Thursday, February 23, 2017

Reginald Pole Learns of his Mother's Execution

Why examine this little snippet of history? We know that Margaret Pole was horridly executed on Henry VIII's orders, and we know that Reginald Pole was safely away from England at the time. I think it is important to look at how Reginald took this news because I have read some opinions that Reginald was bitter toward his mother for his dedication to the church. Based on studying both of these historical figures, I have not found evidence of that. Yet even Hilary Mantel states it as fact.

If Reginald ever truly did harbor negative feelings toward his mother, he had certainly overcome them long before her death. He also was not formally dedicated to the church until he did so under his own power as an adult. In truth, Margaret had sent Reginald to be educated at the king's expense, both of them recognizing his unusual aptitude for learning. Long after he was out from under the rule of his mother, Reginald became a Cardinal, though he would not become an ordained priest until 1556, long after Margaret's death.

Having clarified that, Reginald was grief-stricken by the death of his mother, which closely followed the execution of his oldest brother, Henry Pole Baron Montague. Reginald was in Capranica, having recently left Regensburg, when he received the news. (The medieval center of Regensburg is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Now in Germany, during Pole's time it was in the Duchy of Bavaria.)  He had been there as part of a conference to discuss the Biblical issue of justification, a failed attempt based upon the city's conversion to Lutheranism by the following year. Pole was one of the few legates looking for compromise, a habit that would lead one contemporary to say, "He has been very unfortunate . . . being considered a Lutheran in Rome, in Germany a papist."

We do not know Pole's immediate reaction to his mother's death, but sometime later when he repeated the news to a friend he retreated into private prayer for an hour, leaving his companion to worry about the state of his health and well-being some weeks or months after the fact. Once he had composed himself, Pole attempted to maintain a strong public face emphasizing the fact that his private loss was a gain to the church, even his carefully controlled words reveal some of his grief.

Until now I have believed that the lord God has given me the grace to be the son of one of the best and most honored ladies of England and I have gloried in that and given thanks to His Divine Majesty. But he has wished to honor me more and increase my obligation, for he has also made me the son of a martyr, whom that king, because she was constant in the Catholic faith, has had publicly decapitated, even though she was more than seventy years old (she was actually 67) and his aunt. Thus he (King Henry VIII) has rewarded the efforts which she took for a long time in raising his daughter (Princess Mary to whom Margaret was governess). God be praised and thanked.

To the abundant letters of condolence received by Pole he would reply that they were blessed to have one more advocate in heaven. Reginald was a man of staunch faith and controlled emotions, but he could not completely hide his sadness at the harsh treatment of his mother.

Some of this may have been induced by guilt. One of the reasons the Pole family in England was targeted by Henry VIII was due to their refusal to abandon the Catholic faith in favor of Henry's new Church of England. Reginald had written to Henry many times criticizing his actions and begging him to return to God. Henry, never one to take criticism well, sent assassins after Reginald. Failing this, he turned to Reginald's family. It was not difficult to do something that could be construed as treason in Henry's England, but, in Margaret's case, she was never charged or given a trial during her two years of imprisonment before her execution.

Even Pope Paul III recognized the depth of Reginald's grief, giving him extra time away from Rome and saying that he would spare him discussion of the matter. Reginald wrote to a woman named Colonna that he looked to her now as a mother and that none had consoled him better than she. He also spent much of the summer of 1541 closeted with Psalms in study and meditation.

Reginald Pole spent the remainder of his life striving for reconciliation between the Catholic Church and the reformers. His position as a Cardinal made him untrustworthy to Lutherans, while his willingness to listen to opposition and concede that some of their arguments made sense put him under investigation by the Inquisition. The last years of his life were spent with Queen Mary I in England, assisting with her attempt at counter-reformation there. He died, a Cardinal of the Catholic Church and Archbishop of Canterbury of the Church of England, on November 17, 1558, the same day as Queen Mary.

For more on Reginald Pole, I recommend Thomas F Mayer's Reginald Pole: Prince & Prophet.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Happy Birthday, Queen Mary!

February 18, 1516, was an exciting day in Tudor England. After many attempts at bearing an heir, Katherine of Aragon finally gave birth to a surviving child. Princess Mary would later become the first Queen Regnant of England, despite her father's efforts to replace her in the succession.

To celebrate, and encourage people to drop the 'Bloody Mary' nickname, I am at EHFA today with a post on this unpopular Tudor who has become close to my heart.

My novelization of Mary's story will be available April 12, 2017. You can pre-order it now on Kindle. If I can cause just a few people to look at Mary's tragic story a bit more sympathetically, I will consider this work a success.

Happy birthday, Queen Mary!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Hope in the Midst of War

I always enjoy finding novels that discover an interesting tidbit of World War II history to expand upon. That is what author Suzy Henderson has done in her recently released book, The Beauty Shop. She has put the spotlight on young soldiers who experienced tragic wounds and burns and the dedicated doctors who worked tirelessly to give them new lives. Read more below on Suzy's writing inspiration.

Welcome, Suzy!

~ Samantha

Guest Post by Suzy Henderson

I have been fascinated with both World War periods for many years, and I suppose having relatives who served in those wars fuelled my interest. Having spent hundreds of hours researching military history, I discovered a story I’d never heard before and became quickly absorbed. That story was about the Guinea Pig Club, and after researching it, I was hooked.

On September 3rd, 1939 Britain declared war on Germany. Although the government had hoped to avoid taking this action, preparations for war had been ongoing since 1937. The RAF had already appointed four leading plastic surgeons to run four main plastic surgery units. One of those surgeons was New Zealander Archibald McIndoe, and he chose the unit at the Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead. By the time war was announced in 1939, the units were up and running. However, nothing could have prepared them for the nature of the injuries they were to face, and McIndoe, as talented as he was, often struggled with the most severe cases. He was left with no choice but to experiment and improvise, but from his experiences, he pioneered great change.

Sir Archibald McIndoe
Right from the beginning, he did not see patients; he saw young men robbed of the latter years of boyhood and the beginning of manhood. Often they had horrific injuries, some having lost their sight, and some with their faces burned away, and they were distraught, depressed and lost, fearing the worst until McIndoe came along. He always shook their hand, often lingering in hold for a few moments while he spoke with them, and nurses remarked how the men’s faces changed as if all of a sudden a huge burden lifted. The fact was, he gave them hope – the first to come along and do so. And hope is a precious gift to those who are convinced all is lost. McIndoe’s words reassured them. He gave each man all the specific details of the care and surgery they required, explaining how long it would take and assured them they would heal in time. In later years, these men have often said how they cherished that first meeting, you see, to them he was God, and some even called him that while others called him Maestro or Boss. They all had such great affection for him because he quite literally saved them.

At the very beginning of the war, McIndoe noticed that the burned pilots who were shot down and bailed out into the Channel seemed to fare much better than those who bailed over land. He deduced it was related to the salt water and so, he devised the plan for saline baths on his ward. The treatment proved to be very successful, and the salt water contributed to reducing infection and promoted wound healing while soothing the burns, enabling the men to finally relax.

As the war rolled on, more airmen became casualties. Fighter pilots, trapped in the flaming cockpits of their Spitfires and Hurricanes, and pilots and airmen of bomber aircraft flooded into hospitals all around the country. In July 1941, several bored airmen in McIndoe’s care decided to form a club. Initially, it was to be a drinking club and a way of passing the time. They called it the Maxillonians. However, one day an airman, on his way to the operating theatre for another procedure announced, “We’re just bloody guinea pigs for the Maestro.” That was it. The club was renamed the Guinea Pig Club.

As more casualties arrived, the club grew. When Fighter Pilot Richard Hillary was sent to the USA in 1942 on a propaganda mission, he raised the profile of the club, and as he too had sustained burns after being shot down during the Battle of Britain, the American citizens saw first-hand what the men had to endure. Soon, McIndoe was opening airmail with letters of support, offers of work and financial donations. He was surprised at first, but he soon realised what an opportunity this was – a chance to protect and invest in the future of his “boys”, as he called them, and so he arranged for the club to become a charity.

Ward 3 Queen Victoria Hospital, East Grinstead
McIndoe took a holistic approach to care, realising this was essential in making these men whole again. In Ward 3, the men were cocooned, under his wing so to speak. In keeping all ranks together, a tightly knit band grew, and camaraderie flourished. However, he realised that the men couldn’t stay safe forever and so he went out into the town of East Grinstead, held meetings with the locals and explained the work he was doing. Then he did something unusual. He asked for their help, appealing for volunteers at the ward, to help out with things such as letter writing, reading and chatting to the men to raise morale. Next, he asked them to invite the men to their homes for tea, and some of his more influential friends with large houses even held parties and dances. The people of East Grinstead were eager to help. McIndoe asked them to look the men in the eye and at least smile, beseeching them never to turn away or appear shocked. They understood, and so the teamwork began, and gradually the airmen gained confidence and came to realise they were safe outside too, safe and welcomed in the small country town just outside London. It was such a small step for the locals to make but for the men, it was monumental.

McIndoe also took other measures, such as allowing the men to smoke and drink beer on the ward. He recruited pretty nurses to boost morale and get the men used to speaking to beautiful girls once again, and he recruited chorus girls from London to escort the men to the pub and dances. He also called in favours with his more influential friends and secured jobs for some of the men. McIndoe quite literally covered all areas including pensions which were unfair and unjust for those who were unfit to return to active service. Through his interference, the men were granted a fairer pensionable award.

Later, after the war, the Guinea Pig Club was to prove its worth in helping some members with such things as affording suitable housing, adaptations and even granting money to help establish businesses. There were some men who, despite their injuries, were more than capable of making their own way in life. The club assisted those who were not, those with more severe injuries who required assistance.

What drew me to this story was not simply McIndoe’s exemplary, pioneering surgical work. What I saw was a philanthropist, a man who solely took it upon himself to ensure that the servicemen in his care were fully healed and accepted back into society. His brilliance lay in recognising that it would take more than surgery to heal the men. In healing their bodies and souls he had to consider their psychological and social care too.

Ward 3 at Christmas
McIndoe revolutionised the care, treatment and rehabilitation of burns survivors, and of course, as a pioneer of plastic surgery, his accomplishments formed the foundations of our modern-day burns treatments. He showed his boys how to live with their altered appearances, with their injuries, and he taught the locals how to live, interact and care for these injured servicemen.

Sir Archibald McIndoe died in his sleep on 11th April 1960, a month short of his sixtieth birthday. His colleague and mentor, Sir Harold Gillies, said “Sir Archibald McIndoe was truly one of the great heroes of the Battle of Britain. Hundreds of injured airmen have learned to live and thrive because of him, and the Guinea Pig Club is his great memorial.”

And if you're wondering about the title of my book, The Beauty Shop, I can tell you that this was the name the men gave to Ward 3 - the beauty shop was where they sent you 'to be made up again.' So you see, despite facing such tragic, dark times, and uncertain futures, under McIndoe’s wing the men thrived, and even their humour survived.

The Beauty Shop

England, 1942. After three years of WWII, Britain is showing the scars. But in this darkest of days, three lives intertwine, changing their destinies and those of many more.

Dr Archibald McIndoe, a New Zealand plastic surgeon with unorthodox methods, is on a mission to treat and rehabilitate badly burned airmen – their bodies and souls. With the camaraderie and support of the Guinea Pig Club, his boys battle to overcome disfigurement, pain, and prejudice to learn to live again.

John ‘Mac’ Mackenzie of the US Air Force is aware of the odds. He has one chance in five of surviving the war. Flying bombing missions through hell and back, he’s fighting more than the Luftwaffe. Fear and doubt stalk him on the ground and in the air, and he’s torn between his duty and his conscience.

Shy, decent and sensible Stella Charlton’s future seems certain until war breaks out. As a new recruit to the WAAF, she meets an American pilot on New Year’s Eve. After just one dance, she falls head over heels for the handsome airman. But when he survives a crash, she realises her own battle has only just begun.

Based on a true story, The Beauty Shop is a moving tale of love, compassion, and determination against a backdrop of wartime tragedy.

Connect with Suzy Henderson

Suzy Henderson was born in the North of England and initially pursued a career in healthcare, specialising as a midwife. Years later, having left her chosen profession, she embarked upon a degree in English Literature and Creative Writing at The Open University.
That was the beginning of a new life journey, rekindling her love of writing and passion for history. With an obsession for military and aviation history, she began to write.

It was an old black and white photograph of her grandmother in her WAAF service uniform that caught Suzy’s imagination many years ago. Her grandmother never spoke of her war service and died in 1980, taking her stories with her. When Suzy decided to research her family history and her grandmother’s war service, things spiralled from there. Stories came to light, little-known stories and tragedies and it is such discoveries that inform her writing today.

Having relocated to North Cumbria, she has the Pennines and the Scottish Borders in sight and finally feels at home. Suzy is a member of the Historical Novel Society and her debut novel, The Beauty Shop was released in November 2016.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Book Giveaways!

Not just one, but TWO new book giveaways are now listed on Goodreads! Enter for a chance to win a copy of Plantagenet Princess, Tudor Queen: The Story of Elizabeth of York and Faithful Traitor: The Story of Margaret Pole.

Get caught up on Plantagenet Embers just in time for the release of Queen of Martyrs: The Story of Mary I on April 12, 2017. It is now available for pre-order on Kindle.

There will also be book giveaways held at History Rocks. These giveaways will include my novels and those written by my wonderful In Bed with the British co-authors. Once IBWTB hits shelves this summer, you can win copies of that too! Visit History Rocks to enter.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

From the Scriptorium: February 2017

February 2017 Edition

Most of my time over the past month has been dedicated to getting Queen of Martyrs ready for beta readers. I am so thankful for these wonderful people who take the time to help me make each book ready for the world! Proofs will be in their hands by the end of February so that dear Mary will be ready for her April release.

Work is ongoing on In Bed with the British as well. It is fun to work on nonfiction, and it makes me wish that I lived in the UK so that I could dedicate more time to this type of work. This anthology will be available summer 2017.

Featured Reviews

Historical fiction author Tony Riches knows his Tudors and has written his own series on the lives of Owen, Jasper, and Henry, so I am especially thrilled to receive a review from him for Plantagenet Princess, Tudor Queen.

One of those priceless beta readers has the blog of a true modern renaissance man. His review of Faithful Traitor was the very first I received and I am still thankful for it.

Post a link to your review below to see it featured in a future newsletter!

Upcoming Events

In March, I will be participating in a special event as part of the Michigan Library Association Spring Institute. Join me in Frankenmuth for great food, more Christmas decor than can be found anywhere else, and bookish conversation.

Did you miss it?

This month, I was honored to be a guest at the blog of author Annie Whitehead. She has kindly reviewed Plantagenet Princess, Tudor Queen and had some follow-up questions.

The most popular article here on my blog this month was a fun look at how Thomas Becket managed to cause some trouble for another King Henry centuries after his death.

We also took a virtual trip to Boston, Massachusetts for a look at some US history.

Important historical dates in January included the death of Catherine Valois, the woman who made the Tudor dynasty possible, and the death of Henry Pole, the unjustly executed son of Margaret Pole.

You want it? You got it!

I have several guests and historic topics planned for the coming months, but let me know if I'm missing something. What would you like to see here? All you have to do is leave it in the comments below. Happy reading!