History Life(style)

Georgette Heyer is featured in @timeshighered

“Georgette Heyer’s 1929 romantic novel Beauvallet took these tropes further. It features the roistering freebooter Sir Nicholas Beauvallet, who “bit his thumb at Spain” and is as daring as Drake and as feared. He captures the ravishing Dominica de Rada y Sylva, daughter of the Governor of Santiago. There is, of course, lots of name-dropping laced with swathes of Tudor blarney: it is obligatory to say “poltroon”, “dizzard” and “roistering” whenever the opportunity arises. The book was published amid a positive rage for Tudor Rose tea rooms, suburban “Tudorbethan” semis and Spanish galleons on the mantelpiece.

Heyer set the tone for the many histories, novels, television shows and films that were to follow. You may be forgiven for thinking of Alison Weir with her “character-driven” histories that read like novels and are based around the tragic women of the 16th century, or Philippa Gregory, whose novel The Other Boleyn Girl (2002) charts the coming of Mary Boleyn to Henry VIII’s court. There she becomes a “pawn” in the king’s sexual game with her sister and is subsequently forgotten until she meets a man who dares to “offer … a life of freedom and passion”. Certainly the garish covers of Gregory’s six Tudor romances are suggestive of upmarket Mills & Boon books.”

I started reading Georgette Heyer novels when I was around 10/11, and still love re-reading them, particularly enjoying an academic conference all about Heyer in 2009… and of course she has a decent Wikipedia entry! See where she fits in this full story in Times Higher Education, discussing the fascination that many still have with the Tudor era (Heyer, of course, is much better known for her Regency romances) – I like a bit of Jean Plaidy myself. the conclusion it largely comes to is that this is a mythical image, and: “To a great extent, the Tudor historian has given ground to the novelist, where women writers of romantic and detective fiction have the field almost to themselves. What we want is not history but “faction”.”

Wikipedia: I thought I’d have a go at editing her “legacy” as it doesn’t mention anything about last year’s conference – I think it was quite significant!