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For discussions of historical fiction. Threads that do not relate to historical fiction should be started in the Chat forum or elsewhere on the forum, depending on the topic.
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Margaret
Bibliomaniac
Interest in HF: I can't answer this in 100 characters. Sorry.
Favorite HF book: Checkmate, the final novel in the Lymond series
Preferred HF: Literary novels. Late medieval and Renaissance.
Location: Catskill, New York, USA
Contact:

Postby Margaret » Wed August 11th, 2010, 5:17 am

I would never use Wikipedia as a basis for saying that an author is wrong


No, but it's a godsend if you're tempted to roast an author for being wrong about something and discover the author may actually be correct! It's all too easy to absorb completely incorrect ideas about history and think an author has gotten something horribly wrong when really it's the author's view that is correct and the reader's that is outmoded and inaccurate. For example, for years I believed the old tale about Columbus having to fight against the supposedly universal European belief that the world was flat and he would fall off the edge if he sailed too far west, when in fact people of his time (and much earlier) knew perfectly well that the world was round.
Last edited by Margaret on Wed August 11th, 2010, 5:22 am, edited 1 time in total.
Browse over 5000 historical novel listings (probably well over 5000 by now, but I haven't re-counted lately) and over 700 reviews at www.HistoricalNovels.info

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MLE (Emily Cotton)
Bibliomaniac
Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
Favorite HF book: Prince of Foxes, by Samuel Shellabarger
Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
Location: California Bay Area

Postby MLE (Emily Cotton) » Wed August 11th, 2010, 6:03 am

"Margaret" wrote:No, but it's a godsend if you're tempted to roast an author for being wrong about something and discover the author may actually be correct! It's all too easy to absorb completely incorrect ideas about history and think an author has gotten something horribly wrong when really it's the author's view that is correct and the reader's that is outmoded and inaccurate. For example, for years I believed the old tale about Columbus having to fight against the supposedly universal European belief that the world was flat and he would fall off the edge if he sailed too far west, when in fact people of his time (and much earlier) knew perfectly well that the world was round.


And they also had a pretty good idea of how big around it was, too--from work done with shadows and geometry a good millennium earlier. The various scholars that King Manuel of Portugal consulted about Columbus' plans told him that the Indies were much farther away than Columbus thought. And they were right.

On Wikipedia, I have found that it improves every year. One of the remarkable things about it is the breadth of its subjects. Obscure noblemen and women may have the birth and death dates scrambled, but in years past, what encyclopedia would even have mentioned these people? A scholar would have had to go to a physical place and browse through dusty archives just of get a few meager bits of information. But with wikipedia, each person can chime in with their part, correcting and adding until the whole is reasonable accurate.
Last edited by MLE (Emily Cotton) on Wed August 11th, 2010, 6:06 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Ken
Compulsive Reader
Location: Truro, Cornwall, UK

Postby Ken » Wed August 11th, 2010, 10:21 am

Here is an extract of Ashe's response to a question on her blog:

My book, Montfort, The Founder of Parliament, has its first two volumes out now. In writing Montfort, my aim has been to use the freedom of fiction to explore how the actual events could have happened. The characters and events are historical, but the book is written in scenes of action and dialogue in novelistic style which, of necessity, is fictive -- except on those rare occasions when the Chronica Majora or other contemporary source actually tells us what the people said.

I know many historians frown on the reliability of the monks' reportage, but Brother Matthew, who kept the Chronica, had first hand access to eyewitnesses, including Montfort himself. I'm willing to believe him, and take up the challenge of figuring out the "how and why" of what he says took place. I've found this a whole lot tougher than writing straight fiction. How is it that Simon married a nun? Why did King Henry turn against him so suddenly? How could he and 100 English knights have stopped King Louis' army of 30,000?


The bold emphasis above is mine. If she believes Matthew Paris, why has she changed his statement that "On St. Calixtus's day (Oct 14 1238),Simon de Montfort returned to England (from Rome where he had asked the pope's blessing to his marriage to Eleanor, the king's sister) and was received by the king and all the royalists to the kiss of peace. He then set out with all haste to his wife Eleanor, who was staying at Kenilworth, very near her confinement." Matthew Paris then relates that Simon's son Henry was born in Advent (November) 1238.

Ashe has it that Eleanor was already pregnant when her marriage to Simon took place in Jan 1238 and that the baby was born in August. The king and queen then visited Kenilworth in September and that is where the adulteress liaison between Simon and the queen took place, resulting in the birth of Edward 1 in June the following year!

You either 'believe' the chroniclers, or you don't!

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EC2
Bibliomaniac
Location: Nottingham UK
Contact:

Postby EC2 » Wed August 11th, 2010, 12:18 pm

"Ken" wrote:H
You either 'believe' the chroniclers, or you don't!


Or clearly, you believe them when it suits you and ignore them when it doesn't - LOL!
Les proz e les vassals
Souvent entre piez de chevals
Kar ja li coard n’I chasront

'The Brave and the valiant
Are always to be found between the hooves of horses
For never will cowards fall down there.'

Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal

www.elizabethchadwick.com

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boswellbaxter
Bibliomaniac
Location: North Carolina
Contact:

Postby boswellbaxter » Wed August 11th, 2010, 12:30 pm

"MLE" wrote:
On Wikipedia, I have found that it improves every year. One of the remarkable things about it is the breadth of its subjects. Obscure noblemen and women may have the birth and death dates scrambled, but in years past, what encyclopedia would even have mentioned these people? A scholar would have had to go to a physical place and browse through dusty archives just of get a few meager bits of information. But with wikipedia, each person can chime in with their part, correcting and adding until the whole is reasonable accurate.


It's not just obscure nobles who have their information confused on Wikipedia. Some entries are indeed excellent--the one on John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, for instance, reflects the latest research and is meticulously footnoted. The one on Margaret of Anjou, by contrast, is heavily slanted in favor of the Yorkist cause, contains few supporting references for its length, and reflects none of the scholarly research done on Margaret during the last 20 years (Thomas Costain and Paul Murray Kendall are the author's main sources). It also contains a number of factual errors.

While anyone can edit a Wikipedia entry to correct errors, anyone who is convinced that he or she is right can also remove the edits--there was an article by historian Ian Mortimer a while back about his vain efforts to correct some misinformation in Wikipedia. The entry on Elizabeth Woodville contains an account of an incident which is lifted straight from historical fiction and which is not mentioned by any contemporary source--when someone tried to remove that portion, it was promptly restored.
Susan Higginbotham
Coming in October: The Woodvilles


http://www.susanhigginbotham.com/
http://www.susanhigginbotham.com/blog/

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EC2
Bibliomaniac
Location: Nottingham UK
Contact:

Postby EC2 » Wed August 11th, 2010, 12:33 pm

I was reading a piece on the Marshals and was horrified to see that someone had included the detail from The Scarlet Lion about the murder of Alais de Bethune. While I fully believe it happened, it does lie in the realms of unproven historical fiction and should not be there as a statement of fact. It all goes to show how easily the lines become blurred between proven fact and speculation!
Les proz e les vassals

Souvent entre piez de chevals

Kar ja li coard n’I chasront



'The Brave and the valiant
Are always to be found between the hooves of horses
For never will cowards fall down there.'


Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal



www.elizabethchadwick.com

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Katherine Ashe
Scribbler
Location: beside a waterfall

Katherine Ashe sends greetings

Postby Katherine Ashe » Mon October 11th, 2010, 9:31 pm

Hello Ken, Misfit, EC2, Margaret and others,
Though it’s forbidden authors to promote their own works on this site, I've been given leave, as I understand, to speak for myself and my work regarding attacks launched a while ago here in discussions.

First, as there seems to be some doubt, my four volume work, Montfort, is a novel, not a history.

It departs very markedly from the usual depictions of Simon de Montfort’s life because the historical evidence upon which his biographies must be based is fragmentary, the elements mutually contradictory, vividly colored by the negative or positive feelings of contemporary witnesses, and almost all is heavily subject to interpretation. Given the nature of the source material, a fresh viewing of the causal thread of the events in Simon's life seemed an interesting challenge. I don’t expect to convert everyone to my views, my aim has been to explore the possibilities.

Looking at Simon's story with the freedom that fiction can offer, I’ve written a work that follows the surviving 13th century fragments, at times using conjecture, at other times speculation, and occasionally launching into pure fiction -- as in the Cornwall joust (but not Simon's relationship with the queen -- that is speculation, not free invention.) Knowing that there are readers who might want to distinguish these various approaches, I’ve included in each volume an Historical Context section, (27 pages in Volume I, 21 in Volume II) giving the sources for the principal divergent passages, and my reasons for exploring the subject in the unusual way I’ve chosen. Without the Historical Context, the way I relate Montfort’s story, to someone familiar with the standard history, must seem bizarre and willful indeed.

Unfortunately, Ken, the one person in the discussion thread who had read any of my work, made no reference to the Historical Context and, from his perplexed remarks, apparently had not looked at it.

For the rest, my critics were reacting to the book’s blurb alone. And for this I must offer my apologies. I had grave doubts about using that blurb, the product of a wager – could I sum up my unorthodox, nearly 2,000 page thesis in five sentences? The use of the blurb for the book’s promotion was urged by friends in trade publishing, my current academic counselors and numerous of the manuscript’s readers. No one foresaw so outraged a response as appeared on this site and in a single review on Amazon.

Most distressing, it seems, is my notion that Simon was Queen Eleanor’s lover and the father of Edward I. Be assured I don't see Simon as a seducer. And I don't write lubricious scenes of sex, as my non-readers would imply. Montfort has been found perfectly acceptable reading by Benedictine nuns. (This statement is hardly a way to promote my book.)

The original spur for my pursuing this thread of speculation -- Simon's fathering Edward -- was the account of the Churching of the Queen, as given in detail in the Chronica Majora with extensive quotation of what King Henry actually may have said. Historians usually dismiss his ravings as madness, and Henry was given to emotional breakdowns. But in no other case does he appear wildly raving or stricken with amnesia. What could possibly have been behind his accusations? (Chiefly, that Simon was a seducer.)

No one but myself has taken note that the Churching of the Queen was the occasion of her first confession since her pregnancy was known, and that she would have made that confession to Simon’s implacable enemy, Archbishop Edmund Rich. I’ve chosen the novel form to explore the possibilities that Henry’s ravings at the Churching could suggest. As to whether Simon was in England nine months before Edward's birth, my case is offered at considerable length in Volume One and its Historical Context.

This speculation regarding Edward's conceiving is only one of my many unorthodoxies, each explored in novelistic form, and explained in corresponding notes in the Historical Contexts. Is such use of fiction forbidden?

As for the accusation that Montfort is self-published by Amazon’s Booksurge/Createspace subsidiary, it is indeed. After a lifetime spent in and around trade publishing, the deal Amazon offered was far better, in respect of freedom from market-driven pressures vis a vis my text, my royalties (35% to 70% as opposed to 15%), and the relaxed time frame for print-on-demand books compared to the promotional hurly burly required of authors whose books are eating their heads off in warehousing costs.


Again, my apologies to those I’ve offended. And for being so tardy in my response, I only found I was the subject of such numerous and unhappy misunderstandings when I happened to do a google search for my own web site a few days ago, and came upon this astonishing series of exchanges.
Greetings to Misfit, Ken, Margaret, Susan Higgenbotham, Sharon Penman, Boswell Baxter and all. Though I don't expect you to agree with Montfort's story as I offer it, my purposes have not been salacious, nor even moved by market considerations though that clearly is no crime these days. I respect your views, and only ask that you grant me an open minded hearing.

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Ken
Compulsive Reader
Location: Truro, Cornwall, UK

Postby Ken » Tue October 12th, 2010, 12:53 pm

Hello Katherine and thank you for your post. Let me first congratulate you on an impressive and extensive work of research into the life and times of Simon de Montfort. I know from my own research into a contemporary of his, Sir Othon de Grandson, just what a labour (of love?) it is and I have only been at it for three years, not thirty! What follows, is a commentary on some aspects of your books, written with no intent of criticism.

There has been much discussion elsewhere on this forum as to how much ‘fiction’ should/could a work of historical fiction contain. There has been no definitive answer!

I think that you will see from my first post on this thread that I recognise that your books are works of fiction and that therefore you are free to give your own interpretation of his story. Also, contrary to your assumption, I did, of course read the ‘Historical Context’ section. I do however take issue with some of the statements therein which you use to justify your theory, often in the face of compelling chronological evidence to the contrary. You, for example state as fact that (the fair) Rosamonde was ‘poisoned by Eleanor of Aquitaine.’ From what I have read, this ‘theatrical murder’ is thought to be totally untrue and Eleanor’s supposed words, ‘choose your death, it will be either knife or poison,’ were only attributed to her in the 17th century.

It is, as you surmise, the very contentious notion that Simon and Queen Eleanor were lovers and that Simon fathered the future King Edward 1, with which I take most issue. There is nothing wrong, I guess, with introducing such a theory in a work of fiction and it certainly spices up some aspects of your work. The use of such fiction is certainly not forbidden as you query in your post. However, if one truly want to ‘explore a plausible sequence of cause and effect’ (as stated in your ‘Acknowledgements’), in a work of historical fiction, it seems to me that one should adhere as much as possible to the established and accepted chronology of events, unless one has alternative sources which factually contradict them.

You have it that Eleanor was already pregnant when her marriage to Simon took place in Jan 1238 and that the baby was born in August. The king and queen then visited Kenilworth in September and that is where the adulteress liaison between Simon and the queen took place, resulting in the birth of Edward 1 in June the following year. This sequence of events appears to be loosely based on a statement in Magaret Labarge’s book on Simon (which I have not read) which you have accepted as true despite her not providing any source for her statement, together with some missing evidence of the king’s whereabouts from the records for September 1238.

Matthew Paris, provides first hand evidence contrary to the above in his statement that "On St. Calixtus's day (Oct 14 1238),Simon de Montfort returned to England and was received by the king and all the royalists to the kiss of peace. He then set out with all haste to his wife Eleanor, who was staying at Kenilworth, very near her confinement." Matthew Paris then relates that Simon's son Henry was born in Advent on the 28th November 1238.

On your web page in a part answer to one query you stated: ‘I know many historians frown on the reliability of the monks' reportage, but Brother Matthew, who kept the Chronica, had first hand access to eyewitnesses, including Montfort himself. I'm willing to believe him.’ Why, if you believe Matthew’s chronicle and he was almost certainly writing verbatim, do you differ from his record of the birth of Simon and his wife’s eldest son? This son, by the way, was given the name of Henry in honour of the king.

Henry’s turning against his sister and Simon is also faithfully recorded by Paris and in Simon’s own words (see Bemont p.60-61). Henry was always beset by financial problems and Simon’s unauthorised citing of him as security for his debts to Thomas of Flanders, together with the poisonous words of Archbishop Rich on Simon’s ‘seduction’ of Eleanor before their marriage and his alleged bribing of the Roman Court to obtain the lifting of Eleanor’s vows of chastity, would have been enough to have him sent from court. Later of course he relented and subsequently made Simon his Viceroy in Gascony, hardly the actions of someone who believed that Simon had seduced the queen. If he truly had believed that of Simon, I do not believe that he would ever have forgiven him (or his queen?),

It is clear from his many actions that Henry loved Edward, named him as his heir (not his brother Edmund) and, in spite of a few father/son clashes, provided him with an enormous appanage upon his marriage in 1254. Several chroniclers and some eminent historians also mention that Edward had inherited his father’s drooping eyelid!

That Edward felt the same about Henry is evidenced by the fact that when Henry died (at about the same time as Edward’s son John) Edward was returning from Sicily and Charles of Anjou, with whom he was staying, noted that Edward seemed unconcerned about his son, but was extremely upset about his father. He explained that it was easy to beget sons, but the loss of a father was irredeemable!

Finally (at least for the moment!), no apologies from you are necessary. I do not believe that you have ‘offended’ anyone, nor that your purposes have been salacious. I have read the first two books and I intend to read the whole series, with as much an open mind as possible. I look forward to how you treat Edward ‘falling under the influence’ of Simon, their subsequent estrangement and the baron’s war that follows! :)

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Katherine Ashe
Scribbler
Location: beside a waterfall

Montfort debate

Postby Katherine Ashe » Tue October 12th, 2010, 6:37 pm

Hello Ken,
To answer you regarding Matthew Paris and Simon's first appearance in Court on Oct 14, 1238, and Paris's remarks used to support the birth of Henry in November, an attempt to make the birth appear to have occurred a decent 9 months after the wedding should be expected. Nor should my not following Paris on this point cast doubt on my statements that I follow his text as my principal source.

As for the King and Queen's visit to Kenilworth, it is not merely a few outages in the royal records for this period, but an astonishing and unique (for this era) removal of sections and obliteration of others in the Charters, Letters, Pipe Roll, etc for the period from late August to October -- which I point to as possibly deliberate.

King Henry's being godfather to Henry Montfort is referred to by Paris and others, as is Grosseteste's prophecy, but there is no way Grossteste or the king could have been at a christening at Kenilworth in November, and the christening then was performed, according to Paris, by the Bishop of Litchfield. I know very well the standard history, and am pointing up its interesting discrepancies.

I didn't invent this issue regarding Simon and the Queen. London gossip that the Queen was Simon's lover so distressed Edward that at Lewes he pursued the Londoners for his revenge, slaughtering them and losing the battle, and the war, by his absence from the main battlefield.

Yes, the King's accusations at the Churching all had bases in fact, but all had been resolved prior to King Henry's choosing Simon as one of the godfathers of Edward and loaning him the Bishop of Winchester's manse for the summer; and Simon being foremost of the lords at the king's side, witnessing charters that summer. Can you truly believe that a "seduction" that had been resolved by marriage, and a debt, that had been settled the previous May, could have been Henry's real and sudden reason for turning against Simon? The only difference between that day and the previous, when Simon was Henry's best friend, was the Queen's confession to Archbishop Rich directly before the Churching ceremony.

I don't offer my view of Edward's parentage with unassailable proofs, if there had been any it would have been in Edward's, and Henry's, interest to see them eradicated. And it was in Simon's interest certainly at his trial for treason against Henry, held before the Court of France, (the occasion of his writing his autobiography) to repeat Henry's Churching ravings. I grant I'm working against the surviving record, but it is a record deeply and uniquely impaired, and those most closely involved had good reason for falsification.

In my book, Henry himself is never absolutely certain that he is not Edward's father, hence his wavering.

As for his grand gift to Edward upon his marriage: the gift of Gascony, Ireland and Wales, he burdened Edward with all his most ungovernable holdings, and his most costly -- where taxes could not be raised to support the wars required to keep them. And Edward's rents, though substantial, were in no way enough for the costs of war.

Henry was inconsistent by nature, as I say often in my book. From time to time he behaved as if he hoped Edward would be killed in battle so the way would be cleared for Edmund. Then again there were times he believed the Queen faithful, and he loved Edward.

As for my brief mention of Rosamond, my aim is to voice the beliefs of Simon's time. Later romances may use those beliefs, and later studies discredit them. My aim is to try to explore the world as Simon could have understood it.


I'm so glad we're having this discussion. Feel free to contact me by email: kateashe@nep.net. I'd like to know more of your views without burdening this public space with such specifics, which may be of fading interest to those not reading my book.
Last edited by Katherine Ashe on Tue October 12th, 2010, 6:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: some paragraphs had gone out of sight below the close.

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Ken
Compulsive Reader
Location: Truro, Cornwall, UK

Postby Ken » Tue October 12th, 2010, 7:38 pm

Hi Katherine,

Interesting response! I beat you to it and sent you an email before you posted! Looking forward to some healthy exchanges! :)


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