Tuesday, 30 September 2014
Reading the Morlands: "The Princeling", completed
On looking at the next book in the series (The Oak Apple), I found that it had skipped James I and VI entirely, and I found this to be quite a shock. But in thinking about it, there's a reasonable gap between The Dark Rose and The Princeling as well. Long enough, at least, for Nanette to spirit Mary Seymour away in really interesting use of the ambiguity of history.
The Princeling opens with Nanette and James Chapham at home with Jan, their own boy Alexander, and Mary Seymour. One probably has to be a devotee of Tudor history, and particularly of Henry VIII's final wife, Katherine Parr, to realise what a shock that was for me to read. 'But Mary Seymour died!' I said to myself - and dashed off to do some cursory internet research.
Mary Seymour, the daughter of Katherine Parr and Thomas Seymour, almost certainly did die, probably around age two. But the point is, there's no absolute proof of her death, just her disappearance from the historical record at about age two. Her mother died giving birth to her, and her father died - executed for treason against Edward VI - less than a year later.
By breaking the narrative for ten years between the end of The Dark Rose and the beginning of The Princeling Harrod-Eagles forgoes what might have been an interesting tale of bringing Mary Seymour to the Mill House and Morland, but she also avoids the tangle of explaining exactly how that happened. By the time The Princeling opens, Mary is well past the age where there is no more mention of her in the historical record, and so she is able to fall in love with John Morland, marry Jan Chapham, and go entirely un-merrily through the rest of her life. (I do wish she had been a bit pleasanter a character, but her resentment regarding the loss of her fortune rang entirely reasonable to me.)
Also on the topic of the ambiguity of history - I was worried for a time that Will was going to turn out to be the "real author" of Shakespeare's plays. My timeframe may have been a little wonky there, but I'm VERY glad that Harrod-Eagles didn't go in that direction.
But still, a ten year break in narrative is not that much. Nanette got a book and a half, after all (for which I'm pleased, even crochetty and old, I still loved Nanette.) Going into The Oak Apple (arrived on hold at the library today) we're about to skip an entire reign and thirty years, going straight to Charles I. I realise that the series began with the intention of covering "great moments" in British history rather than the whole of it, but why do so few writers of historical fiction cover the succession of James I? (Plaidy skipped the accession of James I as well, focussing instead on the story of Robert Carr and Frances Howard.)
Does anyone out there have any recommendations for James I era fiction?