31 March, 2010

So You Want To Write A Novel About Edward II And Isabella...?

...then I am here to help, with much snarkiness. (I'm just in the mood for it at the moment, possibly because I've been ill and unable to speak in anything but a hideous croaky hoarse whisper for a week now which is severely curtailing my ability to express sarcasm, so it's all coming out here instead.) Based on numerous works of fiction about them I've read over the years, here, in one handy reference guide, are the elements you need to write a novel about Edward II and Isabella of France. Novels about the pair tend to stick to a predictable and frankly tedious formula, with several honourable exceptions (Susan Higginbotham's superb The Traitor's Wife, of course, which manages to be both a fresh and original take on the story and far more historically accurate than any other Edward II novel, and Brenda Honeyman's The King's Minions and The Queen And Mortimer, both of which I adore), and generally fall into two camps: novels which focus on Edward and his lovers and turn the queen into an implausibly peripheral and minor character, and - far more numerous - novels written from Isabella's perspective which vilify Edward as much as possible and repeat all the usual old myths about him, because lots of authors think that the only way to make Isabella a sympathetic character is to make her husband really, really horrible.

Generally, the rule in Edward II/Isabella fiction over the last forty years or so has been to portray Isabella as a long-suffering tragic neglected victim of her nasty cruel heartless gay husband who is later miraculously transformed into a strong empowered feminist kick-ass heroine; apart from a few websites about the mad ghost of Castle Rising, that whole 'She-Wolf' thing went out of the window long ago. The modern Edward and Isabella author a) assumes that any and every negative story about Edward, Piers Gaveston and Hugh Despenser s/he has ever read in a book or in some crappy online article somewhere or has even just plucked out of the air is 100% true and accurate even when no primary source so much as mentions the story or it can actually be proved to be an invention or at the very least a gross exaggeration, and b) decides that anything remotely negative Isabella's contemporaries wrote about her has absolutely no place in a modern book about her. (So what if the Brut chronicle says that in the late 1320s "bigan the communite of Engeland forto hate Isabel the Quene" and that she and Roger Mortimer "almost destroiede" the country? That doesn't fit very nicely into the trendy notion that Beloved Isabella Set Her Husband's Kingdom To Rights, does it, so there's no reason why your readers should have to know about it.)

To help out any aspiring authors hoping to set a novel in this era, here's a list of scenes and ideas which other fans of Isabella The Tragic Long-Suffering Neglected Victim/Kick-Ass Heroine have deemed compulsory in novels. You might also want to refer to an old post of mine, Rules for Fiction about Edward and Isabella, and the post I co-wrote with Rachel, The Support Group For Tragic Queens.

- The novel must always start at Edward and Isabella's wedding in January 1308 or, at the very earliest, a day or two before, with twelve-year-old Isabella waiting in Boulogne for Edward to arrive. (No-one ever, ever writes about Isabella's childhood in fiction; you'd think it was taboo or forbidden or something.) Isabella is bowled over and thrilled to bits by the sight of the gorgeous young man who is about to become her husband, but - le GASP! the HORROR!!! - he shows little or even no interest in her. This should be written as though it is completely unaccountable and weird and unheard of for a man of nearly twenty-four not to fall instantly and deeply in love with a (pre-)pubescent, and as though we're supposed to believe that all other men in arranged royal marriages immediately fell in love with their brides and fawned over them in spectacularly fawny fashion.

- You must constantly, constantly, tell the reader how incredibly beautiful and desirable and speshul* Isabella is, even when she is only twelve. This rule applies even if you choose a narrator who wouldn't normally be expected to care very much about a woman's beauty and desirability, such as a woman whom you depict elsewhere as having no sexual or romantic interest in women whatsoever, yet for some reason feels the need to tell the reader over and over about Isabella's desirable beautiful lips and gorgeous beautiful hair and perfect beautiful features and amazing beautiful body and incredibly beautiful beauty while failing ever to notice Edward II and Piers Gaveston's good looks, strong bodies etc in the way you might expect a supposedly heterosexual woman to do. Don't worry about overdoing descriptions of Isabella's beauty, because that's impossible; aim to have your reader screaming "OK, OK, she's beautiful. I GET IT!!" at least every couple of pages.

* Deliberate mis-spelling, in case you're wondering.

- The author should hint at how odd and inexplicable it is that marrying The Most Beautiful And Desirable Twelve-Year-Old In All France has not miraculously 'cured' Edward II of loving Piers Gaveston. If you can, hint also that the main reason Edward loves Piers is from a spiteful desire to anger and humiliate his wife, and that he could stop being attracted to him immediately and become wildly attracted to Isabella if he wanted to or actually tried, because all other men on the planet are attracted to her, apparently. (Yes, even when she's twelve.) The author should under no circumstances display a single iota of empathy or compassion for non-heterosexual people forced by a hetero-normative society to marry a member of the opposite sex, display no understanding that marriage does not actually stop a person being bi or gay, no awareness that bi and gay people do not 'choose' who to be attracted to and cannot stop being attracted to someone any more than straight people do and can, and no awareness that the presence of a twelve-year-old, however attractive, bright and well-connected, does not generally cause adults to fall out of love with their partner, whatever their sexuality.

(Of course, having the characters in a novel set in the early fourteenth century being enlightened, tolerant and accepting of men having sexual and romantic relationships with men would be anachronistic and bizarre, but there are ways that authors can write intolerant attitudes of the past without making it seem that the modern reader is supposed to share those attitudes. If you want to do this, then it would be a good idea not to keep referring to Edward II as 'perverted' and 'unnatural' in your narrative. And yes, there are novels that do.)

- Isabella watches her new husband run down the gangplank of their ship on arrival in Dover, hug and kiss Piers Gaveston, and rudely ignore her: this is a Compulsory Scene in the Poor Isabella Of France Had The Most Horrible Abusive Neglectful Husband Evah!-themed novel which you are painstakingly crafting and you should make a great effort to squeeze as much pathos into the scene as possible. Never mind that an entry on the Fine Roll makes it apparent that Edward and Isabella arrived on shore from their ship in separate barges, at least a few minutes apart, and that Isabella most probably never even saw her husband kiss and hug Piers anyway. (After all, no-one except some weirdo Edward II obsessive with a blog, website and Facebook page about him is going to have seen that Fine Roll entry anyway.)

- You must constantly, constantly, tell the reader how incredibly beautiful and desirable and speshul Isabella is, and that every normal man who sees her falls in love with her immediately.

- Another Compulsory Scene: Edward gives all his and Isabella's wedding presents, and even the poor little queen's jewels, to Piers Gaveston. Our Beautiful Pre-Pubescent Heroine is horrified and angry when she sees her husband's lover flaunting himself in front of her wearing her own jewels. This is one of those myths about Edward II elevated to the status of 'fact' by being breathlessly repeated in numerous novels, when it's virtually certain that Edward actually sent the presents and jewels to Piers - regent of England in his absence and the person he trusted above all others - to store safely for him; there is no reason to think that Piers kept the items, or was ever intended to. This one is a myth I don't think will ever die.

- Another Compulsory Scene: Edward talks more to Piers Gaveston at his and Isabella's coronation banquet than he does to her, and allows the gorgeously-dressed Piers to outshine the queen. If you do your job correctly and throw in sufficient pathos and melodrama, the reader should by now be thinking that no husband in the entire long history of horrendous abusive marriages has ever done so much hurt to his wife as Edward II did to Isabella in the first few weeks of their marriage. Men who imprisoned their wives within days of marrying them then had them murdered or beat them to death or cheated on them with countless women be damned; Edward didn't talk to his wife enough at their coronation banquet, which, combined with his shocking thoughtlessness in not falling in love with her at first sight and not having the courtesy to fall out of love with Piers and conform to heterosexual norms, means that he is officially the most abusive and cruel husband in all recorded history.

- You will probably want to write a scene showing Edward II's lack of desire to have sex with his new wife, which you must not for one moment allow your reader to think might be a perfectly reasonable and humane gesture based on Isabella's extreme youth and physical immaturity and Edward's unwillingness to risk putting her through the traumas of pregnancy and childbirth at such a young age. Instead, it must be portrayed as a calculated insult on Edward's part towards Isabella, her royal lineage and her femininity, deeply weird and perverse and something no Real Man worth his salt would ever have done, and yet another example of Edward's cruel heartless neglect of his poor little wife. (Though if Edward had enthusiastically consummated his marriage, you just know fans of Victim!Isabella would be screaming "How dare you put her health at risk and force her to do something she can't possibly have been emotionally or physically ready for, you freaky little pervert??!" at him.)

-The basic rule for fans of the Victim!Isabella school of history is that everything, literally every single little thing, that Edward II ever did was wrong in every way. Even when it's something that no other human being in history has been criticised for and is generally considered a good thing, such as not having sex with a twelve-year-old, it's still completely and utterly wrong when Edward does it.

- It is a vital part of pretty well any novel featuring Edward II that the king has to be womanish, effeminate, effete, foppish, camp, girly, mincing, swishy, feeble, soft, unmanly, unmasculine and unvirile. Yes, you are going to have to turn a man who stood over six feet tall, was as strong as an entire team of oxen and spent a lot of his time outdoors in all weathers digging ditches, thatching roofs and swimming into someone 'womanish' and feeble. (The same frequently applies to Piers Gaveston and Hugh Despenser, whom history may have recorded as a jousting champion and a pirate respectively but who are known by discerning historical novelists to have really been girly little fops.) Incredibly silly as this may seem, it is compulsory in order to distinguish Edward and his male lovers as sharply as possible from the Real Man, Our Manly Virile Hetero Hero Roger Mortimer (see below). Dated stereotypes and lame stupid caricatures are your friends here, and feel free to throw in as many of them as often as you can, but if you are still having problems characterising a man like Edward II as effeminate, imagine a thirteen-year-old girl with pictures of pop and film stars all over the walls of her pink and silver bedroom who is currently being even more shrill, stroppy, shrieky, tantrumy, foot-stampy, flouncy, drama-queeny and irritating than usual. Write this girl as the king of England, add in plenty of fluttering wrists, et voilà!

- You must constantly, constantly, tell the reader how incredibly beautiful and desirable and speshul Isabella is, and that every normal man who sees her falls in love with her immediately.

- The next Compulsory Scene is absolutely essential: in May 1312, the pregnant queen begs her husband in tears not to leave her at Tynemouth, but off Edward goes with Piers Gaveston anyway and cruelly abandons Isabella and their unborn child to the mercy of a) the earl of Lancaster (who was Isabella's uncle, but for heaven's sake don't mention that so as to make it seem that she was genuinely in danger from him) and/or b) Robert Bruce (who was nowhere near Tynemouth, but for heaven's sake don't mention that so as to make it seem that she was genuinely in danger from him). Never mind that this story of the weeping abandoned queen is mentioned in one chronicle written twenty years later and 270 miles away and that it is disproved by the evidence of Isabella's own household accounts of 1312; it's far too central to the myth of Victim!Isabella to be treated as anything but gospel truth.

- Mess up the chronology of Edward II's reign by having him fall in love with Hugh Despenser around the time of Bannockburn, a good four or five years too early. Make Isabella begin to despise her husband because he 'runs away' from the battlefield. Completely ignore Roger Damory, William Montacute and Hugh Audley, by far the most important influences at court in the middle years of Edward's reign. Don't bother characterising Hugh Despenser (the younger) except as a one-dimensional epitome of evil. Make out that Despenser is merely a humble knight and a nobody and not in fact the grandson of the earl of Warwick and the countess of Norfolk. Have Edward II arranging Despenser's marriage to Eleanor de Clare after Despenser becomes his favourite because of course it's far too much effort to pick up a proper book or even (shock horror!) a primary source and find out that the couple married on 26 May 1306 and that Eleanor's grandfather Edward I arranged it, and so much easier to copy other novelists who didn't bother to do the research either. Make it seem that Edward 'steals' Isabella's three younger children away from her when he sets up their own households as though she never saw them again and as though no other medieval king did the same thing, pretend that familial norms 700 years ago were exactly the same as ours and that medieval queens were the full-time primary carers of their children, and appeal to modern notions of motherhood in a blatant attempt to drum up cheap sentimental sympathy for Isabella.

- You must constantly, constantly, tell the reader how incredibly beautiful and desirable and speshul Isabella is, and that every normal man who sees her falls in love with her immediately.

- Isabella, the queen of England and thus a person who stood a pretty good chance of being recognised by a very large number of people, manages in some novels to visit Roger Mortimer in his cell at the Tower of London in 1322/23 and even to have hot sex with him there without anyone ever noticing, despite the fact that she had a household of almost 200 people and that the Tower had hundreds of people coming and going all the time and that you might as well arrange a private and top secret assignation in the middle of Grand Central. Anyway, if you really must do this in your novel, some authors have Isabella 'escaping' from court to visit Our Great Hetero Hero by the simple expedient of putting on a hood, which presumably renders her invisible.

- As everyone knows, Roger Mortimer is the antithesis of Horrid Gay Effeminate Edward II and must, by international law, be written as a Manly Virile Stud-Muffin Hetero Hero Who Is Made Of Stud-Muffinly Hetero Manliness. (As with Isabella's beauty and speshulness, an author cannot possibly exaggerate or over-emphasise Mortimer's sheer hetero manliness.) Near the end of your novel, however, when everything is going pear-shaped for our oh-so-sighingly-in-love couple, Mortimer abruptly transforms from Great Hetero Hero to Useful Scapegoat who can be blamed for all Perfect Beautiful Isabella's mistakes and flaws and to everyone's surprise, not least his own, suddenly becomes a Baddie.

- It is compulsory in any Edward II/Isabella novel to bang on for chapter after tedious chapter about Edward's appalling neglect of poor little Isabella and to portray their marriage as a 'grotesque travesty', but do your best to ignore the fact that Roger Mortimer himself is married, as he is the Great Hetero Hero who enters Isabella's bleak life like a happy thunderbolt and turns his Virile Manly Stud-Muffinly Lurrrve onto her and thereby saves her from The Most Horrid Cruel Abusive Husband In All Recorded History and therefore, cannot be seen to be saddled with such inconveniences as a wife and a dozen children or to do such unpleasant things as force his wife to receive his mistress in her own castle. If you really have to mention his wife Joan, and it's not recommended as you don't want your great hero to be morally ambiguous, do you, make her an overweight, incredibly unattractive and deeply pathetic woman who conveniently saves Mortimer and Isabella from having to feel any guilt by wittering on about how very very happy she is about her husband's affair with the queen, however psychologically implausible that may be.

- Likewise, Roger Mortimer must be written as a whiter-than-white freedom fighter against royal tyranny and you must ignore the numerous crimes he committed in Wales and the Marches in 1321/22 - vandalism, plunder, burning towns and the countryside, assault, false imprisonment, extortion, stealing from the poor, impoverishing the poor, destroying the homes and livelihoods of the poor - and pretend that his only real 'crime' and the only reason for his imprisonment in the Tower is his brave opposition to Nasty Evil Bisexual Hugh Despenser. We can't have a morally ambiguous hero!

- You must constantly, constantly, tell the reader how incredibly beautiful and desirable and speshul Isabella is, and that every normal man who sees her falls in love with her immediately.

- You must write Isabella as being utterly horrified at her husband's imprisonment of the wives and children of Contrariants in 1322, and also have her begging Edward in 1324 to allow the bodies of executed Contrariants to be buried (actually it wasn't the queen but some of the bishops who asked Edward to do that, and there's no evidence at all that Isabella gave a toss about the Contrariants' bodies, but hey, whatever). This does mean you will have to ignore the fact that Isabella herself imprisoned eighteen children ("boy-hostages") at Chester Castle in 1327 because the town had been "disobedient and ill-behaved" and forced the townspeople to pay all the costs*, and that she and Mortimer imprisoned his first cousin the nine-months-pregnant countess of Kent and her small children in 1330 with only two attendants, six fewer than Edward II allowed Mortimer's wife Joan - no, wait, Mortimer wasn't married, was he? - during her imprisonment. Current theory states that Isabella and Mortimer Set The Country To Rights in 1326/27 and you can't let the inconvenient truth that they, ummm, completely and totally didn't, to put it mildly, stand in the way of this Official (Albeit Completely Wrong) Fact.
[* Source: Calendar of Close Rolls 1327-1330, pp. 169, 187-8.]

- Roger Mortimer and Isabella's relationship is officially Twu Wuv 4Ever and not in any way perhaps just a tad convenient for Mortimer as cynical readers might think, given that the relationship enables him to a) invade England, kill his enemies the Despensers and get various kinds of revenge on Edward II, and b) get all his lands back plus about nine trillion more, make himself the richest man in the country, award himself a grandiose earldom and act as king of England and Wales in all but name for the best part of four years until executed by Edward III. But! None of this has anything at all to do with his motives for starting and continuing a relationship with the queen whom he Really Really Truly Lurrrves and it's all just a happy coincidence and fate smiling on Our Manly Virile Stud-Muffin Hetero Hero for being, gosh darn it, so damn manly and heterosexual and brave and wonderful and the complete antithesis of Horrid Gay Effeminate Edward II. Who cruelly neglects his poor little incredibly beautiful and desirable queen and doesn't love her nearly as much as such a beautiful royal lady deserves to be loved or recognise her speshulness or give her the wonderful sex life that is the God-given birthright of every royal and noble woman in an arranged marriage in the Middle Ages or miraculously turn heterosexual at first sight of her, and pays the price for this horrid cruel neglect by being deposed and imprisoned, losing everyone he loves and getting a red-hot poker up where the sun don't shine*, so that'll teach him not to be straight.

* Well, not really. Only in novels.

- On the other hand, Hugh Despenser's relationship with Edward II is most emphatically not Twu Wuv 4Ever, and you should write any love scenes between Edward and Despenser so that it's immediately obvious to the reader that you were holding your nose and going "But ewww, ewwww, they're both men! Icky!!" Remember the golden rule: Hugh 'The Evil Bisexual' Despenser seducing the king is a cynical grab for power and wealth, immoral and revolting; Roger 'The Happy Hetero Thunderbolt' Mortimer seducing the queen is romantic, sweet and adorable, and any power and wealth which happen to come his way thereby a mere coincidence. Men who seduce men and become powerful = Bad. Men who seduce women and become powerful = Good. Don't worry about the blatant hypocrisy and double standards; just hope that your readers will fall so much in love with Virile Hetero Stud-Muffin Mort they'll never notice.

When you have all these elements ready, stick in a few more old myths that refuse to die, such as Isabella and Roger Mortimer being buried next to each other at the Greyfriars church in London (they weren't), remind the reader a few more times that Isabella is really really beautiful and speshul, and there you go! Publication of your masterpiece awaits. But please, please don't expect me to read it...


Undine said...

Having read some of those novels myself, all I can say is: You are guilty of unpardonable flattery in describing them.

Kathryn said...

:-) Very true! Unfortunately, Undine, if I gave my real opinion of them in public, I'd probably get into trouble...

Judith Arnopp said...

Great tips Kathryn, i will get on to it right away, as soon as i have finished The forest Dwellers and just for you my Isabella will be extra incredibly beautiful and desirable and speshul :D

really enjoyed your post, it had me rolling up!

Susan Higginbotham said...

Love it, and thanks for the compliment! (And I never knew about the Chester Castle episode!)

Kathryn said...

Judith: :-) Thank you! Lots of luck with The Forest Dwellers, and I'm really looking forward to it!

Susan: thank you, and you're welcome! Yes, it's odd that none of Isabella's fans ever notice that little episode, isn't it? *rolls eyes*

Susan Morgan said...

Such a hilarious post… and so true (sadly) of so many of the Edward II/Isabella (except Susan's, you're right, I loved it too) "historical" fiction about.

I never heard the Chester castle story either, but then it's hard to find stories where Isabella isn't so nice. Her treatment of Joan of Kent's family was pretty nasty too.

Keep on sharing with us, your insights are most welcome!

Elizabeth said...

Now that you've outlined it quite nicely for us, we should all open our newest word document and begin typing away! Ha, and my favorite was 'le GASP!' Hope you feel better soon and get your voice back so you can verbally defend Edward II :-D

Ceirseach said...

I want more stories about pirates. :( Pirates make good stories. Can't Edward run away to sea for a few years with Despenser and prowl the Spanish main which is a convenient distance from England when he's busy sulking about Isabella's speshulness? It would be totally historically plausible!

Ceirseach said...

In fairness to Alison Weir, I think she mentions Chester Castle.

Kathryn said...

Susan: thank you! I'm really glad you liked it. It's such a shame Isabella's fans ignore her less pleasant actions, while bigging up her nicer ones (and Ed II's less pleasant actions, of course). It's so annoying when writers ignore anything that doesn't fit the image they're pushing of their subject.

Elizabeth: thank you! My voice is much stronger this afternoon, thank goodness. BTW, I tried a couple of times to comment on your blog the other day, but Blogger wouldn't let me - the word verif was kind of screwy. :(

Hannah, sounds like a great plan to me, and pirates are always welcome! I've scoured Weir's Isabella biography and can't find even a hint anywhere that the queen ever imprisoned children.

Gabriele C. said...

Lol, Edward didn't need to go as far as the Spanish Mein for some piratey fun, he could prowl the Irish Sea in search of some handsome, unhistorically kilted, Scots. :)

I take it Weir doesn't mention the forced veilings, either. Or excuses it by making those girls the spawn of the devil or something. ;)

Brian said...

Priceless, and so true.

Anonymous said...

Well that got my day off to an EXCELLENT start. Wonderful stuff!!! Like Elizabeth I loved 'le gasp!' - but laughed hard at all of it.

Historical fiction is FICTION - do you think readers then convert fictional accounts into FACTS? I guess they do. Although some biog's which should be factual appear to have some fictional elements! *winks*

Thanks for the information - I am off to write a book which will hopefully make me lots of money HAHAHAHHAHAHAHA

[for some reason I couldn't post as Kate Plantagenet - whatevs!]

Louis X said...

"This does mean you will have to ignore the fact that Isabella herself imprisoned eighteen children ("boy-hostages") at Chester Castle in 1327 because the town had been "disobedient and ill-behaved" and forced the townspeople to pay all the costs*..."

Naughty 'Belle! Mais certes, she was but showing that her blood runs true, non? ;)

Kathryn said...

Gabriele: hehe, that sounds like fun. :) No, the forced veilings are not mentioned, needless to say; apparently, Despenser's daughters "later became nuns." The four-year imprisonment of Despenser's eldest son is ignored, too.

Thanks, Brian!

Kate: thank you, and glad you liked it! A lot of readers do get a lot of their ideas about history from histfict, which is why I believe authors have a duty to stick as closely to the facts as possible. A certain very popular historical novel turned into a film has had a major impact on the way a lot of people feel about Anne Boleyn and her family, for example (unfortunately).

Louis: yes, a lot of people seem to forget that your sister was the daughter of Philippe le Bel! :)

Undine said...

"A lot of readers do get a lot of their ideas about history from histfict, which is why I believe authors have a duty to stick as closely to the facts as possible."

Sorry if this is OT, but the above can't be said too often. Nothing makes me crankier than authors who think that just because they're writing something labeled "a novel," they can take the names of real people from history and do whatever idiotic things they like with them.

All I can say is, if you think Edward II novels are lousy, you should see what they've done to poor old Poe. Ugh.

Kathryn said...

No, really? Wow, they must be really bad. Poor Poe...! At least he has you fighting his corner now and correcting the misapprehensions, Undine.

I could go on a very long and indignant rant about people who write completely invented crap with the names of real historical people attached; it's a real bugbear of mine, and I've had a few arguments with the kind of people who squawk 'But it's FICTION!!!' whenever I say that Piers Gaveston was a nobleman and not an impoverished prostitute, that there's no evidence that Hugh Despenser raped Isabella (which appears in non-fiction too, for pity's sake), that Edward II did not have Jewish people murdered or imprison Isabella or commit any 'atrocities' in Wales, and the 87,000 other pieces of crap that people have written about him and his era. AGH.

Gabriele C. said...

Hugh raped Isabella? Yikes, where does that one come from?

I decided to turn my Mediaeval historicla novel into Fantasy when I realised the story I wanted to tell kept clashing with the facts. Better add some magic, rename the historical characters, and make the setting some alternate Europe (a la Guy Gavriel Kay). It's a lot more fun to write now.

The Roman novels never gave me that sort of problem, probably because the time is less well documented and I have more leeway with the small stuff - and the integration of fictional characters. Few officers in the Varus army are known by name, for example, so I can make some up.

Clement of the Glen said...

"...Publication of your masterpiece awaits....."

I reckon it would make a good Hollywood movie! Fancy a ticket and some popcorn Kathryn?


Kathryn said...

Clement, it's just as well I know you're not serious... :-) Honestly, if this rubbish ever gets made into a film, I'll be leading the boycott. ;)

Gabriele, the 'Hugh raped Isabella' notion is an invention of a couple of her recent biographers, based on the queen's statement in 1326 that he 'dishonoured' her (easily explained by his supposedly persuading Ed to reduce her income, preventing her from seeing her husband, etc) which has appeared in various novels and has now become such an accepted part of the story that Amazon reviewers have been known to complain if a novel doesn't include it. :( Absolutely ridiculous, and another example of how a complete invention can easily be elevated to the status of a 'fact' by being repeated in histfict.

I think it's a great idea what you've done with your novel. Hope the writing is going well!

Anerje said...

Superb post! Yes, I've read some of those novels! It's funny how Edward is always potrayed as handsome with isabella determined to make her marriage the most wonderful ever, and then when she 'finds out' about Ed, he suddenly becomes weak and womanish. And it's always a classic scene when Isabella finds out that Edward prefers to share his couch with Piers (like, who wouldn't? :> )- there are undoubtedly ladies-in-waiting whispering and laughing at her, and Isabella is always humiliated and devastated when she finds out. Plus, there's always the scene where Edward ignores how 'dangerous' Isabella has become and dismisses her as a nothing - and it's all Ed's fault of course. And yes, all the time Isabella is soooo beautiful!

Gabriele C. said...

I better make Varus and Arminius lovers then, or some Amazon reviewer will compalin that I didn't.

Kathryn said...

Gabriele, could be a good idea! ;)

Thanks, Anerje! I love your additions (I'll probably do another post like this one sometime, with more 'classic' scenes from Ed/Isa fiction). Yes, who wouldn't find Piers Gaveston infinitely sexier than Isabella of France...?! ;)

Ceirseach said...

Yes, who wouldn't find Piers Gaveston infinitely sexier than Isabella of France...?! ;)

STRONG MANLY MEN. Who are UNEQUIVOCABLY HETEROSEXUAL. And not fastidious. Obviously.

Kathryn said...

Oh yeah, them. Manly virile strong fastidiously and untidily hetero stud-muffins. ;)

Rachel said...

"Manly virile strong fastidiously and untidily hetero stud-muffins."

And who are not in any way overcompensating or protesting too much when they fastidiously and repeatedly emphasise their unequivocal virility, untidy (presumably because it's rugged, as distinct from fastidious which must be effeminate?) heterosexuality, audacious studmuffinage and strong manly goodness. That's their story and they're sticking to it, anyway.

Kathryn said...

"audacious studmuffinage"

*LOVES*!! :-)

Carla said...

Priceless. I haven't read most of the novels in question, for which it seems I should be almighty thankful :-)

"Hugh raped Isabella? Yikes, where does that one come from?"
Cashelmara by Susan Howatch? That's where I first came across it.

Kathryn said...

Carla, yes, not having read most of these novels is a pretty happy state of affairs. ;)

Of course, I'd forgotten all about Cashelmara! I mostly love that novel and think it's extremely well-written and moving, except the scene you mention.

Carla said...

Actually I think that scene is fine in the context of Cashelmara, not least that it's not actually described but left for the reader to fill in the no doubt gruesome details. I just wouldn't read it as having anything to do with the historical events of Edward's reign. At least Cashelmara doesn't pretend it's anything but fiction - 'inspired by' history, perhaps, but it doesn't claim to be history.

Anonymous said...

Loved all of your comments and observations! Now, you will forgive me if this is just a brief post because I must get started on my new novel!! You have inspired me! :)

PS. I love being snarky, too.

Kathryn said...

Carla, that's very true, and I do love Cashelmara - it's just that this scene tends to give fuel to the argument that Hugh really did rape Isabella (yes, although it's fiction and actually set in Ireland in the 19th century!)

Anon, glad to hear it, and really looking forward to your novel! Hehe...;)

Annelise said...

Thank you for being so adorably obsessed! Your scathing diatribes against cheesy HF are delightful. I'm a public librarian and it is difficult to locate well written, accurate HF novels about the British monarchy. Can anyone (British or not) recommend quality HF authors? There aren't so very many monarchy experts here in Chicago. Gangster experts, yes... Your lists would be appreciated. That whole 1776 tiff we had is water under bridge by now, I hope!;)

Kathryn said...

Thank you, Annalise! Really glad you enjoy my snarky posts, hehe. ;-) And yes, I think we can forget about that whole 1776 awkwardness now...;)

Hmmm, histfict...Sharon Penman is wonderful, and I can heartily recommend Susan Higginbotham, who comments here, too. There's a great forum about histfict (I don't post there but do read it): http://www.historicalfictiononline.com/forums/index.php

afountaintroubled said...

I just stumbled upon your blog (the miracle of google strikes like a thunderbolt!) and am tickled pink. I've always been fascinated by Edward II, though I now may think twice before reading any of the novels...

Kathryn Warner said...

Haha, thank you! :) Glad you found the blog!

Lucas Pearce said...

Isabella was abandoned in Tynemouth Priory in 1322, not 1312; and it did actually happen: Edward sent Hugh Despenser to retrieve her but she didn't trust Despenser and asked for more loyal troops, so in the confusion nobody came to rescue her.

Ariadne said...

What me amazes most in the "Edward and Isabella" novels is that everyone acts and thinks like they would live today and not over 600 years ago. Apart from all the other wrong things most authors seem to think that people have always been modern and 21. century like, except of course for the bad ones, who are just "evil" and for example don't want man and women to have the same rights (like anyone good or bad, would have even considered something of the sort). Sadly this occurs in a lot of badly researched history novels, but Isabellas story gives the most opportunity: The neglected, smart beauty who rebels against men and takes matters in her own hands with her beloved mortimer, who adores her (ha, ha)...
Anyway, in my opinion someone should write another (well-researched, source-critcal, not black and white) novel about those times, just so there is one more good book to hold against all the crappy ones.

Kathryn Warner said...

Hi Ariadne, welcome to the blog, and thanks for sharing your thoughts! Am really enjoying your comments! :)

adite said...

Haha, this was such a funny and 'speshul' read... Enjoyed it thoroughly!

Kathryn Warner said...

Thanks so much, Adite! :)

Lisa said...

Spot on Kathryn, Just finished Jean Plaidy (Hammer of the Scots).
Quotes (about Edward II) "There was almost a feminine quality about him", "The king wondered whether his clothes had been designed by Pier Gaveston" (I particularly love that one!), "Pretty as a girl thought the King distastefully" "Where to begin? How to explain kingship to such a creature?" "a slim white hand adorned with jewels touched the princes lips as he stifled a yawn"....grrr, roll of the eyes (that's me not Jean)

Pete Mowbray said...

Agree with you Lisa, I grew up reading Plaidy's novels which seem so outdated now, yet most of the queens were invariably strong-willed and would not conform. I think I dislike Isabella more than any other character during the reign of that puff Edward>

Nevertheless, she was a fine looking woman!!

Pete Mowbray said...

Grrrr!! Just enjoyed a rather heated debate with a recently retired history teacher friend (probably ex friend now !) Who always taught the ridiculous red hot poker tale to his pupils, and was quite convinced that Edward was "queer" based on nothing more than supposition and a few obvious "signs"!! (e.g.he was horrified at the thought of consummating his marriage!)
What hope is there of this much maligned king getting a fair assessment when there are teachers like this? A few obvious signs??
Dear God !!