It’s just gone eight in the morning and I should be going back to bed, but I have all these words swirling around in my head. Last night around ten-thirty the Goblin came into my study and said, “Bed time!” He’s a natural supervisor and this (sometimes) comes in handy because I never know what day or time it is. So I started shutting down which was hard because I’m nearly done with A Companion for Life, but I was really tired. I have maybe two pages to go…probably less…unless there’s another chapter I don’t know about, but it feels really good to be so close to the end.
I was half an hour behind the Goblin so by the time I got downstairs (we sleep in the dining room – this is an excellent excuse not to entertain) it was all dark so I noticed the bright blue light coming in around the curtains over the sliding glass door. I’d admired the full looking moon on my way home from the shops (I had to buy more chocolate…to help finish my book ofcourse) and then forgot about it. I pulled back the curtains and stood there in awe as I admired the view. The moon was directly overhead. It was so quiet…as if the bright blue light had lulled all the creatures to sleep. Normally at night we have a lot of bird song and bats, but it was just peacefully still as if they’d all decided it was too cold to bother finding food and tucked up for the night. Seeing the trees against the blue sky and long streaks of fluffy clouds it was so easy to imagine lovers meeting in the underbrush or carriages carrying home neighbors after a long dinner and hungry highwaymen waiting for them. I was tempted to go out in the garden and stand there, but I was inapropriately dressed and it was cold so I closed the curtains and went back upstairs to open my window and stuck my head out. The night was so quiet I could hear the A1 mortorway in the distance. It was magical. I scribbled a few words down and went to bed. I finished them this morning.
The full moon dangles directly overhead
Bright white against strands of blue clouds
Pushed across the sky by cold winds
It’s so quiet I can hear the motorway
Night birds are dreaming of sunlight
Soothing bluish-grey moonlight dazzles
Garden leaves, forming strange patterns
Conjuring forgotten tales of highwaymen
King John was in my thoughts last night (after reading my very first comment…you made my night!) but I didn’t imagine him out in the moonlight. He would have been tucked up in the most comfortable available room. He travelled constantly with his entire household including his own mattresses and bedding. He liked his comforts (who doesn’t?) but he wasn’t a glutton. If anything he was a work-o-holic and he didn’t put up with slackers. One thing I really like about him was that he had no favorites. This weakness often afflicts those in power…they fall for the sycophants’ charms or lies and end up in their power. Favorites are always bad news. They’re invariably more charismatic than intelligent and end up drunk on self serving power. People in every land have suffered horrifying deprivations over the centuries because a small number of people knew they could take what they wanted and they did.
King John was massively paranoid that his subjects hated him…though can you be called paranoid if almost everyone does hate you? He caused part of the problem by heavy taxes that upset every layer of society, but he inherited a country that had been bankrupted by King Richard who was a warmonger. Richard was never happy unless he was starting or carrying on a war. Richard inherited vast lands and barrels of money. He was a tactical genuis apparently, but that was what he enjoyed doing – building or destroying castles and creatively killing people! Castles were phenomenally expensive, but he wished to build them so he first spent all his money then he squeesed every last penny he could out of the English people to pay for his wars in France and when that money ran out he borrowed heavily from anyone who’d give him money and then he died he leaving John in the middle of a war that there was no money to pay for. I’ve never liked King Richard, I now despise him. Richard was his mother’s favorite child. John, her last child, was at the bottom of her list. John on the other hand was his father’s favorite. He was most like his father, he had all the inate abilities and talents to become a good ruler, but his many character weaknesses and a whole lot of bad luck (often self created) washed that dream down the drain of history.
The men who proved he could trust them (usually French men who’d risen from nothing so they had good reason to be loyal…getting ahead in 1205 wasn’t a cake walk) these men come across as borderline psychopaths. The public hated them and they hated King John for bringing them to England and giving them positions of authority. Can a King ever really escape the psychos? I don’t know. But to those people who worked for him and proved their loyalty and abilities he was very generous. You never hear that in History class! King John was a man who knew the names of the people who worked for him. He’d remember special occasions and was very generous to his employees and their familes. This extended to his own immediate family as well…even his first wife who he repudiated and remarried some other guy…he’d send her the occasional gift. I wonder if his love language was gifts? Hmmm?
If you’ve never read Gary Chapman’s book The Five Love Languages I highly recommend it. It changed my life. The premise is so simple yet so profound. There are five basic love languages; Physical touch, Gifts, Words of affirmation, Acts of service, Quality Time. We all use all five love languages to one degree or another, but most of us have our own version of one main love language that makes us feel really loved. We need to be loved in that love language or we don’t feel loved…and usually we try to love others in OUR love language instead of their love language which causes endless problems. Hearts starve and love withers because even though the nearest and dearest is trying their hardest to love it doesn’t translate.
This whole subject is woven through my book, The Curse of Love. The hero’s love language is physical touch. He needs kindly/loving physical contant. He always felt loved by his father who would pinch his cheek or ruffle his hair or slap him on the back, but five years after his father’s death he’s emotionally starving to death (which is why he’s so angry and nasty). Not a single person has touched him with kindness in five years. His mother loves him and tries to show it with her love language which is Words of Affirmation. She’s always telling him that she loves him and then praising his accomplishments, but she’s one of those people who is physically non-comunicative. So all his life Cranston has felt unloved by his mother and he hates her because he thinks she hates him because she never tries to show physical affection. This happens all the time in real life. I’ve seen it in my family. I grew up thinking my mother didn’t love me because she never showed me what I thought was love. She’d never praised me or anything I did. There was only unhelpful critisicm. Her love language is Acts of Service. Mine is Words of Affirmation. All those years I had no idea she’d lie awake wondering what she’d done for each of her children. I wish I had! It would have helped a lot even if she’d been incapable of speaking my basic love language. I’ve seen this happen in other families. I see it everywhere. History is littered with broken hearts that never learned to communicate. Sometimes of course people really don’t love us…but that’s another story.
So King John has gone down in history as the most hated English King because he didn’t have anyone on his side to write his story (as in literally no one could be bothered to spend the money to pay someone to write his side of his story). I was just thinking that “History” would be better called “Whose-Story?” Because it’s often only a question of perspective. Who write the history books? What was their inate bias? What was their agenda? It fascinates me how every generation rewrites history. And so often we just believe what we’re fed at school which often turns out to be complete rubbish! The Magna Carta is a really good example. The so called guarantors who’d demanded the right to write the original charter and then choose their own guarantors (or whatever they were called) whose supposed role was to guaratee that King John kept his part of the charter were almost all his enemies who wanted to kill him and they had absolutely no intention of keeping their part of the agreement and they didn’t. The ink was probably still drying on the first vellum copy when they were making moves to to take over the country and kill their King. There was no nobilty in their deed…they were out for power. So history paints John as a traitor…to himself? The King’s word was law! But John didn’t stand still and wait for an arrow in the eye. He pulled the rug out from under his enemies with one sharp jerk -absolutely brilliant – he made himself the Pope’s vassel (and there had been no love lost betwen him and the pope for various reasons but this made the pope quite happy and it gained him a very powerful ally) and he declared that he’d go on a crusade which meant (in the culture of the time) that if anyone killed John they’d end up in hell. Brilliant! Of course that didn’t stop all of them, but it was a genius move for someone with his back against the wall. So his enemies seeing their hands were tied then committed treason by making a pact with the French King that they would support him if he invaded…so the French King sent his son Louis to invade and this is where John’s earthly story was brought to an abrupt end. He died (of dysentary or food poisoning or was poisoned) in the middle of trying to save England from the French knowing half the country hated his guts… He left his son and heir in the hands of a number of Englishmen he knew he could trust and they kicked French butt out of the country (keep in mind many of these people were half French). William Marshall (one of my favorite heroes) was chosen as the Regent and he helped ensure that England stayed England and didn’t become a French province! Is this too much King John for one day?
If you’re interested I highly recommend the biography of King John by W.L. Warren. It’s brilliant! For another viewpoint William Marshall’s biography (William Marshall; Court, Career and Chivalry in the Angevin Empire 1147-1219 by David Crouch) has some of the few actual snap shots of John by someone who was there (though the original biographer hated John’s guts). Most writers were monks and the Clergy particularly hated John. He had to get creative to raise money and one of the things he came up with was to have all the live in lovers and offpsring of the supposedly celibate priests arrested and held in detention until the priests paid to get them out. He made a lot of money out of that one! Call me evil, but I think it’s funny! It’s now gone11:00…I should probably just stay up. My life is so not hard.
S Irvine says
Looking forward to reading “A Companion for Life”. I really enjoyed “The Hired Wife” particularly how the two main characters learn to interact with each other, whislt one has a hearing impairment, which I understand as my spouse also deals with this on a daily basis. I have enjoyed all of your writing and particularly enjoy reading stories from the regency period. Thankyou!
@S Irvine: Thank you for your lovely comment. I’m so glad you enjoyed The Hired Wife! I really love how that story turned out. It really made me think a lot about my husband’s feelings and frustrations with being hard of hearing. I think writing it helped me to internalise some of the prejudice and difficulties he faces every day. I didn’t make the hero hard of hearing to make a statement (when I conceived Marshall Godfrey I knew instantly that he had a fairly severe hearing impairment), but I hope that readers who’ve never known someone either deaf or hard of hearing will develop a positive mental association with these people. This happened with me when I was young. I read a romance where the hero was blind. It hadn’t occured to me up to that point that a blind person might fall in love (yes I was an idiot) but on finishing the book I consciously decided that I wouldn’t let a physical handicap keep me from falling in love with a man. When my husband (I met him online) mentioned he was hard of hearing it was like being told he had grey eyes. I wish I could remember that author’s name. I’d send them a thank you for opening my eyes and my heart!