Edward II: Greetings, everyone! I'm Edward of Caernarfon, as you probably all know - do feel free to call me Ned - and I'm your moderator for this, the second meeting of all of us unfortunate historical folks maligned in fiction of the twenty-first century. We're here to share our pain, and to share the sillinesses perpetuated about us written hundreds of years after our deaths. I'll get us started. As well as all the unfair and wildly untrue things about me I shared at our last meeting, there's some new stuff. According to one novelist, I react to things by 'snivelling' and am a coward who runs away from the battlefield of Bannockburn and is too afraid to fight, even though in reality I had to be dragged protesting from the field and fought 'like a lioness deprived of her cubs' right in the thick of battle.
Piers Gaveston: Pretty damn sure I never saw you snivel, Ned. I bet the terribly heterosexual manly hero Roger Mortimer doesn't 'snivel' in that novel, eh?
Edward II: Damn right, he doesn't. That same novel also accuses me of cowardice because I don't beat up my wife, which was a real lolwut?? moment, I tell you.
Margaret Beaufort: May I have the floor, Ned? I, apparently, am a religious maniac with a weirdly anachronistic Joan of Arc fetish - why? I mean, why?! - which I have to talk about every five minutes. I mysteriously forget that I'm the countess of Richmond all the time. But worst of all by far, I'm meant to have had Edward IV's two sons murdered in the Tower of London so that my own son Henry Tudor could become king. Because obviously I knew that Richard III's son would conveniently die young a few months later and clear the path to the throne, and I could stroll in and out of the most fortified and well-guarded stronghold in the country and murder two princes without anyone noticing. Yup. Invisible Superwoman, that's me.
Edward II: That's awful, Margaret! You mean people are willing to accuse you of the cold-blooded murder of children when there isn't the tiniest shred of evidence whatsoever?
Margaret Beaufort: Indeed there are, plenty of them. There are also people on modern social media who call me a 'snake' and express a wish that I'd died in childbirth and my son with me. I was thirteen at the time. Yes, there really are people out there who wish a thirteen-year-old had suffered a painful death in childbirth. It seems that they forget we were human beings with feelings too.
Edward II: That's beyond sickening. It's like all the people who snigger and gloat at my supposed murder by red-hot poker and make childish jokes about 'sizzled botty' and the like, and call the manner of murder 'ingenious'. Luckily it never happened, but yes, it amazes me that there are people who seem to take great pleasure in the vile torture and slow death of a human being.
Anne Boleyn: I don't really get why so many people in the twenty-first century feel the need to take sides, and be actually kind of vicious about it sometimes. It's either Team Katherine of Aragon or Team Anne or Team Jane Seymour. It's like, if you're a fan of Katherine you have to malign me, or if you're a fan of me, you have to malign Jane. Who totally deserves it, of course. Hehe, just kidding. And I've also been accused of 'at least one murder' by a popular modern writer. Still racking my brains to figure out who the heck it is I'm supposed to have had murdered.
Isabella of France: Agree with your first point, Anne. A lot of writers seem to think that if they like me, they automatically have to hate my husband Edward II and be as nasty about him as possible. Sorry to hear about the murder thing too. I've been accused of it myself, and of sexual immorality, and there are still people who insist on perpetuating that ridiculous 'she-wolf' nickname. Gah.
Edward II: Izzy, you know I love you dearly, but I don't think you really belong in this group. The Group for People Excessively Romanticised in Modern Historical Fiction is more up your street.
Isabella: Hmph, don't tell me where I can and cannot go, dear husband. I am queen. And besides, that excessive romanticising of me is a kind of maligning too, you know. Strips me of all my humanity and makes me out to be some kind of time-traveller to my own era from 700 years in the future. And I'm getting really sick of the 'poor dear Izzy was such a victim of her horrid husband' routine. Hey, I'm queen and regent of England, daughter of the king of France and the queen of Navarre. The word 'victim' is not in my vocabulary.
Edward II: Remember that novel that has me sending men to tear our children literally right out of your arms and take them somewhere where you'll never see them again? Such silly melodrama! Some people seem incapable of understanding that our social and familial norms were not those of the twenty-first century. Oi, novelists and writers of so-called non-fiction, I set up separate households for my children in the same way that all medieval kings did. Why do you never write my daughter-in-law Philippa of Hainault being the victim of her cruel husband when my son Edward III sets up a household for their kids in 1340, including the baby John of Gaunt? What's the difference?
Isabella of France: Hahaha, yeah, the novel that makes you out to be so indifferent to our children that you struggle even to remember their names, ROFLMAO! Talk about hitting readers over the head with a sledgehammer with that kind of characterisation - the novelist might as well write you with a neon sign twenty feet high over your head screaming I AM AN UNSYMPATHETIC CHARACTER, HATE ME!
George, duke of Clarence: Hey, everyone! Talking about blatant ways of making us appear really unlikeable and horrible, I'd like to protest at the way novelists in the twenty-first century portray me as this ridiculously one-dimensional alcoholic wife-beater. That's all there ever was to me, apparently. Alcoholism. And wife-beating. I never even laid a finger on Isabel!
Hugh Despenser the Younger: Sorry to hear that, George. I've been depicted as a wife-beater too, and a sadist who had people tortured for the laffs. Yeah.
Henry VII: There's this one novel where my mother Margaret Beaufort - who just hasn't been maligned enough, apparently - tells me to rape my fiancée Elizabeth of York before we marry to make sure that she can become pregnant. If she can't, I'm to marry her sister Cecily instead. Still trying to figure that one out - am I supposed to go through all the sisters until I find one who gets pregnant and then marry her? Just so darn weird.
Elizabeth of York: Wait, let me see that one! Oh yeah, I remember now, the novel where I spend half the time mooning over my lost uncle Richard III, who I was totally in love with, allegedly, and refer to constantly as 'my lover'. My uncle. There is not enough eeeewwwww in my vocabulary.
Henry VII: I'm depicted as this pathetic little mummy's boy half the time. And I've been trying to block the horror of it out of my mind, but there's another novel that has me - get this, folks - drinking the blood of young men. Like wuuuuuuh?
Henry VIII: Hey there, parents! I'm a victim of maligning too - it seems that lots of people think I'm some kind of psychopath who had women killed for fun. Had thousands of people killed for fun, in fact.
Anne Boleyn: Well, you did kind of have me executed, hubby dear. My cousin Katherine Howard too.
Henry VIII: You deserved it, my love. Anyway, it wasn't like I did it for fun, y'know. I genuinely thought you were guilty of adultery.
Anne Boleyn: Tell me again, dear hubby, what exactly was the logic behind you having our marriage annulled just before my execution? How could I have cheated on you when we'd never officially been married?
Henry VIII: *whistles* I can't hear you I can't hear you.
Elizabeth of York: I don't know.
Edward II: You don't know what?
Elizabeth of York: I don't know what I don't know. I don't know anything. Say anything to me and I'll reply that I don't know.
Elizabeth Woodville: Hey, everyone, did you know I'm a witch? Witch witch witch. Who makes witchy things happen all the witching time. Because I'm a witch. A witchy witch who does lots of witchy things. On every witchy page of the witchy novel about how I'm a witch.
Mary Boleyn: And I'm Anne's sister, and rival. We're sisters, but rivals. You see? We're sisters, and rivals at the same time. Do you get it? Sisters. And RIVALS. Rivals and sisters. At the same time. Do you see it now? Had I better tell you again?
Edward II: Hehehe, you've got to love such incredibly subtle characterisation. And modern historical fiction authors doing all their As You Know, Bob dialogue is even funnier. "That happened the year after your brother wed Sylvia Bigod, the queen's lady-in-waiting." "Why not ask your sister Eleanor, who is wed to Hugh Despenser? She sits right next to you." Because that's exactly how people talk to each other, obviously.
Hannah Green, Mary I's fool: Did you know I was begged for a fool? I still have absolutely no idea what that phrase even means, but I have to repeat it 942 times, just to make sure the reader gets the point.
Elizabeth of York: I don't know.
Roger Mortimer: How's it going, dudes? Sorry I'm late. The group for Unequivocally Heterosexual Men Congratulating Each Other On Being Unequivocally Heterosexual overran. All that back-slapping takes more time than you'd think. And Henry I insisted on opening up his laptop and making us watch a slideshow of all his illegitimate children. Blimey, that just kept going.
Edward II: Hey, Rog, remember the writer who called you a 'lusty adventurer'? That was in non-fiction too! Bwhahahahahaha!
Roger Mortimer: Do. Not. Remind. Me. Do you have any idea of how much I got the p*ss taken out of me by my household knights after that? It went on and on for bloody months. Just when I thought they'd finally forgotten about it, one knight went 'OK, dudes, ready for some adventures?' in the tiltyard and that was it, they were off again, literally falling off their horses laughing at me.
Piers Gaveston: Bet your squire liked the 'lusty' bit, though. Whistling innocently here.
Roger Mortimer: Sod off, Gaveston. I so did not have sexual relations with that squire.
Elizabeth of York: I don't know.
Isabella of France: Not maligning as such, but there are these novels where it's soooo obvious that the author is leching over me. It makes me throw up a bit in my mouth. On and on and on all the time, like every second page, about how beautiful and gorgeous and desirable I am and how beautiful my body is, even though I'm only like fifteen, and one yucky bit where I'm said to have 'matured to full ripeness'. Matured to full ripeness??! I am so grossed out.
Anne Neville: I'm getting pretty annoyed with the way I'm almost always depicted as terribly frail, to the point where I faint or collapse about every five minutes. Yes, I died young, but that doesn't mean I'd been a permanent invalid all my life, people! Yeesh, it'd be great to have someone write me as though I had an actual backbone and some personality, instead of as this weak feeble fainting little...thing.
Edward of Lancaster: True, and it'd be nice if someone would acknowledge that you didn't necessarily spend your entire marriage to me weeping and wailing over Richard of Gloucester.
Anne Neville: I did a little bit at first maybe, just a tiny little bit, but I soon got used to the idea of being queen of England one day. That was pretty cool. Something else modern novelists never seem to realise about me is that maybe I had a bit of ambition and quite fancied being a queen!
Edward of Lancaster: Yeah, we kind of got used to being married to each other and didn't mind it at all, did we? And you know, it's so unfair when a throwaway bravado comment you make when you're still practically a child is then used for the next half a millennium as though it represents the sum total of your personality and is constantly used to present you as a sadistic murderous psychopath. Modern people, would you like it if someone took one of your sulky adolescent pronouncements as though it's representative of your entire life and attitudes?
Henry VI: And when one remark by one visitor to England, simply reporting a rumour he had heard that I supposedly said that my son Edward was fathered by the Holy Ghost, is taken that my son absolutely must have been fathered by someone else other than me. As though my wife Margaret of Anjou isn't maligned enough!
Margaret of Anjou: Oh, you mean I actually have a name? Like seriously? I thought I was just called 'the bad queen'. Voice dripping with sarcasm here.
Edward II: They do that to me as well, Henry, and the really daft thing is that there wasn't even a single tiny rumour or hint at the time or long afterwards, it's entirely a modern invention. There are actually still people insisting that William Wallace fathered my son Edward III despite having been dead for seven years at the time, or that my father did, even though he had been dead for five years. And there are plenty of folks who refuse to let go of the notion that Roger Mortimer was my son's real father. He was in Ireland at the time, people! Amazingly, remarkably, unequivocally heterosexual Roger may have been, but even he didn't produce sperm that could cross the Irish Sea.
Henry III: Actually, Ned, dear grandson, we should start up a support group for all of us who've had the paternity of our children assigned to other men. My son Edward I is said to have actually been the child of my brother-in-law Simon de Montfort, even though Simon wasn't even in England when dear Eleanor and I conceived Edward. For pity's sake.
Eleanor of Provence: The horror of that calumny, of being accused of committing adultery with a man I could barely stand the sight of! I'm also said in the same series of novels to have had an affair with the earl of Gloucester, and my son Edward hits on his own half-sister, how yucky and icky. The author couldn't even get your name right, dear Henry - everyone who knows anything at all about the thirteenth century knows you were called Henry of Winchester after your birthplace, but in that book you're called Henry of Monmouth, who of course was Henry V! It's not often you see a man being confused with his own great-great-great-great-grandson, ROFL.
Elizabeth of York: I don't know.
Edward II: Afraid we're running out of time and will have to wrap this up now, folks! Hope you all feel somewhat better after getting this rubbish off your chests, and take care until the next meeting of the Support Group for People Maligned in Historical Fiction! Goodnight!