The Inspiration Behind The Stolen Jewel

My web serial, The Stolen Jewel, is a medieval-esque fantasy romance. However, it is based on a historical event. About six weeks ago, I was reading an article about Philip II of France who had three wives and one that got away. My curiosity was definitely engaged when I read that the woman who was originally meant to be Philip II’s third queen was “carried off in an ambush” by a count.

In 1195, the Count of Geneva sent his daughter by convoy to France for her wedding to Philip II. Count Thomas of Savoy ambushed the party and stole Margaret/Marguerite away. He married her and used the defense that Philip II had yet to be divorced form his second queen to keep from being taken to task. The marriage between Thomas and Marguerite resulted in fourteen or fifteen children so I assume the match was agreeable to the girl. It probably helped that Thomas was 17/18 when he carried her away from a marriage to 30-year-old Philip since she was probably about 16. Thomas was young, dashing, and both rash and cunning enough to get away with the stunt. 😉 Thomas and Marguerite became the grandparents of four queen consorts through one of their daughters, including the queens of France and England.

Naturally, I wished I could find more information about the count and his stolen bride, which wasn’t available. I also wondered what would have happened if Philip had been more invested in fetching his stolen bride or if he were actually the count’s  king. Ronan happily rose to the challenge although I decided it would take more than a count to defy his own king and made him a duke. The ambush needed gryphons because that was one of the coolest ways to ambush someone I could think of (yes, I will pick some factors based on the coolness). 😉 And I decided the king needed to be a true villain in order to make this more than a man scorned who doesn’t know how to lose gracefully. Mauger has the worst traits of the medieval kings, a true despot, and he is NOT going to let Etain go just because she’s now married to another man, especially when the man in question is Ronan.

Whether Ronan and Etain have a happy ending remains to be seen, of course. The tale of Thomas and Marguerite of Savoy has been an excellent reminder of how much story fodder can be found in history for more than the historical fiction genre. 😀 The Stolen Jewel will continue to explore what happens when a noble is bold enough to steal the king’s intended in the upcoming episodes posted every Sunday.


6 thoughts on “The Inspiration Behind The Stolen Jewel

  1. weavingword

    So many people think history is dry and boring, but there really can be a lot of inspiration there for fantasy writers! Just get past the lists of dates and delve into real people’s lives. Thank you for sharing this. I love to hear where other writers get their ideas from.

  2. Medieval Girl

    Absolutely true. History, especially Medieval history is not boring at all. I do think though we have to be mindful of whether our understanding of negative traits such as tyranny and despotism are consistent with the time. For instance, Medieval kings were expected to be strong, to keep the nobility in check, and to uphold law and order, but also rule justly.

    This could result in actions we might conceive of as ‘brutal’ or ‘harsh’, but would have been considered quite legitimate at the time. I recall one novel, for instance, in which the protagonists compared the King with the evil, murderous villain for making them chose a certain marriage partner and complained about him ‘using them as pawns’ without any consideration for their feelings or desires.

    Yet this was done in the story to end a feud, and I cannot help feeling this was a rather unfair portrayal. A King could not afford to just allow feuding and strife to continue unabated, and be seen as weak or incapable, and unable to protect his subjects.

    1. kimberlyrogerscfwriter Post author

      I would agree that writers today have a tendency to slip when it comes to not letting today’s way of thinking dictate the way medieval era people, especially women, think, act, and speak. Anachronistic portrayals in medieval novels occur often, though. I never understand why we have 21st century women shouting about women’s rights running around medieval England or France when the medieval expectation for women was a lot more interesting and intense than the average reader might realize.

      I always wonder if American authors struggle more with presenting the medieval king and absolute monarchies in a positive light because of the history of being a republic as opposed to a history as a monarchy. As a modern-day American, I know I struggle with understanding some of the medieval customs and laws I come across in my research. With medieval kings in particular, I’ve noticed that history books spend more time on the kings who truly were a law unto themselves and the fact that they were violating the actual law or were taking advantage of weakness in the official system of checks for the kings, such as the Church, can be little more than a footnote.

      I’ve read several novels that had this sort of falter in logic. However, I think it would be a good example of letting the 21st century mindset overwhelm the historical mindset and probably damaging the plot’s credibility. A strong King who ends a feud by ordering the families to intermarry would be much preferable to a weakling who allows the feud to continue OR the true despot who ends the feud by wiping the families out. I do try to give some leeway, though. But if I read an author who repeats the same misconception regarding medieval timeframe or if I always feel like the heroines who are time-traveling suffragettes, I will put the author on my “don’t read again” list.

      1. Medieval Girl

        Thanks for replying!

        As regards to Kings, England, my country of origin is an interesting- albeit perhaps rather extreme example. We actuallly deposed a few of our Kings who antagonised the nobility or were considered to have over-reached thier power. Edward II and Richard II are some famous examples, but also ‘Bad King John’. There’s a lot of talk about the Magna Carta this yearb being the anniversary, but one of the foremost ideas that seems to stick in the mind is the concept that the Magna Carta established that the King was subject to the Law, and not the Law to the King.
        From thenceforth, and King could be held to account by his subjects. So I have to admit, when I read a novel that has Kings going around summarily killing or abusing thier noble subjects- especially an English King- it just does not ring true. The times that things like that did happen usually culinated in revolt and rebellion. The nobility just would not have tolerated such things.

        I agree as far as women are concerned. I am currently studying Women in the Middle Ages- mostly noblewomen- but my reading does turn up some material about common women too- and what one does notice, is that they were not downtrodden, repressed shrinking violets with no rights or no voice.
        Noblewomen were expected to be able to oversee the management thier husband’s of estates in his absence, and see to thier children’s education- women from the lower ranks could run businesses, and noble widows often really knew how to stick up for themselves. I even encountered one passage in a book which asserted that some female agricultural workers in 14th century Leicestershire were being paid the same wage as thier male counterparts- something that women were protesting about in the 20th century.

        Just because they did not have the right to vote, it did not mean women were worthless, and, yes, having women running around in Medieval novels with the mindset of modern feminists is distinctly annoying. Especially if those women have what we Brits would call ‘a chip on thier shoulder’ and an inferiority complex- constantly feeling the need to prove that they are just as good as the men at everything- fighting, archery, wrestling, etc…..and then attacking the male characters for daring to come to thier aid or viewing them as weaker. Such women are charicatures rather than characters.

        As I said, I want to read historical fiction to get a ‘feel’ for the period, to in a sense, be transported back. My training as a historian has taight me to take the past and its people on thier own terms- not to try and impose my ideas on them, and judge them for not measuring up to it. Hence, I do not like fiction that does this, and I do not like to feel that I am being- quietly indoctrinated with a particualar modern worldview when I read fiction. If I wanted that I would go and watch a Ridley Scott movie…..

        Dare I say that, even in Christian Fiction can be guitly on this account. I find characters who have religious doubts, who have lost thier faith because of bad things happening, or hold a skeptical view of religion that seems to much akin to modern skepiticsm a little frustrating.
        Its like they’re put in there just to represent ‘the skeptic’ or ‘the atheist’ who usually ends up being converted by the end. Medieval views of religion were different from our own, and I would like to see that reflected a little more.

  3. kimberlyrogerscfwriter Post author

    “Bad King John” is certainly one of the examples I tend to think of when it comes to the nobility taking care of a King who gets too big for his britches, so to speak. 🙂 When you compare the reaction of the English nobles to how nobles in medieval or medieval-inspired fiction often react, it can definitely ring false for me at least since I am a medieval enthusiast. If the King is acting like a true despot in fiction, I always look for the author to a) mention the brewing rebellion/unrest, b) mention the King is at the height of his power (maybe he previously broke a rebellion and now there’s hesitation for open revolt), or c) have the King be at the beginning of his despot days where the nobles are too stunned/outraged to believe he’s going to keep going on this path. For both the historical and fantasy writers, I always say you have to have a reason for the situation. The King can’t be evil just because he’s the King.

    You make a good point about medieval women with 21st Century attitudes being caricatures as opposed to characters. If you look at women such as Eleanor of Aquitaine and Catherine de Medici, they certainly knew what they wanted and how to get it. Women might not have had an “official” voice in politics but they certainly influenced them, which appeals to me as a writer as even more interesting fodder than rote “damsel in distress” or “women are just as good as men” plots.

    I primarily read Christian fiction so I feel comfortable agreeing with you. Did medieval men and women have religious doubts or lose their faith? Yes, just like in any other generation. However, in both medieval historical fiction and in medieval-inspired fantasy, I see conversions that fall flat and feel forced like they were included because the author felt “Christian” meant there MUST be a conversion scene. And the character’s doubts can seem very modern in the presentation at times. Or you run into stories where Protestant views and beliefs appear before their time. I do enjoy it when authors make the effort to be true to history even in fantasy offerings because it’s difficult to manage this balance at times but it also proves to readers like you and me that not every medieval/medieval-inspired story is inspired more by Hollywood than any history book. 🙂

    1. Medieval Girl

      I read Christian primarily because I am one- and because I like to go for the ‘clean’ option. The downside can be the inaccuracies and implausible situations. Like you say, many Americans who come from the perspective of living in a modern republic find it hard to understand the worldview of people in a Medieval Monarchy.
      I would have a hard time writing a book set in 19th century America, because it is not a period or culture I am familar with- and I suppose this lack of familiarity might be an issue with American authors writing about the Middle Ages?

      From what I know of Medieval religion, it is indeed believable that people had thier doubts- but I wonder if thier attitudes were a little different from our own. For instance, would they really have abandoned thier faith because bad things happened? That seems to be more based on the modern idea that a loving God would not allow such things- yet in the Medieval concept of theology, suffering was often seen as a punishment for sin, and even having repemptive purpose.
      The thing I find it hardest to deal with in Medieval religion is the dicotomy that sometimes existed between piety and morality- especially sexual morality. One ‘pious’ Medieval nobleman for instance is meant to have compiled a famous book of devotion- but also liked seducing serving girls, and never had any legitimate children.

      I know what you mean about ‘bad just because they’re bad’ villains. I sometimes find myself sympathizing with the particularly badly ‘drawn’ or unconvincing ones. One of my pet peeves is people who are automatically typecast as bad because they are of a certain race- or rank, as you say. I fear we Brits can often be on the recieving end…..


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