An Evening With The Authors – 24th September 2016

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Last night, I had the absolute honour of being among a group of eighteen exceptionally talented authors for MadeGlobal’s “Meet The Authors” event. It truly was a wonderful experience, getting to speak to people about my first ever book and meeting such amazing people. Honestly, I feel truly honoured to be part of the Made Global family and am chuffed to bits that they gave me a chance to publish “Cesare Borgia In A Nutshell” through them.

The event, which involved Tudor music as well as a number of discussion panels, also saw the launch of SEVEN books including “The Mary Rose In A Nutshell” by Phil Roberts, “The Devil’s Chalice” by DK Wilson, “All About Henry VIII” by Amy Licence, “Edward VI In A Nutshell” by Kyra Kramer, “The Shadow Of The Cross: Imprisonment” by Dmitry Yakhovsky, “Illustrated Kings & Queens of England” by Claire, Tim & Verity Ridgway and of course my own book – “Cesare Borgia In A Nutshell“. I couldn’t have wished for a better place to launch my first ever book, and I have to admit that I might have gotten a little bit overwhelmed when a lovely lady asked me to sign a copy of my book.

All in all, an absolutely fantastic evening preceded by a fantastic morning at the Tower of London. I want to extend a huge thank you to Tim and Claire of MadeGlobal for making the event possible, as well as a huge well done to each and every author who took part. As well as that, a massive thank you from me to everyone who came over and had a chat with me about my book and put up with my nervous babbling about Cesare Borgia!

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Seeing this for the first time was just absolutely mindblowing.

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On This Day In History – Cesare Borgia Is Born.

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Despite the fact that Cesare Borgia’s actual birth date is not known – these things were not written down and logged as doggedly as they are today – 13th September 1475 seems to be the widely accepted date, and in all honesty it seems as good a date as any to celebrate the birthday of a man who would become one of the most feared and respected warlords in Renaissance Italy.

Born at some point between 1475 and 1476 to Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia and Vanozza Cattanei, Cesare ended up in the church from an early age whilst his older brother Juan was taken along the military path. Cesare himself never had any inclination for a career within the church and so, after the brutal murder of his brother in 1497, Cesare threw off the red and took up the mantle of Military Leader that he had coveted for so long.

Despite the fact that Cesare Borgia died horribly just outside the town of Viana, it cannot be denied that he was one of the greatest military minds of his time. As we all know so well he has also been the victim of vicious rumour, much of which has no basis in fact whatsoever (which I have written about in great detail).

 

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Made Global’s “An Evening With The Authors”

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On Saturday 24th September, Made Global Publishing (the fantastic bunch who are publishing my book!) are hosting “An Evening With The Author’s” at The Venue on London’s Malet Street. The event itself is a fantastic opportunity to meet both historians and historical fiction authors, discuss history and have a chat about how to get your manuscript published. Authors such as Claire Ridgway, Adrienne Dillard, Melanie V Taylor, Phil Roberts and Sarah Bryson will be there – and so will I! Please do pop along if you love books and history – everyone will be happy to have a chat and you’ll even be able to get involved with question and answer panels.

The event starts at 7.30pm and lasts until 10.30pm, with tickets available here.

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Paris Day 3 – The Conciergerie, Place de la Concorde and Eiffel Tower

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The Conciergerie

It had been our plan the day before to visit the Conciergerie, the infamous prison used to house those awaiting their fate at the Guillotine, but alas due to food poisoning we decided to hold fire on it. So the next morning, with my partner feeling much better, we decided to finish off our visit to Paris by visiting the remaining places we wanted to go to. First on the list? The Conciergerie. I’d been stupidly excited about visiting the prison since we first booked our holiday – perhaps that’s morbid, but I was utterly fascinated to see the place that was known as the Guillotine’s waiting room, and the place in which Marie Antoinette spent her final hours.

So off we went, hopping off the Metro at the Louvre – Rivoli and walking the rest of the way. We wandered across the Seine before heading past the intimating walls of the Palais de Justice (which was once the Palais de la Cite) before disappearing down the steps into the murky world of the prison.

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You immediately find yourself in a large, vaulted hall at the end of which is a display from visiting school children about their visits to the museum. Up a small flight of stairs to the left (behind the bars in the background of the above photograph) you find yourself in a small bookshop and it’s beyond the shop that the visit truly begins.

Guided through, you first of all come to what look like cells. These are in fact what were considered offices – one of which, although a reconstruction, would have been a tiny little room in which prisoners were brought before they were taken out to the cart that took them to their death. In that little room, their hair was hacked off and their hands tied.

You are then led up a flight of stairs and into a room that is covered in a list of names, sombrely lit with strip lighting above the panelling.

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Les Guillotines de la Revolution

I think the name speaks for itself. But it was quite eerie to sit on one of the benches in that room and see all those names – including famous names such as Capet (as the Royal family were known after their titles were taken away) and Robespierre.

Further upstairs you then get to see reconstructions of some of the cells that prisoners were kept in during the Revolution.

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Straw. And a wooden bucket. For those who could not afford to buy themselves any sort of comfort.

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If you had the money, you could at least buy yourself a bed

But even if you did have the money the likelihood was that when the prison was as overcrowded as it was during much of the Revolution and the Terror, the living conditions would have been horribly unsanitary. The smells that must have lingered about the place don’t even bare thinking about.

The next part of the visit takes you through a display of documents from the Revolution and the Terror, many of which were signed by Maximillian Robespierre himself as well as drawings and portraits of some of the victims sent to the scaffold.

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I thought this gentleman was rather dashing

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Guillotine blade. I’d always imagined them to be bigger.

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Maximillian Robespierre. Horribly, smarmy git who deserved to meet his death in the same way that his thousands of victims did. Is that harsh? It’s probably harsh. But I’m very proud of this photo of his bust.

You are then taken down a small staircase and into a large chapel. Behind the altar is a small room – this was originally the cell in which Marie Antoinette was imprisoned before her execution until it was remodelled into a smaller chapel. Today, it houses a little alter with later paintings of Marie Antoinette hung above it as well as memorials to her husband and her sister in law. I was particularly struck by the beautiful stained glass in her window which overlooks the courtyard outside.

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We sat on one of the pews in the main chapel for a while after being inside Marie Antoinette’s chapel and I found myself feeling a little emotional. This was the place that the one time Queen of France spent her last 72 days. Yet in those last days she kept her strength and dignity, going to the scaffold with courage and bravery despite so much heartache in her short life.

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The courtyard, used for excersise.

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Marie Antoinette’s window

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One of the last portraits of Marie Antoinette.

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A reconstruction of Marie Antoinette’s cell. The real one, now a chapel, is next door.

I found the Conciergerie to be an incredibly moving place. To think that this prison is where thousands of people waited to be taken to their deaths is just mind blowing – and it’s not really somewhere you yourself can imagine being. Even if you have the most vivid of imaginations. I was moved and I was humbled to have gotten to visit this place, and it’s somewhere I would like to go back to.

After we left the Conciergerie, we hopped back on the Metro and took ourselves off to the Place de la Concorde. I wanted to visit here because this is the site that once held one of the main guillotine’s during the Revolution, the very one at which Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette lost their lives. Today, the square is full of traffic and tourists so it’s hard to even imagine the blood that was spilled there.

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Like the London Eye, but smaller

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We rounded off our trip, and indeed our holiday, with a walk to the Eiffel tower (we were going to go up it, but found the queues to be far too long – so instead settled on a quaint little cafe for a bit of chocolate cake.

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Paris Day 2 – The Louvre, Notre Dame and Sainte Chapelle.

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The view from beneath the famous glass pyramid at the Louvre.

Day two honestly didn’t start out that well. After having breakfast at the hotel, we went back up to our room and my other half suddenly felt very unwell – he’d come down with a nasty bout of food poisoning thanks to what we believe were under cooked sausages (seriously, they were pink in the middle) and dodgy eggs. I of course went straight down to reception who promised that they would sort it out and send someone up to our room to fix an issue caused by their dodgy food. Somehow my partner managed to soldier on through it and, wanting to enjoy the holiday, insisted that we go to the Louvre as originally planned.

From the moment I stepped foot in the museum, I was in awe. I absolutely adore museums – the British Museum is one of my favourite places in the whole world after all. But the Louvre was just…ten times better. And three times the size of the BM!

Our first stop was, of course, the Mona Lisa. It took us a while to find her, as the signs that pointed towards her seemed to mysteriously disappear. But eventually, after following the insane amount of people through the Renaissance gallery, we found her.

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If I’m brutally honest, I really wasn’t impressed by her. Yes she was painted by the amazing Leonardo Da Vinci, but he’s done paintings that are a lot better. And his inventions are far more impressive. Truly, I don’t see the fascination with this painting at all.

Once we’d fought our way out of the crowd taking selfies with the Mona Lisa, we doubled back on ourselves and made our way through the Renaissance paintings. I was in absolute heaven here, seeing works by Boticelli, Raphael and Fra Angelico. And then there was the portrait of Sigismondo Malatesta, the Wolf of Rimini – I had no idea his portrait was in the Louvre so when I saw it I couldn’t help but get a little over excited. The guy was a monster, but his life and deeds are morbidly fascinating. I even mention him briefly in a comparison to the Borgia family in my upcoming book.

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Sigismondo Malatesta, The Wolf of Rimini, by Piero della Francesca.

The portrait truly exudes power. You can tell that this is a guy you don’t want to mess with!

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We thought the boy on the right looked like the kid from The Walking Dead

After the Italian Renaissance paintings, we wandered around the rest of the museum. My particular favourite galleries were the Egyptian ones, and the ones that involved Louis XIV and the reconstruction of his rooms. I took hundreds of pictures within the museum of various displays, spending hours wandering the veritable treasure trove of relics.

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The Princes in the Tower by Paul Delaroche. I might have squealed when I saw this.

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Okay. I admit there was a lot of childish giggling at this one.

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Because everyone needs a mirror selfie at the Louvre

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Madame du Pompadour

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Beautiful detail on a shield

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After the Louvre, we took a slow walk towards the Ile de la Cite to see Notre Dame, one of the most iconic Cathedral’s in the world. Just as we got there, we decided to swing into the little archaeology museum in one of the crypts beneath the square. It was a very sweet little museum, showing the development of the Cathedral as well as archaeological finds from the area.

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I found Notre Dame itself to be incredibly beautiful, but then again I’ve always had a fascination with churches.

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Our last stop of the day was the beautiful Sainte Chapelle, holy chapel of the Kings of France. Built by St Louis (IX) in 1243, it was to be used to house relics of the Passion. Louise brought the Crown of Thorns and a part of the “True Cross” from the Byzantine Emperor for an astonishing 135,000 livres. Compare this to the cost of building the chapel itself – 40,000 livres! The moment we stepped foot inside the upper chapel I was lost for words. You are immediately surrounded by the most beautiful stained glass windows that tower above you, and then there is the beautiful rose window as well. The chapel exudes magnificence, and only the King and his personal entourage were allowed in the upper chapel (It was connected to the palace by a walkway). It truly is no wonder that this little chapel, hidden away behind the walls of the Palais du Justice, is one of the most visited sites in the whole of Paris. I’ll be writing a bit more on this magnificent chapel and it’s gothic architecture soon.

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Day two ended with me back at the hotel getting shouty at them over the food poisoning issue. It worked, and we got money knocked off the bill as well as a huge apology. An early night for my partner was on the cards for him to recover, while I ended up having to get room service for dinner – rather bravely, I must say, given the events of that morning!

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