Well, I finally finished Daughters Of The Grail the rewrite (phew) and the novel ended up 14,000 words leaner than the 1993 version and a lot better for it I think. Now that's done and dusted I can return to my Marshal men and women. I'm just about to start work on the rough draft of the notorius 'Hammer and Anvils' scene. For readers not familiar with the history it goes like this.
John Marshal is blocking King Stephen's road to Wallingford with a castle at Newbury. Said castle is being besieged by Stephen and is in dire straits. John makes surrender-like noises, saying he will need to ask the Empress first before he gives in. Stephen, not trusting him, demands hostages, among them John's 5 year old son, William, later to become William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke and regent of England. John hands over the little chap, and instead of setting a surrender in motion, refortifies the beleagured castle with men and supplies. Stephen, understandably annoyed, threatens to do away with little William in all manner of horrendous ways - hanging, crushing with millstone, firing from trebuchet. Dad just shrugs his shoulders and delivers the by now infamous lines '
...il dist ke ne li chaleit de l'enfant, quer encore aveit les enclumes e les marteals dunt forgereit de plus beals.'
'but he said he did not care about the child, since he still had the anvils and hammers to produce even finer ones.'
I suspect that John Marshal was a master of the art of bluff and knowing King Stephen was soppy about women and kids, decided to take the odds. I also suspect that John was between a rock and a hard place at the time and did what he had to do. It's going to be interesting to craft the scene, although with the help of remote viewing I'm looking forward to getting stuck into some good meaty drama. During my conventional research for this piece, I have come across the detail that the hammers and anvils speech may well be more than just a colourful analogy. It may be a pun on John's surname and the occupation of his ancestors. A blacksmith with a particular affinity for horses was known as a marshal and among other responsibilities in noble households, was a horse master. The typical symbol of a Marshal was a smith's hammer and horse shoe. While John had deputies to perform the more manual and mundane functions of the occupation at court, he would still have had strong connections with horses and the original symbols of authority People listening to the Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal in the hall of a night, would have understood and perhaps smiled at the pun.
The photo at the top is a sun-streaked (purple?!) view of the mounds of what remains of Hamstead Marshal from across the Kennet and Avon Canal, taken during a research trip to Wiltshire last year.