Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Katherine Woodville: Cradle-Robber?

OK, OK, I admit it, having been on a research binge lately, I've been slacking off in the blog department. So I'm posting this both here and on the Unromantic Richard III blog.

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been working on a novel about Katherine Woodville, wife of Henry Stafford, the Duke of Buckingham who was Richard III’s ally and then his enemy. I do most of my research in the library, but I do a fair amount of Googling also to see if any leads turn up online.

In doing so, I was perturbed to find this Wikipedia entry about the Duke of Buckingham, in which it’s confidently stated that the young duke was forced to marry Katherine when he was 12 and she was 24, thereby causing Buckingham to resent the entire Woodville clan. Wikipedia, fortunately, can be corrected, but several Ricardian sites and publications, like this one (scroll down to the sentence past the reference to note 25), repeat the same story. It brings to mind a rather unpleasant picture of Katherine, no doubt with the grinning approval of Nasty Elizabeth, sending her little husband to bed without his supper if he refused to let her have her way with him.

Fortunately for Katherine (and the Duke), the story, at least as far as Katherine’s age goes, is, like so many other anti-Woodville stories, utter nonsense. Katherine’s marriage to Buckingham was indeed arranged when Buckingham was a royal ward, and Buckingham, like any other royal ward, didn’t have a say in the matter. But Katherine, far from being in her 20’s at the time, was younger than her husband when the couple married, sometime between September 1464, when Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville’s secret marriage was disclosed, and May 1465, when Henry Stafford and Katherine attended the queen’s coronation, where they are named as the Duke and the younger Duchess of Buckingham. (The elder Duchess, Henry Stafford’s grandmother, was also present at the coronation.)

Katherine’s age is given in a 1492 post-mortem inquisition of her brother, Richard, where she is described as “aged 34 or more.” This puts Katherine’s birthdate at around 1458, making her a child of around seven at the time of her marriage. Henry Stafford, born on September 4, 1455, would have been only nine at the time of the coronation. (Brad Verity, who kindly brought the IPM and other Woodville genealogical information to my attention, has posted about this and other Woodville genealogical matters here.)

Of course, IPMs are not infallible. Katherine’s youth at her marriage, however, is attested by two other primary sources. First, a detailed account of Elizabeth Woodville’s coronation exists, in which the major participants and the roles they played are listed. As mentioned earlier, both the Duke of Buckingham and his Duchess were present, and both are mentioned as being carried upon squires’ shoulders. No other duke or duchess was given similar treatment, so it’s safe to assume (in the absence of evidence that either or both parties sprained their ankles immediately before the coronation) that the Buckinghams were carried because they were children, presumably so they could see and be seen and/or so they wouldn’t tire out during the lengthy ceremony, dressed as they were in heavy ceremonial robes. (No mention is made of how the squires fared; one hopes for their sakes that the duke and duchess weren’t hefty youngsters.)

Katherine also appears in her sister Elizabeth’s household records for 1466-67, where payments were given to three people for attending upon her. Similar payments were made for the Duke of Buckingham and his younger brother, Humphrey, who were in Elizabeth’s care at the time. It seems apparent that Katherine, like her young husband and brother-in-law, was being brought up in her sister’s household.

So while it’s possible that Henry may have come to resent his marriage because he was his wife’s social superior (though it’s far more likely that his resentment arose because he was never given an active role to play in Edward IV’s reign), it’s certainly not the case that his wife was an older woman scheming with her sister the queen to exploit her wealthy little husband. She was a mere child, with no more control over her marriage than her young husband had over his.

Katherine’s second and third marriages, however, did involve large age gaps; perhaps it is the third marriage that has led to the misinformation about her first. Katherine's second husband was none other than Jasper Tudor, uncle to Henry VII; the match was made by November 7, 1485. Tudor was 55, over twice the age of the 27-year-old Katherine. The benefit to both parties seems to have been purely material: Katherine got the jointure and dower she had been denied in Richard III’s reign due to Buckingham’s treason and execution; Jasper got a wealthy, landed bride.

Jasper died on December 21, 1495. Just over eight weeks later, Katherine remarried without a license, thereby following the grand tradition of runaway matches made by her mother and her sister Elizabeth. Her third husband, Richard Wingfield, was twelve years younger than Katherine; he was the eleventh son out of twelve and presumably had very limited material assets, so it was likely his personal charms that appealed to the newly widowed Katherine. A mere squire at the time, Richard may have been a member of Katherine’s household. (After coming into his inheritance, Katherine’s eldest son by Buckingham, Edward Stafford, eventually ended up having to pay the fine for his mother’s unsanctioned third marriage, much to his disgust.)

Katherine and Richard’s short-lived marriage—Katherine died in 1497—-probably paved the way to Richard’s eventual success in Henry VIII’s court. Wingfield remarried and had children by his second wife, but did not forget Katherine, directing in his will that prayers be said for her soul. Dying on an embassy to Toledo in 1525, he was undoubtedly fortunate to miss the later downfall of Cardinal Wolsey, to whom he attributed his own success at court.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Booking Through Thursday: Writing in Books

From Booking Through Thursday:

Today’s question comes from Conspiracy-Girl:
I’m still relatively new to this meme so I’m not sure if this has been asked yet, but I’m curious how many of us write notes in our books. Are you a Footprint Leaver or a Preservationist?

I was going to write that I never write in a book when I remembered that when I was in law school, I did indeed highlight and occasionally jot notes in the margins of my textbooks. But that's the only time I've ever written in a book. I like my books clean, crisp, and unmarked, thank you very much.

The law school books I wrote in, of course, were my own property. People who write in library books or in school textbooks that get handed down year after year should suffer the full rigors of a medieval traitor's death. And that fate may well be too good for them.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Book Sale Musings

I'm back from helping set up the tables for our county library system's annual book sale (over 500,000 books were on sale last year, and I'd be surprised if the amount was not the same this year), and I'm knackered, as my transatlantic friends would say. Flinging around 50-pound boxes full of old copies of The Thorn Birds is hard work, let me tell you!

As I said last year, I do this not only because I'm civic-minded, but because of the Big Perk for volunteers: cheap books and the pick of the litter. I came home with 20 books today, and no doubt I'll find something to carry home tomorrow.

Because today was a school holiday, I took my son with me, which allowed me to say things aloud like, "Wonderful, another copy of The Da Vinci Code," and "Where are all of the Jean Plaidys?" without being thought too flamingly eccentric. Anyway, in no particular logical order, here are a few thoughts I saved for this blog:

I saw at least one ex-library copy of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell on almost every table for which I unboxed books. All looked in excellent, unread condition, which either means that we in Wake County, North Carolina have no taste for literary historical fiction or just that the library thought we loved literary historical fiction so much that they ordered 30 copies too many.

When lining up books on adjacent tables and having to find a book that won't slip through the crack between tables, nothing works better than a James Michener or a Colleen Mccullough novel.

Had I wanted to, I could have come home with a nearly complete set of the works of Bernard Cornwell. I really should try one, since there are so many of his books.

Last year, I saw dozens of nonfiction books on Princess Diana. This year I saw only about five.

In the biography section, I found a Henry V biography nestled qutie cozily next to one of Richard III. Sadly, nothing appeared on Henry VI or Henry VII. Henry VIII and his wives, however, were more than adequately represented and accounted for a generous part of my own purchases.

In the sorting room at the library, there needs to be a sign stating, "The Autobiography of Henry VIII by Margaret George is not nonfiction."

Toward the end of my day, I did duty over at the dreaded "Unsorted" tables, where everything that was donated or discarded too late is lumped together (children's board books and Karl Marx shared the table I unpacked). I found Caroline Weber's What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution over there and took it in the history section, thinking there it might find a happier home there than amid the Silhouette romance novels it was resting near. Then I remembered that I had paid the full cover price for the hardback and kicked myself.

If you donate a 2004 guide to picking a college to the library in 2007, the library sale volunteers are not going to be leaping over tables and pushing each other aside to claim it for their own. Trust me on this one.

Children's books are unwieldy, slippery, nonuniform in size, and quite difficult to arrange neatly in rows on tables. The already curmudgeonly should avoid the juvenile section.

My new books will probably have to go on the shelves in the garage. If I did not have so many books in the garage, I could quite possibly be like my neighbors and keep my car in there. But do I really want to do this?


Friday, November 09, 2007

Pets in Historical Fiction

Taking Boswell to the vet today (itching, poor doggie) made me think of some comments that appeared here about Sharon Penman's novel When Christ and His Saints Slept. Penman, as anyone who's read her books knows, is fond of giving her heroes dogs. The fictional Ranulf in Saints and its sequel, Time and Chance, has a faithful canine companion. So, of course, does Richard in The Sunne in Splendour, a guarantee in itself that he's a good guy. (Indeed, it's clear that Buckingham is a villain; not only does he kill the princes in the Tower, he kills the younger one's dog as well.)

I've been trying to think of some other historical novels in which pets play a big part. I just finished The Captive Queen of Scots, where Mary's poor little Skye terrier has his famous scene of hiding under the headless Mary's skirts, but other than that one scene, he doesn't appear much in the novel. Dickens's historical novel Barnaby Rudge features a raven, Grip, who plays a major role. (Indeed, I found him vastly preferable to most of the human characters, this not being my favorite Dickens novel.) In Michelle Moran's recent Nefertiti, the heroine Mutny's cat was a leading, and quite memorable, character. Barbara Hambly's The Emancipator's Wife has some endearing scenes with Lincoln and his cats. I'm sure there are others that I just can't think of at the moment.

When authors do give their heroes and heroines cherished pets, it's a device that humanizes them wonderfully. Writing this post made me think of a lovely passage from Charlotte Brontë's Shirley, where the friends Caroline and Shirley broach the delicate subject of Caroline's romantic interest in a young man:

'If they are true oracles, it is good never to fall in love.'

'Very good, if you can avoid it.'

'I choose to doubt their truth.'

'I am afraid that proves you are already caught.'

'Not I: but if I were, do you know what soothsayers I would consult?'

'Let me hear.'

'Neither man nor woman, elderly nor young : - the little Irish beggar that comes barefoot to my door; the mouse that steals out of the cranny in the wainscot; the bird that in frost and snow pecks at my window for a crumb; the dog that licks my hand and sits beside my knee.'

'Did you ever see any one who was kind to such things?'

'Did you ever see any one whom such things seemed instinctively to follow, like, rely on?'

'We have a black cat and an old dog at the Rectory. I know somebody to whose knee that black cat loves to climb; against whose shoulder and cheek it likes to purr. The old dog always comes out of his kennel and wags his tail, and whines affectionately when somebody passes.'

'And what does that somebody do?'

'He quietly strokes the cat, and lets her sit while he conveniently can, and when he must disturb her by rising, he puts her softly down, and never flings her from him roughly; he always whistles to the dog and gives him a caress.'

'Does he? It is not Robert?'

'But it is Robert.'

(Online version by the University of Adelaide here)

Now, wouldn't you like Robert, even if you hadn't met him earlier in this novel?

Is there a novel--historical or otherwise--that's been improved for you by the protagonist's pet?

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Well, is she?

In checking my website's keyword listings, I came across this query:

queen isabella is she a molly

I am almost certain that she is not. But input from blog readers will be gladly welcomed.

On an entirely unrelated note, my hands are no longer shaking and trembling, because after a lengthy withdrawal, I have access to the online Oxford Dictionary of National Biography once more! Having logged on Friday, I made up for lost time by printing out as many biographies as possible. I feel much better now, thank you. (Even if you're not a subscriber, you can still visit the site to see the biography of the day.)