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


On Amazon

On Smashwords

Monday, April 11, 2011

Autism Awareness Giveaway Hop

I'm very pleased to be participating in this giveaway, because I have a special connection to autism: my 20-year-old son was diagnosed with this condition when he was two. Our family is fortunate enough to be living in an area where the attitudes about autism are generally enlightened, but as the occasional ignorant outburst by a public figure indicates, much work remains to be done. It's especially important to keep autism in the spotlight in these times of cost-cutting, where public programs assisting the disabled are always at risk.

For more information about autism, check out some of these sites:

Autism Society of North Carolina
Autism Society of America
Autism Speaks

As my contribution to this blog hop, I'm giving away one copy of my first historical novel, The Traitor's Wife. My novel, set in fourteenth-century England, is not about autism, but it does feature a king, Edward II, who was out of step with his times in many ways. I hope that reading it will help you see this period through fresh eyes--and that reading the other blog posts on this tour will help you see autism through fresh eyes as well.

The giveaway on this blog closes April 14. If you leave your e-mail address, you may want to substitute "at" for "@" and "dot" for "." to avoid getting spam.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Ten Tips for Scaffold Success

For the most part, those who found themselves facing the block in Tudor England went to their deaths gracefully, abiding by certain conventions. Here, taken from historical examples, are ten ways those condemned to death could make the best out of the worst situation:

1. Practice makes perfect. According to Eustace Chapuys, Katherine Howard asked that the block be brought to her before her execution and “placed her head on it by way of experiment.” It must have worked; no one complained that the queen put her head in the wrong place on the big day.

2. Dress snappily. This wasn’t the time to have the Tudor equivalent of Tim Gunn sigh, “Oh, dear.” Anne Boleyn was elegantly and tastefully dressed in a gray or black gown, over which she wore a mantle of ermine. Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset, “was splendidly attired, as he used to be when about to attend upon the king.”

3. Guilty, sort of. Even for those who were innocent of any crime, this wasn’t the time to say so; rather, the condemned man or woman would acknowledge the legality of the process that had brought him or her to the scaffold. The clever, however, could convey a good deal in what was left unsaid: Anne Boleyn, in saying, “By the law I am judged to die, and therefore I will speak nothing against it. I am come hither to accuse no man, nor to speak of that whereof I am accused and condemned to die,” carefully avoided any admission of wrongdoing while staying within the bounds of scaffold propriety.

4. It could always be worse. John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, thanked the queen for granting him the nobleman's death by beheading: “And now I beseech the Queen's highness to forgive me mine offenses against her majesty, whereof I have a singular hope, forasmuch as she hath already extended her goodness & clemency so far upon me that where as she might forthwith without judgment or any further trial, have put me to most vile & cruel death, by hanging drawing, and quartering."

5. Don’t get your hopes up. The approach of fast-riding horsemen caused the overexcited crowd at the execution of the popular Duke of Somerset to speculate that a pardon had arrived. The duke, knowing that this was most unlikely, helped to quiet the crowd himself, thereby averting what could have easily become a riot (and gaining points for good behavior as well).

6. Don’t be stingy with the executioner. A well-paid executioner was much less likely to bungle the final job. The Duke of Somerset gave his executioner some gold rings, together with all of his clothes. Thomas More, having been persuaded to change into a less elaborate outfit than that originally planned (thereby depriving his executioner of his richest garments), made up for the deficiency by compensating his executioner with an angel (a coin) of gold.

7. Avoid a wardrobe malfunction. The Duke of Somerset, after placing himself in position for the ax, had to be ordered to rise and remove his doublet because it covered his neck. The Duke of Northumberland likewise had to rise to retie his blindfold because it slipped at the last minute.

8. Do a credit check first. The hapless Henry Grey, Duke of Suffolk, had to put up with the ultimate indignity: the appearance of one of his creditors on the scaffold, asking “How shall I do for the money that you do owe me?” (Suffolk managed to send him off with the words, “Go thy way to my officers.”)

9. Leave ‘em laughing. Thomas More famously quipped, "I pray you, Master Lieutenant, see me safe up, and for my coming down let me shift for myself,” and advised his executioner, "Pluck up thy spirits, man, and be not afraid to do thine office: my neck is very short.”

10. Look on the bright side. Thomas Palmer, executed alongside the Duke of Northumberland, told the crowd, “I do not doubt that I have a good morrow and shall I trust have a better good even.”

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Eleanor of Aquitaine: A Medieval Queen by Christy English

I'm delighted to be hosting a guest post today by Christy English, author of To Be Queen: A Novel of the Early Life of Eleanor of Aquitaine. Christy is one of the most charming authors around, and her enthusiasm for her subject is palpable! Here, without further ado, is Christy on one of the most perenially fascinating of English queens:

Like Margaret of Anjou in Susan’s lovely novel, THE QUEEN OF LAST HOPES, Eleanor of Aquitaine was queen in a time when men dominated the political scene. Raised as a young girl to be the heir to the duchy of Aquitaine, Eleanor always knew that she would have to marry in order to hold her territories safe from encroaching enemies.

Before she became duchess, Eleanor’s marriage to the King of France, young Louis VII, was arranged. After her father’s death in March of 1137, the marriage negotiations were concluded by Eleanor herself with the help of her loyal churchman, the Bishop of Limoges. So in July of 1137, accompanied by 500 knights as a show of force both to Eleanor’s vassals and to her enemies, Louis came to Bordeaux where Eleanor had locked herself away upon her father’s death.

In spite of Louis’ caution, there were at least two plots to kidnap Eleanor on her wedding day before the marriage could be consummated. Eleanor and Louis were forced to flee to the stronghold of Taillebourg held by her faithful vassal, the Baron of Rancon.

But Eleanor was not kidnapped on her wedding day, and the marriage was consummated, making her Queen of France.

The Ruins of Fortress of Taillebourg Where Eleanor and Louis Spent Their Wedding Night

The Parisians did not crown their queens, so Eleanor never had a coronation. She spent the next fifteen years of her life vying with the Church for supremacy in the heart and mind of her husband. Though Eleanor ruled her duchy and other lands, she depended on her husband for political power. Like all medieval queens, even a woman as strong as Eleanor often had to turn to the strength of men to accomplish her will.

As Eleanor and Louis went on Crusade in the Holy Land, Eleanor began to feel confined by her marriage. Though she and Louis had been married for years, Eleanor had yet to have a son. Unlike most medieval queens, Eleanor held the duchy of Aquitaine in her own right and thus could not be put away in a nunnery while Louis conveniently married someone else. But in this case, it was Eleanor who longed for her freedom. And she was one of the few women in medieval Europe with the power and wealth to seek it out.

It took her five years, but in March of 1152, Eleanor was granted an annulment from her husband, the King of France. Giving up the kingdom of France and its crown was no hardship though, for she married young Henry Duke of Normandy a few months later. Within two years, Henry of Normandy and Anjou had become King of the English, and on the day her second husband was crowned, Eleanor was crowned at his side. Eleanor had already given birth to one son and was pregnant with another when she became queen for the second time in her life.

Eleanor of Aquitaine’s Seal

Though Henry and Eleanor lived to turn on each other, with Eleanor raising an armed rebellion, for fourteen years she and Henry lived and ruled in harmony. During the first decade of their marriage, Eleanor served as regent in Normandy and Anjou when Henry was in England, and would hold England for him when he was in Normandy or Anjou. Eleanor’s partnership with Henry was one that served them both. A medieval queen who ruled a major duchy in her own right, Eleanor was always a force to be reckoned with.

Susan, thank you so much for hosting me today. TO BE QUEEN: A NOVEL OF THE EARLY LIFE OF ELEANOR OF AQUITAINE is in bookstores now.

For those who want to know more about Eleanor's adventures, please find me on my blog, on Twitter and on Facebook.

Friday, April 01, 2011

The Real Edward of Lancaster

As regular readers of this blog know, I am fascinated with medieval genealogy and with the Wars of the Roses and have continued to research these topics even while writing my current novel, which is set in Tudor England. Recently, my delving into French sources (undertaken with the aid of a professional researcher) revealed a startling fact: that Henry VI, once thought to have not set foot in France after 1432, traveled to Rouen in 1441 and sired an illegitimate son. The son's identity?

None other than Edward IV.

Though he left the governance of France to subordinates, the young Henry VI did in fact have an interest in his overseas possessions. Lacking self-confidence, however, he chose not to travel to France in his royal capacity. Thus, in the late summer of 1441, the nineteen-year-old king, assuming the guise of a simple archer, journeyed to France. It was not the only time the king would pose as a humble subject: in 1445, greeting his new bride, Henry pretended to be a mere squire.

Dressing as an archer offered several advantages to Henry. It allowed him to dress simply, as he preferred. It also allowed him to mingle with the common soldiers and to get a feel for the conditions in which they were fighting. And--perhaps most importantly for our purposes--it showed off his manly physique. (The exhumation of Henry VI's bones in the nineteenth century revealed the king to have been strongly built.)

Although the disguised Henry had initially joined the Duke of York at Pontoise, the duke, concerned about his wife's well-being, sent the young archer back to Rouen to ensure her safety. Lovely and lonely, Cecily Neville was much taken with the handsome, inexplicably well spoken young archer. Henry, meanwhile, was so overcome with the duchess's beauty that he broke his vow to remain chaste until his marriage. The result, born on April 22, 1422, was young Edward.

Before returning to England, Henry had revealed his deception to the duchess, who in turn told her secret to her husband. The Duke of York had little choice except to accept the boy as his own. To do otherwise would have been to proclaim himself a cuckold, something the proud duke had no desire to do--particularly when the father was a man otherwise known for his chaste living. The duke therefore allowed his son to grow up unaware that he was the firstborn son of the King of England. Henry VI, meanwhile, suffered intense guilt over having broken his youthful vow of chastity. So crippling was his shame that when he finally married, he could not complete the marital act. Only in early 1453, after he unburdened himself in a written confession to Margaret of Anjou, was he able to consummate his marriage and father a child upon his wife. It is this confession, filed in the archives of Angers following Margaret's death and long ignored by French scholars who failed to recognize its significance, which reveals the truth about Edward IV's parentage.

It is possible, of course, that the document could have been forged by someone in the French court who wished to discredit Edward IV as illegitimate. Other evidence, however, tends to corroborate the confession. Henry always seemed well disposed toward young Edward, creating him Earl of March at a very young age. Significantly, after the Duke of York fled to Ireland after Ludlow, Henry treated the Duchess of York very generously.

Most telling, however, is the 1460 Act of Accord in which Henry VI disinherited his own son by Margaret of Anjou in favor of the Duke of York and his progeny. As Henry was younger than the Duke of York, Henry might well have expected that he would outlive York and that his actual successor would be Edward, Earl of March. Might the passivity with which Henry accepted the Act of Accord be in reality an act of love for the handsome, vigorous son whose paternity he never dared to acknowledge openly? And might Henry VI's failure to lead his troops in person at Towton be a reluctance to fight against his firstborn son?

Henry VI died after the victorious Edward IV's return to London in 1471. Contemporaries widely believed that he was murdered, while Edward IV himself put it about that the king died of melancholy. It is quite possible, however, that Henry, with his legitimate son by Margaret of Anjou dead, was overcome by joy at realizing that his firstborn son had survived Tewkesbury and could thereafter rule in peace. Henry's surfeit of joy caused him to suffer a fatal heart attack.

As for Henry's secret lover, Cecily of York, whether she ever revealed the truth about Edward's parentage to any of her children can only be speculated upon. It is notable, however, that in 1484, Richard III had Henry VI's remains moved from Chertsey Abbey to Windsor Castle. Was he following the secret instructions of his mother, who could pay this posthumous tribute to the "archer" she loved only after Edward IV was dead?

We may never know the answers to some of these questions. One thing, however, is now clear: as this transcription in modern English of Henry VI's anguished confession to Margaret of Anjou indicates, Edward IV was a Lancastrian king.