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‘For herein may be seen … murder, hate, virtue, and sin.’ Was the term sentencing a man to death used in Richard III’s reign? If a fictional character said the Duke of Clarence had a brain like a pickled walnut, were walnuts around in 1470, let alone pickled? What colour was his duchess’s hair? When was velvet invented? If a knight whistles up his horse and springs from an upstairs windowsill onto the saddle, will…
I can remember the mauve Michaelmas daisies in my parents’ garden every autumn in the UK and thought I was very safe in mentioning these flowers in my Wars of the Roses novels since the name originates from St Michael’s Mass. In the Middle Ages, Michaelmas was a feast day in September dedicated to the Archangel Michael and today’s Roman Catholic Church gives St Michael the honour of being the patron saint of grocers, mariners,…
Katherine Neville, the young Yorkist widow in The Golden Widows, was originally from the Midlands, but when she joined the household of her betrothed, young William Bonville, the world of south-west England became her home. The manors of Shute in Devon and Chewton Mendip in Somerset were places she would have known well. Chewton Mendip is an attractive village in the Mendip Hills, about four miles from the cathedral city of Wells and not far…
The story of The Golden Widows begins in early 1461 so to help set the atmosphere, here is a news item: The kingdom was reeling yesterday from news of a battle close by the town of Wakefield, Yorkshire. Clifford, Commander of the Queen’s army, announced yesterday that the Duke of York had been slain, together with York’s second son, Edmund, Earl of Rutland, and their cousin, Thomas Neville, but Lord Clifford refused to comment on…
In the winter of 1460–61, it would have been hard to predict who would triumph in the bloody encounters between the Houses of York and Lancaster. For the wives of the noble lords caught up in the struggle, wondering whether their menfolk would survive the battles, must have caused much anguish. For those women whose husbands died on the losing side, there was the likelihood of their children being disinherited. In The Golden Widows, I…
It’s amazing what comes of giving author talks. In April after giving a PowerPoint presentation on researching Mistress to the Crown, one of the audience came up and introduce herself. She was the descendant of Margaret Woodville, the niece of Queen Elizabeth Woodville, King Edward IV’s queen. One of her other ancestors was Sir David Matthew of Glamorgan, who saved Edward’s life at the Battle of Towton. Definitely a man who changed the course of…
It’s really exciting to come across more information about Mistress Shore. Of course, it’s nowhere near as exciting as finding the skeleton of a king but I’ve been delving into on-line Chancery cases as part of the research for the novel I’m writing at the moment. An Elizabeth Lambard, gentlewoman, brought two cases for debt before John Brown, Mayor of the Staple of Westminster between March 1482 and March 1483. The first case was against…
I thought it might be fun to imagine how a modern day reporter might handle the rumours about the gorgeous Mistress Shore in the 1470s before she met the king. London citizen's wife sues for a divorce The Mercers’ Guild was shocked today by the news that the wife of guild member, William Shore, is asking for a separation on the grounds that he is impotent, frigid and unable to give her children. ‘I am…
Ian Fleming was a friend of ours and he told me he was going to write a novel about 'a spy to end all spies' and he went ahead and created James Bond, and I decided, 'Right, then, if he can do it, so can I! I am going to create the hero to end all heroes'. Dorothy Dunnett, Sydney, 13 March 2000 And that was how Dorothy Dunnett (1923–2001) described to me the beginning…
When you write about historical people, it’s always a thrill to meet someone who is actually descended from them. Often, it turns out to be a cadet branch, but when you come across a Dudley, a Hastings and a Tyrell, who can trace their line back to the fifteenth century and further still, it’s quite mind-blowing. What is especially spine-chilling for any historical novelist is to be contacted by the descendants of a hero and…
I was really very excited about this. Those of you who have read The Knight and the Rose may recall the horrible fate of King Edward II’s adviser (and possibly his gay lover), Hugh Despenser the younger, who was hanged, drawn and quartered in Hereford in 1326. So you can imagine how fascinating it was to read Laura Clout’s article on the discovery of his body (well, parts of it) in the UK Telegraph. Apparently,…
I thought you might be interested to hear about The Case of the Bishop’s Missing Head. Some years ago I came across the fact that Cardinal John Morton’s fine tomb in Canterbury was empty. I haven’t much time for Morton, who was one of King Henry VII’s advisors, and he wasn’t particularly flavour of the month among his contemporaries either. His policy was: if you flaunt your wealth, you can pay more tax, and if…