Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Website revamp!

A quick note to say my website has now been revamped and easier to navigate. To celebrate the new look and the imminent publication of TO DEFY A KING, I'm running a win a copy contest - see the news feed.

Sunday, April 18, 2010


As competition for readers in the book buying market becomes increasingly stiff, the cover of a book has never been more important as a means of wooing the bookseller, supermarket buyer and the reader at first glance.

A book cover needs to sell the story, to place the book within its genre so it’s immediately recogniseable. It needs to give an intimation of what the book’s about. To make that all important connection between eye and hand so that a reader is drawn to pick it up in the first place. And for that to happen, it needs to stand out from the crowd of other covers all trying to do the same thing, but it also has to remain within parameters that readers will recognise. Basically the same but different!

This time last year, at my UK publisher’s, LittleBrown, It was time to discuss the direction we wanted to take for the cover of my forthcoming historical novel TO DEFY A KING. Planning always starts at least a year ahead of publication, if not more.
The jackets of my previous novels, designed by Larry Rostant had served me extremely well and continue to do so. Sales have increased dramatically with my half-headed and head turned away ladies (and one man!) in nice clothes. They were part of a trend begun by The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory, sales of which had received phenomenal global success. As time had gone on, everyone (not surprisingly really) had jumped onto the bandwagon and it seemed to us last year that you couldn’t move in historical fiction circles without seeing some headless period woman in a nice frock on the front cover. On a couple of reader forums where I go to socialise (as a reader not a writer) these kind of covers were being branded by the forum members as the ‘Dude I’ve lost my forehead’ look.
We felt it was time for a change, but we still wanted something that wasn’t a woman passively posing in a nice dress, but that nevertheless still said ‘Historical’, We wanted something that told the reader about the character, rather than just being about the dress.
I was invited to a meeting at LittleBrown to brainstorm ideas with Joanne Dickinson, senior editor of commercial fiction, Barbara Daniel with whom I have worked for twenty years, Hannah Torjusson from publicity and Carole Blake my agent. Joanne had prepared a presentation document where ideas discussed via phone and e-mail before the meeting had been set down in writing. We discussed who my target audience was and how best to reach it. We discussed my positioning in the market. Who were the historical novelists that my readers also read? What did readers like best about my novels and expect from them? We identified core words and emotions that cropped up time and again.
Our next move at the meeting was to discuss how to apply the feedback to the covers. Various historical fiction book covers were passed around and discussed and we all agreed that the half-headless woman in a nice dress had been used to saturation point. We were all particularly drawn to strong historical film posters and high quality shots from fashion magazines and we felt that the word we were seeking was ‘filmic’. We wanted richness, texture and drama.
Once we had made that decision, the next thing was to brief the designer with our ideas for the look we wanted, married to details from the novel. I sent LittleBrown’s book designer Emma Graves photographs of how I envisaged the heroine’s appearance, descriptions of her from the text of the novel, pictures of medieval costume, and text and photographs concerning specific details that were relevant to the story. I also sent Emma the book trailer I had made for TO DEFY A KING and the music that had inspired me during the writing.
Novels are briefed up to a year in advance of publication, so often the designer only has a synopsis and a few chapters to go on. The cover is generally briefed in discussion with representatives from the editorial and sales teams, from marketing, design and publicity. Once there’s a consensus, then the project can begin in earnest. Briefing meetings are held once a fortnight.
While I was sitting at my computer, working on my next opus, Emma went away and got stuck into the research material I had sent her and the chapters of To Defy a King so that she could get a feel for my heroine Mahelt Marshal, who was to star on the front cover. Emma’s initial task was to come up with concepts that could be further developed at the cover photo shoot and formulate an idea of how this was going to look on the book cover.
The next task was to find a photographer to work with. In this case, Jeff Cottenden was the choice. He’s a photographer who specialises in covers for historical fiction and has worked on jackets for the Jean Plaidy Re-issues and for Philippa Gregory among others. Jeff provided Emma with the name of a model agency – which he uses regularly. Emma went through the list of available models and chose a selection of models who resembled my descriptions of Mahelt’s looks and personality. Presented with a shortlist, I chose Jade Creswell because I liked her hair which I thought was suitable for Mahelt Marshal, and from the photos, Jade looked as if she was thoroughly capable of putting on the right expressions for Mahelt’s vibrant personality.
Jade was available for the shoot date and we were in business.
The next thing we needed was a costume. Emma and the photographer went to professional costumiers Angels – and here selected a medieval dress. The original was green, but thanks to the wonders of photoshopping, turned out to be this glorious pinkish-red on the cover!
Although it doesn’t show on the cover, the shoot took place in a church not far from St Paul’s cathedral. The brief was to have Mahelt looking strong, powerful and pretty all rolled into one, and this was the mood they asked the model to portray. The shoot itself took about three hours with Jade sitting and standing and posing in different light to get a range of photos.
Emma tells the next part in her own words – being lazy here. It’s easier than me retyping it all!
‘After the shoot we had a very wide selection of pictures to choose from and selected three of our favorites to develop further. We tried different crops and ideas of single pictures of Mahelt but felt that we wanted to show the different sides of Mahelt’s character. We decided to do this by creating a mirrored image showing two different aspects . This concept worked well with the story and reflect it’s content. Although the idea is not unique and has worked on other printed material before, it gave us the filmic feel we were after. The photographs were then retouched to get the colouring of the dress and accessories right. We were after a rich, warm feel giving the story and cover that deep historical texture we were after.
Before the shoot I had looked into various option for type. I was after a historical typeface with some character and texture and thought the final choice worked really well with the title and cover feel.’
After this, Emma sent the cover to me for approval. I loved it and thought it was exactly right – saying historical but at the same time adding a unique twist.
Following on from this, the cover was presented to sales, marketing and publicity, who unanimously loved it and were very excited by it as they felt it would do really well in the market place. This is proving to be the case so far I am pleased to say with very positive noises being made by the booksellers to whom it has been shown.
I must admit to having a slight smile to myself. I really, really love this cover, but it’s a kind of ironic statement that instead of going headless, my heroine gets to have two heads this time!
So that's it. One of the ways in which a book cover comes about. It's not the same for all authors, and each cover is different, but this has been my experience this time around - and very exciting too!
One of the other interesting and positive things that has come out of the shoots that Jeff Cottenden undertook for TO DEFY A KING is that one of these shots is being used by my USA publisher Sourcebooks for the jacket of FOR THE KING’S FAVOR. (USA version of THE TIME OF SINGING). Although it’s very different from LittleBrown’s cover, I really love this one too. And again, it fits the novel in question. I love it that Jade can play both the imperious Mahelt, and the much gentler Ida de Tosney convincingly.

Sourcebooks jacket for
September 2010

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Illuminating Hugh Bigod

A while ago I wrote an article about Mahelt Marshal I thought with the publication of TO DEFY A KING fast approaching, it was time to write a little bit about her first husband and the hero of the novel, Hugh Bigod.
Like Mahelt, his story is well hidden and little recorded. To flesh him out in contemporary history is to have to extrapolate from scraps of evidence dotted here and there through charters, and fines and the occasional chronicle. However, as in Mahelt's case, there are sufficient scraps to build up the image of the living breathing man as he once was.
Hugh's father was Roger Bigod, Earl of Norfolk, an accomplished lawyer and soldier who had had to build up the family fortunes from a low point after his father, Hugh Senior, was disgraced for rebelling against King Henry II. Hugh Senior's caput castle at Framlingham was razed to the ground on the King's orders. When he died, King Henry took the Earldom in his own hands and it wasn't until the reign of King Richard that Roger's full patrimony and titles were finally restored. Roger married a former royal mistress, Ida de Tosney, who had borne King Henry a son who was to become William Longespee, Earl of Salisbury.,_3rd_Earl_of_Salisbury Ida and Roger married around Christmastime 1181. Hugh, we know from charter evidence, was born before the following Christmas. Given a 9 months gestation period, his birthdate could be anywhere between September and the year's end. Hugh was a Bigod family name, and although Roger and his father had not been on good terms when the old man died, Roger still gave his eldest son this name. Hugh's parents were prolific and he was soon joined by more siblings. Two sisters, Marie and Marguerite, and three brothers, William, Roger and Ralph. There were perhaps two other also - John and Ida, although their existence is a little more open to conjecture. Even without them though, Hugh would have grown up surrounded by a large family circle. Hugh was born while his parents were still living in the modest stone hall at Framlingham which had been left standing at the time of the destruction. His father didn't gain permission to built up a fine new castle on his estate until Richard I came to the throne in 1189. From the age of seven or so, Hugh would have spent quite a bit of his time growing up on a building site!

Framlingham castle today, showing three of its 13 great towers.

Framlingham was the family seat, but the Bigods also held extensive lands in Yorkshire, with a manor at Settrington near Pickering, and a home in London at Friday Street in the heart of the city's commerical district. They had a house and a personal quay at Ipswich too. Hugh would have come to know these places as the family moved around during his childhood. As the oldest son, Hugh was the heir to Framlingham and the great Earldom of Norfolk with its 160 plus knights fees, and also to the Yorkshire lands which had come into the family through an earlier marriage. When Hugh was just 17, his father made over Settrington and the Yorkshire estates to Hugh, with a total value of 10 knights fees. He was giving his son responsibility and preparing him for the day when he would be Earl of Norfolk in his own right. Hugh also attended court from his teen years. He is found witnessing charters in September 1199 around the time he received his Yorkshire lands and when he would have just been turning 17. In 1200 he accounted for 40 marks at the exchequer for increasing a fair by two days, which suggests he was getting down to the nitty gritty of managing his lands and increasing their income. He served John abroad in a military capacity from the age of 19.

The gates to Settrington House today.
Somewhere before 1207, Hugh's family was approached by the powerful Marshal family, with a marriage offer for Hugh. William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke and one of the greatest men in the kingdom wanted Hugh for his eldest daughter Mahelt. The Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal, a family history of the Marshals written near the time says 'He (William Marshal) asked him graciously. being the wise man he was, to arrange a handsome marriage between his own daughter and his son, Hugh. The boy was worthy, mild-mannered and noble-hearted.' The marriage itself took place in February 1207 when Hugh would have been rising 25 and his young bride would have been somewhere between 13 and 15. Twelve was the age of consent for girls at that time, and fourteen for boys. Many families wrote clauses into the marriage contract stipulating a consummation age (although not all did). Mahelt's family were leaving to go to Ireland and the marriage was a matter of urgency to them because they wanted to see Mahelt settled before they left. Perhaps there was a such a clause written into Hugh and Mahelt's marriage, but we'll never know via conventional history. What we do know is that Hugh and Mahelt's first son, Roger, was born before the end of 1209, so two years into the marriage. A second son, Hugh, followed in 1212, a daughter Isabelle in 1215, and another son, Ralph in 1218. There may also have been a fourth son, William. There are some very neat three year gaps here that make the novelist in me speculate about medieval contraceptive practises!
During the early years of his marriage, Hugh was called upon by the King to go to Ireland. This must have been a fraught time for him because at the outset he knew he might be going to war against his father in law. King John was intending to subdue Ireland and William Marshal had retired there on less than good terms with his sovereign, although not in open rebellion. Some difficult words were exchanged between the Earl Marshal and the King, but fortunately they came to a peaceful understanding and Hugh was probably very relieved that he did not have to take up a sword against his wife's kin and the grandfather of his baby son. While in Ireland he witnessed the drafting of a new constitution for the country and was loaned money by the king against his military expenses.
When John took an expedition to Poitou in 1214, Hugh accompanied him together with a younger brother, Ralph, and their half-brother William Longespee, Earl of Salisbury. Hugh, by now, was standing in for his father in a military capacity, which makes sense as Roger would have been close to seventy by 1214. Hugh was in La Rochelle with John on the Poitou campaign but his two brothers were with the Northern half of the English army which was based in Normandy and involved in the disastrous battle of Bouvines against the French. Ralph and William Longespee were taken prisoner, but Hugh was not involved in the battle and returned to England with the King, unscathed while his family set about raising a ransom to free Ralph from a French prison.
The following year, Hugh was involved in the Magna Carta Crisis. The Bigod family rebelled against King John and it seems probable that both Roger and Hugh had a part in drafting the terms of the charter as both were well versed in the law. Hugh, it seems, had been well taught by his father and was a competent lawyer and administrator and was appointed as one of a committee of twenty five lords to see that the terms of the charter were adhered to.
As the conflict deepened, John arrived beneath the walls of Framlingham Castle with an army of mercenary soldiers. It appears that neither Hugh nor Roger were in residence, but certainly Hugh's seven year old son was, because the boy was taken hostage by John when the castle surrendered without a fight, despite being one of the strongest fortresses in England. The story of John's coming to Framlingham and the effect it had on all members the Bigod family forms an important part of the story line of TO DEFY A KING.
Roger and Hugh continued in rebellion and when the Dauphin Louis of France arrived in England to challenge John for the Crown, they offered him their full support. Quite what John had done to turn the formerly loyal and cautious Bigod men against him is open to conjecture. There are no solid obvious reasons. Even after John's death, the Bigods stayed in rebellion and supported Louis, although they weren't present at the battle of Lincoln, nor the sea battle at Sandwich which saw Louis' attempt to take the English crown from the child Henry III defeated. They were, however, working in the background on the legal and fiscal side of matters and one receives the impression that having given their oath to Louis, they felt it binding until he should release them even while they didn't want to get involved in hard face to face combat with former friends and relations.
Roger and Hugh finally returned to the loyalist fold when Louis quit England and returned to France. Framlingham was restored to them and they swore their fealty to Henry III. It must have been an awkward situation for Hugh, having to oppose his father in law the great William Marshal during the rebellion, and it must have been difficult too as far as relations with his wife were concerned, especially while their son was a hostage.
Once the Bigods did return to their loyalty, they stuck to it and strove with the regent to hold the country stable, lending their military strength and legal know-how to the process. Roger died in 1221 when he was well into his seventies, and Hugh became Earl of Norfolk. He served in the royal army again, being part of the expedition into Wales to deal with Llewelyn ab Iorwerth in 1224. This was the Bigod's first involvement in this part of the country. Later generations were to play roles as prominent landholders in this region when they inherited Chepstow down the maternal line.
In 1225, Hugh was at Westminster in February to witness the reissue of the Magna Carta which he had been involved in drafting and overseeing ten years earlier. A week later he was dead of unknown causes and the Earldom was taken into crown custody since Hugh's son and heir was only fifteen years old. Mahelt Marshal swiftly remarried to their neighbour, William de Warenne, although I strongly suspect it was a matter of politics and family persuasion rather than passionate desire. Her new husband was pushing sixty. In all her charters, even after her second marriage, she signed herself 'Matilda la Bigote'.
Had Hugh Bigod lived beyond his 43 years, who knows what he might have gone on to do. He had proven himself efficient and balanced on all fronts. He was certainly not as flamboyant as his royal half-brother William Longesepee, earl of Salisbury, but he weilded power and presence with quiet authority and many of his descendants went on to greatness. The Stuart kings of England claim their descent from him and Mahelt as do Winston Churchill and Princess Diana, and thus the current heirs to the British throne. A Pugin statue of Hugh Bigod stands alongside his father's Longespee's and William Marshal's in the gallery of the House of Lords. He was buried at Thetford Priory beside his father and grandfather, but with the dissolution of the monasteries and the vagaries of time, sadly his tomb has been lost.

A view from the wall walk at Framlingham

Monday, April 12, 2010

Garth Celyn

While preparing a couple of other blog posts, I thought I'd break off to mention Garth Celyn.
'Who'? or 'What'? you might justifiably ask. Like me, you may have come across it in Sharon Kay Penman's novels Here Be Dragons and The Reckoning, or Edith Pargeter's Brothers of Gwynedd novels, but it probably won't have registered beyond the moment of reading.
Even for me, when it cropped up again via a couple of Facebook acquaintances, I am ashamed to say that at first it passed me by. At one point I was even under the mistaken impression that it was a person! My excuse for this is my very busy schedule and I hang my head and apologise. Belatedly I came to realise that Garth Celyn is perhaps the most important historical sites in Wales and the place where Llewelyn Fawr (Llewelyn the Great) built his royal palace, overlooking the Menai Strait. That palace still stands today and is in the custody of the Gibson family who bought it all unknowing as a chicken farm in 1988.
Here are some urls to some excellent articles about Garth Celyn and it would be mad for me to spend a couple of hours typing out the contents when readers can go to them with a single click, so here are some web pages that you might find very interesting. I know I did once I'd been shaken awake! The other matter to note is that Garth Celyn could so easily have been lost to developers in the 1990's and now there is a campaign to preserve this unique and wonderful site for posterity. Please do join if you feel it's appropriate.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Southend Library transcription

Last week, Alison King and I went to Southend Library to give a talk as part of their historical fiction series they'd been holding. We were specifically asked by the librarian to talk about my use of the Akashic Records in my research ( and give a demonstration, so that's what we did and below is my transcription of the results of Alison tuning in, including a 'tawny-haired' Eleanor of Aquitaine.
Alison and I don't often give talks together. Usually it's just me and in wider scope. Alison has her own things to do and has to plan such events around her stamina, her health, and around her electro magnetic sensitivity. Finding a decent B&B without Wi-Fi was a nightmare, although we struck it lucky with the Arosa guest house which was welcoming and comfortable and had a room that was Wi-Fi free for Alison to sleep in. Actually, since I have a close friend who is sensitive to this particular form of microwave, it kind of amazes me that all these places have 'free' Wi-fi bombarding the rooms, often when no one is using a computer/device. There's been enough hoo-ha about passive smoking in the past but no one sees the danger in Wi-fi microwaves. Really there ought to be a small Wi-fi room set aside and let everyone else be free of it in the public areas or confine it to homeplug devices.
Anyway, I digress after my little rant. The talk itself went very well indeed. We had an audience of 200 and the two hours simply flew past. As part of our talk, Alison gave a short demonstration of what happens when I ask her to access the Akashic Records and the below is what emerged taken directly from the digital recorder. To be used in a novel further down the line, I have no doubt!

Akashic excerpt transcribed from a session done in front of a live audience of 200 at Southend Library. 31st March 2010.

I asked Alison to go to the Empress Matilda and Eleanor of Aquitaine at a significant moment soon after Eleanor’s marriage to Henry II.

Alison: Connecting with the Empress first: Alison breathes out very hard and then sniffs as if crying. The Empress Matilda is very upset. She’s saying ‘She shouldn’t do this to me. She really shouldn’t do this to me.’ She is crying bitterly. She is feeling over-ruled and she feels as if this woman has walked all over her as well. I am seeing the image of a lady in very fine robes with a trailing gown – sort of blue and gold and decorated like curtain material these days. Big patterns and this very upright woman with sort of tawny-golden hair in a net. She’s walking through the room and too close to the Empress and totally ignoring her. The Empress is saying ‘I,m not even invited – not even invited!’ She’s saying ‘I would NEVER have done this to my kin. How could she do this to me after all I’ve done? After all the suffering. After what I’ve gone through to put her where she is now with my son! And she does this to me!’

Do you know what she’s done?

Good question! I’ll need to go back and find out what happened before this. Hmmm. The Empress is feeling fine here. She’s just doing something with her hands. She’s sewing. It seems quite a nice day, the window is half-open. Eleanor’s not there. There is another lady in the room over to one side.

She’s looking forward to having guests. She always like to have guests, particularly special guests. Very close to her heart, because they are coming from Germany. This is an important occasion for her. And so, she is planning an amazing banquet. She knows it’s all in order and how it’s going to be. Especially she knows what these people like because she knows their ways and she is so looking forward to having German-style food and entertainment.

Eleanor has come into the room and the Empress is very keen to explain what she has been organising and the seating plan. Eleanor doesn’t seem that interested. She’s kind of waving it off and dismissing it. She’s saying ‘No, no, we’re not having that. We’re going outside. It’s such beautiful weather and we are going to have flowers all along the table and we are going to have traditional English al-fresco outside. It’s all going to be fresh and new and they’re going to see it as a new dimension, a new episode in history because this is a new monarchy. Eleanor (I am going over to Eleanor now) is really thrilled. She’s bubbling with excitement. She is a person who likes very precise aesthetics. She likes things to be very beautiful, but not overdone, overblown. She regards her mother in law as a bit gaudy. So Eleanor just goes out. She doesn’t even notice that the Empress is upset and that’s why the Empress got the impression she was just walked over.

What else does Eleanor think about her mother in law? Well, she does go on for goodness’ sake. She always goes on about the past and what she did. One would almost think she was a soldier herself the way she carries on. You expect her to come marching in wearing armour! Eleanor is not very complimentary because she says something very unkind – ‘it might have been better if she had died on the battlefield. Then she wouldn’t have had to live with the aftermath, the comedown.

Is there any jealousy between then over Henry? Alison laughs. Not while Eleanor’s around! Eleanor is a lioness really and she will guard her mate with claws. No one will get within yards.

And how does the Empress feel about having Eleanor as a daughter in law? I get the feeling this changes over time, so where would you like me to go to? Go to the beginning, to an incident early in the marriage. Oh, the Empress is upset again. Her solar plexus is tight, eyes closed, holding back tears, upset. Her son has slighted her. She wanted him to do something with her – expected him to do something with her. Something to do with a religious house, an investiture or something I think. He has decided to go with Eleanor to do something else, which to her seems very whimsical and that she regards as much less important. She wanted him to go and do some thanksgiving for his success. She feels it’s important because the gratitude needs to be given to God for the success. It’s important because it will bless and benefit his reign, and he’s neglecting it. She regards it as almost a sin. It’s a crime. It’s what he’s been born for and he needs to take it more seriously. For her it has been everything.

Does she see the marriage to Eleanor as good politics? I would need more of a location. So go to when the idea of the marriage is first mooted. Hmmmm. From a distance she sees Eleanor as a spirited young lady but feels quite capable of coping with that. I get the impression that it wasn’t a great deal to do with her opinion. It wasn’t really in her hands, but she felt that she could cope with it.

To finish, go to a time if and when they got on well together. Let’s finish on an upbeat note if possible. This is lovely. The Empress is cradling a child in her arms. It’s so lovely. At last, the dynasty is secure and what a dear, perfect child. The Empress is a very caring person emotionally and she is caring very much for Eleanor as a new mother and making sure she is properly looked after, and being extremely considerate. I can see her at the side of the bed. Eleanor is in the bed with clean sheets very nicely presented. Everything is nicely ship-shape and Matilda is cradling the baby. So Eleanor’s achievement is in producing a son for the dynasty? Yes. And are the women still difficult with each other? No. The Empress is feeling very kind-hearted towards Eleanor, particularly because of Matilda’s own experiences because she had some horrendous childbirth experiences, so she can empathise very much with another woman.

This would accord with my research into Matilda which shows this strong. Soldierly type, but in the background she was called ‘Matilda the Good’ by various church members and had a particular kindness to children.

End of excerpt.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Next lot of Akashic Notes

A brief note to say that I've posted the next lot of Akashic Research notes on the dedicated blog.
Brothers and hostages this week.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

12th Century Fashion Victims.

At an Akashic Records session a few months ago, John Marshal arrived to comment on Brian FitzCount's shoes.

Alison Laughing hard. John is in hysterics. John is finding Brian’s shoes very amusing. They’ve got turned up toes. Brian thinks he’s really the bee’s knees and John’s just in hysterics about it. It’s not even the shoes, it’s the way the shoes make Brian walk! It is funny. It’s a bit Max Wallish. That’s not really the funny thing as much as Brian thinking he looks sensational in these shoes.

For the Max wall walk go here and look from 1minute 03 onwards in the clip.

Shortly after this I bought a book at the British Library titled Medieval Dress and Fashion by Margaret Scott which is filled with fascinating detail about fashion from c 840 - 1570. My interest lies mainly in the 12th and 13th centuries so it was interesting to read up on the pertinent sections in this book.

A monk of Canterbury called Eadmer complained in his History of New Things in England that young men were growing their hair long like women, combing it often and nodding irreligeously as they walked around with delicate steps.

William of Malmsbury in the early 12thC says that there were gowns that left men's sides naked. Oderic Vitalis, writing around a similar time said that men's shirts and tunics were too long and tight but with wide, long sleeves. This mode of dress meant that men couldn't walk properly or do anything useful. Orderic also talks of shoes with pointed and curled toes like scorpion's tails.

He says that the origins of these shoes were a design to hide the bunions on Fulk of Anjou's feet. He tells the tale of a clown called Robert at the court of William Rufus who stuffed the toes of his shoes with tow so that they could be curled back like a ram's horn, and because of that, he became nicknamed 'Horner.'

A Parisian theologian Master Pierre the Chanter (d 1197) attacked the fashions of his day. He slates the wearing of 'worms' excrement' (silk) and gold embroidered hems. He attacks the excessilve variety of colour in garments - red, green, yellow, violet, mixed and confused, and also complains about the way the colours were geometrically mixed up - bi-partite, tri-partite, quadripartite and smaller. It doesn't please him either the way the clothes are cut, torn, sewn up, tied up, opened up and tailed.

Alexander Neckham (Richard the Lionheart's milk brother) in his work 'The Nature of Things' remarked that a man was not considered a courtier unless he was gaudily dressed and that novelty clothes were a sign of status because they were so obviously new.

Here is Geoffrey de Vigeois on court fashions in France in the 12th C
'They have clothes fashioned of rich and precious stuffs, in colours to suit their humour. They snip out the cloth in rings and long slashes to show the lining beneath, and the borders of the clothes are cut into little balls and pointed tongues, so that they look like the devils in paintings. They slash their mantles, and their sleeves flow like those of hermits. Youths affect long hair and shoes with pointed toes.'

I wonder what they'd have made of the fashions on today's cat walks!

Is it a sleeve? Is it a scarf?

Must have been fun keeping an ermine robe like this clean!