I’m not sure what calls to me so strongly from the Middle Ages, but whatever it is has done so my entire life. I think it may be rooted in the stories I devoured when I first started reading. Myths, folk stories from different cultures, tales of Knights of the Round Table– they all captured my imagination. It was a different, fascinating world where anything was possible—in theory. Throughout school, history was a favorite subject, and I loved to delve into the events—and lives of the people—of the past.
As I did so, I recognized that the knightly tales of derring-do from my childhood were set amidst times of turmoil, deprivation of the many and reward of the few. I usually root for the underdog, so when my studies introduced me to mercenaries and the bad reputation many of them enjoyed (and they probably did enjoy them), I immediately thought, “But they all must not have been bad. What of the ones who fought to better themselves and didn’t practice cruelty?”
Life was not easy for most people. In the eyes of society at that time, bettering oneself usually meant acquiring land. Few folks had the means or opportunity to do so. Later in the Medieval period, landed-society’s restrictions didn’t allow for commoners to aspire to knighthood, except for very limited exceptions. But in the earlier days, it wasn’t all that unusual for a commoner to rise by reason of bravery, strength, and audacity. All but one of my stories have featured such mercenaries who strive to better themselves by acquiring power and land.
My attention was hooked on one mercenary leader in particular–Mercadier, who was a right-hand warrior for King Richard I (Richard the Lionheart), who rules in the era in which my stories have been set. I was much taken with Mercadier and my imagination had insisted he was a loyal servant, etc., etc. And in that imagination he grew to be an example of the mercenaries who rose from mediocracy to power….
AND THEN– came the disillusionment. In my research, I discovered he did something truly awful. Richard I died from infection caused by a lucky cross-bow shot while he was besieging a castle. The doctor who treated the wound (it turned out to be Mercadier’s own physician) bungled the job and Richard subsequently died. Before his death, though, he pardoned the crossbowman who fired the fatal shot.
However, Mercadier ignored Richard’s word and had the bowman flayed. Well, you can imagine how disappointed I was! MY mercenaries would never do anything that dishonorable. Even in anger. So my heroes, most of whom as I said are mercenaries, are all my exceptions to the rule of cruel and opportunistic barbarians.
Well, I’ve strayed a bit from trying to explain why I love my medieval world–but as a former professor used to say, “It’s all to the point.”
I hope you love the tales of bygone eras–romanticized as they might be by some of us authors. Along those lines we like to see our heroes powerful, brave and understanding and with heroines to match.
All my stories feature strong women, not at all the norm of the period. Yet discoveries tell us there were more strong women than we realize, although most of them were wed or in the church. I imbue my heroines with strength of character given the times in which they lived.
I love creating the stories of strong heroines we women would like to be and of heroes we’d love to live for.
NOTE: Be sure to visit my fellow Medieval Monday Roses (The Wild Rose Press) Mary Morgan and Anastasia Abboud . They always have something interesting planned. You can find them here:
8 thoughts on “MEDIEVAL MONDAY: STUCK IN THE PAST AND LOVING IT”
Ah, Barbara, what a wonderful post. I recall a historian who once told me any historical event is shaped by the bard who is weaving the tale. I don’t believe there were many female medieval bards. 😉 And I love your stories! Happy Medieval Monday!
Thank you, Mary. I appreciate you, my friend 🙂
Fascinating. I’m sure it’s fun to research that time period. But I definitely would not have wanted to live back then. 🙂
Very true, Alicia! I used to think it would be romantic to have done so…until I got older and realized just what ‘wouldn’t’ be available–like toilet paper, LOL.
The women may have been stronger than history would have us believe. History is written ordinarily by the winners who would have a vested interest in keeping their women docile and at home ! I believe they had to be strong simply to survive living with the men of the time and often living without them while they were off on crusades of one type or another. Those women had to keep everything running so those heroes had something to come home to. Just my observation. Happy Monday!
Great points, Kim. I absolutely agree. When the guys were off fighting, who held down the ‘fort’ ? Thanks for stopping by and for the insight. Have a good week, my friend.
Love it, Barb! I have to admit, I’ve never thought of mercenaries as particularly sympathetic characters. 🙂 But I’m with you when it comes to rooting for the underdog and, like you, I’ve always found medieval history fascinating.
Your books beautifully reflect your knowledge of and interest in the medieval era. I absolutely love your strong heroines and heroes. The Lady of the Forest is one of my favorites.
Wishing you a wonderful Medieval Monday and a great week ahead! Hugs!
Oh, Anastasia! You are so sweet. Thank you, and right back at you for Tremors! Love the book and I look forward to your next one! Have a wonderful week.
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