• 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


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  • 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.

  • Launch Day (soon)!

    It’s getting closer!  I mean the day when the ebook of The Alchemist of Netley Abbey comes out.  For some reason I’m finding this more exciting than the launch day of almost any of the other seven in Hildegard’s series.  It feels as if there’s something really special about this one.  It’s as if something extraordinary is about to happen!

    I’ve also been reluctant to clear away my notes this time.  I keep finding little stickies bearing snatches of dialogue which never made it to the final version – there was so much more I could have put in and I’ve cut such a lot.  For instance, I became really interested in alchemy.  In Christian Europe alchemists were nearly always men even though in the days of Ancient Greece women, such as the mathematician Hypatia, worked equally with men.  Why did the Christian fathers clamp down on women’s activities?  What were they afaid of?  It has taken centuries for us to shake off the bonds of poor education and social stigma.  I hope the generation of schoolgirls coming out into the world nowadays learn about our history as women and forge ahead in a way previous generations were unable to do.  How different would science be by now if women had taken an equal role?  What other lines of inquiry would have been followed?  Would there have been a difference?  Nobody can know, we can only speculate.

    It’s for these sort of reasons I get really sick of all the nonsense about witches. I know it’s a bit of a hobby-horse of mine but it was a hot political issue and surely deserves more than to be an occasion for fake shivers of horror.  At least in the late fourteenth century witch-burning was not an issue.  It simply didn’t happen.  Only later, in the schismatic period of the Tudor and Reformation wars of religion did it become a way of eliminating the enemies of orthodoxy.  How easy it was to get rid of women who ‘mouthed off ‘ by burning them at the stake as witches!  And dear old Wyclif died before they could get to him, although they did imagine it was a good idea to dig up his body and do nasty things to it.

    The reign of King Richard II was relatively civilised in a way we might understand today.  The first public burning of a heretic was not a women but a man – and it didn’t happen in Richard’s reign but later,  when his regicidal cousin Bolingbroke snatched the crown, making it one of the first acts by the king the French always referred to as ‘so-called Hery  IV.’  His unlucky victim was a man called William Sawtre and he was burned alive at Smithfield for refusing to accept the validity of orthodox religious belief.  You could say it was a bit rich,  coming from Bolingbroke/Henry, who himself murdered God’s anointed king.  How unorthodox was that!  Later, there were wholesale burnings of and by both Catholics and their opponents.  But by now we’re in the world of the barbaric Tudors.

    Such a lot has to be omitted in a novel.  It’s not a history book, after all.  I hope there’s enough about alchemy to make Hywel credible and to open the door to another aspect of that curious and exciting medieval world which (hobby-horse again) has been dropped from the National Curriculum.

    Next time I should have a date for the launch.  Watch this space!

  • The mysterious Netley Abbey

    The new book, THE ALCHEMIST OF NETLEY ABBEY, is about to be hurled out into the cruel world.  I hope readers treat it gently.  Hildegard, the abbot and his two militant monks have been forced by fate to seek shelter at Netley Abbey where a group of pilgrims are waiting for a ship to take them to France.  A Welsh alchemist attends Abbot de Courcy but is he to be trusted?  What did Abbot Philip at Netley mean when he said spies had infiltrated his demesne?  Just a short ride away King Richard’s bitterest enemy, the earl of Arundel, commands the Narrow Seas so what are three of his mercenaries doing at Netley?  Follow Hildegard on her 8th perilous mission as she tracks down a murderer within the abbey precinct.

    Will Hildegard and Hubert ever get it together?  Will they ever get home to Meaux?

    Find out in May when the ebook emerges and pick up a book later.

    Latest on twitter where you can follow Hildegard @nunsleuth