Monday, October 5, 2015

The Ill-Fated House of Lancaster

by Anne O'Brien

The House of Lancaster has become of interest to me since writing about Elizabeth of Lancaster in The King's Sister and then more recently about the marriage of King Henry IV and Joanna of Navarre in my new novel The Queen's Choice to be published in January 2016. 

What a short-lived dynasty the House of Lancaster turned out to be in spite of the promising beginnings.

In 1399 Henry Bolingbroke, Duke of Hereford, son and heir of John of Gaunt and grandson of Edward III,  usurped the Crown of England from his cousin Richard II and was himself crowned King Henry IV after acclamation by the Lords and clerics.  Thus the first King of the House of Lancaster took the throne of England.  With four healthy sons and two daughters, all grown to adulthood, all married, Henry might have expected that England was set fair for a time of regal stability with a healthy and increasing number of Lancaster children and grandchildren to occupy the throne.  Even though Henry's wife, Mary de Bohun, was dead by 1399, and Henry had no more children with his second wife Joanna of Navarre, probably due to his own ill-health, Henry had no need of more heirs.

In 1399, with a new and potent king, who would have believed that the House of Lancaster would have been so short lived, that by 1471 it should have come to an end with no more possible claimants?  Although its demise was indisputably influenced by death in battle, disease and mental frailty - all prevalent in many medieval families at this time-  it was also due to the Lancaster inability to reproduce themselves, or at least legitimately. 

Without legitimate descendents, the House of Lancaster was doomed.

Henry's four sons laid down the pattern for lack of heirs.

Henry, Prince of Wales, later Henry V:  his marriage to Katherine de Valois, of short duration, produced only one son who would become Henry VI.  Henry V died at Vincennes in France, probably from a severe form of dysentery in 1422 at the age of 35.

Thomas, Duke of Clarence: married to Margaret Holland but killed in 1421 at the Battle of Bauge in France at the age of 34 without legitimate issue.  He had one illegitimate son, Sir John Clarence, who was granted lands in Ireland and is buried in Canterbury Cathedral.

John, Duke of Bedford: married twice, first with Anne of Burgundy and then with Jacquetta of Luxemberg.  There were no children from either marriage.  In addition, out of wedlock he had a daughter named Mary, who married Pierre de Montferrand with whom she had a son, Richard.  John died in 1435 at the age of 46.

Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester: also married twice, first to Jacqueline of Hainault, a marriage that was annulled, and then to Eleanor Cobham.  There were no children from either marriage.  Humphrey had two illegitimate children:  Arthur of Gloucester who died in 1447 and Antigone of Gloucester who married Henry Grey, Earl of Tankerville, Lord of Powys.  Humphrey was the longest lived of the four sons of Henry IV.  He died in 1447 at the age of 57.

So of the four sons of Henry IV, there was only one legitimate descendent to carry on the royal claim to the throne. 

Henry IV's two daughters fared no better:

Blanche married Louis, the Elector Palatine.  She died in childbirth in 1409 at the age of 17 after the birth of a son Rupert.  This young man died in 1429 at the age of 19 years, unmarried and without issue.  Blanche's dowry included the oldest surviving royal crown known to have been in England.  It probably belonged originally to Anne of Bohemia, Queen of Richard II.

Philippa married Eric, King of Denmark, Sweden and Norway.  She gave birth to a stillborn boy in 1429, and herself died in 1430.  Philippa was the first documented princess in history to wear a white wedding dress during a royal wedding ceremony: she wore a tunic with a cloak in white silk bordered with grey squirrel and ermine.

Henry IV had an illegitimate son Edmund Lebourde who was born in 1401.  He was educated in London.  It is thought that he entered the church since in 1412 a Papal dispensation was granted to allow this, but Edmund thereafter disappeared from history as so many illegitimate children did.

The legitimate line of Lancaster after Henry V fared no better with Henry VI.  Mentally unstable, he married Margaret of Anjou with whom he had only one child, a son Edward of Lancaster.  Edward, married to Anne Neville, had no children and died in 1471 at the Battle of Tewkesbury.  Henry VI died, murdered, in the same year. 

Thus ended of the House of Lancaster.  What a sad tale of inability to produce legitimate heirs to the crown.  Battle and disease took its toll, far more than with most medieval families, yet we might have expected a much higher degree of fertility, being descended from Edward III who, with Philippa of Hainault, had thirteen children. Henry IV's family had promised so much but lasted less than a century.


My novel of Joanna of Navarre, The Queen's Choice, will be published in hardback in the UK on 15th January 2016.  To keep up to date with all events and promotions, visit my website.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Giveaway: Tyger by Julian Stockwin

Julian is giving away a copy of Tyger to a winner in the US and one in the UK. You can read more about the book HERE. Enter the drawing in the comments below, and please remember to leave your contact information. 

John’s Man in Lincoln: Gerard de Camville

by Charlene Newcomb

Gerard de Camville (or de Canville) was Sheriff of Lincolnshire various times during the reigns of Richard I (1189-1199) and John (1199-1216). De Camville was born circa 1132-35. Little is known of his early life. He was the son of Alice and Richard de Camville. Richard had faithfully served Kings Stephen and Henry II. He held lands in Normandy, and had acquired lands in Northamptonshire, Leicestershire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, Essex, and Somerset through grants from the kings and through marriage. Richard was trusted by Henry to accompany his daughter Joanna for her wedding to William II of Sicily.

Gerard de Camville comes into the records more prominently upon his father’s death in Sicily in 1176. Like his father, Gerard appears to have had the good fortune of being in Henry II’s favor. Gerard married the wealthy widow Nichola de la Haye before 1185.
Lincoln Castle
Through her father, Nichola was the hereditary castellan of Lincoln, and upon their marriage, Gerard acquired that office as well as that of Sheriff of Lincolnshire. When Richard I became King of England, Nichola and Gerard journeyed to Normandy to confirm her inheritance. However, appointment as castellans often came at a price. Richard I sold the offices to raise money for the Third Crusade. Gerard and Nicola received the official charter confirming Nicola’s rightful inheritance and Gerard as Sheriff for 700 marks in 1189. (On an interesting side note, William Marshal offered fifty marks for the Gloucestershire shrievalty and castle.)

While Gerard remained in England, his younger half-brother – also a Richard - was one of three men charged with overseeing King Richard’s fleet during the Third Crusade. When 700 men from King Richard’s fleet were arrested after a night of wild, unlawful behavior in Lisbon in 1190, Richard de Camville had to treat with the King of Portugal for their release so their vessels could rendezvous with King Richard in Marseilles. (They were late; Richard hired other busses and left without them!) Following the fleet’s winter stay in Messina, Gerard’s brother became a joint governor of Cyprus, but later joined the King at Acre and died of illness there.

Jew's House, Lincoln
Gerard was impacted in other ways by the call to Crusade and King Richard’s absence. Lincoln was home to one of the most important Jewish communities in England. Religious fervor stirred outright violence against Jews throughout the country, culminating in the massacre at York in March 1190. Jews were murdered in Lynn (Norfolk) and Stamford, and crowds in Lincoln were incited. With Lincoln’s Bishop, Hugh of Avalon, Gerard provided a refuge for Lincoln’s Jews in the Castle.

Gerard should have been set: lands and estates inherited from his father; his wife’s inheritance; and that nice, cushy job at one of the most formidable castles in England. But with King Richard off at war, the king’s chancellor, William Longchamp, sowed seeds of discontent among the barons. Longchamp removed one sheriff after another and placed his own friends and relatives in positions of authority. When he demanded that Gerard relinquish Lincoln Castle, Gerard did homage to Count John, the king’s brother. Chronicler Richard of Devizes claims that Gerard was “a factious man and reckless of allegiance” who helped John occupy Nottingham and Tickhill. Meanwhile, back in Lincoln, Devizes writes that Gerard’s wife Nichola “proposing to herself nothing effeminate, defended [Lincoln] Castle like a man” against a 40 day siege by Longchamp’s forces. Gerard’s shrievalty was affirmed after John and Longchamp met in July 1191 to arrange a truce.

Gerard appears to have no decisive role in the rebellion of 1193 when Count John conspired with King Philip of France to overthrow the absent King Richard. John and Philip offered silver to the Holy Roman Emperor to hold Richard in custody in Germany; Philip helped pay Flemish mercenaries to invade England on John’s behalf. John had ordered all his castles to be defended against the king’s men.

Golding does note that Gerard supported John, but there appears to have been no action at Lincoln in 1193 even after Queen Eleanor ordered sieges against John’s castles. Perhaps Gerard, who had been granted the honour of Wallingford, was involved in sieges there during this time though my research on that matter does not turn up his name.

Nottingham Castle (circa 1250)
King Richard’s return from captivity in 1194 and Richard’s decisions at the subsequent Council of Nottingham in late March/early April ended de Camville’s position as Sheriff of Lincolnshire and castellan of Lincoln Castle. Like many others, Gerard de Camville’s support for John cost him all his lands and titles. Richard, aware of the need to raise monies to support his war against Philip of France, did restore Gerard’s lands upon payment of 2,000 marks.

When John succeeded Richard as king in 1199, Gerard was rewarded for his loyalty. He was named castellan of Lincoln Castle once again and appointed Sheriff of Lincolnshire. His name appears infrequently in the historical records for the years 1194 – 1215, including the years 1199 – 1205 while he served as Sheriff. He was present when William, King of Scots, appeared before King John in Lincoln in 1200 and was involved in a marshland dispute. Well past his 70th year, he was collecting revenues and serving as an itinerant justice.

Gerard de Camville died in 1215. His exact date of death is not known. There is no evidence showing his awareness of the English barons’ discontent with King John and Magna Carta. However, Gerard’s wife Nicola stood by the king, and within months of John's death, she once again defended Lincoln Castle against the French.

Devizes, R. The Chronicle of Richard of Devizes concerning the deeds of Richard the First, King of England. (1841). Trans, and ed. By J.A. Giles. London: James Bohn.

Golding, B. (2006) “Canville , Gerard de (d. 1214).” Brian Golding In Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, edited by H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. Oxford: OUP, 2004. Online ed., edited by Lawrence Goldman.

Heiser, R.R. (2000). "Castles, Constables, and Politics in Late Twelfth-Century English Governance.” Albion: A Quarterly Journal Concerned with British Studies, Vol. 32, No. 1 (Spring, 2000), pp. 19-36

Miller, D. (2003) Richard the Lionheart: the Mighty Crusader. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson.

Newburgh, W. “William of Newburgh.” Trans. & ed. by Paul Halsall, 2000. Internet Medieval Source Book. Book 4

Newcomb, C. (2014) “In Search of Facts…For My Fiction.” The Many Worlds of Char

Turner, R.V. (2009).  King John: England’s Evil King. Stroud, Gloucestershire: The History Press.

Vincent. N. (2004) ‘Canville , Richard de (d. 1191)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press []


Lincoln Castle "Lincoln Castle Entrance" by Uday R Nair - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Jew’s House By Marek69 [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via WikimediaCommons

Nottingham Castle by kstatelibrarian (i.e., me). CC BY-SA 4.0 via FLICKR

* * * * * * * * * * *

Charlene Newcomb is the author of Men of the Cross, Book I of Battle Scars. This historical adventure, set during the Third Crusade, is a tale of war’s impact on a young knight serving Richard the Lionheart and of forbidden love. Book II, For King and Country, will be published in 2016. 

Visit Charlene’s website,
On Facebook at CharleneNewcombAuthor
On Twitter @charnewcomb.

Book link: Amazon

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Queen Emma - One of the Neglected Figures in English History

by Helen Hollick

This is part of an essay I wrote in 1997 for a history degree course at Birkbeck College, University of London. Unfortunately I never found the time to complete the degree!
The full, original essay is here:

The first chapters of the Norman conquest of England began in the spring of 1002, with the marriage of Emma of Normandy to Æthelred, King of the English. She was a daughter of Richard of Normandy, great grandfather of William I of England. Although of Scandinavian (Viking) descent, these "Northmen" were, by the early eleventh century, mostly Christian, and an alliance would prevent Vikings from using Norman ports from which to harass England. Henceforth, the Counts of Normandy would have a considerable interest in the English crown, with the ambition being that a son of Emma's would succeed to the throne. Two, Harthacnut and Edward, did rule, but both were childless, thus eliminating the prospect of Norman rule by direct succession. Considering that the alliance was to bring security from Viking raiders, it is ironic that when Æthelred died in 1016, Emma then married one of the most prominent Vikings of this period, Cnut, who conquered England and became King.

Emma became a queen who carved for herself a significant position within the political estate of England. Her first son, Edward, was born circa 1005 with a second son, Alfred, a year or so later. The succession to the throne however, was disrupted in 1013 by an invasion by Svein Forkbeard of Denmark and his son, Cnut. In the autumn, Emma and her sons, at her initiative, fled to Normandy soon followed by Æthelred himself.

In the spring of 1014 Æthelred dispatched ambassadors to England, with his young son Edward accompanying them, to negotiate a return to the English throne. Shortly after Æthelred's reinstatement, his son by a first (common-law) wife, Edmund Ironside, began to act independently of his father. Emma, it seems, was also dissatisfied with her husband’s failures, for she apparently transferred her support to Edmund. In the Encomium Emma Reginae (her biography written during her lifetime) Æthelred is not merely omitted as her husband, but his existence is significantly suppressed. Emma was a strong and determined women who knew her own mind, what she wanted, and was ruthless in her ambition to obtain it. It is doubtful that she would have chosen to ‘forget’ her first husband because of infidelity; more likely she was dissatisfied with his failures and weakness as a king.

A Hollow Crown cover
depicting the frontispiece of the Encomium
showing Emma, Harthacnut and  Edward
(fourth person unknown, possibly the Encomum's author)
Æthelred died in 1016. Edmund Ironside occupied the throne and withstood Cnut, with the boy Edward, who was possibly no older than thirteen, at his side. That Emma had deliberately sent her eldest son to be with his half-brother is typical of her character. Edward would have been too young to stand against Cnut on his own; her only chance of recovering her position, wealth, and estates would have rested on Edmund's success - with Edward as his successor. Unfortunately for Emma, Edmund died in 1016, and Cnut became King of England.

Cnut turned to securing his position and took Emma as his second wife in July 1017. He had a reputation of paganism and needed to establish his Christianity. The degree of involvement that Emma herself had in the betrothal negotiations is unknown, but she was certainly shrewd and politically wise. As Queen, Emma had acquired expertise in English politics, and marriage to her diverted support away from the two royal English sons, neutralizing them as potential opponents. The master plan of the sixth or seventh century usurper had three stages: murder the king, get the gold, marry the widow. Since the widow usually sat on the gold, the two went together.

Emma achieved a position of prominence under Cnut that she had not enjoyed under Æthelred. She benefitted from her second husband's control of three kingdoms, and by Cnut she had a third son, Harthacnut, reducing Æthelred's sons who were again in exile in Normandy to little more than pawns. When Cnut died in 1035, Harthacnut was ruling in Denmark, and Emma pressed for his succession, not Edward's. Harthacnut would retain for her, as King of England and Denmark, her wealth and status and would be more likely to receive support from the Angle-Danish aristocracy who had risen to power under Cnut. Her main ally proved to be Earl Godwine of Wessex. When Edward and Alfred arrived in England in 1036 to make a claim for the throne, there was virtually no support for either brother, including none from Emma herself.

Emma was a woman of considerable wealth and because of that, she held great political power. She held three types of property which would provide her with revenue. The possession of the royal treasury was crucial. It would contain essential royal documents, such as tribute lists, gold, silver, precious stones and weapons. Possibly also, the royal insignia. By having control of the treasury, Emma was able to attract - and hold - support. Harthacnut, however, remained in Denmark and when Godwine, the crux of Emma's success, unexpectedly switched sides to support Cnut’s illegitimate eldest son, Harold Harefoot, Emma fell swiftly from power and went, once again, into exile.

Harefoot died in 1039 which gave Harthacnut opportunity to renew his claim on England. It may have been during her exile that Emma commissioned the Encomium Emmae Regina to be written; a work of praise for herself and a demonstration that Harthacnut was the right choice as King of England. It shows that Emma was literate and of distinguished learning.

Harthacnut's reign was brief; he died in 1042. After all her struggles Emma must have been devastated; the crown passed to Edward, but it was of little comfort to her. For most of his life Edward had lived in exile in Normandy. His mother had abandoned him, and there was no love between son and mother. Soon after his consecration in 1043, Edward rode to Winchester to accuse Emma of treason and to dispossess her of lands and movables, although he stopped short at exile. According to the Anglo Saxon Chronicle, "They came unexpectedly upon the lady and deprived her of all the treasures …because she had been very hard to the king, her son...”

Whether by her own strength of character or her son's remorse, she was soon reinstated into favour, although at a lower scale. He took Earl Godwine’s daughter, Edith, as wife – although the marriage produced no children, and Emma retired to Winchester, an indication that her influence had decreased. She died on 6th March 1052 and was buried in the Old Minster, Winchester near Cnut and Harthacnut.

Post 1066 queens of England are discussed at length, appreciated or condemned, depending on their worth, while those of pre-Norman history are considerably neglected - even ignored. Emma was the only woman in British history to have been Queen twice, the wife of different ruling kings. This makes her unique. She was an intriguing woman, on a par with the later Eleanor of Aquitaine, and she has a significant place in English history.

Pauline Stafford
Queens, concubines and Dowagers: The king's wife in the early middle ages
Henrietta Leyser
Medieval Women: A social history of women in England 450- 1500
Christine Fell
Women in Anglo-Saxon England
Frank Barlow
Edward the Confessor
Translator, Anne Savage:
 The Anglo Saxon Chronicles


Helen Hollick is the author of A Hollow Crown (UK edition)/The Forever Queen (US edition). 
The Forever Queen was a USA Today bestseller.
Emma's story continues in Harold the King (UK title) / I Am The Chosen King (US title)

For more information  about Queen Emma : click here 

Buy the book in paperback or on Kindle: Amazon

Friday, October 2, 2015

Who Wants to Kill a King?

by Anthony Anglorus

How did the English come to execute their king? This is a question which many with an interest in history ask, and there is never a clear answer, despite the fact that the evidence is clearly available and well documented.

In reality, only a very small handful of people sought his death. The general populace simply wanted life to return to normal so that they could ply their various trades in peace. If asked, some might have wanted him to be brought down a peg or two, but most simply wanted to live their (usually miserable) lives without interference. Those of Royalist persuasion obviously wanted him back on the throne and even the majority of Parliamentarians only sought that he be deposed or his powers curbed.

But within the ranks of the Parliamentarians, there was a small coven of individuals who wanted him dead. Amongst these was the firebrand General Henry Ireton, who also happened to be Oliver Cromwell’s son-in-law.

Oliver Cromwell himself was in the group who sought simply to curb the powers of the King. Indeed, he put considerable effort into trying to persuade Charles to accept a reduction of powers. But at some point, he gave up trying. One can only surmise, but the logical answer as to why this happened is that after a particularly difficult session with the King, he spent some time with Ireton - perhaps at a family dinner - who persuaded him that the King could never be trusted to honour an agreement even if one was possible. However it happened, Cromwell suddenly became one of those determined to see the King executed.

But what was Cromwell like? He was something of a chameleon; at times almost kindly, at other times downright vicious. The Irish remember him mostly for his later brutality at Drogheda, where he ordered the butchery of every soldier and most civilians - and even some soldiers who had surrendered and been promised safe passage. The English have a soft spot for him, tending to overlook his shortcomings but highlight the fact that he was instrumental in putting in place the modern system of a parliamentary democracy with a Royal head of state. But most of all, in reality, he was the consummate politician as we know them today.

In contrast, Sir Thomas Fairfax was an utterly lamentable politician. Contrary to popular belief, Cromwell was not head of the New Model Army at this time; it was General Sir Thomas Fairfax. Fairfax was in fact the most successful of the Parliamentarian Generals during the Civil War and was a determinedly honourable man. His wife was an outspoken Royalist who later twice disrupted the King’s trial and was ejected forcibly from the chamber. He was himself of the opinion that the King needed to be brought down a peg or two but was strongly opposed to the concept of rule without a King and certainly not in favour of his execution.

Charles was an arrogant man who truly believed that he had a God-given right and duty to rule. Given that this was an extremely religious time, the phrase ‘God-given’ carried more weight then than it would today. His father, James I, had been possibly more arrogant still so it is easy to see where it came from. As a ruler, he was not particularly effective, probably even poor, but he certainly was not an evil man. Devious in many ways, he was also sometimes extremely rigidly honourable, as in when he refused an opportunity to escape captivity because he had given his parole to the senior officer guarding him that he would not seek to escape.

In November 1648, Cromwell was campaigning in North-East England, mopping up the last shreds of Royalist opposition when he was ordered by Parliament to return to London. For reasons forever lost in the mists of time, he obeyed this order, but deliberately prevaricated. He moved south slowly, even taking the time to take his army across England to visit Pontefract, where another general was engaged in a long siege. All was under control there, no interventions were sought, needed or given, but he spent a couple of days there before resuming his slow journey south.

Meanwhile, in London his son-in-law had either forged or tricked Fairfax into signing an order for Parliament to be blockaded, and it was enacted on 6th December in an action immortalised as ‘Pride’s Purge’, named after the Colonel who had the task of standing with Lord Grey in the House of Commons doorway.
Lord Grey had drawn up a list of members of Parliament separating out those who would probably vote for a bill to place the King on trial, those who would not and those who would be so opposed to it that they would represent a danger even from outside. As the Members arrived at the doorway, admission was refused to those who would oppose, granted to those who might vote for the bill and those who represented a danger were arrested.

Inside the House, once there was a quorum the debate began, and the bill ultimately passed.

Under English Law, a bill passed by the House of Commons must then be passed by the House of Lords, and only then does it go to the Monarch for final ratification and signature - a system in place then for centuries and still in place today. As the King was under arrest, a bill was also passed removing the need for the King’s signature.

When the bill reached the Lords, they firmly voted against it, and then, fearing physical reprisals, they declared a holiday for themselves and rapidly dispersed.

Meanwhile, by an amazing coincidence (or perhaps not), Cromwell had finally arrived in London the day after Pride’s Purge, claiming no prior knowledge of the violation of democracy that it represented but also announcing that he approved of the outcome.

Once the Commons learned that their bill had been rejected by the Lords, they reacted by passing a further bill that the House of Lords were no longer necessary for the passage of Laws in England, and that the Commons alone were the source of governance. It was then easy to pass the laws they wanted to bring the King to trial.

One should note at this point that under English Law at that time, there was no provision in Law for the Monarch to be brought to account; the Monarch was the source of all law and therefore could not be brought to account under the law. Subsequently this was changed, although Parliament has not interfered with the Monarch in recent times.

It took several weeks to prepare for the trial. The hall had to be completely refurbished and a suitable judge appointed. All of the senior legal minds knew that the trial was illegal under English Law, and to a man they went away on holiday. Finally, they appointed John Bradshaw, a junior lawyer who himself refused at first, but was eventually persuaded - and was extraordinarily enthusiastic in his post thereafter.

Come the day of the opening of the trial, Bradshaw turned up with body armour beneath his robes and surrounded by numerous bodyguards. Troops lined the courtroom, all facing the public gallery. A roll call of the selected commissioners was made, and when Fairfax’s name was called, there was no reply - he was absent. From the public gallery came a cry ‘Aye, he hath too much wit to be here!’. The heckler was hustled from the gallery, but not before she had been identified as Lady Fairfax.

The trial continued over several days. The King contested the legality of the trial, but Bradshaw overruled him and carefully avoided giving the King any opportunity to defend himself. At one point, the King requested the right to address the House of Commons and Lords together, but Bradshaw denied it, causing John Downes, one of the commissioners, to leap to his feet and question the morality of such a denial. Cromwell ordered him to sit down and shut up, but he persisted, causing a temporary adjournment of the proceedings while the commissioners talked in private. When they emerged, the protesting commissioner was missing along with several others. The predetermined outcome was reached with the predetermined sentence laid down ‘in the name of the people of England’, at which point a voice rang out from the Gallery.

“This is not for the people of England, nay, barely any would condone this."

Again, the heckler was hustled from the gallery, this time at gunpoint, and again was identified as Lady Fairfax.

Sentence was to be carried out a few days later on January 30th, 1649, and the King was held in a nearby apartment.

At his London home, Fairfax (who was, remember, Cromwell’s superior officer) was receiving pleas and protests from the City Fathers (London) and numerous foreign embassies, all pleading for a remission of sentence. On the morning of the execution, once he had seen the last of the ambassadors, Fairfax went to the site of the execution with the intent of forcing a deferral of sentence. The actual execution had been delayed while Parliament passed a law making it illegal to declare Charles’ son (also named Charles) as King once the execution took place. As Fairfax arrived, Cromwell had just returned with the new law, which was being read out to the assembled crowd.

Guessing Fairfax’s intentions, Cromwell gave the nod to the officer responsible for overseeing the execution, then took Fairfax into the chapel "for some peace and quiet". Whilst discussing matters, a huge groan was heard from outside - a witness to the execution described the sound as one "I have never heard before and wish never to hear again." This occurred at the moment the executioner’s assistant held up the King’s severed head for all to see, announcing "behold, the head of a traitor".

The King was dead.


Whilst the execution is not directly the story I have written, it is a pivotal point in both British History and also my novel, which is about a Royalist highwayman who was active at that time and indeed had become a folk hero. There is more detail there than here, and if you want to know more you should read The Prince of Prigs published by Bygone Era Books and available in paperback ($17.95) and e-book ($4.99). The sterling price fluctuates with the rate of exchange but is around £11.95 and £3.33.

My working life was spent far from both History and Literature initially. But I did enjoy reading, and as I tired of Science Fiction, I started reading Historical Fiction - and I was hooked.

From then onwards, I would enjoy the history of the world wherever I travelled, indeed I avoided anywhere lacking historical content.

I had been ‘guided’ towards accountancy, and this was my career from around age In 2000, I moved my office to Leicestershire and it was here that I learned about one George Davenport, ill-fated highwayman of the late 18th Century.

Once I reached the first stage of my retirement in 2009, I found myself with more time on my hands, and I decided to research this character. As I delved, a fascinating story emerged, and I resolved to write his story, a task which eventually became “The Other Robin Hood”, available from Smashwords and Amazon.

This was my first real attempt at writing a book, and it showed; I made numerous mistakes. But I knew what they were, and resolved that the next book would be free of them. I decided to stick within the ‘highwayman’ genre, and did extensive research on the history of highwaymen. Eventually I alighted upon Captain James Hind.

I tell the real-life story of the Captain on my webpage, but for the novel, I wrote his story from age around 32. This was because there is little to catch the eye in a rebellious teenager, which was how he started. I decided to weave in a bit about events surrounding him, then I wove in another highwayman and before I knew it, I had the elements in place to write a satisfying conclusion to the book.

Numerous rejections later, I had enough comments to reorganise the opening chapters, and once that was done, I immediately got interest from two publishers. Bygone Era Books responded first, I liked the contract, and so I was suddenly a Published Author! The Prince of Prigs was released on 6th July, 2015.

As I am now in my sixties, retirement beckons. But I shall continue writing until my last breath, and we are currently creating a writing room in our retirement home in rural France.

At the point of writing this, I have just started writing the sequel. Whilst there was enough material in the true story to mean that much of The Prince of Prigs is simply a dramatisation of the truth, the absence of subsequent information gives me a blank canvas, one which I hope to fill with a book at least as good as the opener.

Watch This Space!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

12th Century Woman: Place in Society, Marriage and Childbirth

Summarised background research to developing my book All That is Truth Will Be Revealed.

by Denise J Hale

Until recently I was working with young people; as a part of my role I had to ensure they understood “equality and diversity”. Most young people had a blasé attitude to these subjects; ‘yeah I know about that’, ‘we’re all equal now’, ‘course men and women are treated equally’. Even harder was trying to ensure they were aware of protection from sexual harassment; luckily newspaper stories of events in the 70’s could be referred to. There is no doubt that our attitudes to these subjects have changed within my lifetime.

It may seem a strange leap to medieval history, but it was thinking of the similarities and differences within the two societies which inspired my book.

Too many girls I spoke with were complacent about equality, yet women are still not treated equally in many sectors of society. I began to think about a period in England where women were not viewed as equal, when arranged marriages were the norm and married women wore veils to hide their hair. I have studied various periods of history as part of my degree, but the earliest (not counting the Romans) was 1450. Prior to that I had a rudimentary knowledge of Celts, Anglo-Saxons, Vikings, Norman Conquest, Crusades, Plantagenets, War of the Roses and the founding of the Tudor dynasty. Now I wanted to know more about the zeitgeist of the medieval era.

Selecting a period

In the summer of 1190 the recently crowned King, Richard I, left England for the Holy Wars along with his knights and their men. This is not an illustration of Richard, but it shows anxious women, on the edge of the picture, watching their men leave.

It was these women, on the edge of history, I wanted to learn more about.

Class and women’s place

After the Norman invasion a chronicler summarised England as having three classes; ‘those that pray, those that fight and those that work.’ The chronicler was referring to men, but women were, of course, present in all these classes. Medieval writers rarely mention women, and when they do they are often termed as chattel in marriages. Richard did not even allow women (or, incidentally, Jews) to attend his coronation.

Within ‘those that pray’ were the nuns. However, unlike their male counterparts they could not conduct services, even in nunneries only male priests could conduct Mass and other Christian rituals. The Church viewed women harshly. The original sin, according to the Bible, was caused by the actions of Eve and led to her, and Adam’s, expulsion from Paradise. God even punished women by inflicting on them the pains of childbirth. Women were naturally inferior to men; after all, man was made in God’s image. The head of the Church was the Pope and the English clergy answered to him for their actions, not the King. The language of the Church was Latin; it was both spoken and written.

Many nuns would have been ladies from noble families, and some would be able to read. It was not uncommon for older women (and men) to enter religious houses. Queen Eleanor retired to Fontevraud (one of many religious establishments she’d give endowments), and here she became a nun. People recognised the brevity of their life, and there was a strong belief in an after-life for the soul. Its destination was dependant on your actions on earth and your contrition for your sins. Fasting and penance were not only practised by the religious orders but were part of everyone’s life.

Fighting was the major occupant of the nobles; whether defending their own lands or performing feudal service for their Lord. Women’s roles were home based—wives and mothers, the bearing of heirs being particularly important. In many cases these women would have been managing their husband’s affairs whilst they were away.

Marriages of the nobility were arranged by parents; few were love-matches. Gaining alliances, strengthening of land holdings and gaining of property were all attainable from a good marriage. Dowries were obtained from the bride’s family by the groom’s, however, the bride’s family could also gain advantages from the union. Girls, of course, had to be virgins and many marriages were agreed when the girls, in particular, were very young. At this stage the marriage contract may be sealed, but the consummation of a marriage would not take place. Intercourse with a girl, not yet a woman, (the arrival of menstruation was recognised as the beginning of womanhood) was considered as likely to damage the girl and risk the possibility of her being unable to bear children. The completion of the marriage contract required an exchange of vows to take place. This would occur at the door of the church with witnesses before a priest. The bride would be standing on the groom’s left, as it was believed Eve was created from one of Adam’s left rib-bones. After the vows were exchanged everyone would enter the Church to celebrate Mass. The marriage also had to be consummated for it to be valid.

The third group of people, the workers, were a mixture of people including traders, craftsman, freemen, villains, serfs. For the most part they did not speak the same language as the nobles (Norman French) although, after one hundred years since the invasion, there were bi-lingual speakers in both groups. The majority would have been tied to the land and were viewed as their lord’s property. They would be expected to work his land (as well as any granted to them) and their wives and children would work alongside them; tilling, planting and harvesting. Most of the workers in the castles would have been men, including in the kitchen. There were also skilled castle workers which included blacksmiths, wood workers, leather workers, stone masons, grooms.

Note—the ladies of the castle were served mainly by other noble women. Noble men would also serve in the castle; pages, squires, men-in-arms, clerics. I suspect Normans tended to trust other Normans when sharing their living space.

Marriage, for workers, was unlikely to involve very young girls; most women would be in their 20s, and it was less likely to involve the church. A couple, wanting to wed, would need a witness to hear their vows. This was enough to constitute a lawful marriage as long as neither had previously married, was not a close relation and was not being forced to wed, i.e. ‘had not given their word freely'. The reading of banns to safeguard against unlawful marriages was introduced following Herbert Walter’s Westminster Council 1200.
Note: I have been told it was usual to request permission from their lord before marrying; I am still trying to verify the facts on this.

Childbirth and Menstruation

In 1190s, whilst men faced death on the battlefield, it was childbirth that claimed the lives of women. The birthing room was presided over by women; no man was supposed to enter.

Due to the high risk of death a woman would attend mass before birth in order to be prepared if the worst wa0s to befall her. Midwives were the only women who were given permission to perform a church service. 7'Midwives could baptise a baby, but only if the baby was unlikely to survive, so that its soul would gain entry to heaven. Due to the risk of infant mortality living babies were taken and baptised within days of birth although the mother could not leave the birthing chamber till she was ready to be churched.

Menstruation, at this time, is a source of some very strange beliefs. Women looking at fresh milk, or wine, could turn it sour. The blood could kill plants and rust metal! Priests certainly did not allow women in this condition to enter and defile the holy ground of a church!

Churching normally took place 40 days after childbirth, when bleeding had stopped. On the positive side it allowed women recovery time. The service was a celebration of her return to the church and the safe delivery of a child; it would be followed by a feast.

Holy women often did not menstruate. This was due to the effects of fasting and their restricted diet, but was viewed as a sign of their release from the consequences of Eve’s sin.

Marriage and Sex

"52-aspetti di vita quotidiana, amore,Taccuino Sanitatis, Cas" by Giovannino de' Grassi - book scan Bibliotheca Casanatense Roma. Italia.. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

Once married it was believed to be important for the woman to reach climax in intercourse, as well as the man, in order both their seeds were released to create a baby.

Throughout the medieval period the church sought to control both sex and marriage. Although lust was viewed as a sin, within marriage sex was a necessity for the providing of children. Various edicts were issued including naming days when sex even within marriage was sinful, positions that were sinful, acts which were sinful.

Writing my novel

Like many others I absorb information about history and ideas related to history, then think, what if? What if a girl experienced a little bit more freedom than others of her gender? What if the future that was planned for her is destroyed? What if an opportunity is given to her family, and she can change its fortune?

Eventually Helena’s story began to enfold. It began as a romance, but as it developed other factors came into it. The three sons of Lord Westbury were partially based on a family of original crusaders—the eldest embracing the life of a soldier, the second son looking for ways to gain status and the third destined for the church. In the original family the youngest left the church himself whilst I amended this decision to being his father’s. All three sons trained as soldiers from a young age, as most men would have at this time. Not many would be able to read and write though. Edwin, the youngest son, learnt both skills from the monks. His eldest brother, Richard, could also read. Helena’s father appointed their priest for both his ecclesiastical proficiencies and his ability to read and write. He was also tutor to his sons and allowed Helena to join their reading lessons.

I also wanted to ensure that the society’s bi-lingual aspect came across in my novel; the ruling class spoke Norman French and the lower classes the native ‘English’. Hand made books were produced, but only the rich could afford them; they were written in either Latin or French depending on their subject matter. Before the twelfth century all readers read aloud; as manuscripts began to acquire spacing between the words, they became easier to read without muttering the words. However, people still read aloud to share the story with others.

Following a battle incident in which his life was saved by the actions of Helena’s betrothed, causing him to lose his own life, Lord Westbury promised Helena’s father that she could marry one of his sons. Beside his sense of gratitude Lord Westbury would have been aware that, even through Helena’s father is a Norman noble, Helena would have very little dowry and was likely to encounter difficulties obtaining another suitable husband. The returning of John’s heart in a gold casket is based on burials of Crusaders’ hearts found in two Suffolk churches.

Besides her father’s absence, her mother’s illness, mixed with her family’s improvised state, has allowed Helena a freedom which would not have been normal for an unmarried nobleman’s daughter. Her mother’s illness is not named. I viewed it as gynaecological problem following her seventh childbirth, originally ignored by her and then not recognised, or even treatable, by doctors.

The story begins with Helena’s father’s return and Helena having to leave her home and family, carrying with her with the responsibility ‘to make a good marriage’ without any support or guidance available to her. Even her letters home will have to be dictated to a household cleric. Her first impressions are of the higher status of this family to her own; clothing, furnishing, even windows and floors are to impress others as much as for comfort. Lifestyle envy, despite a recent ‘Times’ article, is not new. Lady Westbury is unwelcoming to her. Whilst her husband may have made a promise she does not want her sons to marry this girl who brings nothing but her beauty to a marriage. Edwin, however, treats Helena with respect and kindness. Unsurprisingly, after her family leaves, Helena feels uncomfortable; she finds her freedom curtailed, she makes mistakes, and, eventually, she falls in love with the one brother who is not available to her. When her mother dies she is able, at last, to leave Westbury. She is accompanied home by the youngest and eldest sons.

Apart from creating a readable story, within ‘All that is truth will be revealed’, I hope I have provided an insight into the lives of people in this era. Helena is not the only one to make mistakes and then have to deal with their consequences.


I was born in Gloucestershire and, so far, have lived here all my life. I am married with two boys.
History was always something I enjoyed; whether it was reading about people and events, watching films or TV dramas, or visiting stately houses and castles. I wanted to take history as an A’level but was told it didn’t fit into the maths based course that I hoped would lead to a job.

I worked as a programmer/analyst and undertook an Open University Degree in my spare time. I probably should have studied for a computer-based degree to further my career, instead I opted for history and art based units. One of my last units was 'Approaching Literature'. After I finished the degree I completed a few writing courses. I wrote various short stories; one was read on Radio Gloucestershire, another won first prize in a writing competition. I also wrote a couple of novels, but they weren’t published.

In 2014 I started to write a medieval historical novel. I have just completed this novel and am presently working on its sequel. I would like to follow the family I created, 'The Westburys', through till the death of the last Plantagenet King, in 1485.



Wednesday, September 30, 2015

John Stow - Chronicler of London in the Tudor Age

by Mark Patton

Previously on this blog-site I explored London through the eyes of a 12th Century chronicler, William FitzStephen. The city would have to wait for more than three hundred years before another writer appeared on the scene to document its fortunes with similar care and attention to detail.

John Stow was born in London in 1525, the son of a tailor. Growing up in Threadneedle Street (now synonymous with high finance but, in Stow's time, with his father's trade, as the name suggests), he would walk along Leadenhall Street to fetch half-penny jugs of milk from the farm at the Franciscan nunnery that lay just outside Aldgate. His father suffered the indignity of having half of his garden appropriated by Thomas Cromwell (no legal process was involved, Cromwell's workmen simply removed the fence and erected a brick wall twenty-two feet further south): Stow's father, however, continued to pay rent on the whole property, "because no man durst go to argue the matter."

Like Cromwell, however, and like Cromwell's mentor, Cardinal Wolsey, Stow seems, somehow, to have received an education enjoyed by few boys of his social status. Literate in both English and Latin, he served his apprenticeship as a tailor without enthusiasm. At the age of forty, despite having few financial resources to fall back upon, he gave up the trade altogether in favour of a scholarly life. He built up a substantial private library, including the works of Geoffrey Chaucer (a version of which he edited) & Geoffrey of Monmouth,  and the Latin texts of Julius Caesar & Tacitus. He travelled the length and breadth of England, always on foot, since he could not afford a horse.

He published his Annals (a history of Britain, drawing both on the work of earlier historians and on his own observations) in 1580. Only at the very end of his life, as his health declined, did he devote himself specifically to the history of his native city. His Survey of London (1598) is an important document, not least because many of the archives he consulted would subsequently be lost to the Great Fire of 1666. He gives both a vivid account of the London of his own day and a historical commentary, drawing on the archives of the Guildhall, the Livery Companies and the Churches.

Stow was among the first English historians to recognise the unreliability of his Medieval predecessors. Writing of the Tower of London, he has this to say:
... it hath been the common opinion - and some have written - but of none assured ground, that Julius Caesar, the first conqueror of the Britons, was the original author and founder, as well thereof as also many other towers, castles, and great buildings within this realm; but ... Caesar remained not here so long, nor had he in his head any such matter, but only to despatch a conquest of this barbarous country, and to proceed to greater matters.

London Bridge he describes as
... a work very rare, having with the draw-bridge twenty arches made of squared stone, of height sixty feet, and in breadth thirty feet ... compact and joined together with vaults and cellars; upon both sides be houses built, so that it seemeth rather a continual street than a bridge; for the fortifying thereof against the incessant assaults of the river, it hath overseers and officers, viz, wardens as aforesaid, and others.

London Bridge in 1483, British Library
Royal Manuscript 16, Folio 73

He also documents the various tributaries of the Thames, now largely hidden, and the ways in which these had been engineered, even in his time, to provide fresh water for the population of the city (then numbering around a quarter of a million people):
The first cistern of lead, castellated with stone, in the City of London was called the great Conduit in West Cheap, which was begun to be built in the year 1285, Henry Wales being then mayor ... Bosses of water at Belinsgate, by Paul's Wharf, and by Saint Giles's Church without Cripplegate, made about 1423. Water conveyed to the gaols of Newgate and Ludgate, 1432.

London's rivers, most of them now underground.
The Open Guide to London (licensed under CCA).

Like William FitzStephen before him, he also describess the enjoyments of Londoners (skating, sports, theatres), and the many festivities that took place at particular times of the year.

Perhaps most significantly, he provides a detailed account of each of the city's Wards. Over the coming months, as I research a series of historical novels based in London, I will be walking the streets that Stow walked and exploring each of the Wards in turn, both here and on my own blog-site.

The wards of the City of London, as recorded in 1870.
Image: Doc77can (licensed under CCA).

John Stow lived much of his life in poverty and his later years in poor health but was nonetheless described as a "merry old man." On his death he was buried at the church where he had worshipped, Saint Andrew Undershaft (coincidentally, one of the few city churches to have survived largely intact from his time).

The Church of Saint Andrew Undershaft,
built in 1532, over an earlier Medieval church.
Photo: Elissa.rolle (licensed under CCA).

The monument to John Stow.
Photo: John Salmon (licensed under CCA).


Mark Patton blogs regularly on aspects of history and historical fiction at His novels, Undreamed Shores, An Accidental King and Omphalos, are published by Crooked Cat Publications and can be purchased from Amazon.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Crazy Customs from the Past Blog Hop and Book Release

by Debra Brown

To our way of thinking, people of the past have had some crazy customs. Packing a picnic lunch to attend and cheer on a hanging comes to mind. Or is it that different than a jumbo popcorn in the center seats to see the gore in full color and best of all, larger than life?

We are used to doing things our way, as people were Then. It comes with practice. I was always confounded by the fact that ladies once wore dresses that dragged in the mud. Surely society would have understood if just a tad of ankle showed to keep the spendy fabrics from becoming filthy and ragged? Or not? It was unfathomable to me until I attended a Renaissance Faire in full dress (to the top of my foot, thank you) and watched more realistic women dragging their acres of fabric in the dust. As my contract required me to hang out for the duration, I adjusted to the sight and with practice learned to accept it as if it were fully normal. I may adjust my social standing for the next event and drag some velvet in my train.

Time traveling is fun. One of the fabulous EHFA writers mentioned the convenience of relieving oneself when attending a Regency banquet--since there were no rooms set aside for the purpose as we have today, a duke or duchess might (would, actually) simply step behind a partition and make use of a chamber pot. How handy is that?

For those of you who enjoy stepping into the past from the safety of your modern day reading room just down the hall from your flushing toilet, we proudly present the beautiful Volume Two of Castles, Customs, and Kings: True Tales by English Historical Fiction Authors, edited by myself and Sue Millard and published by Madison Street Publishing. As an extra treat, several of our contributors and friends have shed light on various customs, from "Hunting the Wren in Wales and Ireland" to the "17th Century Marriage Day". See below for links to their blogs. We hope you enjoy this blog hop in celebration of our new release.

An anthology of essays from the second year of the English Historical Fiction Authors blog, this book transports the reader across the centuries from prehistoric to twentieth century Britain. Nearly fifty different authors share the stories, incidents, and insights discovered while doing research for their own historical novels.

From medieval law and literature to Tudor queens and courtiers, from Stuart royals and rebels to Regency soldiers and social calls, experience the panorama of Britain’s yesteryear. Explore the history behind the fiction, and discover the true tales surrounding Britain’s castles, customs, and kings.

Volume I
Volume II

The Kindle copy and links from other venues will be available soon.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Sir Thomas Trowbridge

by Lauren Gilbert

Sir Thomas Trowbridge (Wikimedia Commons)

A snippet of news from 1807 as noted in Jane Austen's Regency World Magazine caught my eye.
Admiral Drury is to proceed immediately to India, in the Monmouth, on which vessel he has hosted his flag.  The Admiral has been appointed to succeed the gallant, but unfortunate Sir Thomas Trowbridge in the command of the East India Station, there being now too much reason to believe that the Blenheim is lost. (1)
I was immediately curious as to who Sir Thomas Trowbridge was and what happened to the Blenheim.

He was the son of Richard Trowbridge, esq, of  Cavendish Street, in Marylebone.  Thomas spent the bulk of his life in the Navy, starting out under the tutelage of Admiral Sir Edward Hughes, K. B. in the East Indies.  He obtained his lieutenancy in 1780 and proceeded to rise steadily through the ranks.  As captain, he was sent to support Lord Nelson and participated in the Battle of the Nile under the Admiral, in which the French navy was destroyed August 1, 1798.  Nelson wrote in praise of Captain Trowbridge's conduct in the battle to the Admiralty.  Thomas subsequently became a commodore, then Rear Admiral of the White and continued to serve.  He was made Sir Thomas Trowbridge, Baronet in November of 1799, because of his action in the Battle of the Nile.  Sir Thomas continued to rise in profession and was appointed a Lord of the Admiralty.

On the personal side, he married Mrs. Frances Richardson (described in one source as "relict" so she appears to have been a widow).  They had a son, Edward-Thomas, who became the 2nd Baronet, and followed his father into the Navy, and a daughter Charlotte, who married Major-General Egerton (brother of Sir Philip-Grey Egerton, Baronet).  Sadly, there appears to be no record of Sir Thomas's date of birth, any additional information about his wife, or their marriage date.There is also no annotation of the birth dates of his children, only their marriage dates.

On April 23, 1804, Sir Thomas was promoted to admiral and was sent in 1805 to the East Indies, where he was assigned to the Cape of Good Hope as commander-in-chief of the east portion of the East India Command.  His ship was the Blenheim, which had 74 guns but had seen much service and was in poor condition following damage in the Straits of Malacca. Although Sir Thomas sailed the Blenheim successfully from Pulo Penang to Madras (after some badly-needed repairs), the ship was still in very bad shape.  Sir Thomas was told of the ship's condition, but would not alter his plan to sail her to the Cape.  The Blenheim was accompanied by the Java and the Harrier.  On February 1, 1806, they were caught in a severe gale, and the last sight of the Blenheim revealed her to be sitting low in the water in obvious distress. The ships were separated, and the Harrier made it to the Cape on February 28, 1806.  The Blenheim and the Java were lost. Captain Edward-Thomas Trowbridge was sent to look for his father, but no trace was found.

Jane Austen's Regency World Magazine.  "What Made the News In Sept and Oct 1807." Compiled by Judy Boyd.  Sep/Oct 2015 Issue 77, p. 34  (Footnote 1)

Google Books.  Debrett, John and Courthope, William.  Debrett's Baronetage of England: with alphabetical lists of such baronetcies as have merged in the peerage, or have become extinct, and also of the existing baronets of Nova Scotia and Ireland, edited. p. 282.  1835: J.G. & F. Rivington, HERE

GoogleBooks. Lysons, Rev. Daniel and Lysons, Samuel.   MAGNA BRITANNIA: Being a Concise, Topical Account of the Several Counties of Great Britain, Volume the Sixth containing Devonshire, p. cxxxi (131).  1822: Thomas Cadell, London,  HERE

GoogleBooks.  The Picture Magazine, Volume 7.  "Portraits." page 74. January -June.  1896: George Newnes Ltd., London., HERE

Image: Wikimedia Commons,  from Thomas Mante's NAVAL AND MILITARY HISTORY OF THE WARS OF ENGLAND, including those of Scotland and Ireland, 1795(?)-1807, Vol. 8, published in London, HERE


Lauren Gilbert is the author of Heyerwood: A Novel. Her second book, A Rational Attachment, is due out this winter. She will attend the Jane Austen Society of North America's Annual General Meeting in Louisville, and will be participating in the author signing. Stop by and say hello! She lives in Florida with her husband. Visit her website at for  more information about her.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Navigating the Strange Dichotomy of an Author’s Life

by Andrea Zuvich

I recently gave a lecture about the Stuart influence upon Kensington Palace’s gardens to a lovely group of people at the Kensington and Chelsea Forum recently. During the course of that lecture, I explained that a historical writer’s life was a strange life – to be mostly alone (be it in archives, typing away on a computer, etc) and then to suddenly have to switch into a polar opposite mode: public speaking. I was very stunned and delighted to learn that, as interest in the lecture was greater than expected, they had to change venues to accommodate the larger audience. That’s great, but if you don’t like public speaking, a larger audience may make the whole experience that much more daunting.

That’s the thing that I would advise potential authors about: you need to be ready, and comfortable, to do both. Without live events, you tend to not reach members of the public who would otherwise not have heard about you. Even in 2015, there are many who do not have access to the Internet (or choose not to use it). Public events are excellent ways of interacting with potential readers. Despite being inherently quiet and sometimes shy, I’m really pleased that I find public speaking relatively easy (this is probably because of my background in acting). Don’t worry if you find it hard at first; like most things, it gets easier with practice.

It was this sort of thing that made me think of the other things a historical fiction/nonfiction writer has to keep in mind, and I’ve listed them below:

Socialise in real life, not just on the Internet.

I’ll be the first to admit that the Internet has made it so much easier to find like-minded friends. Skype is great because you can see and talk to someone in real time. That being said, there is nothing like a face-to-face chat in person. Do not underestimate the importance of basic human contact. Go out for lunch or coffee. Go see a film, go to a concert. Just get out of the house. This way, you can relax your mind and get back to your writing with renewed zest and energy.

Try to lead an active lifestyle

Another, probably more important, aspect of a writer’s life is unquestionably a sedentary lifestyle. Unless you are one of the few gifted with a fast metabolism, you will notice a change in your weight. Some writers get so lost in their work that they forget to eat. Others, and I’m in this category, get heavy. That’s why it is imperative to do something active every day. I force myself to do at least 20 minutes on my cross-trainer and I also walk to and from the supermarket 15 minutes away. This helps to address the overwhelming majority of the time that one is seated writing. That being said, I have a few friends who have switched to standing desks. Whatever works for you is good, but staying as healthy as you can be helps a lot.

Take screen breaks.

I suffer from both migraines and very poor vision – the latter needs to be checked regularly. My ophthalmologist recommended that I look outside or towards the far side of the room every fifteen minutes to reduce eye strain, and this works (when I remember to do it). RSI and carpal tunnel are possible side effects to your work. I like to use a mouse pen instead of a normal mouse because I can get constant pain in my wrists when I am writing a book.

Love your subject.

I can’t emphasise this enough. When you love your subject, it shows. When you have enthusiasm and passion for your topic, it’s contagious. Why did I choose the 17th century? Oddly enough, I had been interested in that century even before I knew it. Like many, I was taught about the Tudors and found that really exciting. My teachers, however, went from the Tudors straight to the Victorians, whilst I personally enjoyed aspects of the 17th-century. It’s often said that nothing can kill your passion for a subject as quickly as formal study of it, and that happened to me. After several years of university (and one absolutely horrible professor who made my life so difficult, I labelled that time my “semester from Hell”), I had to have a break. It was – it later proved – to be fortuitous. Leaving the academic world was the best thing I ever did, because after a year of not having anything to do with the subject, my love of history returned. And it’s only increased and strengthened with time. Now that I’m older, I no longer believe that academic credentials are important. Passion and a rigorous determination to learn as much about your subject as possible are invaluable.

At the moment, I’m hard at work promoting my new release, The Stuarts in 100 Facts, which means I am constantly giving talks, interviews, and writing articles for magazines. It’s wonderful to get to interact with people in person and online. I’m fully on “public” mode, but that will soon change at the end of this month, when I go back into “hermit” mode to continue and finish writing my next book, A Year in the Life of Stuart Britain.


Andrea Zuvich (aka The Seventeenth Century Lady) is a seventeenth-century historian specialising in the Late Stuarts, historical advisor, and historical fiction authoress. She has degrees in History and one in Anthropology. Zuvich has been on television and radio discussing the Stuarts and gives lectures on them throughout the UK. She was one of the original developers of and leaders on The Garden History Tours at Kensington Palace. Zuvich lives in Windsor, England, and is writing A Year in Stuart Britain (2016).

Please visit her site at