Historical Novels: Matthew Shardlake meets Prior Philip of Kingsbridge

Historical novels seem to be incredible popular at the moment.

Whenever I search for books in my local library, or on its website for ebooks, historical novels are one of the top categories. It’s probably no surprise in a way, because since a book is about escapism in a fun way, historical fiction takes a reader further away into the real world, and deeper into another realm.

Last year, the sole columnist of The Stylist magazine, Lucy Mangan, claimed in one of her columns entitled ‘Historical Fiction Changed My Life’¹ that historical novels are the best way to learn about history. According to her, she hasn’t got time to go to after night classes to learn about history, so these novels were the only way she could ‘study’ the said subject.* She was very witty about, writing in the humorous recto ad absurdum style.

As someone who has actually studied history officially, I’m not entirely sure if historical novels are, if ever, entirely accurate, and properly researched. Whenever I read a novel of this genre, my critical mind’s antennas are out, questioning if the scene is factually correct or not.

That said, the two novels I have enjoyed the most are Sovereign by C.J. Sansom and Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. Both were written as part of a series, which I need to continue and read the rest of. They are both real ‘page-turners’, and as the cliche says, I ‘could not put it down’.

The protagonists – lawyer Matthew Shardlake from the former, and a prior named Phillip of Kingsbridge from the latter – are both quiet men, who have excellent, and intelligent, minds. Shardlake dislikes Henry VIII, likes London, and he always ends up conducting an investigation of some kind. Prior Philip always has a plan, brings a village up from its knees, and has no interest in love or sex (mind you, neither of them are – yay for asexual characters!).

At a suggestion, a scenario has occurred to me… What would had happened if these two men ever met? How would have they have reacted to each other? Would they have clashed, or joined forces? The only problem is that they live in different eras, so how would have that even been possible for them to meet! Ah, but the mind, and the power of creating fiction, are marvellous…

In my imagination, I think they would have clashed at first. I can see them both in York, standing tall opposite each other in the stone-paved street of Stonegate. Firmly declaring their high opinions, while giving each other the side look of suspiciousness, and trying to suss each other out.

However, both being quiet men who always want justice to prevail, I’m sure they eventually would have become friends, and then partners in crime (excuse the pun!). I can visualize them investigating something bad that the monarchy or the church have done, while Shardlake attempts to retrieve evidence, while Prior Philip keeps watch to save them from being caught in the act!

Come to think of it… It could be a new novel of its own! Sansom and Follett could join forces to pen that one.

Shardlake and Kingsbridge: Partners In Crime.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Pleased to Meet You.”

¹ Lucy Mangan, "Historical Fiction Changed My life" Lucy Mangan is... Outspoken, Stylist, 29 October 2014. 
*I think someone should tell Lucy Mangan about the MOOCs (Massively Open Online Courses). She could take a history one with Coursera for instance, and earn her very own certificate!

2 thoughts on “Historical Novels: Matthew Shardlake meets Prior Philip of Kingsbridge”

  1. “As someone who has actually studied history officially, I’m not entirely sure if historical novels are, if ever, entirely accurate, and properly researched.”

    I’m convinced that you cannot be sure that history text books are entirely accurate, even though they are surely better researched than most historical novels. Historians continue to argue over historical events, many of which will probably never be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction, but that of course is what makes the subject so fascinating.

    A very interesting article, thank you.


  2. Very interesting approach to this prompt! I say this because you have worked with two serious works and two vivid characters, not just cultural phenomena. You also expressed the same frustration I felt in trying to invent a conversation with a couple of unrelated protagonists, but I think that you handled it better than I did. I rest on the assurance that the Blogging 101 responders said that we couldn’t write it wrong (pun intended).


Penny for your thoughts...?

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s