LAND OF SHADOWS by Priscilla Royal

Posted by on Feb 22, 2016 in Featured Book, Medieval Great Britain | 6 comments

Land-of-Shadows185x280Long series, and I’ve been lucky enough to write one, have their dilemmas, but historical ones include issues that can trouble modern readers. Among these problems is early mortality.

In my latest book, Land of Shadows, I realized that Prioress Eleanor and her family must suffer a generational shift. King Edward I had been on the throne for seven years, but her father, a carryover from the reign of Edward’s father, was still head of the Wynethorpe family. As much as I liked Baron Adam (Tyrant of the Mind), I knew it was time for him to die. His son, Hugh, and his daughter, Prioress Eleanor, must take their places as the heads of the family with all the political complications of power struggles and worldly maneuverings that entails. I grieved, but I had no choice. Hopefully, I gave him “a good death”.

With all historical novels, non-violent death has a far more central role than it does today. Before antibiotics, average life expectancy was far shorter. Childhood mortality was common. Adults had a fighting change to live quite a while, unless you were a woman in childbirth or a man in a battle. But everyone died of things a little pill might cure today. Everyday aches came earlier in life and more often because, for instance, sports medicine and gynecology hadn’t been invented yet.

So, like it or not, I must face that my characters are getting older. A father dies. A beloved aunt grows frail. Sister Anne and Crowner Ralf are no longer in the prime of life for medieval times. Prioress Eleanor is not that vital twenty-year-old learning to cope with adulthood. She is the leader of a prosperous priory with a sterling record for rendering justice. As for Brother Thomas, he may have found peace—or maybe he hasn’t, but the battle lines have changed. Even the cat grows older, one thing I refuse to think about!

In Land of Shadows, my prioress, her monk, her eldest brother and nephew are all coming to grips with mortality and their own aging as they watch Baron Adam die and must recognize they are now “in the green room”. Being a merciless author, I have also thrown a murder at them to resolve, one in which the common practice through all historical times of condemning the innocent with the guilty is a major theme. Nothing too challenging, of course…

Priscilla Royal, February 22, 2016


  1. Well said Priscilla! Another thing some modern readers don’t seem to get is that girls were married off very young, and that was just the way things were done.

    • You’re right, Rebecca! Boys too, although they didn’t have to bear children. One interesting story involves the wife of Henry VII, a woman who bore a child at about 13 and was so damaged by the birthing she was never able to have another child. When her son wanted to marry off his daughter at a similar young age, she begged him not to do so, citing her own suffering. To his credit, he listened.

      • Opps! I meant mother of Henry, not wife!

  2. I always look forward to another Priscilla Royal book; it’s unusual that in historical mysteries someone should die of old age! Priscilla breads the mold again.

  3. P.S. That should be BREAKS the mold, not breads the mold although moldy bread could cure people if processed into penicillin.

    • As does your Puritan series, Marilyn!