English Historical Fiction Authors is a closed Facebook group for – well, it’s obvious, isn’t it? Although the members don’t have to be English, and I’d guess that more than half of them aren’t; the group is for people who are interested in historical fiction with an English setting. A question that came up today was that old favourite: you have the chance to throw a dinner party where you may invite three monarchs/rulers/leaders from any period of history, whether they’re Hatshepsut or King George III. Who do you invite and why?
This was my reply:
First, Barabbas, because he wasn’t simply a bandit; he was Bar Abbas, the Son of God, and people in the early years of the church would have understood what he represented: that the Jewish people were offered a choice between two sons of God, one of whom taught freedom through peace while the other said you had to take it by violence and they made the wrong choice. I’d like to know how he feels about things two thousand years on.
Second, the Empress Makeda, who – well: “King Solomon violated the Empress Makeda, whom the ignorant call the Queen of Sheba. She was searching for his wisdom, but he was what he was and he jumped her. His own people were so disgusted by the way he treated her, the way he broke faith and his promise that they escorted her back to Abyssinia and they took the Ark of the Covenant with them. It sits where they left it, on the beach in the Ethiopian province of Eritrea.” It’s a good story, but I’d like to know how true it is, and who better than her to tell me?
And, finally, Thomas More. There are two completely opposing ideas of who and what he was and I’d like to look him in the eye while I heard his side of the argument.
It occurred to me afterwards that I’d better make sure I had plenty of booze available. No English wine, though – the dinner is meant to be enjoyable.
That bit about Solomon and the Empress Makeda, btw, is from my wip, When the Darkness Comes, which probably won’t be finished this year and couldn’t feature in English Historical Fiction Authors anyway because it’s set in the 21st century. Barabbas is there, too; he punches poor John Betjeman and knocks his teeth out. Not a nice man.