Monday, May 01, 2006

Back on track....almost.

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 ' 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.


Stacia said...

This is so funny that I found your blog today. I spent the day at Chepstow Castle, where there's a big display on William Marshall (since he and his sons owned and added onto the castle in the 13th century).

William and John are two of my favorite medieval men. :-)

Stacia said...

And I was so overeager and excited, I failed to see you've recently been to Chepstow. Sorry. Oops.

Elizabeth Chadwick said...

Hi December,
Thanks for dropping in!
I've posted a pic of Chepstow Castle doors on an earlier post on this blog, plus a photo of what John Marshal 'may' have looked like. I was Chepstow last year in the course of my researches - fascinating place. I can't remember now whether it's Chepstow or Pembroke that has the terrible shop window dummy of William Marshal, complete with 'Postman Pat' hands and a grey wig. Methinks it needs an upgrade!
When I'd completed my two novels on William Marshal, I knew he'd be a hard act to follow, but John is doing more than his level best. Very interesting and complex guy. Without him and his 'hammers and anvils' there'd have been no William!

Stacia said...

I saw, and I've been feeling like a total git all day for failing to notice the post-and your work-earlier. I just saw the bit about John and flew right in.

And yes, Chepstow is where the horrible Postman Pat William is. Even worse, he's posed leaning forward in this wierd way like he's begging for alms or something.

I saw the pic of what he might have looked like. Pretty delish, I think. And I loved the post with your friend who does the remote viewing!

So glad I found you, and hope you don't think I'm a pretentious idiot.

Elizabeth Chadwick said...

Hi December,
No, of course I don't think you're a git or pretentious or anything else of that nature! It's always great to meet another Marshal fan and thanks for coming by and reading my other ramblings.
You're dead right about the begging for alms pose. It's really cringe-worthy. I took a photo so have it in my archive, but I don't know why! My friend who can remote view, tells me that William rather looked like Christopher Eccleston! (strong nose, long cheeks). I have to go to London on the 26th of May,so I will be visiting the Temple Church and paying my respects to the great man and two of his sons. It's around the anniversary of his burial there (19th May) so it'll be nice to honour him again. There's no trace of John Marshal's burial place, Bradenstoke Priory left as far as I can tell - unless my geography is way out (always a possibility). It appears to be under an RAF military base. I'm heading to Wiltshire at the end of June to conduct more research, so will be revisiting quite a few haunts.