History and Literature - Two Great Things
When I was studying literature, I lucked out because two of my grad school professors were historians. My focus was war literature, and I steeped myself in classics. Wars can change the course of history, the trajectory of lives, and alter the essence of a human soul.
The Chamber And The Cross is not a traditional war story by any means. It is a contemporary thriller wrapped around a medieval romance. But war was a big factor in England in the second half of the fifteenth century. That’s the time period that Deb and I used as a backdrop for part of our book, and it’s worth taking a closer look at the war that wove itself through the lives of our characters.
In the fifteenth century, the Hundred Years’ War between France and England was coming to an end, and the English and their allies were being driven out of France. The war left England impoverished, and set the stage for what is sometimes called England’s civil war – more popularly known as The Wars of the Roses. The romantic name stems from the fact that the first phase of the conflict was between Lancaster and York (1455-71). Lancaster’s coat of arms features a red rose, while York’s badge has a white one.
I highly recommend Alison Weir’s The Wars of the Roses, published by Ballantine Books. It provides a fascinating, in-depth account of the entire conflict.
Also recommended is a trip to England!
A brief overview of the family dynamics that set The Wars of the Roses in motion begins with the fact that King Edward III had thirteen children, and five of his sons became Dukes.
Edward’s third son, John of Gaunt, the Duke of Lancaster, began the royal line that gave us King Henry IV, and his grandson, King Henry VI.
On the other side of the royal garden, King Edward’s fourth son became the Duke of York, and his grandson also took his title. This is where things get thorny. The Duke of York’s mom was descended from the second of those original five brothers.
Here’s a test question to keep you busy on your next pub crawl: who gets the throne? Is it the child descended from the second son, through the female line? Or is it the child from the third son through the male line?
It’s okay if you need to take notes.
The flowering lineage of the Duke of Lancaster resulted in King Henry VI. The Duke of York’s progeny were also fertile, and their line sprouted the babe who became King Edward IV. Both Edward IV and Henry VI claimed the throne at the same time, and so they had to, you know, duke it out.
The war might not have come to pass except that Henry IV (from the third son, remember?) had previously bumped out Richard II, who was really first in line, having descended from the first of those five sons. This is known as usurping, and it’s sure to sow seeds of dissent.
Our character, Lord Brian Bannock, was a Yorkist and loyal to Edward. The decisive battle between York and Lancaster came at Towton in 1461 – and Brian Bannock was there.
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Site photography by Deborah K. Reed.
Poetry by Lisa K. Shapiro
© 2014 by Deborah K. Reed and Lisa K. Shapiro. All Rights Reseverved.