Quotes from a Marie de Rohan letter about Cardinal Richelieu

‘I think I am destined to be the object of the folly of madmen. The Cardinal certainly proves it to me…’

‘…the Cardinal’s tyranny increases every moment. He storms and raves because I do not go to see him. Twice I have written to him compliments of which he is unworthy…’


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What does a writer (unpublished) do when told by someone in the publishing industry that although she (the writer) has an impressive knowledge of history, there is far too much of it going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

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

17th Century Smoking Ban

The things you learn when researching a novel never cease to amaze!!


Pope Urbain VIII

Pope Urbain VIII

In 1624, Maffeo Barbarini (1568-1644) aka Pope Urban VIII (1623-1644) issued a papal bull that ordered a worldwide ban on the smoking and sniffing of tobacco on pain of excommunication.

For health reasons?


Because he believed it led to sneezing and that sneezing too closely resembled sexual ecstasy.


Though I think Mikhail I Fyodorovich Romanov aka Tsar Michael of Russia (1596-1645) had a much more frightening way to enforce the ban on smoking that he invoked in 1634…

Tsar Michael

Tsar Michael

…A first offence meant a whipping, a slit nose and an exile to Siberia.

And those caught a second time faced execution.

Hoydens and Firebrands

I’ve been beside myself with delight this week, having been honoured with a guest spot at the fabulous blog Hoydens and Firebrands

Hoydens and Firebrands is home to several great writers of 17th Century Historical Fiction who share their work, research and love for this fascinating century with us.

Our Roaring Ladies are:

Alison Stuart – By the Sword, The King’s Man.

Anita Davisdon – Duking Days Rebellion, Duking Days Revolution.

Kim Murphy – Whispers through Time, Whispers from the Grave.

Mary Sharratt – The Vanishing Point, Daughters of the Witching Hill.

Sandra Gulland – Mistress of the Sun, The Josephine B Trilogy.

My thanks go to all of you for allowing me to share your warm, bright place.

Please visit Hoydens and Firebrands – – Roaring Ladies who Write about the 17th Century.

17th Century Domestic Violence

The Tailor’s Lamentation – 1685

A tailor with a young and beautiful wife has a weakness for whores. Then, one dark night, he  has dallied with a doxy and is left stripped of clothes and money and must go back to his wife to explain…

…When she came in, she rang me a peal,

Ay, and her fist she forc’d me to feel…

There with her fist my face she did maul,

till at length I was forc’d to fall

Down on my knees, her love to obtain,

vowing I’d ne’er offend her again.

‘Rascal! (said she) I’ll pardon thee now!

If that this day you solemnly vow

To be obedient still to your wife.’

‘Yes, if you please to spare but my life.’

Ever since then she bears such a sway,

that I am forc’d her Laws to obey,

She is the Cock and I am the Hen:

this is my case, Oh! pity me then.