• A Lead-lined Coffin

    It was Richard II’s birthday at Epiphany but it will also be the anniversary of his murder on St Valentine’s Day.

    He is believed to have been murdered by his ambitious cousin Henry Bolingbroke, one-time Duke of Lancaster, the usurper Henry IV.  King Richard’s body was carried out of Pontefract Castle at night in a wooden coffin.  When it reached London it was displayed before 20,000 people who came to pay their respects – or to see for themselves whether it really was King Richard, ‘the golden boy.’

    For this reason, and to put an end to the hopes of anybody thinking of over-turning Henry IV’s grab for power, his face was open to the public gaze.  It was said to have been serene in death.  And yet, the rest of his body had a lead lining hammered over it.  Was this to conceal the wounds that had been inflicted?  Only by exhuming the body from its tomb in Westminster Abbey where it lies next to his beloved wife Anne of Bohemia will we ever know the truth.

    DNA might also put to rest the rumour that, in fact, it is not King Richard at all, but a look-alike priest called Maskelyne who was murdered earlier.  Richard, the story goes, escaped to Scotland where the king there gave him a small annuity until 1419 when it stopped, presumaably because Richard had then died of natural causes.

    Is this true?

    Can we ever know?

    At least we would know if his DNA matched that of the other Plantagenets.  Or would we?  Maskelyne himself was said to be an illegitimate son of the Black Prince, Richard’s father.

    Mystery on mystery.

    This is why history is so fascinating.  A few answers, though, would help me sleep better at night.

    What do you think the truth is?

  • Publishers’ Weekly Review

    Another most pleasing review for The Dragon of Handale.  This one is starred and comes from Publishers’ Weekly.

    “Outstanding…Clark pulls everything together neatly in a moody, atmospheric whodunit while sustaining a high level of tension throughout.’

     

    This makes all those long hours sitting at my desk worth every minute.  Thank you.

  • Review of the Dragon

    I’m utterly delighted to have the first review in for The Dragon of Handale.  It’s from the prestigious Kirkus Review and they say:

    “This is a dramatic mystery lavishly studded with period detail.  Clark’s best to date.”

     

     

     

     

  • Happy Birthday!

    On this day in 1367 at the Feast of Epiphany Richard of Bordeaux, the future King Richard II of England, was born.  He was the second son of the Black Prince and the Fair Maid of Kent.  When his elder brother died he became king at the age of ten and was  crowned in Westminster Abbey.

  • Publication date!

    I’m really delighted to let you know that the Dragon of Handale is to be published by St Martins Press in March 2015!  I hope you’ll preorder a copy.  If you want a hint of what Hildegard does next, read on.

    Back from pilgrimage to Compostela, she is undecided about whether to leave behind her identity as ‘Mistress York’ and return to her Order (if they’ll have her back) or remain unprotected outside the Order.  To help her make up her mind the prioress sends her into the wilds of north Yorkshire to the remote house of correction, Handale Priory, where she’ll be able to think things over and decide what to do next.  But when she arrives, of course, all is not what it seems.

    The Handale nuns are hysterical with fear because a dragon is haunting the woods despite the high walls that enclose them and, worse, a young mason has already been killed in a most savage manner…There are other things, too, that make Hildegard fear for her own life and that of the nuns…what, for instance, is in the secret tower in the woods?  Who is Master Fulke and what power does he have over the priory?  Why are all the chivalry of the north meeting at nearby Kilton Castle?  And who has sent a courier riding so desperately across the moors, what is his destination – and  who are the two men following him with such malign persistence?

    Read book five The Dragon of Handale to find out!

     

  • HIldegard’s fan club

    Hildegard’s followers are increasing in number by the day.   It’s good to discover that readers are so thoroughly  enjoying her exploits and terrific when self-confessed medievalists are so enthusiastic about the series and appreciate my exploration of the times.  I was in London yesterday, doing some research for the next book, and your comments were so heart-warming, they make it all worthwhile.  And yes, with your help and enthusiasm I shall continue to follow Hildegard into the darkest side of Chaucer’s England, come what may.  Thank you.

  • One of my favourite medieval…

    …cities is York.  I’ve just made a flying visit there to talk to some intrepid Americans from the Smithsonian at the stunning Treasurer’s House near the Minster.  They asked some terrific questions and it was a real delight to find they’d started reading the Hildegard series.  Yes, I expect her to go on for some time yet.  I hope the sixth book, The Butcher of Avignon, will not disappoint.

    The seventh is already taking shape, its possible title:   The Scandal of the Skulls.

    Hildegard returns to England but while she’s been in Avignon Woodstock and Arundel have butchered most of King Richard’s closest advisors.  An encounter with someone from the past sets Hildgard on a collision course with the king’s enemies…

    It was a trip to Salisbury to climb the famous steeple there that showed me what happens next.

  • If medieval matters are too…

    …modern for you then why not look up the Anglo Saxons?  Try first the brilliant and informative website of  Penelope Walton Rogers, Visiting Fellow in archaeology at York University.   Find her at www.aslab.co.uk

    There were some satisfyingly strong women around, to name but one, Hild of Whitby.  King Alfred’s daughter was also tough enough to run Mercia for seven years without a husband wielding his sword.  Whose your favourite Anglo-Saxon woman?  Come to that, whose your favourite Anglo-Saxon man?

     

  • Books are my bag

    Have you ever read a book?

    If you have then come along to Waterstones Book Shop in Lymington High Street this Saturday 11th October at 2 p.m. to tell us about it.  I shall be there to sign a few Hildegard books too so do come and say hello.  Even more, Tracey Emin has designed a special book bag to celebrate the joy of books and you’ll have a chance to win one of this special edition.  Good luck and see you there!

  • Talking about…

    Talking about medieval times the other day, as you do, I was struck by how young everybody in power was then.  Richard II himself, only ten when he became king, was only fourteen when he averted a massacre at Smithfield in 1381. At the beginning of the Hildegard series he’s already fifteen and married – to another fifteen year old, Anne.  His arch rival and eventual nemesis, his cousin Henry Bolingbroke, is the same age.  Medford, Richard’s spy master, is only in his twenties.  Even Richard’s barbaric and ambitious uncle, Thomas Woodstock, regarded as the old guard, is not much more than twenty five.

    As Hildegard says, we are ruled by children.

    It’s not surprsing that the Plantagents blew themselves apart, metaphorically.  They were  more like playground lads having a fisticuffs than elder statesmen – albeit with fatal results.

    When Hildegard gets in on the act even she’s not much above thirty.  Married at fifteen, two children by the time she’s eighteen, and, still a teenage mum, widowed when her husband gets inovolved in the 100 Years War, she’s younger than Cadfael but with the same authority.  She’s also younger than Shardlake but then the Tudors always seem to be a bit long in the tooth.

    I suppose we can account for this by the Plague which did for whole swathes of the populace.  As unstoppable as Ebola seems today in those young African communities, it made a space for impetuous and essentially youthful ambition.