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