Thursday, 18 September 2014

Battle of Flodden

The Battle of Flodden, which took place in Northumberland’s Brainston Moor, was a victory for England and the death of Scotland’s King James IV, who died in the battle. Although the English forces were headed by the Earl of Surrey (Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk), it was Queen Catherine who, heavily pregnant, rode out in full armour to address the troops before battle.

War with Scotland was personal – it was the King’s brother-in-law, James IV who declared war on England while England was making war with France.  James IV wrote to Henry VIII on 24 May, 1513, stating that he had received word from France that England might invade, and that if Henry invaded France, Scotland in turn would invade England. Scotland’s alliance (known as the Auld Alliance) supported France and were anit-Papist reformers. More specifically, England and Spain were allies with League of the Cambrai, the Catholic League, which was under attack from France who was invading Italy. While England attacked France, Scotland supported France by attacking England. Queen Catherine, a daughter of Spain and devout Catholic, kept Henry’s England highly influenced by Spain and the Pope until she fell out of Henry’s favour many years later. Adding to this was the already turbulent relationship between Scotland and England which, never a strong alliance, had reached critical breaking point when Robert Kerr, a Scottish East March warden was murdered (not to mention that Henry outraged James by claiming Scotland as one of his territories).

Fighting on two or more fronts always weakens an army, so when the King and his troops gathered arms and fought for two years in France, it was up to Queen Regent, Catherine of Aragon to sort things out on the northern borders of England while Scotland was trying to invade. Catherine proved herself to be a trustworthy Regent and leader at the time. The Battle of Flodden was not the end of Anglo-Scots tension or wars, but with James IV dead and his son and successor only 17 months old, it cooled their attack for many years to come.

Catherine may have succeeded in rousing troops to victory, but her joy was short lived as her newborn child died only days after he was born in October.

sources: 'Henry VIII: May 1513, 21-31', Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 1: 1509-1514 (1920)
and Wiki

Friday, 12 September 2014

Margaret of Savoy


It’s been an exciting few weeks – firstly, the Historical Novel Society weekend was very illuminating.  And it’s been good motivation as well. I have less than one year to finish my research and write my first draft of the Tudor murder mystery novel. I’m loving the research, but it is difficult to not get sidetracked.  I’ve been looking into Catherine of Aragon and whilst reading papers from Henry VIII court in 1513, I kept coming across some familiar names, but what caught my eye was Margaret of Savoy. Of course there have been a few women of that title over time, but only one alive in 1513 and the more I read about her (see, distracted) the more I came to love her.

The letter that caught my eye last night was from Mary, Princess of Castile to Margaret, thanking her for the costume patterns for the women in her court, of which she hopes to introduce the fashion very soon. I love this very girly sharing of patterns and style, but it goes much deeper than that as sneaky Margaret has a very large hand in dealing out textiles as well as fashions – not just out of a feminine vanity, but to add to the political and financial strength of her country.

Margaret of Savoy (or, Margaret of Austria, Duchess of Savoy) made new ground with what women rulers could do in a very male dominated world.  She was widowed twice and was allowed to live in her own right and having a hand in European politics. She negotiated a treaty of trade with England that favoured Flemish cloth interests and even helped to form the League of Cambrai in 1508 (a Holy League that held vast political and Papal influence throughout Europe) and later, the Treaty of Cambrai (known also as Ladies’ Peace).

I’d love to see what sort of relationship Margaret had with Catherine of Aragon, as both women held immense political sway and influence. But that must wait for another day. For now, I must read more papers and letters from 1513, note what I can (as I’m looking for Catherine’s letters from, to, or about her as her early life as Queen and especially Regent is very vaguely documented).

Monday, 8 September 2014

HNS and missing teen readers...

(I'm in the stripes)
What a great three days – my first Historical Novel Society Conference touched on so many aspects of the industry.  The best though was meeting so many like-minded authors (even though Tudor era writers were highly underrepresented).  As I was travelling with my friend Laura Purcell (Queen of Bedlam author), somehow I ended up adopted by a largeish group of Georgian writers and learning all about William Pitt’s brother John from Jacqui Reiter (who took the photograph above and is sitting to my right).
            My Christmas list has grown with books I want to read – Juliet Greenwood is at the top of my list with her late Victorian novels that just look so good (not to mention she was in the top 5 list for kindle historical fiction books which is rather impressive). I also splurged on a copy of The Miniaturist and the author, Jessie Burton was kind enough to sign it for me.
            There were so many excellent speakers, but also an illuminating session with traditional agents, publishers and sales reps of the industry. One of the most less helpful aspects of this session was when I asked about the teen market for historical fiction and was promptly told by several of the panellists that ‘teenagers just don’t read’.  Which of course, is pretty much nonsense but has given me the gumption to re-write some of my previous work for the adult market.  Teen readers (yes, they do exist!) that I’ve met purposefully avoid children’s fiction but will read adult novels.  So, eh.  Doesn’t matter too much I suppose as I’m jumping ship on the whole writing YA. I may return to YA when Briardarke officially takes on Faeries, but for now I have until December to research 1513 and everything Tudor and from January to June to crank out draft 1 of my first Tudor Murder Mystery (under a pen name).
            So now that school is back in session (thank heavens for my 15 hours a week in which to work) I expect my future blogs to be history heavy. Fun times!