25 July 2021

Visiting Windsor Castle - The Tudor History & Travel Show


Dr Sarah Morris of The Tudor Travel Guide kindly invited me to talk about visiting Windsor Castle - the oldest castle in permanent occupation, in the new episode of her Tudor History & Travel Show: 


St George’s Chapel is within the grounds of Windsor Castle and was founded by King Edward III. Many successive royals have made their own ‘improvements’ and the chapel was seriously damaged by looters during the English Civil War.

There is a real sense of being at the heart of English History as you enter, as it is the spiritual home of the Order of the Garter and burial place of many kings. I spotted the portcullis badge of Margaret Beaufort everywhere, as well as the Dragon and Greyhound of King Henry VII.

The chapel is also full of surprises. I found I was looking at the tomb of King Edward IV, buried with ‘Elizabeth Widvile’.  The tomb had been ‘lost’ then rediscovered during restoration work in 1789, which explains its modern appearance. (When the tomb was found many ‘relics’ were taken, including locks of Edward's hair – and liquid from the bottom of the coffin!)

I was listening to the audio tour as I entered the quire and was amazed when I was asked to look up to the left of the altar. That morning I’d been writing about Catherine of Aragon watching Henry VIII’s jousting from an ornate wooden gallery.

There above me was another - the wooden gallery from where Queen Catherine would sit to watch services in the chapel, as well preserved as if she is expected to arrive at any moment.

I think Catherine would have approved of Prince Harry's marriage - and would perhaps have some useful advice about the challenges of being a young, foreign princess in the English royal family!
Henry VIII’s tomb occupies the middle of the quire and is surprising both for its simplicity and the company we’ve chosen for him to keep in eternity – as well as Jane Seymour, Henry is buried with the beheaded body of King Charles Ist and a stillborn son of Queen Anne. (If you’d like to know more about Henry’s tomb see Natalie Grueninger's post at 'On The Tudor Trail'.)

Having failed to find the tomb of Charles Brandon, I asked a guide and discovered it in the south transit, half covered by a wooden bench seat and under a life-sized portrait of King Edward III adjacent to the tomb of King Henry VI.  Interestingly, it refers to Mary Tudor as ‘Married Mary daughter of Henry VII, Widow of Louis XII King of France.


And what about Mary Tudor’s tomb? She died in Suffolk on 25 June 1533 and Charles Brandon paid for a fine tomb Bury St Edmunds Abbey. When the abbey was destroyed during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, her remains were taken to St. Mary’s Church, also in Bury St Edmunds, and placed under a modest slab – another long trip from Wales which I talk about here

Tony Riches

23 July 2021

Special Guest Post by Stephanie Kline, The Tudor Enthusiast


Thank you so much, Tony, for inviting me to share a little bit about The Tudor Enthusiast here today! It’s an exciting time for me and my Tudor Enthusiast community, as today marks 10 years maintaining this blog and website and keeping up with this ever-growing community of likeminded sixteenth-century fans! I’m thrilled to be sharing the story of The Tudor Enthusiast, as well as my plans for the future, with you and your readers today in celebration.

It’s been a fun road getting here! It started as a simple online journal of sorts (because I, a Tudor enthusiast myself for 5+ years at the time, couldn’t seem to find enough people with whom to discuss the fascinating Tudor period!). I thought that writing a blog would be fun – a place to ask my own questions about the period, initiate my own research, and talk about virtually anything and everything to do with the Tudor figures, places, and events that interested me most. 

This led to the creation of a Tudor Enthusiast Facebook page, which (much to my pleasant surprise) gained followers and fans quickly (now up to around 4,400)! In time, I was sharing book recommendations and writing reviews on Tudor fiction and nonfiction – which attracted the attention of a number of authors and publishing companies, all of whom began generously sending me books to review. (To date, my “Book Recommendations” tab remains one of the most visited pages of my website.)

Today, The Tudor Enthusiast has expanded to three social media platforms – creating active communities on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. My popular “On this day in Tudor history…” posts are shared most days, and I try to write more extensive blog posts at least weekly. Of course, I continue my book reviews, with a goal of posting at least one per month (which always involves both a full book review blog post, as well as a shorter synopsis of my thoughts on the “Book Recommendations” page). Excitingly, I’ve also been able to share a number of exclusive author interviews, which prove to be some of my most popular posts. Adding authors and fellow historians to The Tudor Enthusiast community is truly one of the best parts of running this website!

My most exciting Tudor Enthusiast update to date is the book deal I signed in February with Pen & Sword Books UK. They kindly asked me if I would be interested in writing an updated biography of King Edward VI for them, and I have been busily working on the manuscript for the last five months. 

This will be my first traditionally-published book, and while the research and writing of it has been a challenge (I am a full-time employee, wife, and mother living in the US – far from any primary sources held in the UK, and prohibited from travelling during the pandemic!), I am nevertheless finding it incredibly fun and fulfilling. It’s been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember to publish history books (both fiction and nonfiction), so my work-in-progress on Edward VI is well worth the challenge. 

In addition, I’ve been working on a fun side project for the past several months, and though I hesitate to share too much (as I can’t be sure how it’ll turn out at this point), it is my first real attempt at Tudor fiction. I have chosen to create a fictional Tudor midwife as my main character, who’s called to attend the new Queen of England, Anne Boleyn, as she delivers King Henry VIII’s child in 1533. 

What will ensue from there is an account of Anne’s time as queen, her struggle to provide the long-awaited son and heir, and my character’s view of her ultimate downfall. Of course, there is much left to write (as of now, I have only around 30,000 sloppy words), but this is a project that has been great fun to explore in my free time. I’m excited to see what comes of it, and of course I’ll keep my readers updated! 

It’s been a whirlwind 10 years of writing The Tudor Enthusiast and engaging with my incredibly supportive, enthusiastic, and intelligent readers. It’s amazing to look back at the simple origins of this website and to think how far it’s come – culminating in thousands of readers, a book deal, and the demand to keep churning out blog posts and social media content! 

I’m thrilled to be able to share my thoughts and writing with my Tudor Enthusiast community, and to have so much to look forward to in the future. With any luck, this website will continue growing in the years to come, and I’ll have plenty more exciting updates and opportunities to share. Here’s to another 10 years!

Stephanie Kline

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About the Author

Stephanie (The Tudor Enthusiast) is a historian and author based in Northern Virginia, USA. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from George Mason University (2014), as well as a Master of Studies degree in Modern British and European History from Mansfield College, University of Oxford (2015). Her post-graduate dissertation topic of research explored the posthumous reputations of late-Plantagenet kings during the Tudor period, and their influences on sixteenth-century England.  When not writing, Stephanie can be found reading, riding horses, or spending time with her husband, Jason, and son, Henry. Find out more at The Tudor Enthusiast and on Facebook and Twitter @TudorEnthusiast



21 July 2021

Guest Interview with Barbara Greig, Author of Discovery


Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

When Elizabeth Gharsia’s headstrong nephew, Gabriel, joins Samuel Champlain’s 1608 expedition to establish a settlement at Quebec, he soon becomes embroiled in a complicated tribal conflict. As months turn into years, Gabriel appears lost to his family.

I'm pleased to welcome author Barbara Greig to The Writing Desk: 

Tell us about your latest book

My latest book, Discovery, is set against a back-drop of European persecution and New World conflict, and weaves together the stories of three generations of one family, the Gharsias, during the tumultuous early seventeenth century. Centred on the feisty Elizabeth Gharsia, the narrative sweeps from England and south-west France to North America. 

I wanted to depict the power of love and friendship, the searing nature of loss, and the tremendous courage that can be found in challenging circumstances. Discovery highlights the role of women in the seventeenth century and the tragedy of dispossessed people. It is also a story about family secrets.

Eager for adventure, Elizabeth’s headstrong nephew, Gabriel, joins Samuel Champlain’s 1608 expedition to establish a settlement at Quebec while her father, Luis, struggles with the frailties of old age.

Unbeknown to Elizabeth and Luis, Gabriel chafes at the monotonous, restrictive life of a colonist and he soon becomes embroiled in tribal conflict as Champlain supports the Montagnais and Huron tribes against the fiercest of the Iroquois nations, the Mohawk. As months become years, Gabriel appears lost to his family, raising the issues around separation, especially its impact on those left behind.

At home in Cahors, south-west France, Elizabeth’s world is turned upside down by the arrival of Pedro Torres, a Morisco refugee like her father. Rescued from starvation on the streets of Marseille by Elizabeth’s brother, Thomas, Pedro is a victim of the brutal expulsion of his people from Spain. I have always been interested in the fate of the Moriscos ever since I learnt about them in school many moons ago and my debut novel Secret Lives was inspired by this interest. Although Secret Lives was about Luis Gharsia, I wrote Discovery as a standalone book as I wanted to avoid creating a sequel in a series. 

Initially antagonistic, Elizabeth gradually comes to appreciate Pedro’s qualities while she copes with the sorrow of her father’s death. Confused and grieving, she discovers her mother’s journals hidden by Luis and searches for the reason why her father died with a woman’s name on his lips which was not her mother’s. As she reads her mother’s words, Elizabeth comes to understand the complexity of her family and to acknowledge her own feelings.

What is your preferred writing routine?

I prefer to write in the mornings as I’m a morning person. I always used to write by hand and then word-process my work in the afternoon, editing it as I typed. I still do this for trickier sections e.g. when I was writing the journal extracts for Discovery. However, after typing thousands of words I suddenly found that I could type at speed and think simultaneously. It was a revelation!

The above sounds quite structured and organised which is misleading. I have to be in the mood to write, family life can be very distracting, and my ‘study’ is a table in the corner of our spare bedroom. I do need complete silence in order to work and I still edit as I go along, chapter by chapter. I have my research notes handy but don’t refer to them while actually writing. – I revise what is historically relevant for a chapter before I start and then concentrate on the story.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

I’m not sure that I’m established enough to pass on advice but here goes. I believe you should be true to yourself. Listen to others but don’t be unduly influenced by them. The myriad of books published shows us wonderful diversity.

When you read advice it is often conflicting. “Write about what you know” – yet I have had great fun researching what I don’t know. Perhaps find a balance? For me, I write the type of books I like reading. I definitely agree with “Read as much as possible, anything and everything”. 

One final piece of advice would be to persevere. Write, write, write – if you are not happy with your work you can edit it until you are. You can do it!

What have you found to be the best way to raise awareness of your books?

Not sure I have cracked that yet! On a small scale word of mouth has worked well. There is a difference between awareness and sales. With Secret Lives I did talks to various local groups and really enjoyed it, getting good feedback which generated sales. This opportunity isn’t available at the moment for Discovery so I’m hoping writing this and being online does the trick!

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research.

Mist rising from the St Lawrence

My “something” is related to my research for Gabriel’s experience in the ‘New World’ in Discovery. My husband and I drove the length of Gabriel’s journey along the St Lawrence and down Lake Champlain. I was aware of the St Lawrence being the mighty River of Canada but I was unprepared for its awe-inspiring vastness and how emotional I felt. A photo I took of the river was the inspiration for the book’s cover. 

Inspiration for the cover

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

When Elizabeth Gharsia arrives to find Luis dead. It is very hard to write about the death of a character who is so real to you and it invokes your own personal memories. Sadly, fictional characters like our own loved ones can’t be immortal. I did toy with the idea of writing a novel without any death in it but that proved impossible if I wanted the story to be realistic.

What are you planning to write next?

I am planning, researching, and have started writing a novel inspired by my Shetland forebears. At this stage, it is a dual timeline narrative set in the nineteenth century and in the present day which is a new departure for me. Before the pandemic stopped us travelling.

Ruined croft, Shetland

I visited Shetland to do some research and immediately felt at home. I hope I can do the islands justice in my writing. I’ve included a picture of me soaking up the atmosphere by regarding a ruined croft where my great great grandfather could have lived.

Barbara Greig

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About the Author

Barbara Greig was born in Sunderland and lived in Roker until her family moved to Teesdale. An avid reader, she also discovered the joy of history at an early age. A last-minute change of heart, in the sixth form, caused her to alter her university application form. Instead of English, Barbara read Modern and Ancient History at Sheffield University. It was a decision she never regretted. Barbara worked for twenty years in sixth form colleges, teaching History and Classical Civilisation. Eventually, although enjoying a role in management, she found there was less time for teaching and historical study. A change of focus was required. With her children having flown the nest, she was able to pursue her love of writing and story-telling. She has a passion for hiking, and dancing, the perfect antidotes to long hours of historical research and writing, as well as for travel and, wherever possible, she walks in the footsteps of her characters. Find Barbara's on Facebook and Twitter @BarbaraGreig_

20 July 2021

Historical Fiction Spotlight - ‘Tho I Be Mute, by Heather Miller

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Home. Heritage. Legacy. Legend.

In 1818, Cherokee John Ridge seeks a young man’s education at the Foreign Mission School in Cornwall, Connecticut. While there, he is overcome with sickness yet finds solace and love with Sarah, the steward’s quiet daughter. Despite a two-year separation, family disapproval, defamatory editorials, and angry mobs, the couple marries in 1824.

Sarah reconciles her new family’s spirituality and her foundational Christianity. Although, Sarah’s nature defies her new family’s indifference to slavery. She befriends Honey, half-Cherokee and half-African, who becomes Sarah’s voice during John’s extended absences.

Once arriving on Cherokee land, John argues to hold the land of the Cherokees and that of his Creek neighbors from encroaching Georgian settlers. His success hinges upon his ability to temper his Cherokee pride with his knowledge of American law. Justice is not guaranteed.

Rich with allusions to Cherokee legends, ‘Tho I Be Mute speaks aloud; some voices are heard, some are ignored, some do not speak at all, compelling readers to listen to the story of a couple who heard the pleas of the Cherokee.

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About the Author

Heather Miller has spent twenty-three years teaching her students the author’s craft. Now, she is writing it herself, hearing voices from the past. Miller’s foundation began in the theatre, through performance storytelling. She can tap dance, stage-slap someone, and sing every note from Les Misérables. Her favorite role is that of a fireman’s wife and mom to three: a trumpet player, a future civil engineer, and a future RN. There is only one English major in her house. While researching, writing, and teaching, she is also working towards her M FA in Creative Writing. Heather’s corndog-shaped dachshund, Sadie, deserves an honorary degree. Find out more at Heather's website heathermillerauthor.com and follow her on Twitter @HMHFR

19 July 2021

Historical Fiction Spotlight - The Queen of the Citadels (The King’s Germans, Book 3) By Dominic Fielder


Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

October 1793: The French border.

Dunkirk was a disaster for the Duke of York’s army. The French, sensing victory before the winter, launch attacks along the length of the border. Menen is captured and the French now hold the whip hand. Nieuport and Ostend are threatened, and Sebastian Krombach finds himself involved in a desperate plan to stop the Black Lions as they spearhead the French advance. 

Werner Brandt and the men of 2nd Battalion race to Menen to counterattack and rescue Erich von Bomm and the Grenadiers, whilst von Bomm struggles to save himself from his infatuation with a mysterious French vivandière.

Meanwhile, dark and brooding, the citadel of Lille dominates the border. The Queen of the Citadels has never been captured by force. The allies must now keep Menen, which guards Flanders, and seize Lille to open the road to Paris. 

All of this must be done under the watchful eyes of a spy in the Austrian camp. Juliette of Marboré is fighting her own secret war to free Julian Beauvais, languishing in the Conciergerie prison, and waiting for his appointment with the guillotine, as the Terror rages in Paris.

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About the Author

Dominic Fielder has had careers in retail and the private education sector and is currently working as a secondary school Maths teacher. He has a First-class honours degree in history and a lifetime’s interest in the hobby of wargaming. The King's Germans series is a project that grew out of this passion He currently juggles writing and research around a crowded work and family life. Whilst self-published he is very grateful for an excellent support team. He lives just outside of Tavistock on the edge of Dartmoor. where he enjoys walking on the moors and the occasional horse-riding excursion as both writing inspiration. Find Dominic on Twitter @Kings_Germans

16 July 2021

Special Guest Post by R.A. Denny, Author of The Alchemy Thief


New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

A tale of hope, resilience, and the indomitable spirit of a woman, this sweeping epic spans the Atlantic from New England to Morocco during the Age of Exploration.

Thanks so much for inviting me to your blog, Tony.  I’m excited to talk about my journey writing The Alchemy Thief.

I began this journey surrounded by leather bound books in the Library of Congress in Washington, DC, when I was 11 years old.  My mother had brought me along to help with her genealogy, but we weren't just looking for names and dates, we were looking for stories.  

Years later, after retiring from my career as a criminal lawyer, the seeds that were sown in that library led me to the narrow, crowded streets of Tangier, Morocco, my nostrils filled with the familiar smell of leather and the exotic scents of cinnamon and cumin.  


Dar El Makhzen, Tangier, Morocco 
 seen from the Place de Mechouar

As a child, I was enamored with my Mayhew ancestors who settled on Martha’s Vineyard in the 1640’s.  My direct ancestor, Hannah Mayhew, managed her own extensive real property from the time she was 18, raised ten children, and was known as the “Deputy Governor” of the island.  The details of her life shatter the stereotype of the submissive Puritan woman.  My 11-year-old-self longed to travel back in time to meet her.

Hannah’s brother, Reverend Thomas Mayhew, Jr. was a missionary among the more than 3,000 Wampanoag who lived on the island.  He and the young schoolmaster, Peter Folger, (Benjamin Franklin’s grandfather,) taught the indigenous girls and boys on the island to read and write.  Two of the Wampanoag children later matriculated to Harvard University.  

In 1657, when Reverend Mayhew embarked on a voyage to London to gain support from the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in New England, he chose the son of the minor sachem Myoxeo to accompany him.  This young Wampanoag’s name has been lost to history, but in The Alchemy Thief, I call him Daniel.  A grand procession of Wampanoag bid them farewell.  But the ship, the Hopewell, never reached London.  Many sources jump to the conclusion that all the passengers drowned.  But did they?  One line haunted me for years.  Reverend Mayhew’s father hoped they were captured by “Algerines.” 

As an adult, I returned to the mystery of the lost ship.  In an effort to learn what happened to the Hopewell, I delved into 17th century New England and Moroccan history.  

Thanks to Disney, when most people think of pirates, they think of the pirates in the Caribbean.  But they weren't the only scourge of the seas in the 1600s.  The "Algerines" from Northern Africa were a very real danger.  

When ships captains crossed the Atlantic, they faced not only the forces of nature but the Salé Rovers, corsairs from Morocco who sought foreign loot and Christian slaves. The Salé Rovers didn’t just attack ships, they raided the coasts as far away as Iceland.  They owned the Island of Lundy in the Bristol Channel and they sacked Baltimore, Ireland.

Between 1600 and 1700, from 800,000 to a million Christians were captured by “Algerines” and sold as slaves in North Africa.  Numerous captivity narratives became popular during that time, both as fiction and nonfiction. 

The character of Robinson Crusoe in Daniel Defoe’s famous novel was captured by Salé Rovers but then escaped before being stranded on an island.  Anne Bradstreet, the first poet published in America, wrote about her son’s narrow escape from danger onboard the sister ship to the Hopewell.

Have you ever wondered why the British and Continental Europeans colonized the New World but the North Africans and Ottomans did not?  In the late 16th century, Ahmad al-Mansur of Morocco planned to colonize North America to create a Muslim caliphate that spanned the Atlantic.  

He approached Elizabeth I of England and proposed that they unite to conquer Spain’s American colonies.  Elizabeth I turned him down.  In 1603, both Elizabeth I and al-Mansur died.  After the plague ended his life, al-Mansur’s empire crumbled and his dream of an American caliphate was lost during in-fighting between his sons.  

In 1609, the Moriscos, Muslims who had converted to Christianity, were expelled from Spain.  Many Moriscos fled across the Strait of Gibraltar into North Africa where they settled in an abandoned fort along the Bou Regreg River and built the city of New Salé, which is modern Rabat.  


Kasbah wall with cannon in Tangier, Morocco

The Moriscos funded acts of piracy against Spain.  Sailors from all over flocked to New Salé.  Many European sailors “turned Turk,” by repeating the Shahada and submitting to circumcision.  The Salé Rovers formed the Independent Republic of Salé (Bou Regreg,) a pirate republic.  Employing advanced shipbuilding and navigation techniques, the Salé Rovers ranged far across the Atlantic, capturing Christians from multiple nations to sell in the slave markets.

By 1657, when Thomas Mayhew and his young Wampanoag set sail on the Hopewell, a Sufi group called the Dili-ites controlled New Salé, but the Salé Rovers were allowed to continue capturing ships and selling the slaves, as long as the Dili-ites received their 10%.  

Governor Mayhew believed his son and Myoxeo’s son may have been captured by “Algerines” in 1657 when The Hopewell went missing.  My research led me to believe this was entirely plausible and besides, it makes a great story.  I hope readers of The Alchemy Thief will agree.

During my research, I discovered that John Winthrop, Jr., the 17th century governor of Connecticut was an alchemist.  He believed investigations into natural philosophy along with the conversion of the American Indians to Christianity would lead to the Second Coming of Christ and a return to paradise. 

As part of his efforts to achieve these goals, Winthrop had invited Reverend Mayhew to bring his Wampanoag converts to Connecticut to help convert the other tribes.

Likewise, al-Mansur had sought to create a transatlantic caliphate to bring about paradise and the end times, fashioning himself as the Mahdi.  Apocalyptic prophecies still motivate many groups of people in modern times.  I couldn’t resist the parallels of people disparate in time and place, all seeking their version of paradise.  So I added the twist of time travel.

In creating historical fiction, half the fun is the research.  When I started writing The Alchemy Thief, I had spent years researching the Wampanoag and Puritans and their role in New England history, but I knew next to nothing about the history of Morocco.  I found Moroccan history to be fascinating!  I hope The Alchemy Thief inspires my readers to take their own journey into the enthralling history of cultures different from their own.  

R.A. Denny

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About the Author

R.A. Denny is the author of two historical fiction and five fantasy novels.  Readers have described her books as deep, spirited, and imaginative. After receiving her Juris Doctor from Duke University, she practiced criminal law for over twenty years.  During that time, R.A. developed creative methods to educate the public about the law, presenting dramatic programs to over 300,000 people across the United States.  She produced a full-length feature film that screened internationally.  R.A. left the law to pursue her passion for writing.  She had promised her mother she would finish the research they had begun in the Library of Congress when R.A. was 11 years old.  One mysterious line about her 9th-great-grandfather led to years of research and a trip to Morocco.  The result is R.A.’s latest novel, The Alchemy Thief. An adventurous traveller, R.A. enjoys swimming, kayaking, and horseback riding.  She delights in pursuing creative projects with her two adult sons and playing with her two young grandsons.  Find out more at her website https://www.radennyauthor.com/ and find her on Goodreads and Twitter @RADennyAuthor

11 July 2021

Inspiration to Write Essex – Tudor Rebel

 

New on Amazon US and Amazon UK

Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, is one of the most intriguing men of the Elizabethan period. Tall and handsome, he soon becomes a ‘favourite’ at court, so close to the queen many wonder if they are lovers.

The truth is, of course, far more complex, as each has what the other yearns for. Robert Devereux longs for recognition, wealth and influence. His flamboyant naïveté amuses the ageing Queen Elizabeth, like the son she never had, and his vitality makes her feel young.

I decided to explore his story when writing the first book of my Elizabethan series, Drake – Tudor Corsair. Drake is appalled when the Earl of Essex steals one of his ships to sail in the ‘English Armada’ to Portugal and Spain.

Drake resented young nobles, having earned his place the hard way, yet despite his bluster, was secretly impressed by the earl’s daring in defying the queen – who’d specifically forbidden him to sail.     

I wanted to understand why Robert Devereux was driven to take such risks, when he knew his vengeful queen would be furious. I had access to all his surviving letters, which reveal an intriguing, deeply flawed character, always at the heart of events, the perfect subject for an historical novel.

I was lucky to have access to Robert Devereux’s personal letters, which offer a real insight into his character and state of mind throughout his life.


Letter from Robert Devereux to Queen Elizabeth

Transcript:

Hast [hasten], paper, to thatt happy presence whence only unhappy I am banished. Kiss thatt fayre correcting hand which layes new plasters to my lighter hurtes, butt to my greatest woond applyeth nothing. Say thou cummest from shaming, languishing, despayring, S.X.

Signed with the unimaginative Essex cipher, he should have known the queen well enough to realise this approach was unlikely to change her mind.

I also visited the Devereux Tower and Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula at the Tower of London, (where he lies close to Lady jane Grey and Anne Boleyn).


I particularly wanted to keep Robert’s story as factually accurate and authentic as possible, so immersed myself in the dangerous world of Elizabethan London. 

During my research I was amazed to find Robert Devereux lived at Lamphey Palace, twenty minutes from my home in Pembrokeshire. I also visited the Devereux Tower and Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula at the Tower of London, (where he lies close to Lady jane Grey and Anne Boleyn).

I hope readers will be able to tell that this book is one I’ve really enjoyed researching and writing, and that I’ve been able to find some of Robert Devereux’s redeeming qualities.

Tony Riches

10 July 2021

Book review: The First English Hero: The Life of Ranulf de Blondeville, by Iain Soden


Available from Amazon UK 
and for pre-order from Amazon US

I believe Ranulf de Blondeville would have raised an eyebrow at hearing he’s become known as the first English hero. Said to be shorter than average, bad tempered, a heavy drinker and gambler, he seems an unlikely hero - but there is no question he had a talent for being in the right place at the right time.

This highly readable, impeccably researched new book from Iain Soden succeeded in challenging my thinking on many aspects of early English history, from Richard the Lionheart to the Magna Carta. Like many, my knowledge of Ranulf was patchy at best, so I enjoyed following his ‘journey’ to support five kings and almost become regent of England.

Ranulf inherited his fortune when he was only eleven years old. His father, Hugh of Cyfeiliog, 5th Earl of Chester, died (possibly from poisoning), and at eighteen Ranulf was forced into a most unsatisfactory political  marriage to Constance, Duchess of Brittany (although it seems he later remarried for love).

I found Iain Soden’s comments on early English sources thought-provoking, as so much can be lost in translation. The absence of surnames doesn’t help the inevitable confusion between the different Ranulfs, as he was the third earl to bear the name.

Iain Soden suggests that without Ranulf de Blondeville, England would have been very different today, and after reading this book I have to agree. Highly recommended. 

Tony Riches

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About the Author

Iain Soden read Classics at Durham University and for over thirty years has been a professional archaeologist, specialising in aspects of medieval England. He is the author of numerous archaeological reports, journal articles and conference papers and has been a regular contributor to radio and television. He is Director of Iain Soden Heritage Services Ltd and lives in Long Buckby, Northamptonshire.

Disclosure: A review copy was kindly provided by the publishers,  Amberley.

9 July 2021

Historical Fiction Spotlight: Mendota and the Restive Rivers of the Indian and Civil Wars 1861-65, by Dane Pizzuti Krogman


Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

This is the fictional story set in Mendota, Minnesota of the Simmons family who are faced with the consequences of the Dakota Sioux Uprising of 1862 that swept across the state as well as the Civil War.

The father, Dan enlists in the 1st regiment of Minnesota volunteers as a teamster. His two sons, who are both underage join the 2nd Regiment. John, aged 16 becomes a bugler and William, aged 15 becomes a drummer. Their sister, Sara is left behind with their mother, Louise to fend for themselves. Dan is sent east to fight with the Army of the Potomac while his sons are sent to the western theater to serve in the army of the Cumberland. Back in Mendota, their neighbor and close friend, Colonel Henry Sibley is ordered to stay in the state to control the Indian uprising.

Dan will see action up through the battle of Antietam. He will later find himself in the hospital in Washington DC where he befriends a comrade also from the 1st Regiment. His sons barely miss the action at Shiloh but after, are engaged in all the major battles in the West. While they are passing through Louisville, William falls for a young woman, Mary who works as a hospital nurse. Back in Mendota, Sara befriends a young Chippewa native boy while her mother struggles with the breakup of her family. After Colonel Sibley defeats the Sioux, he is promoted to General and ordered to round up all the Dakota and push resettle them in the Dakotas.

This leads to the punitive expeditions that he and General Sully will command up until 1864. William is captured at the battle up Missionary Ridge and then sent to the prison camp at Belle Isle, VA. and then onto Andersonville. GA. John receives a 30 day furlough and returns to Mendota before he re-enlists. Louise and Sara wait for the war’s end so the family can be reunited, but events may not turn out as anticipated.

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About the Author

Dane Pizzuti Krogman was educated in the fine arts at the University of Minnesota, receiving BFA and MFA degrees. In 1998 he took a full time teaching position at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts where he taught art direction, life drawing, set construction, and Asian film studies, eventually becoming chairman of the department. He has lived in Kyoto, Japan for the past 20 summers studying Japanese kimono and obi design of the Heian and Edo periods. In 2002 he won the Grand Prize for the best graphic novel at the Hiroshima manga competition. His graphic Novel Skeleton boy was selected for inclusion into the Hiroshima peace memorial library in 2007. Dane was most recently an adjunct faculty member in the Graduate Program in Digital Filmmaking at Stony Brook Southampton. He is also an award-winning screenwriter. His screenplay, The Schooner was produced as the Australian film, AUSTRALIA in 2008. He has other award-winning films that have been optioned for production or are in production. He also works part-time as a crew member on a Grand-Am Rolex series race team. The team won the national championship in 2008. Find Dane on Twitter at @dekester09 

Special Guest Interview with Eric Schumacher, Author of Sigurd’s Swords (Olaf’s Saga, Book 2)


Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US


AD 968. It has been ten summers since the noble sons of the North, Olaf and Torgil, were driven from their homeland by the treachery of the Norse king, Harald Eriksson. Having then escaped the horrors of slavery in Estland, they now fight among the Rus in the company of Olaf’s uncle, Sigurd.



I'm pleased to welcome author Eric Schumacher to The Writing Desk:

Tell us about your latest book.

Thank you for having me on your blog! The latest book is the second book in my series about Olaf Tryggvason, who is one of the more colourful Vikings of the 10th century. The first book, Forged by Iron, tells the story of how Olaf was driven from his home in Norway by the treachery of his kinsman. Sigurd’s Swords recounts Olaf’s time fighting by his uncle’s side in the kingdom of the Rus (which we know today as Russia, Belarus and Ukraine). It is a tumultuous time in that area of the world and Olaf and his oath-sworn friend, Torgil, must use all of their cunning and all of their skill to stay alive.

What is your preferred writing routine?

Ah, I wish I had a daily routine. I have a day job, so my writing happens when I can find the time. Usually at night or on the weekends. I suppose the common thread, though, is that I need about two to three hours of quiet, uninterrupted time. Any longer and I find my writing starts to go stale. Any shorter than an hour and I feel like I haven’t had time to get into a groove.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Keep writing! Writing is a craft, and the only way you improve is by writing more. Oh, and find a good editor.

What have you found to be the best way to raise awareness of your books?

I’ve found blog tours like this one to be great ways to raise early awareness. After that initial boost, I’ve found a combination of advertising, promotions, and give-aways to work well. My publisher has historically taken care of the advertising and promotions, but I know it’s kept my books consistently visible on Amazon, which is my main retailer.

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research.

The one that stands out most is from an eyewitness account of a battle fought on the Danube in AD 971. It is a battle in which my characters find themselves toward the end of the book. In the historical account, written by a Byzantine eyewitness to the battle, the Greeks find female warriors among the dead Rus/Vikings. The existence of female Viking warriors is an ongoing debate among historians, but apparently, in this battle, they were there, at least according to this one eyewitness.

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

One of the book’s main characters, a female named Turid, is torn between her desire to follow her dream and the pressure she feels to do what society demands of her. The main character, Torgil, has difficulty understanding her dilemma and has his own personal feelings, too. All of this comes to a head in one particular scene in the book. I really wanted to get it right because it was so important for each character’s development and also for the plot, and so I laboured over each word, each body movement, and each expression. I must have written that scene ten different times.

What are you planning to write next?

Next up for me is book 3 in Olaf’s Saga, which will place Olaf in Northern Germany fighting for the German king, Otto II. I’ve already begun the writing and hope to release it late next year (2022).

Eric Schumacher
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About the Author

Eric Schumacher is an American historical novelist who currently resides in Santa Barbara, California, with his wife and two children. He was born and raised in Los Angeles and attended college at the University of San Diego. At a very early age, Eric discovered his love for writing and medieval European history, as well as authors like J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. Those discoveries continue to fuel his imagination and influence the stories he tells. His first novel, God's Hammer, was published in 2005. Find out more at Eric's website: www.ericschumacher.net and find him on Facebook and Twitter @DarkAgeScribe