Archive for September, 2010

‎”I to your son will give my Anne”
Fierce Warwick glowered “Though not a man
Can hold a candle to lord Gloucester
Who beats his breast now he has lost ‘er
But ere I to lost England go
This one important fact I’ll know –
Though I e’er after be called mean
I shall my daughter see a queen.”
And what to this said Anjou’s bitch?
Whose life was never without hitch
“They’ll not lie as one under my roof
And so there never shall be proof
That they be wed. I’ll scorn you yet!
For we’ll fall out ere long, I’ll bet.”
But Warwick smiled for he foreknew
What sexy little Anne would do
He had no fears she’d not be queen
For he had once been seventeen
And knew the prince could not resist
That tender flower once he’d been kissed.

“Eeeeeeeew!” Anne shrieked years later when she read this.  “Is this guy sick or what?”

“Never mind that, sweetheart,” Richard or Dickon said, who had a surprising amount of stamina for one so frail and angelic®. “Come back to bed, or I shall start pining and beating my breast.”

Anne couldn’t get there quick enough! For not only did their childhood passion still burn after all these years, there was only one way she knew of scrubbing that particular image out of her head.

The balladeer had been right about the queen bit, though.

23 September 1459 – Battle of Blore Heath

Here’s my notes for this battle:

• Salisbury on his way to Ludlow;

• Lancaster led by Audley and Dudley

• Salisbury chose a position at Blore Hill

• Lancster had to cross stream to attack

• Salisbury pursued them

• Dead – Audley;

• Taken – Dudley

– Thomas Nevill, John Nevill (& Harrington ?) possibly while seeking shelter/help for injuries

• Augustinian friar covers Salisbury’s withdrawal by firing cannon all night; when found next day, claims he did it to keep his spirits up.

And THAT’s why I’m a day late and getting later blogging this battle! Sometimes I think I should fire myself and hire a research assistant!

So, what I thought I’d do, rather than reach for my books and give you something more comprehensive and sensible about the battle itself, is talk about the involvement of Alice Montacute, countess of Salisbury.

I’ve mentioned before that she was attainted at the so-called Parliament of Devils, along with York, Salisbury, Warwick, Thomas and John Nevill, the earls of March and Rutland and a whole bunch of other people. The other wives were explicitly exempted from this, their personal wealth untouched and their safety not in question. They remained in England (or in the countess of Warwick’s case, Calais) able to get on with their lives, so far as anyone can whose husband and sons have been forced to flee the country or have been captured and imprisoned. Alice had to get herself gone fast.

Here’s the relevant section from the parliamentary rolls dealing with Alice.

And forasmoch as Aleyse the wyf of the seid Richard erle of Salesbury, the first day of August, the yere of youre moost noble reigne xxxvij at Middleham in youre shire of York… falsely and traiterously ymagyned and compassed the deth and fynall destruccion of you, soverayne lord; and in accomplisshment and executyng therof, the seid Aleise, at Middleham aforeseid the seid first day of August… traterously labored, abetted, procured, stered and provoked the seid duc of York, and the seid erles of Warrewyk and Salesbury, to doo the seid tresons, rebellions, gaderynges, ridynges and reryng of werre ayenst youre moost roiall persone, at the seid toune of Blore and Ludeford: to ordeyne and establissh, by the seid auctorite, that the same Aliese… for the same be reputed, taken, demed, adjugged and atteinted of high treson.

What she actually did is almost impossible to glean from this, though it’s likely that she was raising troops in the north of England. One fairly recent fictional portrayal of her has her swooning at news that her husband is in danger and falling into a state of catatonia at the news of his death. (And, incidentally, not being attainted at the Parliament of Devils.) This does the real countess of Salisbury a huge disservice.

The Duke of York went to Ireland with his son, Edmund earl of Rutland. Salisbury went to Calais with Warwick and the earl of March. Ireland is where Alice ended up, fetched back to Calais and reunion with her husband the following year by her son, Warwick. Why she went to Ireland and not Calais is a question I’ve been trying to unravel.

Though it’s not mentioned in reports of the battle, she may have been with her husband and sons as they travelled to Ludlow, Salisbury being reluctant to leave her behind in Yorkshire when things were so unsettled. While York had an easier journey ahead of him, and as his welcome in Ireland was almost guaranteed, Salisbury, March and Warwick had a much more difficult time getting to Calais. If Alice was at Ludlow, her taking the safer option makes a great deal of sense. If she travelled later, on her own, then Ireland would seem an odd choice. On the balance of probability then, I’m putting Alice at Ludlow in 1459 and in the vicinity of Blore Heath during the battle.

Though Salisbury’s victory would have heartened them, the disappearance of their two sons would have been cause for worry. How and when the Salisburys heard that Thomas and John had been captured and were on their way to imprisonment in Chester Castle is also unclear, but the news may have been waiting for them at Ludlow, though their sons’ fate would still have been very unclear at that point. However, it is possible that they heard a number of confused and confusing reports after the battle, including the possibility that one or both of their sons had been killed.

This must have been a particularly difficult time for Alice. She left the country in the company of the duke of York and the earl of Rutland, not knowing where her husband and Warwick were going to end up, not knowing what was going to happen to Thomas and John, an attainder for treason hanging over all their heads, including hers. She left behind in England her son George and all of her daughters and grandchildren. Though she no doubt had great faith in the men in her life, and believed in their cause, she couldn’t have been sure she’d see them again or, indeed, return to England.

When Warwick came to Ireland the following year for talks with the duke of York, and to fetch his mother back to Calais, I imagine a low key but emotional reunion, both with her son and later her husband.

Alice Montacute was, I think, an amazing woman of enormous courage and heart. She grew up ten children who all had a strong presence in the world and an impact either on a national level or on their own families. She very much deserves to be recognised, not as a proto-feminist figure, but as a woman who dealt with a greater than usual burden of both political and personal drama by wiping her hands on her skirts and getting on with it.

Today is the birthday of Richard duke of York, father of Edward IV and Richard III, husband of Cecily Nevill.

Richard duke of York and Edward IV, St Laurence's church Ludlow

To my most well beloved son George Duke of Clarence

I greet you well and recommend me to you and to your wife my daughter Isobel Duchess of Clarence.

Now that that’s out of the way – Can I just ask what on earth you think you’re doing? I understand that you sometimes get upset by the things your brother does or doesn’t do, but that’s really no excuse for what must be, even for you, a record breaking sulk! I think it’s time you came home, apologised to each other and shook hands! This nonsense has simply got to stop.

I’m not even going to mention the horrible lies you’ve been spreading about me!

written in haste the day after Whitsun

your loving mother

Cecily Duchess of York



What’s going on? We’ve always been able to talk and I’m feeling very shut out at the moment. You can always tell me things, you know that! Look, I know Ned can be difficult at times, but you have to remember – he’s the king! Things can’t be that bad, surely! And you need to think very carefully about trusting Warwick. He doesn’t always mean what he says or say what he means. I’m sure Isobel’s an absolute sweetie-pie, clearly she adores you! but you might want to ask yourself: was it all worth it? Ned’s just sick about the whole thing. Richard or Dickon is getting more frail and angelic® by the day, and you know stress isn’t good for him! All I want is for my brothers to get along! Please please please think about what you’re doing. If you want me to talk to Ned for you, I’m happy to do that. You know I’m always delighted when they come for a visit, but I’m finding it all just a bit hard to deal with right now. I’m fielding complaints from just about everyone at the moment.  You know I love Ned dearly, but the working girls are exhausted! They’re just not used to such exuberance. Have a think about it.  Ask yourself – do you really want to be king? The job does have its downsides – just ask Ned, he’ll tell you! Drop me a line – please! – let me know how you’re getting on. I worry about you so much. Mother’s very hurt by the things you said about her. You might want to look in a mirror some time soon and tell me how much YOU look like Father!

Please write back and let me know you’re ok. I’m not sleeping properly with all this worry!

Your adoring big sis



Dear George

Have you seen my rat bastard ex-husband swanning around London? Well, next time you do, just look into his ugly face and ask yourself: do I really want to spend the rest of my life knowing that while this pig’s hanging around court, my big sister’s going to be stuck in the country! Oh, and if you get the chance, can you drop around my place and make sure he’s not doing anything too irreversible to the decor? Cost me a fortune to have it done up! His fortune – ha ha!

My love to Isobel and cousin Richard. Oh, and Thomas says tell my ex he’d better not show his face around here or he’ll sort him out!

All my love

Anne Duchess of Exeter (you’d better believe it, baby!)


Darling George

Whatever it is you’re doing that’s upsetting mother, please stop.

Can’t write more, far too busy, what with my darling boys and the roses to prune.

Your loving sister


Richard or Dickon, frail and angelic® Duke of Gloucester, youngest brother of the rapidly becoming ex-King of England stood at the railing of the ship staring alternately at England (behind him) and France (somewhere ahead). He was lonely, miserable, hurting, pining for his one true love, heartbroken and in deep deep pain. But mostly, he was frail and angelic®.

Hope was lost. England was lost. Love was lost. That glorious summer he’d been banging on about in Act One was also lost. He heaved a heavy sigh, of pain and misery. “Why me?” he thought, painfully and miserably. “Why must I love so deeply and so true? One who is lost to me forever! Married to another who is neither frail nor angelic® but harsh and fierce and bloodthirsty.”

His brother saw him with tears in his eyes but there was nothing he could do to ease his pain. He too knew of loves lost, secret marriages kept secret and secret marriages revealed. He hoped that none of them would cause his brother more pain that he felt this day, for he was truly suffering.

William, Lord Hastings, all round reprobate and whoremonger, was sitting in his cabin, drinking wine and bemoaning the lack of whores aboard this tiny ship that carried them all into gloomy, lonely, hopeless exile. Burgundy! He thought gloomily.

On a ship crossing the channel in the opposite direction, young Anne Nevill, now bogus Princess of Wales due to the fact that she was pretending to be married to her own half brother, was leaning on the railing also pining for lost love. Ah, Richard or Dickon, she pined. Why can we not be together? Now I must live my life in this counterfeit marriage and one day become ersatz Queen of England. Rather to be the wife of a swineherd if only I could muck out the sties with you, my lost and lonely love.

Richard or Dickon felt a hand clap on his frail and angelic® shoulder and jumped.

“How goes it, brother?” the almost ex-King of England his brother said.

“Badly,” Richard or Dickon sighed. “What are we going to do in Burgundy?”

Edward’s eyes twinkled, for he had a pretty good idea what he and his friend Lord Hastings would be doing. But he shook the thought from his great blonde head, for Richard or Dickon was pious and good. And in love with a decent girl, which Edward had never experienced before. Might be nice, he mused, for a change.

“We are going to lay…. um plans,” Edward said hastily. “We will return, my brother! And reclaim our kingdom!”

But will I find my lost love? Richard or Dickon languished. He did not like to gainsay his brother, but he could feel one coming on. “It will be difficult,” he said. “There are but three of us.”

“You’ve forgotten my dear brother-in-law Anthony Woodville,” Edward gainsaid his brother.

But Richard or Dickon scowled into the ocean. He hadn’t! He just didn’t like him very much and tried hard to pretend he wasn’t there. One day, he thought. One day I shall forget I am frail and angelic® and hadn’t he better watch out then!

Anthony Woodville lay on his back in the sun soaking up the sun. He had a smile on his lips for he had had word secretly from a secret contact in Burgundy that his old nemesis, the girl who would not give in to his blandishments, who gainsaid his love and adoration, was somewhere in Burgundy. Ah, Dakota, he thought. You shall spurn me no more, for I shall have you! You shall be on your knees begging, amongst other things. And he closed his eyes the better to imagine the taste of her sweet lips, which were made for love for she was not only beautiful and courageous but had said “No!” to him one time too many and that made him really want her quite badly. That every other man who crossed her path felt the same he cared not a jot for. She was his, Anthony Woodville brother of the queen of England currently in sanctuary’s. And he would find her.

“Everything will be all right, Antsiepants,” Edward the Prince of Wales said brotherly to his sister. “You’ll see. You’ll make a very good pretend queen! And we can find an orphaned baby somewhere and sneak it into your bedroom and then you can be the pretend mother to the pretend heir to the throne as well! Our father’s got it all worked out. He’s very clever, you know.”

Edward left his brother by the railing and went in search of either of his two friends who were with him. He really didn’t mind which, they were both his friends and he enjoyed doing different things to them. Secretly, he missed his wife and all his mistresses, but he’d never let that thought escape his lips. They must never know, he thought. He considered spending some time cursing his old friend and cousin the Earl of Warwick, who was now his enemy but stils his cousin, but he’d done that a lot lately and he was running out of nasty things to think about him.  He hoped his wife, the ex-Queen of England and a witch, was working hard on that spell she’d mentioned that she knew how to do. That would be good, he sighed, to turn him into something nasty. Only trouble was, he kept changing his mind whenever he thought of something even nastier. So he left his brother at the railing of the ship and went down the companion way where he found Lord Hastings in his cabin, asleep and dreaming of love. So he thought he’d join him because Anthony was lying in the sun and the now quite firmly ex-King of England didn’t want to risk it, what with his fair complexion and tendency to freckle.

Anne knew. She knew her father was clever. She’d spent her whole life being a pawn on the chessboard of his life and had always admired his moves. But that didn’t help to lift her misery. She must forget him! Put him out of her mind and not think about him anymore. Remembering him, fondly, pathetically, sadly, was something she must not do! But his frail and angelic® face wafted in front of her very eyes and she felt a cold black steel eternal binding chain of grief that caught around her heart and threatened to drag her down. She tried to smile at her brother, but it didn’t work.

Then, whispered on the wind, a voice. “We shall be together,” it said and Anne perked up a bit. She could almost feel his hot body pressing against her.

“We shall be together,” Richard or Dickon whispered into the wind at the railing of the ship he was on. “We shall!”

About a year ago, I finished a fantasy novel called Dissolution which I tried to get a literary agent interested in. No-one wanted it. So I put it down, sulked for a while, started Nevill, realised that – what with the research involved – I wasn’t likely to get that finished any time soon, sent Dissolution out again, welcomed it home again etc etc etc.

So I thought – maybe I can make it a better book, make it so someone does want it. I’m about a third of the way through that at the moment. Massive rewrite of part 1, lesser rewrite (almost done) of part 2, parts 5 and 6 will need very little work (I think) and 3 & 4 definitely need some. I’m very pleased with how it’s turning out. Everyone who’s read any of it tells me it’s good (not just people who love me – a member of a crit group recently said to me “I’d read anything you wrote. Phone book, instruction manual” – you don’t hear that every day and it was seriously encouraging.)  I think, so far, I have a much better book than I did. And more worthy of people’s attention.  So, once I had the first three chapters where I wanted them, I thought I’d test the waters again. (I figured that by the time anyone got around to reading it, I’d be well on my way to having the whole thing revised.)

Six query emails to agents. One came back quite quickly with “Not taking new clients”. Ok, that’s fine. Another (that had my spidey sense tingling when I saw their website) came back quite quickly with (and I quote) “Sounds good. Send us the first three chapters”. Spidey senses on overload now. So I looked them up on the trusty Writers Beware website, found that my instincts hadn’t failed me – big thumbs down. Emailed them back – thanks, but no thanks – then went to bed, had a bit of a think, came to a decision, woke up not thinking it was dumb, told my husband who said “You’ve been talking about that on and off for a while now, I was wondering when you were going to come round to that.”

Ok, that’s the story told from one direction, now I’m going to switch to the opposite end (so to speak).

Some time ago, I read the marvellous story behind the book Atlanta Nights. I decided I was going to buy it. It’s published by Lulu. I ordered it, it came. I was impressed with the speed of delivery, the price and the quality of the book itself. Laughed like a drain when I read it – I would recommend it to anyone who (for instance) has enjoyed reading The Daisy and the Bear.  And thought “These Lulu people are pretty good at what they do!”

You should be able to see what’s coming…

I’m getting old (the story from angle 3).  I’ve got a couple of decades left, I reckon, if every bus I see keeps out of my way, but I’ve been telling myself that I’m going to be a published author since I was 9 and I’m just not 9 anymore! I can’t wait for the scales to fall from the eyes of agents and publishers. And self publishing, particularly POD, with its synergies with Amazon and Barnes and Noble, is so rapidly becoming a real option for writers that it is now a real option for writers.

So, I’m going to finish Dissolution, proofread the heck out of it (and I’m pretty good at that I’ve found), get as many other people to proofread the heck out of it as I can, commission my talented daughter Cole to come up with some cover art, and set it up on a POD site. Probably Lulu, unless I find something blindingly better.

I’m going to work my tail off and hopefully get it up by Christmas. (Just after Christmas I have another birthday – I’d really like to have the first copy in my hands before I’m a year older.) If it works, I’ve got 3 more in this particular series either on paper, in note form or in my head. I might even make some money! That would give me the leeway I need to get Nevill finished and, who knows? either the world of publishing will be well on its way to irreversible change and agents and publishers will have lost much of their relevancy and power – or my fantasy books prove successful and I can get my hands on an agent! Either way, I’m not waiting round for the world to come to me, not anymore.

Wish me luck! I might chuck an extract up in the next few weeks, see what you think. Might even make you want to buy it when it’s available! 😀





MAGGIE, a 40 year old ex-queen, is standing in the middle of the room. It is furnished well, but almost shabbily. This is reflected in MAGGIE’s gown, which is of fine fabric but has seen better days. There is a window in one wall through which we can see a glimpse of the garden.

RICKY comes in and Maggie goes to him, fluttering slightly. He sweeps her up into an embrace and they kiss.


Every minute you are away from me, my lurve, is like an eternity.


Then we should stop wasting time! I’ve got an hour or so to kill…


(breaking free)

But we cannot zink about lurve all ze time, Ricky!


Oh, I don’t know…


Zere are ze children to zink about! We ‘ave told zem zat zey are to be married, but we ‘ave not told zem ze truz. (she turns to him) We must, Ricky! We cannot keep it ‘idden any longer!


You’re right. They’re going to have to learn sooner or later that they’re brother and sister, and that the wedding we have planned for them is just a sham. But we’ll have to do it carefully.

We see that there’s someone at the window.  It’s ANNIE. She has overheard and is horrified. Annie is fourteen and very pretty. She’s wearing something vaguely mediaeval (really doesn’t matter, so long as it’s long and maybe has some lacing on the bodice. A conical hat would be good as well, so she can hang onto it as she runs.)


My Annie is a little highly strung.

Through the window, we see Annie running away.


‘Ave you met Edouard? You don’t know what ‘ighly strung is!


(turning to the window)

Did you hear something?


(takes hold of his arm and pulls him towards her)

Nozing, my lurve! Probably just a cat. Now, you were saying you ‘ad an ‘our to kill?

They kiss.


ED is sitting by a pond throwing stones into the water. He looks up when he hears ANNIE running towards him shouting.


Ed! Ed!

He stands up. She runs over and stops, breathless.


Your mother… My father… They… they…


I know! They do it all the time. It’s disgusting!


(shaking her head)

No, I’m not talking about that.  I heard something. Maybe I shouldn’t have been listening at the window. Listen, Ed, it’s important! And it’s about you, too.

They sit down.


You know that we’re going to be married? (Ed nods) Well, apparently it’s all for show! You’re not my fiance, Ed. You’re my brother!

Close up on Ed’s face. He’s kind of confused.



Does that mean you’re my sister? (off her look) Oh.


I knew something was wrong. I’ve been wondering why I found you so… annoying! I say it’s time to teach them a lesson!


Maggie, Ricky, Ed and Annie are having supper. The dining room is massive, and the little table is right in the middle. Lots of comic business for servants bringing food, they should make the most of the long trek through the hall. There is a whole pigs head on the table, with an apple in its mouth. They have a goblet each for quaffing and large metal plates in front of them. Annie is quite a fastidious eater, but the others just shovel food into their mouths. They eat while they talk.


Dearest Edward darling, could you pass me the salt please?


Nothing would delight me more, my precious angel! (he hands her the salt, there is a long lingering look) Oh, your eyes are beauteous tonight, my lady. To think I will have a lifetime to gaze into them while passing you the salt!

Maggie and Ricky exchange glances. They’re a bit worried about this.


I was planning to go hunting tomorrow, Ed. You want to come?


Will you be there, sweetest Annie?


No, alas! I cannot! I have much to prepare for our wedding. (she looks down and giggles) I cannot wait to be your wife, Ed! I have had a nightgown made for our wedding night. You should see it, it’s got lace and you can see right through…


I ‘ope you bring home a deer, dear. Zat would make a nice change to zis slop I’ve been forced to eat in my years of poverty and neglect.


Which you shall never suffer again, my darling! I shall take care of you from now on. And you shall have venison every night, if you wish.

Annie and Ed exchange glances. Annie makes a gagging gesture.

Maggie finishes eating and puts down her knife.


Time for bed, mes enfants. And don’t forget to say your prayers!

Annie and Ed get up and leave the room quietly. We follow them to the door and out into


Ed and Annie fall against the wall laughing.


Well, Antsiepants! That should give them something to think about!


Ricky is sitting at a table reading a letter from the Duke of Clarence. He’s rather worried. Maggie comes in, goes over to him. He takes hold of her hand but keeps reading. She kisses the top of his head. He puts the letter down with a sigh.


What eez eet, my lurve?


It’s George. He keeps talking about going home.


‘Ome? To Angleterre?

Ricky pulls her down onto his knee and kisses her.


Yes. Says there’s nothing for him to do here.


Give ‘im the keys to the wine cellar. Zat should keep ‘im occupied.

Ricky laughs.


You are wicked, my darling heart. But that is why I love you so much.

She stands up.


What are we going to do about the children?



I shall have a talk with Annie.


And I shall ‘ave a chat with Ed.



A cat?


No! Not un chat, you silly zing! A chat. A little talk. A conversation. I shall ‘ave a talk wiz my boy.


Ed is lying on the bed, his hands behind his head. Maggie is sitting on the bed. They are arguing.


But mother! You don’t understand! I love her!


You are young. You do not know what lurve eez!


Ricky and Annie are by the pond, sitting on a bench talking.


You’ll just have to be patient, my dear.


How, father! How can I be patient? Oh, he’s so dreamy!


Ed rolls up onto his side, supporting himself on his elbow.


Is she not the most beautiful girl in the world!


Well, of course, she eez very pretty. Tres jolie, as they say in France.



Thank you, Daddy! (she throws her arms around his neck) Thank you so much for giving me such a hottie for a husband.

Close up on Ricky’s face. He’s getting very worried.



Zere is more to life zan… Kissing.


But you and Ricky do that all the time! It’s gross, mother!


Zat eez different, my son. (beat) Look, I forbid you to touch ‘er! Even after you are married. Do you understand? I forbid eet!


Annie kisses Ricky on the cheek, jumps up and runs off. Ricky sits back, shaking his head. This is getting very worrying.


GEORGE enters. He is slightly drunk. Maggie is at the other end of the gallery, sees him and starts to move away, but he spots her.


Mags! Hey, Maggie! Don’t walk away. Come and talk to me.

She moves towards him, very reluctant to talk to him.


(puts his arm around her shoulder)

Listen, I’ve been thinking. You know, you know, you know I’m going to be king, right? Well, I’ve been thinking… (he stops, he’s forgotten what he was thinking) Anyway, does ‘t matter. You know I’m going to be king, right?



No, George! You are not going to be king. Your fazer-in-law ‘as already told me. ‘E will make my son ze king of Angleterre. Not you.

George stops. He’s confused and blinking repeatedly.


I’m not going to be king?


No. You are not going to be king!

She walks away. He’s left feeling more than a little let down.


Annie and Ed are sitting on a love seat, laughing about something. There is a door that Annie can see from where she sits. It’s open.


So, Isobel’s all “When I’m queen you’ll listen to me!” and I’m all “Oooh, your majesty…”

She breaks off as she sees Maggie walking past and grabs Ed’s hand. Maggie stops in the doorway and listens.


Oh, Ed! I can’t wait till you take me in your arms!


(picking up on the shift)

Oh, Annie, my treasure! To kiss those perfect lips.

Maggie gasps and hurries away. Ed and Annie fall about laughing.


Maggie is pacing the room, wringing her hands when Ricky comes in.


What are we going to do? What are we going to do?


We shall just have to tell them.




Tonight. At supper. (he takes her hand) Which is still some hours away. (they embrace) And I’ve got nothing else to do. (they kiss)


Oh, Ricky!


Annie is on the bed, reading. ISOBEL comes in. She’s Annie’s older sister and quite imperious. She looks around in distaste and sits in a chair. Annie tries to ignore her.



Anne! (beat) Anne!

Annie puts down her book with an exaggerated sigh and sits up.




Isobel pulls a piece of paper out of her sleeve and holds it out to Anne.


Please give this to father.

Annie hesitates, but gets up, goes to her sisters, snatches the note, goes back to the bed and picks up her book. Isobel stands up.


We’re going back to England. We’re sick of France. I just came to say goodbye.


(without looking up)

Good bye.

Isobel hesitates, as if she might say something, but goes to the door.


(turning slightly)

Oh, and good luck with that queen thing!

Isobel leaves.


Ricky is pacing. He’s very worried. He looks up as Annie comes in.


(holding out Isobel’s letter)

Isobel asked me to give you this.

He takes it and unfolds it. She leaves, he looks up, but too late.


Annie! (she’s gone, he reads the letter) Dearest Daddy, George and I are going him to England. I think it’s very unfair that you’ve decided not to make him king anymore and told your girlfriend before you told me… (he crumples the letter) Maggie! (he goes to the door) Maggie, you’ve got some ‘splainin to do!


Ed and Annie are sitting next to each other, making googly eyes at each other. Ricky and Maggie exchange glances.


Edouard! (he ignores her) Edouard!


Hmnmm? (he turns around with a sigh) Yes, mother?


You too, Anne.  This is important.

Annie and Ed wait patiently for him to continue.


Well, as you know, Maggie and I have known each other for quite a long time. Though we lost touch for many years…



Many long sad lonely years. Oh, ‘ow I cried for you, my lurve!


What you may not know, is that we knew each other… extremely well.


I don’t understand.


Well, it’s like this, see. When a man and a woman love each other very much, they have a special kind of cuddle…


Oh for goodness sake! When we said you were to get married, we meant you would be pretending do be married. You see, mes enfants, you can never be ‘usband and wife, because you are brozer and sister!

Annie and Ed pretend to be shocked, then burst out laughing and give each other high fives.


But I don’t understand! Je ne comprend pas!


You knew?


We heard you talking and decided to teach you both a lesson!


Well, I’ve certainly learned one!

Annie gets up, goes around to hug him.


Yes, we will never keep secrets from you again.

Ed gets up and they all have a big hug.


This is a question that’s currently being discussed by members of a Facebook group – the History Police. We’re not aiming to come up with any kind of manifesto – the views and tolerance levels of the members being quite healthily varied – but for me it’s boiling down to one essential point: the gap in any given work between claims of accuracy and actual accuracy.

I decided to explore this issue using Sandra Worth’s Lady of the Roses. “Painstaking historical research,” the cover says.  “… dedication to authenticity” and “for readers who like the history in historical fiction to be accurate.” And, from the author herself: “I strive for as much accuracy as I can”(via facebook).

So far, in 152 pages of a nearly 400 page work, I’ve found 50 glaring inaccuracies. From not getting a character’s title right to shifting entire events in time to cliched, one-dimensional characters and beyond – and it’s not going to get any better once I turn over to p153. The Author’s Note covers only one of these, and the explanation for it doesn’t satisfy me at all. The other time-shifted events go unremarked.

If it hadn’t been for the cover quotes, and the author’s own assertion, I’m not sure the errors and (frankly) made up stuff would bother me quite so much. Many writers play with history, meshing it into fantasy stories, with vampires and goodness knows what else wandering through their pages; modern characters travelling through time and various other things. It’s fairly clear, in those instances, that ‘accuracy’ isn’t a goal.

There are broadly two types of inaccuracy that I’ve found so far in Lady of the Roses: simple mistakes (that could have been avoided with more careful research) and deliberate distortions. An example of the first, in the first few pages, is lord Ralph Cromwell being described as having once been “chancellor” of England. He never was, he had been Chamberlain of the Household, but never chancellor.  An example of the second is the shifting in time (and incorrect placing in geographical terms) of the ‘battle’ of Stamford Bridge. This happened in November 1454, Worth shifts it to July 1457. Quite apart from messing with chronology, this shift ignores the close association between this event and others – York’s first protectorate and Exeter’s rebellion, in particular. She also has people involved (eg the earl of Salisbury) who weren’t even in the vicinity at the time. For the life of me, I can’t work out why.

A lot of people believe what they read in historical novels (and what they see on tv and in films). A lot of writers claim legitimacy as either historians (which the vast majority aren’t) or at the very least, sound researchers. This bestows on them a sometimes false legitimacy. I could stand up in front of a hundred of Worth’s devoted fans, go through the book page by page and line by line, but I doubt if I’d get very far in shifting their opinions. (I’m not commenting on her writing style. It’s not to my taste, but that’s a very personal matter and I know of many people who think her writing is wonderful.) But my thirty odd years of reading and researching wouldn’t give me any legitimacy – I’m not a published author (or an historian). And that, plus the cover claims, seems to be the key.

“The Midwest Book Review says it’s accurate!” they’d say. “And they don’t say that about you!”

“It’s fiction!” others would say.

And from a review of Philippa Gregory’s The Red Queen: “There are those who turn up their noses at Philippa Gregory’s historical fiction, deeming it historical-lite but perhaps they should stick to non-fiction…”

That last quote just made me cross!

According to the cover, Lady of the Roses is both ‘accurate’ and ‘painstakingly researched’ – according to my reading of it, there’s no evidence that it’s either. And this brings me back to my first point – it’s not inaccuracy per se that bothers me the most (though it does bother me), it’s the gap between the claim and the reality.

For a page-at-a-time look at this book in more detail, see here. (It’s not quite halfway through yet.) Would I care as much if it wasn’t a book about the Nevills? Probably not. But then, on other areas and periods of history, I don’t have my own knowledge and research (obsession, undying devotion…) to compare.

Portrait said to be of Isobel's daughter, Margaret countess of Salisbury. Her long narrow face would seem to be a Nevill trait and may well have been shared by her mother.

Margaret of Anjou and Henry VI weren’t the only couple who had to wait a long time for the birth of their first child. The countess and earl of Warwick, after probably about 7 years actively trying to conceive, were finally rewarded on 5 September 1451 with the birth of their elder daughter Isobel. Five years later, their second daughter, Anne, was born.

He’d been on his knees for an hour now, and knew he could endure an hour more if only he could gaze upon her face. So beautiful, he thought, wreathed as it was with her luscious waves of caramel. He loved her. He’d been a fool to be without her for so long. His heart ached. His mouth twitched with desire, to speak and to kiss. His arms, his legs, his other bits… All of them called her name. Margaret… Margaret… Just a breath, a sigh. The wind through the trees on a spring morning. Ah, how he loved!

She’d put on her finest gown, combed her hair just right, steadied her trembling hands with a cup of wine, looked at herself in the glass and thought. ‘E is ‘ere! My warrior, my pirate. My Earl. And I ‘ave aged. ‘Ow can ‘e lurve me now? The cares and woes of life had indeed taken their toll on the Frenchwoman. Was it only twenty five years ago that the maiden had stepped off the ship onto English soil to marry her king? She sighed pitifully and wiped away a tear. She had hoped to find love with her prince, but instead life – and the fates – had thrown another man into her path. And her bed. She swallowed hard, the memories were too raw, too real. She wanted him there again.

Outside in the garden the young Prince looked sideways at the girl who sat next to him. The air was crisp and he thought he caught the smell of snow.

“My mother says we are to marry,” he said. “But there can’t be any… you know. She didn’t tell me why.”

The young girl was relieved to hear this. The lad was certainly handsome. But there was something profoundly annoying about him. He will spend our married life trying to read my diary, she thought. Or come up with some dreadful nickname and tell all his friends! And they’ll be all superior and look down their noses at me.

He jumped to his feet. “Hey, Antsie-pants, want to go into the village and sneer at the peasants?”

Anne scowled. He’d come up with that with disconcerting speed. But she did so like sneering at peasants. “Sure, that’s one of my favourite things ever!”

“Well, you know what they say… Great minds think alike!”

Once the ceremony was over and Margaret’s court-in-exile had retired for the night, she kept him on his knees in her bedchamber for another hour or so. She rather liked it. Liked the way his beseeching eyes locked onto hers, the way his hands seemed to be begging to let her touch him. Realising that she was punishing herself at least as much as him, she finally relented, dropped to the floor in front of him and threw her arms around him.

“My earl! My lurve!” she said breathlessly.

He stroked her honey blonde curls and kissed her face. “We must never be parted! Never!”

Late into the night they plotted together, whispering beneath the covers, interrupting each other now and then with kisses and sighs. And more. Much much more. Seventeen years since they’d seen each other and each one was burned to a cinder this night by the fire of their love.

As Angleterre will burn, she thought.

On their way back from the village, where they’d spent a pleasant hour or so sneering at peasants, Edward Prince of Wales, son of Margaret of Anjou and secret son of the earl of Warwick, looked sideways at the young woman to whom he was to be betrothed. She wasn’t a bad old stick, he thought. They might rub along together tolerably well. He thought, just for a second, of what she might look naked and almost immediately wanted to poke his eyes out with a stick. That had never happened before! And he spent a lot of time picturing young women naked. To cover his momentary embarrassment, he reached over and pulled her hair.

“Ow!” Anne said. “Edward! God, you’re annoying!”

He smiled, waited until her attention was diverted by a passing horse, and tapped her on the shoulder. She spun around. No-one was there. She looked at Edward, but his face was innocent. She just wanted to kick him!