How historical do I need my historical fiction to be? or History Manners 101

How historical do I need my historical fiction to be? or History Manners 101

On a number of history sites that I belong to, I find a frequent (actually almost constant) reference to authors who write fiction which is meant to be historical. I’m stating right now that I need the fiction I read to be *very* historically accurate (assuming that it is a period which has historical sources to use and compare). I don’t mind imaginative recreation of events where there is nothing in the historical record (or in the case where the author expressly explains why the changes were made), but I detest the current habit of certain current and [overly] popular authors to defame reputations of historical characters without reason. A female author I’m thinking of, who is currently ruining the War of the Roses for me(one of her books is The White Queen), is the most notorious in my eyes. She has also taken to calling herself a historian, which she is not and which confuses people into thinking that whatever she writes is “true”.
In a way I’m torn, because I want people to get interested in history by any means available; and I like to encourage people to read anything. Some people do come to love history through fiction that isn’t always accurate. I grew up on Jean Plaidy’s (also known as Philippa Carr and Victoria Holt) historical fiction, and devoured her works. I have since learned that facts are frequently different than the scenerios she created for her historical characters, so I don’t read her as much as I used to…. but I did learn to read non-fiction about the historical periods that she and other fiction authors covered. I also learned to read *different historians*, so that I could get an even-handed picture of the historical events being depicted.
I was lucky; I was raised by parents and relatives who adored history, and were interested in finding out the truth about historical topics that interested them. Dad also taught me to think for myself, and to question what I read. He taught me to examine different authors to get different viewpoints (both fiction and non-fiction). One major example is his respect for Richard III when most people (even one of his sisters) assumed that Richard III was the monster portrayed in Shakespeare’s works. Dad loved Shakespeare, but I noticed he never bothered with the play Richard III:-)
I love history in general, but my specific area of historical interest is 16th century England and Europe with some fascination in those regions in the medieval period as well. My Richard III-oriented father never could figure out how he produced a child who could be so fascinated by the Tudor dynasty; he couldn’t stand the Tudors. By the way: when I say “the Tudors”, I DO NOT mean that ridiculous show that was aired a few years ago (with a short dark-haired male playing Henry VIII, a man known for being over 6 foot and red-headed!!! I have an even bigger problem with the blasted t.v. series based on the certain female author’s “fantasy” of what the War of the Roses was supposed to be like.
Getting an idea that I have some rather strong views on reading history: fiction or non-fiction?:-)? That I do; that I do! I must admit that. I confess that I am probably a history “snob” – I never mean to be, but the trait does show itself more than I’d like. I do try to make a point, though, of not putting someone down because they have a different opinion from me – or at least I never intend to put anyone down (I have to be careful though, since my sense of humor tends to be facetious or even acerbic, and is easily misunderstood). I am not always correct, and I have begun to forget things over the years. I also hate demeaning other people who are truly trying to learn about history. I don’t like being told that I’m an idiot or stupid because I disagree on a topic, so I won’t do it to others.
Having said that: I also need to say that I don’t believe that everyone or anyone who disagrees with me is insulting me; rarely do I feel personally attacked during history discussions. I welcome the chance to learn more; even on topics that I have read about for over 40 years. One can always learn new facts, and over the years historical sources come to light that weren’t known when I first started learning history, and reading historical fiction. When I am on history sites, I do my best to thank those who provide a different perspective than I have previously considered, because I truly appreciate their input and feedback.
This is where the History Manners 101 comes in: when discussing historical topics and authors on history sites. Some can be rather contentious, and I try to stay off of those. Most that I belong to go to great lengths to keep conversations polite and courteous, and I am truly grateful for those sites.
I have learned (over time, and after mistakes) that if I am particularly upset by a topic (or particular answer) or conversation, then it is best if I get off the internet, and *NOT EVEN THINK* of responding to the post or posts that have aggravated me. Each time I forget that rule and post, I *deeply* regret it.
I was taught throughout my childhood and life that one learns best when encouraged and praised. I do my best to do that, with the understanding that I will mess up as well. A gentle answer is always more helpful than slamming someone for disagreeing… and I need to remind myself of that when I am responding to the opinions of others; historical or not. I enjoy discussions about historical fiction and non-fiction; I enjoy them even more when those discussions maintain respectful boundaries and attitudes. I am always embarrassed and upset with myself when I learn that I may have (or definitely did) break the rules of civility.
This brings me back to my first point: I may disagree (strongly, sometimes) on the worth of the work of certain authors of historical fiction, but I do my best to respect the feelings of those who like those very same authors. My deepest apologies when I fail to follow through with that premise.
I love historical fiction and enjoy various authors. My idea of a “perfect” book of historical fiction is one where those characters who are based on real people are treated with respect, and with a sense of who they might have really been and why they may have acted as they did. I want to understand their quandaries and situations. I want to get a sense of what might have driven them. When fictional characters are introduced, I like to see them behave in ways that would have been realistic for the period in which they have been place. I seriously dislike anachronistic behavior (though an exception would be a male character who treats females better than most men of the historical period would treat women – always appreciate that!)…
Happy reading, and I hope more and more people find their way from historical novels to a love of history in general, while continuing to love historical fiction. As one person said: read, read, read. I would add read different authors and explore different views of the history covered by those authors.

Advertisements

Lord, My King, I trust you in everything (to the tune of Greensleeves/What child is this?)

I wrote this hymn in the Lenten period following my mother’s death.  I gave it as a gift to my local church, which supported me in so many ways during that time of pain and anxiety. I hope to get this published by a music publisher; if I do, I want the proceeds to go to New Hope Methodist Church in Winston-Salem as a thank you.

Lord, My King, I trust You in everything.

Chorus: 

Lord, Lord, I follow you in sorrows deep or joys unknown;                                                                                                                    Lord, Lord, I trust in You throughout my life-long days.

Verse 1:

Oh Lord, my King, I trust in You, through valleys deep and fears untold;  I trust in You, Lord, despite all fears, and lean on You forever.

Chorus….

 

Verse 2:                                                                                                                                                                                                 My King, my Lord, You rescue you me from traps and snares laid out for me; Yet following you I cannot fail, no matter what be-fell me.

Chorus….          

 

Verse 3:

Oh, Lord, in all You give to me to use or bear, I seek to share.  To show your love to all around, and let them know Your peace.

Chorus….

 

Verse 4:      

Oh Lord, my God. You comfort me when struggles seem too strong to bear, and lift me up from valleys deep, to climb Your heights of joy.

Chorus….

 

Verse 5: [new]

Oh, Jesus Lord, you give me hope that in my life I’ll serve you true. You give me purpose and great joy and let me in Your presence.

 

Chorus:

Lord, Lord, I follow You in sorrows deep or joys unknown; Lord, Lord, I trust in you throughout my life-long joys.Image

 

         

 

Katherina von Bora finds herself a husband

Katherina von Bora finds herself a husband

16th Century Germany. Saxony. A marriage is celebrated on June 13th, 1525. Husband is 41, wife is 26. So what’s the big deal? Could fit any number of marriages of that time; what makes this one different? The bride is a nun who escaped from a convent because she had come to agree with the new Protestant theology that is spreading across not only Germany, but across Europe as well. The groom? The theologian who has been spreading that new theology across Germany and Europe; oh, and the groom is a former monk. Their names are Katherina von Bora, and Martin Luther.
Katherina had been a nun since she was a child. Her father took her to a convent when she was 5; by 9, she was a nun. She was approximately 23 or 24 when she and some fellow nuns decided to escape the convent. There was a law in place that threatened potential death if one was caught taking a nun from a convent. Martin Luther was told of these potential female converts, and made the decision to assist them in getting out of the convent despite the risks.
Over the course of the next two years or so, Dr, Luther found husbands (or other homes) for every nun except one. Katherina von Bora still didn’t have a spouse two years after she got out. Some of Luther’s male friends and colleagues weren’t particularly surprised; to them, Katherina von Bora was entirely too feisty, “bossy”, and a female who didn’t know her place. This isn’t to say that Katherina hadn’t had possible suitors, but for one reason or another they didn’t follow through with marriage. With one, the parent’s didn’t approve; with another, Katherina didn’t approve!
Luther was probably thinking of tearing his hair out at that point, but Katherina gave him a clue towards a possible solution: she informed the Herr Professor Rev. Dr. Martin Luther that she would consent to marry one or the other of two theologians she was acquainted with. One was a colleague of his; the other was him. The saying: “I wish I was a fly on the wall for that conversation”? – oh, yes! I would have really LOVED to have been that fly on that particular wall for that conversation!:-)
To his everlasting credit (in my eyes, anyway), it didn’t scare Martin Luther off. Some of his friends (such as Philip Melancthon) were horrified at the thought of “this female” becoming the wife of their dear friend and colleague… and felt free to let Martin know it. Martin himself, though, seemed to think it might be a good idea, and talked to his father about it. His father, who had never wanted his son to be a monk in the first place, was delighted with the idea…. and urged his son to take the potential bride at her word. So on a June day in 1525, Katherina and Martin were married in a very small ceremony, with his parents and a few friends present (by the way: Philip Melanchton was NOT one of the guests….).
Some have wondered if Martin and Katherina were actually in love with each other when they married; they may not have been, but they certainly fell in love with each other at some point in their marriage. Katherina, the feisty reddish-haired former nun ended up with the very man whose writings had prompted her to leave the convent in the first place. They did live happily ever after, until his death 22 years and 6 children (four surviving into adulthood)later. Oh they had frustrations and pain, but not between them: Martin and Katherina were very happily married, and shared a great deal of love and respect and trust between themselves.
Martin bragged on his wife’s efficiency in running their household (along with their own children, they took in orphaned family members and young religious scholars), to the despair of those male friends who couldn’t grasp the concept of a female being allowed to “boss” her husband. Martin didn’t seem to think it was bossing: he just acknowledged that Katherina was a heck of a lot better at finances and other practical matters than he was. She allowed him to have more time to work on his writings and teaching and preaching; he appreciated that.
Some over the centuries have condemned Katherina von Bora for being a bossy shrew; Martin certainly didn’t think so. Some over the centuries have hurled the accusation of male chauvinism at Martin because of some of his writings; that could be true, except that his actions in his marriage and affectionate regard for his wife showed quite the opposite. Sometimes a man’s actions reveal more depth than a man’s words.
The marriage may have been quiet and simple, but the reaction to it was anything but. There was a huge furor when the news leaked out. Many of the leading theologians and rulers in German lands, and all over Europe, were positively aghast that a former monk and nun would dare to marry. It was considered to be a scandal; certainly among Catholics, but among Protestants as well (including certain of Martin’s friends – who not only didn’t like the marriage, but didn’t like the bride either). On the other hand, it also gave hope to those who were opposed to the idea that clergy couldn’t marry. It established a historical precedent; some Lutheran male ministers have complained that the Catholics have enforced clergy celibacy, but Lutheran pastors have to deal with enforced clergy marriage — well not every one can be happy.
Luckily, for Katherina, the husband that she picked for herself was just the right man for her; a man who was very much her equal, and who showed that he considered her his true partner in marriage. Luckily for history, one of the very first marriages of a member of the clergy proved to be VERY successful and VERY happy.
Happy 489th Anniversary to Katherina and Martin Luther! It’s nice to be able to celebrate a happy marriage once in a while:-) This has always been one of my favorite marriages in history (other than my own parents, of course!); and I think it shows Martin Luther’s most appealing attributes. Katherina has a warm place in my heart: a woman in the 16th century not only picking her own spouse, but picking a man who truly appreciates and honors her for herself:-)