23 September, 2009

Misinformation About Edward II, Pokers, Etc

This will be my last post until the end of the first week of October or thereabouts, as my holiday begins tomorrow. We're off to North Wales, so will be visiting, among lots of other places, Caernarfon Castle - birthplace of Edward II, the onlie begetter of this insuing blog! I'm so looking forward to it. I have been there before, but when I was six, so can barely remember it. Lots of pics of Caernarfon and several of Edward I's other Welsh castles to follow here on my return.

Thank you to Carla Nayland for giving me a blog award! Much appreciated, Carla.

I always find it amusing - though also depressing - to read the crap about Edward II that some people put online, and believe me, there's a lot of stupid inaccurate crap about him out there (not only online, either). The 682nd anniversary a couple of days ago of his alleged death at Berkeley Castle on 21 September 1327 has brought up the usual oh-so-tediously-predictable rash of blog posts about the red-hot poker, some rather more misinformed than others: one claimed that Edward was, and I quote, "ignobly killed, some say by his wife and/or his gay lover. Death was adminstered by a red hot poker up the bum while he was on the toilet." Oh, the boundless confusion in that one! Love the idea of Isabella and Edward's gay lover, which presumably means Hugh Despenser, conspiring to have him murdered, and the fact that Hugh had been dead for ten months at the time of Edward's supposed death be damned. (Given that there are novels which have Roger Mortimer fathering Edward III even though he was in a different country to Isabella at the time of Edward's conception, and online articles postulating that Edward I fathered Edward III, that shouldn't pose a problem if anyone feels like writing a crappy novel about it.) Or maybe it was Isabella and her gay lover? Maybe Roger Mortimer was secretly a woman! Hey, I definitely feel a crappy sensationalist novel coming on here. And if readers complain that turning Mortimer into a woman or having Despenser alive ten months after his death is stupid and disrespectful, not to mention completely impossible, I can always shriek "But it's FICTION!!!! If you want historical accuracy, read a biography!" in the shouty and also tediously predictable manner of some commentators on Amazon.

That phrase 'Death was administered...' makes me giggle: "If you could just lie on your stomach, Mr Caernarfon, and please make sure you remain absolutely still while we administer death up your back passage by red-hot poker." The bit about the toilet, by the way, actually comes from stories circulating in the late thirteenth century about the death of Edmund Ironside in 1016, and is not and never has been part of the red-hot poker myth about Edward II.

I love this particular paragraph from a blog post, which is wonderfully chock-full of wrongness: "Queen Isabella, wife of King Edward II, entertained her lover Mortimer at Nottingham Castle. Romantics believe that Isabella, who had been made a virtual prisoner by the King, received Mortimer at the castle after he had gained entry by climbing the inn’s 20 metre long chimney, which was reputed to lead to a secret passageway into the castle. Isabella eventually escaped with her lover to France from where in 1326 she overthrew her husband and subsequently caused his murder at Berkeley Castle." I can only stand back and admire as the writer manages to turn Edward III's arrest of Roger Mortimer at Nottingham Castle in 1330 into a dashingly romantic tale of Mortimer himself secretly entering the castle to see his One Twu Wuv. And as a bonus, there's the inclusion of the tired old myths that Isabella 'escaped' from England to France in 1325, and that Edward III imprisoned her in 1330 for the rest of her life - I assume the 'virtual prisoner' bit is a reference to that, unless the writer erroneously believes that Edward II imprisoned her. Actually, given the wrongness of all the rest, s/he probably did believe that. This whole thing shows that if you're going to get things wrong, you might as well get them magnificently wrong, I suppose.

Blog post regarding Isabella's death in 1358: "When she died, she asked to be entombed with Mortimer's heart placed in her casket." Nope; Isabella was buried with Edward II's heart, not Mortimer's, and with the gown she wore for her and Edward's wedding. She wasn't buried next to Mortimer at the Greyfriars church in London either, a myth still often repeated as fact.

Spotted on two so-called 'history' sites: Edward "turned over to Gaveston all of the wedding gifts Isabella brought to the marriage - including the marriage bed" and "King Philip IV of France had given Edward some fancy jewelry which was found to be hanging on Gaveston's neck the very next day." Giving Piers Gaveston the marriage bed?? Where on earth do people get this stuff, and why do they post it as 'fact'? Piers wearing Isabella's jewellery the day after her wedding - what, did Edward send it to him back in England via UPS? For pity's sake, isn't Edward II's story fascinating enough without inventing such lurid fiction? Apparently not; it seems that history has to be sexed up, dumbed down and made as scandalous as possible these days. Even the Telegraph, yes, the Telegraph of all newspapers, feels the need to write sensational articles about Edward II's GAY LOVER!!!

Extract from another recent blog post: Edward "was later deposed by Isabella and her lover, Roger Mortimer, disappearing behind the walls of Pontefract Castle." A confusion between Edward and his great-grandson Richard II, imprisoned at Pontefract in 1399 after his deposition. Berkeley, Pontefract, what's the difference? Well, OK, about 180 miles for a start. And it was hardly Isabella and Mortimer themselves who deposed Edward.

Another Spreading Misinformation About Edward II Award for stating something as fact that patently isn't: "One member of the British royalty caught having homosexual relations suffered an even more grisly fate: Edward II’s penalty was being held down while a red hot poker was jammed through his rectum and intestines." I wonder who it was who was meant to have 'caught' Edward having sexual relations with men? Number of blog posts and articles online which repeat as certain fact that Edward was gay and murdered in this fashion because of his sexual preferences: far, far too many to count.

An interesting and astonishingly farfetched notion of the consequences of Isabella and Mortimer's invasion of 1326: "In fact, with out Isabella doing what she did, most of the democratic freedoms that the world enjoys today may never have come about." And there was me thinking her sole or at least her overwhelming priority was to get herself into a position where she could grant herself staggeringly enormous amounts of money - if not, she certainly did a very realistic impression from 1327 to 1330 of a person who cared about little else but granting herself staggeringly enormous amounts of money - but nooooo, she was Isabella Of France, Bringing Democratic Freedom To The Whole World. Who knew?

I sometimes see my blog posts reposted online having been run through an automated translator and then put back into English, with hilariously awful results. Here's a typically bad translation of this post, which translates "life went on as normal for Edward to a great extent" as "life-force went on as unextravagant in guy of Edward to a Brobdingnagian expanse," "he still found time to have a bit of fun and take some outdoor exercise" as "he soothe base spell to essential a measure out of making whoopee and consume some out of doors anguish," and "bright blue English cloth" as "bright smutty English constitution." So there you go; in 1326, Edward II was making whoopee and consuming anguish with bright smutty cloth. You read it here first.

And finally, some recent blog searches. On the topic of searches and red-hot pokers, a recent episode of the TV show The Tudors had someone being tortured by having a red-hot poker inserted inside him, which increased my blog hits noticeably as people went online to search for it. Cheers for that, writers! If I had a pound for every time someone hit this blog searching for 'red-hot poker' in the last few years, I'd be a very rich woman.

Hot pocker deaths in the Tower of London

queen isabell sexual escapeds Don't know what they are, but they sound like fun.

if edward II were alive today he'd be presenting a TV show about keeping fit? A builder? A plumber? Answers on a postcard.

Edward II Spanish Warrior Now that's how Edward should have branded himself at the start of his reign, before everyone realised that he had no ability as a general whatsoever.

edward I bought cabbages off peasants Edward I would have died a thousand deaths before doing something like that. Edward II did, though.

what happened 700 years ago

who lived 700 years ago I do love vague searches.

murder caese involving the name Gurney

queens of england admitting adultery -diana -tudors

hot templars


john di warenne The earl of Surrey turns Italian.

who was john warenne The earl of Surrey who couldn't keep it in his pants.

most gruesome and terrible execution methods and deaths in history Remember, we're looking for gruesome and terrible deaths. Merely gruesome just won't cut it.

edward 11 good or bad Duh, good, obviously. Oh, you mean objectively? Well...

extreme lashes neartest to rochester ny I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that my blog didn't prove terribly helpful in answering that question.

was isabella of castille cursed for the reconquista Ditto.

what problems did edward the confessor's death cause? And ditto.

ow did eleanor of aquitaine endure imprisonment for such a long time

nigel brotherton fair maid norway Ah yes, Edward II's well-known half-brother Nigel of Brotherton.

would a red hot poker up the bottom kill you Let's hope none of us ever have to find out.

perverted girl isabel translations

edward II wicked men blogspot

names for early people

Edward V1- bizarre fact

photos of 1306 era

1312 husband poisoned wife for not have male baby

king of england with the nickname nan an gang Ummm, huh?

See you in a couple of weeks! Posts to come include pics of North Wales, the next part (finally!) of my biography of the wonderful Henry of Grosmont, and another joint piece by my friend Rachel and myself on the Support Group For Historical People Unfairly Maligned In Crap Novels. And of course lots more posts about Edward II, who might have been a disastrous king, completely out of step with contemporary expectations of a ruler and lacking in regal dignity, but at least he was a person you can imagine having a right good laugh with, the life and soul of the party. Or, as an online translator insists on putting it, "Edward muscle essential been a catastrophic regent, unambiguously gone away from of not in harmony with newfangled expectations of a ruler and lacking in paramount repute, but at least he was a herself you can devise having a fair and square movables money on the floor with, the life-force and chain of the ball."


Rachel said...

Love your work! There definitely needs to be a Jurisimprudence Law for the Amazon, IMDb and other posters who need to remind people in all caps that fiction is, well, fiction: anyone who posts "IT'S FICTION!!!", "Go read a biography/watch the History Channel if you want accuracy" or similar as a response to someone discussing historical accuracy in fiction automatically loses the debate and all his/her posts will be disregarded thenceforth.

"Or maybe it was Isabella and her gay lover? Maybe Roger Mortimer was secretly a woman! Hey, I definitely feel a crappy sensationalist novel coming on here."
Oh, it's sooo tempting :)

Satima Flavell said...

I needed a good laugh and got one - many thanks, Alianore, and happy trails to Wales!

Kathryn Warner said...

Thanks, Satima! Glad you liked it.

Rachel: I wrote the It's FICTION!!! bit with gritted teeth, as you can imagine. :) But seriously, I think we should co-write that novel with RM as a woman and HD conspiring to kill Ed 10 months after his own death - after all, what's 10 months when William Wallace can father a child after being dead for 7 years? And maybe Ed is a cross-dressing vampire, Piers Gaveston is a chain-smoker who adores chocolate, tomato salads and jacket potatoes, and Thomas of Lancaster is a cool surfer dude. Why not, it's FICTION!!! :-)

Brian Wainwright said...

I have long had a theory that there is an arcane library somewhere, full of books that give an alternative version of history. This would be an explanation of where some people go to get their non-facts.
I am fussy about fiction in the sense I believe that even fiction should be written within known facts! You can't extend people's lives for example. Or you can, but then it stops being HF and becomes fantasy or alternative history.

Susan Higginbotham said...

Hilarious! Loved the one about Isabella being responsible for the birth of democracy. Can't wait for your and Rachel's next joint post!

Rowan said...

.."while he was on the toilet"...
That was a good laugh.
And I see that I'm not alone with such stupid blog searches. :-)

God, why on earth do people translate your blog with crappy tools and then re-translate it?

Have fun on your journey - I envy you a lot. :)

Gabriele Campbell said...

Alianore, you got that wrong. Roger Mortimer was Edward's gay lover until the pure and chaste adoration of Isabella cured him of his evil ways and he decided to murder the man who had made him deviate from the Path of Rightful Sexuality. :)

During my visit in Haltern I came across a German novel that makes Varus and Arminius lovers. And there I thought I had seen everything. ;)

Oh, and can I have a hot templar, please? :D

Christy K Robinson said...

Pour some Hot Templar for me, if you please: I'd like salt on the rim and a splash of tequila, with a red-hot poker for stirring.
Surely Isabella's contribution to democracy was in affixing her signature to the Magna Carta of 1315 at Runnymede Castle in the Black Mountains of Wales. Check that out, will you, while you're on vacation, and get back to us?

Maybe the bizarre search terms are a result of your comments section! Oops.

Christy K Robinson said...

Elizabeth Chadwick posted a link I loved. Although the books by Alan Savage purport to be about Eleanor of Aquitaine, the connection (in my mind) with Edward II is obvious: they were both English sovereigns, sex-addicted, imprisoned, and despite the century between her death and Edward's birth -- what the hell, they did the deed and Edward III is the result.


N. Gemini Sasson said...

It's amazing how much gross misinformation there is out there - and this just in regards to one particular person. I suppose that's what running juicy rumors through almost 700 years' worth of the gossip mill results in. And then when you state the facts, they think *you* are the one who has it wrong. Oh well...

Carla said...

If you didn't laugh you'd cry :-) Where does this stuff come from?

Re the "but it's fiction" bleat, yes, but if it is billed as historical fiction the "historical" counts for something too, or at least it ought to. Maybe there should be an alternative term for novels that don't bother about the history - costume fiction, perhaps.

Have a good holiday!

Kathryn Warner said...

Brian: I am now a subscriber to your theory - makes perfect sense! I enjoyed, and completely agreed with, your recent post on historical accuracy in fiction.

Susan: thanks! That one was my particular favourite, too.

Ashmodai: wonder if there's something about Piers Gaveston fans that attracts weird searches? :) God only knows why anyone translates and reposts my blog articles, but it happens fairly often. Will post lots of pics of Wales when I get back!

Gabriele: *smacks forehead* Of course! So Mort isn't the high priest of heterosexuality after all...*cackles evilly* Will send you a hot Templar next time I run across one, promise!

Kathryn Warner said...

Christy: sounds perfect, so I'll pour myself one too, after I check out the 1315 Magna Carta story. Think you may be onto something there.

About blog searches: I got several searches for 'Mr Big' and couldn't think when I'd ever used that phrase, then realised Carla had used it in a comment thread when we were discussing which actors would play Edward and the Dunheved gang! Thanks, I'll check out the Alan Savage link asap.

Gemini: poor Edward II does seem to come in for more than his fair share of misinformation, and it also seems to me that some (non-fic, I mean) writers pick and choose what primary sources they use or give credence to in order to fit the very negative the image they already have of him, or repeat what they've read in other secondary sources without checking. But hey, at least Ed's got me fighting his corner!

Carla: as Gemini said, 700 years of the gossip mill, and some very confused mixing of real events and stories!

I've noticed that Carolly Erickson (sp?) uses the term 'historical entertainment' for her own brand of fiction. I don't think that any historical novel can be 100% historically accurate, but I do feel very strongly that writing Isabella as abandoned in Scotland when she conceived Ed III, when in fact she was in York with her husband, or changing Ed III's date of birth by a few months in order to make Mortimer his father, as two novels have done while pretending that they're straight histfict, is completely unacceptable.

Susan Higginbotham said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Susan Higginbotham said...

Alan Savage is indeed a classic. I haven't read his novels about Eleanor of Aquitaine, but his Margaret of Anjou novel, where poor Margaret's lovers include Elizabeth Woodville, is near the top of my mental list of "The Wars of the Roses Were Fought for This?" novels.

Karen Bice said...

Love all the comments! Can't wait for the next installment of The Support Group. Kathryn & Rachel, u are both hilarious!

Anerje said...

Really had a good laugh at this post! Got me thinking how was it possible to murder Ed with a red hot poker whilst he was on the toilet - someone must have a terrific aim! And how did they manage to keep it red hot? And how long did they have to hide in the toilet for?

As for the search for Edward and Spanish warrior - maybe he was looking for one? :>

have a fantastic break!

Kate Plantagenet said...

I loved all the comments also. Thanks all readers of this wonderful blog - you make the comments almost as interesting as Alianore's posts!

Ms A....have fun in Wales. Promise I am not jealous or anything. Wish you were going to Monmouth or Mitchel Troy or Lydart...would get you to take some pics for me! Alas.

Hope the weather is wonderful too. Enjoy!