Why I Write About William Marshall
Guest Post by Elizabeth Chadwick, Author of
The Scarlet Lion
My interest in the Medieval period began when I was eight years old and living in Scotland. At that time, the method of teaching was to write the lesson down on the blackboard and everyone copy the words into exercise books. But this particular year, the teacher, Mrs Robinson had a different way of doing things. Sure, we still had to copy from the blackboard, but as a reward, at the end of the lesson, the dressing up box came out. Mrs Robinson would choose pupils to be historical characters from the work we’d just written and we would act out little stage plays at the front of the classroom, clad in our toy crowns and cloaks. I loved this part of the lesson, especially when I was selected to be one of the actors. As it happened, the medieval period fell into Mrs Robinson’s tutorial year and when we moved on, it was to a different era and back to the blackboard with no more fun and games. So, I owe the first seeds of my love affair with the Middle Ages to Mrs Robinson because she fixed it in my mind.
The next staging post was a TV programme that aired when I was fifteen. It was called Desert Crusader and starred Thibaud, a gorgeous French knight in flowing white robes, who had adventures in the Holy Land in the twelfth century. I fell hard for him and was inspired to write my own story about the crusader lands. You can read the full tale here on my blog and see just why I fell in love! I was so impressed that I was inspired to begin writing a novel (still in my drawer unpublished!). It was at this stage that I was bitten by the bug and realised I wanted to write historical fiction for a living. Since I knew nothing about the Middles Ages or the Middle East at that time, I began researching because I wanted my story to feel as real as possible. The more I researched, the more interested and then fascinated I became and the more I wanted to make this period of history my home. Decades later I’m still addicted to the research and the more I do the more I realise how little I actually know – and the more I want to find out!
My interest in William Marshal was piqued while I was writing a novel titled The Champion where I came across William as the greatest jouster of his day. As I continued to write about the twelfth and early thirteenth century, his name kept cropping up and I realised that if I had the confidence to move from imaginary protagonists into telling stories about people who actually lived, William would be a fantastic subject for a novel. I dipped my toe in the water by writing about a Medieval outlaw called Fulke FitzWarin who was a contemporary of William Marshal. Lords of the White Castle was the result – a novel that was short listed for the UK’s best Romantic Novel of the Year Award. This gave me the confidence to forge ahead and continue writing about real protagonists. William was a man of such strength and integrity that he would have been great whenever he lived. He crammed so much into an amazing life that Hollywood couldn’t make it up. He was nearly hanged as a child when he was taken hostage. He saved the life of Eleanor of Aquitaine. He was a champion jouster and much in demand as a battle commander. Indeed, he was the only man ever to unhorse Richard the Lionheart. He travelled extensively throughout Europe and the Middle East before returning to serve the Angevin kings and marry a great heiress, twenty years his junior.
In between begetting and raising ten children, he was responsible in part for the drafting of Magna Carta and after King John died, he became regent of England and managed to set an ailing country back on its feet. He always kept his word – and he loved his wife. That he should have been forgotten by history is a deep oversight in my estimation. His story is not only fantastic in terms of a subject to write about from my viewpoint, but I think it also deserves to be known. We’re short of heroes today with William’s kind of integrity.
website for more information about her and her works.
Other HFBRT events today:
Book Review by Arleigh at Historical-Fiction.com
Special Edition Sundays Art: Edmund Leighton by Lizzy at Historically Obsessed
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