One of my methods of research is to utilise The Akashic Records to access the lives of the people I write about in my novels. I used this resource extensively in the writing of TO DEFY A KING and I wanted to share some of these sessions with my readers.

What are the Akashic Records? I asked my very good friend and Akashic Consultant Alison King for the short version and here is what she says:

When people think, feel or speak, it creates a subtle electrical charge. For example, the brain's electrical activity (such as when thinking) can be measured by ECG equipment (in fact, it's a measurement of whether we're alive or dead).

The electrical vibrations we create all the time are discharged into the environment, where they are impressed onto a subatomic substance which is only just starting to come to the edge of scientific awareness, (think string theory and the environment that would suggest). An analogy of this process might be voice recording techniques, where the vibrations of the voice are impressed upon susceptible material, such as magnetic tape or digital receptor. Once the Akashic recording has been made, it can be read in a similar way to listening to a voice recording or watching a movie, with similar facilities to fast forward or rewind. The huge difference is, the Akashic Record is an organic structure, rather than 21st century technology; it therefore requires an organic reader, such as a human being, who can attune sensitively to the vibrations required. A mundane example of this would be, walking into a room, and being able to pick up on an atmosphere without knowing of any preceding events that have taken place there.

There's a lot more to it than this, but the above is the basic premise, and the below is the result: I hope readers will enjoy these insights as I post them.

Not every scene has gone into the novel, I have far too much material. This is only a selection, aimed at giving a taster. We honestly never know what is going to emerge and seemingly innocuous questions can lead to laughter, tears, and fascinating revelations.


Sunday, 25 April 2010

King John lives down to his reputation

Today I am posting a few snippets involving King John. Some of the pieces are from research notes taken while I was researching THE TIME OF SINGING (to be published as FOR THE KING'S FAVOR in the USA) but they all go together to help build a picture of the man.

Photo credits to Regia Anglorum.

Ida de Tosney, mistress of Henry II and her relationship with John in the 1170’s

Alison: Euuwww – John has this effect on people – I felt a sort of lurching pulling in of the solar plexus – as if Ida was going to be sick. Eeeuwww. Ida finds John’s mouth particularly repulsive. He’s got a bottom lip that droops forward a little bit. She finds it repulsive and slimy. She doesn’t like his hands. It’s sexual connotations as well. She’s frightened of him. He’s very forceful in a very focused narrow way. When he puts his focus on someone he really focuses. She really doesn’t like him. If she has to have anything to do with him, she melts away, she goes into the furniture, it’s as if she’s not there. And what does John think of her? He’s a real predator. He regards her as a prostitute who’s fair game for anyone really. He’d be ready to get his leg over there. He likes to scare her by making a sort of false pounce on her to make her jump – pretend fighting. He does watch her out of the corner of his eyes. There’s a little bit of jealously there. Of his father? No, of her – being close to his father as he sees it. He likes to keep a clear field between himself and his father as much as possible. He’s a bit like a minesweeper round his father. It’s about the pecking order. So while he thinks she’s fair game does he not jump on her because his father would jump on him? What stops him from doing so? Opportunity. So if he caught her alone he’d have her then? I think if Henry was out of the way, I think he would, yes. He’d think it was fair do’s. He’s a king’s son. Who has greater claim on such things? He wouldn’t be bothered about his father being upset about it? Ah well, you know, all that would be provisional on his father not knowing. He wouldn’t get caught. (but of course he always did get caught as his life progressed!

How does Hamelin, Earl of Surrey, King Henry II's half brother feel about John his nephew? He feels sick in his throat. His mouth purses and it’s as if he’s got a bad taste in his mouth – like a lemon. He wants to suck his lips in, suck his teeth. It’s quite an unpleasant feeling. It’s almost as if he’s having to put his hand out to fend himself away from John and sort of step round him. Keep his distance. There’s a touch of ‘the younger generation, they’re so rough. Don’t approve of the younger generation, but in particular this one is distasteful. It doesn’t matter what he tries to dress it up with, syrup or cream, it still doesn’t taste right.

So his attitude towards John re John’s relationship with his daughter.

Hmmm, horrible sick feeling in the solar plexus now. His head is bowed and he’s sucking in his cheeks and his teeth. I would say defeated. A horrible feeling. It makes him feel unwell. From the waist down it makes him feel unwell. His legs have sort of shooting horrible feelings down them. But he will not be beaten. He comes up with this screwed up face ‘but I will not be defeated.’ Then a hardness comes into him, His whole being is pushing John away, keeping him at a safe distance. Unbeknown to Alison, John seduced Hamelin’s daughter and got her pregnant. This was seen as a distasteful scandal at the time because the kinship tie made it close to incestuous re the medieval mindset. So I wonder if his feelings from the waist down were connected with this – a sort of ‘shrinking of the loins?’

How does John he feel about William Longespee, his bastard half-brother? First when William was a little boy and then when he was older.

Alison: Initially John liked to tease William but the teasing didn’t have much effect so he got bored with it. I think William just glided over the teasing. It didn’t seem to upset him. I think also this ability to be very mannered and regal that William has, is not ruffled by other people being less mannered and less regal. It gives William more control in fact. It seems to me that because of this it’s as if he’s the older one in character rather than John. And how does John perceive this? He just gets bored with being nasty to him and he’s someone whom John feels safe in turning his back to. He thinks he’s safe. And he also takes William for granted. He just turns his back and goes to tease someone else.

And then older? When William in his teens?

John is more practised in being sly now. He’s looking through the corners of his eyes. He’s starting to get jealous of William. All the girls like William and John doesn’t like that at all. He’s nasty to the girls who like William. I can see him with a knife. I could see him cutting the tip off a woman's plait. William doesn’t know this is going on because he doesn’t particularly know the ladies like him. Everybody likes him, that’s just the way he is. Some people find him a bit superficial – his mannerisms are like a façade. People generally like him but some people find that they can’t really get close to him because of that façade and they can’t get that emotional response from him.

John feels as long as William keeps to his place, he can feel content. John doesn’t feel threatened. He watches like a cat watches a mouse but there’s a clearly defined gap between them and William doesn’t go over it at all.

Now to Eleanor of Aquitaine. What does she think about the fact that the King of France and her son John have been offering bribes to the Emperor to keep Richard prisoner? Her cheeks suck in. She says ‘What?...What?!!! I will kill them!’ When she thinks of John she sees him as grey. When she thinks of Richard she sees him as gold and red and silver. I am seeing a cross very high up. I’m getting the feeling that she can believe it of the king of France but she can’t quite believe it of her son.

King John having an 'interview' with his hostage, William Marshal Junior.
He’s reading. He’s quite on a level emotionally. He’s working with his brain at the moment. He’s reading mainly for information. Occasionally he’s noting something. I don’t know if it’s a mental note or a real note, but it’s like he’s noting important points now and then. He’s writing every so often as well. FFW to when William Marshal Junior arrives. John is mostly still in this level frame of mind. Very shrewd. Turning his attention to that matter. He’s focusing on William the person rather than what William is saying and he’s sizing up that person. It’s almost as if he’s got William Jnr on a bell rope – strung up. You know how a bell rope can take you up a little way and then back down – it’s that image. It’s a bit like weighing somebody up and also a bit like ‘I could string him up if I wanted and he’s weighing up what to do. He’s weighing up his physique too, the muscle power in the youth and his appearance, his face. FFW. He doesn’t take any notice of what William’s said. Ah! He’s got that letter that William had before. He’d been reading it earlier and it’s already on the table. He takes it out again and he’s kind of dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s and asking about the details – such as ‘And how many men would that be? How many supplies? What would he be taking over there? You do realise that it would incur a tax of….’ William Jnr is having to say ‘I am sure

my father will have realised this and will be sending you that. He’s having to gloss it over. John’s doing this all the way down to the bottom of the page, and then he lets it flip. He’s putting his teeth edges together and opening his lips and bearing his teeth – almost as if he’s sizing William up to take a bite somehow and see what he would taste like. John is saying ‘As long as your father realises the costs involved, we will allow him to go. I don’t know if this is right or not because it’s words but I am getting ‘Be back by March.’ I got a feeling like a tennis ball just in my stomach. There are loads of issues going through John’s mind. He doesn’t like it but he seems to feel a bit powerless. He doesn’t like the machinations behind it. He’s not just seeing William, he’s seeing quite a few different people as well, including the ecclesiastical person I saw in an earlier session. It’s about trust and assessing the motivations behind William’s desire to go to Ireland. He thinks they’re plotting. They’re obviously doing something that he’s not involved in; he doesn’t like that. Because he’s not part of that circle he can’t guess or tell what is actually going on – so that’s what makes him feel powerless. It might all be bland; on the surface it might look bland, but because he doesn’t know what’s going on, on the inside, he can’t feel okay about it. He can only feel mistrustful, because what he doesn’t know is a threat to him. So how does the interview end? He goes off into his own thoughts and there’s a silence. Then he remembers William Jnr is there and says that a letter will be prepared. You’ll have to come back for it. He also says ‘Remember your father owes me.’ He’s thinking about the taxes, but it’s deeper than that as well.

When William goes, there’s a look of hurt on John’s face, and then it’s thoughtfulness.

King John’s visit to Framlingham in 1213 from Mahelt’s viewpoint.

Alison: Well this feels very different. This feels like stopped in her tracks. Oooof!

I don’t want him here, I told you I don’t want him here! Ooh, she’s very strong-willed. I’ve told you before I don’t want him here. Her face is thunder. Ohh. He will find fault with everything. There is nothing I can do that will satisfy or please him. I know that that will be the case. So why should I bother trying? Oh, she’s so cross. She’s kicking things. She’s picking on people. She’s full of energy. Oooof, spiky. FFW to when he arrives. She’s calmed down. It’s more like she’s glowering from under her eyebrows now. Her mouth is pursed as if it’s trying hard to keep it closed. Oh God, she’s saying ‘I don’t like him for all that he’s done to my father. I don’t like him. He’s a nasty man. I don’t see why we should have him here.’ Who she’s saying this to? Mostly Hugh, but anyone else who’s around. Anyone who’ll listen. She’s not bothered in the least. And she’s so wound up she’s looking daggers at the servants. If they make one wrong move she pounces on them. They have to do everything she says.

There’s real revulsion there. She’s having to swallow down her anger, and almost her sick. She hates the man with a vengeance. John’s coming in and she’s watching him from above. She comes down to meet him.When she was above she was filled with revulsion. She didn’t want to go down there, but she put on this façade and the revulsion evaporated somewhere and she was able to just be the façade which was completely neutral, the diplomat. Mmmm, she can do what her dad did, she can do that.
When she turns to show John the way to his chamber, her face changes completely, so she's not quite like her father. Some elements are like him but the face doesn’t stay. She shows John into the best room and she checks round it with a knowing eye for how everything should look and how everything should be and luckily for the servants it is. She has arranged everything for John’s entertainment. There’s a chess board he can sit at where she puts him right away. There’s a musical instrument – it’s stringed and it’s flat and it’s got two square sides and a bent side, so he can have someone play it. So she shows him all these things and then she’s just about to go and he says ‘Oh no, don’t go, not you.’ ‘Eeugggh,’ she thinks and her spirits sink as she thinks she’s got to stay there. She’s adjusting the candles and the curtains and she says ‘I must go and prepare the dinner. I really need to sort out one or two things.’ So of course John has to reluctantly be gracious and let her go then. She’s muttering all the way down to the kitchen. When she doesn’t like someone, she doesn’t like them. It’s a very cursory look round the kitchen because she knows everything’s okay and I don’t think she’d care very much if it wasn’t. She goes down even further into the cellars. She checks the wine. She has a drink of wine herself. She thinks, ‘Ah, peace and quiet. It’s cool down there. Dark and peaceful. No one will bother her.

Was John fancying her, or was it just part of his usual power games? It’s the same thing, that lecherousness is the same thing to him as power. It’s like spider and a fly. I don’t think he’s enamoured but it’s his way of imposing himself on everything and everybody.

Now Go to 1214 and Ela, wife of William of Salisbury and see a significant interaction between her and King John while Salisbury was a hostage after the disastrous battle of Bouvines.

Alison: This is a very still, self-contained person. I am tempted to say still water that runs deep. Very proper on the surface. She feels things very deeply and in a way that doesn’t always have words, just feelings. It’s as if certain things make the depth of her water fluctuate and change and that’s how she understands the world. If you imagine a very deep, pointed crevice of water, and when John is around, it vibrates the water and it’s like a warning message to her – almost fear. She can sense him, she can sense his predatoriness and his watchfulness. He doesn’t have to say or do anything and it’s just like she picks those feelings up, but she can maintain a courteous surface and do everything right, yet he tries to get round the back of her. He tries to move up closer and this is very uncomfortable because she doesn’t know how to move away from it because she has to not transgress any manners herself, so how do you do that and keep him at bay?

They’re having a meal. Ugggh. It seems like a buffet, it’s not a sit down meal because they’re not sitting at the table. He’s got this shelled egg, hard-boiled, so it’s white. It’s just revolting. He’s trying to get her to swallow it. He’s being very manipulative with it. He’s putting it in her mouth. It’s really unpleasant. He’s being pretend-nice about it. And of course she can’t get the whole thing in her mouth at once so she has to bite down and he just loves that, it’s just all so sensuous. Then she eats the part that she’s got and he’s almost forcing the other half into her mouth and he’s saying how wonderful this egg is and how immaculate. I think it may have been impregnated with something to make it exceptional. She’s gagging after he’s turned away. She’s absolutely gagging, wants to be sick.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

William Longespee

This Sunday in the run up to the publication of TO DEFY A KING, I am publishing some Akashic excerpts concerning William Longespee, bastard half-brother to Hugh Bigod and son of King Henry II.

I used this first excerpt in THE TIME OF SINGING (FOR THE KING'S FAVOR IN THE USA)
Readers might recognise it from the novel. This is where young William Longespee, first sets eyes on his half brother Hugh Bigod.

Alison: I’m with a very still person, or very still at the moment. His energy comes from the heart and it’s raying out from there. He has a very straight back and sits regally as if on a throne, with his chin up. Very straight indeed. This gives him the appearance of looking down on people. He has dark hair which is slightly wavy and thick. It gives the appearance of being darker than it is but I think this is because he himself gives the appearance of being very vivid. Everything about him is deep and rich. He has Ida’s eyes – soft and brown.

Ah, William has the advantage because he’s watching Hugh, who is playing outside. I can see him running, chasing something. It’s a ball game – rugby or football or something similar with manhandling involved. You have to grab the person with the ball to get it off him. Involves tussling and running about. Hugh is being pointed out to William and William looks. When he focuses he really focuses. You can almost see the line drawn between his eyes and the object. Oh, Hugh has lovely muscles William is watching him and seeing how good the lad is at the game and his lively tussle of hair. He’s quite different to William – unrestrained, very natural and has an easy-going mien about him. When the game’s over, he walks off the field with an easy air. William doesn’t approve of that kind of style because he’s been taught that his way is the proper one. And now he looks at his mother who his looking at Hugh with adoration in her eyes and he thinks ‘if she had brought me up, I could have ended up like that. Better the way it is.’

Hugh and Longespee had a very difficult relationship. Here is one of several incidents that caused the ongoing difficulties.

Alison: I can see a beautiful white horse and someone riding it. It’s got a cloth that goes down almost to its knees. That’s beautiful as well. It’s white with vertical stripes on. The vertical stripes accentuate the flare at the bottom and are almost like pleats. There’s gold fringing on the bottom – exquisite. I think these lines are blue - lovely. And then I saw another horse join it. It’s dark with a white flash on its nose. And Hugh seems to be standing watching. I can’t see how he’s involved with this. Just give me a few minutes to sort out what’s happened. It looks like it’s a race. Ohhh! Alison gives a sharp cry of distress. Gasps. ‘Oh God. This really gets to me because I hate it when animals are hurt. It’s really a bit worse than humans. What I saw was that the white horse was being raced against the dark horse. It was Hugh’s horse, a beautiful, beautiful horse. He lent it to Salisbury, and Salisbury was thrashing the life out of it and it fell at full gallop on both front knees. He was pushing it far too hard and riding it dangerously. It was only supposed to be a friendly little match. Salisbury just wanted to have a go and put it through its paces. Sigh. Long silence. Salisbury seems to have got away with it unscathed and just says ‘Oh, you know, Hugh, it’s only a horse. I’ll give you the money to get another.’ So the horse has to be killed? Yes.

But it wasn't terrible all of the time. Now to an incident with Longespee getting on with his Bigod relations

Alison: I can see a carved pole and when I say carved I mean something like a banister post but much longer on its own, and two hands, one up here and one down there (indicates) and two flappy things that come off this carved thing. It’s a musical instrument – like a recorder. I’m just wondering what connection it is with Salisbury. Ah, Salisbury’s listening to it. It’s a woman who’s playing it. Oh, it’s very mellifluous to his ears, it’s very pleasurable. It’s a nice sound, it’s flowing. It doesn’t have any of the staccato sound of a modern recorder. It’s much more mellow. These flappy things are pieces of material that decorate it, like you’d see on a fanfare trumpet, but there are two smaller ones, one at the top and one at the bottom. Aaaah….Oh they’re singing. The people there are singing to it and it’s lovely. Ohhhhhh, Ida’s singing especially. And Roger! The whole family are singing, and it’s just gorgeous. Salisbury doesn’t really know the words but occasionally hums along to it and mostly listens. He only hums along when he’s moved to. It’s not as if he’s got an individual part. They’re all a group together and they’re all part of the performance, part of the experience. Bliss. This he’s never ever experienced before in his life. Nothing like this. He’s got this warm feeling in his stomach and it’s moving about in time to the music. Eventually his voice starts to flow and he really holds the last note fully with everyone else, in fact a little bit over because he doesn’t know the song, so he lengthens the note after everyone’s finished. And everyone’s amused and laughs and claps. In fact he gets an extra clap. It’s a nice experience for him.

Hugh and Longespee together in Ireland in late spring 1210.

Alison: Poof! I got a real sort of pushing in of the stomach which pushed the air out of Hugh. I don’t know what it means. It’s a friendly greeting from Salisbury - sort of ‘Hey there old chap!’

To which Hugh can just respond by patting Salisbury on his back and replying ‘Hey there!’ with what breath he had left. It’s a disarming and drinking session. Food. I can see a spit with fire underneath. It’s getting dark. It’s outdoors. I can hardly believe this from what we have seen in the past, but they’re getting on. They’re lying side by side on the ground, looking at the sky and talking. What their wives will be doing at home now and how they feel about their wives. Salisbury is saying to Hugh, ‘About this time of night I always think of Ela and what she’ll be doing. She’ll be combing her hair and taking off her jewellery and I’ll see her little cherub mouth smiling at me. And then I’ll see all the garment she has to put on. (put on?!) Yes! I can see really beautifully wrought things, but layers. He did have that kind of wry smile as if to say ‘what for?’ and a little bit of frustration. And then she will disappear out of the room. And when she comes back into the room I’ll be warm, and she’ll want to be warm as well. I don’t know if he’s actually able to explain this to Hugh but the feelings that Salisbury has is of her little body next to his. She’s like a little doll with all these layers of freshly laundered linen and her bare feet sticking out and they come out higher up than his where they are sitting because he is taller than her and she’s just lying entwined there with her head under his chin. He says ‘And that’s when I really like it. When I really feel I have a home.’ I get a real resonance in the stomach and a warm glow all through his body. ‘That’s when I know I’m home.’ His eyes water as he looks up at the sky because this is completely different, nothing like home with the hard ground, the open air, no comfort, men all around. Does Hugh reciprocate? Hugh is really sad and taken aback because he hasn’t got any of that now and he just says ‘I know what you mean.’ His feelings are mixed. He’s trying to salvage some of the good things and it’s as if his memories are going backwards and forwards to the good times and the bad times. He’s bringing his focus in very small to avoid that see-sawing of feelings. He’s just bringing it down to a close up of Mahelt’s hair and his thumb through it. He becomes wistful and they are both quiet. Salisbury drops off to sleep and Hugh continues looking at the stars until he too falls asleep.

In this excerpt, Ralph Bigod, Hugh's younger brother, has been captured along with Longespee following the disastrous Battle of Bouvines.

Alison: There’s a lot of discomfort in the solar plexus stomach area. He’s feeling very uncomfortable and miserable. Chin jutting out, the left hand thumping his thigh. He’s keeping very alert. He feels vulnerable. He’s watching everywhere. He’s using the skills of the battlefield in the situation although he hasn’t got his weapons. He feels very vulnerable without his weapons. He’s still in a killing frame of mind and trying to work out ways to kill people. He’s expecting to be killed himself as well. Does he think being Salisbury’s brother might help him out here? He’s got no preconceptions. He’s seen things on the battlefield he wouldn’t have expected. At the end, it doesn’t matter who you are, you can still die. Alison looks for Salisbury. They’re not close together as in side by side; there are a lot of people there. Salisbury is ahead and to his right. When he thinks of Salisbury, he gets another kind of expression on his face. There’s an element of ‘we didn’t quite make it, an element of feeling that he’s let Salisbury down, although there’s a part of him that knows logically he hasn’t, because it was beyond his control, but emotionally he still feels that. It’s not exactly that he’s let him down, that’s part of it. It’s more that he didn’t do enough. He doesn’t feel he’s done everything he should have been able to do. But there again, if he had, he might have been worse off than he is now. Ah! I think it’s about the actual surrender. I don’t think Salisbury was as willing to surrender as Ralph was. Ralph took it as the sensible thing to do, the practical thing. Salisbury was more about what was the right thing to do, the noble thing to do. Does Ralph expect to be ransomed? I’ll need to go further forward. This is just after the battle where everyone is milling about and being sorted out. Ralph’s seen some captives just being stabbed in the stomach and killed just in the sorting out process. Because they weren’t important enough? Yes. Ralph waits his turn. He knows that at least he won’t get stabbed in the stomach. He’ll be hanged or something if they want to get rid of him. They won’t do it straight away, and anyway he’s got his mail shirt on. He doesn’t know if Salisbury will want to own him because of their disagreements. He’s not sure of his standing with Salisbury, and a younger son of a big household doesn’t always warrant good treatment. He’s thinking maybe he should have fought on. He’s looking down at the ground as he’s thinking this. He’s demoralised. It’s damp, but quite warm. Feels like misty rain. He doesn’t care about himself. He’s going to be herded down into some dungeons with some other minor nobles and Salisbury shouts out for him. ‘Hey, he’s my kin.’ They say ‘Which one?’, so Salisbury points him out and they bring him back. He stands alongside and just behind Salisbury. Ralph’s feeling quite numb. He’s given up. He was prepared to just go into oblivion into that dark dungeon. He feels like a nobody, a servant to Salisbury. Feels like depression.

Salisbury however is bearing up well. He’s talking to the guards on an equal basis and even being witty and making a few jokes to make them laugh. He’s saying ‘If you would only give me my sword back I would show you how to do this particular manoeuvre. They reply ‘You won’t catch us on that one!’ Underneath though, Salisbury feels gutted.

He’s let the side down, his noble heritage. It’s terrible for a king to get captured, terrible for the country, and he’s so close to being a king (i.e. the son of one and the brother of one) that it’s not good. He will act nobly in the situation. Such as this has happened before. He will act nobly to his compatriots. He feels it’s up to him to keep up morale. He wants generous quarters and he’s expecting clean sheets on the beds. They’re saying ‘That will all be in good time, sire. Meantime you can stay here.’ So they’re left outside for a long time – in fact all night. They have to call for water for the people who are ailing – for their own wounded. Salisbury is trying to think through the situation, but it’s not one he has much control over. I got the words ‘The ransom will be bloody.’ I don’t understand that. Debate ensues. I am getting the information that the ransom will be in blood as well as money. The price is blood. He’s facing it very realistically. Very grittily and he’s determined. He’s bolstering up the other people, keeping up their spirits. He’s trying in his own way to send down hope and extra provisions to those worse off than himself, those in the dungeons.

The Relationship between Longespee and William Marshal Junior in 1216

Alison. William’s got a smile on his face and he’s looking to the right towards William jnr (Will). There’s a window behind Will and Salisbury is saying ‘Hey lad, come over here and we’ll have a game of dice. So he does, and it’s not just Will who comes over but several others who were with Will. They’re playing something a bit like snap where they get two together and bang them down and cheer and get excited about it. They get to a point where they’re even. Will’s about to shake the dice again when Salisbury puts his hand on him and says ‘That’s where we’ll leave it.’ There’s food and drink coming. It’s a mealtime. You know how Salisbury likes things to be perfect and jewel like and beautiful? Well he sees Will in that role. He’s like amber. He’s like a wrought piece of work. He’s like a proper courtier. Salisbury thinks of him in terms of him (Salisbury) being the royalty and Will the courtier. It’s that kind of perfection for Salisbury. It makes sense to him. It fits in with his way of seeing the world. When they go to have a meal they have a finger bowl and Will’s manners are immaculate. So are Salisbury’s of course. Salisbury appreciates that about Will. They can be on a level with things like that. They can have a laugh. They share the same sense of humour which is not too silly, it’s quite manly, quite proper. Will’s ready to go along with Salisbury, he’s not ready to make waves. However he’s not a pushover, he’ll say what he thinks, but he defers to Salisbury. Actually they got on very well on a personal level. They can share their thoughts which have quite a lot in common. When they’re looking at a situation they often see it in the same way. So the expression in the eyes of each person would be very similar as they’re looking at the same thing.

There are several more excerpts, but since they are woven strongly into the fabric of the novel and might cause big spoiles, I'll leave them in abeyance for the moment. As it is, readers will find many of the above moments woven through the storyline of TO DEFY A KING.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Week 4. Hugh Bigod.

This time around I'm posting a few excerpts about Hugh Bigod and his personality. He's the hero of TO DEFY A KING and I found him to be a charismatic man with a lot on his plate, especially when it came to Mahelt Marshal!

Hugh’s relationship with his father, both as a child and as a young man

Alison: Laughs. Hmmm! He likes running into his father and trying to push him over but at leg level but of course his dad is like a mountain in comparison and he’s got no chance, but it’s good fun. And he especially likes it when his dad’s got armour on and padding. He likes biting the padding, and his father encourages him to do that, to test it, feel how strong it is, how thick it is. See if you can crush the hand guard. It’s all a bit of a game for him, but he enjoys it. And prising fingers up as well. His father plays that game with him and does silly things, so suddenly all his fingers will come up at once and come after him! But ahah, you didn’t get the sword quick enough! I can sense that he and his father have a little drink together as well even from when he was very young. And his father lets him occasionally on the front of the horse. His father likes to challenge him, but challenge him in a much more gentle way than his own father did, he really learned from those lessons of the past.

And their relationship once Hugh is older? Hugh’s very proud of his father and he thinks his father is a man in every respect. Alison laughs. Oh, I can see Hugh looking at Roger’s hat. He’s got a side-slanting hat, sticks well out at the side, and it’s as if when he thinks of his father and he’s proud of his father, he sees the hat as well. He wants to be like his father and at the early stages he felt that he would grow into that role and become that person, but its not happening and it’s probably not in his capacity to do because he’s a very different sort of person. He hasn’t got that steady stillness of purpose that his father’s got. He’s a much softer, artistic, more flexible person. He’s forever seeing the other side of things, the rotations of things, the cycles of things, interrelationships, perspectives.His father is an intelligent man, but is much more clear-cut and can go to the centre of a matter with confidence and knowledge. He builds up different perspectives in order to gain knowledge. Hugh builds up perspectives in order to see how they fit together in cycles. So it’s a different kind of knowledge. It’s a moving, flexible way of looking at things.

A very short extract describing Hugh during the marriage negotiations.

He’s a courtier. He’s a prince of his generation and not contaminated with the political shenanigans of so many barons. He has pale brown curls, blue eyes and dresses very well. He has an eye for clothes, wears a little hat that’s very becoming. It’s a new style and he’s into fashion (but not a fop). He’s a lovely man, likes poetry and he’s interesting to talk to. There’s lots of things to find out about him.

Hugh's favourite horse.

It’s black, glistening black. So smooth and shiny when you run your hand over it. Moves beautifully. When you look at it from a distance it’s perfectly proportioned, the legs and back and head. The head is so well balanced. It’s even tempered and intelligent, but willing to cooperate. Aaah, and it has soft emotions too. When Hugh gives it an apple, it makes its eyes dance. It looks kindly at Hugh, as if he knew and was pleased to have the apple from him. There’s an emotional bond there. The horse knows when Hugh is leaving the stable and doesn’t like Hugh to go away. When Hugh’s there the horse feels comfortable. They act like a team. The horse takes it for granted that Hugh’s there. It’s as though they might not take any notice of each other and take each other for granted, but somehow they know the other’s there, and somehow their movements are coordinated.

Hugh’s very careful with the looking after of the horse – making sure it has the right fodder and grooming. He tries out all the latest techniques that he can. Hugh likes to get the latest harness, but not over the top stuff. It has to have a practical use as well as to be beautiful. It has to be efficient. It has to be lightweight and fit the horse completely. Earlier I could see Hugh rubbing the horse down around the shoulders with a handful of straw. He’s looking at the horse’s knees and hooves. He likes to do that and the horse is really cooperative when he does that. The horse likes its exercise and I can feel it looking out of its stable and stamping its feet. It wants to get out. It likes fresh air. Hugh has taken its blanket off. He’s getting on the horse and they’re going for a bare-back ride. He hasn’t even put the saddle on.

Any idea of the name? (names are difficult to suss) I’ll try to get into Hugh to get the name. Alison is silent for a couple of minutes. Hmmm, well it has a rhythm like

Hefon….It ends in ‘N’ and I think it’s a vowel at the beginning. It could be ‘Ebon, (Alison pronounces it ‘Eh-bon’). I got the sense of ‘ebony’ – Ebon, so black definitely featured in the sense of the word. I say I’ll look up this word in my Anglo-Norman French Dictionary when I get home. Having done so, 'Hebon' is the Anglo French word for ebony.

Hugh's marriage to Mahelt Marshal

! It feels very right to Hugh. His full feeling has gone deeper into his solar plexus as he kneels down and puts his head down in front of his lectern. I can see a cross and I can see that he feels this is a very serious thing now and a very serious commitment. He hadn’t quite appreciated how serious it was, but now he feels in the presence of God and now he feels the responsibility for this little girl beside him. So he still thinks of her as a little girl? Yes. Responsibility for this little being. It’s more than the responsibility of a husband because it’s bringing her up as well. To do that well and then to have a wife and be a husband – it’s major. He feels that it will take up all of his time, even if he had nothing else to do. He feels a bit overwhelmed by the responsibility. He knows what it will take and for a while he feels quite awed. It’s not his usual confidence. Then he refocuses on the words of the sermon and tries to go along with that. He feels a little bit relieved. He smells something and it reminds him of the petals. He thinks ‘that’s how a man should feel on his wedding day.’ Then he thinks of the little girl and he feels quite a disappointment and sadness. Because she’s not a grown woman? Yes. This is not going to be a joyous wedding day. He knows it will come, but the joy of the wedding day is not there for him on that celebratory day. In a way he has to be older than his years to bear that. He thinks it is all for politics and he must try to bear his emotions in that mindset – it is for politics. But it will bear fruit later. He darts a look at her and sees that she is a character and forceful. He sees it just in her eyes. He knows this is no namby pamby person, no wedding in principal, but this is a really strong person. He feels in that moment that together they could fight anything. They could be invincible together. And his heart feels almost vulnerable. Can you qualify that? Because he is letting someone else into his heart. He’s opening his heart to do that, which makes him vulnerable. To make it work they would have to work to the same point of principle and goals. If there was disagreement between them it wouldn’t work, and because she was inside his heart, it would be difficult. But having done that, there’s a true affection there and very much a protection and a sense of ownership – proprietorial. A feeling of blessing her and thanking God. A very holy moment and he seems to accept his fate and be at peace with God. He can take the sacrament and it feels right. And he can watch her take the sacrament and feel concern. I can feel the ring going on her finger. They’ve finished the service and they’ve turned and are going back out of the church and into a courtyard – like a cloister courtyard with shady places to sit and colonnading. People are milling about and there’s wine being brought round.

Some time after the marriage - which wasn't consummated at the time due to Mahelt's very young age.

Alison. Hugh is doing some writing and he’s banged his pen down. He can’t concentrate. He’s pacing about the room – not a very big room but with a couple of windows in it. It’s like a tower room. He’s looking out of the windows although he’s not right up against them and he’s distracted. He’s thinking about the horses in the field and the cows, but mainly the horses. He is thinking that they just go ahead and do it, no time schedule on them. Why should it be different for him? Now he’s thinking darkly and deeply, which is very unusual for Hugh. It’s about his physical needs. He imagines the feel of Mahelt's hair, the dark smoothness winding round him. That’s what he’s sensing. I comment how erotic hair could be to a man of that period because it was all you’d get a chance of seeing in the day to day – and even then you’d be lucky and it was a husband’s privilege! It’s like a whirpool going down, dark, twined round with skeins of hair. He’s trying to write again and he can’t do it. He’s slammed his pen down again and this time he doesn’t want to go back to it. He wants to get out of the room. He wants to go riding in the wild. It’s very frustrating because he knows he’s got other things to do and he doesn’t want to be driven in this way. He’s starting to think that he needs to do something about it.

Hugh's reaction to the birth of his son.

Alison: Oooh, now Hugh. Oh! Pleased as punch! He’s pushing his right shoulder up and his head and his nose are up. And his hat is at a sort of slant because he’s got his head so high! He’s proud as punch! That’s the feeling with him. I need to just stay with that for a while to find out when he first saw the baby. Yes, I can see him looking at Roger (baby is called after granddad!) and he’s tickling him with his index finger, just around the chin. And Roger is laughing, smiling at him and waving his little arms about and going like this with his arms as if to catch the thing that’s tickling him. He’s a sweet baby. Hugh keeps looking up at Mahelt but he’s fascinated by the baby. He can’t believe that he’s created something so miraculous and wonderful. He’s just got this smile from ear to ear. In his own fairly quiet way he’s over the moon. He’s speechless. He wants to pick Mahelt up and fling his arms round her and just spin round with her, but he daren’t in case it hurts her….No, just a minute, he is! He’s doing that.

I asked to see Hugh’s reaction later on to the birth of his daughter Isabelle.

Alison: Oh this is different for Hugh! His head lurched back. I think he’s just heard the news. I’ll see if I can find out what’s happening. He’s been told the news by a woman. He wasn’t quite expecting that, I think that’s the sudden surprise. He’s used to having boys. He nods and asks if she’s well i.e. healthy. He’s told ‘Yes, my lord, very strong and well limbed.’

‘And my wife?’

The woman says ‘She’s recovering.’ And then Mahelt shouts from inside the room. (breaking protocol a bit!)

‘I’m all right, I’m all right.’

He replies ‘Oh my love, you do well, and I will send you….’ And then I saw flowers and cloves (gillyflowers are strongly clove-scented?) and I hear ‘Marguerites’ and I see fabric with flowers on, white daisy flowers. And ‘I will see you anon, keep well for me.’ He has an initial impulse that he wants to go in to see her, but it quells and then he’s back to his more relaxed self.

He’s with his sons who are playing. Alison ‘loses the picture’ for a moment. I ask her to go to where Hugh first meets his new daughter. He’s looking into her eyes; he’s looking into Isabelle’s eyes. They’re blue. It’s as if he’s looking deep, deep into her eyes and she’s doing the same to him. And he says ‘My daughter’ and he kisses her on the forehead. She’s wrapped in swaddlings and he has her cradled on his arm, and he runs the forefinger of his other hand down the centre of her body, stroking. He says ‘She’s lovely.’ It’s a very deep, instinctual feeling, an ancient feeling. It makes him feel even more at peace than usual – it’s deeper than usual. It intensifies his usual calm, thinking about the doors opening and the connections being made. I’m thinking he might be thinking about this in terms of the connections that will eventually be made in relation to her marriage. Aaaaah, this is nice! The ladies want to take her back, but he says ‘It’s all right, you can leave her with me,’ and he sits down still cradling her. Aaaah. He says ‘attend to your mistress, and when he goes in to see Mahelt, he’s carrying the baby. Mahelt says ‘She’s lovely isn’t she?’ and he says ‘I know.’ He kisses her on the side of the forehead and I can see that her hair is plaited so they must have done it up again afterwards. She says ‘Let me hold her.’ So Mahelt wants to hold her as well. She says ‘She’s got your nose. And he says ‘I hope she has your sweet nature.’ Amused looks from me and Alison, as Mahelt may be genuine and true and lovely, but she isn’t always sweet natured! Alison thinks that Hugh is truly besotted with Mahelt and does think she has a sweet nature. He kisses her on the other temple. It’s getting to feeding time, so Hugh, rather reluctantly, gets shooed out. What about the brothers seeing their sister? What about ‘Whizzy’ Roger?

Alison goes into Whizzy Roger’s mindset. Oh yes! Oh! Hopping up and down, one foot after the other. ‘And me, and me Daddy!..... Ugggh! yuk! What? That’s what he says. He takes one look at her face and says ‘Ugggh yuk! She got white flakes on her – Ugggh! She’s got lips that go (Alison demonstrates smacking sounds). Euwww!

He thinks he’ll go and play being a standard bearer because obviously this so boring and why people get worked up about babies he can’t understand. It was Hugh who was showing him the baby. He was standing up with the baby and Roger couldn’t quite see, so he was hopping up and down to have a look, had a look, having to really stand on tip-toe and peer over, went ‘yuk’ and immediately ran off to play with his standard.

Hugh learning of the death of King John

Now to Hugh receiving the news of John’s death. There’s a horrible smell. Pooh! Alison recoils. It’s not as if even my nose can smell it, I just know it’s there. My face sort of rebounded from it. I felt it was like something burning, charred. Then there was this rotting smell, then this gooey rotting smell. Just horrible. I would guess some sort of war has been going on. Hugh is heaving. He has to keep a cloth and spit into it every now and again and to hold against his face as he goes around issuing orders. There’s smoke in the air. Eeeuwww, horrible sights. Bodies of people and animals slit open, rotting. The red of fire and blood. It’s just all horrible. He’s giving orders to people to do the burying and clearing up. FFW to when he receives the news of John’s death. Oh, there’s a boy who I thought was bringing the news because he knelt down in front of Hugh, but then he just keeled over. He had his hands tied behind his back. Oh God. Alison covers her face with her cardigan. Oh God! I’ve got detach a bit. What they’ve done to this little boy – he’s a prisoner. He’s been tortured. He’s the one who says that the king has died. And they’ve tortured him to make sure that it’s true. They’ve grabbed his hair and pulled his head back and asked him again ‘Tell him what you’ve told us. That the King is dead.’ And Hugh’s reaction to this? Hugh kicks the boy in the stomach. ‘Little squirt.’ He has this feeling towards the boy because he represents part of the contingent that did all this damage. He’s holding him responsible. He’s the only bit he can get hold of. Then he turns away. He’s disgusted. Thinking ‘All this for nothing. Gone.

Hugh's reaction to the death of King John

Alison: Goes to Hugh finding out about John’s death. Hmmm, he’s got a cynical look on his face with the left side of his mouth curved, almost twisted. There’s a feeling distaste and harshness there. This is not the soft side of Hugh that we’ve seen before, it’s a hardened side of him, hardened through experience. He’s saying ‘I’ll never stop fighting, never. For the honour of my family, for the safety of my family, until I’m sure I’m on safe ground and I have proper recompense. Not until I have a written guarantee. Until I get that I can’t go back because I am not on firm ground and when I am not on firm ground, I can fall through so easily just like that and be lost forever. I’d rather be lost fighting knowing that I’ve done my best to save myself than to fall through the earth with untrustworthy people and shifting situations. I can’t trust to those. I must trust only to my own arm and the people around me who I trust. He’s thinking all the time of Mahelt in the sense of defending her and his family. It feels like a harsh, thin steel which is not particularly to his taste, not what he would choose for himself, but this is something he has to do.

From Matthew Paris

On September 21st he (John) set out to begin the work for which he had come from the west. The story of that day and the next as told by Matthew Paris – how the king went first to Oundle and thence to the other manors of the Abbey of Peterborough, burning the houses and barns; how he passed on to Crowland and bade Savaric de Mauleon fire the abbey church and the village while he himself stood at a distance to watch the blaze; how Savaric yielded to the monks’ prayer for mercy, and accepted from them as the price of their escape, a sum of money which he brought back to John, and how the furious king, after overwhelming his too placable lieutenant with abuse, helped with his own hands to fire the harvest fields, running up and down amid the smoke and the flames till the whole territory of St. Guthlac was a blackened desert…..After that John sent his mercenaries into the Isle of Axholme with fire and sword…. ‘From Lincoln northward to Grimsby, and thence south again to Spalding, the Lincolnshire fields – now at the beginning of October, all white to harvest – were given to the flames and the houses and farm buildings sacked and destroyed by the terrible host with the king at its head.’

Hugh deciding what to do now John is dead.

Alison: Hmmm, he’s got a cynical look on his face with the left side of his mouth curved, almost twisted. There’s a feeling distaste and harshness there. This is not the soft side of Hugh that we’ve seen before, it’s a hardened side of him, hardened through experience. He’s saying ‘I’ll never stop fighting, never. For the honour of my family, for the safety of my family, until I’m sure I’m on safe ground and I have proper recompense. Not until I have a written guarantee. Until I get that I can’t go back because I am not on firm ground and when I am not on firm ground, I can fall through so easily just like that and be lost forever. I’d rather be lost fighting knowing that I’ve done my best to save myself than to fall through the earth with untrustworthy people and shifting situations. I can’t trust to those. I must trust only to my own arm and the people around me who I trust. He’s thinking all the time of Mahelt in the sense of defending her and his family. It feels like a harsh, thin steel which is not particularly to his taste, not what he would choose for himself, but this is something he has to do.