Saturday, 3 January 2015

An important anniversary I forgot......

I hadn't realised that this year marks the 700th anniversary of the burial of Piers Gaveston.  I'm indebted to Kathryn Warner for her superb report on it here 

It's an extraordinary story of Edward's devotion to Piers.  He must have spent a great deal of time, money and thought to Piers' funeral.  It contrasts with funeral plans for his father, Edward Ist.  Edward Ist requested his body be boiled, and his bones placed in a box and carried into battle against the Scots.  He did not want to be buried until the Scots had been subdued.   Inheriting a bankrupt treasury from his father, Edward II had no such plan, and buried his father in a plain tomb in Westminster Abbey. 

Piers resting place was at Langley Priory.   Some years later, the deposed king Richard II was buried there as well, before being re-interred at Westminster Abbey by Henry V.  The site has long since vanished, and my enquiries to the local history society lead me to believe there is now a public school built on the site.  I can only hope that Piers' remains lie undisturbed under the ground or that he was re-interred in the local church during the Reformation.  Knowing Edward, he must surely have given him a fine tomb - surely with an effigy?   I can but wonder what the inscription said.........

Friday, 2 January 2015

The Best Books of 2014

As usual, at the end/start of a year, it’s time for my ‘best books’ review post.  I don’t think there will be any surprise at my number 1 book of the year!  It’s a book I’ve been waiting years for.

  1.  Kathryn Warner’s superb ‘Edward II: the unconventional King’.  Not only is it superbly researched and written, but it’s been a personal delight for me to share Kathryn’s journey to write her book, which has been floating around for a number of years, and getting it published.  Her dedication to research and uncover the truth and destroy the myths about Edward has all paid off.  I can't wait for the follow-up!
  2. ‘Inside the Court of Henry VIII and his Six Wives’ by Lauren Mackay.  Not just another book about Henry and his wives – and there are so many of them – but the focus of this book focuses on the writings of the Spanish ambassador Eustace Chapuys.  We’re so used to reading quotes by Chapuys in biographies of Henry that it is refreshing to find out about the man behind the quotes.  I particularly enjoyed reading about his lifestyle and his views on the politics of Henry’s court – particularly Thomas Cromwell and the Duke of Norfolk.  I also enjoyed his concerns and thoughts on Princess Mary – he clearly had worries about her personality and what it would mean for her.
  3. ‘Richard III – the king in the car park’ by Terry Breveton.  A welcome relief from all the ‘poor Richard III’ books currently out.  Breveton uses sources from Welsh history – yes, I know they are likely to be pro-Henry Tudor – which are rarely used and has translated them.  He also points out the romantic prose used in many pro-Richard books used to manipulate readers as well as downright untruths. 
  4. Last Christmas, someone bought me Conn Iggulden’s ‘Wars of the Roses – Stormbird’.  I don’t read a lot of historical fiction, and it wasn’t until the summer that I started reading this book.  I absolutely loved it!  The life of the knights and ‘ordinary soldiers’ is very detailed in sometimes quite gruesome detail.  I like his take on the rebellious leader Jack Cade, and I love the character of Derry Brewer, the king’s spymaster.
  5. So it’s no surprise that I bought the follow-up ‘Trinity’, and again, I was hooked from the first chapter.  It’s the descriptions of life in the London streets, the countryside, and the squalor that the ordinary folk endure.  Iggulden has a sympathetic view of Henry VI, and still manages to gain sympathy for a frustrated Margaret of Anjou.  And once again, Derry Brewer continues to out-fox the Duke of York, who is not as ambitious for the crown as he is portrayed in other novels.  Can’t wait for part 3!
  6. Thomas Cromwell seems to be the man of the moment, with the popularity of ‘Wolf Hall’ and ‘Bring up the bodies’.  Tracey Borman’s biography is the pick of the bunch of the recent Cromwell biographies. 
  7. ‘The Third Plantagenet – George, Duke of Clarence’, by John Ashdown-Hill.  Along with King John, one of history’s bad boys – Shakespeare’s ‘False, fleeting, perjured Clarence’.  But was he any different from his brothers Edward and Richard?  Not in my opinion.  He just wasn’t as clever. Clarence had the misfortune of being Edward IV’s heir for a number of years, and was spoiled by his doting mother.  But he seems to have been a good master to his servants and tenants, and a good husband to his wife Isabel.   

For Christmas this year, I got Helen Castor’s ‘Joan of Arc’, and Sharon Penman’s ‘Devil’s Brood’, which will no doubt thrill my fellow blogger – Kasia    - I’m on page 216 and enjoying every page of it! 

Happy New Year to all!