Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Royal Habitrail®

Where did a Renaissance king go to escape from it all? He'd take a hike--or rather a stroll. But not through the wilds of nature--the woods, after all, were for hunting. He'd walk in his own private gallery, one of the few places in the palace where he could dodge the crowds and think.

Galleries, in Renaissance châteaux, were long, hall-like structures attached to the monarch's private suite. While later in the century and beyond galleries were used as public waiting rooms or the setting for lavish receptions (think Hall of Mirrors--Galerie des Glaces--at Versailles), in the first half of the century they were intended for the king's private use and accessible only from his most secluded chamber.

Fontainebleau provides a prime example of this arrangement. The grande galerie, as it came to be known, jutted out at a perpendicular angle to the château proper. Before the renovations that began in 1528, the gallery served as a passage between the royal apartments and the neighboring abbey. When François I decided to build a bathing suite on the ground floor beneath the gallery, he moved the doorway to the upper passageway so that it communicated directly with his chamber. Since the staircase stood at the far end of the passageway, he had to traverse the gallery whenever he wished to access the baths or the garden below. He kept the gallery locked and the key on his person. Only those he expressly invited to accompany him ever saw the gallery's lavish frescoes and stucco work, executed by the Italian artist Rosso Fiorentino. An exterior terrace ran alongside the second-story gallery to facilitate the courtiers' passage from one area of the château to the other (the abbey was eventually replaced by new wings).

Other châteaux which featured private galleries included Bury, Écouen, Villers-Cotterêts, and the Louvre.

The purpose of these galleries was primarily exercise, as numerous contemporary references demonstrate. An architectural treatise dating from 1620 defined the gallery as the place where the lord could walk and converse with the visitors who came to discuss business with him. Henri IV was said to have constructed the grande galerie at the Louvre so that he could "stroll and watch what was going on on the Seine." La Grande Mademoiselle, his granddaughter, wrote that she walked by torchlight in her gallery at Saint-Fargeau for a half hour in the evening, and then again after supper with friends. Montaigne, the essayist, claimed that if it weren't for the cost, he would build galleries off each side of his library, each one hundred paces long by twelve wide, so that he could walk and think, for it was only while moving his legs that his thoughts took flight.

For a social class accustomed to the hard physical exertions of hunting and warfare, indoor galleries permitted uninterrupted exercise during times of darkness and inclement weather. Attached as they were to the private apartments, galleries provided members of the royal family a place where they could, quite literally, walk off the stress of being constantly in the public eye.

[Source: Jean Guillaume, "La galerie dans le chateau français: place et fonction," Revue de l'Art 1993, 102(1): 32-42. Photograph of Francis I Gallery, Fontainebleau, courtesy of Wikimedia.]

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Fall Book Sale Bonanza

Just got back from the Fall Book Sale at our local library and have to share my haul:

The Yiddish Policeman's Union by Michael Chabon
Mary, Mrs. A. Lincoln by Janis Cooke Newman
The Alienist by Caleb Carr
The Treasure of Montségur by Sophy Burnham
Forever by Pete Hamill (I've already read this one, but it's one of my favorites and I didn't have my own copy)
Mozart's Sister by Rita Charbonnier
Lady MacBeth by Susan Fraser King
The Pale Blue Eye by Louis Bayard
North River by Pete Hamill

Plus a 125th anniversary edition of Barlett's Quotations and a Digimon VHS tape, all for a whopping grand total of $11 (and seven of the nine novels are hardbacks). I do feel guilty cheating authors out of their royalties, but I can't pass up such bargains. All but Chabon and Hamill are new authors to me, so buying these used editions might inspire me to splurge full price on some their newer works.

Now, if only I could find time to read. I still have huge piles of unread purchases from the last few sales! Any recommendations on what should be at the top of the list?

(On a side note, I was flabbergasted, as always, by the number of John Grisham hardbacks on the sale tables. It's amazing how many people buy his novels new in hardback.)

Friday, September 25, 2009

Sixteenth Century Quote of the Week

"Encores ay-je une opinion, dist Parlamente, que jamais homme n'aymera parfaictement Dieu, qu'il n'ait parfaictement aymé quelque creature en ce monde."

"Moreover, I am of the opinion," said Parlamente, "that never will a man love God perfectly unless he has perfectly loved some
creature in this world."

--Marguerite de Navarre, L'Heptaméron (1558), 19th Tale

Friday, September 18, 2009

Sixteenth Century Quote of the Week

"Qui ne se donne loisir d'avoir soif, ne saurait prendre plaisir à boire."

"He who does not permit himself to become thirsty will never be able to take pleasure in drinking."

--Michel de Montaigne (1533-92), Essais.
Vol. I, Ch. XLII: "De l'inégalité qui est entre nous."

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

"Best Blogs for Book Reviews" Honor

On-Line College, "dedicated to bringing you the best online educational tools and resources," has included Writing the Renaissance in their 100 Best Blogs for Book Reviews in the Historical Fiction category! I'm grateful for the recognition and happy to find WTR listed among so many worthy blogs.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Princes in the Tower, French Version

Those familiar with English history know the story of the Princes in the Tower--Edward V and Richard, Duke of York, the young sons of King Edward IV, who, after the death of their father in 1483, were imprisoned in the Tower of London and never seen again. The same history buffs might not, however, realize that France had its own version of imprisoned princes--François and Henri, the two young sons of François I, who were handed over to Charles V as ransom for their father and spent four years in miserable captivity in Spain.

The Treaty of Madrid, which François signed in 1526 to secure his release after the disastrous Battle of Pavie, contained many concessions to Charles V--the most notable being the transfer of Burgundy to the emperor and the renunciation of French claims to Flanders, Naples, and Milan. When François tried to convince Charles that he needed to return home to effect the transfer, Charles demanded that he hand over two of his three sons as hostages until the terms of the treaty had been fulfilled. François, who had spent the past year as Charles's prisoner, seems not to have balked at resigning his young sons, aged only seven and eight, to a similar fate. Perhaps he expected their absence to be a short one; perhaps he placed the well-being of his kingdom, struggling under the regency of his mother, over that of his own flesh and blood. Perhaps he was simply eager to make any deal necessary to gain his freedom. In any case, he agreed to the exchange, which was arranged to take place on March 17, 1526, at the border town of Bayonne.

The trade occurred in the middle of the Bidassoa River, which separates France from Castile. Two boats, one carrying the French king, the other his sons, met in the middle of the river at a raft that had been moored into place. The king hugged his sons and blessed them, telling them he would send for them soon. The two parties switched boats; the princes were rowed back to the Spanish bank while the king proceded to the French. As soon as he landed, François leapt onto his horse, shouted, "Now I am king; I am king once again!" and galloped off to meet his court at Bayonne. There is no record in the extensive descriptions of the exchange that he even looked back at the young sons he had just abandoned.

At first, the princes and their entourage of seventy persons were treated cordially; Eléonore, Charles's sister and François's new wife by proxy, treated the boys as sons. But as the weeks passed and it became obvious that François had no intention of surrendering Burgundy, the treatment of the princes grew harsher. They were taken away from Eleanor and moved to a castle farther south. After a foiled rescue attempt in February 1527, Charles took them further into Spain and dismissed nearly all their attendants. François, hoping to pressure Charles into releasing the boys, entered into league with England and the papacy. When that failed, he declared war on Charles in late 1527.

Of course, this declaration worsened the boys' situation. They were moved to the fortress of Pedraza in the high mountains north of Madrid, where they lived a spartan existence amidst Spanish soldiers. A French spy saw them twice in July 1529; townspeople told him the younger boy, Henry, hurled constant verbal abuse at the Spanish when the princes were permitted to attend Mass. Tired of Charles and François's posturing, Louise de Savoye, the king's mother, and Marguerite d'Autriche, the emperor's aunt and regent of the Netherlands, began negotiations to end the war. In August of 1529, the Treaty of Cambrai, or la paix des dames as it came to be known, was hammered out. Instead of ceding Burgundy, François agreed to pay 2 million écus for the ransom of his sons.

The princes remained in Spain while the king worked to raise the huge sum. Louise sent a man to Pedraza to check on the condition of the princes and to let them know they would soon return home. The man, Baudin, found the boys living in "a dark, disordered chamber with no adornments except straw mattresses." The window, high up the wall, was covered with bars. The boys had received no lessons since their tutor had been released months earlier; their French was rusty, since they only could speak it between themselves. They did have two small dogs to play with, but spent only minutes a day outside playing under the watch of fifty soldiers. Now aged eleven and twelve, they had been in captivity for four years.

François finally managed to collect the ransom by June of 1530, an incredibly difficult feat that nearly bankrupted the kingdom. A train of thirty-two gold-laden mules left Bayonne for the same spot on the Bidassoa River where the first exchange had taken place. The boys were reunited with their father and the court at Bayonne on July 3. On July 7, François married Eléonore, who had accompanied the princes from Spain. He thus fulfilled one of the stipulations of the original Treaty of Madrid.

How did four years of captivity affect these young boys and their relationship with their father? That is a subject for a future post. One can only imagine the sense of abandonment these young children felt, as well as anger towards a father who so blithely surrendered them so he could once again "be king."

(Source: Henry II, King of France 1547-1559 by Frederic J. Baumgartner. Duke UP, 1988. Photo of Pedraza Castle courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)

Monday, September 14, 2009

David Liss on "Historical Subjectivity"

I'd like to direct your attention to an interview with one of my favorite historical novelists, David Liss (THE COFFEE TRADER, THE WHISKEY REBELS) at the literary blog Three Guys One Book. I especially appreciate Liss's comments about historical fiction being an attempt to recreate a "historical subjectivity," to "get inside the heads of people from very different times." He also answers at length a question about contemporary writers engaging with writers of the past. Poke around the rest of Three Guys One Book while you're there--lots of interesting articles to read!

Winners of Michelle Moran Giveaway

Congratulations to Jessica and Lynn Irwin Stewart, winners in our Michelle Moran giveaway! Jessica has won an autographed copy of Michelle's new novel, CLEOPATRA'S DAUGHTER, which will be released tomorrow. Lynn will receive an autographed copy of the new paperback edition of THE HERETIC QUEEN. Once the winners contact me at juliannedouglas05 [at] sbcglobal [dot] net with their snail-mail addresses, the books will be on their way.

Thanks to all who entered for their intriguing questions! It was fun to read Michelle's timely answers and gain an insider's view into the writing of the books.

Many thanks to Michelle for offering the books and for keeping up with the questions. Let's all celebrate the publication of CLEOPATRA'S DAUGHTER by visiting our local bookstores tomorrow and picking up a copy. Enjoy your special day, Michelle!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Sixteenth Century Quote of the Week

I've decided on a new feature for Fridays--the Sixteenth Century Quote of the Day. Each Friday, I will post a quotation from a sixteenth century writer--poet, essayist, teller of tales--or celebrity--king, queen, politician, ambassador, artist, bishop, or commentator. My hope is that these snippets will shed some light on what people thought and talked about during the Renaissance.

Today's quotation is from the Lyonnaise poet Louise Labé (c 1520-1566), the first middle-class woman to publish under her own name in French (and, coincidentally, the model for the main character of my first novel). I've used this quotation as the opening epitaph for The Measure of Silence:

Le plus grand plaisir qui soit après amour,
c’est d’en parler.”

“The greatest pleasure there is after love
is talking about it.”

—Louise Labé
Débat de Folie et d’Amour (1555)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Q and A with Michelle Moran

Be sure to check in periodically and read the comment trail on the previous post, where Michelle Moran is answering questions posed by our contest entrants. You'll learn many interesting things about Michelle's books and research.

And please don't feel as though you need enter the drawing in order to ask a question--I'm sure Michelle wouldn't mind fielding questions from anyone, even (especially?) if you've already read her books!

Thanks, Michelle, for checking in so often.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

New Releases from Michelle Moran (GIVEAWAYS!)

To celebrate today's paperback release of bestselling historical fiction author Michelle Moran's second Egyptian novel, THE HERETIC QUEEN, Michelle has written a guest post to share with you. In it, she reveals how she became entranced by the daughter of Cleopatra--the subject of her third book, on sale September 15.

Why Cleopatra’s daughter? by Michelle Moran

It began with a dive. Not the kind of dive that people take into swimming pools, but the kind where you squeeze yourself into a wetsuit and wonder just how tasty your rump must appear to passing sharks now that it looks exactly like an elephant seal. My husband and I had taken a trip to Egypt, and at the suggestion of a friend, we decided to go to Alexandria and do a dive to see the remains of Cleopatra’s underwater city. Let it be known that I had never done an underwater dive before, so after four days with an instructor (and countless questions like, Will there be sharks? How about jellyfish? If there is an earthquake, what happens underwater?) we were ready for the real thing.

We drove to the Eastern Harbor in Alexandria. Dozens of other divers were already there, waiting to see what sort of magic lay beneath the waves. I wondered if the real thing could possibly live up to all of the guides and brochures selling this underwater city, lost for thousands of years until now. Then we did the dive, and it was every bit as magical as everyone had promised. You can see the rocks which once formed Marc Antony’s summer palace, come face to face with Cleopatra’s towering sphinx, and take your time floating above ten thousand ancient artifacts, including obelisks, statues, and countless amphorae. By the time we had surfaced, I was Cleopatra-obsessed. I wanted to know what had happened to her city once she and Marc Antony had committed suicide. Where did all of its people go? Were they allowed to remain or were they killed by the Romans? What about her four children?

It was this last question which surprised me the most. I had always believed that all of Cleopatra’s children had been murdered. But the Roman conqueror Octavian had actually spared the three she bore to Marc Antony: her six-year-old son, Ptolemy, and her ten-year-old twins, Alexander and Selene. As soon as I learned that Octavian had taken the three of them for his Triumph in Rome, I knew at once I had my next book. This is how all of my novels seem to begin – with a journey, then an adventure, and finally, enormous amounts of research for what I hope is an exciting story.
The death of Cleopatra was only the beginning...

Visit CleopatrasDaughter.com
Check out Michelle's blog at michellemoran.blogspot.com


Like its best-selling predecessors NEFERTITI and THE HERETIC QUEEN, CLEOPATRA'S DAUGHTER is bound to be an enthralling read. The Library Journal, in a starred review, proclaimed: "Dramatic, engrossing, and beautifully written, this is essential reading, and Moran is definitely an author to watch."

Michelle has generously offered to provide books to two lucky winners: the first winner will receive a signed copy of the paperback edition of THE HERETIC QUEEN, the second a signed copy of the hardback release of CLEOPATRA'S DAUGHTER.

To enter the contest, leave a question for Michelle in the comments section. You could ask about any of her books, her extensive travels, her writing habits, or her insights on historical fiction or publishing in general. Only those entries that contain a question will be considered for the drawing. Please include with your question an indication of which of the two books you would like to receive. Entries must be posted by 11 pm PST on Sunday, September 13. The winner of each book will be chosen at random and names posted on Monday morning, September 14.

In the meantime, Michelle, who loves to interact with her readers, will stop by each day to answer your questions. (Please note: Michelle's responses and the drawing for the books are completely independent events.) It's an opportunity for Michelle to address what's on your mind and for you to pose those questions you've been dying to ask.

Many thanks to Michelle for her presence here and best wishes for a successful launch!