My latest writing project – Minette

13 September 2011

After complaining about being quiet because I’d lost my creative mojo down the back of the sofa, I am now being quiet because it has come back with a VENGEANCE and I am totally over excited about my new project. For those of you at the back who haven’t been paying attention, I’m working on a novel about Henriette d’Orleans, the sister of Charles II and sister in law (and possible more?) of Louis XIV who has the distinction of being one of very few royal figures born in my very own West Country.

I’ll admit that work on this book was dragging along a bit as I didn’t know where to start and was missing a common thread between the main book, written from the point of view of Henriette and its start and end, which focusses on Henriette’s grand-daughter, Marie Adélaïde, who has come to Versailles to marry her cousin, the Duc de Bourgogne.

HOWEVER, I had a massive break through while weeping over research notes the other day when I realised with a jolt of excitement that the estranged wife of Henriette’s lover, Armand de Gramont, Comte de Guiche (who was previously the boyfriend of her husband – yes, the court of the young Louis XIV was like one of those Jerry Springer episodes when they have to continually bring ever increasing amounts of chairs on stage to accommodate everyone) would later remarry after his death to the Duc du Lude and go on to become lady in waiting to Marie Adélaïde.

This was serendipitous for me as I had a vague idea that an older woman of the court would take the young princess in hand, give her Henriette’s diary and tell her to sort herself out lest she Go The Same Way due to Worldly Folly but had no idea who to pick on or whether I should just make her up. You can imagine my excitement therefore when the Duchesse du Lude (who Louis XIV and Madame de Maintenon detested by the way, which just adds to the deliciousness) sauntered into view, her towering lace fontanges wobbling slightly on her head.

So yes. I’m excited now and raring to go. I’m using Scrivener for this book, which is a bit of a head scratching adventure as I get to grips with its iniquities. True to form, I’ve yet to actually WRITE anything with it, but I have a bazillion character folders on there full of portraits, dates and gossip about Olympe de Mancini (pictured above on horseback, looking very natty indeed), Louise de la Vallière, Lady Castlemaine, the wicked Marquis de Vardes (if anyone can find me a portrait of him, incidentally, I’ll love them forever as I’m drawing blanks in all my usual places), Armand de Gramont and Henriette herself, who is taking shape slowly but surely in my mind as an irresistible mixture of charm, grace and mischief.

Historical fiction can involve all the drudgery and elation of detective work – which is one of the reasons why I love it so much. I also love it because it gives one fabulous opportunities to take *cough ahem* research trips so I think a jaunt down the road to Exeter may be in order as well as visits to Fontainebleau, the Palais Royal and Saint Cloud. My knowledge of the precise logistics of the Restoration court of Charles II is currently lamentably hazy (don’t worry – I have a MOUNTAIN of books about Charles, his court, his family and his hangers on in my study upstairs) though so I’ll need to work out where I need to be visiting in London too but luckily that isn’t far away. I’m hoping this means I can go to Hampton Court really.

I’m still planning to take up English Civil War re-enactment as part of my research too, but my husband is being a bit unenthusiastic about this. Interesting fact about my husband: he apparently went to the same school in Bristol as Philippa Gregory (only many years later) and came away thinking that Henry VIII’s second wife was called ‘Jane of Leaves’.

One thing though – this book was originally intended to be a follow up, of sorts, of my book about the childhood of Marie Antoinette as events will mostly be recounted by Henriette herself, but it’s rapidly becoming clear that this won’t be a book for children. Another thing – I’m now on official boycott of all novels set at the court of Louis XIV. Annoyingly, I haven’t managed to read Before Versailles by Karleen Koen yet but it’ll be something to look forward to once I’ve finished.

I wanted to illustrate this post with totally gratuitous pictures of Rupert Graves in Charles II: The Power and the Passion but couldn’t find any, alas. I may have to do some screen grabbing later on while I’m putting together the ALL IMPORTANT ‘Minette’ playlist on iTunes.