Saturday, 4 June 2022

Nicky Galliers - From Diamond to Platinum: Celebrating Queen Elizabeth II's Platinum Jubilee

To celebrate Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II's Platinum Jubilee Discovering Diamonds is hosting a series of excerpts or articles written by our wonderful review team. For our author reviewers: the theme is an excerpt from one of their novels portraying royalty - or an equivalent leader-type character. For our non-writer reviewers: a favourite monarch and/or novel about Royalty... In other words, an enjoyable mix of entertainment to acknowledge Queen Elizabeth II's longest reign in British history! 70 years! 

God Bless you Ma'am. 

(say ma'am to rhyme with 'jam' not 'farm')

As Nicky is not yet a published author (she's working on it!) she's written us a factual piece about her favourite King...

To be a king
By Nicky Galliers, reviewer and author-in-waiting

My favourite monarch is one that few really know much about – Edward III. Quite aptly, he is one of only five monarchs who have celebrated their own Jubilee, his Silver for serving fifty years on the throne. He acceded at the age of fourteen and, surprisingly, while his father was still alive. That father, Edward II, had been captured by his own wife, Queen Isabella, and her associate Sir Roger Mortimer and was imprisoned by them in Berkeley Castle. The young Edward refused to be crowned without his father’s blessing which was the most rebellious he could be at that time.

He remained under their control for the next three years until he found the opportunity to overthrow Mortimer, arresting him at Nottingham Castle, exiling his mother, and ruling personally before he reached his official majority at twenty-one years of age. He was married during this time under Mortimer’s control, and the couple possibly thought it necessary to have a child as soon as possible, adding another head in the way of the throne for Mortimer, hence the age gap between Edward and his eldest child, Edward of Woodstock, latterly known as the Black Prince, was a mere seventeen years.

Edward’s life reads like something out of a Hollywood script, one that is too fanciful to be true. Escapades such as using secret tunnels under Nottingham Castle to capture Mortimer, riding incognito in tournaments as his son did in the film A Knight’s Tale, dressing in disguise to travel to France more than once are all recorded. His greatest triumph was his victory at Crécy. Outnumbered, out manoeuvred, he escaped when caught between the French army, the sea and the river Somme without a bridge and then he won the ensuing battle decisively, losing as few as three hundred men to the French’s several thousand, possibly as many as 12,000—which included an archbishop, a bishop, the French king’s brother and even a king, though not the French one.

Edward revolutionised warfare; had spent ten years harnessing the power of archers, transforming war from hand-to-hand combat to projectile warfare. He even used rudimentary guns shooting stones and javelins—that they weren’t all that effective isn’t the point; that he took them, retained them through a long chevauchée through France and then used them, is.

Away from the Hundred Year’s War, he was something of an early Renaissance man. He was a lover of modernisation and commissioned a clock that struck regular hours when medieval man still divided the day into twelve hours of daylight and twelve of night time, regardless that, as the year progresses, days and nights are of unequal lengths. He installed hot and cold running water at his favourite palace of Langley. He was bookish and had a library of over 160 books at the Tower of London to be loaned to members of the court and frequently borrowed books from other lords and bishops, some of which he never quite got as far as returning. He paid over £66 (an astonishing sum of close to £44k in today’s terms) in 1335 for a book from a nun at Amesbury for his own use. And in 1362, he ordained that English was the official language of the Law, so the common man could understand it.

He loved display and his tournaments were lavish affairs stuffed with symbolism and show and involved costumes such as animals and, in one tournament, cardinals and the pope. His mood and focus were frequently demonstrated by his tournament mottos which decorated the grounds and his armour and horses, my favourites being the enigmatic It is as it is and the longer, more romantic, Hey, hey, the white swan, by God’s soul I am your man. Mysteriously, we don’t know who the ‘white swan’ was intended to be. And probably most remarkable of all for a medieval king, he was faithful to his wife, Philippa—until she decided otherwise. He was a favourite of Queen Victoria who likely saw in his relationship with Philippa a parallel to hers with Albert. They dressed as the couple at the Bal Costumé of 1842. Somewhere between Victoria and now, we have forgotten this great king.

Edward died a broken man in 1377, his fiftieth year on the throne. He’d lived long enough to see the death of his most loved daughter, Joan, of the Black Death in Bordeaux, that of his best friend in a tournament, and the demise of all his friends and acquaintances, including his beloved wife in 1369 and, tragically, his eldest son in 1376. He suffered a stroke and never recovered, dying alone in a chamber at Sheen Palace in Richmond, abandoned even by his mistress, the renowned Alice Perrers, who, we are told, stole the rings from his fingers as he lay dying. Despite such an ignominious end, his people seemed to fully understand and appreciate him. The wording on his tomb states, “Here is the glory of the English, the paragon of past kings, the model of future kings, a merciful king, the peace of his peoples, Edward the third fulfilling the jubilee of his reign, the unconquered leopard…He ruled mighty in arms. Now in heaven let him be a king.

My favourite novel about a monarch:

Since I haven’t read a novel about Edward III where he is portrayed as anything like he was (though I am working hard to rectify that for myself) I will have to select a different monarch. 

I love Here Be Dragons by Sharon K Penman, her beloved novel about Llywelyn ap Iorwerth, known as ‘Fawr’, or ‘the Great’. I loved it so much that it sent me to a Welsh university to study with the only Welsh History department in the UK.

However, there is another novel by Penman that is not as well known about the marvellous Llywelyn Fawr, and that is Dragon’s Lair where we meet Llywelyn as a young man of around twenty years of age in 1193 fighting against his uncles for control of the lands that should have passed to him. It is far shorter than Here be Dragons so is an easier read but is part of a series focusing on Justin de Quincy, a young man who works for Queen Eleanor and does those things no one else can. For lovers of Here Be Dragons who don’t know about this novel, it will come as a real treat to continue the love affair.

The queen has been frantically raising the money to pay Richard I’s ransom to release him from prison in Germany, but a large amount of treasure destined to be part of that ransom vanishes and Justin de Quincy, a man born high enough to serve a queen and low enough to pass unnoticed by the higher men he’s tasked with investigating, must find it. When the Prince of Gwynedd, Davydd, accuses his nephew, the outlaw prince Llywelyn ap Iorwerth, of ambushing the cart on which the treasure had been concealed beneath sacks of Welsh wool, Justin finds he is fighting not just to find the treasure but to prove it was not the young, disinherited prince who stole it.

About Nicky:

Nicky at Crecy

I grew up in a town that had the great fortune to have an ancient cathedral across a road from an equally ancient castle. Both buildings are steeped in history and it is no exaggeration to say that, due to certain family responsibilities at the cathedral, it became my playground and I got to experience it (absolutely literally) at all hours of the day and night.

Early ambitions to be a professional ballerina fell short due to a brother and excess height so I turned my attentions to my other loves – medieval history and motor sport. They don’t combine well, but Croft circuit in Yorkshire isn’t very far from Middleham castle, and Thruxton in Hampshire is just fourteen miles from Stonehenge.

I went to a Welsh university to study History, mostly medieval but with some almost modern—country houses—and some very ancient in the form of pre-historic archaeology. I was very lucky to have had three brilliant teachers over the years, my amazing A Level History teacher, Michael Parkinson, a former A Level examiner and question setter (alongside Dr Elizabeth Hallam of the National Archives at Kew who marked my A Level papers) who still does ad hoc work for Cambridge University and is an expert in Anglo-Saxon and other old languages; Dr D P Kirby who works in the realm of the Anglo-Saxons and Prof. R.R Davies, the well-known medieval Welsh history expert who finished his career at Oxford. An Oxbridge education without having to pass the entrance exam!

True to form, my first paid job was as an assistant church organ tuner, allowing me to experience an array of parish churches of different ages across the south of England, and I added a couple more cathedrals to my list of ‘places visited after midnight’. I helped build the organ at Rochester and it still thrills me to think I am a part—even if only a tiny part—of the history and the fabric of these places.

I write for my own amusement—always have—and more recently with a view to publishing when I find the courage to just go for it rather than wait for the Next Book which will undoubtedly be better than anything I have already written. I mostly write historical fiction and medieval fantasy but I do turn my pen to contemporary now and then. My muse is Edward III and his son, Edward. I also have a life-long fascination with the Robin Hood legends. My obsession with perfection and accuracy made me enter the realm of editing—poor spelling and historical inaccuracies drive me mad so I decided to do something about it— and I have now worked with a wide range of authors and their chosen eras, from Romans to roguish pirates; Suffragettes to stock cars and Formula One.

I review for Discovering Diamonds, having had the privilege of working with Helen Hollick for eight years—I’ve never come across someone who works so hard on behalf of others as well as continuing to write her own fabulous fiction. I also review for NetGalley and I’m on the reviewer panel for several publishers including Rebellion Publishing and Head of Zeus.

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  1. Edward plays a prominent role in my series The King's Greatest Enemy - from downy-cheeked lad to a young, determined lion of a man when he takes control of his own destiny.
    I am rather fond of Edward, even if I feel his ambitions re France were foolish. Allin all, a great choice, Nicky!

    1. And the comment above was me - suddenly anonymous. I wonder if this is Google trying to be diligent re GDPR???

  2. What a fascinating account of a king who should be much better known. Thank you Nicky. maybe your first published book should be about Edward III.

  3. I enjoyed reading about Edward III, Nicky. Good luck with a novel!

  4. What passion for Edward III! I very much enjoyed reading this, Nicky and Helen and was fascinated by Nicky's very interesting biography.


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