Protagonists in AES Novels
Guest Post by Anne Easter Smith, Author of
Queen by Right
While I was writing Queen By Right, people would ask me whether Cecily Neville was anything like my other protagonists. Certainly all of them were not afraid to speak their minds, except perhaps for Grace, until she was pushed. I like my medieval women feisty, history tells us they were--to a point. I confess my ladies are probably a little too contemporary in their behavior for the academic medievalist, but that’s why fiction is such fun.
Studies of the texts from the period tell us that men thought we had a greater desire for sex, that we were easily led, prone to unfaithfulness--especially sexually. That’s why men felt the need to control us. Fathers, priests and husbands thought it was their duty to keep us virtuous and threatened our reputations if we were not. A sullied reputation often meant no one would marry you, and that was a disaster.
Bold-speaking in women was a vice, so the men said, and there was nothing worse than being a “clatterer”! (Magpies, jays and women were dubbed the three clatterers, so droned on the men.) You could be punished for gossiping or scolding by being put on the cucking stool barefoot with your hair hanging down (very humiliating). It was a chair to which a woman was tied and left outside her door or in a public place, and some even had wheels so the clatterer could be clattered over the cobblestones around the neighborhood. (It is similar to a ducking stool, but no water is involved.) I know Kate Haute should have been put on one for sure! Margaret and Cecily were royalty, so I expect their husbands chastised them in private instead.
Another question I am asked is which of my “heroines” I like the most. Of course, I love them all, but here is what I love about them individually.
• Kate Haute because she was my first and, I thought, my only (and because I wasn’t expecting to write another book). I grew as a writer with her, so she’s special. And she is modeled on my younger daughter, Kate, who in puberty and teenage years mostly definitely would have been on the cucking stool a lot!
• Margaret of York is the one I related to the most as I was living with her. She was a rebel at heart, she was her father’s favorite, and she left her homeland for a new life (just like I did). She was also tall for a woman (like me) and loved books (like me).
• Grace is probably my antithesis. Petite, quiet, gentle, but I loved that she gave her heart in the wrong place at first (like me). I admired her tremendously for rising above her convent upbringing, being a bastard, being invisible at court, and yet managing to find herself among her beautiful and strong-minded siblings. I loved her loyalty to Elizabeth Woodville and John of Gloucester, and I loved the way she gently kept the peace and sorted out the mystery of who was Perkin Warbeck.
• Cecily is the woman I admire the most, and whereas I’d love to sit down to lunch with Margaret and have a natter, I’d be a bit intimidated by Cecily. This is no simpering miss! I am in awe of her strength, amazing health (she lived until she was 80), and her political savvy. She was lucky enough to experience one of the love matches of her century with Richard, Duke of York, and her story is so colorful and dramatic it took me two years to tell. Cecily was in Rouen when Joan of Arc was tried and executed, she gave birth to a dozen children, she had a passionate marriage, and she watched her husband fight his way to the throne to claim his right which eluded him in the end with his death at the Battle of Wakefield. And she watched her son, Edward, crowned in June 1461--550 years ago.
I invite you to dive into Cecily’s world with Queen By Right. I have been told by the wonderful woman who owns our local bookshop that this is my best book and she could not put it down. And Michelle Moran, author of Madame Tussaud, said “it kept me up for most of one night needing to know how it all wrapped up." It is my hope you will all be up nights reading it.
For more information please visit Anne Easter Smith’s WEBSITE and FACEBOOK PAGE.
Thank you to Heather for hosting me here at The Maiden’s Court.
To see the rest of the stops of the Queen by Right tour, organized by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, please visit their website.
And now for the giveaway - this is for 1 copy of Queen by Right and it is open to US residents only. Please fill out the form below to enter. Giveaway ends June 24, 2011.
*Update* I picked up another copy of Queen by Right at Historical Novel Society Conference - so now there are 2 copies up for grabs - one from the publisher and one shipped by me!
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