I recently met Barbara Gaskell Denvil, a well-established author from Australia. She accepted my invitation to an interview. Sit down with your cup of coffee and read, along with me, about this fascinating woman.
Thanks so much, Elizabeth, for your invitation and the possibility for posting on your blog. I thoroughly enjopyed this interview, particularly as we have so much in common. History, and discovering the hidden truths, is an absolute passion of mine and has been ever since I was eight and watched the film of Shakespeare’s Richard III. I found it very exciting, but even at that age the horror of this murderous monster seemed somewhat exaggerated, and I wondered whether this king could have been quite so bad. A couple of years later, I began my research. And I have never stopped.
I am an ancient old crone who has a youthful passion for history. I also adore searching out the less well known details, but my principal story-lines cover the adventures of fictional characters against absolutely accurate backgrounds. It’s the English medieval I love, and having lived most of my life in London, I grew up walking those old cobbled back-lanes which still exist, exploring the Tower, the palaces, and the original buildings which still stand.
I have three children, including identical twins, but when my husband died of cancer, I needed to move myself and try not to wallow in memories. So, my children and their families with me, I moved to Australia, and that’s where I now live amongst the rural beauty and the amazing bird and animal life, with huge flocks of cockatoos, parrots and kookaburras, with kangaroos in the garden and reptiles of many kinds..
My original family were all creative academics, and so it seemed quite normal for me to start writing at a very young age. I worked in publishing, wrote short stories and articles, became a reviewer for Books & Bookmen, an editor, a tutor for television scripting, and finally a very busy mother.
But now of course I write full time, and started with my own love of historical fiction, mainly mysteries.
I found it a natural move, and couldn’t even consider anything else. I read constantly from the age of 7, including mostly adult novels even at that age. Once I discovered and devoured Lord of the Rings, I developed another passion for fantasy. I still love those two genres more than anything else, and have written in both. My children’s series, BANNISTER’S MUSTER which includes six books, now also available on Audible, actually combines accurate medieval history with fantasy adventures.
I honestly have to be boring and say I have no actual favourite. There are too many I absolutely love – including the marvellous Dorothy Dunnett’s historical adventures, and Tolkien’s magical fantasy. Over many years I must have read thousands of books which I loved and admired. I admit I’m picky about the quality of writing itself, and love books with well developed characterisation. I’ve just finished reading something by Joe Abercrombie, a dark fantasy thriller, which is a genre new to me. But I love to try everything if it is high quality. And that’s what I hope to write myself.
My travels around old London as a child, visiting Stratford and other ancient villages, and feeling that genuine atmosphere come seeping through my veins. I could breathe the old chimney smoke, I could see the flags and banners flying in the wind, I could feel the wet cobbles through my shoes, and hear the horses’ hooves cantering past me. I sat in the old Guild Halls of various towns, the churches and cathedrals, looking around at the beauty and magnificence designed and built so long ago, and I touched stone walls which had stood for a thousand years or more. Above all, I read of the past. I was fascinated by the Viking era, then moved on to the medieval. I’ve researched other periods too as all history fascinates me – the civil war – the renaissance – the Napoleonic wars – even the Cretaceous period and the dinosaurs. The differences and the scale of human development is amazing. But I cry too, discovering what dreadful brutality was treated as normal, and how people fought wars by literally hacking each other to death face to face. I visited an old castle in England, and saw a genuine old Rack there for display – almost as a joke. But that old black wood was stained, and I could imagine the blood spilled over the ages, and the terrible pain inflicted. So I researched the evil too, and included that in my books as a passionate and deeply sympathetic token of deep respect to those who had been tortured in real life, even often the innocent.
Perhaps Andrew, the hero in my novel BLESSOP’S WIFE, and Tyballis, who becomes his wife. Tyballis has been abused by her first husband, and this has almost broken her spirit. But I loved showing her courage, and how she rediscovered it, and fought both for herself and for the new man she now loved.
Andrew is not the usual hero – he’s not young, handsome, noble, or easy to understand. He has many dark secrets, but beneath the intelligence, secrets and strengths, he is kind and adores the woman he wants so much to help.
This novel is a medieval mystery, not a romance, but there is certainly a thread of considerable romance between these two major protagonists.
I feel genuine love for most of my characters, but these two are certainly amongst my favourites.
I always start with a sudden flash of inspiration. This can come from anywhere – a film or a book – something someone says or does – and very often just a vivid dream. Then over the following days I start to think about that piece of inspiration, and I encourage it to develop. My characters come first. They grow in my head and introduce themselves to me. Once I feel they have really come alive in my thoughts, I start to make a few notes.
But I am a Pantser, and will soon just sit down at the computer with a cup of tea, (and later a glass of wine) and start to write.
Yes, I’ll have bad days. I’ll get stuck, and will often change my mind and throw some bits away. But on the whole, the entire book will just float into my head. I will write and write and write for weeks and months, usually around ten hours a day, six days a week. Once I’ve finished, then I start all over again. I re-write, I polish, and I add extra details. Depending on the length of the book, it will take me between three months and five months to write. But that’s 60% absolute joy, and only 40% really hard and agonising work.
? 7. To end this interview, what piece of information, upcoming project, advice or request would you like to share with this audience?
I have begun a series, named CORNUCOPIA, which will probably take me a couple of years, as it will be around nine books and none of them too short. This will be a mixture of fantasy and history, for I have created a whole new world called EDEN, very closely based on the genuine medieval world of the 1400s. The clothes are similar, the behaviour is extremely similar and much of the language is similar as well. But there are some startling differences. Trains! Steam trains rush across the countryside. There are kings, but the country is governed by a secret council, which plots and schemes, unknown to most of the citizens. The religion is Mafia-like, and there is great poverty amongst great wealth.
But while I am enjoying writing this very quirkily series, I am taking notes for my next historical mystery – A SUYMMER OF DISCONTENT, and this will certainly not contain any fantasy of any kind. The crime, mystery and thread of romance will be set against a highly accurate background of medieval England.
In the meantime I should love to introduce you to my historical mystery THE FLAME EATER, which is a big crime mystery full of adventure, romance, crim and mystery. I found some fascinating historical facts when researching and I have a special fondness for my unusual hero Nicholas. The heroine has a hard path to face, as I believe many young women would have faced at this time in history.
The Amazon link for The Flame Eater.
My Author Page on Amazon -
My Webpage -----
Thanks so very much, Elizabeth, it’s great knowing you and discovering your wonderfully fascinating blog.
All the very best,
Mary Littleton, born to wealth and prestige, was to be one of the primary characters in a life-long battle that makes today’s soap operas look tame.
Mary was the daughter of Edward Littleton, Chief Justice of North Wales and Ann Walter, daughter of the Chief Justice of South Wales. The family home was Henley Hall, just outside of Ludlow, Shropshire, England. There were a dozen, more or less, children in the family, including an older brother, Nathaniel. Due to the laws of primogeniture, the eldest, Lord Littleton, received the vast majority of the family estates. Nathaniel moved on to fight in Holland under the Duke of Southampton and came home an older and wiser man. He immigrated to Virginia in 1635.
Shortly thereafter, somewhere between 1635 and 1638, Mary was betrothed to Edmund Scarborough, whose father had taken the family to Virginia in 1620. Edmund’s brother was Sir Charles Scarborough, physician to the king. Edmund, a lawyer, a merchant and a trader, would have been a good catch for Mary, who probably had no problem moving to Virginia if she could see her brother every so often.
Edmund had gotten a number of patents of land in Accomac County, on the Eastern coast. He added on to his land grants pretty much as often as he added onto his family. Mary and he had Tabitha, Charles, Matilda, Littleton, Henry and Edmund within thirteen years. The plantation he built was on the Chesapeake Bay side of the peninsula, sitting in the middle of thousands of acres.
Edmund turned out to be a man of unrestrained passion, be it lust or anger. His sole aim seemed to be to accrue wealth and prestige. Mary stood by his side while he took land from others and cheated many. During one of the Dutch English wars, the Dutch took one of his ships. He, in turn, took several of theirs. When a former black servant received land after his indenture time, Edmund took him to court and procured it. When he sold guns to Indians and then attacked them for owning guns, court found him not guilty.
Mary was expected to open her house to the public, since Edmund was sheriff, justice, Burgess, royal surveyor and collector of rents at various times during his career.
As hard as it was to put up with such a man, Mary had to face him going into business with a younger woman, Ann Loft, in 1651. This business made Edmund and Ann very rich, and parents of three girls. When the pastor of the parish began to comment on Edmund’s irregular activities, Edmund spread the word that the 27 year old pastor was having an affair with Mary, 46 at the time. Mary never uttered a word and let it play itself out. She did not divorce him or leave him.
Edmund continued to antagonize neighbors, friends and even Governor Calvert of Maryland, regarding borders. He hated anyone not like himself, Puritans, Quakers, Indians or Catholics. He made no doubt about it, even chasing Puritans into Maryland to get rid of them. This says something about Mary’s teaching of tolerance. Some of her grandchildren became Quakers. They did not inherit their grandfather’s distaste for others.
Edmund died in 1674. Mary lived until 1691. By then, she was a rich woman in her own right. She was able to give elaborate legacies to children and grandchildren. Her will shows a sense of righteousness: she refused a legacy to her oldest son, Charles. It appears that he had ignored her for decades. One of the children had inherited their father’s cruelty.
It is interesting when you find your own relatives among the “First Mothers”!
Ann (or Anna) was born between 1630 and 1635 in York County, Virginia. Her parents were Anne and William Thomas. But William may have been her stepfather.
Sometime after 1650, Ann married a young widower, Thomas Ballard, who had at least one daughter, Jane. Ann and Thomas went on to have eight more children, Thomas, John, Lydia, Martha, Elizabeth, Matthew, Francis and William, between 1654 and 1674.
Thomas was a county clerk during the first years of their marriage and by 1667, Thomas had served as a Burgess. He also served on the governor's council. An avid worker, he had also served in both the Virginia Militia and as a Vestryman of the Bruton Parish Church. He was a close colleague of Sir William Berkeley. This lead to his being a key figure in the Bacon Rebellion. Unfortunately, this drew in his wife, Ann.
Nathaniel Bacon, Jr. was only in the colony a few years when he ushered in the second big rebellion of the Virginia colony. At one point, he managed to kidnap several of the wives of the governor’s council, of which Ann was one. Among the other women were Elizabeth Bacon, wife of Nathaniel Bacon, Sr, a cousin of the rebel, Angelica Bray, wife of Col. James Bray, and Alice Page, wife of Col. John Page.
Bacon achieved this by having his men raid Middle Plantation (Williamsburg).They took the women to Jamestown where their position was being cannonaded from the town. Making the women all wear white aprons, they were set in front of the rebels as the rebels built fortifications in preparation for their attack. Men within the fort and town recognized their wives and pleaded with the governor to stop the cannons.
Bacon may have won this round, but he lost the war, by dying of dysentery.
Col. Thomas Ballard won back his wife, as did the other men. And he paid back the rebels. He was one of the judges who tried and executed twenty three rebels.
Ann, unfortunately, died two years later, leaving small children and six older ones behind.
I interviewed Tamar Anolic, an up and coming author recently. She was willing to answer all my questions. Thank you so much for speaking with me at length, Tamar!
I am a writer out of the Washington, D.C. area. I am the author of two novels of alternate historical fiction that focus on the Romanovs and Imperial Russia. The first is “Triumph of a Tsar,” in which the Russian Revolution is averted and the hemophiliac Alexei, son of Nicholas II, comes to the throne. The second is “Through the Fire: An Alternate Life of Prince Konstantin of Russia,” which examines the life that Konstantin, cousin to Alexei and Nicholas, might have lived if the revolution had been averted. “Through the Fire” is a novel in short stories; each chapter is short story that stands on its own, but as a whole, the novel tells the story of Konstantin’s life.
I’ve been writing since I was a kid because I liked making up stories. I’ve been interested in the Romanovs and Russian history for close to twenty years now, and in all of research, I wondered what kind of tsar Alexei would have made. He was often a headstrong child, but he was also sick a lot, which gave him compassion for the suffering of others. The Bolshevik revolution’s ending of the Romanov dynasty and of Alexei’s life only added to my fascination. Eventually, I found myself what would have happened if the Revolution had never occured and Alexei had become tsar- who would he have married? Who would his four sisters have married? How would Alexei’s hemophilia have affected him into adulthood? Where in the Romanov dynasty could history have been different, enough to avert the Revolution? All of that speculation and plotting turned into my novel, “Triumph of a Tsar.”
While I was writing “Triumph of a Tsar,” I continued studying photographs of the Imperial family, to keep the faces of the people that I was writing about strong in my mind. During that process, I came across pictures that I had seen previously, but these images took on new significance to me as I was writing. This includes pictures of the poet Grand Duke Konstantin and his children, because his son, Prince Igor, is Alexei’s aide-de-camp and has an important role in “Triumph of a Tsar.” But photographs of Igor’s brother, Prince Konstantin, also jumped out at me. Prince Konstantin had suffered heartbreak when his proposal of marriage to Princess Elizabeth of Romania was rejected. Konstantin also had translucent blue eyes that I found captivating, so even while I was writing “Triumph of a Tsar,” I knew I wanted to write something about Konstantin. At first, I thought it would be a single short story- the story “Before the Fire,” which is the first thing I wrote about Konstantin, and which was published in the journal “The Helix.” Before I knew it, however, more and more stories about Konstantin started flowing, including the short story “Rumors of War,” which was published in The Copperfield Review. Soon, I had enough for a book-length project, and this became “Through the Fire.”
Because my historical fiction is alternate historical, the development of these stories came about as a unique blend of studying what actually happened in history, what my characters were like as real people when they were living- and then projecting that into a future that was very different from the course that history actually took. With “Triumph of a Tsar,” I thought that Alexei’s hemophilia and his need to manage it would make him careful of his health and mindful of the need to marry young and produce an heir, while all the while doing as much for Russia as he could during the short lifespan that he thought he would have. With “Through the Fire,” I thought that Konstantin, who was devoted to his regiment, would stay in the army for life, and that it might take him a few years to find another bride after his first proposal was rejected.
It’s hard to say that I have a single favorite writer. However, there are definitely writers whose work has given me either a solid background in, or a new way of thinking about, the Romanovs’ history. There are also authors who have helped me think about how to write about the Romanovs in fiction while remaining true to who they were as people. These authors include Robert Massie (who wrote “Nicholas and Alexandra” among other famous books); Simon Sebag Montefiore (whose recent book “The Romanovs: 1613-1918” is about the whole of the Romanov dynasty and highlights both the early Romanov rulers and their connection to Nicholas II and his immediate family); and novelists such as Laura Rose, whose book “The Passion of Marie Romanov” is a good example of faithfully bringing an underrepresented Romanov to life.
I’d have to say that both Alexei and Konstantin are my favorite characters. Both “Triumph of a Tsar” and “Through the Fire” really wrote themselves in a lot of ways. With “Triumph of a Tsar,” it was a lot of fun to give Alexei the character arc that he was denied in real life, and to watch Alexei become a full-fledged adult and active participant in history. With “Through the Fire,” it felt incredible to give a voice to one of the more junior members of the dynasty, about whom so little has been written, and who often gets overlooked.
As for upcoming projects, I’ve been selected to speak at the Historical Novel Society’s North American conference at the end of June. I’ll be speaking about the Romanovs and the Russian Revolution- different ways that the Revolution could have been averted, and how to write about the Romanovs as characters in historical fiction. I’m excited about both the topic and the conference- there are a lot of interesting topics and speakers on the program, and I think the conference is going to be great.
Mike's first book of the Across the Great Divide series is available soon. Read on to learn what it is about.
Mike L. Ross sat down with me recently, and answered all my questions! Thank you Mike for taking the time. Here is what he had to say:
Temperance Flowerdew was one of the earliest women to arrive in Jamestown. The settlement was established in April 1607. She arrived in the summer of 1609.
This week’s founding mother was born around 1590 in Norfolk County, England. Her parents were Anthony Flowerdew and Martha Stanley. She had at least two siblings, Stanley and Mary. Temperance married Richard Barrow on April 29, 1609 in St. Gregory by St. Paul’s, in London.
Days later, Temperance boarded the ship, Falcon, commanded by Captain John Martin. It was one of a convoy of nine ships, referred to as the third supply, headed for Jamestown. The Sea Venture was the lead ship and most of the new government agents were aboard that ship. It appears that Mr. Barrow was on that ship. Three quarters of the way there, the convoy hit a hurricane. The Sea Venture was separated from the convoy and believed lost. Many of the supplies on the other ships were thrown overboard to lighten the ships.
The other eight ships did land in Jamestown, adding hundreds to the number of citizens, without the supplies. The Englishmen were not getting along with the Indians because John Smith had left. There was not enough food. Temperance, Jane Pierce and her little daughter and one other woman were assigned a place to live together. The winter was so bad that they called it the Starving Time. Mrs. Pierce was an herbologist. It was her knowledge of wild foods that saved the lives of Temperance and little Jane.
By 1613, Temperance’s husband was dead and she married George Yeardley, one of the soldiers on the Sea Venture. A month later he was appointed deputy governor of Virginia. Meanwhile Stanley, Temperance’s brother, had acquired land across the river from Jamestown. George and Temperance patented 1000 acres on that spot and developed a well-run plantation over the years. They had three children, Elizabeth, Argoll and Francis. When George’s appointment was up, in 1617, he took his family for a trip to England. While there, the King knighted him and appointed him Governor.
Back in Virginia, George served 1619 to 1621. In early 1619, twenty Negroes were brought to Jamestown. The Yeardleys bought several of them and brought them to Flowerdew Plantation, making Temperance the first mistress of Negro slaves in the New World. They were the premier couple of the decade.
When George died in November, 1627, the couple had several plantations. Temperance was the richest lady in Virginia. George’s brother became the trustee of the will and guardian of the children. She turned around and married the new governor, Francis West in four months. West desperately wanted her land. He even went to England to file a petition, but failed. Unfortunately, Temperance did not see her children grow up. She died a little over a year after their father.
Elizabeth: Tell me a little about yourself. Where do you live, education, family. Whatever you would like.
Judith: As you know, my name is Judith Arnopp and I live in Wales. We recently moved from a small farm near Lampeter, to Aberporth just a short distance away on the west Coast. I write historical novels and articles, do a few talks and lectures. My more recent work focuses on the late medieval and Tudor period. My other interests include history (of course), gardening, needlework, walking and reading. I grew up in a small town north of London, but we often took holidays in Wales and it became a childhood dream to live here– I’ve been resident in Wales for twenty odd years now and hardly ever leave, not even for holidays.
Elizabeth: What induced you to start writing?
Judith:I enjoyed history at school and studied it at university so, when I decided to write professionally, historical fiction was the natural choice. I like to strip away the finery of well-known historical people and consider what they were like underneath. Imagine our queen with her feet up watching Strictly Come Dancing – off duty, her guard down. What is she thinking? What is she feeling? I usually write from a female perspective. Women, especially medieval women, were poorly represented in the historical record and very often their experiences are only traceable via the records of the men whose lives they shared. It is fascinating to follow their path, consider the whys and wherefores of their actions, and flesh out the bones of the facts we know about them. I always stress that I write fiction but it is very heavily reliant on research.
I don’t believe in evil. I think everyone has a dark side and sometimes our murkier nature takes over, so there are no villains, there are no saints, just a bunch of people fighting inner battles – as we all are. I try to humanize women who have previously been demonized both historically and, more recently, in fiction.
Elizabeth: Who is your favorite writer? Why?
Judith: I love the classics. Shakespeare, Chaucer, Dickens etc. and I aspire to the talents of more modern authors like Hilary Mantel, Michel Faber. As a young girl I read a great deal of Historical novels: Jean Plaidy, Rosemary Hawley Jarman were among my favourites then. Something must have rubbed off on me, for when I began to write seriously historical fiction was my automatic choice. Having a master’s degree in medieval history makes things easier simply because I know how to research without getting side-tracked.
Elizabeth: What attracted you to your special genre?
Judith: Oops, I think I’ve covered that in the previous questions.
Elizabeth: Who is the favorite character of all whom you have created? Why?
Judith: Most of the people I write about actually existed so I had to study what is actually known about Margaret Beaufort, Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth of York etc. and then flesh out the historical bones. My favourite fictional character has to be Joanie Toogood from The Winchester Goose, a confident, warm hearted prostitute from Southwark. The goings on at Henry VIII’s court are very different when viewed through Joanie’s eyes. In my latest novel, Sisters of Arden, Margery is a novitiate nun whose life is thrown into disarray by the dissolution of the monasteries. Her adventures on the road during The Pilgrimage of Grace are quite eye opening.
Elizabeth: Would you take a minute to explain how you develop your stories?
Judith: I write instinctively with very little planning. I know roughly where my story will end because history has already been written but figuring out how my characters will get there is as much an adventure for me as it is for them. Sometimes events unfold from nowhere. I do very little actual plotting on paper, it all unfurls during the process. The characters definitely speak to me and tell me what is what.
Elizabeth: To end this interview, what piece of information, upcoming project, advice or request would you like to share with this audience?
Judith: I am just starting my twelfth book which is about Mary Tudor, the daughter of Henry VIII. I have no title as yet but it will feature Mary reflecting on her life, her relationship with her father, Henry VIII and her abhorrence for Anne Boleyn. She was hugely affected by her parents’ divorce, the break from Rome and I hope to examine the state of the church in England, and her fears of what will happen after her death when the throne passes to Elizabeth. Mary’s relationship with Elizabeth is fascinating – the conflict of sibling love and rivalry. I enjoy writing about infamous women. As with Margaret Beaufort, I don’t intend to whitewash them or excuse or deny anything but I provide them with the opportunity to explain the reasons behind their actions.
When Judith Arnopp began to write professionally there was no question as to which genre to choose. A lifelong history enthusiast and avid reader, Judith holds an honours degree in English and Creative writing, and a Masters in Medieval Studies, both from the University of Wales, Lampeter. Judith writes both fiction and non-fiction, working full-time from her home overlooking Cardigan Bay in Wales where she crafts novels based in the Medieval and Tudor period. Her main focus is on the perspective of historical women from all roles of life, prostitutes to queens.
If you like English history, you will like Judith Arnopp's books! Her novels include:
Sisters of Arden
The Beaufort Chronicles: the life of Lady Margaret Beaufort (three book series)
A Song of Sixpence: the story of Elizabeth of York;
Intractable Heart: the story of Katheryn Parr;
The Kiss of the Concubine: a story of Anne Boleyn
The Winchester Goose: at the court of Henry VIII
The Song of Heledd;
The Forest Dwellers
Her non-fiction articles feature in various historical anthologies and magazines.
For more information:
Author page: author.to/juditharnoppbooks
1. Tell me a little about yourself, Teresa. Where do you live, education, family. Whatever you would like.
I live in St. Louis, Missouri with my husband Chris and my dogs, Rocky and Max. I graduated from the University of North Carolina many years ago with a degree in Political Science.
2. What induced you to start writing?
I have always written to some degree, starting with poetry as a child. I also did some songwriting with my husband, who is a musician. I had started a few novels, but it wasn’t till I retired that I completed my first book.
3. Who is your favorite writer? Why?
I have quite a few authors I like. It’s difficult to choose a favorite.
4. What attracted you to your special genre?
Years of enjoyment reading Historical Fiction. Also, the belief that I had something to say on the subject of African Americans in the 19th and early 20th Century. My books cover the years 1850 to 1920.
5. Who is the favorite character of all whom you have created? Why?
My protagonist in Book 1,Mamie Garrison. Much of her personality, her tenacity and courage, was based on my daughter, Christina.
6. Would you take a minute to explain how you develop your stories?
I spend a large part of my time on research. Sometimes, a small scene may require days of research. I start with a general outline, and continue to tighten it as I write. I like to mull over my storyline till it plays almost like a movie in my mind. Often, this takes a while, thus the reason my books take so long to write.
7. To end this interview, what piece of information, upcoming project, advice or request would you like to share with this audience?
Believe in what you have to say. Write what touches your heart.
My third book in the Garrison Series, should be available in a few months, I hope. If you wish to contact me, I can be reached on FB: Teresa McRae-Author
Teresa McRae-Author. 1,029 likes · 26 talking about this. Welcome. My novels are set in the latter half of the 19th century, with themes of slavery, abolition, romance, history, genealogy, and the...
It is not only men who were heros in the early days of the Jamestown settlement. Even if we define heros as those who save others. One of the saviors of the early colony was a young woman named Joan Pierce.
Joan was born in England around 1575. She married a man named Thomas Reynolds and had a daughter named Cecily, born about 1600. The marriage was cut short by the death of Thomas in a sea disaster about the time the child was born.
As was common at the time, Joan quickly remarried. William Pierce was a promising young man who had great talents and goals. Within a few years of the marriage, he had joined the Virginia Company. In 1609, the family left for the colony. However, William, being Lt Governor, was on the lead ship, The Sea Venture, with other men of importance. Joan and their four-year old, Jane, were relegated to one of the other ships, the Blessing, which was part of a convoy of nine ships, crossing together from England to Jamestown. About two thirds of the way over, the convoy hit a hurricane. Three ships were lost, including the Sea Venture.
The surviving six limped into Jamestown, in August, with the stories. Shelters were quickly set up for the hundred new people. However, the farming and harvesting had not been very fruitful due to a drought. The loss of the supplies on the three gone ships was a detriment to the ill-prepared town. The citizens were not well stocked for the coming winter. It being so late in the growing season, no one could try to plant anything. The Indians had sold the colonists some corn, but whether it was enough for a whole winter was another worry.
Luckily, Joan’s mother was a herbalist and had taught her well. Joan, her little girl, Temperance Flowerdew, Meg Worley and another woman, lived together that first winter. She taught them to collect and grind acorns to supplement the cornmeal mush. She collected herbs from the lands around the fort which could be made into herb teas and medicines. They survived what came to be known as the Starving Time. It is said that Joan hated Jamestown saying that “there is nothing here but sickness and laziness.” The brisk, dark-haired young woman lost much of her weight and energy.
Thinking herself a widow, again, Joan turned her attention to gardening as soon as she had the strength, the next spring. Captain John Smith noted in his writings that Mrs. Pierce had a garden of 3 to 4 acres, which she maintained herself.
An amazing event on May 20, 1610 was the arrival of two ships, the Deliverance and the Patience, from Bermuda. The three ships lost at sea had arrived, partly wrecked, on the island of Bermuda. It took the men more than half a year to rebuild them into two ships and find their way to Jamestown. During that time, one of the passengers, a young man named John Rolfe, found a good quality tobacco plant which he nursed and brought to Virginia with him. Mr. Pierce, Joan’s husband, had befriended the younger man and they stayed close until the death of Rolfe in 1622.
The next year, the Pierces assumed that the colony was safe enough for Cecily, Joan’s daughter from her first marriage. They had her come over. Cecily became a celebrity in her own right and is considered in some circles to be the first “Southern belle”.
The Pierce family grew with several more children and took John Rolfe in as part of their extended family. John married Pocohantas around 1614 and he took her to England to meet his family. They never saw her again, since she died in England in 1617 after having given birth to a son, Thomas. John returned to Virginia without Thomas, who was raised by his family.
Jane, William and Joan’s oldest daughter, was probably about 13 when Rolfe returned. They married within a year or two of his arrival and had one child, Elizabeth, before Rolfe was killed by his own in-laws during the Good Friday massacre of 1622.
Jane and William were lucky enough to live long lives, purchasing much acreage, making them wealthy. By 1624, they had developed a plantation on Mulberry Island, about a mile from Jamestown, a place big enough for 13 servants. William participated in the short lived coup against Governor Harvey in 1635. Eventually, Joan was referred to as the master gardener of Jamestown.
Ann Graves was the second of three daughters of Sir Thomas Graves, an ancient planter of Virginia colony. Her life story has been written by historians several times, but the American men and women know nothing of this long-suffering colonial.
Ann married Reverend William Cotton, minister of Hungar’s Creek parish in 1637. She was 17. Cotton seemed to get things done by complaining or suing. He demanded a parsonage at a monthly court after hearing that each parish was ordered to supply one. He sued for tithes and special fees through the court system on the small East coast of the colony. Upon marrying Ann, the visits to the court immediately reduced in frequency. He and Ann acquired land on both sides of Hungar’s Creek, making him a considerable land-holder. She seemed to have had a soothing effect on his behavior. They would have been happy were it not for the death of the first two children. Cotton, himself, died a little over three years after the marriage, while Ann was pregnant with their third child.
The baby, Verlinda, survived and inherited the land, with Ann as executrix. A young woman did not last long as a widow. Ann married Nathaniel Eaton, a young widower, whose whole family was lost at sea. Nathaniel passed himself off as a minister and became curate of Hungar’s Creek parish. He was actually a liar, a cheat and a pretender. Eaton sold Verlinda’s land and pocketed the money. Then he moved his little family to the mainland where Ann knew no one. In a demonstration of audacity, Eaton bought a house in Warwick and never paid for it. When he was called to court on that account, he bribed a pirate ship owner to take him aboard with out the required passport and help him escape from the colony. Ann was left with a lawsuit and three little children, the oldest about 6. She never saw or heard from him again.
Ann fended for herself, probably living on the good graces of others, for a decade. In her mid- 30s, with three older children, she met Francis Doughty, another in a series of ministers attending Hungar’s Creek parish. He had lost his wife, left his children in New York and Maryland and had one grown son with him. Ann, thinking she would like some companionship, no doubt, married him. A pre-nuptial agreement was written and published, possibly the first such in the colony. Ann was not going to lose land or money over a man again! She soon found that Doughty lied, argued and exaggerated to the point that he could not keep a parish. After several moves around the colony, Doughty sought to move back to New York. Ann was unwilling to go. They divorced.
By now, Ann was closing in on 50. She watched her stepson die due to Bacon’s Rebellion, her brother-in-law be wounded and imprisoned due to the effects of the English Civil War on the colonies, and her sons die in accidents. But Verlinda was always there for her, dying a few years after her mother.
A strong woman, Ann managed to survive and lend loving support to her sisters, her daughter and her eight grandchildren.
Elizabeth A Martina is a historical fiction writer, but the history is true and the characters are real. Her aim is to get people to see life from another perspective, using history as the venue.