Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Image of His Grandfather

Henry VIII
The more I look at the turbulent times as the Plantagenet dynasty morphed into that of the Tudors, the more similarities I notice between Edward IV and his grandson Henry VIII. It is all the more interesting since Edward seems to be romanticized more and remembered as a golden warrior king, while Henry is infamous for his scandalous marital history. Yet, were it not for those six wives, their stories would be strikingly similar.

Both Edward IV and Henry VIII were confident young men and widely acclaimed when they came to the throne. Each was welcomed and celebrated in a way that their fathers had not been, the handsome teens capturing the hearts of the people more successfully than Richard Duke of York or Henry VII had. Looking much alike, with their tall, athletic frames and red-gold hair, anyone seeing them together would have immediately seen the family resemblance.

Of course, no one did see them together. By the time Henry took the throne, his maternal grandfather had been dead for twenty-six years, much longer than Henry had been alive. Surely, his mother, Elizabeth of York, would have noticed the similarities between her beloved father and spirited son. But by 1509, she was also dead. There were a few to take note that the new Tudor king looked much like a Plantagenet, but it is not likely that they commented upon it.

Elizabeth of York
(Edward IV's daughter and
Henry VIII's mother)
The Tudors did not necessarily announce themselves as a new dynasty the way we consider them as such. Henry VII saw his reign of one of peacekeeping. Putting back together the shards of Lancaster and York, rather than creating a new royal family. While it is easy for us to draw a dividing line through the year 1485, that is not quite the way it would have seemed to someone living at the time. Therefore, it would have seemed natural for Henry to appear to be a reincarnation of his warrior king grandfather. People undoubtedly hoped that he would also be as virile.

There was certainly every reason to think that Henry would sire many children. He was one of eight children, though only he and two sisters survived to adulthood. His grandfather had ten children by his wife, Elizabeth Woodville, and at least a few illegitimate children. As the almost eighteen year old Henry accepted his new crown, few could have foreseen the obsessive quest for an heir that would define his reign.

Maybe it was because of the arrogance of youth or willingness to step out on their own that led both of these new kings to raise up new men to surround themselves with. Instead of calling upon the patriarchs of ancient families to advise them, Edward and Henry preferred to seek wisdom from whatever source provided it. Men like William Hastings and Charles Brandon are examples of this. Others, who might have been expected to hold greater positions, such as the Stafford men, were held at a distance by both kings.

Edward IV
These eerily similar kings lost the optimism of their youth and degenerated into cruelty and suspicion toward those who might challenge them. Edward IV executed his own brother, George of Clarence; Henry executed George's daughter. Neither had any serious charge against them. Margaret had not even had a trial.

Edward, a man who seemed to be at his best when at war, disintegrated into self-destructive habits when his kingdom was at peace. Known to gorge himself on food and then purge so that he could eat more, Edward lost the muscular physique of his younger years under layers of fat, just as his grandson would though Henry's was also due to injuries that made it painful to walk. As they aged and grew more cantankerous, both kings had problems with women.

Elizabeth Woodville was a strong, ambitious woman, which made her unattractive to most men of the 15th century. The marriage matches, titles, and positions given to her many siblings caused people to turn against her and Edward. Henry's problem was quite the opposite, it seemed that no matter how many women he married, he could not cause one of them to give him a son. While Edward struggled to balance the wants and needs of a large extended family and many children of his own, Henry became obsessed with his need for a son to inherit his kingdom. Even after the birth of his own Prince Edward, named for his illustrious grandfather, Henry carried on to marry three more women. As a younger son himself, Henry understood the need for an heir and a spare.

Raised up with great expectations and hopes for the future, both of the promising young kings died leaving young boys to inherit their throne. Edward's son is lost to history as one of the Princes in the Tower, but Henry's son did not fare much better. After reigning only six years, Edward VI succumbed to illness, and the princess who Henry never thought was good enough to be his heir became Queen Mary, England's first Queen Regnant.

The wars between cousins that put Edward on the throne did not end with his death. Instead there was a resurgence as the people failed to accept Richard III's rule. Henry Tudor was the most distant of Plantagenet cousins, but the familial infighting did not stop there. In order to secure her throne, Mary was forced to imprison her cousin, Lady Jane Grey, who the council had attempted to enthrone. Queen Elizabeth, Mary's sister, spent much of her life putting off making the decision regarding which of her cousins would be named her heir. Maybe it was not so much that Edward and Henry were so similar, but that some things just never change.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Digging for the Historical King Arthur

Historical fiction author Mary Anne Yarde is celebrating the release of book two of her Du Lac Chronicles. I asked her how she decided to write about the aftermath of the legendary, but a little bit difficult to pin down, King Arthur. Welcome, Mary!

~ Samantha

Digging for the Historical King Arthur 

I have been fascinated with the life and times of King Arthur and his Knights of The Round Table since I was a child — I guess growing up a stone's throw from Glastonbury (The Ancient Isle of Avalon) may have had something to do with that. My book series, The Du Lac Chronicles, tells the story of what happened after the death of Arthur, and continues the story of his Knights and their sons. But in order to write about the end of Arthur’s reign, I needed to know about the beginning. A not so easy task, it turned out.

The history of a historical Arthur is not written in stone but is, instead, engraved in folklore. Firstly, where did he come from? Well, that is an easy question to answer…
King Arthur was English. No, hang on, he was Welsh. I think you have made a mistake, Arthur was Scottish. He was from Brittany, didn’t you know?
And so it goes on. Arthur is so famous that everyone wants to claim him and, over the years, there have been many names thrown out there as to who he really was. But...and there is always a big fat but when we are dealing with Arthur, we are digging up folklore, and that is not the same as excavating relics. We can make Arthur fit wherever we want him to, and that is where the problem lies. It is very easy to make mistakes, and I have read many books that claim to have found the real Arthur, only they haven’t, it is just a theory, sometimes a very shaky one.

What doesn't help when we come to this period in history, which is commonly referred to as The Dark Ages, is the lack of reliable primary sources. What was written down was written down for a purpose and that purpose was usually politically motivated, which in itself is fascinating, although not so helpful. Now, in these early texts when Arthur is mentioned, there is nothing about him being a king. Nennuis describes him a warrior on par with Ironman, but no mention of a crown. It isn't until the 12th Century when Geoffrey of Monmouth writes his great work that the Arthur we know is born. Monmouth's work, which was supposed to be an accurate account of British history, is in fact, one of the greatest works of fiction ever written. Monmouth is borrowing from folklore — although he did keep mentioning something about a lost manuscript that he found and then conveniently lost again when asked to share it! It is folklore that drives the legend of Arthur and his knights forward, and I think that is important and it tells a great deal about the time in which these stories are told.

My books are not just set in Britain but Brittany and France as well, so I needed to have a good understanding of what was happening in these countries in the 5th Century in order to keep the history real in the telling. Before we look at any of these countries we need to look at the powerhouse of the world at this time, and that was the Roman Empire. However, the golden age of the Roman Empire was almost over; she was politically unstable and was withdrawing her forces from far-flung provinces such as Briton, to defend her borders. But this dawning new era brings some of the most fascinating historical figures that ever lived. These were the days of men such as Clovis. Clovis won a decisive victory against Rome, at the Battle of Soissons in AD 486. But, Clovis’s ambition didn’t stop there. Roman Gaul and parts of Western Germany fell to him as well. He forged a new empire through blood, war, and marriage. He made Paris the capital of his new kingdom, and he was the first King of a united Frank (France).

The Saxons and the Angles crossed the South Sea to take advantage of vulnerable Britain who, since the Romans had left, had split back into various smaller kingdoms. There was much infighting and unrest, it was the perfect opportunity for the Saxon’s to come over and stake their claim.

Brittany, like Britain, wasn’t one united country, but many, and they were a race of warriors. While they were busy fighting each other, they missed the real threat to the kingdom, which eventually would be their undoing and they would find themselves at the mercy of Frank.

While all this is going on, the Church is creeping into the crevices, and spreading the word of God and, what could be consider of equal value, one language — Latin. It could be argued that it was the Church that united Britain in the end.

This was a time of great unrest and change, but one thing remained constant for the general populous and that was storytelling. Arthur may well have been a general but folklore made him a Christian King and gave him a castle full of noble knights. Arthur and his Knights (most of them anyway) cared about the people they represented. Arthur was a good king, the like of which has never been seen before or after. He was the perfect tool for spreading a type of patriotic propaganda. Arthur was someone you would want to fight by your side. But he also gave ordinary people a sense of belonging and hope. He is, after all, The Once and Future King.

I have tried to show what life was like in the 5th Century in my books, but I have been heavily influenced by folklore, because when you are dealing with this period in history you cannot dismiss it. Brittany, for example, is terribly difficult to research historically, but when it comes to folklore she is rich and if that is all she is going to give us, then so be it. Folklore is its own special brand of history, and it is often over looked by historians which I think is a shame. You can tell a lot about a people by the stories they tell, and people are still fascinated by this larger than life King, which I think says it all. Arthur may well have been a general, or a knight, he may have been English, he may not, but it doesn’t matter because his story is timeless, it will never grow old.

The Du Lac Devil: Book Two in the Du Lac Chronicles

“The Du Lac Chronicles has rivalry and treasure enough for any ‘Game of Thrones’ aficionado.” Tony Riches, author of The Tudor Trilogy

The best-selling Du Lac Chronicles continues:

War is coming to Saxon Briton.

As one kingdom after another falls to the savage might of the High King, Cerdic of Wessex, only one family dares to stand up to him — The Du Lacs.

Budic and Alden Du Lac are barely speaking to each other, and Merton is a mercenary, fighting for the highest bidder. If Wessex hears of the brothers’ discord, then all is lost.

Fate brings Merton du Lac back to the ancestral lands of his forefathers, and he finds his country on the brink of civil war. But there is worse to come, for his father’s old enemy has infiltrated the court of Benwick. Now, more than ever, the Du Lacs must come together to save the kingdom and themselves.

Can old rivalries and resentments be overcome in time to stop a war?

“Mary Yarde has woven a compelling story with a beautiful setting, a story that features an equally compelling conflict. The reader is introduced to the key characters in the very opening pages of the story and the conflict comes across as a great hook. The Du Lac Devil combines great writing with storytelling skills to keep the reader’s eyes riveted on the pages. The writing is clear and beautiful and the descriptions are vivid, painting a picture that readers can easily visualize as they read. The dialogues flow naturally and they help to deepen characterization and to enhance the plot. I also enjoyed the narrative voice which came through as strong, clear, and confident. Yarde creates characters that are real and memorable and a story that readers will love to share.” ~ Readers’ Favorite See full review here

“Mary Anne Yarde has once again given us a tale of Arthurian beauty and romance. Filled with danger, intrigue and love.” ~ M.T. Magge, author of The Treasure of Gwenlais — award winning, Amazon Best Seller.

The Du Lac Devil is available now on Amazon US and Amazon UK.

About Mary Anne Yarde

Born in Bath, England, Mary Anne Yarde grew up in the southwest of England, surrounded and influenced by centuries of history and mythology. Glastonbury—the fabled Isle of Avalon—was a mere fifteen-minute drive from her home, and tales of King Arthur and his knights were part of her childhood.

At nineteen, Yarde married her childhood sweetheart and began a bachelor of arts in history at Cardiff University, only to have her studies interrupted by the arrival of her first child. She would later return to higher education, studying equine science at Warwickshire College. Horses and history remain two of her major passions.

Yarde keeps busy raising four children and helping run a successful family business. She has many skills but has never mastered cooking—so if you ever drop by, she (and her family) would appreciate some tasty treats or a meal out!

Connect with Mary Anne Yarde
Amazon Author’s page

Monday, December 5, 2016

Historic Places: York

There are volumes of books written about the amazing city of York, so I will not attempt to cover its entire history here. What makes York so unique is that most of its history is still right there for you to see. From the medieval city wall, to the towering minster overlooking the city, to the tilting Shambles, York invites you to come in and experience history firsthand.

I had been anticipating this stop since we first planned our trip. This was what I had been waiting for, a city that allowed me to experience settings that have retained elements from the time period that I write about. It was tempting to run my hands along the walls on the off chance that a famous Plantagenet might have once placed their hand in that same spot.

To enter York, we passed through an arch in the medieval wall. I was astounded to learn that great portions of the wall were demolished in 1800 to create space and easier access to the city. Of course, the medieval gates were inconvenient for a modern city and the wall had long since fallen out of use for defense, but it is still a sad story. Thankfully, those who fought to preserve the wall saved what they could, and York displays the most complete medieval city wall system in England.

Now the city's efforts go to preserving and restoring the wall instead of tearing it down. Two of the gateways, called 'bars', include small museums that I was eager to see. We made our way first to the Richard III Experience at Monk Bar.
My husband, who is a solid 6'2" felt a bit claustrophobic making his way through the tiny doorway and up the narrow stairwell. I was thrilled. Not only am I much smaller, but I knew that these passageways had been designed for people of another time, and here I was walking in their footsteps. I hadn't expected to learn anything new about everyone's favorite villain/hero king, but I read every line of every display . . . just in case.

Our intention had been to then make our way to the Henry VII Experience at Micklegate Bar, just to keep things fair, of course. Unfortunately, we were there on a day that it closed early and had missed our chance. Instead, we walked along the wall where I imagined soldiers standing guard and armies camped out in the distance laying siege to the town. The kind city of York now provides a fence along the open side of the walkway to ensure proper safety for the wall's modern users.

One does not need to be standing upon the city wall to see York Minster. The huge cathedral dominates the city skyline and dwarfs all other structures in the vicinity. To imagine this giant, beautiful structure built before any modern technological advances is mind-boggling. Each surface of the building boasts intricate carvings, ancient stained glass, soaring towers, and unimaginable beauty. Folks, they just don't make them like this anymore.

Of particular interest was the Rose Window in the south transept. Displaying red and white roses crafted in the early 1500s to celebrate the wedding of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, this window has been painstakingly restored to preserve the centuries old glass. During a fire in 1984, the window was severely cracked and damaged but remained in place, making it possible for careful detailed repairs to be made.

(See those tiny people down there? I couldn't even fit the entire side of the church in one picture!)

I can only imagine how inspiring it must have been for the people hundreds of years ago to see this wondrous building. It does not fail to awe modern visitors any less.

I could go on and on about the interesting places to see and historic fun facts about York, but I will settle for one more must see area if you are visiting. The Shambles is a little street straight out of the 14th and 15th centuries. I was first struck by how narrow the 'street' was. We would not consider it a street now, and I am not sure a single car could fit between the tightly packed buildings, but this would have been the norm when these shops were first built. Again, my imagination of historic settings was reinforced by reality, and I just wanted to stand there and soak it all in.

No, it's not just you. Those buildings really are leaning in toward each other across the street, sideways into each other, and every which way. They may look like they are about to fall down, but the buildings in the Shambles have been carefully preserved to maintain the historic structure while keeping it safely intact. It's so wonderful to see an area like this preserved instead of torn down for another boring modern structure. It would be impossible to build anything new that could match the charm of the Shambles. Just as they were hundreds of years ago, these shops are open for business to the curious people strolling down the cobblestone street.

This is a city that I simply must make my way back to someday.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

From the Scriptorium: December 2016

December 2016 Edition

During the last month, I have opened up a new online store, where everyone can order signed copies of my novels, and my NaNoWriMo efforts have been dedicated to completing a first draft of Queen of Martyrs. Keep reading for more news on book giveaways, additions to Kindle Unlimited, and more!

In the News

This month, I was honored to recognize the anniversary of the deaths of Queen Mary I and Cardinal Reginald Pole on the same day, November 17, 1558. You can read my article about these two leaders of the counter-reformation in England at English Historical Fiction Authors.

Of course, the same day is more often mentioned as the day that Elizabeth I became queen, but, for obvious reasons, I chose to take a look at her much maligned older sister and her intriguing priestly cousin instead.

Bookish News

The first draft of Queen of Martyrs is complete! I have enjoyed this unexpected journey with Mary more than I could have imagined, but it is not over yet. I am moving on to editing in the hope of releasing early review copies in January.

I have another exciting book project in the works, but cannot reveal details just yet. Let me assure you, it will be one that all my fellow anglophiles will enjoy!

Kindle Unlimited by Amazon has been extended to the Australian market! If you would like to read my books for FREE, you can do so anywhere that KU is offered.

Don't forget to sign up for a chance to win a copy of Faithful Traitor. Today is the LAST DAY.

Finally, I would like to thank Goodreads users for loving my books. I have just reached an overall rating of over 4.0 out of 5.0 stars! This is not easy to achieve among the discerning Goodreads readers, so I am incredibly humbled and grateful. Thank you!

Featured Reviews

Plantagenet Princess, Tudor Queen on David's Book Blurg

Faithful Traitor on Reading the Ages

Over the Deep by Blair Hodgkinson

Add a link to your review in the comments below to see it featured in future newsletters!

Did you miss it?

This month included the shared birthday of two royal York children. Read about Prince Edward and Princess Anne, both born on November 2, 1470 and 1475, respectively.

Another popular post this month took a look at the forgotten daughter of York, Princess Bridget.

You want it? You got it.

Are you hosting an author event? Is there a topic you would like to see covered by my blog? Let me know what you would like to see here, and I will do my best to deliver.