Archive for May, 2017

Knights Templar

Tuesday, May 30th, 2017

The title of the fourth book, Templar’s Prophecy, in my Lady Apollonia West Country Mystery Series, is based on a mid-14th century encounter in the prologue between an Englishman from Cirencester and a survivor of the Knights Templars. The Templars had ceased to exist as an organisation after 1312.  For the previous two centuries, their order had been a significant force of military monks both in Europe and in the Near East.  Martin Harlech’s encounter was an opportunity for me to bring the Templars into one of my stories.

The Templars originated during the Crusades when they were founded as a Roman Catholic military order in 1119.  The order also became known for building fortifications and churches in England and in Europe as well as developing early forms of banking.  In the early 12th century, the Templars were needed in the Holy Land to protect pilgrims from bandits and other marauders as they sought to make their way inland to the Holy City of Jerusalem.

Originally the order was known as the Poor Knights of Christ and the Temple of Solomon because they were granted headquarters in a palace on the Temple Mount, thought to have been built over the ancient Temple of Solomon.  This led to the abbreviated name, Knights Templar.  They accumulated extraordinary wealth over two centuries which led the French king in1307 to seize Templar assets, torture forced confessions from individuals, and burn Templars at the stake, which destroyed the order.  By 1312, the pope disbanded the order.

My husband and I encountered evidence of the Templars in various places during our travels.  In 1993, for example, we ran across several examples in the United Kingdom.  In Bristol, we found the ruins of a Templar church.  There is also the Templar church in London from which the Temple district gets its name.  We have visited this church several times and one of the effigies in that church, shown above, was used on the front cover of my book.

On a visit to Scotland in 1993, we visited Roselyn Chapel near Edinburgh and found that there were legends about a connection this 15th century chapel had with Knights Templars after the organisation was eliminated in 1312, but we found no solid evidence to support this claim.  We did find an example of a Templar fortification in Ponferrada, Spain, when we passed through that town on our way to visit Santiago de Compostelo in 2002.

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Links to buy Memento Mori

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017

NOTE: The blog which follows was posted yesterday, May 23, 2017.  Today I was notified that the a typographical error was discovered in an ISBN number inside the book.  This has stopped the distribution of the paperback version of Memento Mori through either Amazon or Barnes and Noble.  It is still available through Lulu Press.

When the paperback version of Memento Mori is again available through Amazon or Barnes and Noble, I will re-post the information given below.

Meanwhile, the ebook distribution is not affected.

For the last two months, I have been posting articles on this blog related to Memento Mori, the third novel written in my Lady Apollonia West Country Mystery Series.  This story is set in Gloucester, England, in 1392.  If you have enjoyed reading the posts about medieval Gloucester and have not yet read my story, this might be a good time to order it.


The paperback can be ordered online
from Amazon by clicking

or from Barnes and Noble by clicking

or from Lulu Press on sale by clicking


The ebook can be ordered online
from Amazon on sale for the Kindle by clicking

or from Barnes and Noble for the Nook by clicking

or from itunes for Apple devices by clicking

or for Kobo devices by clicking


Happy reading!

Bubonic Plague

Tuesday, May 16th, 2017

Memento Mori, the third of my Lady Apollonia West Country Mysteries, begins with a journey by Laston, the squire of Lady Apollonia’s fourth son, Sir Alban.  Laston has returned to England bringing with him the heart of Alban who died of the plague while fighting with the Teutonic Knights against the Slavs.  Laston must continue his search for the Lady Apollonia because in Aust he learns that she is not there but is currently living in Gloucester.  The young squire wants to tell her what has happened to her son and to bring her the only part of Alban’s remains that he could return from the continent.

The most common form of the plague is the bubonic plague.  This disease apparently came out of Asia and swept across Europe in several waves in the 14th century beginning in 1347 as shown in the map.  It killed an estimated 50 million people in Asia, Europe, and Africa.  Death often resulted in just a matter of days or even hours.  Although Alban died on the continent, England was not exempt from the pandemic which wiped out a third to a half of its population.  It is also possible that bubonic plague in the 14th century was supplemented by some other form of infection which caused death even more quickly than bubonic plague.

It took most of Europe until the 18th century just to return to former levels of population and caused great economic consequences.  Common labourers became more valuable because of the shortage created by the pandemic.  The plague pandemic was so important to life in 14th century England that I could not ignore a description of it in my series of mystery stories.

The plague was not well understood in medieval times.  The pandemic later came to be called the Black Death.  Sometimes victims developed gangrene, leading to skin dying and becoming black.  The disease seemed to hit towns and cities a little harder than rural areas, especially those furthest from trade routes.  Many victims exhibited buboes which were swollen lymph nodes in the armpits or groin.  There were varied theories, mostly wrong, about how the disease was transmitted and how it should be treated.

We now know that the disease is caused by Versinus Pestis, a bacterium carried by fleas often found on small animals such as rats.  There are medications today which can reduce the death rate to 10% of the population.

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Memento Mori

Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

Memento Mori, the title of the third of my Lady Apollonia West Country Mysteries, was based on a Latin phrase which means to remember that you must die.  Its use originated in classical times but was revived in medieval times.  I chose it for my title because several deaths of people close to my heroine occur in the novel.  The most significant loss occurred in the prologue describing the death of Apollonia’s second youngest son, Sir Alban.  He succumbed to the bubonic plague while off on raids serving with the Teutonic Knights against Slavic peoples.

Although the story takes place over a year since the death of her beloved second husband, Edward Aust, and she has recently married Robert Windemere, Edward is still much on her mind as the story commences.  Finally, the death of Apollonia’s long-time chaplain, Father Anthony, happens to her as another personal blow mid-way through the book.

The idea of “memento mori” is often put into poetic words such as:
Remember man, as you pass by,
As you are now, so once was I.
As I now am now, you soon shall be,
Prepare, therefore, to follow me.

On at least one occasion, the following codicil was added by a spouse:
To follow thee I’m not content,
Until I know just where thee went.

One of the ways in which Apollonia dealt with her grief for her son, Sir Alban, was to commission his tomb in the parish church in her home village of Aust.  She wanted it to be an appropriate remembrance of him.  My inspiration for that idea is the tomb in Exeter Cathedral which is pictured above.  It shows such details as the knight’s horse and squire along with his effigy.  The Lady Apollonia wished her son’s tomb to include the display his heart which had been brought home to her.

Transi or cadaver tombs began to appear in England at the end of the 14th century and became more common by the 15th century.  These were tombs in which the effigy showed a decaying human body.  Perhaps the huge number of deaths from bubonic plague of the 14th century encouraged this trend.  I have used the image of a transi tomb in Exeter Cathedral for the cover of Memento Mori.

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Finding Medieval Gloucester Buildings

Tuesday, May 2nd, 2017

My husband and I travelled to Gloucester in 2012 with the goal of getting better insight into what the city was like in medieval times.  I wanted to use it as the setting for Memento Mori, the third of my Lady Apollonia West Country Mysteries.  Our preparations for that visit included study of British Online History as recommended by an English historian, Ian Mortimer.  I had previously purchased the book, Historic Gloucester, by local historian, Philip Moss whom we were privileged to meet in person in 2012.  Our preparation was helpful but being in Gloucester itself was invaluable.  Walking the streets allowed us to begin to picture Gloucester in 1392 when my book, Memento Mori, was set.

The present street pattern in the city centre, except for some of the street names, is much the same as it was in 1392 and goes back to Saxon times.  The Saxons were influenced by the Roman layout of the city but did modify their street pattern somewhat.  Many medieval buildings still exist in Gloucester, some in use and some in ruins.  I have written in the last two months about monastic buildings and medieval churches, some of which we were able to see and visit on our walks.

At the same time, we tried to be aware of medieval buildings that no longer remain: churches, castles, and hospitals.  One by one, these were torn down through the centuries.  For example, Westgate Street is very impressive, but in medieval times, the upper part of that wide street was lined by buildings that no longer exist.  This included several of the medieval churches that would have been active in the time of my novel.  Note the width of modern Westgate Street in the picture above.  It would have been much more crowded in 1392.  The medieval Cross at the centre of the city where Westgate, Northgate, Eastgate, and Southgate Streets met was modified over the years and taken down in 1751 to provide more room for carriages.  The East Gate was demolished in 1778 for the same reason.  The North and South Gates soon followed.

Other ancient buildings which no longer survive are the Norman motte and bailey and the medieval castle, both of which were in the southwest part of the city.  The Norman motte or hill was in the southwest corner of what had been the Roman city.  Archaeology at that site has discovered a game of tables, the forerunner of backgammon, and is the oldest known surviving example of the game in the world.  This Norman motte fortification was torn down when the medieval castle was constructed between the Norman site and the River Severn.

Gloucester’s medieval castle was a stone fortification with a keep in its centre.  Interestingly, King Henry III, who had been crowned in Gloucester in 1216 was imprisoned in Gloucester Castle during the Baron’s War in 1263.  By the time of my novel, the castle was in decline but was still used by the Sheriff of Gloucestershire as a gaol. I have referred to it in my story.  It continued being used as a gaol until the 18th century when it was torn down.