• Redaction

    They knew about redacted versions of events in 1400.

    The usurper and regicide Bolingbroke (so-called Henry IV) sent out trusted servants to inspect the abbey chronicles for any hint of support for the king he had murdered in the months following Richard’s death.  If any were found, and there seems to have been plenty of support throughout Richard’s twenty-two year reign, the offending pages were ripped out, blotted out, rewritten – redacted – to conceal the truth.

    Gagging orders, as now, were nothing new.  Rewards were handed out in the form of pensions and court appointments for those who penned flattering versions of Lancastrian ‘alternative truth.’

    Chaucer’s rival poet Gower can be seen in all his eternal smug greed in Southwark Cathedral, lying on his velvet, gold-braided cushions.  He amply demonstrates the reward for following the party line.  He even rewrote his earlier work praising King Richard to make it look as if he was praising ‘King’ Henry.  A lesson in how to get on as true then as now.   Goggle-eyed visitors see only an image of the rich fruit of his deceit and not what lies beneath.

    But where is Chaucer’s tomb?  Isn’t he the more illustrious poet?  Nobody really knows.  The memorial put up to him decades later when the memory of Bolingbroke’s perfidy was long buried underneath layers of lies is just that, a memorial.  No body.  No tomb.  Such was the official fate of one of our earliest and greatest writers.

    The reason I’m so interested in this is because I’ve just written a new novel about the death of King Richard II.  It’s called The Hour of the Fox and has nothing to do with Hildegard and the abbot this time.  I tried to find out how the enormity of killing a king was presented to the ordinary man and woman in the streets and fields.

    Chaucer inevitably figured in it because he was connected both by his work and by marriage to the House of Lancaster.  How did he cope with that? I wondered.  Research when writing about real people who actually lived and breathed is a tricky business.  Evidence is not always easy to find and even when it exists it can be ambiguous.  It’s my burden that I feel we have a binding duty to be as accurate as we can be about what we say about the once living.   We have to honour their memory because, no matter how long ago they lived, they were as real as we are and we wouldn’t like lies told about ourselves, would we?   I’d go so far as to say we have a sacred covenant with the past to search out the truth and to tell no lies.

    How does that fit in with the idea of fiction?  What about fantasy history of which we have so much these days?  I’ll leave that with you for now.  I’d like to know if it matters to you as much as it does to me.

  • Useless on Amazon

    I’m useless on social media.  I’m never quite sure why it works the way it does.  Or how.

    The reason it’s making me tear my  hair just now is because Amazon have posted a really boring summary of Murder at Whitby Abbey AND THERE IS NO WAY TO CORRECT IT!!!

    They seem to have dug an old paragraph from somewhere which was junked months ago and not meant for publication and now it won’t go away.

    How annoying!

    It should read something like the following:

    December 1389.  As penance for her sexual misconduct earlier that year, Hildegard is sent by Abbot de Courcy to the poweful Whitby Abbey on a difficult quest – to obtain a Holy Relic, a lock of St Hild’s hair, kept secretly by the monks for over 600 years.

    Accompanied by two monks militant and a young priest from the Abbey of  Meaux, Hildegard finds the Whitby guest house teeming with visitors intent on celebrating the Twelve Days of Christmas before the austere days of Lent set in.

    To her dismay she finds that others, too, are desperate to obtain the Relic and she has no choice but to enter a bidding war if she wants to fulfil Abbot de Courcy’s request.

    When the body  of a young monk is discovered dangerous secrets emerge and, with tensions between town and abbey erupting into violence, Hildegard finds the holy precinct full of menace as she tracks down the killer.


    Well, something along those lines will not be too far away from the facts.

    As I’ve just finished The Hour of the Fox I’m thinking a lot about historical truth.  It’s elusive even with good will and careful reading of primary sources but I’m saddened by the Lancastrian propaganda that still dominates, based on their concerted efforts to win the propaganda war against King Richard II.  People are still trotting out the old smears without stopping to think where they come from.  They even omit known facts in order to cling to their prejudices.  I don’t know why something that happened so long ago should sadden me with its obvious distortions but it does.  Oh well.  There it is.  As Chairman Mao said in his little Red Book:  let a hundred flowers bloom and a thousand schools of thought contend.   What is history but a collection of unsubstantiated stories?  What is truth?


  • Am writing

    I was going to write a blow by blow account of the progress of the new book in the new series THE HOUR OF THE FOX but I only got as far as 5,000 words before I was laid low with a mystery illness (this was back in January) and I’ve only just emerged.  I’m surprised to find that after burning in my brain for so long it’s almost writing itself – whether it’ll be any good or not will remain a mystery until it’s finished – but at least the words are flowing and some surprising, frightening and to me intriguing characters are pushing their way into the story.

    The main pupose of this new one is to remind everybody about the way in which King Richard II, once called ‘the beautiful boy’ when he was ten – is now being deposed by his big, bad, bully-boy cousin Bolingbroke, the earl of Derby and heir to the massive Lancastrian estates.  Richard was not the first nor the last English king to be murdered by those ambitious enough to kill on their way to the crown but to me he’s the most poignant because he had such an obvious love of beauty and civilised values, rare at that time in England.  See the Westminster Hall hammer-beam roof, see the Abbey itself, see the Wilton Diptych, see the wonderful portrait still hanging at the West Door of Westminster Abbey, read the works of Chaucer, and so much more, fostered or commissioned by him.  To read some of the chronicles – and to read between the lines as we have to do – is heart-breaking.  I did not feel I had the right to tell his story from his point of view  Who am I to talk like a king?  So it’s going to be a multi-viewpoint narrative from fictional by-standers and participants in the extraordinary events of that fateful summer and autum of 1399.

    I really hope that when it’s finished readers, especially those who are following Hildegard of Meaux into her tenth adventure, will enjoy it.   We’ll have to wait and see.

    Meanwhile, if you want to pre-order the tenth Hildegard medieval mystery – MURDER AT WHITBY ABBEY – you can do so on Amazon in hardback form.  It’s out in June and, though a bit pricey, don’t forget it’s postage free on Amazon Prime.

    Looking forward to hearing from you again soon with news of a few book events up and down the country.

    Best wishes


    follow Hildegard @nunsleuth.co.uk and leave her a message

  • England’s Medieval Festival 2018

    A great way to spend the August Bank Holiday Weekend for all medievalists.  What’s not to like?  Jousting, falcons, music from Perkelt and many other groups including the Pentacle drummers, and puppets, archery of course, jesters, the glorious Flora, spirit of the Spring and too much else to mention.  When I can get my pix to transer from my iphone to the laptop I’ll post my favourites from the medieval village and the crafts stalls. Watch this space.  It surely can’t be long before 21st century technology gets its act together.  There was a coracle as well and I forgot to have a go in/on the waters of the moat.   Many friends from past years it was great to meet again  Lots of lovely people following Hildegard of Meaux and wanting book 10 Murder at Whitby Abbey in a promised brand new book format.  Exciting times ahead and next year to look forward to.  Of course there’ll be rain (again) and it wouldn’t be an August festival without it  Twelve hours without a pause!  The falcons unable to fly because their feathers were wet.  The jousting horses couldn’t care less and carried on regardless – good job they don’t have feathers!  The tents were full and there’s nothing quite like sitting cosily inside a mead tent drinking real ale, talking about the first use of paper in England (Edward I if you want to know) while the rain drums on the canvas.  To next year, then! Thanks for all your help, everybody concerned.

  • So-called King Henry




    So often historians make their accounts of the life of HenryBolingbroke, usurper king Henry IV,  the usual white-wash of a regicide which is much the standard line we were taught in school.  That victors rewrite history we well know and Henry IV certainly rewrote much and (probably) destroyed more as anyone who has looked for primary sources on the reign of Richard II, the king whose crown he stole, will testify.

    My main point of contention with this view is that Henry kept Church and State in harmony.

    I would like to ask then was this before or after he had the Archbishop of York executed without trial outside the walls of York?  Was it before or after Henry’s hunting down of the followers of Wyclif who merely wanted to read the Bible in their own language?  And was this ‘harmony’ before or after the first public burning in England for heresy with the brutal killing of Sir William Sawtre at Smithfield?  Some harmony!

    These apologists for Bolingbroke give the impression that they approve of regicide and an all-round murdering usurper – whom the French continued to call ‘so-called King Henry IV’ – and who incidentally set back the Reformation a hundred years until Luther called time on the pope.

    When blindly going along with the accepted view sometimes it’s a good idea to pause, step back a moment and ask for evidence.  Then take a look at what your hero actually did.  Actions speak volumes, even when they occurred six hundred years ago.


    At last Hildegard, the Abbot and his two militant monks are off to the Abbey of Meaux.  Home at last and all joy, you might think.  But no, they meet a cortege even before they reach the abbey and Hubert is in a cold rage about the death of one of his mentors.  Hildegard, glad to be back in her nunnery with Agnetha looking after things, is distraught to hear that Ulf, Lord Roger’s steward and her old childhood sweetheart, is about to be hanged for murder.  What has been happening while they’ve been away in the south?  It takes forensically minded Brother Gregory to join forces with Hildegard and Pierrekyn Haverel to attemept to sort things out.  But how can Ulf be saved?  Who murdered Brother Alcuin – and more importantly, why should such a harmless old scribe be a victim?  And more, who is behind it all?  While autumn mists wreath the abbey Hildegard is threatened with excommunicaton and King Richard’s enemies run the country as they wish.

  • A new year!

    I’ve been locked out of my blog for ages but now I’m in let me wish all you fans of Hildegard the best ever year ahead.

    Hildegard and the Abbot are returning home to Meaux after too long away.  The militant monks, Gregory and Egbert, are travelling with them as they take ship from Netley for the pirate infested German Ocean – the one we these days call the North Sea.

    Hubert’s main concern is whether his abbey has been wrecked in his absence but that is not all that awaits.

    I’m about to start Chapter One and greatly looking forward to finding out what happens to them all and I hope you are too.  Will they reach the north safely?  Will Meaux be as well-ordered, safe and tranquil as it was when they left for Avignon?  What is going to happen in the months ahead?  What dangers face them?  And while they are engaged with the challenges that lie ahead, what is happening to King Richard after the cruel fate of his allies during the Merciless Parliament?  Will he be the next victim of the avaricious and relentless enemies of the Crown?  Read Murder at Meaux to find out!

  • Have a terrific new year!

    I’ve been locked out of my blog for months but now I’m in I’d like to wish all fans of Hildegard a very happy and medieval new year.

    Hildegard and the Abbot are on their way home to Meaux.  At Netley he made her a life-changing proposition but what will her answer be?  The two militant monks, Gregory and Egbert accompany them on the long sea journey over the pirate-infested German Ocean – as the North Sea was called – and who knows what dangers await?

    Hubert fears that his abbey will have been wrecked during his absence.  Hildegard fears that her answer may not be the one he wants.

    Meanwhile what is happening to King Richard?  After the cruel fate of his allies during the Merciless Parliament will he survive the hatred of the avaricious and relentless enemies of the Crown or will they finally destroy him?

    I’m about to start chapter one to find out what will happen next so remember to keep an eye out for news about Murder at Meaux.


  • Toxophilia

    Had a fabulous day at INSIGHT ACTIVITIES NEW FOREST yesterday as I thought I ought to get some hands-on experience of what it’s like to shoot at things with arrows –  ready for Hildegard’s book 9 in the series.

    Wow!  I admire Ulf even more now.  After loosing a load of arrows I managed to get a couple in the gold – but the target was pretty close, I have to say, not the 80 yards or more a good bowman would smile at.

    The brilliant Josh Smith showed us what to do and didn’t mock once.  Thank you, Josh! It’s quite addictive and I imagine those young varlets ordered by King Edward III to get themselves to the butts every Sunday would need no urging.    I’m looking for an archery club now – but please, no jokes about Maid Marian!

    If you want to see what it looked like take a glance at my twitter link @nunsleuth for some pix.


  • IT’S LIVE!

    Alch_A6_flyer-1Now I know it’s live!  Even before I found out for myself I heard from one of my lovely readers in the U.S. that they’ve just bought an ebook of The Alchemist of Netley Abbey.  This must be the first in the entire world!  Thank you, darling Barbara, you know who you are!

    I’m going to try to get a picture of the cover for this page.  Back soon….

    And here it is designed by the clever Phil Horton.

    It’s out on Kindle and Kobo and later in the summer will be launched as a paperback at the Netley Abbey Literary Festival.