Tag Archives: England

New Medieval History Book: Elizabeth of York (Queenship and Power) by Arlene Naylor Okerlund

Elizabeth of York (Queenship and Power) by Arlene Naylor Okerlund

In my recent posts about the best and worst Medieval people I have been remiss in not mentioning any women. So to balance that out only slightly, here’s some information about an upcoming biography of a powerful Medieval lady: Elizabeth of York, mother of Henry VIII and grandmother of Elizabeth I.

Available from Amazon.com

Available from Amazon.co.uk

Information from Amazon:

Review

‘Arlene Okerlund’s lucid biography of Elizabeth of York draws on detailed research to provide a long overdue account of the tumultuous life of one of England’s best loved queens. It is a compelling tale of Renaissance culture and ritual, intrigue and tragedy.’ – J. L.Laynesmith, Author of The Last Medieval Queens

‘This work aims to rescue the queen from the perception that she was a merely marginal player in the establishment of the Tudor dynasty. Forced to negotiate complex family relationships while maintaining a loving relationship with her husband and king, Okerlund’s Elizabeth emerges as a figure central to the accomplishments of the first Tudor court, so much so that her early death produced a catastrophe from which Henry never recovered. Okerlund’s biography produces a lively narrative and a credible portrait of the queen’s character together with a meticulous reassessment of the available evidence.’ – Gordon Kipling, Professor of English, University of California, Los Angeles

‘This book is a welcome addition to the sparse literature about one of England’s more dynastically important queens. Illuminating and fascinating.’ –Renaissance Quarterly

Product Description

This book tells the story of the queen whose marriage to King Henry VII ended England’s Wars of the Roses and inaugurated the 118-year Tudor dynasty. Best known as the mother of Henry VIII and grandmother of Elizabeth I, this Queen Elizabeth contributed far beyond the act of giving birth to future monarchs. Her marriage to Henry VII unified the feuding houses of Lancaster and York, and her popularity with the people helped her husband survive rebellions that plagued his first decade of rule. Queen Elizabeth’s gracious manners and large family created a warm, convivial Court marked by a rather exceptional fondness between the royal couple. Her love for music, literature, and architecture also helped inspire England’s Renaissance.

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The Worst 5 People from the Middle Ages

henry v of england Painting is in "The Ro...
Image via Wikipedia

Who gives the Middle Ages a bad name? They were bad, but without them history wouldn’t have been so interesting. Again like my article on the Top 5 Medieval People, this list is completely arbitrary. The villains of the medieval age are in my opinion:

  1. Innocent IV – the implacable enemy of Frederick II. Innocent’s political ambitions tore Italy apart and prevented Frederick from fulfilling his (possibly enlightened) political ambitions.
  2. John of Gaunt – the younger brother of the Black Prince, and terrible as a military commander (although a stickler for the rules of chivalry and not bad in single combat), and venal and worse as a politician and stand-in for his dotard father Edward III.
  3. Bernard Gui – the famous Inquisitor and author of Practica Inquisitionis Heretice Pravitatis is an easy target as a hate figure – the archetypal oppressor and symbolic of what is always wrong with the Middle Ages – dogmatic, cruel repression. His reputation is cemented by being the baddie in Umberto Eco‘s The Name of the Rose.
  4. William the Conqueror – gave us an Anglo-Norman aristocracy, French speaking until the fourteenth century to rule over us. Would England have been less riven by class divide if the English hadn’t been subject to a French ruling class for so long?
  5. Henry V – a great tactician on the battlefield and a leader of men, but was his ambition to conquer France really a good idea? Consigned England to humiliating defeat at the hands of the French, and the disastrous Wars of the Roses.

A bit controversial maybe? I’d love to hear your comments.

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Weekly Medieval History Round Up

Some of the top stories and most interesting blog posts on Medieval History and Medieval Historical Fiction in the past week or so:

Medieval Bookworm reviews Bernard Cornwell’s Death of Kings

Medievalists.net discusses evidence for Scottish Medieval Football – although is this any real surprise? Football was around for a long time in the Middle Ages.

Medievalists.net also has news that the British Library launches new Medieval and Renaissance images app

About.com tells us about the Viking Ship Burial Discovered in Scotland

ABC News and many other news sites tell about how a father forced his daughter to take part in a medieval duel

Live Science has news of how Computers are helping to piece together Medieval scrolls found in a Cairo synagogue

Gamershell.com has news about an interesting MMO game set in the Middle Ages. Goldon Age is currently in Closed Beta

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Top 5 Medieval People

Richard I of England
Image via Wikipedia

Random post of the week – who are my top 5 people from the Middle Ages – real historical medieval people, not characters from any of my stories that is!

  1. Frederick II Hohenstaufen – not quite the Renaissance prince that earlier historians such as Kantowicz would like to think, but even so still quite amazing in what he tried to do – a cultured, yet autocratic prince, rather than a fanatic oaf of a king.
  2. Geoffrey Chaucer – he had the wit and charm to poke fun at all around him, but in quite a nice way – a bit like the Stephen Fry of the Fourteenth Century perhaps?
  3. Richard I the Lionheart – complete opposite of Frederick I at number the one above, but for bare faced oafish medieval kingly behaviour I think he has to be in my arbitrary list of Top 5 Medieval People. Hated England, hardly set foot in the place, but thanks to Hollywood’s portrayal of Robin Hood and Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe I grew up with him as the quintessential English Medieval King. Robin Hood wouldn’t be on my list, but he’s fictional anyway so can’t be!
  4. Dante Alighieri – the great Italian poet who gave us the Divine Comedy and the quintessential image of hell, while sniping at all and sundry, a bit nastier than Chaucer, and in my view not as great a poet, but still fascinating and able to conjure up great images.
  5. Owain Glyndŵr – rebel with a cause, but ultimately a doomed one. Not a man I knew a lot about until I read the Welsh Wars of Independence, but what a guy, what  crazy guy, deciding to go up against the might of Lancastrian England and nearly pulling it off too! The Welsh are getting a lot of good press recently for their passion and determination, and this chap certainly had that.

What do you think? Agree/disagree? Who would be in your top 5?

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Who Controlled Edward III’s Household in 1376?

I just added another page to this site’s section on England in 1376 – this time looking at the Key Officials of King Edward III’s household.

At present I don’t have much information on these individuals – indeed I suspect that for some of them there won’t be much information available, but they may well be key characters in Hell has its Demons, so it will be fun to bring them to fictional life.

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War of the Roses Game from Paradox Interactive

The historical PC game experts Paradox Interactive seem to have a new game featuring the War of the Roses coming out. The video below was uploaded in August, but there doesn’t seem to be any news on a release date. If it’s historically accurate, which some of Paradox’s games are, then it could be very interesting for any fans of Medieval history.

Here’s some more information on the game from Paradox’s website:

War of the Roses is a new IP that transports players back in time to the battle-ravaged, dynastic civil war era of 15th century England where ownership of the throne of England was brutally fought over between supporters of two rival branches of the Royal House of Plantagenet – the house of Lancaster (the reds) and the house of York (the whites).

Description

A team-based multiplayer melee combat experience, War of The Roses sees players and their band of knights going toe-to-toe with their opponents using authentic and visceral weapons of the time period including broad swords, long bows and battle-axes.
Built on a stunning graphics engine which vividly portrays the fighting from an up-close-and-personal third-person perspective, War of the Roses features both online multiplayer and a single-player campaign. Players will get the chance to lead their warrior through a rich progression system, gaining upgrades and unlocking new content on their path from filthy peasant to unstoppable armored killing machine.

The years of 1455-1485 in England is an extraordinary and underused setting filled with conflict, treachery and bloodshed. In the wake of the “death of chivalry” at Agincourt in 1415 and the introduction of gunpowder, warfare changed; the gloves came off, so to speak. The old and the new clashed on the battlefield while personal vendettas persistently motivated the desire for war.
War of the Roses – ambitions and goals In War of the Roses, Fatshark take what was learned from Lead and Gold and apply it in a medieval setting, using the Bitsquid tech-engine for high quality visuals and performance.
The driving focus of the game is creating a multiplayer game with the same accessibility as the best competitive shooters currently out there, but in a medieval setting with a primary emphasis on melee combat.
The focus of the core gameplay is on the Multiplayer experience, but we will have an engaging and immersive story driven single player campaign designed to prepare and train players for the multiplayer experience. The single player campaign will give the players direct rewards to use in the multiplayer battles.

Features

  • Large Medieval Multiplayer Mode
  • Single Player Campaign Mode
  • Extensive Persistence System
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Zio the Hero by Marc Grimston – Medieval Adventure for Kids of All Ages

Zio the Hero by Marc Grimston

I came across this medieval adventure story for children over Twitter. It’s by a UK author and seems to be doing very well. I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but I’m planning to soon. I would recommend that you take a look at the video – Marc’s tour of Framlingham Castle, one of the locations used in the book, gives a great introduction to the setting of the story.

Here’s some more information about the book from the official press release:

Travel back in time to 14th Century England and to an adventure with dragons, castles, intrigue and murder.

Robert and his twin brothers Timothy and Michael accidentally find themselves transported into medieval England.  They arrive in a forest cottage, where they are expected to recover the missing crown of England.  Has it been lost, or stolen?  With the help of the clumsy but loyal dragon, Zio, their quest takes the boys across the centuries, where they make new friends, and enemies. Will they return home triumphant? Or die trying?  The only way to know is to read Zio The Hero.

Marc Grimston has delivered a children’s adventure story which is already enthralling children, ages 7 to 107.  In an age where many children lack stories with a moral battle between good and evil, Marc is reversing this trend with this exciting story. Marc takes you to Framlingham and Orford castles; both in the 14th and 21st centuries, where the children learn loyalty and honour can overcome all adversities that life can throw at them.  Together with new friends, they experience the power of forgiveness, true friendship and sacrifice.  Their father’s words of wisdom also being at the forefront of their minds, helping them to make the right, but not always the easiest of decisions.

Zio the Hero is a book which encourages children to stand up for truth and respect, even when all around them appears darkness and gloom.

Quotes from reviews:

“Amazing…. What a revelation.”      “This gets kids reading!”                “This is a wonderful book”

Marc Grimston has always been a story teller, writing poetry and short stories throughout his adult life. When challenged to write a children’s novel, Marc reluctantly agreed.  Although comfortable making-up stories for his children at bed time, creating an adventure for them to read for themselves, seemed a big step.  However, drawing on his experiences as a father and medieval re-enactor, Marc rose to the task of bringing his love of history, and his sense of fun and excitement together in an adventure story all children love to read.

Marc believes in the value of self-worth.  With dedication and determination, you can achieve anything.  Through his writing, Marc wants to empower and encourage all children to reach and achieve their goals.

Marc is in contact with several UK schools to work with them to encourage literacy, story-telling and the belief that all things are possible.

Marc takes walks along the beach, when not writing more thrilling adventures in his home town of Southend-on-Sea in Essex.

Zio The Hero (ISBN: 978 1780350479 published by FastPrint, RRP £10.99) is available at www.amazon.co.uk, and can be ordered from all good book retailers.  For more information please visit: http://marcgrimston.co.uk or www.facebook.com/ZioTheHero

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New Medieval History Book: Chivalry in Medieval England by Nigel Saul

Chivalry in Medieval England by Nigel Saul

  • Hardcover: 440 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (15 Oct 2011)
  • Language English
  • ISBN-10: 0674063686
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674063686

I think this is a new title! It’s not always easy to tell after all – for instance there seems to be another title by Nigel Saul The Age of Chivalry, but this is only 144 pages, so I am guessing is something quite different? But then again there is also For Honour and Fame by the same author – see the related articles at the end of this post.

There is a wealth of information on Amazon.com about the book, including lots of glowing reviews. I have read Nigel’s book on Richard II and remember very much enjoying, so I am sure that this and anything else he might have published on Chivalry will be good too!

Amazon.com:

Review

Nigel Saul takes a relatively benign view of medieval noblemen. He rejects the once-fashionable notion that war was all about money and land, and that chivalry was just tinsel. And, although he sees a steep decline in standards in the last medieval century, he thinks that chivalric values did have a real influence in civilizing the conduct of war. Whether one agrees with this or not, his is a view that commands respect. He is a historian with a rare gift for seeing the human lives behind the rather formulaic and impersonal sources of medieval history, and he has written widely about aristocratic culture…Saul can make the most unpromising material speak to us with a directness that can surprise even those who are already familiar with it. This is a rich book that does ample justice to its complex theme.
–Jonathan Sumption (Sunday Times 20110626)

The author of this sparkling book that “puts chivalry centre-stage” explains its substantial contribution to the development of Western civilization through links to the practice of treating prisoners of war with compassion, to the growth of individualism and even to the modern cult of celebrity.
–Christopher Silvester (Daily Express 20110711)

Splendid…Saul has drawn heavily on what he calls this “rich repertory of contemporary witness” to illuminate the relationship between chivalry and the political, military, social and artistic currents of the time. The result is a wide-ranging examination of how the ethos of chivalry defined and shaped knightly culture…As this book so ably demonstrates, [chivalry] influenced every aspect of knightly life: without it, the Middle Ages would have been not only duller and darker, but even more brutal.
–Juliet Barker (Mail on Sunday 20110722)

An entirely original project, and in [Saul’s] hands it proves illuminating…[A] brilliant book. The skill and scholarship with which he has done so fully justify his claim at its opening that chivalry was a major factor throughout the narrative history of medieval England from before the time of Richard I to the aftermath of that of Edward III. Chivalry has often been neglected by historians in that story; Nigel Saul’s vivid and exciting study should make sure that it can never again be left out of the account.
–Maurice Keen (Literary Review )

The era of chivalry was the idealized fantasy that grew out of the military superiority of the armed horseman, and which lasted roughly between the invention of the stirrup and the invention of gunpowder. Nigel Saul is just the right person to tell the story as experienced in England…One of the strengths of his new book is its attention to the visual and the material. The knights of England had property and wealth, and they flaunted them. Chivalry was not only a code of behavior but a style honed both on the battlefield and in impressive residences…Interest in chivalry was revived in the Victorian cult of things medieval, aesthetic as well as moral in scope. It inspired such initiatives as the Marquess of Queensberry’s rules and the codification of laws of war, which Saul links to the later formulation of the Geneva convention. Yet lampoons of chivalry are equally powerful, as epitomized by John Tenniel’s drawings of ungainly knights on horseback that illustrated Through the Looking Glass. That unyielding parody has given us the chivalry of Monty Python and Spamelot, and recently a new Camelot too. Nigel Saul’s clear-sighted history makes these survivals all the more apparent, and all the more puzzling.
–Miri Rubin (The Guardian )

Product Description
Popular views of medieval chivalry—knights in shining armor, fair ladies, banners fluttering from battlements—were inherited from the nineteenth-century Romantics. This is the first book to explore chivalry’s place within a wider history of medieval England, from the Norman Conquest to the aftermath of Henry VII’s triumph at Bosworth in the Wars of the Roses.

Saul invites us to view the world of castles and cathedrals, tournaments and round tables, with fresh eyes. Chivalry in Medieval England charts the introduction of chivalry by the Normans, the rise of the knightly class as a social elite, the fusion of chivalry with kingship in the fourteenth century, and the influence of chivalry on literature, religion, and architecture. Richard the Lionheart and the Crusades, the Black Death and the Battle of Crecy, the Magna Carta and the cult of King Arthur—all emerge from the mists of time and legend in this vivid, authoritative account.

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Forthcoming Medieval History Book: Divided Houses: Hundred Years War Vol 3 by Jonathan Sumption

Divided Houses

Paperback
ISBN:9780571240128
Published:01.03.2012
No of pages:700

The Hundred Years War, Volume 3: Divided Houses (The Middle Ages Series)
is the third volume of Jonathon Sumption’s epic history of the Hundred Years War. If you want to read about every turn of this conflict then I would recommend this series of books. I got this in hardback when it came out and its now going to be published in paperback – next March that is in the UK – so perhaps one to pre-order! Although I see if you follow my link above the US edition is coming out this autumn.

Here’s some more details from the publisher’s website.

Divided Houses is a tale of contrasting fortunes. In the last decade of his reign Edward III, a senile, pathetic symbol of England’s past conquests, was condemned to see them overrun by the armies of his enemies. When he died, in 1377, he was succeeded by a vulnerable child, who was destined to grow into a neurotic and unstable adult presiding over a divided nation.

Meanwhile France entered upon one of the most glittering periods of her medieval history, years of power and ceremony, astonishing artistic creativity and famous warriors making their reputations as far afield as Naples, Hungary and North Africa.

Contemporaries in both countries believed that they were living through memorable times: times of great wickedness and great achievement, of collective mediocrity but intense personal heroism, of extremes of wealth and poverty, fortune and failure. At a distance of six centuries, as Jonathan Sumption skilfully and meticulously shows, it is possible to agree with all of these judgments.

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Tolkien’s Mythology for England and King Arthur

Cover of "The Silmarillion"
Cover of The Silmarillion

I recently listened to the audiobook of Michael White’s Tolkien: A Biography, and I was struck by the fact that he was motivated to write The Silmarrillion as he believed that the English did not have a proper mythology in the same way as perhaps the Celts, Finns or the Norse have with works such as the Mabinogion, Kelevala and the Sagas and Edda.

Beowulf was also mentioned, but I guess that most of the Anglo-Saxon literature only alludes to a pre-Christian past and we are left to guess that they had a similar mythology to the Norse, but that is all. But Tolkien either wishes that such a mythology existed, or perhaps realised that the English were such a disparate culture in many ways – with confusion over Englishness and Britishness, the input of Norman culture etc, that we were left with no unified national mythology in the same way as these other Northern European cultures.

That left me thinking about King Arthur. Surely the Arthurian legends are a pretty strong mythology aren’t they? They tell of a powerful leader who unites the country and makes it great. What more could you ask for?

Well I suspect that Tolkien had a few problems with the Arthur legend. Firstly the legend was probably not English enough for him – the sources being primarily Welsh or Romano-British, with the main opponents being the Anglo-Saxon’s, the very English that Tolkien wanted to mythologize. And the second issue I think was that Arthur was really a Christian King and although there are some allusions to magic and folklore there is very little of the pagan past in the Arthurian legend.

Quite ironic really that Tolkien was so interested in creating an English mythology that relied on paganism, when he was actually a very devout Catholic.

But apart from Tolkien, I would say that the Arthurian legend has been pretty wholeheartedly accepted by the English and the British as a sort of national myth and legend – the Plantagenets and the Tudors were happy to use the legend for its unifying power and the implication that Britain was the source of true chivalry, and of course the Victorians with their Pre-Raphaelite art adored it. And perhaps Arthur is a healthier legend than trying to recreate an Anglo-Saxon myth based on Norse paganism, it certainly allows for a more unified image of a varied British culture, and gets rid of the depressing violence and doom of Germanic myth.

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