Monday, 6 January 2020

Best Books of 2019

Hete are my best books from 2019.  They are purely my opinions.  I did my best to try to read more historical fiction - most of these reads were dire, with some extremely dire!   Only one non-fiction book makes my list.  In no particular order.......

Phillipa of Hainault, Mother of the English Nation, by Kathryn Warner.   A welcome biography of a Queen I knew very little about.  What emerges is a portrait of a close knit Royal family.


The House of Grey by Melita Thomas.   I really enjoyed reading about the Beaufort and Neville families, and this is a welcome addition to that genre.   I really enjoyed the early years of the Grey dynasty.   However, there was nothing new when the narrative moved on to Lady Jane Grey and her family.

Henry VIII - decline and fall of a tyrant, by Robert Hutchinson.  I've read all of Hutchinson's Tudor books and been fortunate enough to hear him speak at a history event.  I really enjoyed his indepth look at the latter years of Henry VIII, in particular his various ailments and the detailed history of his tomb and what happened to it.

John Morton - Adversary of Richard III, Power behind the Tudors, by Stuart Bradley.  I was delighted to find a biography of Morton.   This man fascinates, surviving the rise and reign of Edward IV, while adhering to the Lancastrian cause, and most likely to be the author of the Croyland Chronicle, a primary source from the time.

The Poison Bed by EC Freemantle.   The only work of historical fiction to make my list.   Not too keen to see the publicity surrounding it call it 'This Year's Gone Girl' , but then for anyone not familiar with the story of Robert Carr and Frances Howard, it's a fair description.  Read as a thriller I'm sure readers will enjoy 'the twist', but as I know the story really well, it was still enjoyable for me.    I don't want to give away too much, but definitely worth a read.

'Unatural  Murder'  by Anne Sometset.   This book was published years ago but is THE book to read on Robert Carr and France's Howard.  I bought this book when it came out and it is so well written and researched.   Without this book, I wouldn't have read The Poison Bed.

Henry the Young King by Matthew Strickland.  At long last I managed to get my hands on a copy of this book and read it, after following Katya's blog on Henry.   Quite pleased with how much I actually already knew!  Very readable and poignant.

Henry VIII and the men who made him by Tracey Borman.  Just when you think you've read everything on Henry VIII, Borman introduces you to some less well known courtiers and their influence on Henry VIII.  Fabulous read.

I've also read non-fiction books that have surprisingly disappointed me and some that have just offered nothing new.   In keeping with starting the year trying to be positive, I've decided not to mention them.









Monday, 23 December 2019

Tuesday, 17 December 2019

Ludlow Medieval Christmas Fayre

Every year, late in November, the small town of Ludlow holds it's Christmas Medieval Fayre.   It's an event I've long wanted to attend, and this year I got my wish.  Ludlow is a picturesque, small medieval town, dominated by it's castle.  Having visited it several times, usually in the summer, it was a joy to visit at Christmas and to see the castle transformed.  Here are some of my pictures.

There were marquees set up in the grounds of the castle selling crafts.  Quite a few were selling medieval costumes.

There was entertainment on offer in the hospitality marquees.

There were some very talented musicians.  

There were plenty of medieval customs on display.


Monday, 18 November 2019

Dover Castle


During the summer, I finally got to visit Dover Castle.   It's been on my castle wish list for years.   There's so much history that has taken place there over hundreds of years.  It's well worth a visit, whatever period of history you are interested in.


This is a picture of the Anglo Saxon church of  St Mary, which was restored in Victorian times.  Next to it is the oldest surviving lighthouse in Britain, the Roman Pharos.  It was built to guide the Romans across the channel from France.

The current focus of the main castle is that of Henry II's Queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine, who is 'in residence' with her lady in waiting.  It was very enjoyable 'chatting ' to her.

The castle is decorated as it would have been in Eleanor's days.


There are apartments for the King and Queen, as well as private chapels for worship.








Tuesday, 15 October 2019

Piers Gaveston's First Exile

My last post dealt with Piers Gaveston earning the wrath of Edward Ist, which eventually lead to his first exile.  Piers, along with some other knights, had absented himself from one of Edward Ist's endless Scottish campaigns to take part in a tournament in 1306.  His exile would soon follow.  The King had already banned Piers - and Prince Edward's cousin Gilbert de Clare  from his household.  Was the King aware that the Prince was lavishing gifts upon Piers?  Did he think Piers was becoming an over-mighty subject, one who might exploit the prince financially.  One chronicler, Walter pf Guisborough, tells of Edward 1st losing his temper with the Prince for asking for Ponthieu for Piers, and this was the cause of the banishment.  Or did the King suspect there was more to the relationship than he had ever thought?   We will never know.  Most historians who have examined the prime sources conclude that the exile was more of a punishment for the Prince than Piers.

To begin with, Piers was not ordered into exile straight away. He was given several weeks to get things ready, and interestingly, his destination was not to be Gascony, but Ponthieu, The King would hardly have banished Pier to Ponthieu if it was what he had asked the Prince for.  The Prince was allowed to accompany Piers to Dover Castle.  Piers was to take his household with him, which included 2 knights, 7 yeomen, his chamberlain, 2 falconers and 4 other servants.  The Prince even gave Piers 6 of his own grooms.  As well as this, the Prince once again lavished gifts on Piers, including 2 outfits to be worn in tournaments - and it is known Piers entered 2 tournaments whilst in exile.  Green seems to have suited Piers, as both outfits were green - one of velvet decorated with, pearls, gold, his coat of arms and silver piping.  As well as this, Piers was given expensive tapestries and money.  The Prince also gave him 5 horses, and continued to send money.  So Piers was hardly going to suffer in his exile.  What the King must have made of this is not recorded.  Maybe he thought it was an infatuation on the Prince's part that would soon burn itself out.  Gaveston's exile was not permanent, and was dependent upon the King recalling him.  However, Edward 1st did not have long to live, and within 3 months, was dead.  Naturally, one of King Edward II's first acts, was to recall Piers.

Source: 'Piers Gaveston :Politics and Patronage in the reign of Edward II' by J S Hamilton





The impressive Dover Castle, where Prince Edward accompanied Piers Gaveston on his way to his first exile.


Wednesday, 11 September 2019

1306 - Piers Gaveston earns the wrath of Edward Ist.

Piers Gaveston had been chosen by Edward 1st to be a suitable role model for his son, Edward of Carnarvon.  Piers had probably came to England in about 1297, after fighting with Edward 1st's army in Flanders.  He was a member of the king's household in 1297-98. He obviously impressed the King, as he was rewarded with a fine horse and selected as a companion for Prince Edward on account of the fact he came from Gascony, where he had learned his fine manners. The King must have hoped that Piers would be a fine example to the Prince in warfare.

At the start of 1306, Piers must have been delighted with his progress.  He had been knighted, earned the friendship/love/esteem of Prince Edward, and yet again had been rewarded with another fine horse, this time worth £60 (a present from the Prince).  He had also been granted lands and had his own household.  Whatever the relationship between Piers and the Prince, the King seemed pleased with the guidance Piers provided.

So what caused Piers fall from favour?  Not surprisingly, in 1306, Edward 1st was conducting the next stage of his Scottish campaign.  The campaign had been going well. Robert the Bruce has been defeated at Methven.  Prince Edward had also had some success, capturing castles at Lochmaben and Kildrummy.  By September, Edward Ist had decided to make camp at Lanercost, no doubt expecting to winter there.  Piers was one of 22 young knights who decided it was not worth wintering at Lanercost - not when there were lucrative tournaments to enter!  The King had actually banned all tournaments in England because of the Scottish war. But this didn't stop Piers and the other knights leaving England to take part in tournaments overseas.  Gilbert de Clare, the nephew of the King, also went - as did other members of the Prince's household, seemingly with his permission.  For Edward 1st, however, youth was no excuse for what he saw as desertion, even if the war with Scotland was discontinued.  Edward 1st was furious, and seized the lands of the knights and they were to be arrested for abandoning their king.  When his temper cooled, aided by his Queen, Margaret, Edward issued pardons to the knights - except for Piers Gaveston.  Instead the King ordered that 'For certain reasons that immediately after three weeks from the next tournament.......Sir Piers Gaveston  shall be ready to cross the sea at Dover for Gascony, and he shall remain there until he shall be recalled by the king and by his permission'.  This was Gaveston's first exile.  It does not seem to have been done whilst the king was in a foul temper - he generously allowed Piers 3 weeks before he was to go, enabling him to take part in any tournaments until then, and the exile does not seem to be permanent.  And yet, none of the other knights received such a punishment.  So why was Piers singled out?  It seems, perhaps, that the King suspected that his son had become infatuated with Piers, and that this might lead to .......a malign influence by Piers?  some sort of pact of brotherhood between Piers or Edward?  or maybe a sexual relationship between the pair?  We simply don't know,..... however much we might like to speculate.

Source: 'Piers Gaveston :Politics and Patronage in the reign of Edward II' by J S Hamilton

Tuesday, 20 August 2019

A Visit to Canterbury Cathedral

I've recently returned from spending some time in Kent.  I've been before, and it's a beautiful part of Britain.   Of course, being in Canterbury, I had to visit yet again the Cathedral.   Here are some of my photos.

Not surprisingly, the Cathedral is undergoing yet more renovations.

The shrine of St Thomas Becket, marking the place where he was struck down and murdered by knights claiming to act for the King, Henry II.

The tomb of the 'Black Prince', otherwise known as Edward of Woodstock, eldest son of Edward III.  His wife was Joan of Kent, mother of the future Richard II, and her father was Edmund of Woodstock, 1st Earl of Kent and younger brother to Edward II.

The tomb of Henry IV and his 2nd wife, Joan of Navarre.

The funerary ornaments of the Black Prince hang above his tomb.  These are copies, and you can see the originals in the Cathedral museum, although presently they are undergoing restoration. 

Another view of the shrine of St Thomas.

The candle marks the site of the original shrine of St Thomas 


The entrance to the Cathedral.  


The tomb of Edward II's Archbishop of Canterbury, Walter Reynolds.  He was made archbishop in 1314 and was one of the godfathers of the future Edward III.  He was loyal to Edward II until 1324, when he declared for Isabella and her son, and went on to crown Edward III.