Latest from the H for History blog

Spy Fever: how spy lies led to the creation of the Secret Service

Posted on: 17/05/2017 with tags: author blog, conspiracy theories, crime fiction, English History, historical crime, historical fiction, 20th Century

For a historical novelist, the usual way of things is to delve into history, to look at what’s interesting or important, a setting, an event, a time period – we write into this, try to recreate, re-imagine, re-use as we see fit. But what happens when this gets turned on its head, when fiction starts turning into fact? In writing my first historical novel – The Irregular, set in 1909 – I discovered a startling example of invention becoming real, of fiction (spy fiction no less) having a very prof…

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Matilda by David Churchill

Posted on: 16/05/2017 with tags: david churchill, devil, duke, leopards of normandy, Matilda of Flanders, william the conqueror, Norman

One of my favourite aspects of the story of William the Conqueror is his relationship with his wife, Matilda of Flanders. Unlike any previous Duke of Normandy, William had one wife, who was the mother of all his children, and is not known to have had any mistresses or sired any bastards. Now, this may say less about his fidelity than the fact that he was so powerful that no chronicler dared tell any negative stories about him. But had he produced any illegitimate sons, they would have grown up t…

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THE HISTORY BEHIND THE FICTION: Anne Boleyn’s Brothers – Alison Weir

Posted on: 15/05/2017 with tags: alison weir, anne boleyn, George Boleyn, Henry Boleyn, henry viii, Six Tudor Queens, Thomas Boleyn, Tudor

It is often claimed that two of Anne Boleyn’s brothers died as infants. The cross brass of young ‘Thomas Bullayne’ in Penshurst Church, Kent, describes him as the son of Sir Thomas Boleyn, who was knighted in 1509; thus Thomas must have died after that date. Henry’s grave is marked by another cross brass adjacent to his father’s tomb in Hever Church. The fact that there were two similar cross brasses suggests that the boys may have died around the same time. There were five Boleyn siblings whose…

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What’s a passionate man to do? Sarah Shoemaker

Posted on: 10/05/2017 with tags: Charlotte Bronte, Divorce, Jane Eyre, Mr Rochester, Nineteenth Century, Sarah Shoemaker, 19th Century

Love, marriage and divorce in the world of Jane Eyre Sometimes, seeing Mr Rochester tied down to an insane wife and loving Jane, it would seem easy to ask: Why doesn’t he just get a divorce? That may be cruel, but, indeed, what kind of marriage have they anyway? Or have they ever had after the first few months? I’m sure I must have asked that question when I first read Jane Eyre. Some history will make Rochester’s situation a little clearer: Before the latter part of the nineteenth century, marr…

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True or False? Anne Boleyn Quiz

Posted on: 04/05/2017 with tags: alison weir, anne boleyn, henry viii, Quiz, Six Tudor Queens, six wives of henry viii, Tudor

For publication of the latest in her Six Tudor Queens series Alison Weir has put together this true or false quiz about Henry VIIIs second wife. The second captivating novel in the Six Tudor Queens series. An unforgettable portrait of the ambitious woman whose fate we know all too well, but whose true motivations may surprise you. The young woman who changed the course of history. Fresh from the palaces of Burgundy and France, Anne draws attention at the English court, embracing the play of cour…

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Fact vs Fiction by David Churchill

Posted on: 04/05/2017 with tags: david churchill, devil, duke, Lady Godvia, leopards of normandy, william the conqueror, Norman

One of the constant issues one deals with as a writer of historical fiction, particularly when it’s set in a region of northern Europe that was only just emerging from the Dark Ages, is the degree to which one has to be true to the facts. The problem is there aren’t very many facts to be true to. Of course this is also an opportunity, as it leaves a tremendous amount of room for one’s imagination. Still, I am constantly alert to the danger of writing something that might cause an expert – actual…

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Take to the air with Claude Grahame-White and Rebecca Mascull

Posted on: 03/05/2017 with tags: historical fiction, Rebecca Mascull, The Wild Air, 20th Century, WW1

Author of The Wild Air Rebecca Mascull explores women’s position in the aviation industry and the real-life figure of Claude Grahame-White. A major personality of early aviation, Claude Grahame-White is rightly revered for his place in the history of flying. So, this is what’s true and what isn’t about Claude Grahame-White in my book The Wild Air: he was very good-looking – just look at any photograph! And he was married to a wealthy socialite. He was instrumental in the creation and development…

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Researching the Nipigon River by Sarah Maine

Posted on: 19/04/2017 with tags: 19th Century, Canada, Nipigon river, research, Scotland, 19th Century

I have two prints on my wall. One is a hand-coloured wood engraving by T. Weber dated 1890 Vue Prise sur la Rivière Nipigon  which shows the lower reaches of  a mighty river flowing past pine-clad cliffs and down to the north shore of Lake Superior in Canada. The other is a black and white photograph of one of the islands in these lower reaches and is dated 1893 – spot on for the year in which Charles Ballantyre, a wealthy Scottish landowner brings his party to fish on the Nipigon. The photograp…

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West Country Links to the Medieval Plagues by Karen Maitland

Posted on: 06/04/2017 with tags: Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, karen maitland, Somerset, the plague, The Plague Charmer, West Country, Medieval, Middle Ages

Karen Maitland explores medieval plague links in the West Country – the setting of her latest novel, The Plague Charmer.   DORSET Melcombe (now part of Weymouth) – Dorset Several medieval chroniclers claimed that this town is where the plague first entered Britain in 1348 via two ships from the Channel Islands or Calais. This town is said to be the first in England to be infected. (I wrote a scene of this event in Company of Liars). Others chroniclers claim it was a ship from Bristol which…

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The Plague of Men by Karen Maitland

Posted on: 04/04/2017 with tags: company of liars, England, karen maitland, Pestilence, plague, The Plague Charmer, Middle Ages, Plague

My new medieval thriller, The Plague Charmer, is set in 1361 and if you’d been unfortunate enough to be living in England that year, you would probably have believed the world was coming to an end because that was the year the Black Death struck again, only thirteen years after it had first ravaged England. In the minds of medieval people, omens of impending disaster had been building steadily. The weather was unusually hot and dry causing a terrible drought so that food crops failed, as well as…

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