Latest from the H for History blog

Christmas with the Wives of Henry VIII by Alison Weir

Posted on: 05/12/2016 with tags: alison weir, anne boleyn, christmas, English History, henry viii, katherine of aragon, Six Tudor Queens, six wives, tudors, Tudor

Christmas in Tudor England is always described as a season of great feasting and revelry, but, then as now, it was a time when sadness was more poignant. That was sometimes the reality of the festive season for the hapless wives of Henry VIII. Henry’s first wife, Katherine of Aragon, came to England in 1501 to marry his older brother Arthur. She had been married little more than a month when she spent her first Christmas in England, and it was not observed in the traditional way, for the young c…

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The Conqueror’s Christmas by David Churchill

Posted on: 01/12/2016 with tags: Charlemagne, christmas, david churchill, devil, duke, william the conqueror, Medieval

Two great empire builders were crowned on Christmas Day. The first, in the year 800, was Charlemagne. He liked to claim that it had happened by accident. He’d popped into St Peter’s Basilica in Rome for Christmas Mass, knelt down at the altar to pray and the next thing he knew, Pope Leo II was placing the crown of the Roman Empire on his head and calling him Emperor. It seems less than entirely credible that one of the greatest rulers in all European history could have received his mightiest tit…

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H for History’s Jo Liddiard reviews The Apprentice of Split Crow Lane by Jane Housham

Posted on: 29/11/2016 with tags: Book review, historical crime, The Apprentice of Split Crow Lane, true crime, Victorian, Victorian England, Victorian

At the start of The Apprentice of Split Crow Lane Jane Housham explains that ‘recounting a true story as it unfurled means you have to take it as it comes.’ She explains that it might not have a neat and tidy ending that you might expect, and that the story won’t unfold in the way a novel would – and she’s right but her engrossing book does not suffer because of this. I would always say – if asked to choose – that I would pick fiction over non-fiction because I need that narrative drive which yo…

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Jack Lark’s Christmas – Paul Fraser Collard

Posted on: 28/11/2016 with tags: author blog, christmas, historical fiction, Paul Fraser Collard, Redcoat, Victorian, Victorian

Jack Lark’s Christmas Paul Fraser Collard explores Christmas for a Victorian redcoat soldier Jack Lark awoke with a groan. Reveille was sounding, the bugler giving it a louder and longer flourish than usual. But it was not a day to linger under the blanket even though, like on a Sunday, he could have rested there for another hour. Already the chill barrack room was noisy, his messmates up and exchanging loud greetings, for once without their usual swearing and abuse. ‘Come on, Mud.’ Pike, the so…

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How the Victorians Changed Christmas by Anna Mazzola

Posted on: 24/11/2016 with tags: Anna Mazzola, christmas, Christmas Cards, Christmas Tree, Crackers, Father Christmas, The Unseeing, Victorians, Christmas, Victorian

Hate Christmas? Blame the Victorians. At the beginning of the 19th century, Christmas was barely celebrated. It wasn’t just Ebenezer Scrooge who begrudged his clerk the day off – many didn’t consider the 25th December to be a holiday. There were no crackers, no cards, no Santa, and no Christmas trees, at least not in England. By mid-century, however, Christmas was big business. Charles Dickens himself was partly to blame. A Christmas Carol, published in 1843, helped to popularise among the newly…

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Author David Morrell on escaping to Victorian London

Posted on: 17/11/2016 with tags: author blog, crime fiction, David Morrell, historical fiction, Victorian

For the past seven years, I’ve been a time traveller, writing a Victorian mystery trilogy about 1850’s London.  The three novels (Murder As a Fine Art, Inspector of the Dead, and Ruler of the Night) feature a controversial literary figure from the era, Thomas De Quincey, who was notorious for having written the first book about drug addiction, Confessions of an English Opium-Eater (1821), and who praised mass murderers in his famous essay, ‘On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts’. Seven ye…

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Using Real Historical Characters in Fiction – S.G MacLean

Posted on: 14/11/2016 with tags: British History, civil war, cromwell, Damien Seeker, english civil war, English History, historical fiction, historical novel, history, oliver cromwell, S.G MacLean, The Black Friar, The Commonwealth, The Seeker

I am often asked about the extent to which I use real historical characters in my fiction. Because I write historical crime, I don’t feel I can use real characters as the victims or perpetrators of crimes that never actually happened, so I tend to just have them as subsidiary characters, and will occasionally throw suspicion on them. However, my most firm rule is not to show real historical characters in a bad light unless the portrayal is supported by historical record. I always bear in mind th…

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The Real Prince of Roses by Alison Weir

Posted on: 08/11/2016 with tags: alison weir, Arthur, English History, henry viii, historical fiction, katherine of aragon, the tudors, Tudor

My forthcoming fictional e-short on Arthur Tudor, Prince of Wales, published on 10th November, is based closely on historical sources. My account of the Prince’s long-debated illness owes much to the ground-breaking research of Katherine of Aragon’s recent biographer, Patrick Williams. Thanks to his discovery in the Spanish archives of the testimony of Katherine’s physician, Dr Alcaraz, given in 1531 at Zaragoza, we can now be almost certain of the cause of Arthur’s early death. My own research…

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Anna Mazzola and Jane Housham talk THE UNSEEING and THE APPRENTICE OF SPLIT CROW LANE

Posted on: 07/11/2016 with tags: Anna Mazzola, author content, author interview, crime fiction, Jane Housham, The Apprentice of Split Crow Lane, The Unseeing, Victorian

Anna Mazzola: So we’ve both ended up writing about awful crimes from the nineteenth century. What’s your excuse? Jane Housham: I was researching my dad’s side of the family, who come from the North East, when I came across reports of an awful murder in Newcastle and Gateshead newspapers. At first I was just curious to know whether we might have a murderer in the family, but the more I looked into it, the more compelling it seemed to become, and aspects of the crime seemed to shake up things I th…

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Snooping in the name of History – Jane Housham

Posted on: 02/11/2016 with tags: author blog, English History, historical crime, historical novel, history, Jane Housham, The Apprentice of Split Crow Lane, Victorian, 20th Century, Victorian

For me no trip to Brighton is complete without a poke around Snoopers’ Paradise, the rambling antique emporium in the North Laine. I was rifling through a box of old photographs there when I noticed that some seemed to have come from the same album as they were numbered on the back in a distinctive hand. I bought all of them that I could find. The photos were just small, fairly undistinguished images, some quite blurry, but whoever they had belonged to had a wonderfully organised mind. Not only…

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