Tuesday, March 31, 2009

This and that

I am in the middle of a fairly intensive library tour at the moment with at least one day a week away from home. I'm really enjoying being out on the road meeting readers, and it is great to see such a broad demographic, but it does mean that my writing time is being slightly squashed. I am preparing a couple of longer blog posts but in the meantime this is to explain why I'm not around so much - tour finishes at the end of April - and to add a few snippets of general information.

The picture at the beginning of the blog. Yikes - another headless woman (although she has her head to hand - see the stool!). No, it's not the next book cover, but part of a display put on by Leominster Library to mark their celebration of historical fiction. What a great idea! There would have been more photos but my husband went out to the car to check on the dog, who's part of the tour team, and forgot about his duties as cameraman.

Talking of covers. I am told that my work in progress about Mahelt Marshal and Hugh Bigod is going to have a new look cover. My publishers are considering their options at the moment. While the existing ones have sold very well and created a brand image, it is perhaps time to move on. The Time of Singing Paperback will have the same cover style, as will the re-issue of The Running Vixen, but then who knows? I await with excitement, interest, and trepidation.

And talking of The Running Vixen: I am just working on the first batch of edits of the rewrite.
It has been very interesting revisiting something that I last worked on around 1990 and as with The Wild Hunt, I've found that my verbosity has somewhat diminished since the early days. Part of the Running Vixen involves The Empress Matilda and I am finding that in this early novel of mine, she is slightly different to the woman I am going to be portraying once I begin writing the Empress's story. Perhaps The Running Vixen brings out her harder traits, although she is only a minor character.

I am currently building up a picture of the Empress Matilda in the Akashic Records and it's proving to be magnificent material - spot on with the history, but showing the Empress and her relationships in wonderful depth. I'll post a couple of examples in a future blog. It really is terrific material.

Meanwhile with the work in progress, I am nearing the end of draft 2. With a bit of luck, I might have it ready for the hard copy edit by the end of April or early May. It's not due in until September, but since the hard copy edit is only another layer in a long process, I'm still going to need the time.

More anon when I have a moment! In the meantime back to the edits!

Monday, March 09, 2009

Return of Castles in the Ether

Some months ago I posted an article concerning the possible whereabouts of Newbury Castle.
Akashic research, including some imperative and forthright input by its builder, John Marshal, had strongly suggested that the site was at Speen just outside Newbury.
I've been doing some digging around to see if the Marshals had any connections with Speen beyond the mention of the market William Marshal granted himself there in 1218 and I have come up with some very interesting data about the Marshals and Speen.

It turns out (to my great excitement) that Speen was indeed a Marshal property prior to 1218, but the quandary now is - when did it become theirs? That's my current jigsaw puzzle.

There is an interesting reference to Speen and the Marshals dated to 1270. (See Round, King's Serjeants, page 90) It says that Hamstead (Now Hampstead Marshall) and the grange at Speen were held by the Marshals by right of the service of the Marshal's rod. A grange was an agricultural outpost - 'a farmhouse with its stables and other buildings.' This gives me a frisson because in a session, John had described the castle site as having an old farmhouse, stable and buildings as well as the defensive fortress.
Service of the Marshal's rod means that the lands went with the job of being a Marshal. Now, while the dateline of the comment is 1270, the Marshal's hereditory lands had been fixed long before this time and it's highly possible that Hamstead and the grange at Speen had been held by the Marshal family for several generations. We know that Gilbert Marshal passed the rod on to his son John, 'my' John, builder of the lost castle at 'Newbury'. We know that John's son, John inherited the rod and in his turn passed it on t0 his brother, the great William Marshal. From there it went one after another to all the Marshal sons until the last one died, then to the eldest daughter, Matilda, and from her to her son Roger Earl of Norfolk. As a sideline, it's interesting to note that the job of Marshal was much coveted and John and his father had to fight a contest for the Marshalsea from Henry de Venoix and William de Hastings. An extant charter of King John relates to this incident. I can find nothing to say that Venoix or Hastings had any connection with Speen or Hamstead Marshal though. Click on the picture to enlarge the text.
But that's not the only connection to Speen and the Marshals. Here follows a story and a puzzle. When William Marshal gave shelter to the outlawed William de Braose in Ireland in 1208, King John was angry with him for sheltering an enemy, but William replied that 'Ge vos di ge n'ai caienz nul traitor, mes j-ai herbergie mon seignor, si comme faire le deveie.' 'I tell you that I keep no traitor here. What I have done is to give lodging to my lord, as was my duty.' Historians have long puzzled over why William should say this of de Braose. What was de Braose his lord for? The answer may be Speen. Speen itself was once owned by Bernard de Neufmarche, who was William de Braose's grandsire. We know in 1166-67, William de Braose rendered one mark in payment at the exchequer for lands at Speen. His daughter Sybilla, married a baron called Adam de Port, and their daughter then married John Marshal's eldest son, also called John. There is a suggestion that Speen came into the Marshal fold at this time as a dower portion. So already there's a tangle of conflicting evidence. It certainly gives credence to the Marshal/Braose connection. Speen seems to have consisted of several manors, including Woodspeen and Speenhamland, so perhaps the Marshals were consolidating the area. When all of William Marshal's sons had died without issue, the lands were divided among the daughters and Matilda, the eldest daughter, inherited the main manor at Speen while her sisters received other portions.
It is interesting too that early in the 13th Century, William Marshal Junior, enfeoffed one Thomas Basset with £10.00 worth of land in his manor of Speen. The Basset's were Marshal kin by marriage, John Marshal (my John) having once been married to Aline, whose offspring from her second marriage, went on to marry into the Basset line.
The church for Speen is that of St Mary The Virgin. On its own website http://www.achurchnearyou.com/speen-st-mary-the-virgin/ it says:
'It is a medieval church built on Saxon Foundations, and was the mother church of Newbury. In 1086 it was recorded in the Domesday Book. The church stands about 200 yards from where I purport the castle site to be and I found it interesting that the church is claimed to be the 'mother church' of Newbury. Built before the others were built. The Marshals have a connection with this church. There are several charters listed in the cartulary of Sandford Priory.
For example from 1206:
Uniuersis etc Willelmus Marescallus comes Penbr[] salutem Nouerit uniuersitas uestra me concessisse etc deo et beate Marie et fratribus militie Templi Salomonis intuitu caritatis et pro salute anime mee et Isabelle uxoris mee et puerorum meorum et antecessorum omnium et successorum meorum in liberam et puram et perpetuam elemosinam ecclesiam de Spenes cum omnibus ad eam pertinentibus et omnibus libertatibus suis habend et tenend et in usus proprios perpetuo possidendam Et ut etc Hiis testibus Edwardo abbate de Nottel
My Latin is pretty terrible, but basically it's a salutation from William Marshal giving the proceeds of the church at Speen to the Templars for his soul, for the soul of his wife, Isabelle and for the souls of their ancestors and their heirs.
Recent trawling has turned up a mention in the Pipe roll of 1199 referencing William Marshal and Speen. 'Et in perdonis Willelmo Marescallo dim.m. de wasto qod exigebatur ex eo in terra sua de Spienes per breve R. I'm still working on the translation of this one, having only just found it, but I'll get there.

None of this proves that there was a castle at Speen, but it does add to the circumstantial evidence. The Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal tells us that John Marshal built a castle at Newbury. But no one knows where it is. Speen, on the outskirts, with its commanding views over the landscape and strategic roads would have been an ideal place. The church, within short walking distance has been there since Saxon times. The Marshal presence at Speen from the late 12th century is confirmed by pipe roll evidence and then charters - evidence I didn't know about until now. It's a slow, laborious process, but nothing turned up so far detracts from the idea that Newbury Castle was at Speen, and indeed, in a peripheral manner, supports the argument.
If I dig up any more details, I'll post them.


Sunday, March 01, 2009

Books and bits

As you'll see from my Events and Titles blog, http://elizabethchadwickevents.blogspot.com/ I am going to be fairly busy over the next couple of months visiting various libraries up and down the country. I hope this won't put too much of a downer on my Living The History posts, but bear with me if I post less frequently for a few weeks.
However - good news! My very good author friend Sharon Kay Penman has agreed to be interviewed on my blog in the soonish future. As soon as we've organised a Q and A session, I'll be posting our talk.
Next time round I'm going to post about some interesting details I've been able to dig up that add more circumstantial evidence to the lost Newbury Castle being sited at Speen. Some interesting peripheral jigsaw pieces have come to light.

For now, I've just taken a delivery of a few more research books, so I thought I'd post this latest haul.

I was after this one all the time I was writing A Place Beyond Courage. I'll read anything Professor David Crouch writes. It has now been re-issued in paperback and it's going to come in big time when I write my Empress Matilda novel. Did I mention that the Empress was on the cards? It's down to them being shuffled around slightly and the Empress has come to the top of the pack.
I've started Akashic work on her already and some very interesting and useful details have been emerging.

A general overview of cosmetics down the ages, but written by someone who knows their stuff. I particularly like the Old Irish 'nail varnish' and the minty Medieval mouthwash (authentic!)

This one, like another on the list, was reccommended to me by my good friend, author Sharon Kay Penman. It tells us how the Medievals saw their world in terms of Geography - the names they gave to places etc. I had to obtain this one from Abe Books.

Robert Bartlett is another of my favourite authors along with Professor Crouch. The first of 2 book on my list by him and intended for general reading and hopefully an increased understanding of the medieval European stage as a whole.

2nd book by Bartlett and I hope it'll help give me more understanding of mindsets - so important to the historical novelist who wants to get it right.

Fiction reading here. A book highly recommended to me by Sharon Kay Penman who thought it was terrific and that it got above mentioned mindset right. Apparently it's a film too!