Looking for Ideas & Sources

Dear all – rather than a post, today I’m writing to ask for your ideas. In late 2022, I completed a novel for my two grandsons (I now have three!). As I’ve mentioned before, that novel is called The Magical Tree: A Tate and Theo Adventure.

And now it’s time for another adventure. I consulted with the boys – the newest one is too young to have an opinion – and they came up with two ideas. The older one wanted a novel set during WWII; the younger one preferred something with “knights and castles”. Such diversity!

Source: Quora.com

Knights and castles has now been confirmed, and I’ve chosen Henry VII’s reign for the setting. As those who follow this blog know, the time periods of my novels have been much more recent than the 16th century. So, here’s my request:

  • do you have any favourite novels from that era?
  • do you have any suggestions for research sources?
  • where might I find details about a knight’s training?
  • why might a young boy become a ward of someone in the nobility?
  • how was warfare waged in that time period?
  • how were young boys trained and educated?

Beyond that, all ideas welcome!


M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel is THE ADMIRAL’S WIFE, a dual timeline set in Hong Kong. Mary’s other novels, PARIS IN RUINS, TIME AND REGRET, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from AmazonNookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on FacebookTwitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

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12 Responses

  1. Congratulations on selecting your focus. I’m so glad you went with knights and castles! I don’t have much advice for you regarding the questions you’ve posed except perhaps how war was waged. Some titles I might recommend would be novels by John Gwynne to get a feel for medieval combat. The reason I mention him is that my son is 40 now but still in love with “knights and castles” and finds John Gwynne’s novels, which include sword fighting, combat, etc., to be very historically accurate. Thus Gwynne might be a good resource for you. He writes fantasy, and his more recent books are grounded in Norse mythology, but he appears to be an expert in medieval warfare. If he couldn’t help you with some of your questions, he might know someone (or reference materials) who could.


    Good luck!

  2. Hi Mary, welcome to the Tudors! My Tudor trilogy is based on years of research and answers many of your questions, as Henry Tudor is born in the first book, comes of age in the second and king in the third – see https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B074C7GC17.

    Becoming a ward was a good way for a boy of noble birth to complete his education, and for less well born boys they would start as a page and become a squire – see https://englishhistory.net/middle-ages/medieval-knights/

    Best wishes


  3. It’s set much earlier, but for knights in training, and then in battle, I have to recommend Rosemary Sutcliffe’s Knight’s Fee.

  4. Margaret Campbell Barnes’ “The Tudor Rose”. I read this as a teenager, more than 50 years ago, yikes! Probably horribly dated in historiographic terms, but I recall it being a good yarn.

  5. Mary, that was a long list of questions! I’ve spend a decade of my writing career “in the Middle Ages.” I’ve published two non-fiction books on the topic (“The Holy Land in the Era of the Crusades: Kingdoms at the Crossroads of Civilizations,” and “The Powerful Women of Outremer” [forthcoming later this year] both from Pen & Sword in the UK) and have published eight novels set in the Middle Ages. However, my expertise is the High Middle Ages, whereas many historians place the all Tudors in the Renaissance. I short, my suggestions have a bias toward the Middle Ages proper, not the transition to the Renaissance.
    Starting with research material, I strongly suggest you start with Richard Barber’s “The Knight and Chivalry” to get a feel for warfare and training. Peter Cross’ “The Knight in Medieval England 1000-1400” is also excellent. Absolutely critical to a novel (which must describe everyday life and people’s ordinary relationships and environment) is “The English Noble Household 1250-1600” (so it does cover your period) by Kate Mertes. The status of women is a hugely important topic and widely misunderstood. Women lost rights and status in the Renaissance. In the early and high Middle Ages, in contrast, they were extraordinarily empowered. The classic book on this topic is Regine Pernoud’s “Women in the Days of the Cathedrals.” You can also check out my blog post: https://defendingcrusaderkingdoms.blogspot.com/2022/01/a-closer-look-at-medieval-women-part-i.html. This particular entry is the start of a series on women in the Middle Ages. Last but least, I recommend Jennifer Ward’s “English Noblewomen in the Later Middle Ages.” And of course biographies of women like Eleanor of Aquitaine, Eleanor de Montfort, etc.
    In terms of wards, English law place control of a minor heir in the hands of his feudal overlord. That is, if a fief-holder died before his heir (male or female, and, yes, England did have female inheritance and women could inherit a fief) came of age, than the minor heir became the ward of his/her feudal overlord — not his/her closest relative. Tenants-in-chief (barons), i.e. those who held their fiefs directly from the crown, became wards of the king/queen. Those who held their fiefs from a baron, became the wards of the baron to whom the owed fealty, and so on down the line. (Just for contrast: in the Kingdom of Jerusalem a minor heir/heiress became the ward of their closest relative, which was very often their mother. This meant that women in Outremer exercised the regency for their minors.) The English practice meant that very often the feudal overlord as guardian of a minor heir/heiress, enjoyed the revenues of the ward as long as he/she was under-aged. This often led to exploitation or mismanaged the estates of the ward, something less likely to happen if a relative was the guardian as in Jerusalem and parts of France.
    In terms of fiction, I would strongly recommend Sharon K. Penman’s books, especially (given your chosen period) “The Sunne in Splendour” about Edward IV and Richard III. Another excellent authors are Rebecca Gable and Edith Pargenter. You could also take a look at my books set in the Middle Ages at: https://www.helenapschrader.com/crusades-era.html
    I hope this helps, but don’t hesitate to contact me directly at: hps_books@yahoo.com if you have other questions.

    1. Good morning, Helena. What an amazing gift you’ve given me with all these suggestions. Many thanks for taking the time. I truly appreciate it. I shall soon be steeped in the middle ages! Warm wishes … Mary

  6. You have so many good suggestions above. I further suggest the series of non-fiction books by Frances and Joseph Gies about medieval life that you should check out. Medievalists https://www.medievalists.net/ has a ton of articles by distinguished scholars. You should be able to search there for specifics on training a boy to become a knight, or any other topic you need. Go to your local Society for Creative Anachronism meeting–I believe your local group is Ealdormere https://www.sca.org/about/kingdoms/ There you will find folks who LIVE in the middle ages–many of whom have post graduate degrees in medieval history. They will be more than happy to give you all the resources you could ever use. Good luck in exploring the middle ages!

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