January 1519 – Henry Vlll plus 500 years

 

Take a time travel trip back five hundred years with me to January 1519…

Henry Vlll has been on the throne of England for nearly ten years. He is in the prime of life at 27 years of age and has been married to Katherine of Aragon for nearly ten years. Their daughter Mary is approaching her third birthday soon, in February, but the mood at Court over the Christmas period would probably have been sombre. Katherine`s sixth pregnancy had seen a girl child born in November, but she had been weak and died within days.

Katherine may also have been missing her best friend and confidante, Maria de Salinas, her primary Lady in Waiting who had come over to England with her when Katherine had been travelling to marry Prince Arthur, Henry Vlll`s older brother. Maria de Salinas had been married off to Baron Willoughby d`Eresby of Lincolnshire a couple of years previously and was heavily pregnant with a girl-child, due to be born in March 1519. Maria, no doubt present during Katherine`s pregnancy and the sad loss of her little girl would, almost certainly, have been despatched to Lincolnshire in good time for her own `laying-in`.

By the way, Maria de Salinas and her daughter form part of the ancestry of our current Royal family as a matter of fact. Maria is the 18x Great Grandmother of Princes Harry and George through their mother Diana Spencer. I will tell you a little bit more about them in March when Maria`s daughter is born. Maria features quite significantly in my novel if you want to know more about her, see below for details of how to access the novel.

Another Lady-in-waiting would also have been sent away from Court for the duration of her pregnancy, too. Elizabeth Blount (Bessie Blount) was about three months pregnant by Christmas 1518 and was sent off to a Priory in Essex, where her child was to be born in June of 1519. The father – yes, you guessed – was, of course, Henry Vlll himself, who had formed a strong attachment to Bessie as a very young lady-in-waiting four or five years previously (she was around 12-14 when Henry first noticed her).

Clearly Henry was bedding Bessie during the latter stages of Katherine`s pregnancy, around September/October time – but Katherine had had to put up with Henry`s obsession for the girl for several years, so was probably relieved to see the back of her.

At this time the chief minister of England was Thomas Wolsey. He had become Dean of Lincoln back in February 1509 at the age of about 38 and later that year the newly crowned King had made him Lord Almoner, so he was beginning his rapid rise after a few years of relatively uninspiring plodding. By 1514 he was appointed Bishop of Lincoln and then before the end of the year, Archbishop of York. He had made himself indispensable to the young King during his war with France in 1513, at the same time having to help Katherine of Aragon tackle an invasion from Scotland – which ended very bloodily for the Scots in the Battle of Flodden.

He had been made a Cardinal and had become Chancellor of England in 1515. His stock had risen in the Church lately as well and had been made a Papal Legate by the Pope during 1518, responsible now as the Pope`s representative here in England. That was all to do with his success in establishing a major Peace Treaty in Europe called the Treaty of London. It seems somewhat ironic 500 years later when we are still trying to deal with Brexit that we have recently “celebrated” the quincentenary of the Treaty of London. Not only was this a Peace treaty, but Wolsey had managed to include in the treaty a clause which committed each member of the treaty to come to the aid of any other member who was attacked. An early attempt at a European Union!!

This success by Wolsey, during 1518, made him something of a “player” in the negotiations which developed following the death of the Holy Roman Emperor Maximillian, who died on 12th January 1519. His involvement also raised the profile of England in the European context, since the parties seeking to take on the role of becoming the new Holy Roman Emperor were all looking to get Henry Vlll on their side – Henry even gained some support for becoming the Holy Roman Emperor himself, though that did not happen in the end.

Emperor Maximillian – died 12th January 1519

I shall return to the issue of the Holy Roman emperor in later posts as the year develops and keep you up to date with who was doing what in 1519. In the meantime Louth in Lincolnshire was being its own peaceful self as a moderately wealthy market town over this Christmas period. In my version of the life and times of Nicholas Melton, Nicholas would be 18 coming up to 19.

Indeed, he was the same age as King Charles V of Spain and in the novel he had already visited Ghent as apprentice to London Shoemaker – Cobbler Kirkkgarde – when Kirkkgarde`s niece Marieke had married a chef in Charles` kitchens, just before Charles himself had had to travel to Spain in 1516 to establish his claim to the Aragon throne on the death of his grandmother Isabella. To give you a flavour of the novel, I am attaching an extract which explains how Nicholas Melton obtained his famous “Coat of Motley”, which involves his visit to Ghent!

 

The Coat of Motley

An unexpected excursion

It was only a few days after this ‘entertainment’ that Cobbler Kirkkgarde had sprung a complete surprise on Nicholas. Indeed, he could hardly believe his ears when the shoemaker said they would be going, the following Wednesday, to Kirkkgarde’s home town of Ghent. A niece of his, Marieke Molenaar, was getting married the week following on the Friday.

It was a surprise for Nicholas because it was nearly as much of a surprise for Kirkkgarde himself!

After her father died, when she was only fourteen, Johann Kirkkgarde had helped Marieke as much as possible with her upbringing – both financially and with her education. Now, she had just asked him to ‘give her away’ at her wedding.

She had grown up into a very independent woman. She was now twenty five and she had a small millinery business. Her uncle had helped her by buying her first few yards of material, but the sewing and selling skills were her own. She had resisted family pressures to pick a husband for her, and had chosen her own husband, in her own time.

Kirkkgarde was, formally, her guardian. But his own rather negative experience of being found a bride contributed a certain sympathy to her search for true love. When he had moved to England a few years previously he had not required her to move with him as she seemed settled where she was.

Nonetheless, now it was about to take place, she wanted the wedding to be as traditional as possible.

Johann Kirkkgarde was thoroughly delighted to be asked, not having children of his own; he felt it was a special honour and was looking forward to it tremendously. Sadly his wife had chosen not to go because she got fearfully seasick and was afraid of travelling so soon after the English war with the French. So, although he had spent much effort trying to persuade her to change her mind, she had refused point blank to leave London. And, since Nicholas and he seemed to be getting along so well as apprentice and master, he had decided to take him along as a companion for the journey.

“’Tis a long enough journey and can be trying without good company. I have been here and back quite a few times over the years and I have always been miserable when travelling on my own. Besides, it will be an experience for you, young man! Broaden your horizons, eh? So much more edifying than taking yourself to executions, grisly and bloody as they are!”

He shuddered theatrically, having been given an expurgated version of Nicholas’ day out with the apprentices!

Nicholas tried, half-heartedly at least, to be modest, and refuse the invitation, but Kirkkgarde would hear nothing of it; much to Nicholas’ secret delight! He wrote a short letter to his parents telling them of his prospective adventure, but it was likely that he would be nearly at his destination before the letter reached them in far-off Lincolnshire.

As near as he could tell from the many questions he asked of his mentor, the journey was not many more miles on land from London to Ghent than from Louth to London. It was, however, made more difficult and time consuming by the sea journey from England to France. It crossed his mind that he would get to see Calais as well, of course. Whether he would be able to get to the bottom of ‘Three-fingered Jack’s’ tall tale which he had recently heard in Newark’s hostelry, he thought unlikely.

Kirkkgarde explained that a hundred years ago, “…perhaps even only fifty…” they would have been able to travel all the way from London to Ghent by ship but the canal from the sea to the port of Ghent itself had silted up these past forty years so “… ’tis said that nothing but a rowboat could make it all the way up the canal now! But my father told me he could remember seeing sea-going ships when he was young.”

“So, my lad, we must needs ride to Dover, catch a barque to Calais and proceed overland to Ghent. I have been assured by the messenger who brought news of Marieke’s wedding that travelling is straightforward for men of business such as myself – and you, of course! – so I sent word straight back via the same messenger that we should be there in time for the wedding. I have to say, the short notice does suggest to my mind that Marieke has, perhaps, been rather naughty and she wishes to be wed before a child is born! But these things happen and, anyway, I may be misjudging the girl –  there may be a perfectly rational alternative explanation for her plight!”

They packed to travel light because Cobbler Kirkkgarde promised to buy them a new outfit of clothes when they arrived in Ghent “…’tis the capital of the cloth trade and I have a family interest in tailoring, so there will be no problem there!”

He made it all seem so matter-of-fact to Nicholas, who had assumed travelling between countries was so far out of his reach. They were on their way very quickly and there were no hitches on the way, either. Luck was with them, so much so, that they even managed to get passage on a Calais-bound ship the very morning after their arrival in Dover.

It helped that the cobbler seemed to know many of the sea-captains down on the harbour. He explained to Nicholas that he had always retained a number of customers in his hometown, and regularly came down to Dover to despatch several pairs of shoes each for well-off clients in the Netherlands. All his Ghent customers knew that their feet would be very comfortable with shoes made on the Kirkkgarde last, modelled directly from their feet, in the very finest leather he had managed to buy.

ddddd

Nicholas did not get chance to investigate Three-fingered Jack’s story, for they left Calais almost as soon as they arrived. They went to stay at an inn known to Kirkkgarde just two miles outside the city gate. They were up betimes, and made good speed the next day too.

They were thus entering the west gate of Ghent less than five days after setting off from London. Marieke was surprised to see them with so many days to spare before the wedding. But then Kirkkgarde chided her for her surprise, and the short notice, saying he expected she must be “…with child”, against his best advice when she was younger, and dependent upon him. She hugged him hard and laughed.

“I had forgotten just how resourceful you are Uncle Johann, to get here so quickly, but I am so very pleased you have done…you will be able to share in all the pre-nuptial preparations and celebrations…and NO – I am not ‘with child’. Fie upon such a thought!”

All of this exchange had gone on in a foreign tongue, of course, so Nicholas was at a loss as to what was said and had to have it all explained to him afterwards. He was still rather bemused to be here and realised how strange it must all have been for Kirkkgarde when he first came to England.

Nicholas was made most welcome, too, by the family. And after they were shown their respective beds, they were provided with some light refreshments as a stop-gap until later. Then there was to be a festive supper for all the arriving relatives, who seemed to be numerous; a lot of cousins, and uncles and aunts from other towns and cities in the Netherlands. Nicholas was allocated a bed in a room with three male cousins from three different towns, only two of the cousins having yet arrived.

ddddd

It turned out that the explanation for the hasty wedding was at once complex, based upon the politics of nations and royal succession, and yet now rendered unnecessary by those same considerations!

Marieke’s business as a milliner had attracted some customers from the court of the young King Charles (born in the same year as Nicholas, at the turn of the century) who succeeded to the throne in Ghent at the tender age of six, ten years previously. Marieke had attracted the interest of a handsome young sous-chef in the royal household who had, eventually, proposed marriage at a date to be determined in the future. He was a rather shy young man.

Charles was King of the Burgundian Netherlands, which title he inherited from his father, Philip the Handsome, who was married to Joanna the Mad, elder sister of Catherine of Aragon, Queen of England.

Charles was quite happy being king in his home town of Ghent. But his grandfather, Ferdinand, Catherine of Aragon’s father, had just died. In their wisdom, the Spanish nobility decided Charles should not only be co-ruler of Spain, as regent, with his barking-mad mother, Joanna, as queen, but he should be crowned co-ruler as the first king of a unified Spain. The Spanish nobles said that this meant that he had to be in Spain to receive his crown!

That, in turn, meant that most of his court would have to move to Spain with him, not least his sous-chef, who was renowned for the wonderful creations of cakes and delicious sweet dishes in which he specialised.

And that, in turn, meant that Marieke had to marry her man straight away or lose him to Spain and the blandishments of Spanish senoritas. And then, having set the wedding date in short order, necessitating Johann’s hasty journey from London, King Charles, the first of all Spain, suddenly decided he would only travel to Spain when it suited him.

And what suited him was to wait until next year – so the sous-chef and the milliner need not have rushed their wedding after all!

All of this, and several digressions, took Marieke quite some time to explain to Johann and much longer to explain it all in English to Nicholas, especially when some of Johann’s relatives tried ‘helping’ with the explanation, in their very broken English; all of which tended to hinder Nicholas’ understanding rather than help it.

The explanation was also interrupted when Johann’s tailoring and cloth-making cousins arrived, and negotiations were put in hand to provide the cobbler and his apprentice with new clothes fit for the wedding. It was clear that Marieke had a significant influence upon the clothes her uncle would be wearing to give her away.  For his part, Uncle Johann simply acquiesced to her decision making!

Nicholas discovered she was a strong-minded woman as well as good-looking in a blond Netherlandish way. So, when it came to his clothes, he was so pleased to be getting a new outfit that he anticipated simply saying “Yes” to her ideas, as his master-cobbler-mentor had done, to whatever was offered.

The discussion about his outfit was well under way when the tailor-cousin, Hans de Groot, said out of the blue…

“He could always have one of my new Motley Coats…?!”

Nicholas asked what had been said and, after Johann explained, he was no wiser.

“What is a Motley Coat?”

Johann explained that his cousin Hans had designed a coat which had caught the eye of fashionable people in Ghent and was boosting his business nicely. It was made from cloths of several different colours stitched together in panels. Marieke, who was good at sketching her millinery ideas for clients of hers, quickly showed Nicholas roughly what it would look like.

He nearly fell off his stool – it was so much like the multi-coloured shirts he had seen the fiddlers wearing in the Coronation procession in London, over which he had hung his nose.

“Oh YES…please, may I have a Coat of Motley!?” he enthused. Then he wondered if he had overstepped his host’s kindness and tried to back away, but his enthusiasm had been noted and approved. He had no idea whether it was an expensive choice, or not, and felt very guilty that it might be really expensive. But the decision was made!

So, his new coat arrived the day before the wedding and he was thrilled with it. He was now one of the most fashionably dressed young men in Ghent, due to the kindness of his sponsor and his sponsor’s tailoring cousin, Hans de Groot. So, when Johann suggested Nicholas might like to provide some entertainment at the party that night he had no hesitation in saying ‘yes’ – despite his consequent nerves.

His nerves nearly got the better of him, however, when he discovered that the ‘party’ was to be held at the palace! He thought he might have to perform in front of the king! But the party was not in the court, but in the large buttery next to the kitchens where Marieke’s betrothed worked his cookery magic. And the participants were not the courtiers but the scullery maids, gardeners, cooks, footmen and grooms who were Pieter’s daily colleagues. The only links with higher society were a few lowly pages who were regular visitors to the kitchens on behalf of their gentlemen and were, therefore, young sons of gentlemen themselves.

There was plenty of strong monastic-brewed ale flowing during the evening, so, by the time it came for Nicholas to perform his ‘entertainments’ he had lost his nervousness altogether! Thankfully he had not imbibed so much ale that would have spoiled his voice, but he did feel really relaxed as Johann was introducing him! He had explained the songs to Johann, in detail, in advance, so that he was able to give the gist of the story to the ‘audience’ before Nicholas sang for his supper and, of course, for his Coat of Motley!

With little encouragement needed, owing to the effects of the ale, he was soon standing on a bench so people could see him and he sang his first song “…a tune composed, and the words written by his most gracious Majesty, Henry VIII King of England… ‘Pastime with good company’.”  The song had quickly become a favourite at fairs, and church ales, all around England. He sang unaccompanied, apart from the beat of a kitchen hand upon a copper pot, his voice bouncing from the buttery walls!

I love and shall until I die

grudge who lust but none deny

so God be pleased thus live will I

for my pastance

hunt sing and dance

my heart is set

all goodly sport

for my comfort

who shall me let

 

Youth must have some dalliance

of good or ill some pastance

Company me thinks then best

all thoughts and fancies to digest.

for Idleness

is chief mistress

of vices all

then who can say.

but mirth and play

is best of all.

 

Company with honesty

is virtue vices to flee.

Company is good and ill

but every man has his free will.

the best ensue

the worst eschew

my mind shall be

virtue to use

vice to refuse

thus shall I use me.

His song was well received with some applause, making Nicholas smile. Then Johann explained that Nicholas would sing a song of his local county, Lincolnshire and people laughed as, between them, Nicholas and Johann explained the story of the song. Before he started to sing, Nicholas attempted to teach them the chorus…he sang the whole line first of all, then broke it down into three phrases which he repeated slowly…and got his audience to repeat as best they could, phonetically…

“..Oh…’tis my delight…”

“..on a shiny night…”

“..in the season of the year.”

Then he began…..

When I was bound apprentice in famous Lincolnshire,

Full well I served my master for more than seven years,

Till I took up to poaching, as you shall quickly hear,

“..Oh…’tis my delight…on a shiny night…in the season of the year..”

The chorus was jumbled to say the least…so he stopped singing and laughingly berated his audience…”NOOO – sing it again!” They did, with much better effect.

He sang the first verse again and the chorus was much better this time! So he continued:-

As me and my companions were setting of a snare,

‘Twas then we spied the gamekeeper, for him we did not care,

For we can wrestle and fight, my boys, and jump out anywhere,

“..Oh…’tis my delight…on a shiny night…in the season of the year..”

Much better!!” … then the third verse…

As me and my companions were setting four or five,

And taking on ’em up again, we caught a hare alive.

We took a hare alive my boys, and through the woods did steer

“..Oh…’tis my delight…on a shiny night…in the season of the year..”

I threw him on my shoulder and then we trudged home

We took him to a neighbour’s house, and sold him for a crown;

We sold him for a crown, my boys, but I did not tell you where

“..Oh…’tis my delight…on a shiny night…in the season of the year..”

Success to ev’ry gentleman that lives in Lincolnshire

Success to every poacher that wants to sell a hare

Bad luck to ev’ry gamekeeper that will not sell his deer

“..Oh…’tis my delight…on a shiny night…in the season of the year..” 

And then with a flourished repeat of the last line Nicholas took a deep bow to much applause and cheering from the buttery guests and jumped down from the bench, whereupon, several of the scullery maids came and took turns ‘bussing’ him on the cheeks. One dear lady of a certain age, and round as a barrel with rosy cheeks – he learnt later she was one of the cooks who worked under Pieter – came and gave him a smacker on the lips, holding his head so he couldn’t escape – to general laughter!

In his fine new Coat of Motley he basked in the glory of his temporary fame, and at the wedding the next day many of the girls, and the rosy cheeked roly-poly cook, waved across the room to him and several blew him kisses! “Definitely my lucky coat!” he thought to himself.

The wedding itself went off wonderfully; Johann gave his niece away with aplomb and decorum and the wedding feast was a marvel. The meal was ‘superintended’ by Pieter of course, all his colleagues surpassing themselves in providing the food. And it was all washed down with more strong monastic-brewed ale!

Then home to London for Cobbler Kirkkgarde and his apprentice – in his fine new Coat of Motley.

ddddd

I hope you liked this short extract – if you want to read more the e-book/kindle version of the novel is available on Amazon at only 99 pence

The Historical Novel Society review was very kind and you can read it here…

http://historicalnovelsociety.org/reviews/captain-cobbler-the-lincolnshire-uprising-1536/

And you can go to Amazon and purchase the e-book here…

https://www.amazon.co.uk/d/Books/Captain-Cobbler-Lincolnshire-Uprising-1536/1475997787

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An apology – and then the GOOD news

An apology – and then the GOOD news

Please accept my apologies for misleading you with my premature price change notice for the UK sales of the Kindle version of my novel Captain Cobbler. The good news is that the price for the e-book is now 99 pence on amazon.co.uk – so you can now all afford to buy an e-book for Christmas and (hopefully!!) enjoy a good read

I put out a message on 1st December that the price should be below £1 sterling and then discovered that whenever you clicked on the UK Amazon site the price showed as £1.49. Unfortunately there seems to have been an informal agreement between Amazon and iTunes that they would not undercut each other, so the 99 cent price in the USA on the US Amazon site had to translate to the higher price point in the UK after tax was added (something to do with average exchange rates over a three month period?)

My publisher has now managed to organise a new price point for both Amazon and iTunes which is acceptable to both and that is 99 pence in the UK market. So I am delighted that things have worked out.  I would be even more delighted if this means we can generate a renewed interest in Captain Cobbler. The story is based upon the exploits of my presumed ancestor Nicholas Melton who, though he was a lowly shoemaker, started what resulted in a major rebellion against the powerful King Henry Vlll in 1536.

It is a true story in essence, though, of course, I have had to fictionalise it in piecing the tale together as there were numerous gaps in the history. However, King Henry decided to carry out an Inquiry to find out which of his barons must have been responsible. All the answers were written down verbatim and historians now believe that it truly was a popular rebellion, started by a vicar and a bunch of artisans in Louth, in Lincolnshire, the county of my ancestors.

The Historical Novel Society review was very kind and you can read it here…

http://historicalnovelsociety.org/reviews/captain-cobbler-the-lincolnshire-uprising-1536/

And you can go to Amazon and purchase the e-book here…

https://www.amazon.co.uk/d/Books/Captain-Cobbler-Lincolnshire-Uprising-1536/1475997787

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Invite Captain Cobbler to your Christmas – super promotion, 99 cents only

Super promotion time – Captain Cobbler – for less than a dollar!

Greetings to all for Xmas 2016. Give yourself a present!!

I published my novel Captain Cobbler in 2013 and in order, now, to get the very largest readership for the book I have reduced the price of the Kindle version to just 99 cents in the US Amazon and it will be under £1 in the UK Amazon too. Having written it I simply want everyone to read it – so, if you enjoy reading it even half as much as I enjoyed writing it, it will easily be worth a dollar of your hard-earned money!

So, my friends, if you do not yet have a copy, treat yourself to an early Christmas present by going to Amazon and downloading the e-book version of Captain Cobbler: the Lincolnshire Uprising 1536.

https://www.amazon.com/Captain-Cobbler-Lincolnshire-Uprising-1536-ebook/dp/B00EVQH6FQ%3FSubscriptionId%3D1QZMGW0RRJC2PX87HDR2%26tag%3Dnovelrank-21%26linkCode%3Dxm2%26camp%3D2025%26creative%3D165953%26creativeASIN%3DB00EVQH6FQ

If you want a view of how it has been received read the Historical Novel Society review here

http://historicalnovelsociety.org/reviews/captain-cobbler-the-lincolnshire-uprising-1536/

And, if you are buying someone a new Kindle reader for Xmas, download the book to the reader for them so they have something to read straight away!!

HAVE A HAPPY CHRISTMAS AND A GREAT NEW YEAR IN 2017

All the best – Keith

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Shakespeare and Richard lll

The article about Richard lll and Shakespeare is accessible by clicking on the PAGE heading under the picture above… or on this link below:-

https://captaincobbler.wordpress.com/richard-lll-and-the-battle-of-bosworth/

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Re-reading childhood books

Re-reading childhood books

Gosh we have changed. By Jove and lashings of ginger beer. (I just posted this on my blog but thought it might also sit here on the Captain Cobbler website too – so here it is)

I have just been reading an article in the Guardian about re-reading the books of childhood. For those of you out there approaching or exceeding my age I guess the article and the subject matter will quickly register. Those of a much younger persuasion may have to make the leap to your own childhood reading and re-read that to see if the comments hold true. The two particular authors referred to are Enid Blyton and Captain W.E. Johns.

The article http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/nov/25/re-reading-the-famous-five-and-the-biggles-series-is-not-only-disappointing-its-mystifying

In a way, it is fortunate that because I am in Brazil at the moment and all my English belongings are packed away in boxes in England, I cannot check out what the author, Jeff Sparrow, is saying. Why, fortunate? Because I am not sure I WANT to be disappointed and mystified in the way he is suggesting.

I am a liberal and have been a lifelong liberal – and a pretty radical one at that – so I have long “known” that the adult view prevailing is that both of the mentioned authors were not in the least liberal. In fact the consensus is that both were pretty illiberal and their stories contained much bigotry and racial stereotyping. Clearly, in my own case, I was subjected to other values which did not allow such stereotypes to become ossified in my brain – except to say, perhaps, that I would still respond positively to the fact that the Spitfire was probably the best plane ever invented; even though I am, and have been for as long as I can recall, a pacifist!

My point here is that although I can see that one`s childhood reading can engender stereotypes, we perhaps need not always try to be perfectly politically correct in censoring such books – just ensure a balance is always available in terms of creating lasting human values. As some of you will know I enjoy an occasional good malt whisky, but I am reasonable sure such a liking was not caused in any way by the fact that Biggles downed a few in his books. I am sure of this in the same way that I do not litter my speech with lots of “By Jove”s.

Jeff Sparrow makes the point that Biggles` “nervous high pitched laugh” and the whisky drinking was probably true to life experience of Captain Johns recognising what we would, these days, call a pilot who was suffering from post-traumatic stress. Sparrow goes on to say that in the later Biggles books the pilots now drank non-alcoholic, “wholesome lemonade”.

Swiftly scanning back to my childhood self, I recall the Biggles book as “exciting” reads. So, I am not sure I want to be disappointed to find, for myself, the truth of what Sparrow says – “Suffice to say that some acquaintances are best not renewed. Johns – how to say this kindly? – is not a great writer.” He certainly sparked an imagination in me of what travelling by air might be like. I distinctly remember one occasion as a child of, perhaps 10 or so, sitting in my dad`s car, with a pal from nearby and we were flying over Africa for ages – I can still “see” the forests as they spun by below us.

To give Sparrow credit, he quotes from another writer who looked back in a more academic fashion.
<em>In his study Blyton and the Mystery of Children’s Literature, David Rudd identifies a similar phenomenon in respect of Blyton. It is, he says, common for children to lose themselves in Blyton’s books – and then just as suddenly abandon them….</em>
“Of his own return back to the Famous Five books he’d once loved, Rudd writes:
<em>I found the magic lacking, while the simple vocabulary and the old-fashioned and often embarrassing attitudes obtruded woefully … We adults are left with empty words, whereas our children, like millions of others, are transported.</em>

Rudd makes a simple but persuasive argument – namely, that as children, we read in a quite different way to adults.

And isn`t that a good job, too. So, let us celebrate it and move on.

One little anecdote to add to this is a recollection of a much later visit to our house of another Liberal friend, Alistair, with his then girlfriend, later to become wife, who is German and was, therefore unfamiliar with the topic of our conversation. Alistair had found a Biggles book on our bookshelves and that generated a long discussion about our mutual childhood liking of everything Biggles. Alistair`s German girlfriend came into the room well after Alistair had put the book back on the shelf, but we were continuing the discussion of Biggles for quite a while.

She sat listening with interest to our excitement but clearly not quite able to grasp its subject matter. This became obvious when, in a pause in the conversation, she asked, with all innocence… “By the way – what ARE biggles??” As you may imagine this reduced Alistair and I to helpless hysterical laughter and it was quite a while before either of us were able to breathe enough between gasps, actually to explain it was not a “what” but a “who”. Relating back to my recent post about happy moments – this was clearly one of those and will remain so until I die, or go Gaga!

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I LIKE the Historical Novel Society!

I LIKE the Historical Novel Society!

I just opened the May reviews of the Historical Novel Society today and discovered that they have now reviewed my debut novel “Captain Cobbler: the Lincolnshire Uprising 1536” and, WOW, they have done a good job (lol)! For the review see

http://historicalnovelsociety.org/reviews/captain-cobbler-the-lincolnshire-uprising-1536/

It seems rather a long time since I published it and launched it on the 477th anniversary of the Uprising, 1st October 2013 – and, so, I was beginning to think all my hard work and writing effort might just disappear under the churning appearance of thousands of self-published books each year. And then this lovely review slips from the ether into my computer – what a day. Certainly it will become a May Day to recall with a happy smile.

It was quite moving to see such a warmly worded commentary from such an illustrious and independent source – he sighs contentedly! Do feel free to go and have a look for yourself and do please pass it on to anyone you know who may like historical novels… I`d like to get the word out there!

The novel presents a story which may change your views of one of the best known historical figures, the very much larger-than-life figure of King Henry Vlll. Certainly the research I did to enable me to tell the story of Nicholas Melton made me view Henry`s reputation in a much different light.

If you want to see more about the novel, take a look at my website – www.captaincobbler.com  or if you simply want to go straight to buy the novel go to Amazon here http://www.amazon.co.uk/Captain-Cobbler-Lincolnshire-Uprising-1536/dp/1475997795

Remember the e-book is only about £2, less than the price of a decent cup of coffee.

Oh – I DO like the Historical Novel Society – ROCK ON!

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Arthur and Catherine

Very soon after Catherine arrived in England she was married to Arthur, Prince of Wales, son of King Henry Vll….now read on….

Her wedding to Prince Arthur – a few days later – was no less theatrical but, considering it had been so long in coming for the young couple and so long in the planning, it all passed in something of a blur. Catherine could recall brief snippets of conversation, some even in English which, by now, she was beginning to understand little by little. It was, however, all a bit more overwhelming than she had anticipated, not least because the bedding of the princess with her new husband took place, of course, in public to show the world it was official and properly done.

Once the couple were actually in the bed the curtains were tactfully drawn around them but they both knew they were surrounded by ladies and gentlemen in waiting and would be throughout the night – many of them staying awake for a long time in case they were needed, of course.

All nearby sets of ears would be attuned to the least indication of need – which also meant that everyone would be able to hear all the exchanges between them too, except, perhaps, the softest of whispers. Both parties could barely understand a word of the other’s language though – so soft whispers proved to be of no use whatsoever – and on more than one occasion the mechanical logistics of lovemaking proved to be beyond them, unpractised and embarrassed as they both were.

*******

 

The morning after……

They both woke early the following morning and Arthur, giving his new bride a quick buss on the cheek, leapt out of bed through the curtains before he could appear too embarrassed and speechless (as he knew himself to be).

Catherine heard him call his menservants to him loudly and imperiously (as only a fourteen-year-old could) and heard a huge laugh when he said, “So, gentlemen, I have been in Spain for the night”. Even after she had managed to work out what the individual words actually meant she had no idea why this could have caused such uproarious laughter as it did, and it took some considerable explaining from the slightly more worldly-wise Maria de Salinas to fix in her mind the ‘double-entendre’ of being “in Spain” all night.

When the penny finally did drop for her, she blushed beetroot and Maria had to work very hard not to upset her mistress further by breaking into the laughter she felt bubbling up. As it was, Catherine was cross with Maria for a full twenty-four hours before she began to see the funny side if it herself and let Maria talk to her again.

Indeed, it would be yet another full day before Catherine brought herself to make light of her first night of matrimony and confide to Maria that “not only had Arthur not been “in Spain” at all but had found himself quite a long way from the Spanish border before he let loose his cannon”. She “…hoped for a more intimate military encounter in due course!

Nevertheless, on the morning of the first day of the marriage itself, as soon as Catherine had vacated the heavily curtained bed three learned doctors had been sent by the king and the Count de Cabra jointly (two English doctors and one Spanish man of medicine) to inspect the bed.

As they hoped, they found some signs of semen on the bed and since Arthur’s signet ring, set with garnets, had severely scratched Catherine’s inner thigh during their fumblings, they found several small drops of blood, again as they hoped, although they clearly thought it was from somewhere other than Catherine’s thigh. The good doctors, after some mumbling discussions between them, felt able to go back to their respective masters and report, on the basis of their forensic evidence, that the princely marriage was off to an appropriate start. It was, however, a conclusion with which, had Catherine been privy to it, she would not have concurred.

The next few weeks consisted of much to-ing and fro-ing of the child bride and her child groom, getting ready to move their extended household to Wales as the king had ordered, with only an occasional foray into the recesses of the four-poster bed. Outside of the bed’s curtains Arthur was much given to noisy shows of boyhood bravado, heavy with innuendo and braggadocio, but behind the darkened screen, Catherine (and depending upon the timing of said episodes of melodrama, minutes or hours later, Maria de Salinas too) knew the story to be rather different. Arthur was either too quick or too soft, or as yet, too inept to conquer his maiden’s true virtue.

Catherine’s quiet requests for Maria’s help fell on stony ground too, since she could only provide theoretically sound advice, being unpractised herself – and Catherine forbade her friend to seek more mature advice. Indeed, probably the only sound counsel Maria felt seriously able to give was to “be patient – it will sort itself out”.

In fact it became a problem of diminished importance, anyway, since Arthur busied himself with plans to move to ‘take charge’ of the Welsh Marches at the behest of his father the king. And so the newlyweds only shared a bed every ten days or so.

Arthur hid his embarrassments behind a farrago of hinted claims, so was in no position to seek real help or counselling even if he had wished to. And, thus it went, that his personal courtiers, many of them only a little older than the prince himself, though, no doubt well versed in matters of lust as some of them were, allowed themselves to assume everything was rosy in the prince’s bed.

Sadly the issues never did get sorted out satisfactorily. Only a few weeks afterwards they moved to a different – but damp – household, which made the prince’s breathing much worse. And his sickly state became more worrisome to both his doctors and to his young bride.

To the great shock of his parents they received the unwelcome news of his untimely death, delivered by fast courier, only just a few hours after they had read, with amusement, of his rather grandiose plans for the enhancement of his household, in a letter whose journey had been started at a more normal speed some days earlier. The boy-prince was embalmed and rushed by chariot to the Abbey of St Wolfstan’s in Worcester where he was buried with but modest ceremony.

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