Friday, December 31, 2010

My Favorite Reads of 2010

OK, everyone else is doing this today, so why shouldn't I? 2010 wasn't a great reading year for me in terms of quantity, but in quality there were some high points. (Most, but not all, of these books were published in 2010.)

My Favorite Novels of 2010:

Noah's Compass by Anne Tyler (contemporary fiction). Like all of Tyler's novels, this is a deceptively simple story with characters who linger with the reader.

Secrets of the Tudor Court by D. L. Bogdan. A first novel about Mary Fitzroy, Duchess of Richmond, and her relationship with her father, Thomas Howard, the third Duke of Norfolk. I found this novel to be a haunting one, and I especially liked the character of Norfolk, a figure who could have easily been treated as a cardboard villain but came across as complex and even somewhat sympathetic. I'm looking forward to Bogdan's upcoming novel about Mary's parents.

Mary the Queen and Bloody Mary by Hilda Lewis. The second and the third novels in a trilogy about Mary I, these books are an excellent and insightful psychological portrait of England's first queen regnant.

My Favorite Nonfiction of 2010

Becoming Queen Victoria by Kate Williams.

We Two by Gillian Gill.

Mary Tudor by Anna Whitelock.

Elizabeth's Women by Tracy Borman.

Catherine of Aragon by Giles Tremlett.

Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women by Harriet Reisen.

All of these were exceptionally well written and engrossing--proof that nonfiction can be as page-turning as fiction in the right hands.

Books I Didn't Read Straight Through but Enjoyed Dipping Into:

She-Wolves by Helen Castor

The Wars of the Roses by Michael Hicks

Richard III by David Hipshon

Edward II by Seymour Phillips

Favorite New Toy of 2010:

Hands down, Mr. Kindle!

As for my plans for 2011, I'm going to be chugging away on my Tudor novel (it's slow going at the moment, but I take comfort in the fact that The Queen of Last Hopes was slow going at this time last year too, and it's due to be published tomorrow!). I've got some blog posts planned on a variety of subjects, including Guildford Dudley, Elizabeth Woodville's son the Marquis of Dorset, the will of John de Vere, Earl of Oxford, and more, so keep stopping by!

I hope all of you have a great 2011, and that the New Year is especially good for those of you who have had a rough time during 2010. I've never been the best at offering comfort and advice, but my thoughts have been with you.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Word About Wakefield

I'm feeling very guilty because this is the 550th anniversary of the Battle of Wakefield, fought on December 30, 1460, and I haven't prepared a proper post. All I can really do today, then, is ramble a bit.

My own belief is that Henry VI--isolated from his supporters and probably fragile mentally--was bullied into accepting the Act of Accord under which it was agreed that Richard, Duke of York, would reign after Henry's death, thereby disinheriting his own son. The chronicler Gregory writes that after York arrived at Westminster, "he kepte Kynge Harry there by fors and strengythe, tylle at the laste the kynge for fere of dethe grauntyd hym [t]e crowne, for a man that hathe by lytylle wytte wylle sone be a feryd of dethe, and yet I truste and bee-leve there was no man that wolde doo hym bodely harme." The Crowland Chronicler tells of York compelling Henry "to remove to the queen's apartments," while Whethamstede writes that York "went to the principal chamber of the palace (the king being in the queen's apartments), smashed the locks and threw open the doors, in a regal rather than a ducal manner." If such (literally) strong-arm tactics were being employed publicly, what type of pressure might have been applied to the king in private?

Once Henry VI entered into the Act of Accord, his supporters could hardly have believed that the future boded well for him. York and his ally Richard Neville, the Earl of Warwick, had shown no hesitation in ridding themselves of their political enemies at the first battle of St. Albans and at Northampton. The Duke of York was older than Henry VI and faced the prospect that if nature were allowed to take its course, the king might outlive him, thereby cheating him of the crown. Under these circumstances, I think it highly likely that Henry VI's days were numbered once he agreed to make York his heir. (If this was the period during which Henry VI went to Westminster to search out his final resting place, he may have thought so too.) Some convenient accident could have been arranged to befall the king. Even if he were persuaded to abdicate instead of waiting for death to claim him, his prospects as an ex-king would have seemed bleak, given the examples of Edward II and Richard II.

Henry VI's queen and his son--who under the Act of Accord had been left with nothing of his patrimony as Prince of Wales, though it may be that it was intended that the Duchy of Lancaster would be allowed to pass to him upon his father's death --had equal cause to worry about the future. Gregory tells of the "counterfeit tokens" purporting to be from the king that were sent to Margaret (then in Wales) in an attempt to lure her to London; it seems unlikely that the Duke of York was planning a banquet in her honor. Already the Yorkists had circulated rumors about the legitimacy of her son: could York had been planning to start formal proceedings declaring Edward of Lancaster to be a bastard? Or might York have intended to attack the validity of Margaret's marriage to Henry VI? Perhaps York was planning a simpler, more brutal solution. The older he grew, the more of a threat Edward of Lancaster would pose to York and his progeny, even if he were to be officially declared a bastard. Had Margaret of Anjou been foolish enough to let him fall into Yorkist hands, the boy might well have become the first Prince in the Tower, disappearing like the sons of Edward IV did during Richard III's reign. Or perhaps he might have been imprisoned and eventually executed, as young Edward, Earl of Warwick, would be during Henry VII's reign.

All of this is speculation, of course. But such thoughts likely occurred to Margaret of Anjou and her followers as they raised troops to oppose the Duke of York. Under those circumstances, the duke and those who fought alongside him could hardly expect mercy from the Lancastrians, and it's no surprise that they didn't receive it at Wakefield.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Get It While It's Free!

I wanted to let you know that my publisher, Sourcebooks, is offering several e-books free, including my first novel, The Traitor's Wife! I'm not sure how long the promotion lasts, so now's the time to get over and download your copy! You can go to the publisher's website or to various other e-book vendor sites.

While I'm here, I must say that I'm looking forward to Christmas, but even more so to New Year's Day, because that's when The Queen of Last Hopes will be published! After seeing so many novels where Margaret of Anjou is reduced to a cackling caricature (and one recent one where it's even hinted that she and her son have an incestuous relationship), I'm hoping that my novel will make some readers see Margaret in a sympathetic light and to appreciate the complexity of the situation with which she was faced.

I may not stop by again until after Christmas, so Merry Christmas! Hope it's a great one for you.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Christmas Scene at Barnes and Noble

While buying a gift card at Barnes and Noble today, I overheard the following exchange:

Clueless customer: "Do you sell Kindle gift cards?"

Clerk: "No, we have Nooks here."

Clueless customer: "I need a gift card for my friend."

Clerk: "Well, the Nook gift cards are right here."

Clueless customer: "But where are the Kindle gift cards?"

Clerk: (steadfastly refusing to mention the "A" word): "All we sell here are Nook gift cards."

This (with inspiration from my husband and apologies to Dr. Seuss) led to the following poem:

You say you wish to buy a Kindle in our store,
But that is a thing we most abhor!
If you shop here you must buy a Nook,
Or go without reading an electronic book.
No Kindle can be found in our aisles,
To mention the name is so very vile!
Our shelves are lined with pretty Nooks,
We think the Kindle is for kooks.
If you must buy the Amazon devil device,
(And we really wish you would think twice),
You must not think to buy it here,
For its name dampens our Christmas cheer.
So buy your Kindle, if you really must,
But don’t ask for any help from us.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

2010 Virtual Advent Tour: In the Pink, and Some Tudor Presents

Welcome to my blog! I'm delighted to be participating in the 2010 Virtual Advent Tour, as I have over the past couple years.

First, my family and I got a little goofy this year. Not only did we decide to buy an artificial Christmas tree (a very popular decision with my husband, who didn't have to wrestle it into a stand or water it), we decided to get a PINK artificial Christmas tree. And boy, is it pink! Next year, we hope to have more color-coordinated trimmings on it, the better to revel in its sheer pinkness.

Second, as you might not know if you're stopping by here for the first time, I write historical fiction, and the novel I'm working on presently is set in Tudor England. So for this year's Advent tour, I thought it would be fun to imagine what self-help books some of the Tudor gang might be hoping to get this year for Christmas. (All the books are real and can be found on Amazon.)

Margaret Beaufort: The Single Mother's Guide to Raising Remarkable Boys.

Henry Tudor: What's Next? Follow Your Passion and Find Your Dream Job.

Elizabeth of York: When He's Married to Mom: How to Help Mother-Enmeshed Men Open Their Hearts to True Love and Commitment.

Henry VIII: Winning Your Divorce: A Man's Survival Guide.

Catherine of Aragon: What to Do When He Says I Don't Love You Anymore.

Anne Boleyn: Mr. Right, Right Now! How a Smart Woman Can Land Her Dream Man in 6 Weeks.

Jane Seymour: Dating The Divorced Man: Sort Through the Baggage to Decide If He's Right for You.

Anne of Cleves: Still Friends: Living Happily Ever After...Even If Your Marriage Falls Apart.

Catherine Howard: Are You Keeping a Secret?: Finding Freedom from Hidden Issues That Can Ravage Your Life.

Katherine Parr: Liberating Losses: When Death Brings Relief.

Anne Stanhope: You Say I'm a Bitch Like It's a Bad Thing.

Edward VI: The Teenager's Guide to the Awesome God.

Jane Grey: A Smart Girl's Guide to Sticky Situations: How to Tackle Tricky, Icky Problems and Tough Times.

Guildford Dudley: Teenage Survival Manual: How to Reach 20 in One Piece.

Mary I: He's Just Not That Into You: The No-Excuses Truth to Understanding Guys.

Elizabeth I: A Passion for Purity: Protecting God's Precious Gift of Virginity.

Mary, Queen of Scots: Smart Women/Foolish Choices: Finding the Right Men Avoiding the Wrong Ones.

I'll probably get in a couple of more posts before the year ends, but just in case you don't get another chance to stop in before 2011, I'd like to wish you a very Merry Christmas (if you celebrate it) and a Happy New Year!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Happy Anniversary to Edward of Lancaster and Anne Neville!

On December 13, 1470, Edward of Lancaster and Anne Neville were married. Their marriage was due to one of the more unlikely alliances of the Wars of the Roses, that between Margaret of Anjou, Edward's mother, and Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, Anne's father. Anne, born on June 11, 1456, was fourteen; her groom, born on October 13, 1453, was seventeen.

The marriage had been in the works for some time. Edward and Anne had been betrothed at Angers on July 25, 1470. A proxy may have stood in for Anne, for she might not have even been present: Sforza de Bettini, the Milanese ambassador in France, wrote from Angers on July 24, 1470, that Warwick, Margaret of Anjou, and Edward were at Angers, but he did not mention Anne's presence. On July 28, 1470, he wrote that Anne had been "sent for" to Amboise, where the marriage would be consummated. In fact, between the need for a papal dispensation and the need of Warwick to take England for his new Lancastrian allies, the marriage itself would not take place for months.

A papal dispensation was issued on August 17, 1470, but Michael Hicks suggests that this was found wanting in some respect, as another dispensation was issued on November 28, 1470. In the meantime, Warwick had restored Edward's father, Henry VI, to the throne. With the dispensation granted and Warwick's mission accomplished, the last obstacles to the couple's marriage had been removed.

Thanks to historical fiction, with considerable help from nonfiction like Paul Murray Kendall's biography of Richard III, two myths surrounding the marriage of Anne and Edward have become firmly entrenched: the first, that Anne was aghast at the thought of marrying Edward because she had long been in love with her childhood sweetheart, Richard, Duke of Gloucester; the second, that Edward of Lancaster was a cruel youth who mistreated his young bride. Neither myth has any basis in fact. Anne and Richard did know each other in their youth, but what each thought about the other is unrecorded. As for Edward's personality, I've posted about this before, but it's worth mentioning again that the famous comment that he talked of "nothing but of cutting off heads or making war, as if he had everything in his hands or was the god of battle or the peaceful occupant of that throne," should not be taken as the sum total of his character, as it too often is. The comment was made when Edward was only thirteen, and the source was an ambassador who was hostile to the House of Anjou and who may have never met Edward in person. In any case, there is no historical evidence that Edward mistreated Anne. Indeed, we have no idea of what either spouse felt about the other or about their marriage. No one recorded the private interactions of the two teenagers or was inclined to speculate upon their thoughts; all eyes were on their parents.

While the dispensation was being sought and while Warwick was re-establishing Lancastrian rule in England, Edward, Anne, and their mothers were at the Chateau of Amboise (pictured above), where King Louis XI himself was in residence. There they were married on December 13, 1470, by the Grand Vicar of Bayeux. Kendall with his usual bias describes the marriage as "something of a hole-and-corner affair," though it is hard to understand how a marriage performed by the Grand Vicar of Bayeux at a royal palace where the French king himself was present can merit such a description. (In fact, we know far more about this "hole-and-corner" marriage than we do about Anne's second marriage to the Duke of Gloucester, for which we don't know the date, the location, the identity of the person who officiated, or the identity of any of the guests.)

Whether the marriage was consummated is unknown. I've blogged about this elsewhere and won't repeat myself at length, but I'm inclined to think that it was, as it would have been foolish of Margaret to alienate Warwick by preventing its consummation. Louis XI, who had worked hard to promote the marriage and who had been supporting the pair and their mothers at his court, would have also been furious had Margaret refused to allow the young couple to bed together.

The day after their marriage, the newlyweds and their mothers went to Paris, where Louis had arranged for them to be greeted by city and university officials. They entered the city through the Porte Saint-Jacques, passing through streets that in their honor were lavishly decorated with tapestries and other hangings, before arriving at their lodgings at the Palais (on the site of the present Palais de Justice complex, if I'm not mistaken, and I hope someone will correct me if I am). From Paris, the couple went to Normandy. They at last returned to England in April, where they were confronted with the disastrous news of Warwick's defeat and death at Barnet.

Happy or unhappy, the couple's marriage ended on May 4, 1471, when Edward of Lancaster was killed at Tewkesbury. The pair had been married for less than six months.


Calendar of State Papers and Manuscripts in the Archives and Collections of Milan: 1385-1618

J. Calmette and G. Perinelle, Louis XI et L'Angleterre. Paris: Editions Auguste Picard, 1930.

Peter Clarke, "English Royal Marriages and the Papal Penetentiary in the Fifteenth Century." English Historical Review, 2005.

Michael Hicks, Anne Neville, Queen to Richard III. Stroud, Gloucestershire: Tempus, 2006.

Michael Hicks, Warwick the Kingmaker. Oxford: Blackwell, 2002 (paperback edition).

Margaret Kekewich, The Good King: René of Anjou and Fifteenth Century Europe. Palgrave Macmillan: 2008.

Jean de Roye, Chronique Scandaleuse, 1460-1483, ed. B. de Mandrot, volume I. Paris: 1894.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Dressed to Be Killed: Some Tudor Execution Wear

Those of high estate who ran afoul of the government in Tudor England had a final decision to make: what to wear for their last day on the public stage--that is, at the scaffold. While the final speeches of the condemned were often recorded, observers were generally less inclined to note the deceased's final fashion choice. Nonetheless, here are a few of the descriptions that have come down to us (when and if I find more, I'll post a sequel):

Anne Boleyn: The various accounts mention either a gray or black gown, over which Anne wore a mantle of ermine, and a gable hood. The Spanish Chronicle adds the detail that Anne wore a red damask skirt and a netted coif over her hair, though another account states that one of Anne's ladies handed her a linen cap into which she bundled her hair after she removed her hood. See Eric Ives, The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn and Alison Weir, The Lady in the Tower, both of which list the various sources for Anne's execution. Weir's book quotes from a number of these sources. (For more on the red skirt, see here.)

John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland: The Chronicle of Queen Jane reports that he wore a gown of "crane-colored" damask, which he removed after mounting the scaffold and before making his speech to the crowd. (One report states that Northumberland's executioner wore a white apron.)

Lady Jane Grey: According to The Chronicle of Queen Jane, she wore the same gown that she had worn to her arraignment: a black gown of cloth, turned down, with a velvet-lined cape. If she also wore the same headdress to her execution that she had worn to her arraignment, it was an all-black French hood. No red skirts here!

Mary, Queen of Scots: John Guy in his biography Queen of Scots describes her attire in great detail: a white linen veil; a gown of thick black satin. "Trimmed with gold embroidery and sable, it was peppered with acorn buttons and of jet, set with pearl." Mary also wore slashed sleeves, over inner sleeves of purple velvet, suede shoes, and "sky-blue stockings embroidered with silver thread and held up by green silk garters." She carried an ivory crucifix and a Latin prayer book. On her girdle was a string of rosary beads with a golden cross. She wore a medallion "bearing the image of Christ as the Lamb of God." Underneath she wore a petticoat of tawny velvet and an inner bodice of tawny satin, which Guy describes as the color of "dried blood; the liturgical color of martyrdom in the Roman Catholic Church." Famously, she was also wearing an auburn wig.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Was Elizabeth Woodville one of Margaret of Anjou's Ladies?

It’s stated as fact in the Wikipedia article on Margaret of Anjou, and elsewhere, that Elizabeth Woodville served as a lady-in-waiting to Margaret of Anjou. Fact or fiction? Unfortunately, the answer is uncertain.

The assertion that Elizabeth was one of Margaret’s ladies comes from Tudor sources. Sir Thomas More in his History of King Richard III writes in passing that Elizabeth was “in service with Queen Margaret,” and Hall’s Chronicle makes the same claim. At first glance, this is confirmed by Margaret of Anjou’s records. As A. R. Myers and George Smith each note, an Isabel, Lady Grey, was among the English ladies sent in 1445 to escort Margaret to England. Myers notes as well that an Elizabeth Grey, a lady in waiting to Margaret, received jewels from the queen in 1445-46, 1446-47, 1448-49, 1451-52, and 1452-53. “Isabel” and “Elizabeth” were often used interchangeably during this period, and Elizabeth’s first husband was John Grey.

As Myers, Smith, and other historians have noted, however, there are problems with assuming that the lady in the records is Elizabeth Woodville. Her birth date is generally estimated as being around 1437, which means that for Elizabeth to be the Isabel or Elizabeth Grey of the records, she would have been married and serving as Margaret’s attendant beginning at age eight. Girls did marry as children, but would an eight-year-old girl be assigned to travel to France to escort Margaret to England and to serve in her household? If she was there at all, it seems more likely that she would have been merely tagging along with her mother, Jacquetta, the Duchess of Bedford, and would not have been important enough to the queen to be the recipient of gifts in her own right.

Moreover, as Myers and Smith point out, there were other Elizabeth Greys around, including Elizabeth Woodville’s own mother-in-law. The most likely candidate for the Elizabeth Grey of Margaret’s records, however, is “Elizabeth, late the wife of Ralph Gray, knight, daily attendant on the queen’s person” who received a protection on June 27, 1445 (Calendar of Patent Rolls). This Elizabeth, daughter of Henry, Lord Fitzhugh, was a widow, whose husband Ralph died in 1443. (The couple have a splendid tomb at Chillingham, you can see some lovely photographs of it here.) Incidentally, Elizabeth and Ralph had a son, another Ralph, who after a brief accommodation with the Yorkists returned to his former allegiance and was besieged at Bamburgh in 1464. Badly injured when gunfire brought down part of a wall upon him, he survived long enough to be taken to Doncaster and beheaded.

So where does that leave Elizabeth Woodville? Even if the Elizabeth referred to in the records is another woman, it’s certainly not impossible that Elizabeth Woodville served Margaret of Anjou in the 1450’s, especially as her mother, the Duchess of Bedford, would have given her a natural entrée at court. Elizabeth’s parents were in Margaret’s company at Coventry in 1457, and her brother Anthony jousted before the king and queen in 1458. Still, the lack of any unambiguous contemporary reference to Elizabeth as a lady of Margaret’s leads me to think that while Elizabeth Woodville might have visited court from time to time in the company of her family, she was never one of her predecessor’s ladies.


David Baldwin, Elizabeth Woodville: Mother of the Princes in the Tower. Gloucestershire: Sutton, 2004 (paperback edition).

A. R. Myers, Crown, Household and Parliament in Fifteenth-Century England. London and Ronceverte: Hambledon Press, 1985.

Arlene Okerlund, Elizabeth: England’s Slandered Queen. Gloucestershire: Tempus, 2006 (paperback edition).

Proceedings, Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne, 1888.

George Smith, The Coronation of Elizabeth Wydeville. Gloucester: Gloucester Reprints, 1975 (originally published 1935).