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"I don’t change the facts to enhance the drama. I think of it the other way round, the drama has got to fit the facts,
and it’s your job as a writer to find the shape in real life."
Hilary Mantel

Jan 20, 2012

The Duke's Flask

In the vast silver collection of London's Victoria & Albert Museum is a spirits flask that belonged to the duke in my novel. It was made for him around the time that he was fighting in Hungary and was distinguished by his heroism at the Siege of Belgrade. The silversmith who created it engraved the ducal arms, granted by King Charles II.

The crest, showing the bar sinister, evidence of illegitmacy. The duke was one of the King's many bastard sons.

Engraved on the other side of the flask is the duke's monogram set beneath a ducal coronet.

The flask has three pieces. The stopper, the vessel that held the spirits, and the detachable drinking cup.

This luxurious accessory surely accompanied His Grace on many an interesting adventure.

Jan 17, 2012

Passion for Passiflora

Ever since I was a child, the passion flower's fragile beauty and intricacy has enchanted. I once lived in a place where it grew wild by the roadside.

Though my current home is inhospitably frigid to grow the species outdoors, I have a large pot in which I can grow passiflora pentafilia (for it's 5-lobed leaves) and overwinter it indoors. Here it is during summertime bloom.

And here is the other variety I grow, passiflora caerulea, with the very deep blue, almost purple fringe.

As seen in this late 17th century botanical print commissioned by the Duchess of Beaufort, both varieties were grown as exotics by aristocratic plant collectors.

The plants were brought to Europe from tropical regions. Jesuit missionaries in Mexico called it the Flower of the Five Wounds for the five stamens, and finding within it other symbols of Christ's crucifixion. Ten petals for the 10 faithful apostles (excluding Judas the Betrayer and Peter the Denier), an inner corona for the Crown of Thorns, three round-headed "nails" and a "hammer" in the center. The flower lasts only a day, and forms a fruit I once knew as a "maypop" because of the noise it made when stepped on.

Over time, additional varieties were discovered, and modern hybrids were created. I used to grow this one, called Lady Margaret. It didn't quite live up to its billing, and the plant didn't thrive like the blue ones. I should give it another chance.

Queen Mary II, an important character in my novel, was known to grow passion flowers in her hothouses or the open air. Which explains why so many of them can be found in the gardens of Het Loo, the palace she and her husband built in Holland--where I photographed the one below.

Jan 2, 2012

Historical Background

Dr. Starkey provides the historical basis for parts of my novel, and shows some of the locations. This section of his television series runs 16 minutes, but it's worth viewing if you are interested--and have the time!