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Past settings in the present

Setting a historical fiction novel in the 16th century has its problems. For example, would a Venetian patrician own a caged canary in 1574? What sort of grease or oil would someone use on his/her hair at that time? What did English speakers call a goatee before they used that word? What sorts of weapons were men of what classes allowed to carry in 1572 Paris? In 1575, was shaking hands common when being introduced in England? France? Italy?

Of course, some of these questions are easy to answer using the Internet; others are not. After a few hours of searching, an author might decide that only a half-dozen historians are likely to know the answer, and none of those might buy his/her novel. Historical fiction fans, however, can be very particular that you get your facts right.

But I began this blog thinking of a physical settings, to include some photos. So far, I have set my novels in places where the 16th century lingers. Much of Rebellion takes place in the Yorkshire countryside. Although some castles have crumbled and fields have been enclosed, the landscape has not significantly changed. Many Elizabeth manor houses remain, on which to model the Spranklin’s home of Coverton. Below is Burton Agnes Hall. York itself has quite a few 16th century buildings intact.

My second novel, Massacre,is set in Paris in 1572. A great deal of Paris that would have been inside the 14th century walls of Charles V remains. Other than Baron Haussmann’s boulevards, many of the narrow streets and alleys that existed in the 16th century remain in the Marais and Left Bank. I was easy to correlate Truschet and Hoyau’s 1550 map of Paris with a modern one and follow Edward Hunter’s footsteps from his inn to the Seine. Following are photos of buildings Hunter would have seen from the Marais and Left Bank.

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