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Historical Note, Days of Sun and Glory

Historical Note, Days of Sun and Glory

While Adam de Guirande and his wife Kit are fictional beings, the political events depicted in this novel are not.When Roger Mortimer escaped from the Tower in 1323, Edward II and Despenser went into a frenzy. It became paramount to cleanse the realm of England of any potential traitors, a.k.a. Mortimer supporters, and so a large number of men were hauled before the assizes, in many cases subjected to crippling fines, but just as often found guilty of treason and executed. Edward was taking no chances, and when he learnt that Mortimer had been welcomed by the French king, one can to some extent understand if this led to him being suspicious of his wife – who also happened to be the French king’s sister.

Things weren’t helped by the infected situation in Gascony. In principle, Edward found himself at war with France – yet again, his French wife was viewed with some suspicion. This may be one of the reasons behind Edward’s decision to deprive Isabella of her income in 1324, but in retrospect all he managed to do was alienate his wife, even more so when he exiled her French retainers, some of whom had been with her since she first arrived in England in 1308.

The war in Gascony went from bad to worse. Charles de Valois crushed the English forces, and when faced with the possibility of losing his French lands, Edward had no option but to treat for peace. Suddenly, his French wife became an asset again, which was why she was sent to France in early 1325 to negotiate with her brother.
Whether or not Mortimer and Isabella were already in contact at the time is difficult to judge. I have taken the liberty of suggesting they were – I wanted there to be an element of cloak-and-dagger. Whatever the case, Mortimer was definitely in contact with other disgruntled Englishmen, and as the Despensers tightened their stranglehold on England, growing ever happier and fatter, the grumblings grew.

Having Isabella in France may have been an irritant to Edward, but in herself she posed little danger to him – the same goes for Mortimer, who would have found it difficult to raise an army to invade England on his own. It was only when Edward chose to send his son, Edward of Windsor, to France to do homage in his place that Isabella got her hands on the weapon required to bring down the hated Despensers – and her husband. The heir to the English throne arrived in France invested with the Duchy of Aquitaine, which in itself generated an important revenue stream. More importantly, the prince’s hand in marriage could be bartered for men and ships. And finally, with the young prince at her side, Isabella could paint the invasion as a legitimate venture, intended to release the poor English from the triple yoke of king and two Despensers.

Obviously, Edward was fully aware of the fact that he took a risk when sending over his son. In fact, right up to the date of departure he dithered, one day deciding he would go himself, the other saying he would send his son. Hugh Despenser pleaded with him not to go – he was fearful for his own safety should the king leave him behind. Probably a correct assessment, and ultimately Hugh’s fear convinced the king to stay home. Bad, bad decision, in retrospect.

Some of the portrayed events in Days of Sun and Glory are entirely fictitious, starting, of course, with Adam’s and Kit’s adventures. Likewise, I have never heard Prince Edward tried to scale a gatehouse, nor have I ever read he sickened in the autumn of 1324 – but I am thinking the poor boy suffered from the growing tension between his parents and maybe this would have led to physical symptoms. Also, Despenser did offer a substantial reward to whoever would bring him proof of Mortimer’s death, but he was not, as far as I know, ever foolish enough to slip over to France to attempt to accomplish this himself. But then Despenser was not a coward, so maybe he did…

Other events may seem taken out of a novel but did happen: Walter Stapledon did berate Isabella before the entire French court, and she did respond by saying she felt three were a crowd – at least in a marriage. Yes, Roger Mortimer did say he’d rather kill Isabella than have her return to Edward. I am assuming this was him expressing his passionate love for her – her son would later construe events as Roger threatening Isabella. And yes, Stapledon did meet his death in London, his head sawed off by a bread-knife.

As to settings, I have taken some liberties: as an example, King Edward spent April (and Easter) 1325 in King’s Langley, not Westminster.

While I hope I’ve managed to breathe life into Adam de Guirande, his wife Kit, his brother Will and all the rest of the Guirande household, these are invented characters as is Godfrey of Broseley. Richard de Monmouth, Kit’s brother, did exist – but I have chosen to give him a family he would probably not have recognised. At all.