My inner stickler for accuracy is sulking, a rather hard thing for someone whose day job includes occasionally grilling people about whether information is correct. I’m sorry, I tell my inner stickler, historical accuracy would be perfect if you were a scholar, but you’re not. You’re a novelist. Of course, you do research to accurately portray the people and their times, but you also tell lies to improve the story. It’s fiction after all.
So is the banner on this blog, which is from Heraldic Chivalry by Alphonse Mucha, 1860-1939 (full image below).
My forthcoming novel, The Cross and the Dragon, is a love story with a twist set in the earlier years of Charlemagne’s reign, the 770s to be a little more specific.
The armor and clothing in this painting are not at all eighth century. The armor eighth-century warriors used is uncertain, but it could have been a leather jerkin with tiny metal plates. Uncomfortably heavy, most warriors would not wear it unless they had to, as in an enemy soldier charging at you with a sword.
Excavation of a Frankish grave revealed a high-born lady wearing a red silk gown with gold-embroidered sleeves over a purple tunic, along with jewelry and a red satin veil secured by gold pins.
And don’t get me started on the side saddle, which was invented centuries later. A horsewoman friend of mine pointed out the lady’s hands are in the air and her horse is flinging its head in an ungainly way.
So why choose this image, even though it doesn’t depict the eighth century, for the banner on my blog, website (kimrendfeld.com), Facebook fan page, and my Twitter page? To a casual observer, it says medieval and transports the viewer to a different time and place. But more importantly, it’s beautiful, with vibrant reds contrasting the greens.
It’s also proof that sometimes artistry must trump accuracy.
Daily Life in the Age of Charlemagne, 2002, John J. Butt
“Carolingian Arms and Armor in the Ninth Century,” Viator: Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Vol.21, 1990, Simon Coupland