Monday, May 3, 2010

Chapter two - woo hoo!

Chapter two sees the Yorks enter the picture for the first time. We meet all of them, the duke and duchess at Fotheringhay with their younger children and later in London; Edward and Edmund (briefly) at Ludlow then in London for Christmas and Anne at her new home (Coldharbour, I think). Even York's sister Isabel makes an appearance.

I've had to make some changes from the first draft because of one tiny piece of information I got at the last minute. When York was summoned to London in October 1453, the duke of Norfolk met him along the way and they entered the city together. That hasn't been too much of a problem and in one sense it's quite useful, as I've been able to introduce Eleanor Bourchier a little earlier than originally planned and that's been quite a blessing.

One of the frustrations is the lack of information about where the women were and what they were doing at particular times. As both the duchesses of York and Norfolk were in London for Margaret of Anjou's churching, I've had them travel with their husbands. I also don't know what the relationship might have been between the three sister-in-law: Cecily, the duchess of Norfolk and Isabel.  I'm allowing them to be fairly close without being sickeningly so.

The churching was a difficult thing to deal with as I had virtually no information beyond a list of duchesses and a description of Margaret's dress. Laynesmith (I found her thesis on the web and now have the book) was very useful in expanding on this.  I have Cecily's pov for some of it and the countess of Warwick's for another bit. Hopefully I've managed to explain some of the alliances and enmities through their thoughts and their response (or lack of) to the women around them. As it was an essentially silent affair, that response has had to be silent. I've also put a female slant on the whole affair - men and the church might talk of cleansings etc, but the women know what it's really all about.

I'm afraid I've toed the party line a bit when it comes to the Yorks. I see no reason to doubt the received view of their love for each other, nor Cecily's piety. The ten year hiatus between their marriage and the birth of Anne is problematic, unless you maybe think that Ciss had some problems with the idea of consummation (which she overcame with a vengeance), coupled with Joan Beaufort making her son-in-law wait (which seems to have been her practice) and some possible miscarriages. I haven't overdone it, I think.

As I want at least one marriage that's happy from start to finish, I've allowed young Elizabeth and John de la Pole to be developing quite a close friendship that will morph into the quiet, happy marriage I think they had (until their son was named R3's heir, at which point - goodbye quiet happiness.) That raised an interesting question for me about Alice Chaucer, John's mother. She couldn't have been happy that York held John's wardship or that his betrothal to Margaret Beaufort was rescinded in favour of Elizabeth, but she doesn't seem to have gone out of her way to influence his opinion of them.  Maybe her husband was right when he told his son in a letter that his mother was a wise woman.

The other York marriage of the time - that of Anne and the duke of Exeter - was not a happy one.  Exeter was, I think, resentful that his marriage had been sold to York so cheaply by his father, especially as his father died shortly thereafter and the full amount was never paid! I was a bit worried about setting Exeter up as an unpleasant character, thus falling into some kind of stereotype, but my daughter reassured me, telling me that not everyone has a redeeming quality and I shouldn't tie myself in knots trying to find one. We meet Anne when her mother pays her a visit to find out if she knows what Exeter might be up to. Anne knows nothing and doesn't hesitate to tell her mother exactly what she thinks of her husband.

Most of the chapter revolves around the wheeling and dealing to get York first the lieutenancy then the protectorship. Warwick and Salisbury make an appearance towards the end of the chapter, along with Fitzhugh and Scrope of Bolton (I do love that name!). I do slip up to Yorkshire briefly for the birth of Alice Fitzhugh's second daughter, Anne. A message is sent to London, and when the various men are going their various ways for Christmas, there is a quiet conversation between Fitzhugh and his father-in-law about children. ("Nevill tends to run to girls," Salisbury says, from the safe perspective of a father of sons.) We get a bit more of a glimpse into the Fitzhugh marriage, with Henry realising more and more that he's beginning to care deeply for his wife. Despite an invitation to join the Salisburys at Bisham, he just wants to go home to his Ailie.

I've used Norfolk's speech against Somerset almost uncut and almost unedited. It was way too good to either paraphrase or completely modernise. I'm hoping it doesn't sound too odd to modern ears.  As I've had a bit to do with Middle English over the years, I think I've managed to pull it off.

The chapter ends with York named protector by parliament. I haven't gone into that in any great depth because I don't think the details matter too much. His first act (though some sources tell me it happened a few days earlier) is to name Salisbury chancellor, which surprised the hell out of everyone (except Salisbury).

So, now it's time to polish chapter 3, but I think paid work might get in the way a little bit.


Su_H said...

Wow! So much to fit into just one chapter! I wondered how long your chapters are? And how long you envisage NEVILL will be when completed?
With so many characters to introduce I wondered how much planning you had done; as in how detailed your plans are or whether you just had notes and then wrote the scenes with the detail in? :-)

Ragged Staff said...

Su, the chapters i've done so far run to about 30 pages. Chapter 3 is shorter. I don't write a lot of detail - I'm a bit of a literary impressionist, I guess - and some of my characters are in short scenes, really just to introduce them, and may not be given any real meat for some time. I have no idea how long the book's going to be, but it does seem like it might be quite big. I don't write to a plan, but I do make detailed notes and write to them. I know where I want chapters to start and end, what the major theme is (and therefore which set of characters) and that's about it, really. Dialogue, I think, is my real strength, which is why I keep thinking of this almost as a teleplay.

Susan Higginbotham said...

Sounds great! I really don't know what to make of the Duke of Exeter--he originally was supposed to play an important role in my own book, but was largely pushed aside by Henry Beaufort, Duke of Somerset. After his escapades in the 1450's, his imprisonment and exile seem to have tamed him somewhat.

Caroline said...

MoA's churching must have been a very tense affair - she finally produced an heir after eight years of marriage, only to have the happiness of the event overshadowed by her husband's insanity. How sad that she couldn't fully experience the joy of finally being a mother and being able to fully participate in Court life after months of confinement.

Ragged Staff said...

Thanks, Susan. Because of his shenanigans with the Percies, and his marriage to Anne, Exeter looms fairly large in the first part of my wip at least. It's been finding a time and place where they could have been in the same room long enough to conceive their daughter that's been the problem. And trying to work out just what the dynamics of that particular even might have been. Probably not much fun for either of them.

Ragged Staff said...

Caroline, I think you're right about the churching. There were sisters who weren't on speaking terms all crammed in together. Just as well it was largely silent, really! She did make a valiant attempt to get involved during Henry's illness, but I think the scope of her proposed regency scared people off and right into York's lap. It must have been difficult, knowing you'd done the one thing that would most please your husband and he wasn't able to appreciate it.

Caroline said...

Ragged Staff, I think it's interesting how you emphasized that a churching ceremony was a largely silent affair- after all, Elizabeth Woodville has been the subject of some serious criticism from her detractors for eating alone and in silence at the banquet following her first churching ceremony as Queen. I think it would be interesting for you to include that event, or at least a mention of it, somewhere in your novel!

Ragged Staff said...

Caroline, when someone is the target of criticism (like EW has been over the centuries) almost everything they do is seen as evidence of something bad. Her churching was no different from anyone else's but it was the only one recorded in such detail, so it's taken as unique. I haven't thought too much about her yet, but as this book is about the Nevills, I doubt I'm going to be defending her too strenuously. Though I do hope that I'll deal with her reasonably sympathetically.

Andrew said...

I've only just come upon your blog having Googled 'letter from York, Warwick and Salisbury to the Archbishop....dated 20 May 1455'. Why did I do this? Because I have in my library a folio manuscript (c.150 pages) written around late 18th century with these letters in, beautifully written and word for word as yours (so where did you get yours from?) but also with a whole lot of other stuff from Henry's Parliaments of 33, 34, 38 and 39 Henry VI. If you would like to see this, email me on

Andrew. X

Ragged Staff said...

Hi Andrew. I've just come across your comment because I migrated the blog some time ago to Wordpress and don't check back on the old Blogger account very often. I'm fairly sure I first saw this letter in an article by Hicks. Your folio sounds wonderful and must be such a joy to own!