Wednesday, 16 September 2020

Men of Harlech

Harlech castle stands proud on a rock on the edge of Snowdonia. It was raised by Edward I as part of his ring of fourteen stone strongholds to suppress and control the rebellious Welsh. Even now, some eight centuries later, the castle still reverberates with power.


By 1283 the Welsh were at last more or less conquered and Edward began to colonise the land with English. As his imposing castles went up, the native Welsh were evicted and replaced with English peasants, English tradesmen and English craftsman. Unsurprisingly Welsh resentment grew as strongly as the castles.


Rebellions followed, the first in 1287-8, in 1294, and another lasting from 1316-18. By the 1370’s the Welsh were still not totally vanquished but it was not until 1400 when the most serious revolt of all broke out. The leader of the revolt, Owain Glyndŵr, had previously led a conventional life, studying law at the Inns of Court in London, and serving with Richard II in France and Scotland.


In the late 1390s Glyndŵr’s neighbour, Baron Grey de Ruthyn, seized control of a parcel of land. Glyndŵr’s petition to the English parliament was ignored. In 1400 Lord Grey failed to inform Glyndŵr in time of a royal command to levy troops for Scottish border service, an act that put Glyndŵr at odds with the king. Lord Grey was a personal friend to Henry IV and Glyndŵr under no delusion as to the threat in which he stood.

Glyndŵr, understandably fed up with the way he was treated, turned away from English authority and assumed his ancestral title of Prince of Powys. With a band of followers he launched an attack on Lord Grey’s territories.

Glyndŵr was declared an outlaw and his estates confiscated. In the years that followed the skirmishes grew into battles and outright war against the English crown. The Welsh grasped the opportunity to follow and serve a leader such as they’d been waiting for since the death of Llewellyn Fawr in 1240. Glyndŵr’s revolt spread until much of north and central Wales was in Welsh hands. The English king sent Henry ‘Hotpsur’ Percy to regain control of the country who issued an amnesty to all rebels with the exception of Glyndŵr and his cousins, Rhys and Gwilym ap Tudor.

In 1402 penal laws were issued by Parliament against Wales and the harsh anti-Welsh legislation, designed to establish English dominance, actually pushed even more Welshmen into revolt.


                                                       

War is always brutal and the suffering of ordinary people is inevitable. The army burnt the towns around some of the castles to the ground and the death toll among the population was high. The battle of Stalling Down, reputedly lasting eighteen hours, resulted in defeat for the English. The English and Welsh armies met in a ravine and chronicles say that the blood was fetlock-deep.

In June the English force led by Sir Edmund Mortimer was defeated and Mortimer held hostage with Glyndŵr demanding a large sum for his safe return, but Henry refused to pay up. Mortimer retaliated against his king by forming an alliance with Glyndŵr and marrying one of his daughters.

By 1403 the revolt had spread right across Wales, and English resistance was reduced to a few isolated castles, walled towns and fortified manor houses. Welsh students at Oxford University abandoned their studies to join Glyndŵr; Welsh labourers and craftsmen resident in England abandoned their jobs and returned to Wales. Owain called on Welsh soldiers, seasoned by the English campaigns in France and Scotland, and Welsh archers and men-at-arms quit English service to offer support of their homeland. At this point Wales looked strong, the dream of an independent state within reach.

At the castles of Aberystwyth, Cricieth, Beaumaris, Caernafon and Harlech the English were caught in their own traps; the strongholds now isolated English outposts. After long sieges the castles fell into Welsh hands giving Glyndŵr control of central Wales, the run of the country.

Glyndŵr moved his family into Harlech and held court there, calling his first parliament (Cynulliard – gathering of all Wales) at Machynlleth. Tradition has it that he was crowned Prince of Wales at Harlech Castle in the presence of envoys from Spain, Scotland and France. He held two other parliaments, one in Dolgellau where he signed a treaty with France.

But by 1408 the dream began to fade. Some battles were lost in the east and south and Aberystwyth Castle fell, becoming the first British castle to be assaulted by the big guns.

Harlech was under siege again. The massive curtain walls were peppered with cannon balls; one canon named ‘The King’s Daughter’ is reported to have exploded. Today the castle gatehouse displays a number of stone cannon balls which are believed to date from this time.

                                  

Ultimately Harlech was forced to surrender; Glyndŵr’s wife, daughters and grandchildren were taken prisoner. By 1410, Owain Glyndŵr was a fugitive, his dream of a free Wales shattered, his home and his family destroyed.  Glyndŵr himself faded from history. It is believed his last years were spent in Herefordshire near the manor of his daughter’s husband, Sir John Scudamore. Folklore has it that a horse was kept saddled day and night in case he needed to make a quick getaway.  He is believed to have died in 1416 but there is no burial site to mark his time on earth.



Today the name Owain Glyndŵr continues to resonate throughout Wales; there is hardly a town you can visit that does not bear his name, or his image. Every Welsh town, be it history or legend, has a story of Owain Glyndŵr.

There are many historical sites pertaining to the story of Owain Glyndŵr. A good starting point is the Owain Glyndŵr centre in Machynlleth: http://www.canolfanglyndwr.org/

The castles of Harlech, Aberystwyth, Beaumaris, Criccieth should not be omitted from any visit to Wales.

Photos copyright Judith Arnopp

Owain Gyndwr statue photograph: Ian West CC-BY-SA-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Author bio

A lifelong history enthusiast, Judith Arnopp holds an honours degree in English/Creative writing, and a Masters in Medieval Studies. Judith has written twelve novels to date. Nine of which are based in the Tudor period covering women like Elizabeth of York, Anne Boleyn and Mary Tudor but her main focus is on the perspective of historical women from all roles of life. The Beaufort Chronicle: the life of Lady Margaret Beaufort (three book series) covers the transitional period between Bosworth and the death of Henry Tudor. She is currently taking a break from Tudor women and writing from the perspective of Henry VIII himself in ‘A Matter of Conscience.’

Her books are available in paperback, kindle and some titles are available on Audible.








Friday, 11 September 2020

Paul Walker joins us as part of The Coffee Pot Book Club Blog Tour

 


I am delighted to welcome fellow historical fiction author Paul Walker to my blog today. Paul is the author of The William Constable Spy thriller series.


The Queen’s Devil
(William Constable Spy Thriller, Book #3)
By Paul Walker



1583.

William Constable, recently married astrologer and mathematician, has settled into routine work as a physician when he is requested to attend two prisoners in the Tower of London. Both are accused of separate acts treason, but their backgrounds suggest there may be a connection.

Sir Francis Walsingham and Lord Burghley urge William to discover further intelligence from the prisoners while tending their injuries from torture.

The agent's investigations lead him to the French Embassy, which lies at the heart of a conspiracy which threatens the nation.

Through his enquiries, an unsuspecting William becomes entangled in a perilous web of politicking and religious fervour.

The threat comes from one the most powerful men in the English court – one referred to as the Queen’s Devil.

William faces a race against time to unpick these ties, climaxing in a daring raid on the Embassy.


Praise for Paul Walker:

“Walker skilfully creates a treacherous world of half-truths, plots and duplicity... simmering with impending danger.” Michael Ward, author of Rags of Time.

"A gripping and evocative page-turner that vibrantly brings Elizabeth's London to life." Steven Veerapen, author of A Dangerous Trade.

"Full of convincing characters both historical and imagined." Peter Tonkin



Pick up your copy for free with Kindle Unlimited subscription.



Author Bio:

Paul Walker

Paul is married and lives in a village 30 miles north of London. Having worked in universities and run his own business, he is now a full-time writer of fiction and part-time director of an education trust. His writing in a garden shed is regularly disrupted by children and a growing number of grandchildren and dogs.

Paul writes historical fiction. He inherited his love of British history and historical fiction from his mother, who was an avid member of Richard III Society. The William Constable series of historical thrillers is based around real characters and events in the late sixteenth century. The first two books in the series - State of Treason and A Necessary Killing - were published in 2019. The third book, titled The Queen's Devil, was published in the summer of 2020.


Connect with Paul:






Saturday, 15 August 2020

Historical Fiction Author Tony Riches is here to tell us all about his new release.

 


Hi Tony, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

Hi Judith – and thank you for inviting me. I’m a full-time historical fiction author, based in Pembrokeshire, Wales, specialising in the stories of the Tudors. I have a degree in Psychology and an MBA from Cardiff University, and previously worked as a Director of the National Health Service and a Chief Officer in Local Government.

When did you decide to become a writer?

I used to write for a range of magazines and always thought I’d like to try writing a book. My first attempt was an eBook on project management – which astounded me by becoming a best-seller in the US – and the rest is history!

Which writers inspire you?

I read widely in different genres, but my favourite authors are Hilary Mantel and C.J. Sansom. I’ve just finished Alison Weir’s new book, Katheryn Howard, The Tainted Queen and was certainly inspired by her writing.

Would you tell us about your latest book?


I’ve been planning an Elizabethan series for some time, as my aim is to tell the stories of the Tudors from Owen Tudor’s first meeting with Queen Catherine of Valois through to the death of Queen Elizabeth. I decided to show the fascinating world of the Elizabethan court through the eyes of the queen’s favourite courtiers, starting with Francis Drake. I’ve enjoyed tracking down primary sources to uncover the truth of Drake’s story – and discovering the complex man behind the myths.

Where can we buy or see it?

Drake – Tudor Corsair is available in paperback and eBook editions from:

Amazon US  

Amazon UK  

Amazon CA  

Amazon AU 

 Barnes & Noble 

 Smashwords 

How much research do you do?

I usually spend a year on the research for a book, and like to visit as many of the actual locations as possible. During the research for Drake – Tudor Corsair is was lucky to have a private tour of the replica Golden Hinde in London. Drake’s flagship, and the only one to survive his circumnavigation, the replica was made to the same measurements as the original, and is only 121 ft 4 in long. The visit helped with authenticity in my writing, and I realised she must have seemed vulnerable in the many storms Drake encountered.


 

Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?

I used to research in the summer months, write through autumn and winter, and edit in the spring. I like to wake early and write at least 500 words before lunch – and am usually writing one book while researching the next.

Where do your ideas come from?

They say truth is stranger than fiction, and that’s certainly true with the stories of the Tudors. I spend a lot of time hunting for those little fascinating details which can bring a story to life. For example, I found that Drake wore a scarf of green silk which was a personal gift from the queen, embroidered in golden thread with: The Lord guide and preserve thee until the end. Drake believed the message was Elizabeth’s own handiwork and, with a sailor’s superstition, thought it a token of good luck.

What is the hardest thing about writing?

I am lucky to have an excellent professional editor, but must admit that revising a hundred thousand words down to ninety thousand or so can be hard work.


 

What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book?

I had a wealth of first-hand accounts from Drake and his crew – but all written from their own point of view, and often contradicted each other, even with the names of places and ships. Drake had to take care not to reveal that the queen’s hand was on his tiller, and even his chaplain used code names to refer to crew members.

What is the easiest thing about writing?

I immerse myself in the characters and their world, and sometimes I wake with entire passages of dialogue in my head. I have to write it down as quickly as I can, as some of my best work has been done like this.

For your own reading, do you prefer eBooks or traditional paper/hard back books?

A Kindle full of books is best for holidays, but my house is full of hard back books. I find it hard to let go of any, but I’m running out of bookshelf space, so am trying to introduce a ‘one in one out’ system.

How can readers discover more about you and you work?

The best place is my author website: https://www.tonyriches.com, which has details of all my books with links. I also have a popular blog, The Writing Desk: https://tonyriches.blogspot.com and am active on Twitter: https://twitter.com/tonyriches and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tonyriches.author

I’ve now had over 40,000 downloads of my Stories of the Tudors Podcasts: https://tonyriches.podbean.com and readers can also find me on -Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5604088.Tony_Riches

 

Monday, 3 August 2020

The Coffee Pot Book Club presents The Last King by M J Porter



The Last King: England: The First Viking Age (The Ninth Century Book 1)
By M J Porter


They sent three hundred warriors to kill one man. It wasn’t enough.

Mercia lies broken but not beaten, her alliance with Wessex in tatters.

Coelwulf, a fierce and bloody warrior, hears whispers that Mercia has been betrayed from his home in the west. He fears no man, especially not the Vikings sent to hunt him down.

To discover the truth of the rumours he hears, Coelwulf must travel to the heart of Mercia, and what he finds there will determine the fate of Mercia, as well as his own.


An Excerpt from The Last King

As I suspected, I find my Aunt amongst the gravestones of my ancestors, to the rear of the small priory the monks from Gloucester maintain, at my expense.

Her hounds appear to be sleeping at her feet, but I know better. They’re fiercely loyal and can be roused to snapping furies with just a word from her. One of the beast’s growls at me, the sound more terrifying than iron being drawn from a scabbard.

“Down Wiglaf,” my Aunt snaps. I turn to meet the hound’s eyes, and I fear that we both feel equally quelled by her tone. The hounds are named after the men who ruled Mercia after her father was deposed. Not that she had the naming of both of them. I consider that it might pain her, but then dismiss the idea. My Aunt is not the sort of woman to fear to speak a hound’s name.

“King Burgred has always been a bloody coward.” Her coarse words shock me so much I feel my mouth drop open.

She turns to gaze at me, the hint of amusement in her eye, and I consider what she sees when she looks at me. No one has ever said that I resemble my father, but neither have I been told I take after my mother. My blond hair is a mystery to me, my build the result of my warrior skills.

“Did you think I grew deaf every time you and your warriors made Kingsholm your home?”

“I,” I stutter, but nothing else follows the words. She cows me as no one else ever has. Not even my father.

“King Burgred is a coward, and your father was a fool not to stake his claim to the kingdom.” My father could never have ruled. He was a weak man, tormented by the death of his father. I vowed to never be like him.

“You’ll be king now.” It’s not even a question, but a statement.

“How did Bishop Wærferth get to you so quickly? Did he sail here?” I turn, as though to seek him out or spy the hint of sails to the west.

My Aunt’s sudden laughter takes me by surprise.

“So, he’s already suggested it to you. Good. At least I don’t have to force you to fulfil your duty.”

Again, my mouth opens, but no words sprout from it.

“The ealdormen will support you. All of them. The bishops as well.”

“I,” I try and speak, but she’s walking to my side, her hand stretched out to touch my arm.

“Mercia suffers because our line has been broken. You’ll heal it.”

“I.” I just can’t find the words to say.

“I know you never wanted this. But I always knew. I think your father and brother did as well.”

“I can’t be king,” I finally manage to force the words beyond my constricted throat.

“But you will be.” And she moves off, no doubt to find the bereaved women and the young girl. My Aunt has never shied away from the responsibilities she feels to the people of Mercia.

One of the hounds follows her, but the other one, the one she chastised, Wiglaf, remains, head low and whining softly. I reach out. Cup the hound’s muzzle, run my hand along his snout. His whining softens, dies away altogether.

Wiglaf was my brother’s hound before he belonged to my Aunt. That accounts for why she cares for it so well. He’s old now.

Only when we’re together, do we give in to our combined sorrow.

Together we walk to my brother’s grave.

It’s been over a decade since his death, fighting for Mercia. His hound is lined with grey and slow to move during the cold winter weather. Watching him struggle to his feet makes me realise how damn old I truly am.

I bend my head and rest my other hand on the gravestone that marks my brother’s grave.

These warriors I ride with were his men.

Edmund was once my brother’s closest ally, even closer than I was to him.

Coenwulf would have made a fine king of Mercia.

“Bugger it,” I complain, standing upright, shocking poor Wiglaf as he lies over my feet, and then struggles to stand.

“Bugger it, arse it.”

There was never a choice.

There rarely is.



Buy Links:

Amazon UKAmazon US

Author Bio: M J Porter

I'm an author of fantasy (viking age/dragon themed) and historical fiction (Early English, Vikings and the British Isles as a whole before the Norman Conquest), born in the old Mercian kingdom at some point since AD1066. I write A LOT. You've been warned!

Connect with M J Porter:
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Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Historical Writers Forum Blog Hop - Momentous events in History -




One of the most overlooked momentous events in history is the dissolution of the monasteries and the pilgrimage of grace. The events of these years overturned life in England forever. 

By the sixteenth century monastic foundations that had begun as humble institutions devoted to the world of God, had lost sight of their simple beginnings. By the time of the dissolution, these abbeys had become immensely rich and in some cases, were no stranger to corruption. 

Even the Cistercians, who were an offshot from the mainstream monastic way and intended to adhere more closely to the rule of St Benedict, had embraced the extravagance of stained glass, patterned floor tiles and multitudinous chapels. Throughout the monastic world the regulations laid down by St Benedict were breached. But it was difficult to avoid. 

By way of securing themselves a place in Heaven, laymen endowed  the abbeys with lavish gifts of land, chapels, windows etc. They paid a high sum to ensure prayers would be read for their souls for all eternity. Ultimately, the wealth of the monasteries outstripped that of the crown and it was their affluence that drew the greedy eye of Cromwell and his king.

Hans Holbein [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The accusations of corruption laid against the abbeys, although probably true in some cases, had less to do with outrage and more to do with justifying the plundering of the holy church.


Cromwell’s campaign to close the monasteries began slowly at first. Picking up where his old master, Wolsely, had left off, he began tentatively chipping away at smaller, less profitable foundations or houses where moral decay had become the rule rather than the exception. But once Henry gave Thomas Cromwell his head, the abbeys fell one by one,  monks and nuns were turned out, some abbots were tortured and executed. 

Abbey treasures went straight into the king’s coffers, the lands became the property of the crown, leased to the king’s favourites by way of securing both their loyalty and ensuring their support for the dissolution of the monasteries. By 1540 the largest abbeys were gone, the lands distributed among the nobilty, and the remains of once glorious buildings subjected to neglect and decay.

Young nun digging a grave — Wikipedia

The dissolution was almost universally resented by monks and traditionalists. Monasteries were a life-line; common people relied on them from birth to death for charity, employment and for healthcare. The closures united the populace both rich and poor, culminating in widespread protest that posed the biggest threat to the crown during Henry VIII’s reign. 

Richard Croft / Lincolnshire Rising plaque
The first rising took place in Lincolnshire in October but was quickly put down, only to spring up again in Yorkshire when the people of the north, led by lawyer, Robert Aske, embarked upon what came to be known as a ‘Pilgrimage of Grace’.


Gentry as well as commonfolk joined the peaceful march to persuade the king to change his mind; monks and laymen, nuns and children were among those who took to the road to preserve their way of life. The Pilgrimage of Grace was the worst uprising during Henry VIII’s reign, the rebels reaching more than 30,000, far outnumbering the royal army but after initially agreeing to consider their complaints, the king managed to get the upper hand.  


He ‘invited’ Robert Aske to spend Christmas at court, promising to consider the rebel's requests but when unrest broke out again in the East Riding, the king had the excuse he needed. The Duke of Norfolk was sent to deal with the rebels. The leaders were executed, and as a deterrent to future protests, there were widespread hangings of common people. Robert Aske was hung in chains on the walls of York and left to die.


When I wrote my book Sisters of Arden I concentrated on one small priory, Arden in Yorkshire.

Arden Hall on the site of the priory. Uncredited / Arden Hall via Wikimedia
Arden Priory was founded in 1150 by Peter de Hoton, confirmed by Roger de Mowbray between 1147 and 1169. It was never a rich foundation. One can only imagine the misery of a life of unceasing labour, meagre accomodation, glassless windows, fasting, overworked and ill-clad. In 1397, long before the dissolution, there were just six nuns at Arden: Christina and Elizabeth Darrel, Elizabeth Slayne, Alicia Barnard Agnes of Middleton, and Elizabeth of Thronton. They were overseen by the Prioress, who is named  simply as Eleanor.  At this time it seems relations between the nuns was not good. The sisters accused the prioress of pawning the church silver, selling wood without consent and providing so few candles in the quire that there was insufficient light to say the offices. They also complained the buildings were in a state of disrepair. But this doesn’t necessarily suggest the prioress was corrupt, it rather points to dire need. Janet Burton in her book Monasteries and Society in the British Isles in the Late Middle Ages says:

“What emerges from their complaints is that this small community of seven women, living in the bleak environment of the North Yorkshire Moors, was suffering conditions of extreme poverty and hardship. It was life on the edge.”

Being so far from the ‘concourse of men’ there few rich benefactors, the priory would have had little chance of increasing their wealth. If there was such a degree of poverty in the fourteenth century, what was the financial state by the time of the dissolution? ‘Valor Ecclesiasticus’  (a survey of church finances in England, Wales and parts of Ireland made in 1535 on Henry VIII’s orders) suggests that very little had changed. Poverty was aways the rule at Arden.

The priory was visited by the king’s commissioners on 8th May 1536 and it was suppressed the following August. At the time of dissolution there were just six sisters, three of whom received pensions of twenty shillings each, two of ten shillings and one six shillings and eightpence. Sister Elizabeth Johnson, who was an octgenarian with limited hearing was granted forty shillings ‘toward her sustenance.’ The church ‘treasure’  seized by the king’s men consisted of a gilt challice weighing 14.5 oz and a flat piece of white silver weighing 8oz, and two bells valued at ten shillings. According to the ‘Valor Ecclesiasticus’ the value of the house in 1536 was £12. 0s and 6d. It is noted that the nuns also had an image of St Brigid to whom they made offerings for cows that were ill or had strayed. 

This points to a reality quite different from tales that were circulated in 1536 of corruption and ungodliness. Motivated by his favour of the new learning Cromwell and his men put forward stories of nuns indulging in sexual misconduct with monks,  murdering their own infants, enjoying lewd and promiscuous lives. Even if they had the inclination, I would be surprised if the nuns of Arden found either the time or the energy for such practices. 


Arden Priory has remained unchanged for almost four hundred years. When a nameless child is abandoned at the gatehouse door, the nuns take her in and raise her as one of their own.

After the execution of Anne Boleyn in 1536, the embittered King strikes out, and unprecedented change sweeps across the country. The bells of the great abbeys fall silent, the church fragments and the very foundation of the realm begins to crack.

Determined to preserve their way of life, Margery and the sisters of Arden join a pilgrimage thirty thousand strong and attempt to lead the heretic king back to grace.

Sisters of Arden is a story of valour, virtue and veritas.


Five star Amazon Review - 'The Sisters of Arden draw us into the lives of nuns and the orphaned lay sister Marjory, who have been eking out an impoverished existence at the isolated nunnery of Arden on the Yorkshire Moors until Henry VIII’s break with Rome brings the King’s (and Cromwell's) Men to close the place, wreck the buildings and force the nuns out, to find shelter elsewhere.
This is an era casually discussed in history books as a moment of change but, for those living through it, it was an traumatising overturning of centuries of tradition, belief and understanding. Religion, the basis of all security in the life to come, was torn apart and the dissolution of the monasteries deprived the country of the nearest thing it had to social welfare. The old, the sick, the handicapped, the orphaned, the destitute were now abandoned and desperate. Many, determined to turn the King back from this overthrow of all they had known, banded together in the Pilgrimage of Grace, hoping by force of numbers to turn the clock back. Their attempt was inevitably doomed and retribution was sickeningly brutal. That brutality is captured in Sisters of Arden, but so too is the exhausting daily struggle against cold and starvation, and the hopes and fears of ordinary bewildered people. An excellent read.'


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Sunday, 28 June 2020

Welcoming author, Benjamin J. Gohs to the page!


*****

Benjamin J. Gohs is a longtime award-winning news editor whose investigative journalism has included stories of murder, sex-crime, historical discovery, corruption, and clerical misconduct. 

Benjamin now divides his time between writing literary thrillers and managing the community newspaper he co-founded in 2009.


A Thin Porridge
By Benjamin J. Gohs


When 19-year-old Abeona Browne's renowned abolitionist father Jon Browne dies in summer of 1860, devastating family secrets are revealed, and her life of privilege and naiveté in Southern Michigan becomes a frantic transatlantic search for answers—and someone she didn't even know existed.

Still in mourning, Abeona sneaks aboard the ship carrying her father’s attorney Terrence Swifte and his assistant Djimon—a young man with his own secrets—on a quest to Africa to fulfil a dying wish.

Along the journey, Abeona learns of her father’s tragic and terrible past through a collection of letters intended for someone he lost long ago.

Passage to the Dark Continent is fraught with wild beasts, raging storms, illness, and the bounty hunters who know Jon Browne’s diaries are filled with damning secrets which threaten the very anti-slavery movement he helped to build. 

Can Abeona overcome antebellum attitudes and triumph over her own fears to right the wrongs in her famous family’s sordid past? 

So named for an African proverb, A Thin Porridge is a Homeric tale of second chances, forgiveness, and adventure that whisks readers from the filth of tweendecks, to the treachery of Cameroons Town, across the beauty of Table Bay, and deep into the heart of the fynbos—where Boer miners continue the outlawed scourge of slavery.

Excerpt from A Thin Porridge by Benjamin J. Gohs


VISIONS OF THE GHASTLY Dubious Grimmis hastening toward the Bartholomew—knife drawn, long legs snatching away the distance between ship and shore—shivered the girl through. So, with ice in her heart, she mourned shrinking Cameroons Town from her poop deck roost. And even as they chugged for open water, Abeona cast her fearful gaze into unsympathetic horizons.

What if he followed in another boat? What if he was already hidden aboard this one? Abeona had to tell someone. But who, and what would she say? She tried to reason with herself. After all, Grimmis wanted the journals and they were gone. What use in hectoring some little girl? But the tattletale inside her spoiled the illusion: “All the journals? Is that the truth?”

The Bartholomew was two-thirds the size of the Elsie-Marie and carried only half the passengers. If Grimmis was aboard, Abeona would know it soon enough.

Sky glowed orange and pink. Sea swallowed last speck of earth. Dread of open water impelled Abeona to jump ship, chase after land. At one point she found herself pacing the rail like a skittish horse.

Just before dark, the sturdy little ship hooked sharply until land appeared on the portside, and there it remained the rest of the trip. There it remained eight days of easy seas. And the girl was comforted by its presence. Further, none of her hours were spent in endurance of tweendecks. No visits from her anemic stalker. Abeona was free to relax, to enjoy a different kind of adventure.

Swifte spent his mornings reading and sipping brandy on the main deck while Djimon and Abeona explored. They found the upper decks shabbier than those on the Elsie-Marie but below decks were nowhere near as foul. Trio met for breakfast and dinner in the main dining hall, but the youngsters sneaked their lunches of bread, jam, and tea to a favorite spot on the foredeck just below the pilothouse where the raised benches made for a fine view.

While Swifte slept off his morning libations, the pair walked the ship's narrow halls and passageways.

“We cannot arrive soon enough.” Djimon shielded his eyes from the afternoon sun as they looked to the south.

“Sometimes I find myself in a hurry to get back home and then I remember there’s not much left there for me.”

“You have all the time in the world to make a new life. Anywhere you like. Many would envy such a position.”

“I don’t even want to think about the future.”

“You had better, for it certainly has an eye on you.”

“What are your grand aspirations?”

“Aspirations?” Djimon hummed in thought.

“Yes. What is it you wish to do with the rest of your life?”

Djimon smirked. “I know the word.”

“Well?”

“I'm doing it. I travel. I read. I meet new and interesting people.” He gently elbowed the girl’s shoulder. “And do my best not to be devoured by wild beasts.”

Abeona touched his arm and gasped. “I was just thinking about that. Last night even.”

“Yet it will still be nice to go home. It seems as though this past year has been nothing but tramping from one location to another. My roots need to rest in their home soil.”

“You mean Michigan?”

“Of course. Your birthplace dictates not who you are. If that were so, the poor would never prosper and the weak would never triumph.”

“Will you take a wife when you return?”

“Someday perchance. But I am young, and Mr. Swifte keeps me quite busy.”

“You’re not so young.” She threw her head back to take the full sun. “And what kind of man doesn’t want a wife?”

“You would lecture on tradition?” Djimon grasped the rail and hung his head between his arms, his body stiff. “You, who dresses like a common laborer? Who thinks of no one but herself?”

“I do what I like.”

“We are all very well acquainted with what you do. And don’t. I just hope you realize how fortunate you are.”

“Meaning?”

“Nothing.”

“We’ve gone this far. Tell me what you really think.”

“Nothing. Just that you will never know what it is like to struggle.”

“Because of my father’s money. Well, let me tell you something, I never asked for it. I’d much rather he was alive. And I never once said I wasn’t going to do something with my life. I might like to be a teacher or a San Francisco cabaret singer or a policeman in New York City or whatever I decide.”

“Silly little girl. Who will care for your children? Your husband?”

“This little girl has seen more of the world than most folks my age.”



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Monday, 15 June 2020

Henry Fitzroy – The Almost King


by Judith Arnopp
Henry Fitzroy Duke of Richmond and Somerset (1519-36)

Kings, especially Tudor kings, could have everything they wanted. Power, property, wealth, women, it was all theirs with a click of the fingers yet, for many years, Henry VIII was denied one thing – a son and heir to follow him.

In 1519, less than forty years after Bosworth, the Tudor dynasty was still young, and it was Henry’s job to ensure it continued to flourish. The responsibility weighed heavily on his shoulders and, as Catherine of Aragon suffered more and more miscarriages, and the sons she did bear died in infancy, his need became an obsession.

With just one legitimate daughter, Mary, Henry was becoming desperate. Imagine his frustration when his mistress, Elizabeth Blount, with no trouble at all produced a healthy son. The temptation to turn his bastard into something more was irresistible. They named the child Henry.

Just to ensure that no one was mistaken, the name Fitzroy which means 'the king’s son', was often given to base-born male offspring, but although it is likely there were a good few more, Henry Fitzroy is the only illegitimate child that the king acknowledged.

Shortly after he was born, Elizabeth was married to Sir George Talboys and assigned several manors in Lincolnshire and Yorkshire. A mark of favour, or perhaps gratitude, for providing the king with what his wife could not.

While the relationship between Henry and Elizabeth ceased, he continued to show Fitzroy favour. At his christening it was Cardinal Wolsey who stood as Godfather, and by the time he was six young Henry was made Knight of the Garter, and created Earl of Nottingham and Duke of Richmond and Somerset. This double dukedom ensured that he took precedence over all other dukes in the land, barring the King’s lawful issue – should he have them.

 Duke of Richmond


He was also appointed King’s Lieutenant-general north of Trent, and Keeper of the City and Castle of Carlisle.This may seem a lot for a small boy, but it didn’t stop there, and by the time of his death in 1536 he was Lord |High Admiral of England, Wales, Ireland, Normandy, Gascony, and Aquitane, with a further commission as warden general of the Scottish marches thrown in for good measure.

Throughout his life he acquired castles, land and immense fortune, making him the richest man in England after the King. With the breakdown of Henry and Catherine’s marriage, and the advent of Anne Boleyn and the failures of that union, it soon became clear that, in the absence of a legitimate son, Fitzroy would be Henry’s heir. Nothing, bar the birth of a legitimate son, could stop it.

Henry Fitzroy received an education to match his status. Although often at court, he was resident in King’s College, Cambridge and taught by Richard Croke, a pioneer of Greek Scholarship in England, and John Palsgrave, another eminent scholar. By the time he was ten young Henry was reading Caesar, Virgil, Terence, and speaking Greek.

Arms of Henry Fitzroy


Henry VIII, proud of his son, despite the stain of his birth, lost no time in proposing matrimonial alliances beneficial to England, attempting to wed him into the family of Pope Clement VII, to a Danish princess, a French princess, and a the sister of Charles V who later became Queen of France.

In spring 1532 Fitzroy spent some time at Hatfield, accompanying Henry VIII to Calais in the autumn. He moved on to Paris, staying with his friend the Earl of Surrey until September 1533. And, later that year, at the age of fourteen, possibly at the instigation of Anne Boleyn, he married Mary Howard, daughter of Thomas, the third Duke of Norfolk by his second wife. The marriage was never consummated due to their age. Thereafter plans for him to go to Ireland were abandoned, and he remained at court in the midst of the furor surrounding the reformation and the downfall of Anne Boleyn.

He is recorded as being present at the execution of the Carthusians in May 1535 and was one of the peers at Anne Boleyn’s trial, witnessing her execution as Henry’s representative in May 1536.  Fitzroy benefited both in wealth and status from Anne’s death and those that died with her.
Henry VIII


Among Anne’s detractors there were rumours of jealous rivalry between Fitzroy and the Boleyns and whispers that she and her brother, Rochford, plotted to poison him. His death was more likely to have been due to consumption or possibly plague.

Fitzroy’s death in July, just two months after his stepmother, must have proved devastating for the King who, having disinherited both his daughters by this time was left temporarily heirless. But Henry VIII had a new wife and was pinning all his hopes on Jane, who was already pregnant, perhaps with a legitimate son this time. One that would live.

Henry Fitzroy was not given a state funeral as one might expect after his royal upbringing; the arrangements were left to his father in law, the Duke of Norfolk. He is believed to be interred at Thetford Priory with other members of the Howard family. After Fitzroy’s death it was decreed that, since the marriage was not consummated, the marriage was invalid, consequently stripping his widow of her benefits.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Judith Arnopp is the author of twelve historical novels; three set in the medieval and nine in the Tudor period. Details can be found here.
author.to/juditharnoppbooks




Illustrations

1. Henry Fitzroy http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/02/Lucas_Horenbout_-_Henry_Fitzroy%2C_Duke_of_Richmond_and_Somerset_%281519-36%29_-_Google_Art_Project.png

2. The Duke of Richmond sometimes thought to be Edward of Middleham. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/44/DukeofRichmond1.gif

3. Henry VIII by Holbein  http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/07/Workshop_of_Hans_Holbein_the_Younger_-_Portrait_of_Henry_VIII_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg

4.http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/50/Arms_of_Henry_FitzRoy%2C_1st_Duke_of_Richmond_and_Somerset.svg