One of the ways that I do my research is through re-enactment… I would recommend it to any historical novelist as a fun way of researching their period. It I feel that it adds texture and depth to the writing. Once you have been thoroughly kippered cooking a cauldron of pottage over an open fire, you know exactly what it’s like and you know darned well that no-one with hanging sleeves ever got cooking pot duty! I have stood on a battle field and viewed it through the eye slits of a jousting helm. I have felt the weight of a mail hauberk on my shoulders and gripped a sword in my hand. None of these experiences can be gleaned from reading a reference book. There are aspects to living history that give you an edge on historical accuracy and access to details that no-one but another re-enactor can know!
Angela Levin said in the Daily Mail:
Forget Mr Darcy’s wet shirt. It’s much more fun to lust after a man in chain mail.
Read my novels and you’ll find out why!
The photograph on the left shows myself, my son Simon and my friend Eileen Lewis at The Robin Hood Pageant in Nottingham. My dress is an exact copy of the Herjolfsnes bog dress, discovered in Greenland and dating to the reign of Henry III, possibly earlier. I found the pattern in the London Museum book of Textiles and Clothing published by HMSO. Eileen Lewis is a retired pattern designer. She took my measurements and using the archaeological drawing made a pattern, and from that we made the first, prototype copy of the dress in purple linen.
The warrior in the photograph to the right is dressed in the manner of a Norman knight of the mid thirteenth century. His mail shirt is made up of thousands of interlinking steel rings, riveted together. An armourer could rivet approximately twenty three of these rings an hour – or so I am told by someone who has tried it! Beneath the mail shirt, he wears a gambeson – a quilted tunic. The mail shirt would absorb the cut of the blow on the battlefield; the gambeson would diffuse the impact. I own a piece of mail which I bring to talks and seminars. It’s amazing how touchy feely the stuff is – heavy but incredibly pliable, and with a seductive, musical jingle as you handle it. I showed my piece of mail to my agent when we went to lunch recently, and she was so smitten I had to wrest it off her to get it back – but that’s the effect is has on everyone! My thanks to Neil Griffiths for the pose!
For photos of armour, shields, knights and more, have a look at the re-enactment photos in the gallery. You may also like to visit: