On the twelfth night of the new millennium (6th January 1600) Queen Elizabeth I entertained the Russian Ambassador, Grigori Ivanovich Mikulin, to a sumptuous banquet at the Palace of Whitehall in London. The Russian gentleman was highly impressed by the English queen and wrote a detailed account of the event for his master, Prince Boris Fedorovich, Tsar of all Russia. The English Muscovy Company had fought hard to forge trade links with this strange and distant land and wanted to consolidate their lucrative treaties with a memorable performance of state pomp and ceremony. Sadly, poor Grigori wasn’t invited to take part in any of the entertainments which followed the banquet, due to his lack of understanding the English and their manners.
At least that was the opinion of another foreign guest who wrote an eyewitness account of the same event – Don Virginio Orsino, Duke of Bracciano. In a letter to his uncle, the Grand Duke of Tuscany, he described how the Muscovite ambassador would have been beheaded by his Tsar if he’d failed to eat in the Queen’s presence but also noted that the ambassador wasn’t amongst the ‘honoured’ guests conducted into a public hall after the banquet ended. ‘As soon as her majesty was set at her place, many ladies and knights began a grand ball. When this music came to an end, there was a mingled comedy with pieces of music and dances, and this too I am keeping to tell by word of mouth.’
The ‘mingled comedy’ he mentions was Twelfth Night, by William Shakespeare. It was likely written and performed, this first time, in honour of Orsino. You might expect the Duke to note how he was immortalised by the playwright or that his character spoke those hauntingly beautiful opening lines –
If music be the food of love, play on;
Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.
However, it appears Her Majesty barely allowed the Italian gentleman time to concentrate during the play’s performance, ‘I stood ever near her majesty… she withal caused a stool to be fetched for me; and although she willed me a thousand times to sit, I would however never obey her. She conversed continually with me; and when the comedy was finished, I waited upon her to her lodgings, where there was made a most fair collation, all of confections.’
Wouldn’t it be delicious to discover what the writer thought of his audience and whether William took an active role in his new creation? Personally I wouldn’t think he could resist.
Painting of Whitehall from St James Park – before it was destroyed in the fire of London.
I’m adding this to my book list
The coastguard’s residence Chamber Cottage, which sits high up on the North Yorkshire cliffs overlooking The North Sea, holds many dark secrets.
Alec and Peggy are struggling to overcome their marital problems. Both damaged by problems from their childhoods, they are trying to get on with their lives. But this is hard for them to do when they both believe they are being watched. As a result, Peggy, who has terrible scars on her face, becomes more agoraphobic.
To make matters worse, Peggy discovers her estranged mother is stalking both she and Alec, claiming she has a dark secret that is putting Peggy in danger.
What caused the scars on Peggy’s face? Is Alex really the monster Peggy’s mother believes him to be? And what secrets does Chamber Cottage hold?
I loved the setting for this book. It really adds to the atmosphere of the story…
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Can’t wait to read Dig Two Graves by Keith Nixon because I grew up around the badlands of Thanet!
Today I am delighted to have Keith Nixon on my blog as my get to know author. Keith’s latest novel, Dig Two Graves is out today and is available to purchase from Amazon.
I’ve always wanted to write, I started when I was around ten, but never had the stamina to finish a book. I was always a voracious reader, though. I felt I needed an event to drive a story – I started properly writing about twenty years ago, a historical fiction novel about a POW escape from Italy in WW2. It’s still in the sock drawer, but at least I got to the end. Another writing hiatus followed until about fifteen years ago when as a family we visited Maiden Castle and I learned this huge structure was taken by the Romans around 44 – 45AD. Another event to write around. This became The Eagle’s Sword and…
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I hope it’s now abundantly clear why there’s been such a dearth of blogs on my site this past year but just in case you missed the announcement I’ve been otherwise engaged. Books don’t write themselves. In my case it’s taken a lifetime to achieve this goal. Although I thought I would write my first novel soon after leaving school life got sort-of busy and soon there was a mortgage to pay, commitments to fulfil and my dream of writing a novel had to be postponed – no rush, I had all the time in the world.
Then we had a year of disasters – life-changing disasters. Taking time out to write a book was no longer an option – no space available for fulfilling ‘unpaid’ ambitions. For many years times were tough and however much I wanted to write ‘that book’ it never resolved into action. Dreams have a habit of remaining ‘on hold’.
One of the first friends I met after moving to Cumbria was a quietly spoken artist called Liz. A master-silversmith and teacher she won a scholarship to the Royal College of Art where she was paired her with Bruce Oldfield for her final exhibition. However, instead of proceeding as an artist in the Big City, she returned to her parent’s home in Cumbria because she wanted to nurture creativity in local schools. To that end Liz enlisted anyone she thought could help, including me, because she believed passionately that ‘making’ art was essential for achieving fulfilment in life.
Liz died of ovarian cancer in 2008. I miss her gentle passion, her calm resolve, her softly spoken words which prompted those around her first to try, then to do better. She always expected her students to aim high yet never raised her voice or bullied, her ways were far more subtle and enduring.
There isn’t a dedication in The Blood of Kings. It would take more than one page to list everyone who helped towards writing this novel, but I would like everyone to know my friend Liz was the instigator, if not the spur. Bless you girl, wherever you’re hiding.