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What does a writer (unpublished) do when told by someone in the publishing industry that although she (the writer) has an impressive knowledge of history, there is far too much of it going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

So great is the Crowd

As a contrast to the previous post about solitude, here’s a wonderful quote from a dispatch written by the Papal Nuncio Bentivoglio  to Cardinal Borghese. He describes the early 17th century French court…

It is impossible to imagine how great the confusion is at present. They seem fond of a grandeur full of tumult and noise intruding not only in the audience chambers and in public view, but on the King himself. I sometimes despair of being heard, as there is scarce space between my words and the ears of the king, so great is the crowd.’

Court of Louis XIII

Court of Louis XIII

17th Century Anagrams

I’ve been reading about Dame Eleanor Davies and her time in Bedlam. She was committed to the asylum on December 17th 1636.

She had been tried in 1633 for treason against King Charles 1. The charge levelled because of her self-proclaimed status as prophetess and, more damaging, her prophecies about the deaths of Buckingham and Charles.

Dame Eleanor played a popular 17th century game of anagrams but her’s was more dangerous. When she realised that John Davies (the name of her husband) was an anagram of JOVE’S HAND, she put on widow’s weeds and publicly declared that her husband would be dead within a year.

John’s response was – ‘I pray you weep not while I’m alive, and I will give you leave to laugh when I am dead.’

Eleanor laughed before the year was out.

At her trial, a chaplain played the Dame at her own game by demonstrating that Eleanor’s name made the anagram ‘NEVER SO MAD A LADIE’

This all got me thinking about my own characters names and anagrams and I tested a few.

My main character is called Marie de Rohan – DRAMA HEROINE

Louis de Bourbon – DUBIOUS NOBLE OR

Cardinal Richelieu – A CLINICAL RUED HEIR

Gaston d’Orléans – A GRANDNESS FOOL

Walter Montagu – NATURAL GEM – WOT.

I’ve decided to rename my novel. It’s now A SAVAGED MANY FLOWER VOW by QUEEN JIGGLY ARC.

Keep your eye out for it!

Come Dance a Sarabande

Sarabande

Sarabande

In 17th century France, the sarabande was a popular but frowned upon dance. Fiery and fast, in 1583 it was banned in Spain on account of its obscenity.

Anne of Austria and Marie de Rohan managed to trick Cardinal Richelieu into dressing up and dancing a sarabande in the Queen’s private apartments.

The mind boggles!

In a Dark Wood Wandering

Post Taken from my other blog The Mysteries of Jehanne d’Arc

The novel In a Dark Wood Wandering by Hella S Haasse is a tour de force and recommended to any one interested in 15th century France generally and Charles d’Orléans specifically.

In a Dark Wood Wandering
In a Dark Wood Wandering

‘Set in France and England during the Middle Ages…It opens in Paris in 1394. Valentine, Duchess of Orléans, has just given birth to a son, Charles…As the course of Charles’ dramatic life unfolds we absorb the atmosphere and excitement of a whole society and meet an extraordinary range of characters, from the mad King Charles V and his icy Bavarian Queen to the bastard Dunois, a born soldier and the right arm of Joan of Arc…’

There is much more to this novel though.

Hella Haase first started researching during the late 1930’s as her homeland, Holland, became embroiled in the Second World War.

Het woud der verwachting – literally The Forest of Long Awaiting – was first published in 1947 to great success in Holland.

Then, in the 1953, a postal clerk and part-time translator called Lewis C Kaplan, found a publication in his office in Chicago with a review of Haase’s novel and immediately decided to translate the book into English.

He contacted the author and gained her permission. It took 5 years to complete the first draft, none of which was to Kaplan’s satisfaction. Then he suddenly fell ill and died.

Kaplan’s widow packed and stored the unnamed manuscript that her husband had spent so many years translating.

Meanwhile, Hella Haase, wondering occasionally about the English translation of her work, hesitated to contact Kaplan and ask how far he had progressed.

The manuscript lay hidden for twenty years.

Then, in the 1970’s, fire broke out in the Kaplan apartment in Chicago and during the clear up, Het woud der verwachting, sodden but not burned, was found.

Neither Mrs Kaplan nor her son could remember the name of the original author but both were intrigued and spent many months investigating. Kalman Kaplan even set about finishing his father’s translation from Dutch to English and eventually tied the book to Hella Haasse and gained her permission to market it in 1982.

In 1989 , after 40 years of misadventure, Het woud der verwachting was published under the new title In a Dark Wood Wandering: A Novel of the Middle Ages.

A fitting history to a fascinating book.