Tuesday, 23 April 2013

The Birth of William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare was probably born around this day in 1564. As we only have records of baptisms from that time, not birth certificates, we cannot pinpoint the exact day of his birth.

Since baby Will was baptised in the small Warwickshire town of Stratford upon Avon on April 26th 1564, it's fair to assume he would have been born a few days earlier. Most babies were baptised as soon as possible after birth, long before the mother was allowed to leave her room following her 'confinement'. This traditional 'lying in' period may first have been observed to lessen the chance of infections, but by then was shrouded with religious mystery. If the mother bore a boy, she had to remain in her birthing room, untouched by her husband, for thirty days. If a girl, that was extended to forty. (One could cynically speculate why there was a difference between the sexes.) She would then be 'churched' in a special ceremony, and after that normal life could resume.

Infant mortality rates were very high, so parents preferred not to delay baptism. This was in case the child died before it could be baptised - in which case, the child's soul could not enter heaven unshriven, according to the law of original sin. At a time when belief in God and the afterlife was absolute, such a terrible fate was not to be treated lightly. No mother wished to think of their dead child's soul howling in the wilderness or being condemned forever to Purgatory. On All Souls' Day, November 2nd, prayers were said to free all 'trapped souls', including those who had died before baptism.

So little William would have been wrapped in his swaddling clothes, which were more like a straitjacket combined with a cocoon than today's easy-stretch baby-gro, and carried to the parish church for his baptism. This was Stratford's Holy Trinity Church, where his baptism appears in the register in Latin: Gulielmus filius Johannes Shakespeare.

It was likely to be the midwife who took him there, his father John Shakespeare possibly accompanying her, along with a white linen 'chrisom', a garment used solely for the christening service, and in which the baby would be laid following the anointing of his body and the prayers of his godparents.

April 23rd is also St George's Day, of course. So it makes sense to have combined the special day dedicated to England's patron saint with a day commemorating England's greatest writer. Perhaps the world's greatest writer of all time. Homer aside, that is.

My new novel His Dark Lady is a Tudor novel set in London and at the court of Elizabeth I. Part of the narrative follows Shakespeare as a young actor in London, shortly after the birth of his own first child, Susannah.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Interview at the Pittsburgh Examiner

For those who enjoy the quick Ten Questions style interview - including the traditional tea or coffee question - there's a new one with me up at the Pittsburgh Examiner.



Thursday, 11 April 2013

Win RNA Award-nominated book set at the Guardian!

There's a fantastic opportunity at the Guardian newspaper right now to win a full set of all this year's Young Adult RNA Award-nominated novels, including my own novel, Witchstruck, which won the award.

To enter, follow this link to The Guardian online.The deadline for entries is April 29th.

Good luck!

Victoria x

Friday, 5 April 2013

Autism Awareness Month

April is Autism Awareness Month, and I want to celebrate my wonderful twin sons, who are both autistic.

My twin boys are ten years old now, and are marvellous people. They are polite and friendly, they love books and computer games, they help out around the house - with a little push from Mum, ahem - and sometimes they even think about keeping their bedroom tidy. Though the actual tidying doesn't happen very often.

Our family at Christmas 2012

In other words, they are perfectly ordinary ten year old boys. 

Autism, for our family, is just how things are. Like a character trait, it's just one part of who our boys are and how their world works. But that's not the only way autism can be viewed. Every child is different, and every family approaches this condition differently.

Many people, perhaps surprisingly, are still not aware of autism or what kind of condition it is. This partly stems from what a broad range autism encompasses as a condition. For our boys, it largely affects the way they see the world - and sometimes the way the world sees them. But we're hopeful that the more people become aware of autism, and bring it into the mainstream, the easier it will be for those with autism to be understood and appreciated for what they bring to society.