Longsword by David Pilling

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Introducing Lizzie...

...Clinton, the heroine of Folville's Law.

When I wrote the story, I knew I wanted to include strong female characters, but ones that were believable in the context of the era. Women in the Middle Ages weren't generally supposed to lead exciting, independent lives, and the ideal noblewoman (in the eyes of noblemen) seems to have been a combination of breeding machine and useful political tool.

There were exceptions, of course, two of the most well-known being Eleanor of Aquitaine and Joan of Arc, neither of whom were any man's footrest.

Depending on circumstances, women could enjoy a degree of freedom, and there are examples of them managing their own affairs. In the famous Paston Letters from the late 15th century, for instance, Margaret Paston took an active role in the localised warfare that erupted between her family and the Dukes of Suffolk and Norfolk, who were greedy to get their hands on the Paston estates.

The tough-willed Margaret and other real-life medieval women like her were the inspiration for Elizabeth Clinton. When we first meet her Liz is widowed, childless and approaching thirty, which was well into middle age by the standards of the time: the average life expectancy for women was somewhere between twenty-eight and thirty-five. She does, however, own a great deal of prime real estate in Leicestershire that she manages without any male interference...that is, until John Swale comes along.

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