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  • Writer's pictureMary Ellen Johnson

Propaganda or History?

Updated: Aug 10, 2018

Am reading/listening to a fascinating--and beautifully narrated--historical novel, IN THE NAME OF THE FAMILY, about the Borgias. I know the usual about them--sexually debauched, incest, corrupt, poisoners, etc.. As a good historical novelist must, Sarah Dunan brings them all to life and addresses the "truth" as rumors. So I did my own research ( google!) and of course there is very little evidence for the propaganda. As always, we have to question the sources. Friendly or enemy? In the case of the Borgias, you can guess the source of the horrendous tales. (Also the case in many of the worst Roman scandals of Nero, etc. Written by enemies.)

I liken it to watching Fox News or MSNBC. Depending on which station you tune into, you're getting a very different version of the same event. Which is the truth? Or does the truth exist apart from both?

Which of course brings to my time period and my historical figures, some of whom I am very protective of.

Beginning with Edward of Woodstock, later known as The Black Prince. The chronicler Froissart says that, following the Siege of Limoges, in which the Prince destroyed a city standing against him, Edward also ordered all the townspeople killed. Up to 3,000 innocent women and children. The biggest blight on his legacy. I wrote what I believe is a very powerful scene in WITHIN A FOREST DARK, in which my hero, Matthew Hart must carry out Edward's orders of execution. However....recent evidence says the incident probably never took place. Not mentioned even in French chronicles. And if it had occurred, such was the custom of the times. A victor could do as he wished with the vanquished. So while such things may look scandalous to our twenty-first century sensibilities, it is WRONG to judge our ancestors by contemporary standards.

More in my next rant!!

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