Paris – April 1622 Part Two

Paris -April 1622 – PART TWO
The words glittered maliciously inside Wat’s head. Eyes shut; he put hands to his ears and groaned.
“Listen, my boychild of a gillyflower. Your ears belong to me now and I want to know everything they hear. Withhold nothing from me. I am the judge of what’s important and what’s not. Little words lead to more than you can ever imagine.”
‘Damn you to hell and back for all eternity,’ Wat muttered and then started as a gentle voice rebuked him.
He opened his eyes.
The large, wet, bunched figure on the opposite side of the table spoke again.
‘I said, “Beware such heartfelt curses, they are apt to rebound.”’
Very little face showed beneath the pulled down beaver hat, very little body under the fine leather overcoat.
Wat sat still, every muscle tense, the pasty a lump in his stomach. The other man did not move either but for a wink of firelight inside his shadowed eyes.
‘Here’s a long way from the days and nights we shared so recently in Cambridge.’
‘Rats, lice, and Scotsmen: you find them the whole world over.’ Wat relaxed. Both anger and laughter sat close by. ‘What the hell are you doing here, Jamie?’

Weave a Garland of my Vows

Decided to post bite size snippets of Work in Progress in order to sharpen the brain box.

Paris, April 1622…PART ONE

The Caberet des Lanternes folded around Wat Montagu as he sat, filthy and damp, his spirits somewhere down there with the mud on the soles of his boots. Neither fire nor fragrant steam rising from the beef and marrow bone pasty set below his nose could raise any joy inside his bitten tiredness.

The serving girl passed him again, giving a faint and puzzled smile this time. Wat set to spooning crumbling pastry and spiced meat into his mouth. His mood moved slowly to ankle height until the echo of a voice crept to overlay the rumbling and laughter of a room full of people.

“Walter, darling brat, I want information. And I want you to get it for me. Bury that soft poet’s heart of yours and come back a man. Without the pox, if you can manage it.”


From The Telegraph Feb 28th 2012

Vatican Secret Archives reveal abdication letter of ‘hermaphrodite’ Swedish queen
The abdication letter of a “hermaphrodite” Swedish queen is one of 100 unusual documents from the Vatican Secret Archives which will go on display on Wednesday in an unprecedented exhibition.

Queen Christina of Sweden caused a scandal when she stepped down from the throne and converted from the state religion of Lutheranism to Catholicism in 1654.
Known for her unconventional dress sense, deep voice and masculine behaviour, she is believed to have been born with a mix of female and male genitals and hormones.
An intense relationship with one of her ladies-in-waiting, with whom she sometimes shared a bed, fuelled rumours that the queen was a lesbian.
An eight-page parchment document that announced her abdication, complete with seals from members of the Swedish parliament, will be part of the exhibition of 100 documents in Rome’s Capitoline Museums.

After her conversion to the Catholic faith and renunciation of the Swedish throne, Christina moved to Rome, where she was triumphantly received by the Church.
She initially stayed in the Tower of Winds, a frescoed tower inside the Vatican Secret Archives, but later moved into Palazzo Farnese, which is now the French embassy.
She had a French marquis murdered in her presence after he betrayed her plans to become Queen of Naples.
She died in 1689 and is one of the few women to be buried in St Peter’s Basilica.
Scientists exhumed her body in 1965 to search for skeletal evidence that she was a hermaphrodite but the results were inconclusive.
Even so, she became a symbol of lesbianism and cross-dressing in the 20th century and inspired plays and musicals.

Garbo as Christina kisses her maid Ebba


I confess…

I’m a life-long knitter. My greatest love (knitting wise) are the 1920’s and the 1930’s.


A dive into the history of knitting has proved fascinating.

The Knitting Madonna 15th Century

Dutch Knitter 16th-17th century

17th Century Italian Knitted Jacket

17 stitches to the inch!!!

Only another knitter would understand how much work that would have needed.

17th Century Textile Colours










And colours to try and get our minds around.
I’ll have a go…
I love the idea of SICK SPANIARD – a yellowy olive?
TEMPS PERDU- I see this as a pale violet?
ANGRY MONKEY- Is red brown too obvious?
APE’S LAUGH- Again, a reddy colour. But only if they were always being pedantic?
RESURRECTION – Oh Gawd! A blue-grey????
KISS ME DARLING – Pale pink, maybe.
MORAL SIN – Love this. A deep, vibrant, singing red?
TRISTAMI – Sorry, can only think of pepparami here. Oops!
SCRATCH FACE – Purpley (if there’s such a word)?
SMOKED OX HAM COLOUR – Pinky, purpley (if it’s not a word, it should be!)
CHIMNEY SWEEP – Too obvious????
FADING FLOWER – Mmmn. Pastel. Maybe like ashes of roses?
DYING MONKEY – Black, brown….ish?
MERRY WIDOW – Deep Purple – nearly black but not quite?

Lilac Time Again

May is the month for lilacs.

Mine are coming into bloom right now. The lilac above grows outside my back door and I adore everything about this shrub. The season is short but intense. In fact, much about lilac seems to be intense from the tight clusters of perfect flowers, to the unforgettable scent, to the historical perspective.

Syringa vulgaris – the common lilac – was brought into Europe in the 16th century by traders and ambassadors to the Persian and Ottoman empires. It represented the secrecy of paradise in these exotic domains.

In Renaissance times it was thought that Pan’s pipes were made from the hollow stems of the lilac bush as syringa comes from the word syrinx meaning tube.

The early 17th century gardens of England and France overflowed with lilac but as time passed and the plant came out of the privacy of royal and noble spaces and into public areas, it lost its original connection to that Eastern secret paradise.

It became common.

The Victorian language of flowers further damaged lilac’s reputation by making it the indicator of death – coffins were routinely draped with white lilac boughs.

In England the profusion of tiny flowers, the magical colours and the heady scent all came to be associated with decadence and sexuality.

In France these qualities were embraced. Louis XIV adored lilac.

So did the Empress Josephine who had Redoute paint pictures of the plant for her.

Lilac – the symbol of ‘ever-returning spring.’

Too much History for Historical Fiction

What does a writer (unpublished) do when told by someone in the publishing industry that although she (the writer) has an impressive knowledge of history, there is far too much of it going on in her Historical Fiction novel?

And – that her Main Character is not famous enough for anyone to EVER be interested in reading her story?

My main character – Marie de Rohan – helped drive a fundamental change in 17th century European history. Her story can’t be told without this ‘history’ aspect. She was interesting enough for Alexandre Dumas to write about her and for Marcel Proust to mention her in his Remembrance of Things Past. Also – Queen Victoria was on the throne when the last major study of her life happened.

Both comments have utterly floored me for a while now. Are these industry wide thoughts?
Is there no room anymore for the new subject – a Scarlett O’Hara rather than sweetie-pie?
No room for the pure, un-PC historical without pages of velvet bodices and excruciating post- Freudian self-examination?

I don’t – I can’t – believe that this is true. Am I wrong? Do you have any thoughts about marquee names and watered down history? Help, please!

Picking myself off the floor now.
I’m stubborn enough to carry on regardless. Just not sure which way to turn!!

Marie de Rohan

Icones Animalium

Louis XIII’s favourite childhood book was Icones Animalium by Conrad Gesner (1516-1565)

He called it his ‘Lion Book.’

Gesner was a Swiss natural historian, the first to try to record the zoological world comprehensively with his book Historia Animalium.

Icones Animalium was an abbreviated version of his masterpiece, first published in 1560 and it contains many woodcuts of animals – real and imaginary.

Farmyard animals, beasts of the chase, dogs, hawks, unicorns, dragons and sea monsters.

His first attempts to draw a giraffe/giraffo/cameleopardis was a bit hit and miss. A deer with a very long neck. But in 1559, Gesner received a drawing made from life by a friend in Constantinople who had witnessed the presentation of a giraffe to the Emperor of the Turks.

The pictures, however accurate or inaccurate, have a real charm that delight today as much as they did in the 17th century in the palace of St Germain- en- Laye.

King James I of England

James VI of Scotland 1567. James I 1603.

Born 1566. Died 1625.

A Contemporary Description





This Kings Character is much easier to take then his Picture, for he

could never be brought to sit for the taking of that, which is the

reason of so few good peeces of him; but his Character was obvious to

every eye.

James Ist

He was of a middle stature, more corpulent through his cloathes then

in his body, yet fat enough, his cloathes ever being made large and

easie, the Doublets quilted for steletto proofe, his Breeches in great

pleites and full stuffed: Hee was naturally of a timorous disposition,

which was the reason of his quilted Doublets: His eyes large, ever

rowling after any stranger came in his presence, insomuch, as many

for shame have left the roome, as being out of countenance: His Beard

was very thin: His Tongue too large for his mouth, which ever made

him speak full in the mouth, and made him drink very uncomely, as if

eating his drink, which came out into the cup of each side of his

mouth: His skin was as soft as Taffeta Sarsnet, which felt so, because

hee never washt his hands, onely rubb’d his fingers ends slightly with

the wet end of a Naptkin: His Legs were very weake, having had (as was

thought) some foul play in his youth, or rather before he was born,

that he was not able to stand at seven years of age, that weaknesse

made him ever leaning on other mens shoulders, his walke was ever

circular …

James I

He was very temperate in his exercises, and in his dyet,

and not intemperate in his drinking; however in his old age, and

_Buckinghams_ joviall Suppers, when he had any turne to doe with

him, made him sometimes overtaken, which he would the very next day

remember, and repent with teares; it is true, he dranke very often,

which was rather out of a custom then any delight, and his drinks were

of that kind for strength, as Frontiniack, Canary, High Country wine,

Tent Wine, and Scottish Ale, that had he not had a very strong brain,

might have daily been overtaken, although he seldom drank at any

one time above four spoonfulls, many times not above one or two…

The abuse of Louis XIII

Louis XIII is an intriguing and very complex character. Accused of coldness, melancholy and homosexuality, he has divided opinion over the years. Many see him as a cipher and pawn of his incredibly clever First Minister, Cardinal Richelieu. But Louis, for all his perceived faults, had undeniable qualities.

The negative slant on his personality is subjective but with a very real basis in fact. And yet – when his childhood is investigated – it is possible to see why he was such a complicated human being.

Jean Héroard was born in Montpellier in the year 1551. His descent was from a long line of influential doctors with international connections and he spent his early career in the pay of the Gonzagas and then Charles IX of France. Charles’ brother and heir, Henri III,  retained this doctor and Henri IV renewed the contract when his wife Marie de Medici became pregnant with the future Louis XIII.

As soon as the umbilical cord was severed, this doctor took control and responsibility for the heir of the throne of France’s care. What set Héroard apart – in history – was the very detailed, day by day account he kept of his new charge’s life.

When just two days old, the dauphin Louis had trouble suckling so Héroard brought in a surgeon who cut the membranes beneath the infant’s tongue in three places – a common enough practice but Louis – for the rest of his life – was afflicted by a stutter and he often had to poke his tongue out of his mouth and hold it between his lips.

From that day on Héroard seems to have sought and found complete control over all of the child’s inputs and outputs. The first suppository was administered when Louis was just 10 days old.

By whatever standards, both activities were an invasion  and one that continued for many years, robbing Louis of control over his own body.

Héroard records the dauphin farting near the nose of an attendant who said, ‘Sir, you must fire your musket again.’

‘But it’s not loaded,’ said Louis.

‘Sir, but what should it be loaded with?’

‘With merde,’ the dauphin replied.

A close reading of Louis’ childhood brings unmistakable proof of profound abuse. He was whipped regularly on the orders of both his mother (Marie de Medici) and his father (Henri IV)

Héroard should not hold the full blame. His nurse, his governess, his siblings(legitimate and illegitimate) play their parts. As does his father,the sexual exhibitionist.

When Louis is only four or five years old and after a visit to his father, Héroard questions the dauphin and records…

‘…he (Louis) said some new words and phrases that are shameful and unworthy of his upbringing, saying that Papa’s was a lot longer than his, that his was a long as that – showing half the length of his arm.’

The violence and the abuse were not abnormal. The adults thus produced were afflicted. These adults populate our history books.

Thought provoking?

Louis as a child by Frans Pourbus the Younger

Louis as a child by Frans Pourbus the Younger