18 December, 2014

Support Group for People Unfairly Maligned in Historical Fiction (2)

Finally, the Support Group for People Unfairly Maligned in Historical Fiction reconvenes after half a decade!  Here's the first part, and don't forget the Support Group for Tragic Queens.  :-)  If you have any additions, do leave them in the comments or on my Facebook page - I'd love to read them!  And as this will be my last post till early 2015, I'd like to wish all my readers a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Edward II: Greetings, everyone!  I'm Edward of Caernarfon, as you probably all know - do feel free to call me Ned - and I'm your moderator for this, the second meeting of all of us unfortunate historical folks maligned in fiction of the twenty-first century.  We're here to share our pain, and to share the sillinesses perpetuated about us written hundreds of years after our deaths.  I'll get us started.  As well as all the unfair and wildly untrue things about me I shared at our last meeting, there's some new stuff.  According to one novelist, I react to things by 'snivelling' and am a coward who runs away from the battlefield of Bannockburn and is too afraid to fight, even though in reality I had to be dragged protesting from the field and fought 'like a lioness deprived of her cubs' right in the thick of battle.

Piers Gaveston: Pretty damn sure I never saw you snivel, Ned.  I bet the terribly heterosexual manly hero Roger Mortimer doesn't 'snivel' in that novel, eh?

Edward II: Damn right, he doesn't.  That same novel also accuses me of cowardice because I don't beat up my wife, which was a real lolwut?? moment, I tell you.

Margaret Beaufort: May I have the floor, Ned?  I, apparently, am a religious maniac with a weirdly anachronistic Joan of Arc fetish - why? I mean, why?! - which I have to talk about every five minutes.  I mysteriously forget that I'm the countess of Richmond all the time.  But worst of all by far, I'm meant to have had Edward IV's two sons murdered in the Tower of London so that my own son Henry Tudor could become king.  Because obviously I knew that Richard III's son would conveniently die young a few months later and clear the path to the throne, and I could stroll in and out of the most fortified and well-guarded stronghold in the country and murder two princes without anyone noticing.  Yup.  Invisible Superwoman, that's me.

Edward II: That's awful, Margaret!  You mean people are willing to accuse you of the cold-blooded murder of children when there isn't the tiniest shred of evidence whatsoever?

Margaret Beaufort: Indeed there are, plenty of them.  There are also people on modern social media who call me a 'snake' and express a wish that I'd died in childbirth and my son with me.  I was thirteen at the time.  Yes, there really are people out there who wish a thirteen-year-old had suffered a painful death in childbirth.  It seems that they forget we were human beings with feelings too.

Edward II: That's beyond sickening.  It's like all the people who snigger and gloat at my supposed murder by red-hot poker and make childish jokes about 'sizzled botty' and the like, and call the manner of murder 'ingenious'.  Luckily it never happened, but yes, it amazes me that there are people who seem to take great pleasure in the vile torture and slow death of a human being.

Anne Boleyn: I don't really get why so many people in the twenty-first century feel the need to take sides, and be actually kind of vicious about it sometimes.  It's either Team Katherine of Aragon or Team Anne or Team Jane Seymour.  It's like, if you're a fan of Katherine you have to malign me, or if you're a fan of me, you have to malign Jane.  Who totally deserves it, of course.  Hehe, just kidding.  And I've also been accused of 'at least one murder' by a popular modern writer.  Still racking my brains to figure out who the heck it is I'm supposed to have had murdered.

Isabella of France: Agree with your first point, Anne.  A lot of writers seem to think that if they like me, they automatically have to hate my husband Edward II and be as nasty about him as possible.  Sorry to hear about the murder thing too.  I've been accused of it myself, and of sexual immorality, and there are still people who insist on perpetuating that ridiculous 'she-wolf' nickname.  Gah.

Edward II: Izzy, you know I love you dearly, but I don't think you really belong in this group.  The Group for People Excessively Romanticised in Modern Historical Fiction is more up your street.

Isabella: Hmph, don't tell me where I can and cannot go, dear husband.  I am queen.  And besides, that excessive romanticising of me is a kind of maligning too, you know.  Strips me of all my humanity and makes me out to be some kind of time-traveller to my own era from 700 years in the future.  And I'm getting really sick of the 'poor dear Izzy was such a victim of her horrid husband' routine.  Hey, I'm queen and regent of England, daughter of the king of France and the queen of Navarre.  The word 'victim' is not in my vocabulary.

Edward II: Remember that novel that has me sending men to tear our children literally right out of your arms and take them somewhere where you'll never see them again?  Such silly melodrama!  Some people seem incapable of understanding that our social and familial norms were not those of the twenty-first century.  Oi, novelists and writers of so-called non-fiction, I set up separate households for my children in the same way that all medieval kings did.  Why do you never write my daughter-in-law Philippa of Hainault being the victim of her cruel husband when my son Edward III sets up a household for their kids in 1340, including the baby John of Gaunt?  What's the difference?

Isabella of France: Hahaha, yeah, the novel that makes you out to be so indifferent to our children that you struggle even to remember their names, ROFLMAO!  Talk about hitting readers over the head with a sledgehammer with that kind of characterisation - the novelist might as well write you with a neon sign twenty feet high over your head screaming I AM AN UNSYMPATHETIC CHARACTER, HATE ME!

George, duke of Clarence: Hey, everyone!  Talking about blatant ways of making us appear really unlikeable and horrible, I'd like to protest at the way novelists in the twenty-first century portray me as this ridiculously one-dimensional alcoholic wife-beater.  That's all there ever was to me, apparently.  Alcoholism.  And wife-beating.  I never even laid a finger on Isabel!

Hugh Despenser the Younger: Sorry to hear that, George.  I've been depicted as a wife-beater too, and a sadist who had people tortured for the laffs.  Yeah.

Henry VII: There's this one novel where my mother Margaret Beaufort - who just hasn't been maligned enough, apparently - tells me to rape my fiancée Elizabeth of York before we marry to make sure that she can become pregnant.  If she can't, I'm to marry her sister Cecily instead.  Still trying to figure that one out - am I supposed to go through all the sisters until I find one who gets pregnant and then marry her?  Just so darn weird.

Elizabeth of York: Wait, let me see that one!  Oh yeah, I remember now, the novel where I spend half the time mooning over my lost uncle Richard III, who I was totally in love with, allegedly, and refer to constantly as 'my lover'.  My uncle.  There is not enough eeeewwwww in my vocabulary.

Henry VII: I'm depicted as this pathetic little mummy's boy half the time.  And I've been trying to block the horror of it out of my mind, but there's another novel that has me - get this, folks - drinking the blood of young men.  Like wuuuuuuh?

Henry VIII: Hey there, parents!  I'm a victim of maligning too - it seems that lots of people think I'm some kind of psychopath who had women killed for fun.  Had thousands of people killed for fun, in fact.

Anne Boleyn: Well, you did kind of have me executed, hubby dear.  My cousin Katherine Howard too.

Henry VIII: You deserved it, my love.  Anyway, it wasn't like I did it for fun, y'know.  I genuinely thought you were guilty of adultery.

Anne Boleyn: Tell me again, dear hubby, what exactly was the logic behind you having our marriage annulled just before my execution?  How could I have cheated on you when we'd never officially been married?

Henry VIII: *whistles* I can't hear you I can't hear you.

Elizabeth of York: I don't know.

Edward II: You don't know what?

Elizabeth of York: I don't know what I don't know.  I don't know anything.  Say anything to me and I'll reply that I don't know.

Elizabeth Woodville: Hey, everyone, did you know I'm a witch?  Witch witch witch.  Who makes witchy things happen all the witching time.  Because I'm a witch.  A witchy witch who does lots of witchy things.  On every witchy page of the witchy novel about how I'm a witch.

Mary Boleyn: And I'm Anne's sister, and rival.  We're sisters, but rivals.  You see?  We're sisters, and rivals at the same time.  Do you get it?  Sisters.  And RIVALS.  Rivals and sisters.  At the same time.  Do you see it now?  Had I better tell you again?

Edward II: Hehehe, you've got to love such incredibly subtle characterisation.  And modern historical fiction authors doing all their As You Know, Bob dialogue is even funnier.  "That happened the year after your brother wed Sylvia Bigod, the queen's lady-in-waiting."  "Why not ask your sister Eleanor, who is wed to Hugh Despenser? She sits right next to you."  Because that's exactly how people talk to each other, obviously.

Hannah Green, Mary I's fool: Did you know I was begged for a fool?  I still have absolutely no idea what that phrase even means, but I have to repeat it 942 times, just to make sure the reader gets the point.

Elizabeth of York: I don't know.

Roger Mortimer: How's it going, dudes?  Sorry I'm late.  The group for Unequivocally Heterosexual Men Congratulating Each Other On Being Unequivocally Heterosexual overran.  All that back-slapping takes more time than you'd think.  And Henry I insisted on opening up his laptop and making us watch a slideshow of all his illegitimate children.  Blimey, that just kept going.

Edward II: Hey, Rog, remember the writer who called you a 'lusty adventurer'?  That was in non-fiction too!  Bwhahahahahaha!

Roger Mortimer: Do. Not. Remind. Me.  Do you have any idea of how much I got the p*ss taken out of me by my household knights after that?  It went on and on for bloody months.  Just when I thought they'd finally forgotten about it, one knight went 'OK, dudes, ready for some adventures?' in the tiltyard and that was it, they were off again, literally falling off their horses laughing at me.

Piers Gaveston: Bet your squire liked the 'lusty' bit, though.  Whistling innocently here.

Roger Mortimer: Sod off, Gaveston.  I so did not have sexual relations with that squire.

Elizabeth of York: I don't know.

Isabella of France: Not maligning as such, but there are these novels where it's soooo obvious that the author is leching over me.  It makes me throw up a bit in my mouth.  On and on and on all the time, like every second page, about how beautiful and gorgeous and desirable I am and how beautiful my body is, even though I'm only like fifteen, and one yucky bit where I'm said to have 'matured to full ripeness'.  Matured to full ripeness??!  I am so grossed out.

Edward II: LOL yeah, that series of novels narrated by a supposedly heterosexual woman who leches over you all the time but never notices men and how they look.  So weird.

Anne Neville: I'm getting pretty annoyed with the way I'm almost always depicted as terribly frail, to the point where I faint or collapse about every five minutes.  Yes, I died young, but that doesn't mean I'd been a permanent invalid all my life, people!  Yeesh, it'd be great to have someone write me as though I had an actual backbone and some personality, instead of as this weak feeble fainting little...thing.

Edward of Lancaster: True, and it'd be nice if someone would acknowledge that you didn't necessarily spend your entire marriage to me weeping and wailing over Richard of Gloucester.

Anne Neville: I did a little bit at first maybe, just a tiny little bit, but I soon got used to the idea of being queen of England one day.  That was pretty cool.  Something else modern novelists never seem to realise about me is that maybe I had a bit of ambition and quite fancied being a queen!

Edward of Lancaster: Yeah, we kind of got used to being married to each other and didn't mind it at all, did we?  And you know, it's so unfair when a throwaway bravado comment you make when you're still practically a child is then used for the next half a millennium as though it represents the sum total of your personality and is constantly used to present you as a sadistic murderous psychopath.  Modern people, would you like it if someone took one of your sulky adolescent pronouncements as though it's representative of your entire life and attitudes?

Henry VI: And when one remark by one visitor to England, simply reporting a rumour he had heard that I supposedly said that my son Edward was fathered by the Holy Ghost, is taken that my son absolutely must have been fathered by someone else other than me.  As though my wife Margaret of Anjou isn't maligned enough!

Margaret of Anjou: Oh, you mean I actually have a name?  Like seriously?  I thought I was just called 'the bad queen'.  Voice dripping with sarcasm here.

Edward II: They do that to me as well, Henry, and the really daft thing is that there wasn't even a single tiny rumour or hint at the time or long afterwards, it's entirely a modern invention.  There are actually still people insisting that William Wallace fathered my son Edward III despite having been dead for seven years at the time, or that my father did, even though he had been dead for five years.  And there are plenty of folks who refuse to let go of the notion that Roger Mortimer was my son's real father.  He was in Ireland at the time, people!  Amazingly, remarkably, unequivocally heterosexual Roger may have been, but even he didn't produce sperm that could cross the Irish Sea.

Henry III: Actually, Ned, dear grandson, we should start up a support group for all of us who've had the paternity of our children assigned to other men.  My son Edward I is said to have actually been the child of my brother-in-law Simon de Montfort, even though Simon wasn't even in England when dear Eleanor and I conceived Edward.  For pity's sake.

Eleanor of Provence: The horror of that calumny, of being accused of committing adultery with a man I could barely stand the sight of!  I'm also said in the same series of novels to have had an affair with the earl of Gloucester, and my son Edward hits on his own half-sister, how yucky and icky.  The author couldn't even get your name right, dear Henry - everyone who knows anything at all about the thirteenth century knows you were called Henry of Winchester after your birthplace, but in that book you're called Henry of Monmouth, who of course was Henry V!  It's not often you see a man being confused with his own great-great-great-great-grandson, ROFL.

Elizabeth of York: I don't know.

Edward II: Afraid we're running out of time and will have to wrap this up now, folks!  Hope you all feel somewhat better after getting this rubbish off your chests, and take care until the next meeting of the Support Group for People Maligned in Historical Fiction!  Goodnight!


Anonymous said...

This is wonderful!
Can Thomas Becket join the next meeting? Modern novelists seem to have it in for him, and for some idiotic reason, his decision to oppose Henry II`s plans for the church are always implausibly linked to some sort of sexual frustration because Henry jilted him. Off the top of my head, I can think of three novels that do that, and even one non-fiction writer that calls him "disturbed" for opposing Henry. The fact he might have actually believed he was doing what was right is never considered.
Anyway, thank you for this! It was a great read!


P.S. Am I the only one in the world who actually likes both Richard III and Henry VII?

Kathryn Warner said...

Thank you, Michi! So glad you liked it! That's a great suggestion for the next meeting - I hadn't realised novelists do that (yuck!)

Me too actually!

Sami Parkkonen said...


One guy is missing: The dumb simpleton earl of Kent. Wasn't he the guy who, according even serious historians, did not know that Eddie was dead for few years and thus, the idiot he was, tried to plot him out from prison, even though he was dead?

Kathryn Warner said...

That's a brilliant one, Sami! How could I (of all people!) have forgotten Edmund?! :o

Sonetka said...

Awesome meeting! I always love these posts. But like the others, I'd like to suggest a few more people be invited next time -- Lady Rochford (holy bejeezus, what HASN'T she been accused of?) and Thomas More. I have never seen a historical character's stock fall harder than his during the last fifty years. Much of which was, of course, deserved, but it's gone completely overboard by now. (Of course he's portrayed as a rapist. I mean, how can a man do bad things and yet be sexually restrained?) And I'm sure Jane Seymour wouldn't mind an invitation either, though if she's at all like her book self she won't say much :).

Merry Christmas! Thanks again for your wonderful blog, and for your book -- which I haven't read yet but which I have a strong feeling I'll be finding under the tree next week.

Anerje said...

I would just like to re-assure his Grace, King Edward II that 2014 is his lucky year, as his chief defender and myth-buster Kathryn Warner has had a superb book published which rights his many wrongs (but obviously, she has to tell the truth about some things, I'm afraid).

Great post! Particularly happy to see George of Clarence and Margaret Beaufort defended:>

Anonymous said...

I don't know...

Lol, that drove me nuts :p

Anonymous said...

Great post! I also like both Henry VII and Richard III; maybe, they could meet with Lady Margaret and explain the "rules" of classic whodunnits -- obvious suspects innocent; least likely person guilty.


Lauriana said...

I second Esther's suggestion!

It is a great post, very funny. And it's interesting, both from it and the comments, how some old slurs stick while others have apparently gone out of fashion, turning old villains into heros and/or victims and their opponents into monsters.
Richard III is a clear case of that. It took a couple centuries until anyone could look past Shakespeare's monster but now, in some novels, we get this creature which never did a wrong thing in his life, which is just as unlikely. And I suppose that causes some of the maligning of Margaret Beaufort and Elizabeth Woodville and the creepy stuff about Elizabeth of York. And yet Anne Neville still gets treated by those novelists in pretty much the same way as she was by the old bard: Supposed to be weak in every way.

Anonymous said...

Oh, this was hilarious. I've been putting off doing some typing (for a person who doesn't dictate awfully well) so "taking five" to read this helped revive my drooping spirits. (I'm at home working in my own time so I'm not defrauding any firm of time). The Lizzie Woodville the witch assertions are a pet hate of mine and I get very cross with one lady historical novelist who seems to think the general public is so thick it never knew that Anne Boleyn had a sister before she wrote a book (which was a bit too much of a bodice ripper for my personal taste) in which Mary Boleyn featured.

Pat O

Carla said...

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, Kathryn!

Jerry Bennett said...

Great post Kathryn, and a real joy to read. But having just watched "The Bloodiest Dynasty" on BBC4, and added that to the likes of "She Wolves", when are you going to start a support group for people unfairly maligned in Television's so-called historical Documentaries?

Have a great Christmas, and I look forward to more posts in the New Year.

Anonymous said...

Sorry for commenting twice. But if we`re talking about non-fiction, I think Francis Lovell would like to state that he was always loyal to Richard III, and that, no matter what Paul Doherty says, a reference in William Catesby`s will asking him to pray for him should he be "allowed in the King`s Grace" (which surely just means not executed like Catesby himself?) and a possible offer of pardon by Henry VII after Bosworth which he declined does not mean he wasn`t loyal to Richard. He *declined* the offer and was involved in several rebellions against Henry VII.
And while we`re on the subject, Henry VII himself would then probably like to say that this offer shows that, despite ante-dating his reign by a day, he wasn`t threatening to do terrible things to everyone who fought at Bosworth and was actually trying to bring peace.

Olga said...

No Michi, I also like both Henry VII and Richard III - so that makes two of us.

Kathryn, finally, Clarence! Thank you. Maybe you could do a Shakespeare-themed meeting one day. A support group for all of the people Shakespeare stitched up besides Richard III (who gets all the sympathy)

Ulrik said...

The Joan of Arc-fetish was spot on. And all the rest😉

Gabriele Campbell said...

Matured to full ripeness - oh my, that sounds like she's a peach ready for Piers to try his fork on. :-)

The emperors Tiberius and Domitian could join this group, too. They have - probably luckily - escaped attention of modern novelists (though Tiberius got an unflattering portrayal in a TV doucmentary), but they have been misrepresented ever since Tacitus and Sueton distributed that biased nonsense about their incompetence and depravity.

Anonymous said...

Another apology for commenting twice, but ... maybe, you need to organize sub-groups, depending upon the maligner. For example, the people maligned by Alison Weir would not only include Edward II (in her supposedly non-fiction book on Isabella) but also Guildford Dudley (in "Innocent Traitor", Weir has him rape his new wife, Lady Jane Grey); Elizabeth I could meet her mother, as well as her great-grandmothers, in a support group for people unfairly maligned by Philippa Gregory (no evidence that Elizabeth had Amy Dudley killed)


Charlene said...

If just be happy if they stopped calling Jane Seymour "whey-faced". Especially since they mean she's very white - and whey is brilliant yellow.