Monday, 30 October 2017

Diana talks about Anne Nevill, daughter of a Kingmaker, wife of a King.

During the short reign of Richard III and his queen Anne Nevill*, John Rous compiled a sensational genealogy for the couple, weaving fact and fiction to create an enviable family history, involving King Guthelyn, his son Locryn, the division of land under their rule and even telling how Anne's Warwick family badge of the ragged staff and bear came into being.

Whilst this was an obvious ploy to counter Dowager Queen Elizabeth's alleged ancestry which stated that she was descended from Melusine - a female spirit of fresh water in a sacred spring or river - the truth of Anne's ancestry, as expected, was far more normal. With Richard Nevill, 16th Earl of Warwick (known to history as "Kingmaker") as her father and with Anne de Beauchamp as her mother, she certainly did not need the embellishments of Rous to enhance her pedigree.

Anne was born at Warwick castle on 11 June 1456. She was the youngest of the couple's two children, her sister Isabel, born on 5th September 1451, being almost five years older. Anne was born into the wealthiest and most politically powerful family in the kingdom. Like all girls of wealthy or titled families in that era, Anne, together with her sister, were considered pawns in the political game of matrimonial diplomacy. A marriage for love was never an option. A marriage for political gain would be usually brokered at a very early age for a girl. One reason for this early 'pairing off' was to head off any opposition from the girl, her marriage being a fait accompli almost for as long as she could remember.

Anne's father married Isabel off to George, Duke of Clarence, Edward IV's younger brother, and later, when politically expedient, selected a husband for Anne. He had been at odds with the king he had 'made', Edward IV, for some time, resenting the political rise of the new queen's fairly obscure family, the Wydevilles.

In 1469, the Earl tried to put his son-in-law George on the throne, but met resistance from Parliament. After a second rebellion against King Edward failed in early 1470, he was forced to flee to France, where he allied himself with the banished House of Lancaster in 1470. With King Henry VI imprisoned in the Tower of London, in effect the Lancastrian leader was his consort, Margaret of Anjou, who was suspicious of Warwick's motives. To quell these suspicions, Anne Nevill was formally betrothed to the son of Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou, Edward of Westminster, at the Ch√Ęteau d'Amboise in France.

They were married in Angers Cathedral, probably on 13 December 1470, making Anne Nevill the Princess of Wales. It is not known whether the marriage was ever consummated. In 1471 the young couple arrived at the South coast of England to claim Edward of Westminster's inheritance but catastrophic news greeted Anne. Just that day Edward IV's army had killed the Duke of Warwick at Barnett, effectively losing the couple their cause. Anne's mother fled to sanctuary at a nearby abbey, leaving young Anne to depend on her 17 year old husband and her Mother in Law, Margaret of Anjou, whose husband, the deposed king Henry VI was imprisoned in the tower.

Margaret headed North, raising troops in a desperate attempt to gain support and to see her husband back on the throne. Edward dashed to intercept them at Tewkesbury and there followed one of the bloodiest and least chivalric wars of the period. When Margaret's Lancastrian army broke and fled back to the abbey, Edward broke sanctuary and beheaded the refugees.. The Prince of Wales was among the dead that day and was buried beneath the Choir of the Abbey.

Anne and Margaret of Anjou were taken into custody the following day. Transported to London, Margaret was confined to the Tower and Anne given in to the custody of the Duke of Clarence and her sister, the Duchess.

What happened next is rather unclear, but Croyland Chronicle states that, "Clarence caused the damsel (Anne) to be concealed in order that it might not be known by his Brother where she was; as he was afraid of a division of the Earl's property, which he wished to come to himself alone in right of his wife, and not be obliged to share it with any other person." In 
Paul Murray Kendall's, Richard III, 1955, Richard, "discovered the Young lady in the city of London disguised in the habit of a cookmaid; upon which he had her removed to the sanctuary of St. Martin's".  It is probable that she escaped and ran away to sanctuary at St Martin's

As stated before, Anne has traditionally been painted as a pawn in the political game, one of the victims of history, and certainly it seems that her first marriage to Edward of Westminster was a politically motivated move on behalf of her father, but her second marriage to Richard of Gloucester, youngest brother to Edward IV and brother to her sister's husband George of Clarence, may have been a calculated move on her part. The marriage was certainly advantageous to them both, Richard being rewarded with enormous land holdings in the North including her late father's castle and land at Middleham. 

Whilst some of Anne's childhood was spent at, Middleham Castle, despite Richard of Gloucester attending his knighthood training at the castle, there is no record of them having met and fallen in love as some romance writers would like us to believe. Anne's life as a privileged daughter and Richard's as a knight in training would tread very different paths within the same vicinity. Far from being in love, or being a pawn, Anne made a hard headed and pragmatic decision to marry Richard. 

Anne provided Richard with an heir, Edward of Middleham being born sometime between 1473 and 1476. He was described in the The Croyland Chronicle as ‘this only son, on whom, through so many solemn oaths, the hopes of the royal succession rested.’

After the death of Edward IV, having not achieved the status of queen through her marriage to her first husband, it not be a huge leap of imagination to consider her persuading Richard to grasp the throne. Pressure from Anne would help explain the great mystery of Richard of Gloucester's seeming U-turn, from being his brother Edward's most loyal supporter to someone who moved against his brother's allies with almost indecent speed, executing any that got in his way.

Anne's actions at this point are telling. She did not prepare to travel south for the coronation of Edward IV's son and did not commission sumptuous clothes for the occasion, suggesting that she knew the coronation would not take place. History often has Anne being passive or disapproving of Richard's crown heist, but there is no evidence of this and it is far more likely that having already brokered a favourable marriage for herself, she would not only be in favour, but would be the driving force behind the take over and put her in a position to avenge her father.

On July 6th 1483 at Westminster Abbey Richard was crowned as King and Anne as Queen.

It is not known whether their son, Edward of Middleham was present.  We know that he spent his life at Middleham castle and his governess was Anne Idley but little else can be said for sure about him except the tragic news that in April 1484, whilst Anne and Richard were at Nottingham, Edward of Middleham died. The parents went almost mad with grief.

Before too long, with Anne's health declining, Richard's thoughts turned to the future. His Queen would be unlikely to provide another heir and the following winter he was advised not to sleep with her.

On March 6th 1485, coincidentally following an eclipse of the sun, Anne died aged just 28, slipping from history as if she was not visible and being buried in an unmarked grave in Westminster Abbey; a quiet end to a dramatic life.

Anne was married to one prince, widowed and then married to a Duke who became a king; she changed sides in the cousins war not just once, but twice; she escaped from house arrest; forged her own future and claimed her inheritance, fulfilling the dreams of her father the Kingmaker, by becoming Queen of England. Her downfall was something she could not control - having poor health and only one child.


Croyland Chronical
P M Kendall
K L Clark
Professor A Pollard
A Licence
L Hilton
D Grummit
M Hicks

Further reading: 

The Nevills Of Middleham, K L Clark

Anne Neville: Richard III's Tragic Queen, A Licence

* Throughout the blog I have adopted the spelling of Nevill used by leading Nevill historian and author, K L Clark

© Diana Milne October 2017

Lisl Reviews The Popish Midwife by Annelisa Christensen

The Popish Midwife:
A Tale of High Treason, Prejudice and Betrayal

by Annelisa Christensen

Recipient of the Readers' Favorite and Bronze Award in the Christian Historical Fiction category of Readers' Favorite International Book Awards 2017

Please see below for information about how to win a FREE Kindle copy of 
The Popish Midwife 

There is a reality to my co-existence with seventeenth-century London: I’m not all that well versed in it. The little information stuffed into my head is probably what most people already know, affairs such as Charles I’s execution; rise of the Commonwealth and Protectorate; and return of Charles II, previously driven into exile following his father’s death in 1649.

Annelisa Christensen’s The Popish Midwife is set against the backdrop of this era’s heir: nearly twenty years into the Restoration and twelve following the Great Fire of 1666. Cromwell is long dead, but his vehement and divisive anti-Catholic bias endures, a lesson our popish protagonist learns after she is beaten in the streets by an entire thuggish family, solely for her religious beliefs.

Inspired by papers the author purchased merely for the thrill of holding 300-year-old documents, and which turned out to be from the historical trial of Elizabeth Cellier, Christensen pieces together true events of this era, when Catholicism was suspect and one Titus Oates speaks of a plot perpetrated by Catholics to remove the Protestant king and replace him with his younger—and Catholic—brother. Power had been shifting back and forth between the two religions since before Elizabeth I, though anti-Catholic sentiment prevailed with the Gunpowder Plot in 1605. This must have weighed heavily on Cellier’s mind upon her arrest as party to the conspiracy.

Before her 1680 trial, Elizabeth Cellier, a midwife devoted to the health and safety of others, fervently follows news and the welfare of those unjustly incarcerated—often her co-religionionists. As a frequent visitor to Newgate Prison, Cellier dispenses assistance in the form of sustenance as well as emotional and monetary support. Here she comes into contact with Captain Willoughby, a debtor inmate who provides her information in aid of her petition to the king regarding abuse of prisoners. Her involvement in what we know today as the Popish Plot endangers her family as she battles injustice on top of religious bigotry.

The novel opens with a strong and succinct preface providing background on the preceding years, then moves into Cellier’s first-person account, where Christensen succeeds marvelously with Cellier’s sketch of her individual and family history, and where that places her in society. The author’s point of view choice allows readers to more intensely relate to the protagonist and her work, indeed why she does it. This increases the overall narrative’s strength, providing a foundation for the midwife's reasoning as to why she ignores her beloved husband’s pleas about the peril she places them all in.

Christensen also has a way with dialogue as well as her prose, as her management of it surrounds readers with a real sense of the time. More modern than much of the historical fiction we tend to read, it nevertheless retains an aura of formality with its hierarchal speech patterns and conduct.

Lady Powys was undertaking to arrange a marital alliance between her nephew and the daughter of her close acquaintance, Lord Peterborough. She designed to appeal to him to agree a meeting with me that I could introduce him to the Captain, with the further hope that Lord Peterborough would then in turn introduce us to the Duke of York. The beauty of this meeting was that, not only had Lord Peterborough served beneath the Duke with the war in the Netherlands, but he had also set up, and defeated objections to, the marriage between the Duke and his chosen wife, Mary of Modena. The Duke was accordingly indebted to him and was, as hoped, prepared to make allowances for our using him to reach his brother.

In other instances, such as during and after the afore-mentioned assault, the author’s atmospheric language immerses us within the ways of the time, not unlike the manner in which a word such as cobblestone might, even when characters engage in similar acts we still ordinarily perform or encounter, albeit with modified character. Falling into the grimy water (reminiscent of waste disposal discussed in her preface), the “comforting crackle of the fire,” coins jangling into men’s palms as payment for a kind service provided, and the “clunking of the door latch” into place all reach into Elizabeth’s sensory experience of her time in a moment when she, like us, is removed from full participation of it.

Perhaps more than any other characteristic is Christensen’s ability to really touch an audience with this story of Elizabeth Cellier, fighting inequity as she endeavors to keep her family safe and intact. Her descriptions are vivid and jolting, and Cellier’s honest self-reflections are portrayed in such a way that we feel her keen embarrassment paired with upright defense of self against mob rule. The novel’s pacing—not quite as fast as some—not only places us in the moments, but also enables our ongoing feel of them as the characters might experience. Cellier isn’t a braggart, not by a long shot, yet we see her through her own eyes and recognize her courageous stand against brutality, as well as her reminder that freedom to opine never existed to protect popular positions. This is also acted out in dramatic scenes in which Cellier—Catholic, woman, married to a foreigner—speaks up, bold and daring. She is not what today’s feminists would envision, nor should she be, and Christensen stays true to the era.

It bears repeating that The Popish Midwife immerses us in the time, an especially impressive feat for those of us who tend to wander through other eras or, as in my own case, aren’t really as familiar with Charles II’s London as we might be. As I traversed the pages, I felt myself wandering the rainy streets, the shadows pulling around me as I avoid waste and mud in the streets, feel the still re-awakening of the people from a succession of horrific events, this newness tainted by fear and suspicion that the torture of Protestants in Mediterranean countries might reach their own shores.

The forbidding darkness of mood is periodically pierced by references to color, such as the bright red of Cellier’s distinctive and identifying midwife’s cape. Shown on the novel’s cover, it stands in stark contrast to the dark shade of the floor, kitchen implements, even Cellier’s clothes beneath it. There is a golden hue in the background, reminiscent of a light in darkness, though still in opposition to the vivid material of the cloak, which at one point Cellier loses, signaling both her fight against discrimination and the choices she must make as to how she will proceed: remain in the shadows or embrace her identity utilizing the internal as opposed to material?

From the lead up to “’Tis a plot, Madam, of the direst sort[,]” all the way through Cellier’s battles and acceptance of what she has done and plans for her future, Christensen’s lovely style of storytelling, as if Cellier is talking directly to us, captures the imagination and leads us through a tale of brutality and betrayal, individual and collective upheaval, treason and courage. To be able to reach deep into history and find one of the more obscure figures from it, as the author did on that auction day, and animate her in literary style, particularly for readers unfamiliar with the era, is no mean feat, and readers should hope Christensen never tires of the scrape, chaos and shuffle of the auction houses any time soon. 


To get in on the contest and your chance to win a FREE Kindle copy of The Popish Midwife, simply comment below OR at our Facebook page here. 

Drawing will be held November 13

About the author ...

Annelisa Christensen is a debut novelist, bringing history to life.

One day, several years ago, Annelisa won some pages of a seventeenth-century trial in an auction, merely to hold a piece of a 300-year-old book. That purchase changed her life. The defendant in the trial captivated her. The defendant's story demanded to be told. Annelisa's debut novel, The Popish Midwife, is based closely on the true story of Elizabeth Cellier, an extraordinary seventeenth-century midwife.

Annelisa's research revealed Cellier to be known in three areas of interest - for writing books, being caught in the Popish Plot and as a forward-thinking midwife - but her story was all in pieces and scattered. The author found the story inspirational and wanted to link it all together and share it with people of today. The result is a fantastic and exciting true story, which will keep you wanting to know how it ends.

Annelisa Christensen is also the author of A-Z Monsters (Not) for Bed, The Navigator, Pink River and Eve. You can follow her website, Script Alchemy, sign up for her newsletter, and keep up with news and views at Twitter and Facebook

Lisl is a reviewer with The Review as well as at her own blog, Before the Second Sleep, named after her habit of segmented sleep. She is a contributor to Naming the Goddess and her poetry has appeared in Alaska Women Speak and Bewildering Stories. She currently is working on sketches for a volume of poetry to be released in 2018 as well as a collection of novellas. She would like to learn to crochet, drive across the country and adopt a puppy, not necessarily in that order. 


Author image courtesy Annelisa Christensen

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Shakespeare, Riots, Refugees and Sir Thomas More

Shakespeare's handwriting in the Book of Sir Thomas Moore

Nothing changes. Immigration and refugees were as unwelcome in the time of Shakespeare as they are today. 

The above is part of the only surviving script to contain Shakespeare's writing. Three pages of the manuscript, ff. 8r, 8v and 9r, have been positively identified as Shakespeare’s, based on handwriting, spelling, vocabulary and the ideas and imagery expressed.

The play is about the life of Sir Thomas More, the Tudor polymath and lawyer who was put to death for refusing to acknowledge Henry VIII as Supreme Head of the Church in England. The work was initially written by Anthony Munday between 1596 and 1601, but The Master of the Revels, Edmund Tilney, whose role included stage censorship, refused to allow Sir Thomas More to be performed, most probably because he was worried that the play’s depiction of riots would provoke civil unrest on the streets of London.

After the Queen’s death in 1603, Shakespeare was brought in to revise the script, along with three other playwrights. Shakespeare’s additions include 147 lines in the middle of the action, in which More is called on to address an anti-immigration riot on the streets of London. 

He delivers a gripping speech to the aggressive mob, who are baying for so-called ‘strangers’ to be banished:

"You’ll put down strangers,
Kill them, cut their throats, possess their houses,
And lead the majesty of law in lyam
To slip him like a hound; alas, alas, say now the King,
As he is clement if th’offender mourn,
Should so much come too short of your great trespass
As but to banish you: whither would you go?
What country, by the nature of your error,
Should give you harbour? Go you to France or Flanders,
To any German province, Spain or Portugal,
Nay, anywhere that not adheres to England,
Why, you must needs be strangers, would you be pleas’d
To find a nation of such barbarous temper
That breaking out in hideous violence
Would not afford you an abode on earth.
Whet their detested knives against your throats,
Spurn you like dogs, and like as if that God
Owed not nor made not you, not that the elements
Were not all appropriate to your comforts,
But charter’d unto them? What would you think
To be us’d thus? This is the strangers’ case
And this your mountainish inhumanity."

It is no major stretch of imagination to see these words being addressed at the riots in Charlottesville, in Virginia USA in August 2017; the Dover riots in England in February 2016; the Pretoria riots in South Africa in February 2017; in Stockholm; in Calais ... I could go on... and on...

More relies on human empathy to make his point: if the rioters were suddenly banished to a foreign land, they would become ‘wretched strangers’ too, and equally vulnerable to attack. In an article under the name of the British Library, critic Jonathan Bate is cited as saying: ‘More asks the on-stage crowd, and by extension the theatre audience, to imagine what it would be like to be an asylum-seeker undergoing forced repatriation.’ 

Though proving that ''More’s'' words were indeed written by Shakespeare is no sinecure, in their empathy for the plight of the alienated and dispossessed they seem to show a similarity to the insights of great dramas of race such as The Merchant of Venice and Othello. Whoever wrote them had a fine understanding for the way rhetoric can sway a crowd and also a sharp eye for the troubled relationship between ethnic minorities and majorities.

From various sources including: 

© Diana Milne 22/10/17

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Diana talks to Nicky Moxey

Hello Nicky. Let's see if I can ask you some unusual questions today!! So.... ask your own question and answer it!

Why do you write?
Because these characters in my head insist I do! Honestly, Doctor, I know the voices are from the 12thC…

If your latest book Sheriff and Priest was adapted into a TV show or a film, who would you like to play the lead role?
Hmmm - well I rather fancy the guy who’s on the cover, if he’s an actor! 

What made you choose this genre?
I’ve always loved the sort of historical fiction which fleshes out the bones of history – which allows you a possible glimpse into the motivation and thought processes behind the bare facts.
But the bulk of my books at home are science fiction; I’m also attracted to the complete freedom of that genre. Maybe I ought to start writing alternate history!

How do you get ideas for plots and characters?
I stand in the corner with a baseball bat and try and fight them off – when I started writing, I used to write every interesting idea down on an index card. I gave up when the piles of shoeboxes started to get in the way…I think I’m up to 8 books waiting to be written, and I’ve lost count of short stories. My problem is too many ideas, not too few!

Favourite picture or work of art?
Only one?! <wibbles chin> - that’s HARD. I own a seal matrix that was last used in 1236 by an Abbot of Coggeshall called Geoffrey; the art work in that is stunning, it’s beautifully carved and gilded bronze in a piece about an inch and a half high. But as usual, it’s the story that grabs me – poor old Geoffrey was in his early 80s; I think he was making for an abbey the other side of Woodbridge in Suffolk, and was heading for Wimer’s priory to break his journey in the middle and get a night’s rest. I found his seal no more than a quarter of a mile away from my Priory; I think the poor old boy had a heart attack or a stroke, and his people were far more interested in getting him to help, than in worrying about where his personal seal went. It would have been destroyed on his death, probably; it’s a most wonderful happenstance that it ended up in my hands.

If, as a one off, (and you could guarantee publication!) you could write anything you wanted, is there another genre you would love to work with and do you already have a budding plot line in mind?
Oh yes. If I write something that diverges from historical fact, I shall call it science fiction; and I really want to write my father’s story as a novel, which I guess will be contemporary fiction.

Was becoming a writer a conscious decision or something that you drifted into (or even something so compelling that it could not be denied?) How old were you when you first started to write seriously.
I’ve always written; and I’ve always been a storyteller. I remember telling stories well after lights out at boarding school, taking things to one ending after another, desperate to get to sleep, and the audience demanding “just one more bit!”, lol – but I decided to write a novel when I was 50. It seemed to be a good time to decide what I wanted to do when I grew up!

Marmite? Love it or hate it?
Love J

I promise I won’t tell them the answer to this, but when you are writing, who is more important, your family or your characters?
I live alone J

Other than writing full time, what would be your dream job?
Archaeologist. Or archivist. Or chocolate tester J

Coffee or tea? Red or white?
Coffee – with cream if it’s “real” coffee, please, otherwise with milk. Red wine, always! And a drop of whisky, if you’re asking.

How much of your work is planned before you start? Do you have a full draft or let it find its way?
I sit down and write a skeleton plot. I intend to carry it everywhere… but life intervenes, and the book gets written in notebooks or scraps of paper with no reference to the plot. Then at some point in the editing process, I go back and see what I’ve actually written, as compared to Plan A, and use the strongest elements from both.

If you had free choice over the font your book is printed in, what font/fonts would you choose?
I read somewhere that Georgia makes everything more believable… but I’d like to ask YOU that question! Answer from Diana with her letterpress seller's hat on. I am totally with you on Georgia. Failing that I like good old fashioned Times Roman. I genuinely don't think they can be beaten by any of the other fonts. 

Imagine that you could get hold of any original source document. What would it be?
Oooo. Great question! I’m still hunting for several of the Dodnash Priory charters, they would be nice. But I’d LOVE to see William the Bastard’s journal from the last period when he hosted Harold Godwineson, to see how much he manipulated that encounter, and how much he took advantage of later events. In fact, pretty much any journal from, say, the 6th-13th centuries would be good, especially if it were written by a non-royal woman. WHAT a source!

Have any of your characters ever shocked you and gone off on their own adventure leaving you scratching your head??? If so how did you cope with that!?
They all do, don’t they? Once you breathe life into them, they do their own thing! My job is then to make sure they stick to what actually happened, instead of seizing their chance for a second go!

How much research do you do and do you ever go on research trips?
Well, I think my archaeology counts as research; and spending time in the archives definitely does. I think, all told, Sheriff and Priest probably took 4 years to research. And because it’s based in Suffolk, where I live, I’ve visited every place in the book – I know some of the fields down to the division between clay and sandy soil; I’ve metal detected them systematically, reading the history literally inch by inch.

Are you prepared to go away from the known facts for the sake of the story and if so how do you get around this?
Pretty much no. At least not if I’m writing HISTORICAL fiction. Unless the story demands it, anyway – but then I think I’d prefer to write a different story than bend the facts significantly. I rather like taking the strictures of known fact and wrapping those bones in the story – but then I write in eras where there aren’t too many inconvenient facts around to complicate things!

Have you ever totally hated or fallen in love with one of your characters?
Wimer. I’ve spent so much time with him! On the hill overlooking the original priory, there’s an old oak stump, which in the right light looks like a monk with his hood up. When I’m upset, I go and tell that monk all my troubles…

What do you enjoy reading for pleasure?
Anything with print on J I always have 3 or 4 books on the go at any one time. Which is a good job, given the size of my TBR…

Last but not least... favourite author?
No WAY can I choose!

About Nicky:

I live in the middle of rural Suffolk, UK, and am owned by a slinky black cat who's far too clever for her own good.

In my spare time, I'm an amateur historian/archaeologist, and in non-work daylight hours am usually out on a field somewhere with a metal detector and/or a trowel. I've added quite a few things to the Heritage England Record and the Portable Antiquities Scheme; but what really fascinates me is the stories behind the artefacts.

My first historical novel, Sheriff and Priest, is about the story of a local boy made good - Wimer the Chaplain was born in Dodnash in Suffolk of a poor Saxon family, but made it to be a confidant of Henry ll, holding down the job of High Sheriff for all Norfolk and Suffolk. Then he gave it all up and came home to found a Priory... finding the original site of that Priory (not where it's shown on the map) is still one of my proudest discoveries.

I also have a series of short stories about Henry Baker, a boy who finds a magic pencil on the way to school - I have no idea where these come from, but I enjoy writing them :)

I hope you find as much pleasure in my books as I get from creating them. I've added my Twitter account so you can contact me; I also have a Facebook page under my name. I also have an Etsy account - MagpiesRevenge - where I showcase the lovely flints I pick up whilst fieldwalking.

Thanks for reading!

Author Sharon Bennett Connolly recently reviewed Nicky's book. You can read her excellent review here, but please note the competition is now closed. Sharon Reviews The Sheriff and the Priest.

© Diana Milne January 2017 © Nicola Moxey 2017