The Eighth Court – Afterword

Unfortunately due to an error in compiling the manuscript for publication, the Angry Robot Books edition of the Eighth Court is missing the Afterword and Acknowledgments which are inlcuded here:


The Eighth Court: Afterword

The Eighth Court

The Eighth Court

By now, most of you will be aware that I have been blending historical fact with fantasy in this series. The Eighth Court is no exception.

King William I, before he became King of England, was known as William the Bastard, not because of the things he did in later life, but because he was the son of Robert I of Normandy and his mistress Herleve, who was not of noble birth – probably the daughter of a tanner or embalmer. William’s early years were fraught with danger because his succession to his father’s estates were in question and consequently he grew up fast. One night his guardian, Osbert, who slept by his bed, had his throat cut, which must have been a wake-up call in more ways than one. Osbert wasn’t the only guardian who died for the young Duke – Alain of Brittany, Gilbert of Brionne and Turchetil were also killed. It was not a role with a long life expectancy – indeed William was sometimes forced to flee in less than ideal circumstances. It is known that he fled Valognes on horseback in the dark and crossed rivers that were in spate to reach Falaise, sixty miles north. It is not known whether he had help crossing these rivers.

It is also known that William sent an emmisary to Matilda of Flanders, the granddaughter of the French King Robert the Pious, with a offer of marriage. Apparently she refused to consider the proposal since she would not marry a bastard. William reportedly rode with a body of men to Bruges and tipped Matilda off her horse as she made her way to Sunday Mass. Nevertheless, by 1051, they were married as Matilda was witnessing charters as his countess. William of Jumieges wrote that he ‘led her with the greatest ceremony and honour into the walls of Rouen’, which makes you wonder what changed her mind.

The house at Rotherfield Greys appears in the Domesday Book of 1086. It was granted to Anchetil de Greye as a reward for fighting for William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 and became known as Grey’s Court. How long it stood before then and to whom it belonged is not known. Robert Knollys (pronounced Knowles) was a henchman of Henry VII and he and his wife Lettice (pronounced Laeticia) were granted Grey’s Court jointly on 9th July 1514 for the annual rent of a red rose presented at midsummer. The Knollys family also had property on Seething Lane in London and Lettice Knollys became frustrated with the dust and grime from the work carried out opposite her house. She duly bought the land and had it turned into a garden for her own pleasure. The garden is still there.

Unfortunately, Seething Lane was a muddy track in this time, well used by carts and horses, and Lettice did not like getting her boots muddy when she crossed the lane to enjoy her garden, so she had a raised walkway constructed over the lane. The walkway partially blocked the lane (an early form of traffic calming, perhaps), and Lettice was taken to court in order to have it removed. Being a very influential lady, she was allowed to rebuild the bridge at a height of 14 feet, and to pay a forfeit of a red rose presented on midsummer at the foot of the altar of All Hallows by the Tower. This service is still performed today by the Company of Watermen and Lightermen, who present the rose annually to the Lord Mayor of London at the Mansion House.

You may remember that I mentioned Oakham Castle in the end-notes of The Road to Bedlam and the relationship with the De Ferrers family.  It is known that Walkeline de Ferrers accompanied William the Conqueror in the Norman invasion of 1066 and that he was rewarded with land and titles, including Tetbury Castle. The Ferrers family prospered thereafter, but there were rumours of insanity in the family. The 4th Earl Ferrers, Laurence Shirley, had his estate run by trustees and they appointed a man called Johnson to act as their agent and rents collector. The Earl was known to have fits of excitement and depression, and had been separated from his wife for commiting acts of cruelty. He was also known to have paranoid episodes.

On 18th January 1760, Johnson called at the house at Staunton Harrold in Leicestershire and was directed to his Lordship’s study. Shortly after, he was shot, though he lived for almost a day after. In his defence Lord Ferrers claimed insanity, a claim supported by John Munroe, a doctor from Bethlem Hospital. He was found guilty of the murder in a trial before his peers and on 5th May 1760. Lord Ferrers was taken from the Tower of London to Tyburn and hanged for murder. He was the last peer of the realm to be hanged. The heraldic arms of the Ferrers family are argent (a background of silver) with six horse shoes sable (black).

As mentioned in previous end-notes, the Queen’s Remembrancer was apppointed by the Crown from the senior masters of the judiciary. Less well known is that there were originally three remembrancers. The Remembrancer of First Fruits and Tenths, which lost its funding in Queen Anne’s Bounty of 1838, while the Lord Treasurer’s Remembrancer was merged into the Queen’s Remembrancer’s role before the Queen’s Remembrancer’s Act of 1859. As described previously, the role of the Queen’s Remembrancer was to put the Monarch in remembrance of all things owing to the Crown, while the Lord Treasurer’s Remembrancer’s role was, To keep the Secrets of the Kingdom. The less said about what GCHQ do in Cheltenham, the better.

The Dragon Hall at Norwich was built by Robert Tropes. It is a medieval merchant’s trading hall dating from around 1430. It served over the years as a residence, a hostelry and as a butcher’s shop, before being restored to near-original condition.

Beating the Bounds is the ancient tradition of reaffirming boundaries which goes back to the Dark Ages. It was abolished by the Puritans, but has been revived in a number of parishes. These days it has taken on a religious significance and involves walking the boundary of land, usually a church parish, while praying and singing songs and psalms. I learned, some time after Sixty-One Nails was published, that the bounds of St Clements Dane are beaten annually, involving a procession through theatres and other buildings. On return to the church, there is a feast which has, in the past, involved drunkenness and riot. I understand that the first Queen Elizabeth presented two silver hammers to the church in order to quell the riotous behaviour. Had I known at the time I would undoubtably have incorporated the hammers into Sixty-One Nails.

Mike Shevdon – June 2013


With the The Eighth Court, The Courts of the Feyre is a series of four books comprising more than half a million words. Those words have been carefully read and commented on by a loyal band of beta readers, often at short notice and at inconvenient times. I remain immensely grateful to all the people who have helped me throughout the whole series.

The publishing schedule for The Eighth Court and a series of domestic issues meant that time was again limited, so I am especially grateful to Andrew, Jenny, Jo, Lauri, Peter, Rachel, Simon and Tricia for all their comments and feedback and for being so supportive throughout the creative process, with an extra special thank you to Jen for the heroic effort of reading all four books end-to-end checking for continuity and contradictions. The opportunity to talk things through, to try out ideas and see whether they work, to discuss the writing, the story, the characters is something I deeply appreciate. You’re stars, all of you.

Once again, I am indebted to the professionals – Jennifer Jackson of the Donald Maass Literary Agency for her insight into the books, invaluable feedback, and her continuing efforts on my behalf, and to the Angry Robot Books team; Lee Harris, Marc Gascoigne and Darren Turpin, with special thanks to Lee for his patience, understanding and good humour in less than ideal circumstances. I would also like to thank John Coulthart, who designed the stunning covers for the new edition – they have prompted much admiration and helped win John a World Fantasy Award for Best Artist in 2012 – for which my congratulations.

Thanks also go to the bloggers, critics and reviewers who have taken the time to review the books in this series, talk about them at conventions and events, and put together interviews and features. It all helps to broaden the audience and strengthen the genre. I am also grateful to the readers who have taken the time to get in touch and let me know how they’ve enjoyed the books. It’s always great to hear from you and I hope this final book of the series fulfils your expectations and bring it to a suitably climactic finish.

Writers are not always the easiest people to live with and I am enormously grateful for the patience, understanding and love of my family, who put up with me sitting at a computer for hours on end, the research, the false-starts, the highs and the lows, the disruption and the deadlines. I am grateful for your tolerance and understanding.

My final thanks I have saved for my wife, Sue, who puts up with me, my writing, and all that it entails. She comes up with great ideas, inciteful wisdom and interesting snippets for me to incorporate into my stories. Without her, this series would perhaps never have reached publication, and I remain incredibly grateful for her love and support.

Mike Shevdon – June 2013