Above painting: Louis Jean Francois - Mars and Venus an Allegory of Peace
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Friday, November 18, 2011

Political Intrigue during the Medieval Age by Terry Spear

Welcome to History Undressed, guest author Terry Spear! Terry is the award-winning author of fantasy and medieval romance. Leave a comment to win a copy of Ms. Spear's medieval romance novel, Winning the Highlander's Heart.

Political Intrigue during the Medieval Age
By Terry Spear

The medieval period was from about 500 AD to 1500 AD, so quite a bit of time and change.

When we talk about one period of time, it can be very different from another in terms of lifestyle, clothes, and what was available to the populace. Also, the change in the political arena made for a lot of difference in medieval times.

So when we say we’re writing about a medieval romance in a particular time, it can be way different from one much later. And it depended on the location. Some areas were still more in the Dark Ages, when others had moved ahead.

I chose to write about King Henry I’s time period, 1100 AD, because I found him a fascinating king and the emerging scenario with his taking a wife who was the daughter of the Scottish king and the Saxon princess, who had been the niece of the Saxon king killed and replaced by Henry’s father, William the Conqueror of Normandy. She was an interesting person as well, again educated, and her mother had placed her in her aunt’s convent, to ensure unscrupulous men would not have their way with her.

Now, Henry was the first of the kings who was really educated as he was meant to be a bishop, not king, since he was the third son of William. But the older brother, William Rufus, who was serving as king after their father died, met his own death in a hunting accident under rather suspicious circumstances while Henry was in attendance. The next oldest brother was away fighting the Crusades, so what could Henry do? But take over the treasury and become king.

It’s important to learn as much about the clothing, food that was served during this period of time, as well as the accommodations. Although because I write romance, I don’t get into some of the smellier details.

But what I found the most fun while creating the story was including some of the political intrigue.

When William conquered Saxon England, the ruling king died and the Saxon princess and prince fled to Scotland where they were given protection. But the Scottish king fell in love with the Saxon princess. Now doesn’t that sound like a fairy-tale romance? It was. When he died years later, she did also, of grief.

The thing of it is, the Saxon princess’s father had been king, but his brother murdered him and took over the kingdom, and then he took in his brother’s son and daughter, since he had no children of his own. Like I said, lots and lots of intrigue.

The Saxon prince united with Henry’s older brother, who vows to take over England and rule as he should have. I did include some of that in the story as well. One of the knights who they meet on the road is actually a knight that Henry used to lead his men to fight his brother.

In one case, Lady Anice and Malcolm MacNeill stay at a real castle that was still owned by a Saxon. He had pledged his loyalty to William the Conqueror, figuring probably that he would be the winner and didn’t want to lose his lands.

William had offered his relation to him, after he had her husband (a Norman baron) executed because he had plotted against William. So then he offers her as the wife to the Saxon lord in payment for his loyalty. She refuses and he sends her to one of the islands to live in poverty. But her daughter doesn’t want this kind of life and offers herself to marry the Saxon lord.

So that was included in the story as well. Don’t you just love all this real life intrigue?

It’s so much fun to use real history that is just as fascinating as making it up!

One of the things I found also interesting was that although women wore wimples and covered their hair (because it was too enticing for men not to be covered), but during the time that Henry’s wife ruled by his side, women didn’t have to wear the covering. And they often braided their hair with extensions to make it even longer!

While she was at the convent, she’d been beaten by her aunt for throwing down her hair cover and when she left there to marry Henry, she vowed not to wear it again. It became fashionable then for many of the ladies to wear their hair uncovered.

Another thing I found fascinating was that the food wasn’t bland or dreary to eat, not in a royal household, but was decorated to a fairly well. And fruits and vegetables were considered bad for you if it wasn’t cooked first.

Castles were defenses, foremost. They didn’t have huge windows, but merely arrow slots where they could shoot an approaching enemy. I visited several castles in Scotland and in one of the tower rooms, they had not only the arrow slot windows, but they’d created round ones for updated weapons--guns. Men who would be holed up in the tower for a long time, watching the grounds, would use another hole nearer the base of the floor to relieve themselves.

Yep, no toilet! Where would it go? Down the wall of the tower to the ground below. :)

Also while I visited the Scottish castles, the stairs were narrow, to prevent more than one attacker access and they always curved to the right so that the defender would have the advantage where  he could swing his sword and unless the attacker was left-handed, he could not as well.

You’ve heard that knights were supposed to be chivalrous, right? At first, they weren’t. Some would steal from those who couldn’t fight back just because the knights were so well armored. Then the rule of chivalry came into effect, and though it didn’t mean everyone would abide by the rules, things got better. But one of the funny happenings I uncovered with regard to knights—was that their armored feet—the sabaton--were armored plates riveted on the boots. For a period, the fashion was to make them longer and longer, kind of like women’s pointy dress shoes. The knights would wiggle their long shiny armor plated toes at the ladies in a sexual way, making them blush and giggle.

The church, wet blanket that it could be, declared that the shoes were indecent and could not be that long. Not sure what they said about the cod pieces as the men’s tunics rose ever higher and the men’s cod pieces grew ever bigger.

So that’s a glimpse of medieval history undressed—a little bit of political intrigue can go a long way!

Would you have been offended if a knight had wiggled the toe of his armored boot at you?

Terry Spear

“Giving new meaning to the term alpha male where fantasy IS reality.”

Author bio: Award-winning author Terry Spear is the author of urban fantasy romances and medieval Highland romances. She received Publishers Weekly's Best Book of the Year in 2008 for Heart of the Wolf. A retired officer of the U.S. Army Reserves, Terry is a librarian by day. She lives in Crawford, Texas.

CONTEST: Comment to win!

A copy of Winning the Highlander's Heart will be given to one US winner, the cover of a knight, not the Highland figure.

Escaping from King Henry’s advances, the Scottish Lady Anice falls into the hands of Highlander Laird Malcolm MacNeill, and murder and mayhem follow when she discovers some of her key staff are missing and she's targeted next.


The Accidental Highland Hero

Lady Eilis Dunbarton’s life undergoes a drastic change with the death of her cousin, Agnes. Now she’s faced with the disagreeable prospect of marrying the man who was to be her cousin’s husband. Not by a change of contract, though. Instead, by deceit—pretending to be her cousin. But if her husband-to-be discovers she’s not really Agnes, her life is forfeit. So what choice does Eilis have but to flee? When Laird James MacNeill’s clan rescues a half-drowned lass from the sea, there is speculation she is of the enemy clan, especially since she doesn’t remember her own name. James is immediately enticed with the lady, but his focus must remain on finding the proper bride. For if he does not wed soon, he must give up his holdings to one of his younger brothers. Focus slips away with each day Eilis is close, and James finds himself contemplating the thought of taking her to wife without knowing her true identity. But how dangerous would the end result be? And what will happen if Eilis’s husband-to-be comes looking for her only to find her in the arms of another man?


Terry Spear/Terry Lee Wilde said...

Eliza, thanks so much for having me here today!!!

Eliza Knight said...

Of course! I am glad to have you :) Thanks for posting!

Jessica said...

Hi Terry...not only interesting but fun to read to boot. Or should I say sabaton! And no I would not have been upset if a knight wiggled his boot at me, I probably laughed my wimple off!!!! lol

Diane D - Florida said...

Hi Terry,

Thank you for a great interview and also for the excerpt.

I would not have been offended if a knight had chosen to wiggle his boot at me. He could have wiggled anything he wanted to in front of me, and I would have been very flattered and accepting - I know, what a little hussy I would have been. lol

dpd333 (at) aol dot com

Dawn Marie Hamilton said...

So enjoyed reading your article, Terry. I just love all the royal intrigue. Thanks!

Terry Spear/Terry Lee Wilde said...

Too funny, Jessica! That's the spirit. I can see a scene coming on for another book. LOL Too cute!

Diane, too funny also! You could have been a heroine back then too. :) I read one courtly (uncourtly) dialogue between a lord and lady that was quite risque. I loved it!

Thanks, Dawn! Royal intrigue makes for lots of fun!!!

Vonda Sinclair said...

Fantastic and entertaining post, Terry! I suppose it would depend on the knight who wiggled his toes at me. LOL If he was hot, I wouldn't be offended. I'd take it as a compliment. LOL

Terry Spear/Terry Lee Wilde said...

Thanks, Vonda! LOL I agree. If he was hot, then yep. But what if he was an evil rogue...well, what if he was a hot evil rogue... :)

Diane M. Wylie said...

Interesting post, Terry. I have never heard that about the armored toes before. Funny! Did you find a way to work that into your book?

Terry Spear/Terry Lee Wilde said...

I so agree, Diane! No, I didn't, but I will! :)

LilMissMolly said...

Sounds like a good story! You are a new author for me.

Terry Spear/Terry Lee Wilde said...

Thanks, LilMissMolly! It's so much fun including real world history with fiction. :) And having romance too, of course!

BJ SCOTT said...

Sounds great. Thanks for sharing.

Terry Spear/Terry Lee Wilde said...

Thanks, BJ and you're welcome!

Dee said...

Very interesting Terry. Look forward to seeing on my blog later this month.

Terry Spear/Terry Lee Wilde said...

Thanks so much, Dee, looking forward to being there!

robinky42 said...

I have read and enjoyed all of your werewolf books. This Highland book sounds like it will be a great read.

Terry Spear/Terry Lee Wilde said...

Thanks so much, Robin! I'm glad you're enjoying them. Hope you love Dreaming of the Wolf! Are you signed up for my newsletter? I'm sharing the free novel on a weekly basis: Deadly Fortunes, psychic romance.

In this Highland book, I do have a little bit of paranormal. :)

Julie Robinson said...

I'd have probably blushed and giggled, being a young, shy maiden.

Also very interesting about the pee hole.

Terry Spear/Terry Lee Wilde said...

LOL, Julie, you shy young maiden type! :) Yes, I was thinking about when people walked below it! Yuck!

*yadkny* said...

Hi Terry!
No, I most definitely would not be offended if a knight had wiggled the toe of his armored boot at me:) I would at the very least be flattered and at the most be ready to check out what other parts of his wiggle, lol! I guess back in that time that's just how they showed their interest, not that much has changed with the male sex:)

Great post! Lots of interesting bits of information.


Terry Spear/Terry Lee Wilde said...

LOL, Yadkny, I'm sure you would have had a date if you'd shown a lot of interest. Although, he might be rather shy and feeling amorous hidden in all that armor, but once out of it...you never know. LOL

Thanks again!

Eliza Knight said...

And the winner is... BJ Scott! Congrats :)

Terry Spear/Terry Lee Wilde said...

Congrats, BJ, and if anyone else is interested in a chance to win, I'm at Bitten by Paranormal Romance!

medieval outfit said...

Congratulations! And I love your pot very inspiring for me.