Wednesday, December 3, 2008
...not in the 15th century, that is sadly for sure. It took me two months to read "The Uncrowned Kings of England" by Derek Wilson, a bargain from Amazon, which followed the history of the Dudley family, one so intwined with Tudor history. I was amazed at how one Dudley would go to the block and then his offspring became so close to Elizabeth's power. I found Robert Dudley's life to be quite remarkable as he walked a difficult path between his public and private personas (pictured here as a young man).
I spent two months taken up by American politics, often going to sleep in dread that we would regress into an even less responsive government than we have. I viewed far too much political television and was able to read little. Now that that situation is resolved for the bestest reasons, I am looking into Richard II, and the event that started the Lancastrian dynasty. Time to start at the beginning, with the regicide. The progeny of John of Gaunt by his wife and then his mistress who was then his wife figured greatly in the 15th century, and I think it is to these people that I will turn next.
Someone told me that Henry VI was probably autistic, but I have yet to find a reference that supports that. I feel that he never fully recovered from his longest spell of madness, and this may be something of an explanation. If anyone knows about the autistic angle, please let me know what you know.
Sunday, September 7, 2008
I seem to be hitting the 14th or 16th century in England lately in my reading and the latest book in front of me is "Jane Boleyn" (by Julia Fox), an account of a lady-in-waiting who was in waiting all the way to the block. This biography posits that Jane, Viscountess Rochford, sister-in-law to Anne Boleyn, has been given a tough deal by the writers of history. Perhaps she was a scapegoat, but I see her as being in the wrong place, etc., especially the final place, where she followed Queen Catherine (pictured) after she was unable to save her.
Friday, September 5, 2008
It was a violent time - when practice of one's religion was by royal fiat which changed from ruler to ruler in England - one either practiced the faith in favor, or secretly practiced the faith out of favor. Abruptly, with the accession of a new ruler, the faith in favor would change and some could profess openly what they had hidden and others suddenly had to hide what they had previously professed openly - a situation that affected viscerally every person in the realm.
In this narrative, the royals (Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth with a cameo by Lady Jane Grey) are offstage for the most part, although there are appearances. Their impact, however, on the kingdom they rule is all too present and center stage.
Two characters in this novel that opens in 1968 and telescopes back to the troubled 1550's come to the point of rejecting the strictures of religion altogether. A logical outcome for them, and I won't say how it played out here in case anyone reading this wants to read this work. The presentation of reincarnation comes through as a vehicle for redemption. In reaching from 1968 back to 1559 and back again, the story elicits hope that tragic situations can be resolved in better times. In darkness is the green seed for the future.
I almost liked this one as much as "Katherine", bold praise.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
And then I read "Katherine". Since then, I am on a kick to see how the whole Lancaster thing started, reading John Gardner's 1977 work on Chaucer, and taking shots at what before now was an inaccessible Shakespeare play - "Richard II". It is a sort of a rush - before the last few weeks, I have never read Chaucer, previously knew little about the Peasant's Revolt, or even thought about that complex king, Richard II (pictured here addressing the rebels in Froissart).
Saturday, August 2, 2008
I would like to gather a few thoughts on Katherine Swynford after reading Alison Weir's biography of her relationship with John of Gaunt (pictured). I plan to read the Anya Seton novel at some point, but now I am so into Plaidy's historical fictive style it may be awhile.
Monday, July 21, 2008
James IV (pictured), a connoisseur of women, was her first king, infatuation and then disappointment. Plaidy's characterization of him was, I thought, very sympathetic. It would be interesting to meet such a man- a charmer without modern morals, sort of a male Madonna (the singer). James and Margaret appear to have worked things out pretty well. Unfortunately the Warfare Sickness claimed a royal soldier and left his son a crown on a child. The others were earls I think, pretty and not too bright.
Hester Chapman stressed Margaret's plainness, here Plaidy pronounces her beautiful. (Or maybe it was the clothes that were beautiful.) (Or maybe in royal circles it is close to the same thing.)
Thursday, July 17, 2008
The breadth and depth of suffering in the daily lives of those of the nobility who lived in times of high infant mortality, civil war, and delicate political situations is palpable. Elizabeth Woodville lost all five of her brothers, six of her seven sisters, four of her five sons, two daughters, and both husbands. When her time came she had little to spend on her soul. Her poverty at the end of her life may mirror that of Margaret of Anjou, although she left key progeny and Margaret was to be at the end the Lancastrian line.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
Thursday, June 5, 2008
Sunday, April 27, 2008
I just devoured "The Thistle and the Rose" by Hester Chapman. This work detailed the lives of two more Tudors I knew nothing of - sisters to Henry VIII (daughters of Henry VII) - Mary and Margaret Tudor. A long tortuous road for Margaret as Queen of Scotland from a young age was dealt with at three times the length of the relatively simple and straightforward life of Mary as, briefly, Queen of France and then Duchess of Suffolk.
Monday, April 21, 2008
Finally, a good Lancastrian. Of course he had to be suspicious of his Yorkist in-laws, as well as his queen. He is portrayed here as being a good family man, a scrupulous king with a sense of humor, and a lover of show. The world view and inner workings of people of the middle ages were so different from how we stack up internally now, so historical fiction that portrays people through our lens may be misleading. If the King died of a broken heart, losing Prince Arthur and Elizabeth in short order, he seems an example of the fact that grief is timeless and basic to human relations.
Sunday, April 6, 2008
of making fortunes, plunder, misery, abject poverty, and so on. Starting with Edward III, carried on through the Black Prince, England, a poor, sparsely inhabited country, systematically plundered and made miserable one of untold riches. In this context Henry V had a bit of Bush in him, an unshakable belief in his own calling to arms, a pronounced piety, and the continuance of the bankrupting of the English state in order to pay for the war. Something I didn't know, from Mr. Seward, is that the 7 years after Henry's death from that most military of causes (dysentery) were the most successful years for the English in France. This mostly due to his brother, the Duke of Bedford (shown left here)
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
It is good to get a male point of view. It is going to be hard for me to use H6 as a narrator, so this book was instructive. However, Richard Stocker is very capable, and comfortable in a variety of social situations. He has no military experience, nor does he obtain any. Other than that, he is at 16, the consummate servant.
Now, of late, I have read works of historical fiction taking place in three different centuries. It is time to tuck into some historical fact - I believe I will attempt the popular historian Desmond Seward.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Monday, March 24, 2008
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Saturday, March 15, 2008
So far I am meeting with this lady through a novel of historical fiction that seems to this point to be historical romance. Daughter of York by Anne Easter Smith. It is a new book in the mix, and so far I am enjoying it - the first novel I have started concerning an era I know a deal about. The use of the 1460's as a backdrop is something I aspire to, so it is good to see another work with it.
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Another period I know little about was made fascinating by what I deem an excellent work of historical fiction - The Traitor's Wife by Susan Higginbotham. In focusing on a figure who was well connected (well for much of her life) but not well known, she tells the story of a woman buffeted by the currents around her. She is Eleanor de Clare, niece to Edward II, wife of Hugh le Despenser the Younger (his execution pictured here). Like the novel previously mentioned presenting Constance of York, artistic license is manifest, but the whole work holds together very well focusing on this beautiful heiress.
Sunday, March 2, 2008
I have read through the plays six or seven times now, with an emphasis on Part 3. That play has a plethora of action, and the best soliloquies. I am sure I will read through them all again soon.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
I will write more about this article soon.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
The story is built around that of Constance of York, a newcomer to my consciousness. She was pulled in a few directions, both personally and politically. That she was cousin to both Richard and Henry made it hard for her initially, though, as the story goes, she aligned herself against Henry. And paid for it.
The novel was exceptionally well written. In fact, after a slowish start, I was totally pulled in. Unlike many readers, I was not hampered in my enjoyment by knowing what happens next. I look forward to reading more of this author.
Friday, February 15, 2008
Here he is, my inspiration, my example of mediocrity, madness, and suffering in the wrong job.
I have long wished to delve into his story, as a medieval misfit, a constrained civil servant, and a henpecked husband.
The desire to tell his story is central to this my little life. I am in recovery, and look to historical figures in turmoil, and find him to be important, with a history most poignant. There are so many elements, a forceful queen, a horribly timed bout of madness, the signal oddity of being deposed twice...
Shakespeare's Henry is wistful and self-pitying, totally ineffectual. With a power vacuum, upon his marriage to Margaret of Anjou he seemed only too content to hand over the fact of power.
My interest in Henry began 20 years ago. As events in my life often became hard to handle, I thought of him and his predicament. What king sits under a tree during a key battle? One with a painful ambivalence and willingness to let others rule his destiny. There was a time in my life that I let things go, handed my being over to others, sat under that tree.