Saturday, 9 February 2013

The Valentine's Blog Hop!

It's here - "Hearts through History,", the Valentine's Blog Hop, is now live and in progress! I, along with all the other lovely authors listed at the bottom of this post, will be talking about our favourite mushy Valentines-themed anecdotes from history, as well as hosting free giveaways for you, you lucky souls, to win.

Henry VIII (reigned 1509-47) in his pre-pies era

As an author (hem hem) I don't usually 'do' mush, preferring to concentrate on the savage politics of history, and the awesome sword-swinging, But one item did catch my eye the other day. It is number fifteen of a set of private letters King Henry VIII sent to Anne Boleyn while he was in the process of wooing her and divorcing his first wife, Catherine of Aragon.

Anne Boleyn, when she was still the apple of Hal's eye

The letter is of a very personal nature, and is interesting because it gives us some real insight into the King's thoughts, and the depth of his feelings for Anne. Transcribed from the wonky-looking Tudor English, it reads as follows:

"Mine own sweetheart, this shall be to advise you of the great loneliness that I find here, since your departure, for I assure you I think the time longer since your departing now than I was wont to consider a whole fortnight. I think your kindness and my fervour of love causes it for otherwise I would not have thought it possible that for so a little a time could grieve me. But now that I am coming towards you I think my pains are half-released and I am also right well comforted in so much that my book makes substantially for my matter, in the reading whereof I have spent above four hours this day, which causes me now to write this short letter to you at this time by cause of some pain in my head. Wishing myself especially of an evening in my sweetheart's arms, whose pretty breasts I trust shortly to kiss. Written with the hand of him that was, is, and shall be yours by his will..."

It's a charming letter, all the more since it was written by a man generally considered to be a gross tyrant. This was the Henry of the late 1520s/early 1530s, when he was still quite an athletic and handsome man, and before he started to degenerate into the cruel, obese caricature of legend. His decline can perhaps be dated to the moment his marriage to Anne Boleyn turned sour, the heartless and vindictive manner in which he had her framed on all sorts of false charges, and finally executed. The letter above, and the others in the set, give us a precious insight into the man before he became a monster.

As a giveaway I am offering a FREE paperback copy of The Half-Hanged Man, my tale of an English mercenary captain set during the high point of the Hundred Years War. Please see reviews and the blurb etc below:

The Half-Hanged Man on Amazon

You can enter for the giveaway by leaving a comment on this post below. If interested, get posting!

Below is a list of the other Hop participants. Please click on the links to go to the various blogs and websites of the authors listed.

1) Random Bits of Fascination - Maria Grace
2) Me! - David Pilling website
3) Sally Smith O'Rourke
4) Daryholic Diversions (Barbara Tiller Cole)
5) Faith, Hope and Cherrytea
6) Roseanne Lortz
7) Sharon Lathan
8) Debra Brown
9) - Lauren Gilbert
10) Regina Jeffers
11) Ginger Myrick
12 Anna Belfrage
13) Grace Elliott
14) Nancy Bilyeau
15) Wendy Dunn
16) E.M. Powell
17) Georgie Lee
18) Deborah Swift
19) Kim Rendfeld
20) Sherry Gloag
21) Lori Crane
22) Karin Aminadra
23) Heidi Ashworth
24) Stephanie Renee Dos Santos
25) Lauren Gilbert


  1. An interesting - if scary - letter. She didn't have a chance, did she?

    1. Hi Sherry. I'm no expert on Anne but I pity anyone who got embroiled in Henry's lethal court.

  2. I would love to enter the contest. Thank you!

  3. I'm glad you tried your hand at finding the softer side of history. It was well worth it!
    G x

  4. That is such a lovely letter! And SO difficult to connect to the Henry VIII as we think of him. What a shame he didn't hold true to the convictions of true love. Imagine how different English history would be if he had?

    Thanks, David, for giving us this beautiful glimpse into a not-so-beautiful man.


    1. Thanks Sharon - yes, Henry's degeneration was a tragedy, really. I suspect there were all sorts of mental and physical reasons for it.

  5. Awesome letter. Too bad such a charming beginning ended so terribly. Just hopping by everyone's sites. Happy Valentine's Day to you and yours, David.


  6. It's a bit strange to read that, knowing how it ended. But I guess that's why it's useful to a writer of historical fiction. The informed reader knows how the story ends (at least in the larger sense if one isn't writing a historical figure), but the people still need to come alive, rather than just tokens marching towards their historically determined fate.

    1. Absolutely, letters like the one quoted above really help to bring the long-dead to 'life', and are the closest we can get to knowing them as real people instead of the usual caricatures - especially someone like Henry VIII, who has been caricatured more than most!

  7. An interesting post! Thanks for a chance to win your book, too!

  8. I absolutely agree, David! It is a charming letter! So intimate and poetic at the same time. How could any woman resist the author? :-)

    As for your novel, as I have already written on Kathryn Warner's blog, I find the title absolutely intriguing. I would be most grateful if you could recommend any books on medieval mercenaries (so far I have read John France's meticulous study entitled Mercenaries and Paid Men). Thank you!

    1. Thanks Kasia :) It is a charming letter, isn't it? Henry was possessed of considerable personal charm, as well as being capable of exceptional cruelty and deceit.

      Glad you find the book intriguing. There is an enormous book on the Free Companies called simply "The Free Companies" available on Google Books that I found invaluable. Unfortunately I'm struggling to remember the author's name - Kenneth something? Have a Google!

  9. What a letter. I'm surprised the man had it in him. He struck me as a man who basically took what he wanted without much care to the people around him (even in his early life) so it's strange to think of him wooing Anne. Run, Anne, run. Of course, she should have had an inkling of his character considering what he did to his first wife. She obviously was in it for more than love so, you know, it's not a love affair I like to dwell on. LOL! Interesting choice!

  10. Thanks Lisa, I thought it was interesting too, and like you say surprising. There is a whole batch of his surviving private letters to Anne from this period. I haven't read any of the others, but apparently they are just as intimate and charming.

  11. David-

    Thank you for posting this. It is wonderful to get the chance to read and see this other angle of the man. Please sign me up to win your book.


    Stephanie Renee dos Santos
    email: stephaniereneedossantos at

  12. this is one of my favorite times of history. Always looking for good reads (fiction and non-) on the era
    Sara (annefitza at yahoo dot com