameler the nuw byshope of Peterborow dyd pryche. [She was] bered in the sam chapell wher my lade of Suffoke [Frances, Katherine Grey's mother] was.

Later, Hertford erected a memorial table to his loyal sister Jane at Westminster Abbey:

The Noble Lady Jane Seymour, Daughter to the renowned Prince Edward, Duke of Somerset, Earl of Hertford, Viscount Beauchamp, Baron Seymour, and to the Right Noble Lady Anne Dutchess of Somerset, his Wife, departed this Life in her Virginity at the age of nineteen Years, the nineteenth of March, Anno 1560 [1561], in the second Year of the most happy reign of Queen Elizabeth, and was honourably buried in the floor of this Chappel: to whose Memory, Edward Earl of Hertford and Baron Beauchamp, her dear Brother, hath caused this Monument to be made.

Katherine at last revealed her secret marriage several months after Jane's death. Both Katherine and Hertford were imprisoned in the Tower, where Katherine gave birth to the couple's first son; afterward, the lieutenant allowed the couple to visit privately, resulting in the conception of a second son. Katherine died in 1568, having spent her last years in the custody of various individuals. Hertford was luckier: having likewise been entrusted to the keeping of various people, he was finally released in 1571 and eventually remarried.

Tragic as her death at age nineteen was, Jane Seymour at least was spared the disillusionment of seeing the marriage she had done so much to promote turn out so sadly. She also avoided the consequences of Elizabeth's wrath, which surely would have fallen on her as go-between as well. Instead, she received one last poetic tribute, this one by Walter Haddon, a lawyer who also composed Latin verses. Translated by George Ballard, it reads:

On the Death of Lady Jane Somerset.

For genius fam'd, for beauty lov'd:
Jane bade the world admire:

Her voice harmonious Notes improv'd,
Her hand the tunefull Lyre.

Venus and Pallas claim'd this Maid,
Each as her right alone,

But Death superiour pow'r display'd
And seiz'd her as his own.

Her Virgin dust this mournfull Tomb,
In kindred Earth contains,

Her Soul which Fate can ne'er consume
In endless Glory reigns.


George Ballard, Memoirs of Several Ladies of Great Britain Who Have Been Celebrated for Their Writings or Skill in the Learned Languages, Arts, and Sciences. Oxford: W. Jackson, 1752 (on Google Books).

Patricia Demers, "The Seymour Sisters: Elegizing Female Attachment." The Sixteenth Century Journal, Summer 1999.

Susan Doran, ‘Seymour, Edward, first earl of Hertford (1539?–1621)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2010 [, accessed 4 June 2011]

Susan Doran, ‘Seymour [Grey], Katherine, countess of Hertford (1540?–1568)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008 [, accessed 4 June 2011]

Harleian MS 6286

John Gough Nichols, ed., The Diary of Henry Machyn, Citizen and Merchant-Taylor of London, from A.D. 1550 to A.D. 1563. London: The Camden Society, 1848.

Hastings Robinson, Original Letters Relative to the English Reformation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1846 and 1847.

Jane Stevenson, ‘Seymour, Lady Jane (1541–1561)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [, accessed 4 June 2011]

Mary Anne Everett Wood, ed. Letters of Royal and Illustrious Ladies. London: Henry Colburn, 1846.

Monday, May 30, 2011

The Letters of Frances Grey, Marchioness of Dorset

Three letters by Frances Grey, Marchioness of Dorset and later Duchess of Suffolk, have been preserved in printed sources. Mary Anne Everett Wood, the nineteenth-century editor of Letters of Royal and Illustrious Ladies of Great Britain, knew of no others in existence. The letters appear in three separate sources: Samuel Haynes' A Collection of State Papers Relating to Affairs in the Reigns of King Henry VIII, King Edward VI, Queen Mary, and Queen Elizabeth (volume 1); Patrick Fraser Tytler's England Under the Reigns of Edward VI and Mary (volume 1); and in Wood, volume 3.

The first two letters are addressed to the recently widowed Thomas Seymour, in whose household Jane Grey had been residing before the death of Seymour's royal wife, Katherine Parr. Stunned by the death of his wife from what was probably childbed fever, Seymour had decided to send his ward, Jane, back to her parents, but had since regrouped and now wished Jane to continue in his household, where his mother would be living. After Thomas wrote to Jane's parents and went in person to persuade them, Jane did return to Thomas Seymour's household, but not for long, for Thomas was arrested for treason in January 1549 and executed on March 20, 1549. (The "lady of Suffolk" Frances refers to in the first letter was her stepmother, Katherine, Duchess of Suffolk.)

The recipient of the third letter, purely personal in nature, was Francis Talbot, the fifth Earl of Shrewsbury, born in 1500. Shrewsbury supported Lady Jane's accession to the throne three years after the date of the letter here, but probably reluctantly; he quickly declared his allegiance to Queen Mary. Talbot was the son of George Talbot, fourth Earl of Shrewsbury, and Anne Hastings. Through his mother, Francis was the grandson of William Hastings, murdered by the future Richard III on June 13, 1483.


Frances to Thomas Seymour, Lord Admiral of England, September 19, 1548:

Although, good Brother, I might be well encoragid to ministre such Counsaile unto you as I have in store, for that yt hath pleased you; not onlye so to take in worthe that I wrytt in my Ladie of Suffolk's Lettre, but also to require me to have in redines suche good Advises, as I shall thinke convenient against our next metyng; yet considering howe unhable I am to doe that hereto belongithe, I had rather leave with that Praise I have gotten at your Hand, then by seking more, to lose that I have alredie wune. And wheras of a Frindlye and Brotherlie good Wyll you wishe to have Jane my Doughter continuyng still in your House, I give you most hartie Thankes for your gentle Offer, trustyng nevertheles that, for the good Opinion you have in your Sister, you will be content to charge Hir with hir, who promyseth you, not onlye to be redye at all Tymes to accompt for the ordering of your deere Neese, but also to use your Counsaile and Advise in the bestowing of hir; whensoever it shall happen. Wherfor, my good Brother; my request shalbe, that I may have the Oversight of hir with your good Will; and therby I shall have good Occasion to thinke, that you do trust me in such wise; as is convenient that a Syster to be trusted of so loving a Brother. And thus my most hartye Comendations not omytted, I wyshe the holle Delyverans of your Gryefe and Contynuance of your Lordshipes Helthe. From Broadgate 19th of this September.

Tour lowyng Sister and assured Frende,

Francys Dorsset

To the right Honorable and my very good Lorde my Lard Admirall.


Frances to Thomas Seymour, October 2, 1548

Mine own good brother,

I have received your most gentle and loving letter, wherein I do perceive your approved goodwill which you bear unto my daughter Jane, for the which I think myself most bounden to you, for that you are so desirous for to have her continue with you. I trust at our next meeting, which, according to your own appointment, shall be shortly, we shall so communicate together as you shall be satisfied, and I contented; and forasmuch as this messenger does make haste away, that I have but little leisure to write, I shall desire you to take these few lines in good part: and thus wishing your health and quietness as my own, and a short despatch of your business, that I might the sooner see you here, I take my leave of you, my good brother, for this time. From my Lord's house in Broadgate, the second of October.

Your assured friend and loving sister,

Frances Dorset.


Frances to Francis Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, June 15, 1550.

After my most hearty commendations to you, my very good lord, forasmuch as at this present I have divers of my friends in Shropshire, whom I have cause to gratify with venison this summer, and, debating where I might be best provided for them, have thought good most heartily to desire you to bestow one stag upon me for this purpose, to be taken within your park of Blackmeyr, and to be delivered unto this bringer at such time as he shall farther attend you for the same. Your lordship's favour wherein to be shewed, the rather at this my request, shall not fail the semblable requital thereof, at any time hereafter when occasion shall require. And thus I bid you right heartily farewell.

From Loughborough, the 15th day of June,

Your lordship's assured friend,

Frances Dorset.

To my very good lord, my lord the Earl of Shrewsbury.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Lady Jane Grey, the Abused Child?

In August 1550, Frances Grey, Marchioness of Dorset, made one of the worst mistakes of her life. She went hunting, leaving her daughter Jane at home to receive a visitor. The conversation that took place in her absence would damn her reputation for centuries.

The visitor was Roger Ascham, and the account he wrote of this encounter in his book The Schoolmaster, twenty years after it occurred, has become famous—and notorious:

Before I went into Germany, I came to Broadgate in Leicestershire, to take my leave of that noble lady Lady Jane Grey, to whom I was exceeding much beholding. Her parents, the duke and duchess, with all the household, gentlemen and gentlewomen, were hunting in the park. I found her in her chamber, reading Phaedo Platonis in Greek, and that with as much delight as some gentlemen would read a merry tale in Boccace. After salutation, and duty done, with some other talk, I asked her, why she would leese such pastime in the park? Smiling, she answered me; "I wist, all their sport in the park is but a shadow to that pleasure that I find in Plato. Alas! good folk, they never felt what true pleasure meant." "And how came you, madam," quoth I, "to this deep knowledge of pleasure and what did chiefly allure you unto it, seeing not many women, but very few men, have attained thereunto?" "I will tell you," quoth she, "and tell you a truth, which perchance ye will marvel at. One of the greatest benefits that ever God gave me, is, that he sent me so sharp and severe parents, and so gentle a schoolmaster. For when I am in presence either of father or mother; whether I speak, keep silence, sit, stand, or go, eat, drink, be merry, or sad, be sewing, playing, dancing, or doing any thing else; I must do it, as it were, in such weight, measure, and number, even so perfectly, as God made the world; or else I am so sharply taunted, so cruelly threatened, yea presently sometimes with pinches, nips, and bobs, and other ways (which I will not name for the honour I bear them) so without measure misordered, that I think myself in hell, till time come that I must go to Mr Elmer; who teacheth me so gently, so pleasantly, with such fair allurements to learning, that I think all the time nothing whiles I am with him. And when I am called from him, I fall on weeping, because whatsoever I do else but learning, is full of grief, trouble, fear, and whole misliking unto me. And thus my book hath been so much my pleasure, and bringeth daily to me more pleasure and more, that in respect of it, all other pleasures, in very deed, be but trifles and troubles unto me."

I remember this talk gladly, both because it is so worthy of memory, and because also it was the last talk that ever I had, and the last time that ever I saw that noble and worthy lady.

Ascham’s recollection, however, was not the first time he referred to his Bradgate visit. In a letter to John Sturm on December 14, 1550, in which he discussed various learned English ladies, he wrote, “This last summer . . . I turned out of my road to Leicester, where Jane Grey was living with her father. I was immediately admitted into her chamber, and found the noble damsel—Oh, ye gods!—reading Plato’s Phaedro in Greek, and so thoroughly understanding it that she caused me the greatest astonishment.” If anything disturbed Ascham about his encounter with Jane the previous summer, he did not see fit to mention it to Sturm at the time.

On January 18, 1551, Ascham wrote to Jane personally:

In this long travel of mine, I have passed over wide tracts of country, and seen the largest cities, I have studied the customs, institutes, laws, and religion of many men and diverse nations, with as much diligence as I was able: but in all this variety of subjects, nothing has caused in me so much wonder as my having fallen upon you last summer, a maiden of noble birth, and that too in the absence of your tutor, in the hall of your most noble family, and at a time when others, both men and women, give themselves up to hunting and pleasures, you, a divine maiden, reading carefully in Greek the Phaedo of the divine Plato; and happier in being so occupied than because you derive your birth, both on your father's side, and on your mother's, from kings and queens! Go on then, most accomplished maiden, to bring honour on your country, happiness on your parents, glory to yourself, credit to your tutor, congratulation to all your friends, and the greatest admiration to all strangers!

It is Ascham’s much later recollection of his visit with Jane—published long after Jane and her parents were dead—that has colored our view of Jane and her family ever since. Nonfiction and fiction alike have used this incident to create a lurid picture of a pathetic young girl, viciously abused at worst and emotionally deprived at best by her cruel parents.

There are a number of reasons for doubting this portrayal, however. First, Jane Grey was not waiting tables in order to pay for her high-powered education: it was provided by her parents. While Jane’s parents, Henry and Frances Grey (the Marquis and Marchioness of Dorset, known after October 1551 as the Duke and Duchess of Suffolk) may have been motivated in part by a desire to make their daughter as attractive a marriage partner as possible (and responsible parents, of course, did their best to ensure a good marriage for their children), it is also possible that they recognized their daughter’s intellectual gifts and wished to encourage them. And would the unfeeling, authoritarian parents of legend have allowed Jane to skip the hunting trip and enjoy her book in solitude in the first place?

Moreover, in allowing Jane to receive visits from men like Roger Ascham in the privacy of her chamber and to correspond with him and other scholars, the duke and duchess were hardly acting like people with something to hide, as one might expect from parents who were mistreating their daughter even by contemporary standards. While Jane’s parents might have seen the correspondence she sent and received, they weren’t present at their daughter’s famous meeting with Ascham, about which Ascham later spoke openly. Indeed, the fact that Jane complained so freely about her parents belies the fact that she was cowed by them.

Correspondence by those who knew Jane also fails to bear out the notion of Jane as a mistreated, abused child. If anything, the picture that emerges is of a father, at least, who took pride in his daughter’s intellectual accomplishments and shared her religious views. In July 1551, Jane wrote to thank the reformer Henry Bullinger in Zurich for “that little volume of pure and unsophisticated religion” which he had sent to her and her father; both were reading it, she added. Earlier, in May 1551, while Jane’s father was in Scotland, John ab Ulmis wrote to Bullinger that he had been visiting Jane and her mother at Bradgate, where he had been “passing these two days very agreeably with Jane, my lord’s daughter, and those excellent and holy persons Aylmer and Haddon [Jane’s tutor and the family chaplain].” Ulmis went on to gush, “For my own part, I do not think there ever lived any one more deserving of respect than this young lady, if you regard her family; more learned, if you consider her age; or more happy, if you consider both.” In a letter written that same day to a Conrad Pellican, a scholar of Hebrew, Ulmis urged Pellican not to be bashful about writing to a nobleman’s daughter. He dated his letter from “the house of the daughter of the marquis.” The previous year, in December 1550, Ulmis noted that Jane was translating a treatise “On marriage” from the Latin to the Greek as a New Year’s gift for her father, whom Holinshed described as “somewhat learned himself, and a great favourer of those that were learned.” Henry Grey himself wrote of Jane in December 1551 to Bullinger, somewhat pompously (but then, so is the rest of the letter), “I acknowledge yourself also to be much indebted to you on my daughter’s account, for having always exhorted her in your godly letters to a true faith in Christ, the study of the scriptures, purity of manners, and innocence of life.”

Even John Aylmer, the tutor that Ascham recalled Jane speaking of so fondly, believed that the adolescent Jane needed a firm hand. As he wrote in a letter to Bullinger in May 1551:
For what favour more useful to herself, or gratifying to the marquis, or acceptable to me, can possibly be afforded her, not only by you, but also by any other person of equal learning and piety, than that she, whom her father loves as a daughter, and whom I look upon with affection as a pupil, may derive such maxims of conduct from your godly breast, as may assist her towards living well and happily? And you are well able to determine, in your wisdom, how useful are the counsels of the aged to guide and direct young persons at her time of life, which is just fourteen. For at that age, as the comic poet tells us, all people are inclined to follow their own ways, and by the attractiveness of the objects, and the corruption of nature, are more easily carried headlong unto pleasure, which Plato calls the bait of mischief, than induced to follow those studies which are attended with the praise of virtue. In proportion therefore as the present age teems with many disorders, must more careful and discreet physicians be sought for; that the diligence, and labour, and exertion of excellent men may either remove or correct such evils as are implanted by the corruption of nature, and the infirmity of youth: for as we feed off the too luxuriant crops, and provide bridles for restive horses, so to these tender minds there should neither be wanting the counsel of the aged, nor the authority of men of grave and influential character. You have acted therefore with much kindness in administering to the improvement of this young lady; and if you will proceed in the same course, you will afford great benefit to herself, and gratification to her father.

In December of that year, Aylmer suggested that some words about clothing and music might be in order:
It now remains for me to request that, with the kindness we have so long experienced, you will instruct my pupil in your next letter as to what embellishment and adornment of person is becoming in young women professing godliness. In treating upon this subject, you may bring forward the example of our king's sister, the princess Elizabeth, who goes clad in every respect as becomes a young maiden; and yet no one is induced by the example of so illustrious a lady, and in so much gospel light, to lay aside, much less look down upon, gold, jewels, and braidings of the hair. They hear preachers declaim against these things, but yet no one amends her life. Moreover, I wish you would prescribe to her the length of time she may properly devote to the study of music. For in this respect also people err beyond measure in this country, while their whole labour is undertaken, and exertions made, for the sake of ostentation. If you will handle these points at some length, there will probably, through your influence, be some accession to the ranks of virtue.

One wonders how Jane took being offered her cousin Elizabeth as an example!

James Haddon, a chaplain at Bradgate, also wrote in December 1551 to Bullinger: “You can indeed confer no greater obligation upon his grace than by continuing (as you have once done already) to impart godly instruction to his daughter. For, although she is so brought up, that there is the greatest hope of her advancement in godliness, yet your exhortations afford her encouragement, and at the same time have their due weight with her, either as proceeding from a stranger, or from so eminent a person as yourself.”

Haddon, it should be noted, felt it necessary to take in hand not only Jane, but her parents, whose card-playing sent him off on a lengthy diatribe to Bullinger in August 1552. After noting that the couple had suffered a relapse over the previous Christmas, he wrote, “I bear with it, just as a man who is holding a wolf by the ears. But I perceive some good arising from this concession, which in fact is no concession at all, but in some measure a remission of duty, or rather of strictness in the performance of it; because I do not find fault in public, although individually and in conversation I always reprove in the same way as heretofore. But because they see that I in some measure yield to them, even against my own opinion, and consider that I deal tenderly with this infirmity of theirs, they are willing to hear and attend to me more readily in other respects.” The duke, at least, showed no hard feelings, for in October 1552, Haddon, about to take up a position to which he had been appointed by the king, wrote, “But it has pleased God to render his grace so much attached to me, and me too in my turn so devoted and attached to his grace, that I cannot entirely separate from him, but must occasionally visit him.”

Of Jane’s parents, it is Frances who has become the chief object of opprobrium by modern writers, although Jane in Ascham’s recollection did not single her out for complaint. As Leanda de Lisle, who along with Eric Ives is almost unique in not accepting modern accounts of Frances at face value, writes in The Sisters Who Would Be Queen, “While Jane is the abused child-woman of these myths, Frances has been turned into an archetype of female wickedness: powerful, domineering, and cruel.”

Frances Grey is a much more shadowy figure than her husband and her daughter, but contemporary sources do not support her portrayal as a vicious woman who terrorized her hapless daughter. Unlike Anne Seymour, Duchess of Somerset, whose difficult personality elicited negative comments from everyone from Katherine Parr on down, none of Frances’s contemporaries seems to have disliked her. Queen Mary treated her kindly, and the ambitious Bess of Hardwick, who chose Frances to be the godmother of her first child, still had “an agate given to me by my Lady Marquess” in 1567. Though she is often portrayed as a dominant figure in making her daughter queen, at least one source, the Marian sympathizer Robert Wingfield, wrote that she was “vigorously opposed” to the match of Jane and Guildford Dudley. There is no evidence that she shared her daughter’s or her husband’s intellectual interests, but there is equally no evidence that she discouraged her daughter’s intellectual development or that she resented her because she was not a boy, although she certainly must have grieved for the loss of her son who died as an infant. (For that matter, despite the prevailing notion that Frances spent most of her time in the saddle, there’s no evidence that she particularly enjoyed hunting, other than her one recorded absence on a hunting excursion on the day that Ascham showed up at Bradgate.)

Jane’s expiatory letter to Queen Mary, written while Jane was a prisoner, is notable for its refusal to blame any of the events of the summer of 1553 on her parents. If anything, Jane comes out of her account as something of a mother’s girl, complaining that her mother-in-law, the Duchess of Northumberland, had reneged on her promise that “I could remain with my mother” and that when the duchess told her that she had been made heir to the Crown, “I cared little for those words and refrained not from going to my mother.”

It is often stated that Frances’s callousness toward her daughter is shown by her failure to plead with Mary for her life and by her remarriage just weeks after the death of Jane and Henry Grey. Frances’s hasty remarriage is a myth; she married her second husband, Adrian Stokes, a year after she had lost her daughter and her husband to the headsman. As for the former charge, it is recorded that Frances successfully pleaded with Mary to free her husband in 1553, but it does not necessarily follow that Frances made no request at the same time to free her daughter. There is no evidence that she visited her daughter in the Tower, but there is likewise no evidence that the Duchess of Northumberland, who is known to have been working desperately to free her sons, visited her imprisoned children either. It may simply be that permission for such a visit was denied.

Before her death, Jane wrote to her father in her prayer book (Eric Ives has suggested in his book Lady Jane Grey that a second letter to Henry Grey, stylistically different from the one in the prayer book, may not be genuine) and to her sister Katherine. No letter to Frances survives, but Michelangelo Florio, Jane’s erstwhile tutor in Italian, stated that Jane wrote to her mother. It is quite possible that the letter has been lost or that Frances destroyed it, perhaps because it was purely of personal, not of religious, value. The absence of a surviving letter, then, does not suggest that Jane and her mother were estranged at the time of Jane's death.

So what of the recollection by Roger Ascham which began this piece? Assuming that Ascham was recalling the conversation correctly twenty years after the fact, it may be that Jane’s parents were strict disciplinarians—as indeed, Tudor parents were expected to be. It may be that that they were perfectionists. It may also be that Jane, as an unusually intelligent girl, resented being treated as just another daughter from whom misbehavior or slacking off would not be tolerated. But to damn Jane’s parents through this single outburst by a teenage girl, recalled years after the fact, is both anachronistic and irresponsible.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Death of Henry VI

On May 21, 1471, Edward IV and his forces, having defeated their Lancastrian opponents, rode triumphantly into London. With them was a very high-profile captive: Margaret of Anjou, queen to Henry VI. Margaret was brought to the Tower, where her husband was already a prisoner. Just weeks before, the couple's son, Edward of Lancaster, had died at age seventeen at the Battle of Tewkesbury.

The night his queen arrived at the Tower, Henry VI died. Though the Historie of the arrivall of Edward IV in England, and the finall recoverye of his kingdomes from Henry VI, the official account of the Yorkist triumph, claimed that the former king had died of "pure displeasure and melancholy," few believed this, then or now. The Milanese ambassador summed up the general feeling about the matter: "King Edward has not chosen to have the custody of King Henry any longer, although he was in some sense innocent, and there was no great fear about his proceedings, the prince his son and the Earl of Warwick being dead as well as all those who were for him and had any vigour, as he has caused King Henry to be secretly assassinated in the Tower, where he was a prisoner. . . . He has, in short, chosen to crush the seed."

Henry VI's remains were exhumed in 1910. According to W. H. St. John Hope, who was present, some hair was still attached to the skull. The hair was "brown in colour, save in one place where it was much darker and apparently matted with blood." As W. J. White has pointed out, however, Hope did not have the qualifications to identify the substance as blood; he was an architectural historian. Dr. A. Macalister, a professor of anatomy who was also present at the exhumation, supplied Hope with a report about the condition of the remains, but made no mention of the hair or the blood. He did, however, state that "the bones of the head were unfortunately much broken," although again as White points out, this does not necessarily indicate a violent cause of death; the bones could have been broken over time, especially since the corpse had previously been exhumed in 1484 and moved from Chertsey Abbey to Windsor.

Even if the evidence from the exhumation does not conclusively prove that Henry VI died a violent death, it still seems likely that he did. Henry had suffered many reversals over the years before his death, and had personally witnessed the Lancastrian defeat at Barnet, having been dragged along to the site with Edward IV's army. While the news of his son's death at Tewkesbury and his wife's being taken captive must have been shattering for Henry VI to hear, it is hard to believe that it was such an unexpected shock that it would have caused his death. And with Edward of Lancaster dead, it would have been foolish for Edward IV to keep the Lancastrian cause alive in the shape of his father.

If Henry was murdered, as seems most likely, the identity of his murderer or murderers is one of the best-kept secrets in English history. Richard, Duke of Gloucester, has been credited with the deed in popular legend, but there is no evidence that he was the murderer or that he carried the deed out alone if he was. He was present at the Tower the night of Henry's death, but so were many others.

The next morning, Henry VI's body was treated with all of the respect due to that of a deceased king. The Issues of the Exchequer record the following expenses:

To Hugh Brice. In money paid to his own hands, for so much money expended by him, as well for wax, linen, spices, and other ordinary expenses incurred for the burial of the said Henry of Windsor, who died within the Tower of London; and for wages and rewards to divers men carrying torches from the Tower aforesaid to the cathedral church of Saint Paul's, London, and from thence accompanying the body to Chertesey. By writ, &c, —15l. 3s. 6 1/2d.

To Master Richard Martyn. In money paid to him at different times; viz., at one time to his own hands 9l. 10s. 11d., for so much money by him expended for 28 yards of linen cloth from Holland, and for expenses incurred, as well within the Tower aforesaid, at the last valediction of the said Henry, as also at Chertesey on the day of his burial; and for a reward given to divers soldiers from Calais guarding his body, and for the hire of barges, with masters and sailors rowing the same on the river Thames to Chertesey aforesaid; also at another time 81. 12s. 3d., for so much money paid by him to four orders of brethren within the city of London; and to the brethren of the Holy Cross therein; also for other works of charity; viz., to the Carmelite brethren 20s., to the Augustine Friars 20s., to the Friars Minors 20s., and to the Friars Preachers, to celebrate obsequies and masses, 40s.; also to the said brethren of the Holy Cross, 10s.; and for obsequies and masses said at Chertesey aforesaid, on the day of the burial of the said Henry,—52s. 3d. By writ, &c,—18l. 3s. 2d.

Henry, as these records indicate, was buried at Chertsey Abbey in Surrey. (A drawing of the abbey can be found here.) There his body rested until 1484, when Richard III had the remains moved to St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle--just feet away from where the king who had supplanted him, Edward IV, had been buried the year before.


Frederick Devon, Issues of the Exchequer. London: John Murray, 1837.

W. H. St. John Hope, "The Discovery of the Remains of King Henry VI in St. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle." Archaeologia, 1911.

W. J. White, "The Death and Burial of Henry VI." Parts I and II. The Ricardian, September 1982 and December 1982.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Guest Post by D. L. Bogdan

I'm delighted to feature a guest post from D. L. Bogdan, author of Secrets of the Tudor Court and Rivals in the Tudor Court, her latest novel. I've eagerly read both novels. The first features Mary Howard, Duchess of Richmond, daughter of Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk, while the second features Thomas Howard, his duchess, and his mistress. Anyway, here's D. L. Bogdan!

In my new book RIVALS IN THE TUDOR COURT, I delve into the lives of Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, his fiery wife Elizabeth Stafford, and mistress, the vulnerable and submissive Bess Holland. In the novel I try to examine why Thomas became the brutal man he was in later years while exploring a set of very unique and intense family dynamics. Married to the Lady Anne Plantagenet, daughter of Edward IV, in his early years, the couple is destined for tragedy as they lose all four of their children, followed by Anne herself. The Duke’s subsequent marriage to Elizabeth is no less tragic, though much of it seems to be of self induced—Elizabeth’s single-minded devotion to Catherine of Aragon, Thomas’ indifferent, and at times supportive, attitude toward Henry VIII’s changeable morals, his intense fear of loss, and the eventual taking of a mistress, all culminated toward the sabotage of any potential happiness the couple could have enjoyed.

One of the most interesting aspects of writing this novel was getting to know Elizabeth Stafford. What little remains of her legacy indicates a strong woman ahead of her time. Her willingness to serve as messenger between the Spanish ambassador and Queen Catherine of Aragon during her fall from favor, for example, reveals a daring and loyal woman with spirit. In addition, the letters to Lord Privy Seal Cromwell outline her struggle with her abusive husband during a time when such issues were not only kept silent, but were accepted as the standard. As with some instances today, it was saddening to see the lack of support from her family. I was never able to ascertain if it was out of fear of Norfolk that her son, the Earl of Surrey, and daughter Mary Howard seemed to side with their father against her. Knowing Norfolk’s grip on power and his penchant for manipulation provides plausible reasons why it would be easier on those to side with him, but it is tragic nonetheless. Even Elizabeth’s own brother refused to help her, stating in one letter that her nature was “willful and sensual”. No matter what conclusions we can draw, we are still left with more questions than answers. One of the joys of being a novelist is trying to answer these questions through dramatic interpretation.

This novel, as with its predecessor SECRETS OF THE TUDOR COURT, was a vehicle for me to explore an issue that is close to my own heart: abuse. The impact of any form of abuse is felt throughout an entire family and I wanted to share the full gamut of emotions that it can evoke; confusion, isolation, terror, anger, regret, love-hate, and blurred boundaries are just a few of them. As a survivor of domestic violence, it was important for me to share my interpretation of the Howards’ story as an illustration of hope for the abused of today, not because the story is a happy one by any means, but because of the simple fact that Elizabeth showed immense courage and strength by reaching out for help and exposing the Duke of Norfolk for what he was, despite the consequences to her reputation and relationships with her family. To have that kind of fortitude in such a dark era serves as an inspiration to me and I hope will encourage others to reach out for the help that is readily available now. We are fortunate enough to live in a time where, unlike Norfolk’s women, our cries can be heard. That more than anything is the message I hope people will take away from RIVALS IN THE TUDOR COURT.

Visit D. L. Bogdan at her website or at her blog.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Hugh and Eleanor at Tewkesbury Abbey

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

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

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

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

While checking something for a future blog post, I looked into David Baldwin's biography of Elizabeth Woodville and found this discussion of Mary Grey, younger sister of Lady Jane Grey: "In 1577, the year before she died, she compiled a memoir of the troubles that had beset her family, which was eventually published as The Tablette Booke of Ladye Mary Keyes. This provides a fascinating insight into her life at Bradgate (and the strict manner in which she, Jane, and [her sister] Katherine were brought up there), and is a unique, personal source of information for Jane's last days in the Tower."

Alas, David Baldwin was caught by that dirty trickster, the Victorian Lady Novelist. Like the purported diary of Elizabeth Woodville, The Tablette Booke of Ladye Mary Keyes is fictional, though, as Leanda de Lisle notes in her book The Sisters Who Would Be Queen, it has fooled other writers besides Baldwin. It was published in 1861 by Flora Francis Wylde, who also produced an "autobiography" of her own grandmother, Flora MacDonald, described by Hugh Douglas in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography as "so full of obvious inaccuracies that it could not have been written by the heroine."

The Tablette Booke is, however, great fun. Here's the splendid scene where the foster-mother of the very good Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset, confronts the very bad John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, in his prison cell and tricks him into converting to Catholicism. (I've added paragraph breaks for the reader's convenience.)

He was sittinge verie melancholie in his Pryson Roome, his Armes folded and Eyes bente downe, havinge sat in that Posishon for manie Houres. Truelie harte-broken was this humbled Man, for on that Afternoone had he taken Leve of alle his Familie, wiche painefulle Partinge over, he seemed like unto One deade to everie Thinge: his Faculties appeared benumbed. Wile in this State, at about eighte o' the Clocke, the Doore was unbarred, wiche flowlie openninge, showed the rinkled Face of the ould Crone. He started from his Settel. "What com you for, Beldam, to disturbe my laste Houres? fain woulde I be alone and endevor to seeke a quiett Minde and Conscience."

"Ha!" quothe she; "what saithe your Grace — a quiett Conscience? What shoulde give it to you? What have youre late Actes beene to merit suche a Bleffinge? aske youre nobel Harte, Monster!"

"Begone, Woman, tormente me no more; jeer not this at my miserabel Fate, but be satisfied, if youre bitter Wrathe and Malice can be appesed." He waved his Hande: "Go, I dye To-morrow at Noone."

"No, dye youre Grace wille not, if my Advice and Counselle be followed."

"What Advice! what woulde you have me to do?" almoste scremed the franticke Man, the Love of Life springinge up in his Veines, overcominge the Hatred and Contempte for the humbel Beinge before him; "telle me quicke, what am I to do? Take alle I have—Howses, Landes, Monie, my Jewels, Plate, alle—alle,— but, oh, spare my Life!" What a wretchedde State for this prowde Nobel to be reduced to! he hid his Face and wepte aloude.

The oulde Woman eyed him withe a witheringe Looke of Scorne for manie Minutes. There was a deade Silence. At lengthe she did steppe quite close to him. "Duke of Northumberlande" saide she sternlie, foldinge her Armes, "let us speke of former Daies. Youre Spyte and Rancor was wreked on my Foster-Son, the Duke of Somersett; by youre eville Speche and more vile Counselle was that nobel Beinge put to Dethe; and it was to avenge his moste foule and cruelle Murder that I tookt a solemn Oathe to destroye you: nowe knowe, that had not youre owne Ambishon led you on, Steppe by Steppe, to worke oute youre owne Ruine, these Handes shoulde have dabbled in youre Bloud, for I woulde have stucke a Dagger in youre Harte. Naye, starte not, my prowde Duke; it shoulde have beene done: but holde, the same Lippes that saide the Vowe can unsaye it, and soe shalle it be, if you do as I shalle telle you."

"Oh, I wille do anie Thinge, everie Thinge," exclamed the wretchedde Man; "what is it?"

"Simplie this," saide the Crone; "youre Life is spared, and youre Pryson Doores open, if you wille forsweare your vile hereticke Noshons, and become a faithfulle Member of the Holie Romijhe Churche: all that is required is, that youre Recantashon be mayde in a publicke Manner."

Northumberlande becam whyte as the Plaster on the Walle; his Face was ghastlie to beholde; and when his Emoshon allowed of Speche, he indignantlie rejected the demon-like Proposal. Even this harde-harted, bad Man was shocked at an Idea wiche moste certainlie did com as a Temptashon from the Eville One. "What!" cried he, "woulde you have me selle my Soule to save my Bodye? No, — leve me, I wille dye a true Protestante."

"Then farewelle, stiffe-necked, obstinate Foole! dye in youre Sinnes." She mayde a Stryde to the Doore.

"Yet stay," gasped the miserabel Man, "is there no other Waie to save me?"

" None; soe you perishe To-morrowe. See," continued his Tempter, taking a Parchemente from under her Cloke —"see you this Seale, my Lorde? It is that of the Councille, withe Quene Mary's Signe Manuel; it wantes youre Name writt under youre Hande, with mine as a Witnesse, to save youre Life, to restore you to Freedom and Happienesse, to Honour, Welthe, and Stashon, and to the Bosom of youre owne nobel Familie. I see you waver; com, here is a Penne, my Lorde Duke: no longer delaye, for Time is preshous."

Withe a Looke of Agonie, and a Grone eskapinge from his overwroughte Harte, he seised the Penne and affixed his Name. Moste truelie had Satan got Holde of a Victim. The Conteste in the Minde of the poore Man was dredefulle; but he yielded to the dire Necessitie of the Momente. The Love of Life was stronger than the Force of Religion in his Soule. The oulde Crone clutched the Paper, and truelie did her Eyes glisten. "Duke of Northumberlande" saide she, "youre Life is nowe safe; yet true it is, that for Forme's Sake, you wille have to appeare on the Skaffolde, and after redinge of this Paper, you wille be free as the Aire you Brethe. By To-morrowe's Lighte wille oure Holie Catholicke Churche have gained a truelie nobel Converte. Gardiner shalle heare youre Expresshon of Repentance, wiche for oure Triumphe muste be mayde in Publicke, and on an ignominious Skaffolde. Heare you that, moste prowde and hawtie Duke?" She lauffed ironikallie when she did leve the Chamber, and Northumberlande shuddered at the sinister Looke she did caste on him . . .

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Wedding Tips from the Royals Themselves

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Execution of Edmund Dudley

On April 24, 1509, just three days after Henry VII died, “yerely in the mornyng the morow after Saint George day by thavis of the king and his councell were taken Sir Richard Empson knyght and Mr Edmund Dudeley esquire and sent as prisoners to the Tour of London.” The young king, Henry VIII, had decided to signal to the people that his reign would be much different from his father’s, and his first step was to arrest his father’s notorious, unpopular officials, Richard Empson and Edmund Dudley.

Life had been good for Edmund Dudley. He was a grandson of John Sutton, Baron Dudley, who when he died as an octogenarian had managed to serve Henry V, Henry VI, Edward IV, and Richard III and to receive an annuity from Henry VII. Born around 1462, Edmund Dudley trained as a lawyer and entered Parliament. His talents attracted the notice of Henry VII, who eventually made him the president of his council. It was his zeal in collecting revenue for the king, however, that made him and Empson hugely unpopular and that would lead to disaster for them.

Edmund Dudley married twice. His first wife, Anne, was the daughter of Thomas Windsor of Stanwell, Middlesex; she bore Edmund a daughter, Elizabeth, who married William Stourton. (Elizabeth and William’s son, Charles, was hanged for murder in 1557, arising out of a personal dispute.) Edmund’s second wife was Elizabeth Grey, sister of John Grey, Viscount Lisle. By her he had three sons, John, Andrew, and Jerome.

Like other servants of the crown, Edmund had taken full advantage of the opportunities for profit such service offered, and he had grown wealthy in the king’s employ. His house in Candlewick Street in London sat at the corner of Cannon Street and Walbrook. An inventory taken of Edmund’s goods in August 1509, after his conviction for treason, listed the contents of a Hall, a Great Parlor, a Little Parlor, a Counting-House, a Square Chamber, a Little Chamber within the Square Chamber, a Little Square Chamber (N.B.: not to be confused with the Little Chamber within the Square Chamber), a Little House for the Bows, an Armor Chamber, a Gallery Next to the Great Chamber, a Great Chamber, a Great Wardrobe, a Little Wardrobe, a Closet without the Little Wardrobe Door, a Low Gallery by the Garden, and a Great Chamber. There was also a “Lady Litton’s Chamber,” a Buttery, and a Kitchen. His goods included several “French chairs,” tapestries, carpets, doublets of crimson velvet, black satin, and purple satin, gowns lined with fur, a riding gown of black velvet, a great coffer with two lids, cushions, a cup of silver and gilt, enameled with images of kings, a gilt cup with the Dudley arms, a basin with the arms of Edmund’s second wife, a book of statutes, a little printed book in French, two other books, seven pieces of imagery embroidered for the months of the year, and a closh board covered over with a green cloth. Edmund had a young daughter and three small sons living in 1509, but there are no signs of these children's belongings in the inventory. Perhaps by then Edmund Dudley’s wife and children had left the house and had been allowed to take their possessions with them.

The charge against Dudley was that on April 22, he had “conspired with armed force to take the government of the King and realm.” The charge seems absurd; Dudley had thrived under the reign of Henry VII and surely must have been hoping to do the same under that of his son, whom he had once given a gold ring set with a pointed diamond. S. J. Gunn suggests that Dudley and Empson might have actually summoned armed men to London, either out of fear of their political enemies or in anticipation of political instability following the death of the first Tudor king. "[S]teps they had taken with no thought of treason were, as so often in the politics of Henry VIII's reign, twisted into the stuff of which indictments were made." Despite the trumped-up nature of the charge, Dudley was convicted on July 18, 1509.

Having imprisoned and convicted Edmund Dudley, Henry VIII dithered about what to do with him. Languishing in the Tower, Edmund busied himself with drawing up a list of people whom he believed had been unjustly dealt with by the late government and in writing a treatise entitled The Tree of Commonwealth, in which he depicted the state as a tree upheld by roots of godliness, justice, truth, concord, and peace. He also plotted to escape from the Tower, but said in his will that he intended to do it only if his attainder “had passed both Commons, Lords, and King.” In his will, he was at pains to exonerate two of his servants, Thomas Michell and William Franke, who were in danger because of his “lewd demeanour” for attempting to break out of the Tower. They “did but their duty as servants," he wrote, and had refused to assist his escape.

In August 1510, Henry VIII finally gave the order to execute his father’s officials, possibly because the king had heard complaints of Dudley and Empson while the king was on progress that year. Edmund Dudley and Richard Empson were executed on Tower Hill on August 17, 1510, in what G. J. Meyer termed “a cynical act of judicial murder, done purely for political and propaganda purposes.” Dudley was buried at London Blackfriars, Empson at London Whitefriars.

Edmund Dudley’s oldest son, John, six years old at the time of his father’s death, was put in wardship and eventually found favor with the king who had executed his father. His career under Edward VI brought him the dukedom of Northumberland and the virtual rule of England, while his ill-fated attempt to place Lady Jane Grey upon the throne earned him his own appointment with the headsman on Tower Hill on August 22, 1553, forty-three years after his father’s execution. On December 7, 1552, nine months before his own death, the Duke of Northumberland made his only recorded comment about his father: “And, for my own part, if I should have past more upon the speech of the people than upon the service of my master, or gone about to seek favour of them without respect to his Highness' surety, I needed not to have had so much obloquy of some kind of men; but the living God, that knoweth the hearts of all men, shall be my judge at the last day with what zeal, faith, and truth I serve my master. And though my poor father, who, after his master was gone, suffered death for doing his master's commandments, who was the wisest prince of the world living in those days, and yet could not his commandment be my father's charge after he was departed this life; so, for my part, with all earnestness and duty I will serve without fear, seeking nothing but the true glory of God and his Highness' surety: so shall I most please God and have my conscience upright, and then not fear what man doth to me.”


J. S. Brewer, ed., Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII. Vol. 1. (online).

S. B. Chrimes, Henry VII. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1999.

Hugh Collins, ‘Sutton, John (VI) , first Baron Dudley (1400–1487)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Oct 2008 [, accessed 25 April 2011]

M. M. Condon, ‘Empson, Sir Richard (c.1450–1510)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008 [, accessed 25 April 2011]

S. J. Gunn, “The Accession of Henry VIII.” Historical Research, October 1991.

S. J. Gunn, ‘Dudley, Edmund (c.1462–1510)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2010 [, accessed 25 April 2011]

C. L. Kingsford, “On Some London Houses of the Early Tudor Period.” Archaeologia, 1921.

G. J. Meyer, The Tudors: The Complete Story of England’s Most Notorious Dynasty. New York: Delacort Press, 2010.

Patrick Fraser Tytler, ed., England under the Reigns of Edward VI and Mary. London: Richard Bentley, 1839. Vol. 2.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

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

I'm happy to welcome Karen Clark to the blog today to post about her book, The Daisy and the Bear, which is already gracing my own Kindle. In the words of Margaret of Anjou herself, "C'est une huée."*

*If Margaret of Anjou spoke American English and used Google Translate. And there's really no earthy reason why she can't do either, is there?


Everyone knows about the complicated love life of Margaret of Anjou and the many men who have been put forward as candidates for Real Father of her son, Edward, Prince of Wales. Various generations of the Beaufort family, the Earl of Wiltshire, the Duke of Suffolk and even her husband, Henry VI, have been suggested. All this, of course, is mere conjecture, not in the least supported by any reliable source. It could almost be said that these names have been put forward to prevent history from stumbling on the right one – the Real Real Father of Margaret of Anjou’s son. It’s a 558 year old mystery…

… that has now been solved!

It wasn’t difficult to piece it all together. All I needed was an over-active imagination, a complete lack of scruples and the realisation that, of all the men Margaret knew or had dealings with, there was one name that was prominently – and consistently - missing from the list of her lovers.

As everyone who has ever read a work of historical romance should know, if a couple haven’t fallen in love at first sight and married in defiance of custom and a significant authority figure, they’ve fallen in love at first sight, come to a bitter impasse over something and parted ways, become bitter and implacable enemies but, some time before the last paragraph, come together again in glorious, passionate and eternal love. And that is just what happened between Margaret of Anjou and her glorious, passional and eternal lover – Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick!

In The Daisy and the Bear, I tell the story of these two unlikely lovers: their chance meeting, the joy they find in each other and their son and the destruction their thwarted love brings to England and everyone they know.

Through this heady tale is woven the story of Warwick’s brother, John, and the two great loves of his life; the sweet and enduring passion that exists between the frail and angelic® Richard, Duke of Gloucester, and Warwick’s daughter (and prawn) Anne. You’ll also be delighted to know that I haven’t forgotten the Most Beautiful Woman in England, or Warwick’s other prawn, Isobel, and her unbalanced and difficult husband, George, Duke of Clarence. Young Ned, tall, handsome, libidinous king, and his witchy Woodville wife; the taciturn and hardbitten Earl of Salisbury; the noble Duke of York; various scheming and amoral Dukes of Somerset; the pathetically mad king Henry VI… They’re all there, the Yorkists you love and the Lancastrians you hate.

But it’s Warwick and Margaret who take centre stage, as well they should, for theirs is a timeless tale, untold until now, that simply screamed to be written and hollers to be read.

This is the Wars of the Roses like it’s never been told before. And it’s at least as historically accurate as some of the least historically accurate, award winning novels available in Leading Bookstores.

Available at (in paperback) for $14.99 (cover art by Jesse Watson)

Or on Kindle through Amazon ($7.99)

My thanks to Susan for inviting me to visit her blog, it’s such a nice place to be!

For more (and more historically sound) on the Nevills, feel free to drop by my blog: A Nevill Feast.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Poetry Corner: William Wordsworth on "the Shepherd Lord"

Little did I know until this morning that the great Romantic poet William Wordsworth himself had a particular interest in the legend of Henry Clifford, the so-called "Shepherd Lord" who was supposedly brought up among sheepherders following the death of his father the day before the Battle of Towton. I'll have to save the story of the Shepherd Lord for a later post, but here, in the meantime, is Wordsworth's 1807 poem, "Song At The Feast Of Brougham Castle Upon The Restoration Of Lord Clifford, The Shepherd, To The Estates And Honours Of His Ancestors," in Poetry X 7 Jul 2003, (19 April 2011).

High in the breathless Hall the Minstrel sate,
And Emont’s murmur mingled with the Song.—
The words of ancient time I thus translate,
A festal strain that hath been silent long:—

“From town to town, from tower to tower,
The red rose is a gladsome flower.
Her thirty years of winter past,
The red rose is revived at last;
She lifts her head for endless spring,
For everlasting blossoming:
Both roses flourish, red and white:
In love and sisterly delight
The two that were at strife are blended,
And all old troubles now are ended.—
Joy! joy to both! but most to her
Who is the flower of Lancaster!
Behold her how She smiles to-day
On this great throng, this bright array!
Fair greeting doth she send to all
From every corner of the hall;
But chiefly from above the board
Where sits in state our rightful Lord,
A Clifford to his own restored!

“They came with banner, spear, and shield;
And it was proved in Bosworth-field.
Not long the Avenger was withstood—
Earth helped him with the cry of blood:
St. George was for us, and the might
Of blessed Angels crowned the right.
Loud voice the Land has uttered forth,
We loudest in the faithful north:
Our fields rejoice, our mountains ring,
Our streams proclaim a welcoming;
Our strong-abodes and castles see
The glory of their loyalty.

“How glad is Skipton at this hour—
Though lonely, a deserted Tower;
Knight, squire, and yeoman, page and groom,
We have them at the feast of Brough’m.
How glad Pendragon—though the sleep
Of years be on her!—She shall reap
A taste of this great pleasure, viewing
As in a dream her own renewing.
Rejoiced is Brough, right glad, I deem,
Beside her little humble stream;
And she that keepeth watch and ward
Her statelier Eden’s course to guard;
They both are happy at this hour,
Though each is but a lonely Tower:—
But here is perfect joy and pride
For one fair House by Emont’s side,
This day, distinguished without peer,
To see her Master and to cheer—
Him, and his Lady-mother dear!

“Oh! it was a time forlorn
When the fatherless was born—
Give her wings that she may fly,
Or she sees her infant die!
Swords that are with slaughter wild
Hunt the Mother and the Child.
Who will take them from the light?
—Yonder is a man in sight—
Yonder is a house—but where?
No, they must not enter there.
To the caves, and to the brooks,
To the clouds of heaven she looks;
She is speechless, but her eyes
Pray in ghostly agonies.
Blissful Mary, Mother mild,
Maid and Mother undefiled,
Save a Mother and her Child!

“Now who is he that bounds with joy
On Carrock’s side, a Shepherd-boy?
No thoughts hath he but thoughts that pass
Light as the wind along the grass.
Can this be He who hither came
In secret, like a smothered flame?
O’er whom such thankful tears were shed
For shelter, and a poor man’s bread!
God loves the Child; and God hath willed
That those dear words should be fulfilled,
The Lady’s words, when forced away
The last she to her Babe did say:
“My own, my own, thy fellow-guest
I may not be; but rest thee, rest,
For lowly shepherd’s life is best!”

“Alas! when evil men are strong
No life is good, no pleasure long.
The Boy must part from Mosedale’s groves,
And leave Blencathara’s rugged coves,
And quit the flowers that summer brings
To Glenderamakin’s lofty springs;
Must vanish, and his careless cheer
Be turned to heaviness and fear.
—Give Sir Lancelot Threlkeld praise!
Hear it, good man, old in days!
Thou tree of covert and of rest
For this young Bird that is distrest;
Among thy branches safe he lay,
And he was free to sport and play,
When falcons were abroad for prey.

“A recreant harp, that sings of fear
And heaviness in Clifford’s ear!
I said, when evil men are strong,
No life is good, no pleasure long,
A weak and cowardly untruth!
Our Clifford was a happy Youth,
And thankful through a weary time,
That brought him up to manhood’s prime.
—Again he wanders forth at will,
And tends a flock from hill to hill:
His garb is humble; ne’er was seen
Such garb with such a noble mien;
Among the shepherd-grooms no mate
Hath he, a Child of strength and state!
Yet lacks not friends for simple glee,
Nor yet for higher sympathy.

To his side the fallow-deer
Came and rested without fear;
The eagle, lord of land and sea,
Stooped down to pay him fealty;
And both the undying fish that swim
Through Bowscale-tarn did wait on him;
The pair were servants of his eye
In their immortality;
And glancing, gleaming, dark or bright,
Moved to and fro, for his delight.
He knew the rocks which Angels haunt
Upon the mountains visitant;
He hath kenned them taking wing:
And into caves where Faeries sing
He hath entered; and been told
By Voices how men lived of old.
Among the heavens his eye can see
The face of thing that is to be;
And, if that men report him right,
His tongue could whisper words of might.
—Now another day is come,
Fitter hope, and nobler doom;
He hath thrown aside his crook,
And hath buried deep his book;
Armour rusting in his halls
On the blood of Clifford calls,—
‘Quell the Scot,’ exclaims the Lance—
Bear me to the heart of France,
Is the longing of the Shield—
Tell thy name, thou trembling field;
Field of death, where’er thou be,
Groan thou with our victory!
Happy day, and mighty hour,
When our Shepherd, in his power,
Mailed and horsed, with lance and sword,
To his ancestors restored
Like a re-appearing Star,
Like a glory from afar
First shall head the flock of war!”

Alas! the impassioned minstrel did not know
How, by Heaven’s grace, this Clifford’s heart was framed:
How he, long forced in humble walks to go,
Was softened into feeling, soothed, and tamed.

Love had he found in huts where poor men lie;
His daily teachers had been woods and rills,
The silence that is in the starry sky,
The sleep that is among the lonely hills.

In him the savage virtue of the Race,
Revenge and all ferocious thoughts were dead:
Nor did he change; but kept in lofty place
The wisdom which adversity had bred.

Glad were the vales, and every cottage-hearth;
The Shepherd-lord was honoured more and more;
And, ages after he was laid in earth,
“The good Lord Clifford” was the name he bore.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Rogue's Gallery: Guest Post by Nan Hawthorne

A Rogue’s Gallery

By Nan Hawthorne

The Crusade of 1101 surely has a permanent place in the Crusades Hall of Infamy. The three bodies that set out from Constantinople, split up instead of combining forces because of petty resentments and rivalry, and as a result none of the three ever made it out of Turkey. Out of literally many thousands of pilgrims, from noble knights to men at arms to clerics and the largest group, peasants with their entire families, fewer than about 150 escaped massacre or enslavement. Those who did survive were all leaders and their household knights. Such a shamefully dramatic story was tempting fodder for a historical novel, and the fact that there are no eyewitness accounts made it all the more tempting, and that is why I set my novel Beloved Pilgrim at the Crusade of 1101.

Of course, I wanted to know just what happened to these weasel-y fellows who left their foot soldiers, clergy and peasants to the slaughter. This is what I found out about some of them.

The hero of the First Crusade, Count Raymond IV of Toulouse, was the Byzantine emperor’s choice to lead the first of the three bodies of crusaders. Outnumbered by the Lombard contingent that was loyal to his archenemy, Bohemond, he was forced to turn north and east to where the man was said to be imprisoned by the Danishmend. Perhaps that is why he was so ready to sneak away when it was obvious that Kilij Arslan, the Seljuk general, would win Merzifon Plain that day. Toulouse literally slipped away in the dark. He was welcomed with opulent gifts when he reached Constantinople in spite of the dismal end to his quest. However, when he landed in Antioch, Tancred, nephew of Bohemond, had him arrested and imprisoned for his cowardly desertion. He was not jailed long, but lived just a few years longer before succumbing to a fever.

Stephen of Blois, the father of the future King of England of the same name, had run from the siege of Antioch, and was said to be barred by his wife, Adela, from their home until he turned right around and went back to the Holy Land. He survived the Battle of Merzifon, but later died fighting valiantly in the Battle of Ramleh.

At that same battle the Constable of the Holy Roman Empire Henry IV, Conrad, fought so valiantly, though he too had turned tail and run from Merzifon, that the Saracens treated him with honor at his surrender. They let him and his forces live, though made slaves. The redoubtable Conrad himself disappeared into slavery in Egypt, never to be heard from again.

Perhaps the most sensational story is that of the Margravine Ida of Austria. She was part of the third wave of William II of Nevers. While William escaped with a handful of his household, Ida was not so lucky. Though there were legends that she went on to be married to a great Turkish leader and the mother of the even more legendary Zenga, there is no basis for this story. It is far more likely that she was tipped out of her elegant litter and trampled to death in the massacre at Herakleia.

Nan Hawthorne is the author of Beloved Pilgrim, a novel of a woman who chooses to live and fight as a man during the doomed Crusade of 1101. You can find the novel at and


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