Questioning Reputations

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Fed Ex just delivered copies of the Broadway trade paperback of The King’s Mistress. Out this coming Tuesday, 24 May! My editor’s handwritten note ended “Here’s to a whole new life for her!”

Whole new life. Fresh look. That’s what appeals to me in questioning reputations. With Alice Perrers, I saw again and again “greedy” “ambitious” and thought, okay, but why? What motivated her? What was so worth the risks she took? Once a reputation solidifies, we stop asking those questions. What a loss.

With Joan of Kent it was her confusing marital history that piqued my interest–the long legal battle, the implications for her son, King Richard II. So for A Triple Knot my questions began with What happened here? It’s not just about the rivals  Thomas Holland and William Montague. It’s about the beginning of the Hundred Years War, the execution of Joan’s father, the Earl of Montague’s part in Roger Mortimer’s arrest. It’s also about Prince Edward, who is often portrayed as having been duped by a pretty face. But he’d known Joan all his life. And, considering his record, he hardly seems a man who would be so passive in courting.

Racing toward deadline I’ve been thinking about other reputations that intrigue me –Queen Isabella, the she-wolf, Edward II’s rebellious wife. Did she enter that marriage expecting romance? I hardly think so. Wondering about her expectations, what was the line she drew in the sand.

Who do you wonder about?

5 Comments on “Questioning Reputations

  1. Empress Maude? Most of the characterization of her that I am familiar with comes from the Ellis Peters (Edith Pargeter) Brother Cadfael series. My instinct is to trust her, but I do wonder.

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    • It’s been so long since I read about that period in any detail. You’ve inspired me to read more of Helen Castor’s She-Wolves: the women who ruled England before Elizabeth. She has a chapter on Maud/Matilda. I know I’m in good hands with Helen.

      Thanks, Bill!

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      • Thanks! I’ll check Helen Castor’s work out too.

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  2. I wonder about Phillipa. It would be so hard to watch someone take your place, knowing that you couldn’t do it yourself. How hard.

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    • Philippa is a complex woman. Every time I write about her I find her more enigmatic. Her family connections are so complex–they were on both sides in Edward’s war with France, her mother coming out of the convent to which she’d withdrawn to push for a treaty.

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