The 3 “P”s of Audiobook Narrators: Part Two – Tips and Tricks

Good morning! I hope everyone is starting the week out happy and healthy.  When last we met together I wrote about the three Ps of audiobook narrators, exploring how performance, professionalism, and price come together in finding the right fit (and hopefully the perfect fit) for your audio book production.  But there is only so much one can fit effectively in such an introduction.  So today I want to build upon last week’s post by going into greater detail with my best tips and tricks for finding narrators when using ACX for audio production. This post is aimed at independent authors, but I also hope will be read by narrators as well.

Initial Search

  • Decide in advance of any narrator search what narration style best matches your book. What do you like best? What sorts of characterizations do you find annoying? Is there an accent you find especially agreeable? Is there an accent that this specific book project really requires?  For example, a romance set in the deep south USA might need an author with a similar accent.
  • Profile completeness speaks volumes in terms of a narrator’s skills, experience, and especially professionalism. It doesn’t matter how many, if any, audiobooks a narrator has created in advance of you viewing the profile. A true professional fills out all the fields requested in the profile, including photograph, location, website, and samples of her or his work.  Samples don’t need to be from an audiobook specifically, but can be any sort of professional or even academic audio work. The more samples and more diverse, the better. An incomplete profile (especially one that only lists the narrator’s name and desire rate of pay) is a red flag to a lack of experience, professionalism, and dedication to her or his craft.
  • Professional websites are a gold mine of information for authors wishing to hire a narrator. Every website from a narrator should at minimum include contact information, a proper biography, a version of his or her professional resume or CV (work experience, education, etc.), several samples of work done, and links to social media and/or related professional profiles. Absence of a link on the ACX profile to a website (this could be a soundcloud profile and doesn’t have to be built by the narrator directly) is a red flag that this person may not be a true professional and may not treat your audio book narration project as a real job.
  • A combination of the ACX profile and the narrator’s website should provide for you at least 80% of the information you need to decide if you are interested in this particular narrator — before you listen to any auditions from her or him. Specialized skills like singing or playing a musical instrument, professional credits (including filmography when applicable), and so forth should also be listed somewhere.
  • Treat the narrator’s profile and website as a resume or CV and with a professional eye for what is in your business interests.  Remember the point of starting this audio production is to create an audio format book that sells well and makes you lots of money.

 

Evaluating Auditions

Regardless of who finds whom first, in most cases potential narrators submit an audition showcasing what this person can do for you and how s/he would narrate your book if you decide to make an offer and the narrator accepts it.  The only exception to this rule is where you as the author sets up the title to make an offer to a narrator without any audition. 99% of the time you only choose this option when you have already made one or more audio books with a specific narrator and want to work with the same person again, side-stepping the normal audition process. In every other case, you set up your book title as “accepting auditions” which you then evaluate as they come in.

  • When listening to an audition, the first thing you are listening for is whether or not the narrator recorded your audition script.  While this sounds like common sense, I have received literally dozens of “auditions” that were not auditions for my books at all, but rather pre-recorded samples of other sorts of work that the person or corporation (at times) simply wanted me to hear.  If someone cannot be bothered to record your audition script, then in my humble experience this person is not worth considering at all. That’s because a generic sound file isn’t personal; it’s not about YOUR book and YOUR needs but the narrator’s desire to earn money. This should always be a red flag that the person doesn’t care about providing you with a book that reflects your needs and your vision.
  • Assuming it is your script recorded, the next thing you are listening for are those key traits you decided upon in the beginning that you wanted or need for this specific book. If your book needs a southern USA accent, are you hearing that accent in the audition? If your book is for children, is this audition at the right speed for that core audience? Are the words pronounced correctly? If a character sings in the audition scene, does the narrator sing those lines and if so, is the tune correct? If there are multiple characters in the scene, can you distinguish each character from the other characters?

The heart of this stage in the process is performance. You are listening for the best possible performance match for your vision of the book. Remember that you are in charge of this book.  If the performance you are hearing is not a match for your vision of how it should sound MOVE ON to a different performer.  It may take longer to get started on your book, but it is vital you do not settle for less than a precise match for your needs.  At the audition stage you are not locked into any contracts.  There’s no down side to being picky; quite the reverse, being picky only benefits you later. Remember the point of this is to end up in a contractual relationship with the narrator you are happy with.

The Voice Call

Though ACX discourages it because what is communicated outside of their messaging system is not actionable by them (a vital legal protection for both author and narrator), a voice call in real time is essential in evaluating a narrator before you sign the contract with him or her. Real time voice conversations allow you to ask questions, evaluate the sound of the narrator’s normal voice, and learn things about the narrator that the post information online does not tell you. This can be critical in deciding if this person is a good match for not only your book, but also for you personally.  Here you want to know if you like this person, if this person is responsive to your needs, if s/he has the same vision for the book as you do.

If there are words in the book that need a specialized pronunciation, it is during a voice call that you are best able to go through those details so the narrator knows what to do and how to sound.  For example, Richard Mann and I communicated by voice in prepping for Empress Wu Zetian.  Richard doesn’t speak any Chinese; I studied the language for three years and can pronounce it fluently. Likewise, Ashley Hodgson and I spoke by voice to cover all the specialized world building words for “Good-bye A672E92 Quintus,” my first scifi audiobook. With these books the voice call puts author and narrator on the same page technically so the final book sounds its best.

Establishing a strong rapport with the narrator during the voice call is absolutely essential to any successful audio book production. Difficulties during this call should raise red flags for you. If at any point, the narrator seems uncooperative or unwilling to work with you — about scheduling the call, about style or pacing, or really anything at all — treat this as a red flag and do not hire this person. Failing to listen to those red flags, the little things that suggests the narrator doesn’t want to work with you or create from your vision, is a recipe for disaster.  I have failed to listen to these red flags more than once and consequently the results have cost me dearly.

Remember that signing a contract locks you in.  Though you can back out after the first 15 minutes, the best way to end a toxic relationship is before any contracts are signed.

  • If you do decide you are not happy with what you hear, especially during any sort of communication not using the ACX messaging system (such as email and/or a voice call), it is often wise to document your decision with an ACX message.  It could be something as simple as “Following up on our email from yesterday, I have decided that I would like to go with a different narrator for [book name].”  Explain more if you feel comfortable, but after all that time and energy invested, be professional enough to let the narrator know your decision.
  • With cold auditions where you have not already followed up with a message, email, or voice call, there is no need to respond to each narrator when you reject an audition.  Most of the time I simply mark auditions that I like accordingly in the system and if I don’t like them, I ignore them.
  • Remember that price is part of the evaluation process.  Sometimes you love and audition and love a performer, but the fee they are asking for or the contract type (royalty share or pay per finished hour) is simply not the same as you want. In that case, you want to think about what the narrator wants and, if you really love their work, talk with her/him to see if a middle ground can be found.  However, if that person is firm on the matter, move on.  There are always other narrators.

 

Remember that you are in charge of this book.  You are the boss.  Do not be afraid to be a proper director and producer.  If something doesn’t feel right, trust your instincts.  If you are not in a contract yet (because you are listening to me and being careful about who you choose), then walk away and continue your search for a better narrator who is more professional and better fulfills your vision for your book.  If you are in a contract, insist upon your vision.  It is your right to request changes. Listen for verbatim recording and if something is not verbatim and really needs to be (let’s be honest:  we all make a few grammar mistakes which narrators may catch and correct in recording) then hold your ground and insist upon re-recording until it is right. Same with major performance issues.  If something is not right, then speak up and tell the narrator. You will be much happier with the end result when you do.

Finding the right narrator might seem a bit daunting, especially after reading my posts about it, but when you get it right, the results are well worth it in terms of personal happiness and customer happiness.  Beautifully recorded audiobooks are loved by audio listeners who then tell their friends to buy your book. That is, at the end of the day, what you are seeking to accomplish.

The 3 “P”s of Audiobook Narrators

Hypatia of Alexandria audio cover

Choosing a narrator is one of the most important decisions an author can make when deciding to create an audio book.  A bad narrator can kill a book whereas a great narrator can dramatically increase sales and income for an author.  But how do you choose?  What criteria do you use to find someone who is right for your book?

After publishing four Legendary Women of World History biographies in English (narrated by Richard Mann), two LWWH in Spanish, one Peers of Beinan novella, and both “American Poverty” and “Preparing for My First Cockatiel” since June, 2014, I have now experienced the great, the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to narrators and the ACX system and can confidently break down everything into three easy to remember key criteria for choosing the right narrator for your book.  These are the three Ps of audiobook narration, but they also apply to book translations on Babelcube which operates on a very similar system — except on Babelcube all contracts are royalty share only whereas ACX/Audible offers more choices.

Performance

Performance is what it sounds like.  This is the quality of the audition and the quality of the delivered audio book. Quality includes “pitch, placement, and dynamics” as Richard Mann puts it in his introduction on his website. But it’s also recording the audiobook verbatim which I find Karl Thornton and Alex Freeman did exceptionally well on their books for me. Performance includes accents, pacing, word pronunciation, characterization, and so forth.  All of these much match the book precisely so that the final book available for sale on Audible is at its best and provides the listener a great experience.

In addition to the audition itself, performance is assessed by narrator websites and ACX profiles. These are each narrator’s resume/CV designed to help authors figure out if the narrator in the profile matches the author’s needs.

Aristocratic_Lady_15th_b1899sdIt goes without saying that the more samples and more information provided in both the narrator profile and linked professional website (this can be one you build, or it can be your professional profile from soundcloud or another site showcasing actors, musicians, and/or voice artists), the more likely the author will find the right creative match for a specific book.  Treat the narrator profile and website as a resume/CV and always treat the author as a hiring manager — because that’s exactly what she is.  The author is hiring a performer to present her book and sell it to customers. Narrators need to present as much information as possible so the author can say “yes” and make an offer to narrate. That also includes having some method of contact such as an email address, phone number, and/or social media outside of ACX so that the author can talk by voice about the proposed project at hand.

Professionalism

On the surface, professionalism doesn’t seem like a key criteria for choosing a narrator. After all, it’s the creative factors in the performance that matters most, right?

Not exactly.  Professionalism is about the working relationship.  Someone can be very talented while also being difficult to work with.  This includes communication with the author (especially if/when something goes wrong), word pronunciation, performance styling, performance issues, and really any number of hundreds of different ways things can go right or wrong along the way.  The best narrators are very client-centric.  They focus on what the author wants and needs and are quick to communicate problems or challenges that come up during recording.  Great narrators ask the author in advance if they have a question or concern.

By contrast the bad ones put what they want first, are bad communicators, difficult to reach, ignore author requests, do not consult with the author creatively, and basically treat the author as their employee (or worse).  One of my pay per finished hour narrators couldn’t be bothered to inform me his payment details in advance of the final book approval, despite knowing from previous pay per finish hour projects that pfh books are not accepted into the system as completed until the author pays the narrator and the narrator confirms payment. This sort of lack of professionalism not only makes the work process difficult, but it can also truly affect the quality of the book and therefore sales for the author.

Strong professionals make audio production easy and even fun.  Weak professionals create stress and ultimately undermine and deliver poor quality work that doesn’t sell.

Price

Price is the final criteria and it can be important.  Price is obviously how much money the narrator is paid and which of the contract options the author and narrator agree upon. ACX offers two main types of contracts between authors and narrators.  The first I alluded to earlier is where the narrator is paid per finished hour.  This is exactly what it sounds like.  When the author decides upon a narrator, s/he can offer to pay the narrator a fee based on the final book length. ACX estimates that length based on the number of words in the book.  The author then uses that estimate to set a budget. If the narrator accepts the proposed rate, s/he is paid, usually by paypal, the final fee specified when the book is called final by the author. Once paid, the author and only the author receives payment from each audiobook copy sold.

The other option is royalty share.  Royalty share means that author and narrator split the earnings equally and perpetually at a rate that never changes. Both author and narrator are paid for as long as the book is for sale, generally for the rest of the author’s and narrator’s lives plus a set number of years after author/narrator death.  Hence, the narrator can earn much more money by royalty share and being paid per copy as the book sells over years and decades.  It’s payment with an eye for the long term and it is my preferred contract term because generally I want my narrators to earn as much as possible.

Though royalty share seems perfect in many respects for authors and narrators who take a long-term view, there is one important caveat to be aware of before choosing it:  if something goes horribly wrong and the author decides the final book is of such poor quality that it cannot be published at all, the author is on the hook for a flat fee currently around $500 if the contract needs to be terminated and the author decides not to offer it for sale.  By contrast, in the same situation, if the author decides to not publish a pay per finish hour book, s/he pays the same fee to the narrator that is otherwise owed when the book publishes.

In other words, the author is not liable to pay more for a per finished hour book than the agreed upon pfh rate set out in the contract.

 

When choosing a narrator, performance, professionalism, and price all become important criteria to the decision making process.  When the process goes right, authors and narrators form tightly bonded teams who create the best audio books for listeners that reflect the author’s imagination and creativity effectively.  When the process goes wrong, great books get lost and often fail.

Topics of Discussion: Adding the Legendary Women of World History to Your Lesson Plan

Can you believe it’s been SIX YEARS since the start of the Legendary Women of World History series first went live?  Designed to improve history literacy towards women’s accomplishments, the series has grown to ten biographies with an eleventh biography outside the series in the form of Godiva Award winning “His Red Eminence, Armand-Jean du Plessis de Richelieu.”

Each of these books are perfect for classroom use, continuing education (both within and outside a university setting), home schooling, and summer reading, in addition to simply great books to read because you are interested in learning about the specific biography subject.

With lesson planning often being topical in nature, it can be hard from reading the biography book description to know which books fit best with which units.  Here then is a topical breakdown of all eleven books (plus American Poverty which is classified as American History by Audible) to guide your lesson planning.  Though these lists are extensive, they are by no means completely comprehensive:

General Eras

Ancient History:  Cleopatra VII: Egypt’s Last Pharaoh; Boudicca, Britain’s Queen of the Iceni; Hypatia of Alexandria

Medieval History: Empress Wu Zetian; Margaret of Wessex: Mother, Saint, and Queen of Scots; Gwenllian ferch Gruffydd, the Warrior Princess of Deheubarth; Empress Matilda of England

Renaissance Europe: Catherine de Valois: French Princess, Tudor Matriarch; Mary Queen of the Scots: the Forgotten Reign; Queen Elizabeth Tudor: Journey to Gloriana

Modern History: His Red Eminence, Armand-Jean du Plessis de Richelieu; American Poverty

Topics by Book

America Poverty Audio cover 72 ppi

American Poverty: American History; Occupy Wall Street; economics; American culture; 21st century.

His Red Eminence, Armand – Jean du Plessis de Richelieu: modern history; statesmen; French history; Louis XIII; Marie de Medici; Alexandre Dumas; “The Three Musketeers”; Bourbon dynasty; 17th century Europe.

Boudicca, Britain’s Queen of the Iceni: Roman Empire; Roman Britain; Celtic Britain; national heroines, warrior queens; Colchester; Londonium; 1st century Europe.

Catherine de Valois: French Princess, Tudor Matriarch: Henry V of England; Hundred Years War; War of the Roses; House Valois; French history; Battle of Agincourt; Shakespeare; Welsh history; matriarchs; 15th century Europe.

Mary Queen of the Scots

Queen Mary Stuart: the Forgotten Reign: Scottish history; Scottish Reformation; Protestant Reformation; Stewart dynasty; Stuart dynasty; Marie de Guise; Edinburgh; Earl of Moray; James Stewart; John Knox; Queen Elizabeth Tudor; House Valois; Auld Alliance; King James VI/I; French dances; French music; bransles; 16th century Europe.

Queen Elizabeth Tudor

Queen Elizabeth Tudor: the Forgotten Reign: English history; Tudor dynasty; Tudor England; English country dancing; Queen Mary Stuart; Robert Dudley; Princess Elizabeth; Queen Mary Tudor; King Edward VI of England; Tower of London; Tide Letter; second person; 16th century Europe.

 

Empress Wu Zetian audio

Empress Wu Zetian: Chinese history; Tang dynasty;  female emperors; concubines; cai ren; Chinese empresses; Li Xian; Li Taizong; Rui zong emperor; Luoyang; Chang An; education for women; women intellectuals; women authors; sovereign queens; Confucianism; 7th century China.

 

f559b-gwenllian2bferch2bgruffydd2bweb

Gwenllian ferch Gruffydd: the Warrior Princess of Deheubarth: Welsh history; medieval Wales; Gwynedd; Powys; Ceredigion; Welsh maid Marion; national heroines; Nest ferch Rhys; Henry Fitzhenry; Dinefwr; Pembrokeshire; Saint David’s Day; Aberffraw; Anglesey; north Wales; King Henry I of England; Maurice de Londres; Norman Conquest; Welsh common law; Norman Conquest of Wales; matriarchs; 12th century Europe.

empress-matilda-of-england-web

Empress Matilda of England: Angevin dynasty; medieval England; 12th century England; Salian dynasty; Empire of the Romans; Kaiser Heinrich V; Kaiserin Matilda; imperatrix; Plantagenet dynasty; The Anarchy; Stephen de Blois; civil war; King Henry I of England; King Henry II of England; Welsh common law; royal miscarriage; matriarchs; Thomas Becket; Witan; Margaret of Wessex; Gwenllian ferch Gruffydd; 12th century Europe.

Hypatia of Alexandria paperback cs

Hypatia of Alexandria: Egypt; Alexandria; late Roman Empire; Eastern Roman Empire; librarians; mathematicians; astronomers; Greek astronomy; Christianity; early Church history; Council of Nicaea; Emperor Constantine; Alexandrine Jewry; Jewish religion; Jewish culture; Passover; Hanukkah; Saturnalia; Library at Alexandria; Serapeum; Caesarium; pagan; Greek philosophy; Neo-Platonism; Athens; education for women; women intellectuals; patriarch of Alexandria; Synesius of Cyrene; Orestes; Roman government; 5th century.

Cleopatra VII web

Cleopatra VII: Egypt’s Last Pharaoh: Roman Republic; Gaius Julius Caesar; Ptolemaic dynasty; civil war; Alexandria; Egypt; Caesar Augustus; Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus; Marcus Antonius; Roman women; education for women; women intellectuals; Greek women; women authors; sovereign queens; Tarsus; Battle of Actium; Rome; ancient Rome; ancient Alexandria.

Margaret of Wessex - English

Margaret of Wessex: Norman Conquest; 1066; Battle of Hastings; Battle of Stamford Bridge; Northumbria; House Wessex; Empress Matilda of England; Edith Matilda of Scotland; Edward the Confessor; Harold Godwinson; William the Conqueror; Malcolm III Canmore; Máel Coluim mac Donnchadh Ceann Mhor; Scottish clans; Dunkeld dynasty; Scottish history; Alba; medieval Scotland; Norwegian; Danish; Norman; viking; York; Witan; Jorvik; Dunfermline; Edinburgh; Yorkminster; Westminster; London; Harrying of the North; Winchester; Anglo-Saxon; England; Principality of Hungary; matriarchs; 11th century Europe.

 

It’s About Time: proper formatting of the Timelines in the Legendary Women of World History series

The Legendary Women of World History series is the best selling narrative biography series written by Laurel A. Rockefeller. With the exception of “Boudicca, Britain’s Queen of the Iceni,” each biography features a detailed timeline designed to help streamline the main narrative by keeping most of the dates out of the story.  The timelines are designed to be as easy to read as possible, offering the maximum of information with a quick scan of the page.

For that reason, the timelines do not use the standard date format.  In the USA, the standard date format is (including all possible variables):

  • Day of the week
  • Month
  • Date
  • Year
  • Time of day.

Listing historical events this way however would be confusing and make it very difficult to locate a specific event.  For that reason, I use the following structure and organization in each timeline:

  • Year usually followed by BCE (Before the Common Era — aka “BC”) or CE (Common Era — aka “AD”)
  • Season (if known) OR
  • Day of the month (if known) AND
  • Month.

Events occurring in the same year are organized from the most general to the most specific in chronological order.  For example:

  • 1619; King Louis XIII and Queen Anne of Austria finally consummate their marriage four years after their wedding.
  • 1619, 10th February; Christine Marie of France marries Victor Amadeus of Savoy.
  • 1619, 22nd February; Marie de Medici escapes Blois and establishes her new court in Angoulême. Charles d’Albert de Luynes begins working with Bishop Richelieu on a diplomatic solution to the Medici problem.
  • 1619, spring-summer; Bishop Richelieu arrives in Angoulême to negotiate with Marie de Medici in person.
  • 1619, 8th July; the marquis of Thémines, captain of Queen Marie de Medici’s guards challenges Seigneur Henri de Richelieu to a duel, killing Richelieu. The family debt from both François and Henri du Plessis passes to Armand Richelieu to discharge and repay.
  • 1619, 10th August; thanks to careful negotiations by Bishop Richelieu, Queen Marie de Medici and King Louis XIII sign the Treaty of Angoulême. Du Luynes assigns Richelieu to de Medici’s court to contain and control her.

As you can see from this example from “His Red Eminence,” the year 1619 was a busy year filled with events we both know happened sometime that year but no more specific than the year, one where we know within a six-month span approximately when in the year it happened, and several where we know the exact date.

Though other countries structure their dates differently than in the United States, it is very important for each translated edition to follow the same structure as I present in the English in order to preserve this organization of events and keep it as readable as possible.

 

 

 

Spoilers! The importance of letting your readers’ imagination flourish

good omensThis spring I couldn’t wait for Neil Gaiman’s “Good Omens” to release on Amazon Prime Video.  After seeing so many tantalizing tweets showing David Tennant in costume as the demon Crowley, the Whovian in me just had to be the first to watch it.  As soon as it hit Amazon I binged watched the entire thing and 36 hours later I was treated to Tori Amos singing the final song.  I absolutely loved the miniseries.  It was clever, well-written, and all the actors, but especially David Tennant, were amazing.

 

Then, about three or four weeks later, tweets and quotes from interviews with Neil Gaiman, David Tennant, and other principles from the show started appearing.  In these interviews, Gaiman, Tennant, and others revealed all sorts of behind-the-scenes information — including discussion about Crowley’s relationship with Aziraphale.

For me, the pleasure of watching the show was watching the relationship between Crowley and Aziraphale.  It wasn’t a show so much about stopping the end of the world as it was about how an angel and a demon overcame their understandable differences to become very good friends who are able to work together for a common goal.  This was my interpretation of what was happening on screen. My imagination at work that allowed me to enjoy what I was watching.

spoilers season 5 finaleSo imagine my shock when these interviews revealed that what I interpreted and imagined the relationship to be was completely wrong. That what I loved best about the interactions between Crowley and Aziraphale had a completely different context and difference nuance than I imagined.  The very things that helped me have a great time watching it in the first place did not actually exist for the characters.  I was completely wrong about both Crowley and Aziraphale — writer Neil Gaiman said so!

It was and still is heartbreaking.  Now I find myself unwilling to watch the show again.  It’s even become a touchy subject.  I want my version of the story to be the story.  I want my fairy tale.

christmas candle finaleThe same need for the story to be the story of my imagination applies to other beloved books and films, including one of my favourites, “The Christmas Candle” by Max Lucado and featuring Hans Matheson (The Tudors), Samantha Barks, and Sylvester McCoy (Seventh Doctor, Doctor Who).  The Christmas Candle is a very sweet Christmas film set in turn of the 20th century England. Until of course you look deeper and read interviews by Max Lucado to find that what he intends for the book and for the film is quite different than the way the film plays in my mind.

 

These are but two examples showing how and why giving the audience spoilers is a bad thing for authors. The key to enjoying a book or film is in the audience’s imagination.  It doesn’t matter whether or not what the audience picks up from a book or film matches what you the author intends. What matters is what the individual reading or watching your work perceives.  Readers want to enjoy their experience, the time invested with your work.  Unless compelled in some way, they always start out on your side and will stay with you only as long as they are enjoying that time with your work.

 

Whether it’s in your book description or in interviews later, it is critically important to preserve the audience’s imagination — even when what they get from your work is very different from what you intend.  Yes, this can be hard.  As a biographical historian I can feel frustrated when the audience comes away not getting the facts of the subject’s life correct.  But as frustrating as it can be when the audience gets it wrong, it is vital to not contradict them — unless asked and, sometimes, unless you make them aware that what you tell them could be a spoiler.

 

As writers, we want our ideas to come through clearly.  When they don’t, we want to shout from the rooftops all sorts of background information.  But while we like our background information, it is important for us to be mindful that background information may in fact destroy the reading or viewing experience.

Let us then be mindful about spoilers and let the reader/audience decide.

Frenemies: Queen Mary’s Most Dangerous Companions

Mary Queen of Scots“Keep your friends close and your enemies closer,” goes conventional wisdom. We’ve all heard the phrase of course. It’s the sentiment behind the new word “frenemy” – the fusion of friend and enemy. That is, someone who is both your friend and your enemy. Frenemies are common in royal courts of course where back room deals and palace intrigues characterize the reigns of even the most virtuous monarchs, female and male.

As common as these complex relationships have been, few monarchs have faced such extremes in their frenemies as Queen Mary Stuart of Scotland where her most constant male companions were also those most bent on destroying her.  Let’s take a look at her three deadliest.

 

James Stewart, the Earl of Moray

James Stewart 1st Earl of Moray 1531-1570One of Mary’s half-brothers through James V’s many mistresses, James Stewart was a leading member of the “Lords of the Congregation” in the Scottish Parliament and therefore a key figure in the Protestant Reformation in Scotland.

As a member of Parliament, self-serving nobleman, and Protestant, he tirelessly worked to contain Queen Mary and undermine her ability to govern even while operating as her de facto chief of staff.

As her brother, he helped Mary transition from her role as queen-consort of France to queen sovereign of Scotland and genuinely seemed to care for her well-being as much as any in her court could.

 

Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley

Henry_Stuart,_Lord_DarnleyQueen Mary’s second husband, Henry Stewart was Mary’s cousin through her grandmother Margaret Tudor’s remarriage to Archibald Douglas. Tall, handsome, and sharing Queen Mary’s love of riding, falconry, and hunting, he seemed a suitable match for the lonely and widowed queen.

But Darnley had a dark side.  He was vain (even by standards of the time), arrogant, and prone to drunkenness, traits that made the Scottish people hate him as fiercely as they loved Queen Mary’s generous, kind, and amiable temperament. A particularly violent drunk, Darnley readily beat and terrorized Queen Mary.

In March, 1566, Darnley’s vanity and jealousy towards Queen Mary’s secretary David Riccio led to murder in Holyrood palace as Darnley stormed the queen’s apartment, seized her person, and forced her to watch Darnley’s men stab Riccio 56 times. Darnley put a pistol to Mary’s pregnant belly, hoping to force her to miscarry their son, while he demanded the crown matrimonial –the right to become king if she died childless.  Mary refused.  Eleven months later Darnley himself was found dead at Kirk o’ Field house in Edinburgh.

 

John Knox

John KnoxThe fire-brand whose May 1559 sermon set off a bloody rebellion against Queen Mary’s throne while she was still in France, John Knox was the ultimate frenemy for Queen Mary. A staunch misogynist who did not believe women possessed the capacity to rule over men in any capacity and who openly preached against women leaders on all levels of society, Knox was nonetheless one of Queen Mary’s preferred social companions, especially when indulging in hunting, archery, falconry, and other outdoor pursuits. Like the Earl of Moray, his politics and religion clashed with his social sensibilities, perhaps in part because Queen Mary was one of the most charismatic and charming of all royals in Europe.

Mary’s charm could not banish Knox’s paranoia towards both Catholics and women nor persuade him of her benevolent intentions. In the end, he, like the Lords of the Congregation who supported him, rejoiced in Mary’s final downfall and eventual death at English hands.

 

Court intrigue, murder, and violent revolution swept through Queen Mary’s Scotland during her largely forgotten reign. Yet despite the pressures around her, Mary remained gentle, kind, and a true people’s princess, loved by all – even by some of her most dangerous enemies. Where her cousin Elizabeth Tudor hardened her heart and kept her thoughts to herself, Queen Mary remained open, trusting, and charismatic, untainted by the terrors and sorrows of her life. A grieving widow, a battered wife, a persecuted Catholic, Queen Mary Stuart was so much more than her final years as Queen Elizabeth’s political prisoner.  It is a life worth remembering and worth exploring.  I hope you will take time this summer and learn her story.

Mary Queen of the Scots

“Mary Queen of the Scots, the Forgotten Reign” and its follow-up, “Queen Elizabeth Tudor: Journey to Gloriana” are available in multiple languages at a bookstore near you. See https://bit.ly/2IWJeOB for a complete list of available languages for each volume.

Cardinal Richelieu—the Musical Hymns, Carols, and Popular Music in “His Red Eminence.”

“C’est un rempart que notre Dieu, une invincible armure. Notre délivrance en tout lieu, notre défense sûre. Satan, notre ennemi, en fureur s’est promis. D’user de son pouvoir. Pour vaincre et décevoir. Sur terre il n’y a plus d’abri,” sang Anne Rochefeuille as she played the harpsichord in the main drawing room of the Palais Cardinal, Cardinal Richelieu’s grand palace built just north of the Louvre and bequeathed to King Louis XIII upon his death on the 4th of December 1642. Though Americans rarely hear it in French, the first verse of the above hymn is well-known by Protestants around the world as “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” by Martin Luther.  It is, like so many songs in this latest biography, an unusual choice for the story of France’s greatest and most transformative first minister.

Armand-Jean Richelieu 1 small

Jean-Armand du Plessis, cardinal and duc de Richelieu transformed France into the first truly modern and secular state of the western world. Still essentially a collection of feudal states owing nominal loyalty to the king of France when he took up the bishopric of Luçon in 1608, the cardinal’s ability to put aside religious considerations in favour of complete subordination of the French people and its institutions to the king had inevitable cultural implications as well. Carefully patronizing writers, poets, dramatists, painters, sculptors, architects, composers, musicians, and other artisans, regardless of his personal opinions about their creations, his patient efforts carefully moved French culture into the celebrated baroque era we associate with King Louis XIV.

Red Eminence webIn my new biography, “His Red Eminence, Jean-Armand du Plessis de Richelieu,” I celebrate the cardinal’s life through music. Eight songs in French, Latin, and English fill these pages, helping the story to come alive. Given my habit for setting scenes during the Christmas holiday season, there are of course Christmas carols, more than any other book so far. 15th century French carol “Noël Nouvelet” makes an appearance, as does “Adeste Fideles” which was originally written by French monks in the medieval era but not translated to English as “O Come All Ye Faithful” until Victorian times.

Two decidedly English songs make an appearance: the 16th century English “Coventry Carol” is heard for the first time in one of my books as does the medieval version of the popular song “Quoth John to Joan.”

Popular French music arrives in the form of Pierre Guédon’s “Aux plaisirs, aux délices.”  Guédon’s music is very special because it’s one of the few surviving songs we have specific to King Louis XIII’s reign instead of dating to either the Valois dynasty or Louis XIV’s reign.

Aux plaisirs, aux délices, bergères,

Il faut ètre du temps ménagères,

Car il s’écoule et se perd d’heure en heure;

Et le regret seulement en demeure.

A l’àmour, aux plaisirs, au bocage

Employez les beaux jours de votre àge.

But perhaps the most poignant of the two popular music pieces in this book is also the most familiar.  “Belle Qui Tiens Ma Vie” by Thoinot Arbeau is a love song written at the end of the 16th century. Popular with re-enactors, it is slow, stately and full of quiet passion. Just the sort of song that rises to the many diverse occasions found in not only this beautiful biography, but many of the Legendary Women of World History biographies as well.

We first encounter “Belle Qui Tiens Ma Vie” in 1618 during Armand-Jean’s exile in Avignon when best friend Anne Rochefeuille sings the first two verses. Then, in 1628, facing the horrors of war and missing home and the love waiting for him in Paris, Armand-Jean sings verses three through eight for us, allowing us to hear the song in full. Drama arises when his song is overheard by Father Joseph, his “grey eminence” as history remembers him. For one of the most consistent sources of drama in this biography is the constant question by those around the good cardinal as to whether or not, and if so who, is he taking to his bed as his lover.

Historically, the question is never proven either way but rather is a matter of persistent rumour spanning his entire adult life.

My belief is that he did have a lover, a woman whom he loved and faithfully took to bed for over twenty years. But more than a vessel for his sexual appetites, she was best friend, confidant, nurse, and intellectual equal.  She was everything for Armand-Jean du Plessis that Katharina von Bora was for Martin Luther almost a century before—except of course that du Plessis could not marry her in the church without stepping down from the priesthood and his only means of supporting himself. Even after becoming a cardinal in 1622 and first minister of France in 1624, Richelieu’s economic survival depended on him keeping secret what the true nature of his relationship with his Anne really was. If the truth were ever discovered, the scandal stood to cost him not only his position (and the money he depended on to live), but his life as well.

 

With this dramatic context in mind, I invite you to enter King Louis XIII’s court with all its music and dance and courtly romance and intrigues to meet the real man you never knew from reading Dumas’ “The Three Musketeers.”

 

 

Walking in Queen Mary’s Footsteps: Palaces and Castles

Welcome to “Summer in Scotland,” our month-long celebration of Scotland and in particular the Scotland known and loved by its most famous queen, Mary Stuart, better known simply as “Mary Queen of Scots.”

Across Queen Mary’s forty-four years she lived in France, reigned in Scotland, and died in England. Though not all of the places she guested at, lived at, and/or worked from still exist (notably Fotheringhay Castle where she was executed in 1587), these six palaces and castles are not only still standing, but they are open to the public for you to visit this summer.

Linlithgow Palace

Linlithgow Palace (West Lothian, Scotland)

Built as a retreat from court life at Edinburgh Castle by the Stewarts, the peace and quiet of Linlithgow makes it the perfect getaway for royals and modern visitors alike. Overlooking Loch Linlithgow, there is scenic beauty and waterfowl aplenty to melt away whatever stress comes your way. No wonder it was the Stewarts preferred place to give birth and is Queen Mary Stuart’s birth place.

Open year round except on 25 December, 26 December, 1 January, and 2 January. Tickets start at £7.20 and are available at https://tickets.historic-scotland.gov.uk/webstore/shop/viewItems.aspx?cg=TKTS&c=WSLOTHIANS.

Chateau Blois 1

Château Blois (Loire Valley, France)

Located in the Loire Valley about halfway between Orléans and Tours, Chateau Blois was 15th and 16th century France’s preferred royal residence.  Here Queen Mary and Prince François spent countless weeks in the year at court.  Later, in 1617, it became home to Marie de Medici’s court in exile. Along with her came her very loyal chief advisor, Armand-Jean du Plessis, better known as Cardinal Richelieu (see “His Red Eminence, Armand-Jean du Plessis de Richelieu”).

Open year-round, tickets start at €12. Go to http://en.chateaudeblois.fr/EvenementChateauVisite/2040-prepare-your-visit.htm for details and tourism package options.

Chateau Chambord

Château de Chambord (Loire Valley, France)

Favoured by Queen Mary’s father-in-law Henri II and designed in part by Leonardo da Vinci, Chambord is an architectural masterpiece that takes you into the mind of its creator.  Features a unique double-helix staircase designed by da Vinci so that no one going up can meet anyone going down on it.

Open year-round except on 25 December and 1 January, you can stroll the outside grounds for free. Tickets to visit the castle and private gardens start at €14,50.  Go to https://www.chambord.org/en/plan-your-visit/opening-hours/ for more information.

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle (Edinburgh, Scotland)

At the heart of Queen Mary’s reign stands Edinburgh Castle which, appropriately, dominates the Edinburgh skyline.  Situated on a cliff high above the rest of the city, it is easy to see why King David I (son of Margaret of Wessex and brother to Empress Matilda of England) chose the site for his castle. Queen Mary and her parliament ruled from here and on 19 June 1566 she gave birth to King James VI in the same bedroom you can visit today. Queen Mary herself made several improvements to the castle which intially she found dark and cold compared to the airy grandeur of the French court, adding wall-coverings and art to warm both body and soul, especially in winter.

Open year-round except on 25th and 26th December. Tickets start at £17.50 if you purchase your tickets online or £19.50 if you purchase at the gate.

Stirling Castle

Stirling Castle (Stirling, Scotland)

Built in 1107, Stirling Castle is one of the historically most significant landmarks in Scotland’s long pursuit of freedom and independence from English conquest. William Wallace and Andrew Moray famously fought the Battle of Stirling Bridge near here in 1297 to retake the castle from England. Robert the Bruce’s 1314 victory at Bannockburn likewise returned it to Scotland. In 1503, King James IV built its Great Hall. Queen Mary held her baptism service for her son James (VI) here in 1566. When it was James VI’s turn to baptise his son Henry in 1594, he also held the baptism and its celebrations at Stirling Castle.

Open year-round except on 25th and 26th December.  Tickets start at £15 if you purchase online or £16 at the gate.

Lochleven Castle

Lochleven Castle (Kinross, Scotland)

Built in the 14th Century, Queen Mary guested at Lochleven before its tower turned into her prison in 1567.  This is where she miscarried or aborted James Hepburn’s baby, and where she abdicated her throne in favour of her son James.

Open 1 April to 31 October. Closed from 1 November to 31 March. Access by boat only. Tickets start at £9.00 which includes boat fare. Go to https://www.historicenvironment.scot/visit-a-place/places/lochleven-castle/prices-and-opening-times/ to purchase advance tickets (strongly recommended).

 

Wherever your summer takes you, I hope you will spend part of it with Queen Mary Stuart and will make “Mary Queen of the Scots: the Forgotten Reign” your first and best introduction to Scotland’s most tragic and famous queen. Available at your favourite bookstore world-wide in English, Chinese, French, Spanish, German, Portuguese, and Italian. See http//www.laurelarockefeller.com for complete links to all editions.

The Downton Abbey Effect Cottages and Palaces in “His Red Eminence”

“Downton Abbey.” Few period dramas have earned the critical acclaim and popularity as the story of its Crawley family as they navigate the dramatic changes faced in the early 20th century. Featuring lavish estates and stories centred on both the upstairs nobles and downstairs servants, it can be no wonder so many of us are excited about the September 2019 release of a theatrical film that continues the stories of these beloved characters.

Important to Downton Abbey’s appeal stems from its window into how the upper classes live and how they interact with the servants whose labours empower their lifestyle. It’s a time gone by for nearly all of us, a culture few of us experience or understand. A culture that was very much part of life in 17th century France.

In “His Red Eminence, Armand-Jean du Plessis de Richelieu” we are taken through the good cardinal’s entire adult life, starting at the age of twenty when he was a student at his beloved Sorbonne. Along the way, he lived in everything from a spartan dormitory to modest cottages to palaces. Each of these held a very different lifestyle. Each of them enlightened by watching “Downtown Abbey.”  Let’s take a look at his homes.

 

Du Plessis Manor/Château Richelieu – Poitou (1585-1594, intermittent thereafter)

The cardinal’s childhood home was the medieval manor built by his ancestors and resided at for centuries. The 16th century Wars of Religion which ultimately claimed the life of Armand’s father François in 1590 bankrupted the family, forcing Armand’s mother Suzanne de la Porte to cut what few staff they had before. Odds are the frugality Suzanne de la Porte imposed on her household meant Armand grew up with few if any of the luxuries normally enjoyed by the nobility, a simplicity in lifestyle he maintained for the rest of his life.

Upon the death of his father in 1590, eldest brother Henri du Plessis became Seigneur de Richelieu. Through political skill and the kindness of King Henri IV, Henri improved the du Plessis fortunes by convincing the king to appoint Armand as Bishop of Luçon and with it, a yearly income of 15,000 livres for his brother and, by extension, the family.

Chateau_de_Richelieu_engraving_17th_century

(engraving of the Château Richelieu before its demolition in 1805.)

 

As Armand’s career improved over the years, he invested in the family home, transforming it in the Château Richelieu built by architect Jacques Lemercier, and employing a proper household staff to attend him whenever he or other family members stayed there. From footmen to housemaids, valets, and lady’s maids, the château scenes in chapter twelve are modelled closely after those in Downton Abbey and the many adventures of those who lived there, both upstairs and downstairs.

 

Dormitory at the Sorbonne (1606-1607)

Like most students, Armand-Jean lived simply in a bedroom that served as bedroom, library, office, and beyond. He probably shared both a kitchen and lavatory with others living in the same building. It is the style of life most familiar to us today and therefore most relatable.

 

Bishop’s Mansion – Luçon (1608-1614)

More spacious than his dormitory, ordination as a priest and investiture as a bishop was a step up for His Excellency, Bishop du Plessis.  As bishop he lived in a parsonage where he lived, maintained an office complete with a secretary, and entertained. No less than a cook and a housekeeper maintained the residence and probably other servants as well, though likely fewer than ten altogether. Though the sizes of bishop mansions varied with the wealth and important of individual dioceses, the mansion in Luçon probably maintained at least five guest bedrooms in addition to the master bedroom the bishop occupied and those reserved on the top floor for residential staff.

 

Mansions – Blois and Avignon Exiles (1617-1620)

Historically speaking, we know essentially nothing about where exactly Bishop du Plessis lived during his years in exile in Blois and Avignon created by his service to Marie de Medici. As a civil servant, he most likely lived in the same home as the dowager queen while in Blois. Given Marie de Medici was essentially running a quasi-independent, rival French government, it is logical to deduce that she and her staff (du Plessis included) lived in a modest mansion sufficiently sized to accommodate a household of at least thirty and probably closer to sixty. Upon being ordered away from de Medici in the form of being sent to Avignon, Bishop du Plessis and those exiled with him probably experienced a more scaled down version of his life in Blois with a smaller mansion-prison and fewer staff, but still attended somewhat by cooks, housekeepers, and perhaps a footman or two whose real function was to enforce the house arrest while spying on the prisoners.

 

Parisian Cottages (1614-1617, 1620-1629)

In September, 1614 Bishop du Plessis arrived in Paris as a delegate from Poitou representing its clergy at the meeting of the Estates-General in Paris. Though we know nothing about how or where the bishop was housed, it was most likely a modest cottage not unlike Crawley House in Downton Abbey. The bishop probably had a cook and a housekeeper to look after him. Upon being appointed to the large stream of government positions showcased in “Eminence” that staff level would have slowed increased, but rarely exceeding more than five or ten total servants plus or minus the red guards who protected his person. These cottages probably looked and felt a great deal like Crawley House, modest but comfortable, but better suited to city life than the rural-centric Crawley House.

 

Apartment at the Louvre (intermittent, 1622-1629)

Living at the Louvre was a special honour granted as a reward to favourite courtiers. It was also given to those ministers the king wanted kept close to him—either because he wanted him closely watched and/or because he needed that minister available to him at all hours of the day and night.

As seen in “Eminence,” Richelieu most likely divided his residency between an apartment in the Louvre and a nearby cottage. While staying at the Louvre, housemaids would have kept his apartment tidy and cooks would have provided him with his meals. Footmen summoned him into the royal presence.

Following his 1628 success at La Rochelle, King Louis XIII gifted him with his own estate mere metres from the Louvre which Richelieu designed with architect Jacques Lemercier, the Palais Cardinal, a grand home that survives to this day as the “Palais Royal.”

 

Palais Cardinal (1629-1642)

In 1629 Jacques Lemercier completed the Palais Cardinal, the ultra-modern palace estate which became Cardinal Richelieu’s principle residence from 1629 until his death on 4 December, 1642. The Palais Cardinal featured Paris’ first theatre at which the many plays Richelieu penned were performed. Though the cardinal maintained the simple lifestyle one expects of a parish priest, he spent generously on a massive household staff at the Palais Cardinal. With an income exceeding two million livres per year at the end of his life, he could afford it. But as with everything else, his spending was far more about the principle than his own needs or interests. In patronizing the visual, dramatic, and musical arts at the Palais, he fostered French culture in ways he believed were essential to the longevity of the State. In offering employment to a far larger household staff than he needed, he invested in his community.

 

In the end, Armand-Jean du Plessis, cardinal and duc de Richelieu was not the mean-spirited and heartless villain of the Dumas novels, but rather the kind, extremely generous, and far-sighted statesman who invested in people, in the arts, in long-term diplomacy, and in a strong, unified France. Instead of using his income from government service for his own creature comforts and agendas, he invested in the French people, in French culture, and in the French State.

The fictional Earl of Grantham considered himself the custodian of Downtown Abbey. The very real Cardinal Richelieu made himself the custodian of France itself.  Few ministers have done more or served better than His Red Eminence, Armand-Jean du Plessis de Richelieu.

Review: Herbal Essences Dry Shampoo

I love to travel whenever I get the opportunity, especially if I can take my cockatiels with me (read that: shame on you United Airlines for still not allowing birds to travel in cargo as required for international flights). With my bags all settled this spring, it was time to test some of the products that are frequently on the lists from travel “experts.”

I decided to start with dry shampoo, specifically Herbal Essences Dry Shampoo after receiving a free product coupon from Protector and Gamble.  I purchased my canister at Dollar General which offered the volumizing grapefruit and mint version in the 4.9 oz size and the revitalizing cucumber and green tea version in the TSA approved 1.7 oz size (and yes, this DOES go in your liquids bag).

Dry shampoos work by absorbing oils near your scalp and adding scent to your hair so it smells washed.  You spray it on, then work through the roots of your hair immediately to spread it onto the oily parts.  I’ve also seen advice by hair stylists suggest that if you have fine hair like mine you should let it dry on the surface of your hair instead of working it into your hair because that creates more volume.

Herbal-Essences-White-Grapefruit-Mosa-Mint-Dry-Shampoo-Award-Winner

I have tried this “volumizing” version both ways.  My verdict:  if you work it into your hair with your fingers as instructed, it WILL absorb the extra oil — but it won’t add body to your hair as promised.  Likewise if you leave it on until it dries completely (about 5 minutes), you will get some extra volume — for about an hour — but your hair will still be oily where the “shampoo” doesn’t touch it.  If anything, my very fine hair feels a little sticky after using it.

Both versions dry out your hair — too much really if you are not careful.  When I applied this closer to the ends of my hair, I found those sections rather brittle and vulnerable to breaking off if I am not very careful when brushing it out.

Therefore, this is NOT a product I suggest for use with fine hair. It really seems to harm my hair more than it helps.

HE revitalizeOf the two versions, the cucumber and green tea version smells better and genuinely seems less damaging to my hair.  But it’s still damaging to fine hair and that matters to me.  Given I have recently experienced other issues with other Herbal Essences products, especially after coloring my hair this spring, I must sincerely suggest that if you have fine hair, especially color treated fine hair, this is not the product line for you.  Across the spectrum of shampoos, conditioners, and styling products I’m finding Herbal Essences performs poorly compared to other brands.

 

Since I have only tried Herbal Essences dry shampoo I do not know yet if other brands are better suited for fine hair.  But I am open minded to trying other brands and seeing what works and doesn’t work for me.

Lyrics: Quoth John to Joan (medieval)

Red Eminence webThe eighth and final song appearing in His Red Eminence is the first song I learned to sing in the Society for Creative Anachronism:  Quoth John to Joan.  Though there is a late Tudor version of this song, I prefer the original medieval version I learned all those years ago.

Quoth John to Joan

English

Quoth John to Joan wilt thou have me?

I prithee now wilt and I’se marry with thee.

My cow, my calf, my horse, my rents,

And all my lands and tenements.

O say my Joan wilt not that do?

I cannot come ev’ry day to woo.

O say my Joan wilt not that do?

I cannot come ev’ry day to woo.

 

I’ve corn and hay in the barn hard by,

And three fat hogs pent up in the sty;

I have a mare and she is coal-black;

I ride on her tail to save her back.

O say my Joan wilt not that do?

I cannot come ev’ry day to woo.

O say my Joan wilt not that do?

I cannot come ev’ry day to woo.

 

I have a cheese upon the shelf.

And I cannot eat it all myself.

I’ve three good marks that lie in rag,

In the nook of the chimney instead of a bag.

O say my Joan wilt not that do?

I cannot come ev’ry day to woo.

O say my Joan wilt not that do?

I cannot come ev’ry day to woo.

 

To marry I would have thy consent,

But faith, I never could compliment.

I can say nought but hoy gee ho!

Words that belong to the cart and the plough.

O say my Joan wilt not that do?

I cannot come ev’ry day to woo.

O say my Joan wilt not that do?

I cannot come ev’ry day to woo.

Lyrics: Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott/C’est Un Rempart Que Notre Dieu/A Mighty Fortress Is Our God (Martin Luther)

Red Eminence webThe seventh song appearing in His Red Eminence is well-known by Protestants around the world, though perhaps never heard before in FRENCH.  Watch for “C’est Un Rempart Que Notre Dieu” in chapter twelve, “Partings and Testaments” as Anne Rochefeuille receives some bad news.

 

Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott/C’est Un Rempart Que Notre Dieu/A Mighty Fortress Is Our God

 

German 

Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott,

ein gute Wehr und Waffen.

Er hilft uns frei aus aller Not,

die uns jetzt hat betroffen.

Der alt böse Feind

mit Ernst er’s jetzt meint,

groß Macht und viel List

sein grausam Rüstung ist,

auf Erd ist nicht seins gleichen.

 

Mit unsrer Macht ist nichts getan,

wir sind gar bald verloren;

es streit’ für uns der rechte Mann,

den Gott hat selbst erkoren.

Fragst du, wer der ist?

Er heißt Jesus Christ,

der Herr Zebaoth,

und ist kein andrer Gott,

das Feld muss er behalten.

 

Und wenn die Welt voll Teufel wär

und wollt uns gar verschlingen,

so fürchten wir uns nicht so sehr,

es soll uns doch gelingen.

Der Fürst dieser Welt,

wie sau’r er sich stellt,

tut er uns doch nicht;

das macht, er ist gericht’:

ein Wörtlein kann ihn fällen.

 

Das Wort sie sollen lassen stahn

und kein’ Dank dazu haben;

er ist bei uns wohl auf dem Plan

mit seinem Geist und Gaben.

Nehmen sie den Leib,[7]

Gut, Ehr, Kind und Weib:

lass fahren dahin,

sie haben’s kein’ Gewinn,

das Reich muss uns doch bleiben.

 

French

C’est un rempart que notre Dieu,
Une invincible armure,
Un défenseur victorieux,
Une aide prompte et sûre.
L’Ennemi, contre nous,
Redouble de courroux:
Vaine colère!
Que pourrait l’Adversaire?
L’Eternel détourne ses coups.

 

Seuls, nous bronchons à chaque pas
Quand l’Ennemi nous presse.
Mais un héros pour nous combat
Et nous soutient sans cesse.
Quel est ce défenseur?
C’est toi, divin Sauveur,
Dieu des armées!
Tes tribus opprimées
Connaissent leur liberateur.

 

Que les démons, forgeant des fers,
Menacent ton Eglise,
Ta Sion brave les enfers,
Sur le rocher assise.
Constant dans son effort,
En vain, avec la mort,
Satan conspire.
Pour briser son empire,
Il suffit d’un mot du Dieu fort.

 

Dis-le, ce mot victorieux
Dans toutes nos détresses,
Et donne-nous, du haut des cieux,
Ta force et ta sagesse.
Qu’on nous ôte nos biens,
Qu’on serre nos liens,
Que nous importe!
Ta grâce est la plus forte,
Et ton royaume est pour les tiens.

 

English

A mighty fortress is our God,

A bulwark never failing:

Our helper He, amid the flood

Of mortal ills prevailing.

For still our ancient foe

Doth seek to work his woe;

His craft and power are great,

And armed with cruel hate,

On earth is not his equal.

 

Did we in our own strength confide,

Our striving would be losing;

Were not the right Man on our side,

The Man of God’s own choosing.

Dost ask who that may be?

Christ Jesus, it is he;

Lord Sabaoth is his name,

From age to age the same,

And He must win the battle.

 

And though this world, with devils filled,

Should threaten to undo us,

We will not fear, for God hath willed

His truth to triumph through us.

The Prince of Darkness grim,

We tremble not for him;

His rage we can endure,

For lo! His doom is sure,

One little word shall fell him.

 

That word above all earthly powers—

No thanks to them—abideth;

The Spirit and the gifts are ours

Through him who with us sideth.

Let goods and kindred go,

This mortal life also:

The body they may kill:

God’s truth abideth still,

His kingdom is for ever.

Lyrics: Adeste Fideles (Cistercian Hymn)/Oh Come All Ye Faithful

Red Eminence webThe sixth song appearing in His Red Eminence is another very old Christmas carol that was only recently translated to English.  Adeste Fideles was written by Cistercian monks on medieval France sometime between the 6th and 12th centuries, but only recently, in 1841 came to the English language.

Adeste Fideles (Cistercian Hymn)/Oh Come All Ye Faithful (translated to English by Frederick Oakeley, 1841)

 

Latin

Adeste fideles læti triumphantes,

Venite, venite in Bethlehem.

Natum videte

Regem angelorum:

Venite adoremus, Venite adoremus, Venite adoremus

Dominum.

 

Deum de Deo, lumen de lumine

Gestant puellæ viscera

Deum verum, genitum non factum.

Venite adoremus, Venite adoremus, Venite adoremus

Dominum.

 

Cantet nunc io, chorus angelorum;

Cantet nunc aula cælestium,

Gloria, gloria in excelsis Deo,

Venite adoremus, Venite adoremus, Venite adoremus

Dominum.

 

Ergo qui natus die hodierna.

Jesu, tibi sit gloria,

Patris æterni Verbum caro factum.

Venite adoremus, Venite adoremus, Venite adoremus

Dominum.

 

English

O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant!

O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem;

Come and behold him

Born the King of Angels:

O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him,

Christ the Lord.

 

God of God, light of light,

Lo, he abhors not the Virgin’s womb;

True God, begotten, not created:

O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him,

Christ the Lord.

 

Sing, choirs of angels, sing in exultation,

Sing, all ye citizens of Heaven above!

Glory to God, glory in the highest:

O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him,

Christ the Lord.

 

Yea, Lord, we greet thee, born this happy morning;

Jesus, to thee be glory given!

Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing!

O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him,

Christ the Lord.

Lyrics: Noël Nouvelet/Christmas Comes Anew (15th Century French)

Red Eminence webThe fifth song that appears in “His Red Eminence is another Christmas carol. This time we are going back to 15th century France for Noël Nouvelet which you can hear at the end of Christmas mass at the Louvre in chapter ten, “Confessions.”

 

Noël Nouvelet/Christmas Comes Anew (15th Century French)

 

French:

Noël nouvelet, Noël chantons icy;

Dévotes gens‚ rendons à Dieu merci;

Chantons Noël pour le Roi nouvelet;

Noël nouvelet!

Noël chantons icy!

 

En Bethléem‚ Marie et Joseph vy‚

L’asne et le boeuf‚ l’Enfant couché parmy;

La crèche était au lieu d’un bercelet.

Noël nouvelet!

Noël chantons icy!

 

L’estoile vint qui le jour esclaircy‚

Et la vy bien d’où j’etois départy

En Bethléem les trois roys conduisaient.

Noël nouvelet!

Noël chantons icy!

 

English:

Christmas comes anew, O let us sing Noel!

Glory to God! Now let your praises swell!

Sing we Noel for Christ, the new-born King,

Christmas comes anew, O let us sing Noel!

 

Angels did say, “O shepherds come and see,

Born in Bethlehem, a blessed Lamb for thee.”

Sing we Noel for Christ, the new-born King,

Christmas comes anew, O let us sing Noel!

 

In the manger bed, the shepherds found the child;

Joseph was there, and the Mother Mary mild.

Sing we Noel for Christ, the new-born King,

Christmas comes anew, O let us sing Noel!

 

https://lyricstranslate.com/en/no%C3%ABl-nouvelet-christmas-comes-anew.html

Lyrics: Veni, Veni

Red Eminence web

The oldest known Christmas carol is “Veni, Veni” which started out as a sung prayer in early medieval monasteries. Can it be any wonder it is also the most popular song to appear among my ten biographies?  You’ll first find it in “Catherine de Valois: French Princess, Tudor Matriarch” (recorded with an alternate tune by Richard Mann for the audio book). Next, look for it in “Empress Matilda of England.” Finally, enjoy it in “His Red Eminence, Armand-Jean du Plessis de Richelieu.”  Here me perform the first two verses on soundcloud.

One of the most fascinating things about this song is that while it is very old in its original medieval Latin, it was not until the Victorian era that it was translated into English.  Here is both the medieval Latin and the English.

 

Veni, Veni/O Come, O Come Emmanuel

 

Medieval Latin

Veni, veni Emmanuel

Captivum solve Israel,

Qui gemit in exsilio,

Privatus Dei Filio.

Gaude! Gaude! Emmanuel, nascetur pro te Israel!

 

Veni, O Sapientia,

Quae hic disponis omnia,

Veni, viam prudentiae

Ut doceas et gloriae.

Gaude! Gaude! Emmanuel, nascetur pro te Israel!

 

Veni, veni, Adonai,

Qui populo in Sinai

Legem dedisti vertice

In maiestate gloriae.

Gaude! Gaude! Emmanuel, nascetur pro te Israel!

 

Veni, veni, Rex Gentium,

veni, Redemptor omnium,

ut salvas tuos famulos

peccati sibi conscios.

Gaude! Gaude! Emmanuel, nascetur pro te Israel!

 

English:

O Come, O come, Emmanuel,

and ransom captive Israel,

that morns in lonely exile here

until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice! O Israel,

to thee shall come Emmanuel!

 

O come, Thou Wisdom, from on high,

and order all things far and nigh;

to us the path of knowledge show,

and teach us in her ways to go.

Rejoice! Rejoice! O Israel,

to thee shall come Emmanuel!

O come, o come, Thou Lord of might,

who to thy tribes on Sinai’s height

in ancient times did give the law,

in cloud, and majesty, and awe.

Rejoice! Rejoice! O Israel,

to thee shall come Emmanuel!

 

O come, Desire of the nations, bind

in one the hearts of all mankind;

bid every strife and quarrel cease

and fill the world with heaven’s peace

Rejoice! Rejoice! O Israel,

to thee shall come Emmanuel!

http://www.preces-latinae.org/thesaurus/Hymni/VeniEmm.html

 

 

 

Lyrics: Coventry Carol (1534, by Robert Coo)

Red Eminence web

The third song you hear in “His Red Eminence, Armand-Jean du Plessis de Richelieu” might surprise you. It is the Coventry Carol, one of the earliest English Christmas carols. Unlike the very secular “Drive the Cold Winter Away,”  Coventry Carol is religious and is among the oldest religious Christmas carols in the English language.

 

Coventry Carol (1534, by Robert Coo)

English:

Lully, lullay, thou little tiny child,

Bye bye, lully, lullay.

Thou little tiny child,

Bye bye, lully, lullay.

 

O sisters too, how may we do

For to preserve this day.

This poor youngling for whom we sing,

Bye bye, lully, lullay?

 

Herod the king, in his raging,

Chargèd he hath this day

His men of might in his own sight

All young children to slay.

 

That woe is me, poor child, for thee

And ever mourn and say

For thy parting neither say nor sing,

Bye bye, lully, lullay.

 

https://www.carols.org.uk/ba11-coventry-carol.htm

 

Lyrics: Aux plaisirs, aux délices (Pierre Guédon, 1566 to 1620)

Red Eminence webThe next song to appear in “His Red Eminence, Armand-Jean du Plessis de Richelieu” is “Aux plaisirs, aux delices” by Pierre Guedon, one of the most popular song writers of King Louis XIII’s reign. In the book Anne Rochefeuille sings it as she plays it on the harpsichord, but you will most often hear recordings of it performed with baroque guitar.

 

Aux plaisirs, aux délices (Pierre Guédon, 1566 to 1620)

French:

Aux plaisirs, aux délices, bergères,

Il faut ètre du temps ménagères,

Car il s’écoule et se perd d’heure en heure;

Et le regret seulement en demeure.

A l’àmour, aux plaisirs, au bocage

Employez les beaux jours de votre àge

 

Les ruisseaux vont aux plaines fleuries,

Cajolant et baisant les prairies,

Le doux zéphir parle d’amour à Flore,

Et les oiseaux en parlent à l’aurore

 

Maintenant la saison vous convie

De passer, en aimant, votre vie.

Déjà la terre a pris sa robe verte,

D’herbe et de fleurs la campagne est couverte.

 

Ce qui vit, qui se meut qui respire,

D’amour parle, ou murmure, ou soupire;

Aussi le coeur qui n’en sent la peinture,

S’il est vivant, il est contre nature.

 

http://www.lieder.net/lieder/get_text.html?TextId=103608

Belle Qui Tiens Ma Vie Lyrics

Red Eminence web

At long last it’s here! “His Red Eminence, Armand-Jean du Plessis de Richelieu” is the latest biography by Legendary Women of World History historian Laurel A. Rockefeller. Eight songs appear in this epic tale of the most influential politician of modern France.  Here is the first song you hear, “Belle Qui Tiens Ma Vie” by Thoinot Arbeau.

 

Belle Qui Tiens Ma Vie (Thoinot Arbeau)

French

Belle qui tiens ma vie

Captive dans tes yeux,

Qui m’as l’ame ravie

D’un souris gracieux,

Viens tôt me secourir

Ou me faudra mourir.

Viens tôt me secourir

Ou me faudra mourir.

 

Pourquoi fuis-tu, mignarde,

Si je suis près de toi?

Quand tes yeux je regarde

Je me perds dedans moi,

Car tes perfections

Changent mes actions

Car tes perfections

Changent mes actions

 

Tes beautés et ta grâce

Et tes divins propos

Ont échauffe la glace

Qui me gelait les os,

Et ont rempli mon coeur

D’une amoureuse ardeur.

Et ont rempli mon coeur

D’une amoureuse ardeur.

 

Mon ame voulait être

Libre de passion,

Mais l’amour s’est fait maitre

De mes affections

Et a mis sous sa loi

Et mon coeur et ma foi.

Et a mis sous sa loi

Et mon coeur et ma foi.

 

Approche donc ma belle,

Approche-toi mon bien,

Ne me sois plus rebelle

Puisque mon coeur est tien,

Pour mon mal apaiser

Donne-moi un baiser.

Pour mon mal apaiser

Donne-moi un baiser.

 

Je meurs mon angelette,

Je meurs en te baisant.

Ta bouche tant doucette

Va mon bien ravissant.

À ce coup mes esprits

Sont tous d’amour épris

À ce coup mes esprits

Sont tous d’amour épris

 

Plutôt on verra l’onde

Contremont reculer,

Et plutôt l’œil du monde

Cessera de bruler,

Que l’amour qui m’époint

Décroisse d’un seul point.

Que l’amour qui m’époint

Décroisse d’un seul point.

 

English

Beautiful one who holds my life

Captive in your eyes,

Who has ravished my soul

With a gracious smile?

Come to my aid

Or I must die.

 

Why do you flee, dainty one,

If I am near you?

When I behold your eyes

I am lost inside myself

Because your perfection

 

Your beauty and your grace

And your divine ways

Have melted the ice

Which was freezing my bones

And have filled my heart

With a loving ardour.

 

My soul wanted to be

Free of passion,

But love became master

Of my affections

And put under its law

My heart and my faith.

 

Come near, my lovely one,

Come near, my [dear one],

Do not resist me further

For my heart is yours,

To relieve my ills

Give me a kiss.

 

I die, my Little Angel,

I die when kissing

Your mouth so sweet.

My very lovely one,

With that touch my spirits

Are completely lifted in love.

 

Sooner will waves

Flow backwards

And sooner will the moon

Cease to shine

Before the love which conquered me

Wanes a single iota.

 

http://www.users.on.net/~algernon/bellequitiens/translation.html

How to redeem a gifted Audible Book direct from the author


If you have followed my career — or at least this blog — for the last few years, you know that I provide as many of my Legendary Women of World History Series titles as possible in audio format.  Audiobooks are fun and they make it easy to read a book when you need to keep your eyes elsewhere, especially when travelling.

What you may not know is that Audible recently made some changes to audiobook gifting.  These changes make it easy to gift individual books and especially memberships, but perhaps makes it a little harder to redeem books gifted directly from the author.

What do you do then when you are one of the fortunate people to be gifted an Audible book directly from the author who wrote it?  The following steps were given to me this morning by an Audible service representative explaining exactly how to do it!

1. Go to the book’s page on Audible.com: https://www.audible.com/pd/[AUDIBLE ASIN]
2. Add the audiobook to your cart.
3. If you are prompted to sign in, please create a new Audible.com account or log in.
4. Go to https://www.audible.com/at/redeem. Enter the promo code and click “Redeem” to receive a credit for the title in your cart.
5. Head back to your cart. Make sure the button that says “1 Credit” is selected and that your subtotal reads $0.00 dollars.
6. You may proceed through the checkout by clicking “Proceed to Checkout” and “Complete purchase” on the subsequent page.

Grilled Herbed Chicken & Potato Foil Packs

Reposted from https://www.lecremedelacrumb.com/grilled-herbed-chicken-potato-foil-packs/.

grilled-chicken-potato-foil-packs-103-680x1020Grilled Herbed Chicken & Potato Foil Packs

Grilled herb chicken & potato foil packs are a fun and simple summer dinner that the whole family will love.

Ingredients

  • 6-8 boneless skinless chicken thighs OR 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried dill
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • 1 – 1 1/2 pounds potatoes (red or gold potatoes work best in this recipe), thinly sliced (about 2 cups potato slices)
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms

Instructions

  1. Stir together seasonings and set aside. Add oil to a bowl along with chicken, potatoes, and mushrooms and toss to coat everything in the oil.

  2. Lay out 4 12 x 12 sheets of nonstick foil on a flat surface. Divide chicken, potatoes, and mushrooms between each of the foil sheets. (If using thighs there should be 1-2 per foil sheet, if using breasts there should be 1 per foil sheet) Sprinkle with seasoning mixture.

  3. Fold foil over the chicken-potato-mushroom mixture and scrunch the ends of the foil together to close off the foil pack.

  4. Place foil packs on preheated grill and cook for about 10-15 minutes, then flip and cook another 5-7 minutes. Check the chicken for doneness, once cooked through, garnish with fresh herbs if desired (such as thyme, rosemary, or oregano) and serve immediately.