A Discovered Diamond – Book Review of For King and Country

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There is a new site in town – rather, on the web – for reviews of historical fiction: Discovering Diamonds. You should definitely bookmark or follow this site if you are looking for good historical fiction.

And I am thrilled to report that For King and Country, Book II of Battle Scars, has been selected as a ‘highly recommended’ diamond. Read the great review.

“Ms Newcomb has stepped outside the normal restrictions imposed on novels set in these times in that her Henry and Stephan are not only comrades in arms, they are lovers. In a sequence of beautiful scenes, she breathes careful life into their passion, moments of tenderness and love that make it abundantly clear theirs is not a short-term relationship, theirs is the love of a lifetime.”

If you haven’t read the book, I hope the review might sway you! Give it a chance. Get the book on Amazon – it’s available in print and for Kindle.

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Charlene Newcomb is currently working on Book III of Battle Scars, 12th century historical fiction filled with war, political intrigue, and a knightly romance of forbidden love set during the reign of Richard the Lionheart. There will be more to come, so sign up for Char’s Newsletter. It will be used – sparingly – to offer exclusive content and and to let you be the first to know about special offers.

Writing Medieval Lincoln – the Bishops’ Palace

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The porch into the West Hall, added in the 13th century

I don’t get to travel across the Atlantic as often as I would like, so I am revisiting Lincoln today through this post. I could close my eyes to wander medieval Lincoln in my mind’s eye, but it would be hard to type!

I had written about Lincoln Castle and Lincoln Cathedral in previous posts and related how important it was for me to know the state of these magnificent buildings in the 1190s. My knight, Sir Stephan, has one scene – yes, one! – in For King and Country set at the Castle, but that didn’t matter. (It also happens to be one of my favorite scenes in Book II.) Now that I’m writing Book III, Swords of the King, I want to know more about the Bishops’ Palace. Stephan’s lover, Lord Henry de Grey, is on his way to Lincoln as I write this post. The year is 1196.

Henry visited the Cathedral numerous times as a boy before an earthquake left it in ruins in 1185. He remembers the Bishops’ Palace – construction on it dates back to the mid-12th century during the reign of Henry II. The palace, which sits just outside the Cathedral close, wouldn’t have been quite so extensive as the picture above left. That represents additional building in the 13th – 16th centuries.

However, even before the earthquake the Palace was recognized as one of the grandest bishops’ palaces in England. The quake might have caused significant damage to it because Hugh of Avalon, appointed Bishop of Lincoln in 1186, had two major rebuilding projects until his death in 1200. He oversaw the work on the Cathedral and undertook a total rebuilding of the Palace.

Reconstruction of the Cathedral got underway by 1192 – Bishop Hugh had been busy raising funds for the project. But what work would have been completed on the Palace by 1196 when Henry visits? What of the grand kitchen? Or the West Hall? Records appear to indicate that the kitchen, with five huge fireplaces, was completed before Hugh’s death. The West Hall, begun under Hugh, was completed by his successor.

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The Alnwick Tower from ‘inside’ the Palace’s West Hall with Lincoln Cathedral in the background

Did the Alnwick Tower exist in the 12th century? Nope. Can’t mention that as something Henry would have seen as it was not added until the 14th century.

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a room off the East Hall

Rooms off and beneath the East Hall and chapel existed before the earthquake. Henry might have seen the upper part of the hall as a boy, where business would have been conducted. By the time of Bishop Hugh’s death in 1200, the East Hall range had been rebuilt.

Bishop Hugh made a couple of appearances in For King and Country. He is a friend of the de Grey family so Henry will be visiting with him in Book III and perhaps share a meal in the East Hall.

Sources
Medieval Bishops’ Palace, Lincoln, edited by Lorimer Poultney. London: English Heritage, 2002, rev. 2013.

Image credits

All photos are the author’s own, and are licensed for re-use under CC BY-SA. See all my photos of the Medieval Bishops’ Palace on my FLICKR page.

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Charlene Newcomb is currently working on Book III of her Battle Scars series, 12th century historical fiction filled with war, political intrigue, and a knightly romance of forbidden love set during the reign of Richard the Lionheart. There will be more to come, so sign up for Char’s  Newsletter. It will be used – sparingly – to offer exclusive content and and to let you be the first to know about special offers.

Writing Medieval Lincoln – Lincoln Castle

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The Observatory Tower

I wish I lived closer to Lincoln or could have the Enterprise transporter take me the 4000+ miles in a few seconds. While I am wishing for the transporter, I might as well add a time machine to the mix. Where is the TARDIS when you need it?

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I didn’t have a chance to visit Lincoln until after I published Book II of Battle Scars. Lincoln’s 12th century history is background for my novel, but only two scenes from the 579 page book actually take place there.

Photos on image sites are great for seeing what a place looks like, but as I mentioned in previous posts on Lincoln Cathedral and  Nottingham Castle, those pictures only capture a snapshot of a place in a specific time. If I hadn’t dug deeper, I might have assumed the Castle’s Observatory Tower existed in the 1190s, but it wasn’t added until the 19th century, and Cobb Hall, a tower on the north-east corner of the Castle, wasn’t built until the 13th century.

The Castle dates back to the 11th century, one of the fortifications built by William the Conqueror and the Normans. It would have had a wooden palisade back then, but by the early 12th century, stone replaced the timber walls.

The Lucy Tower originally stood two stories high and would have been home to the castle constable (also known as the castellan). Lucy, daughter of Thorold, first sheriff of Lincolnshire, inherited the title of constable and passed it on to her son, Ranulf, 4th Earl of Chester. When Henry II became king, the title went to the de la Haye family.

The Castle saw conflict in the 12th century: at the Siege of Lincoln in 1141, King Stephen was captured by troops loyal to the Empress Matilda. In 1191, while King Richard was on Crusade, his chancellor William Longchamp laid siege here for forty days against Nichola de la Haye. She and her husband Gerard de Camville, who became castellan when they married, were staunch supporters of Prince John. Nichola defended the castle in her husband’s absence and did not surrender. After de Camville’s death, Nichola, as castellan, once again held Lincoln Castle in 1217 for more than three months against the French, who were finally routed when William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke and regent for Henry III, arrived with more troops.

One of four surviving originals of Magna Carta is housed in Lincoln Castle. There is another 800 years of history at this remarkable place – visits by kings and queens, of plague, economic turns, the English Civil War, and more. The buildings in the bailey are more recent construction – a courthouse and a prison existed there in the 17th century. The red brick building above was a prison completed during the 19th century, and when we visited, the tents were placed for a University of Lincoln graduation celebration.

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Soldiers on the battlements in the 1190s wouldn’t have had this view

The white timber-framed house on the left (now the Tourist Information Center) sits on the corner of an old road known as Ermine Street. This was a main north-south road since Roman times. Need to get to York? Turn left/north and the road will pass through the old Roman gate – the Newport Arch. The road south took medieval travelers all the way to London.

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Ruins of the 3rd century Roman gate – the Newport Arch

Historic places never get old, do they? 🙂

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Charlene Newcomb is currently working on Book III of her Battle Scars series, 12th century historical adventures filled with war, political intrigue, and a knightly romance of forbidden love set during the reign of Richard the Lionheart. There will be more to come, so sign up for Char’s Newsletter. It will be used – sparingly – to offer exclusive content and and to let you be the first to know about special offers.

Writing Medieval Lincoln -Lincoln Cathedral

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I am standing at the top of the observatory tower of Lincoln Castle eyeing the streets of Lincoln and the magnificent Cathedral. What a fine setting for a novel, don’t you think? Yes, so did I, which is how Sir Stephan l’Aigle ends up in Lincoln in 1193 in For King and Country. But, the observatory tower didn’t exist back then. And Lincoln Cathedral? It was pretty much a pile of rubble after an earthquake rocked the area in 1185.¹

Writers want to place the reader in the shoes of the main characters so they see, hear, smell, and feel a place. It can be a bit challenging when writing historical fiction, and sometimes daunting – have I missed a source that would give more accurate information about this place and time? The reader familiar with the time period and location may put my novel aside if I screwed up, or at least, they might be temporarily thrown out of the story. Not a good thing!

I never intended for Stephan to enter the Cathedral, but I was curious. Would I need to mention it, especially given its proximity (about .2 of a mile) to the Castle? I had to do some sleuthing to discover if Hugh, elected as Bishop of Lincoln in 1186, had started reconstruction. Did the Cathedral look like this in 1193 when Stephan visits Lincoln Castle?

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Would the interior look at all similar to the photos I snapped in September?

Were the flying buttresses built?

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The answers to these questions: “No.” Bishop Hugh, who was canonized after his death, did begin raising money to rebuild this magnificent building in 1186 and construction was underway by the end of 1192.

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timeline of 11-13th century construction – signage is part of the Cathedral experience and the photo is  copyright Sharon Connolly; used with permission

The original church dates back to 1072, a few short years after the Norman Conquest, and the signage shows renditions of the structure before and after the earthquake. I think I was safe to assume that there was little there in 1193 that resembled a cathedral. Stephan arrived under cover of darkness and departed rather quickly  – he probably wouldn’t have noticed anyway…

Notes:

¹ “The damage to Lincoln cathedral has been debated. “… the extent of the damage is an inference from the other parts of the building which show no vestige of other earlier work. What has survived [of the pre-earthquake building] is the lower central part of the west end and the lower part of its two attached angle towers.”
http://www.earthquakes.bgs.ac.uk/historical/data/studies/MUSS008/MUSS008.pdf

Image credits

All photos, except where noted, are the author’s own, and are licensed for re-use under CC BY-SA.

See more of photos of Lincoln Cathedral on my FLICKR page.

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Charlene Newcomb is currently working on Book III of her Battle Scars series, 12th century historical adventures filled with war, political intrigue, and a knightly romance of forbidden love set during the reign of Richard the Lionheart. There will be more to come, so sign up for Char’s Newsletter. It will be used – sparingly – to offer exclusive content and and to let you be the first to know about special offers.

 

A Young Earl, A Bad Marriage

ranulf_de_blondeville-2Some medieval arranged marriages were successful: Edward III & Philippa; William Marshal and Isabel de Clare. Love blossomed between couples brought together for political or business alliances.

Last week on English Historical Fiction Authors I shared the story of a not-so-happily-ever-after. Constance of Brittany, the widow of Henry II’s son, married Ranulf de Blundeville, 6th earl of Chester in 1188. One biographer describes their relationship as one of a “lifelong mutual loathing.”*

Ranulf appears in For King and Country in scenes leading up to, and including, the March 1194 Siege of Nottingham. He returns in Battle Scars III, Swords of the KingRead about Ranulf’s life on EHFA. Enjoy! 

Sources:
*Soden, I. (2013). Ranulf de Blondeville: the First English Hero. Stroud, Gloucestershire: Amberley Publishing.

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Charlene Newcomb is the author of the Battle Scars series, 12th century historical adventures set during the reign of Richard the Lionheart. There will be more to come, so sign up for Char’s Mailing List. It will be used – sparingly – to offer exclusive content and and to let you be the first to know about special offers.

My visit to Nottingham Castle

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Nottingham Castle Gatehouse

As part of my travels in September, I was able to return to Nottingham for a half day adventure to  explore the Castle. I set several scenes of For King and Country there, so you can imagine how exciting it was for me to have an opportunity to see it from the perspective of someone with research interests rather than just being a tourist as I had been on my first visit in 2010. And there was an added bonus this time! In addition to hanging out with friends Al, Julie, and Katie, I got to take a fantastic tour of the caves.

Now Nottingham and its Castle today don’t look like Nottingham of 1193-1194. The gatehouse pictured above wasn’t built until the 1250s. (I wrote about my research in an earlier post.) Today I just want to share some photos from my trip.

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As you walk toward the gatehouse, there’s a lovely courtyard where Robin Hood is ready to defend the Castle from intruders (or is he planning to rob the rich?) The stone of what would have been been a wall of the outer bailey is visible. But in the 1190s during the reign of Richard I, the Lionheart, this would have been a timber and earthworks palisade.

After you pass through the gatehouse, which back in the 13th-17th centuries was a bit taller, you walk through the outer bailey towards the medieval bridge (above left) into what once housed the middle bailey. The photo on the right shows the view after we’d walked under the bridge and looked back. The stone bridge, which dates back to Henry II’s reign in the 12th century, would have crossed a deep ditch, which you can see in the photo I took of the sign describing the past magnificence of the site (below).  The fancy statues weren’t there in Henry’s time but were added later. The bridge is all that is left now.

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It is hard to picture the middle and upper baileys of the 12th century castle because nothing really remains of them. The Castle was reduced to rubble during the English Civil War in the 17th century. Much of the original stone was carted off for other building projects, and even the height of the upper bailey was reduced when the ducal palace was built there by William Cavendish in 1674.

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The ducal palace occupying the site, now a museum and art gallery

According to records, there was a second deep ditch separating the middle and upper baileys, also built by Henry II.  The museum has several dioramas, including this one representing the Castle circa 1500:

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Nottingham Castle, circa 1500

In the last few years, the caves and tunnels beneath the Castle are being explored and one is open for a guided tour. So we started down the uneven path…

In one area, the sandstone roof no longer exists. The guide said it had been knocked out so defensive weapons could be placed there during the Civil War.

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In some places, the tunnel was wider than it appears in the photo above. There were steps carved into the sandstone in many parts of the pathway, but nothing to hold onto except in the one area where the path was extremely steep. The tunnel winds down several hundred feet. I was glad we were going down! Men who brought supplies up from the River Leen in medieval times might have been leading pack animals up through the tunnels.

And after a hard day’s work carting supplies up, the good folk could go round the corner to Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem for an ale.

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Cheers!

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Charlene Newcomb is currently working on Book III of her Battle Scars series, 12th century historical fiction filled with war, political intrigue, and a knightly romance of forbidden love set during the reign of Richard the Lionheart. There will be more to come, so sign up for Char’s Newsletter. It will be used – sparingly – to offer exclusive content and and to let you be the first to know about special offers.

Visiting with author Helena Schrader about my novel For King and Country

5fd8e47ed036ac5eb5bd484b32302357-1-2 Join me on Helena Schrader’s blog today as we talk about For King and Country. I “met” Helena virtually when Battle Scars I, Men of the Cross, was published and Helena was writing her trilogy on Balian d’Ibelin covering the years prior to the Third Crusade. Our common interests in that time period led to conversation and interviews, so I am delighted to continue that tradition and thank Helena for inviting me back to her blog. I hope you will enjoy the Q&A!

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For King and Country is a B.R.A.G. Medallion honoree and has been selected as a Historical Novel Society Editor’s Choice. It is currently available on Amazon in ebook and print formats.