Sunday, February 17, 2019

Editors Weekly Round-up, February 17, 2019

by the EHFA Editors

Never miss a post on English Historical Fiction Authors.

by Michael Bayus

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

The Lady Jane Grey

by Michael Bayus

It was on this day, 465 years ago, at approximately 11 hours UTC: that Jane, the rightful queen of England, France and Ireland, was judicially murdered.

As there are countless re-tellings of the events of Lady Jane Grey's execution on that day, I won't make you read another.

Rather, I would like to take a few moments to reflect on Lady Jane's life.

Lady Jane Grey, was born in June of 1536 to Henry and Frances Grey, later Duke and Duchess of Suffolk. Lady Jane was the granddaughter of Henry VIII's sister Mary. Under the terms of Henry the eighth's will, the Suffolk family stood fourth in the line of succession to the throne. Consequently, Lady Jane received a princess's education. She was precociously intelligent, reading Greek, Latin and Hebrew by the time she was 9 years old, and was a staunch advocate of the newly established Protestant faith. With the accession of the nine-year-old Edward VI in 1547, the English court became embroiled in a sequence of complex power struggles in which Lady Jane, Edward's cousin, became a pawn. As Edward's health deteriorated in 1553, the powerful nobleman John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, persuaded the young king to exclude his half-sisters Mary and Elizabeth and decree that the crown should instead pass to his cousin Jane. She was then hastily married to the Duke of Northumberland's son, Lord Guildford. Northumberland's hold on power seemed secure when Jane was proclaimed queen on Edward's death in July 1553. However, Mary's Catholic supporters staged a rising, Northumberland's army melted away and just thirteen days later the reign of Queen Jane was over. Although her innocence was never doubted, Jane's existence as a possible figurehead of Protestant revolt made her an unacceptable danger to the new regime. She was executed on February 12th 1554, aged 17.

Lady Jane Grey, who was almost eighteen in February of 1554, had matured into a remarkable young woman, only averagely attractive, but with far better than average brains. She spoke Latin, Greek, French, Italian and some Hebrew. She was a patron of London’s Strangers Church for European Protestant exiles, and was admired amongst a circle of clever Protestant women that included William Cecil’s intellectual wife, Mildred. There is no evidence to support the later romanticized gossip amongst Italians that Jane married at the insistence of her mother and the threats of her father. It was usual for the daughters of the nobility to have an arranged marriage made around their sixteenth birthday, and even if Edward lived, Jane’s marriage had great promise. When her father died his title, Duke of Suffolk, was likely to pass to Jane's husband Guildford, who was close to her age and remembered by contemporaries as a comely, virtuous and goodly gentleman.”

Jane was informed that she was named Queen on the 9th of July 1553, three days after her cousin, King Edward VI, died. Once she realized how big the coup was and that it wasn’t going away,
Jane accepted her new role and signed many letters as "Jane the Quene". This came after Mary had declared herself Queen of England and denounced the coup. But while it was expected of Jane to give her signature to important documents and urge others to come to her aide, “The only action which Jane is known to have taken as queen was to deny her husband, Guildford Dudley, the Crown Matrimonial.”

 Jane had alleged that she had been forced into marriage by her parents and that “relations with her spouse were not good.” Yet I contend that it was common of noblemen’s sons and daughters to go into arranged marriages without question, and aware of her position and her lineage, Jane would have known that she had little choice in matters such as these. And being the religious woman she was, marriage was viewed as one of the most important things in a woman’s life. It is possible that Jane might have not liked being married to someone she barely knew, but due to her religious fervor, had come to accept it. But given how kings and queens saw themselves, it is not outside the realm of possibility that Jane might have said this in order to get her way. Jane would die on the 12th of February 1554, after her husband.

 Jane was made into a passive figure later on, a Protestant martyr who refused to accept the crown, who was the victim of her parents' abuse. Think of this distortion as a Snow White washing of Jane. The Victorians wanted to think of Jane as the poor royal trapped in the tower, at the mercy of her evil cousin, and older woman, envious of her beauty, and a dangerous mother who is lusting for power and sees her daughter as nothing more than a tool. And while everyone fights one another, poor Jane stays true to herself, unwavering in her faith, choosing death instead of being a sell-out. While this is partly true (Jane was a fervent believer who never wavered in her faith), it is largely made up. Jane had to be seen as the epitome of the good, Christian woman who was submissive, yet defiant when it came to her faith. During the Victorian age, this myth became bigger and it is one that has endured.

Jane was a strong woman, no doubt. One of the most educated women of her time, who was also independent and although she did not covet the crown, once she was in that position, she did her duty to the best of her ability, urging her father, her father in law, and many others to rally to her cause and stop Mary. When everyone abandoned her, she had no choice but to admit defeat. Jane accepted Mary's reign, so long as Mary would not bring back Catholicism. When Mary did this, Jane became angry and asked the people to "return to Christ's war!" Although her outburst might seem inconsequential to us, it didn't seem so to Mary and her councilors. Several urged her to deal with her right away and Mary often hesitated to do so, but after the Wyatt Rebellion, Mary signed her death warrant.

The Lady Jane, while she was a prisoner in the Tower of London during the last 8 months or so of her short life, took the time to write. Because she knew that what she wrote would be published posthumously, she wrote very carefully worded letters that she, I believe, conceived as performance pieces. She was careful to express her thoughts in a very special way. It was important to her that she be remembered, not just remembered but in a very particular way.

She was so good at it, that people who have read what she wrote, conscripted her for their own use.

I contend that she never expected that. When she knew her death was imminent, she wrote three epitaphs. One in Latin, one in Greek, and one in English.

If Justice is done with my body, my soul will find mercy in God. [Latin]
Death will give pain to my body for its sins, but the soul will be justified before God. [Greek]
If my faults deserve punishment, my youth at least, and my imprudence were worthy of excuse; God and posterity will show me favour. [English]

I believe that %98 of what you read about the Lady Jane Grey is wrong, and it is my life's work to tell her true story.


Michael Anthony Bayus was born in Union town, Pennsylvania and became blind shortly after birth. At three years of age, he was given a small organ on which he began creating tunes and improvising chord progressions. Michael began formal lessons at age eight and began playing in church at fourteen. He has played numerous recitals throughout the United States.

Mr. Bayus earned a Bachelor of Music degree from Hope College in Holland, Michigan, and a Master of Music degree from The Catholic University of America, where he served as an assistant to Dr. Robert Grogan at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. He has been fortunate to study under Virgil Fox, Gunter Kaunzinger, Marilyn Mason, Marie-Claire Alain, and Jean Langlais.

At the age of eight years, Mr. Bayus was given his first Tape Recorder ostensibly to record, and track his progress as an Organist. Instead, Michael used his Tape Recorder to create and produce Sound
Plays for his own amusement and amazement.

Along the way, while in High School and College, Mr. Bayus participated in various Workshops and courses in Broadcasting and while in College, produced a Radio Drama about the Lady Jane Grey as a final exam for one of those courses. Michael first knew about Lady Jane after hearing a BBC produced radio drama about her at age 12, and became passionate about her from age 14. Mr. Bayus has made the study of Lady Jane Grey's life his life's work ever since.

To that end, Mr. Bayus has published Project GreyNoise, an Audio Book about the Lady Jane Grey.

In Project GreyNoise, Lady Jane Grey is trapped in the 21st century, but willingly. Because she knows that in order to affect change and to accomplish her goal, she must act. It’s hard for her because she knows that if she were to tell people that she really is Lady Jane Grey from 1554, people would think she is crazy. So she plays Miss Jane Dudley, and she oversees an exhibit about herself and dresses up in Tudor costume, and enjoys being herself twice a day, (morning and afternoon,) for her show. As the story goes on, Mike suggests that she put on shows about events in her life as short plays or vignettes in the evening. She does it all so well that she gains a reputation around town. She is very entertaining, and she talks Tudor History as though she really lived it, because she has.

We also get to know Jane, as she assumes the role of Miss Jane Dudley, a hard working modern-day young woman, as she interacts with those she meets when she is not working her exhibit. Only Mike, and Jess know for sure just who she really is. Mike is her best friend, and Jess is the caring Mother that she never had. Her goal is to debunk all of the myths, and misinformation that has grown up around her since her death in 1554. The Victorians really did a number on her, and she has a big job on.’

For further information or to purchase, visit

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Editor's Weekly Round-up, February 10, 2019

by the EHFA Editors

Never miss a post on English Historical Fiction Authors.

Stephanie Cowell gives us the story behind the story in this Editor's Choice. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 7, 2019

84, Charing Cross Road - The love story of a New York City woman and a London bookshop

by Stephanie Cowell

In New York 1949, in the years not long following the terrible losses in the world from the War, a young writer who had never gone to college sent a letter to a bookshop called Marks and Co. in Charing Cross Road, London. She was determined to be self-educated. She wanted a number of classic books, then only available in old editions; the great cheap reprints of today had not yet been envisioned. She sent the bookshop a list of what she wanted. Back came a letter from one FPD (Frank Doel) for Marks & Co. saying they had copies of a few things on her list and would send them book mail. The invoice would be enclosed with the books. Yes, there really was a world when you could order anything and the seller did not doubt you would pay for it. In England Lyons Tea Shops were all over, and Elizabeth would not ascend the throne for three more years.

Through the mail, Helene Hanff wrote, “I enclose $4 to cover the $3.88 due you, buy yourself a cup of coffee with the 12 cents…Now, do you have….” And back came more estate-quality editions so beautiful she hardly dared read them.

Helene Hanff,who fell in love with an English bookshop
But she was a writer and writers are often poor. The bookshop staff wanted her to visit, but Helene could not afford to go. Instead her best friend went and wrote back to her: “It is the loveliest old shop straight out of Dickens; you would go absolutely out of your mind over it. ….It’s dim inside, and you smell the shop before you see it; it’s a lovely smell….it combines must and dust and age, and walls of wood and floors of wood…the shelves go on forever; they go up to the ceiling….”

You never know what happens when you write a first letter to someone. “Gentlemen” which was the first salutation evolved into “Dear Frankie.” The request for books developed into a friendship with the whole bookshop staff. It led to her sending boxes of meat and dried egg and nylon stockings, things unavailable then in England except under the strictest rationing. 

The correspondence of Ms. Hanff and bookseller Frank Doel continued for twenty years. Their letters were collected into a small book call 84,Charing Cross Road which became an underground classic and earned Helene Hanff hundreds of fan letters from strangers in English-speaking countries around the world. It became a BBC live television play. It became a West End play and a Broadway play and eventually a movie with Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins.

Anthony Hopkins as bookseller Frank Doel in the film
But Helene never met her friend Frankie; he died suddenly in 1968 . Almost the whole of the London antiquarian book trade attended his funeral on a bitterly cold day.

When Helene finally sold enough television scripts to go to England, she found to her great sadness that the bookstore she had made so famous in her little book had closed. Someone had saved the sign for her though. She subsequently wrote two charming small memoirs about her adventures seeing London and England at last, hosted by her huge number of fans and her English publisher. It was a dream come true. The books are The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street and Q’s Legacy, which is also about how an American girl who could not afford college fell in love with English literature.

Many people love the 1987 movie version but I feel it pales next to the vivid writing of the actual letters. So if you have not read the actual 84, Charing Cross Road, you can do it in much less than an hour and it will transport you back to the time when you wrote snail mail to bookshops for what you wanted if not available here and didn’t have to pay until after it came and when a London book shop could keep a staff of six or eight employees while selling books through the mail for about two dollars each and probably a lot less if you went in person.

Charing Cross Road as seen in the film

In 1997 my husband and I made our own pilgrimage to 84, Charing Cross Road. At that point, the shop was empty and there was nothing but the plaque commemorating it (see above) and the book Helene had written about it. It was very sad, but there were still a number of second-hand bookshops on the street, and I bought a book in one which I still have today. It was not an antiquarian book but a used paperback, but still I love it.

A few years before I had written Helene Hanff a fan letter; she still lived in the Manhattan apartment house whose address was listed in her books. She was then about 80 years old. She wrote me a lovely handwritten letter back which lies buried in one of the many boxes of papers or I would hope to scan it for this article. I was perfectly thrilled to receive it.

the original edition of the book of letters
I own almost all her books. Mostly they are the story of how one woman loved English literature so much that she made an ordinary Charing Cross antiquarian bookshop into one of the most loved bookshops in the world ever. And so it remains in people’s minds many years after the world it celebrated has changed forever.

This article is an Editors' Choice, originally published on Aug 13, 2015

Stephanie Cowell is the author of Nicholas Cooke, The Physician of London, The Players: a novel of the young Shakespeare, Marrying Mozart and Claude & Camille: a novel of Monet. She is the recipient of an American Book Award. Her next novel is on the love story of Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning to be followed by the conclusion of the Nicholas trilogy and an Edwardian love story between two men in the English midlands. Her work has been translated into nine languages. Her website is e-mail:

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Editors Weekly Round-up, February 3, 2019

by the EHFA Editors

This week on English Historical Fiction Authors, a timely look at the life of a man who cooked for Queen Victoria.  

by Lauren Gilbert

Join us every week when our contributing authors tell of saints or sinners, politics or war. Read about kings and queens, the common people, and social customs from ancient times to post-WWII. Never miss a post on EHFA.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Cook at Buckingham Palace: Charles Elme' Francatelli

By Lauren Gilbert

Charles Elme' Francatelli, drawn by Auguste Hervieu, and engraved by Samuel Freeman about 1846

I have been enjoying the series Victoria on PBS. (It was so exciting that series 3 premiered in the U.S. BEFORE showing in the UK!) One character I particularly like is Mr. Francatelli, the chef in the palace. While it is true that Queen Victoria’s household did include a cook named Francatelli, there is a big difference between the way he is depicted in the television series and the known facts about him.

Charles Elme’ Francatelli is believed to have been born in London in 1805, to Nicholas and Sarah Francatelli. He actually grew up in France. He studied cooking at the Parisian College of Cooking, from which he received a diploma. He had the good fortune to study under the renowned chef Marie Antoine Careme (1784-1833), who served as chef de cuisine for the British Prince Regent (the future George IV) and was invited to Russia (although he left before cooking for the czar). When Francatelli returned to England, he cooked for various aristocratic households, until in late 1838 or early 1839, he went to work at Crockford’s. Crockford’s was a gaming establishment opened in 1828 by William Crockford in St. James’s Street. Crockford’s was known for its luxury and attention to detail, including a wide variety of games of chance and excellent food. Crockford’s was a fashionable and popular club, with a large and aristocratic membership. When the principal chef, Louis Eustache Ude, embroiled in a wage dispute, left (or was fired) in September 1838, Francatelli was selected to replace him and was known to be cooking there in February 1839. This brought him to the notice of a variety of noblemen, including William George Hay, the 18th Earl of Erroll.

Crockford's Club House, St. James's Street, 1828

In November 1839, the Earl of Erroll became Lord Steward of the Queen’s Household (Victoria was crowned in 1838). The chief cook at Buckingham Palace left on March 8, 1840. On March 9, 1840, at the recommendation of the Earl of Erroll (who apparently thought highly of Francatelli’s cooking), Mr. Francatelli became the chief chef’s replacement. During his tenure in the palace kitchens, Francatelli apparently exhibited a certain amount of artistic temperament (or just temper) and his kitchen staff functioned in a turbulent state. Late in 1841, Francatelli engaged in a dispute with Mr. Norton, at that time Chief Comptroller of the Household. He was suspended, and in December 1841, a quarter’s notice was given (whether by him or to him by the palace is unclear). At any rate, he left the queen’s employ on March 31, 1842. He returned to Crockford’s, where his cuisine was much appreciated, and he stayed there until the club closed January 1, 1846. (Due to a change of administration, the Earl of Erroll was no longer the Lord Steward as of August 30, 1841, so did not participate in the dispute.)

The Young Queen Victoria, by Franz Xaver Winterhalter, 1842

Francatelli’s first cook book THE MODERN COOK A Practical Guide for the Culinary Art in All Its Branches was published in early 1846. He dedicated the book to the Earl of Erroll on February 21, 1846 and thanked the earl for the opportunity to work in the palace. The cookbook became quite popular and went into multiple editions. This cookbook was geared toward the upper classes, and contained multiple bills of fare for each month of the rear, for diners in number from 6 to 300 depending on the season and the occasion. (The 28th edition in 1886 included a bill of fare for a dinner for Queen Victoria.) Later in the year, on June 1, 1846, Francatelli went to work for the Coventry House and remained there until it closed March 1, 1854. While so employed, in 1852, the first edition of his second book A PLAIN COOKERY BOOK FOR THE WORKING CLASSES was published. This differed greatly from his first effort, as it was geared for working-class families, and included a list of basic equipment needed, matters of cleanliness and economy, and a view to nourishing food.

A Bill of Fare for Her Majesty's Dinner from THE MODERN COOK, 1886

Sometime in late June or early July 1854, Mr. Francatelli became the cook at the Reform Club, where he remained for some years. In 1861, his third cookbook THE COOK’S GUIDE AND BUTLER’S ASSISTANT: A Practical Treatise on English and Foreign Cookery and All Its Branches was published. In this book, recipe # 319 is Marrow Toast a la Victoria, which is seasoned bone marrow on dry toast; Francatelli indicated that Victoria ate this every day at dinner. This statement was supported by HER LITTLE MAJESTY The Life of Queen Victoria by Carolly Erickson; by the 1880’s, Her Majesty was eating Francatelli’s Marrow Toast with every meal for the sake of her digestion (apparently ruined by years of gobbling excessive amounts of food). In 1862, THE ROYAL ENGLISH AND FOREIGN CONFECTIONER: A Practical Treatise on the Art of Confectionary in All Its Branches was published, being his fourth cookbook. He left the Reform Club (or was let go) either late in 1862 or in January of 1863.

Receipt for Russian Salad from THE MODERN COOK 1846

The St. James’s Hotel Company was formed in February 1863, with Mr. Francatelli listed as manager. The hotel opened May 2, 1863, and was managed by Mr. Francatelli and his wife. Later in that month, Francatelli also began cooking in the Prince of Wales’ household at Marlborough House (which was not far from the hotel), although he was not listed as an employee. This began another period of royal service. In addition to managing the hotel and cooking at Marlborough House, he also cooked for special occasions at Sandringham. He apparently stopped cooking for the Prince and Princess of Wales in the late summer or autumn of 1866, and focused on the management and cuisine at the St. James’s Hotel thereafter. He catered regimental dinners, and had special dinners featuring particular ingredients (such as horse meat, and Liebig’s Extract of Meat (a concentrated beef extract)), and a parliamentary dinner. He resigned as manager of the hotel in March 1870.

In October 1870, he was hired as the manager of the Freemason’s Tavern, which was his last place of employment. He functioned as the sole manager and catered special dinners. He retired in June 1876, and died on August 10, 1876 in Eastbourne.

As we can plainly see, his career differed significantly from the way the writers depicted it in the series Victoria. His actual royal service comprised barely 2 years for Queen Victoria, and about 3 ½ years for the Prince and Princes of Wales over 20 years after leaving Buckingham Palace. As an entrepreneur, he parlayed his relationship with royalty, particularly Queen Victoria, into cookbook sales. What about his personal life? That was different, as well.

Far from falling in love with and marrying Mrs. Skerrett, the Queen’s Dresser (and there really was a Mrs. Marianne Skerrett who was the Queen’s Dresser), Mr. Francatelli was in fact married well before he went to work at Buckingham Palace to Elizabeth Roberts, the wife who assisted him in managing the St. James’s Hotel until her death March 2, 1869. Apparently, Mr. and Mrs. Francatelli had a daughter Emily and a son Ernest. Mr. Francatelli remarried the next year. He and Elizabeth Cooke were married August 2, 1870, and he evidently had children with her as well, including a son Charles Elme’ Francatelli born in 1875. There is no indication of any opportunity (or inclination) for a palace romance between Mr. Francatelli and any woman employed in Queen Victoria’s household. Again, his personal life was quite different from that depicted on the television series. This does not make the series any less enjoyable; however, it does illustrate the need to watch with caution, as the engaging romance shown does not always reflect what really happened.

Sources include:

Chancellor, E. Beresford. LIFE IN REGENCY AND EARLY VICTORIAN TIMES An Account of the Days of Brummell and D’Orsay 1800-1850. London: B. T. Batsford, Ltd., 1926.

Chancellor, E. Beresford. MEMORIALS OF ST. JAMES’S STREET and CHRONICLES OF ALMACK’S. New York: Brentano’s, 1922.

Erickson, Carolly. HER LITTLE MAJESTY The Life of Queen Victoria. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997. P. 237

Francatelli, Charles Elme’. A PLAIN COOKERY BOOK FOR THE WORKING CLASSES. Oxford: Benediction Classics, 2012.

Stephen, Sir Leslie, ed. DICTIONARY OF NATIONAL BIOGRAPHY, 1921-1922. Vol. 7. London: Oxford University Press.

Colin Smythe Ltd. “Charles Elme’ Francatelli, Crockford’s, and the Royal Connection.” Copyright (c) 2014-2015 Colin Smythe. HERE

Find-a-Grave Memorial. “Charles Elme’ Francatelli.”  HERE

Researching Food History-Cooking and Dining. “Queen Victoria’s chef Charles Elme Francatelli” Copyright © 2017 Patricia Bixler Reber (posted February 6, 2017). HERE

Images: Wikimedia Commons

Charles Elme’ Francatelli: HERE

Crockford’s 1828: HERE

The Young Queen Victoria by Franz Xaver Winterhalter 1842: HERE

A Bill of Fare for Her Majesty’s Dinner: HERE

Receipt for Russian Salad from THE MODERN COOK 1846: HERE


Lauren Gilbert is fascinated by England and its history, and multiple visits to England have only heightened her interest. A long-time member of JASNA since about 2001, she has attended multiple Annual General Meetings and was privileged to present a break-out session in Ft. Worth in 2011. Her first book, HEYERWOOD: A Novel was released in 2011, and she is a contributor to CASTLES, CUSTOMS AND KINGS True Tales by English Historical Fiction Authors Volumes 1 and 2. She is finishing A RATIONAL ATTACHMENT and doing research for a biography. A long-time resident of Florida, she lives with her husband Ed. You can visit her website HERE.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Whose Side Does Boniface Choose after Charles Martel’s Death?

By Kim Rendfeld

We don’t know how or exactly when Boniface heard the news in the fall of 741, but it boded ill, enough for him to summon a trusted aide back to Bavaria, away from his missionary work. Charles Martel, the Frankish mayor of the palace and its true ruler, was gravely ill. A succession crisis loomed, as it had 27 years before, and it had implications beyond Francia’s frontier.

A Wessex-born archbishop (without a see) in his 60s, Boniface had not witnessed the earlier crisis caused by the 714 death Charles’s father, Pippin. But he likely had heard about it from his mentor, Willibrord, the Northumbrian-born bishop of Frisia. As Charles fought for control of Francia with a high-ranking Frank allied with the pagan ruler of Frisia and his father’s widow (not Charles’s mom), Willibrord faced a tough choice of whom to support. He made the right one with Charles.

Like Willibrord, Boniface was zealous about missionary work. And like his mentor, he sought support from powerful people, including the pope and Charles Martel, or Charles the Hammer.

Photo by Martin Bahmann,
GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0,
from Wikimedia Commons

A gifted general, Charles had been the uncontested ruler of Francia since 721, even though he never claimed the crown. When the Merovingian king died in 737, Charles continued to govern in the dead monarch’s name. He was powerful enough to call the shots but apparently didn’t want to risk it by calling himself king.

That power came with a lot of bloodshed. While Boniface tried to convert pagans in Hesse and Thuringia, Charles was defending his homeland or at war in several peoples in the frontier, including the Aquitainians, Alemans, and Bavarians. The aristocrats from those areas might have been beaten into submission, but it’s not too much of a stretch to think they resented outside rule and awaited an opportunity to break free.

When Charles’s health took a turn in 739, Boniface surely was not the only person to sense trouble. A look at Charles’s family provides clues. By his late first wife, Chrotrude, who must have come from a powerful family, he had two sons and a daughter, Karlomann, Pippin, and Chiltrude; another son, Grifo, with his influential current wife, the high-ranking Bavarian Swanahild; and three more sons with his concubine. This meant quite a few claimants to the inheritance.

Boniface was in Bavaria, appointing bishops and setting up dioceses with support from Duke Odilo, who had a complicated relationship with Charles. An Aleman from the Agiloling clan and kinsman of Swanahild, Odilo had the right bloodline to rule Bavaria, but he owed his dukedom to Charles, the very person who had deposed his family from power in Alemannia.

Photo by James Steakley, CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL,
from Wikimedia Commons

In 740, rivals drove Odilo from Bavaria, and he sought refuge in Charles’s court. When returned to power the next spring, he founded a monastery and had the law code revised. It is possible he and Boniface sent messages to each other about what was going on in the Frankish court. Boniface, in turn, would have kept the pope informed.

In October 741, Boniface recalled one of his disciples, Willibald, from Thuringia to the strategically located Eichstatt. He needed someone he could trust. He probably didn’t know it at the time, but Charles had died that month.

Did Boniface ally himself with Karlomann, Charles’s eldest son? In his early 30s, Karloman probably was the most groomed for power. He was married, probably the father of two sons, and likely had the support of his mother’s family. Or did Boniface side with the teenage Grifo, and by extension his mother, Swanahild, an Agilolfing who was so influential she had governed on her husband’s behalf?

Soon after Charles’s death, Boniface wrote to Grifo, asking for him to protect missionaries in Thuringia. It is possible he wrote similar letters to Karlomann and Pippin. However, Swanahild, and probably Charles too, had commended Grifo the Boniface’s prayers.

A few weeks later, Boniface might have learned relations between the Franks and Bavarians had gotten more complicated. Charles’s daughter, Chiltrude, had fled to Bavaria and wed Odilo without her brothers’ permission but with her stepmother’s encouragement. In an age when marriages formed or solidified alliances between families, this was a scandal. The couple’s son was born before the end of the year. Yes, Odilo and Chiltrude had been more than friends while he was in Charles’s court (and why I want to write a novel with Chiltrude as my heroine).

As news about Francia came to Boniface, he must have gotten more uneasy. Karlomann, Pippin, and Grifo disputed how Charles divided his lands. It is likely Karlomann got the eastern portion. Second son Pippin got the western and southern portion. And third son Grifo got some land in the middle. (The three sons by the concubine weren’t involved.)

A 15th century depiction of the brothers’ battle in 741
and Pippin coronation 10 years later, by Jean Fouquet,
public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Karlomann and Pippin each assumed the title of mayor of the palace for their lands, imprisoned Swanahild in the royal convent of Chelles, and fought with Grifo for control of Francia. In the meantime, Pope Gregory III died and was succeeded by Pope Zacharius.

Karlomann and Pippin battled Grifo at Laon and imprisoned him at Neufchâteau. Tensions remained in Aquitaine, Alemannia, and Bavaria. Boniface probably didn’t have firsthand knowledge of an alliance among the three, but he could infer that these noblemen were more than willing to test Charles’s sons.

Boniface faced a difficult decision: whom should he support? If he chose wrong, he could see all his work to save souls be ruined.

He decided to reconcile with Karlomann and distance himself from Odilo. Perhaps as a show of loyalty, he attended Karlomann’s first Church council in February 742. A few months later, Karlomann helped him found the monastery that became Fulda.

In 743, the mayors decided they really did need a living king in whose name to rule and brought Childeric out of a monastery to fill that role. Over the next few years, the brothers fought wars in Aquitaine, Alemannia, and Bavaria. Boniface might have brokered a peace between Karlomann and Odilo in 745. Later that year, he was appointed archbishop of Mainz. When Karlomann retired to a monastery in 747, Boniface decided to ally himself with Pippin, who would set Grifo free. This decision caused more trouble for Pippin.

After a few more wars, Pippin claimed the crown in 751 and send Childeric back to the monastery. After all, he reasoned, he was the one doing the job. Boniface was the churchman to anoint him at Soissons.

The Age of Charles Martel by Paul Fouracre
From Ducatus to Regnum: Ruling Bavaria Under the Merovingians and Early Carolingians by Carl I. Hammer
The Carolingians: A Family Who Forged Europe, by Pierre Riché, translated by Michael Idomir Allen
"St. Boniface" by Francis Mershman The Catholic Encyclopedia (1907)


In Kim Rendfeld's Queen of the Darkest Hour, Queen Fastrada must stop a conspiracy before it destroys everyone and everything she loves. The book is available on Amazon, iBooks, Barnes & NobleKobo, and Smashwords.

Kim has written two other books set in 8th century Francia. In The Cross and the Dragon, a Frankish noblewoman must contend with a jilted suitor and the fear of losing her husband (available on Amazon). In The Ashes of Heaven's Pillar, a Saxon peasant will fight for her children after losing everything else (available on Amazon). Kim's short story “Betrothed to the Red Dragon,” about Guinevere’s decision to marry Arthur, is set in early medieval Britain and available on Amazon.

Connect with Kim at on her website, her blog, Outtakes of a Historical Novelist at, on Facebook at, or follow her on Twitter at @kimrendfeld.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Keep Smiling Through: The Entertainers who kept us amused in the dark days of war.

By Hilary Green

Very little has been written about the people who helped to raise morale, both among the troops and the civilians, by providing entertainment during the war. A few names come immediately to mind – Vera Lynn singing 'We'll Meet Again', Ann Shelton, who was the 'Forces Sweetheart', Gracie Fields – but no one over the age of seventy remembers what ENSA stood for. The Entertainment National Service Association was the brainchild of impresario Basil Dean and actor Lesley Henson and brought together both professional and amateur entertainers in a uniformed service.

Gracie Fields with an RAF Orchestra - Public Domain Image

There were singers and dancers, actors and musicians, all of whom had been thrown out of work by the closure of the theatres in London and the many coastal resorts where they normally put on summer shows. Now they performed in munitions factories, garrison theatres, and village halls, helping to bring a little relief from the ever-present danger and the gloom of rationing and the blackout. In the months after the debacle of Dunkirk there were no front line troops to entertain, so they concentrated on keeping up morale at home, but groups were despatched to outlying units in place like Iceland and the Orkneys. At that time a directive went out ordering all the female performers to wear trousers when visiting naval ships, to preserve their modesty when climbing ladders up to the deck.

During the preparations for D-Day thousands of British and American troops were quartered along the south coast of England. They were confined to barracks, to preserve the secret of the forthcoming invasion, so ENSA companies were sent to entertain them. In an attempt to ensure that they had no idea where the camps were situated, they were made to travel in buses with the blinds down; but since most of them had been used to performing in summer shows at coastal resorts and so were familiar with the whole area this was a futile exercise.

One week after the D-Day invasion, the first ENSA company crossed the channel and they were soon followed by others. Each was a party of six, with their own transport, portable stages, lighting and costumes, and escorted by an army officer. The performances took place in tents and bomb damaged buildings across Europe. The players slept in any house they could find that still had a roof and they often performed within sound of the guns. In spite of this it was still known, to some of those forced to attend its less successful performances, as Every Night Something Awful!

An ENSA concert party entertaining troops from the steps of
  a chateau in Normandy, 26 July 1944 -Public Domain Image

ENSA was not the only organisation putting on shows for the troops. Soon after conscription began another far-sighted man took an important initiative. Colonel Basil Brown was an Army Welfare officer who realised that all round the country, in the period known as the 'phoney war' when hostilities proper had not commenced, there were talented performers, many of them professionals, who were languishing in army barracks square bashing and peeling potatoes. He sent out scouts to search for such people and had them seconded to the Central Pool of Artistes, which later became known as Stars in Battledress. They were formed into companies according to their particular fields of expertise. Some gave variety performances, others performed straight plays. They all had one handicap in common. Until 1944 no women were allowed to join. As a result, 'drag' acts became very popular and by a curious act of transference these performers were often treated as if they really were woman, and sent gifts of flowers and chocolates; while men in the audience vied for the privilege of taking them out for a drink after the show.

The advantage that Stars in Battledress had over ENSA was that, being soldiers in uniform, they could be sent to areas where civilians could not be allowed to go – into secret facilities, or right up to the front line, where they might be expected to scrub off the greasepaint and grab their rifles if the occasion demanded it. Many future stars made their first forays into the world of entertainment through Stars in Battledress, among them Harry Secombe and Spike Milligan.

Classical music, opera and ballet were not neglected. CEMA, the Council for the Encouragement of Music and the Arts, was set up in 1940 under Mary Glasgow and Ivor Brown and under its auspices performances of all three were put on in village halls and works canteens all over the country. The Carl Rosa Opera company and the Ballet Rambert toured to northern towns and cities and the Old Vic Theatre and Sadlers Wells Opera mover to Burnley to escape the blitz. People in that area were able to see Sybil Thorndike playing Shakespeare and Margot Fonteyn dancing. For a great many people this was the first chance they had had to encounter styles of performance that had previously been restricted to those who lived within reach of major opera houses and concert halls and had money to pay for tickets.

Margot Fonteyn - Pubic Domain Image

After being briefly closed down at the outbreak of war the London theatre flourished. Musicals like Ivor Novello's 'The Dancing Years', 'The Maid of the Mountains', 'Rose Marie' and 'Lilac Time' were all revived. The Windmill Theatre, famous for its nudes, had the proud boast 'we never closed'. To escape the air raids the girls in the show used to sleep in the theatre lounge. Many theatre programmes contained this note . In the event of an air raid warning an announcement will be made by means of an illuminated sign installed in front of the footlights. Patrons are advised to remain in the theatre but those wishing to leave will be directed to the nearest air raid shelter, after which the performance will continue for so long as is practicable. The programme for Laurence Olivier's Richard lll added, 'All we ask is that if you feel you must go you will depart quietly and without excitement.'

Towards the end of the campaign in North Africa soldiers who had fought without leave for many months and endured terrible conditions were expecting to be sent home. When this did not happen mutiny threatened. Light relief was desperately needed and ENSA provided it. There was a huge variety show at the Royal Opera House in Cairo in the presence of King Farouk. Stars like Marlene Dietrich, Gracie Fields, Jack Benny, Bob Hope and Humphrey Bogart gave their services. In September 1943 King George VI signalled Basil Dean 'Well done, ENSA.'


Hilary Green has a personal reason for her interest in the subject. Both her parents were in the entertainment industry before the outbreak of war, her father as a singer and her mother as a dancer. Neither of them served with ENSA because her father joined the RAF as soon as war was declared and her mother by then had a family to care for. She grew up, however, listening to their reminiscences of life 'on the stage' and from time to time would hear a singer or a comedian on the 'wireless' and one of them would say 'Oh, I remember him/her. I worked with him/her in such and such a show before the war.' When she questioned how these people had become household names the answer was simple. They went into ENSA.
These events were the inspiration behind her four books in the 'Follies' series. Although the war takes the leading characters on many paths they would never have considered treading before, they are all at the outset entertainers, all members of the same 'Concert party' – and in one way or another they continue to use their varied talents in the service of their country.

Connect with Hilary:

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Editors Weekly Round-up, January 20, 2019

by the EHFA Editors

Every week our contributing authors tell of saints or sinners, politics or war. Read about kings and queens, the common people, and legends from ancient to post-WWII. Never miss a post on English Historical Fiction Authors