Saturday 1 January 2011

Hello, 2011!

Well, A.D. 2010 has been and gone and today is January 1st, 2011 - New Year's Day in the United Kingdom since the reign of King George III. (Prior to that, the English preferred to celebrate new year on March 25th.) 2010 has been like any year, namely a mixture of some good and some bad. As a family, we sadly lost my uncle, Richard Mahaffy, on the day before Saint Patrick's Day in March, an event which has obviously been personally very hard for my mother (his sister), his wife, daughter and stepdaughter, as well as (of course) for his parents, my wonderful, wonderful grandparents. Uncle Richard's funeral did however bear testament to how well-respected he had been, and also very much liked as well. It has not been easy, by any means, and Christmas this year was slightly more downbeat than others have been.

However, it's also had a lot of good things - my friends Emerald, Aisleagh, Laura and Elena Maria have had great success and been very inspiring in their career paths. Emerald's first major television appearance was aired at the end of the year. She played Lady Lottie Edgefield in Channel Four's adaptation of William Boyd's novel Any Human Heart - a fantastic show from a great novel. I think it's still on 4OD, if you're looking for it! Aisleagh has catapulted into the world of high-flying lawyer types (seems only yesterday we got stuck trying to climb out a bathroom window when we decided a high school house party we were attending was too boring, but we were too afraid to go out the front door in case it caused a scene... squealing like two stuck piglets in what was demonstrably a tiny, tiny window was how karma got us back.) Laura has just published her first book, Eat, Drink & Succeed: How to Climb to the Top using the Networking Power of Social Events and Elena Maria published her third novel, The Night's Dark Shade, set in 13th-century France during the turmoil of the Albigensian Crusade. Onwards and upwards, ladies - and congratulations!

I also had a wonderful summer vacation in America this year, with just a little bit of work thrown in, and I got to spend lots of time working with the team at Penguin, who are amazing and very entertaining. Puffin's 70th birthday party in London was riotous fun, although people seemed to be traumatised by the post-modern technological bathrooms. Not entirely sure that it showed either of us in a particularly good light when almost the first thing my editor and I discussed when she announced she was pregnant was the possibility of being able to shop in Baby Dior or the Ralph Lauren Children department... Still, it's best to be realistic about these things.

2011 is a year I have great reason to look forward to - my first novel, Popular, is being published in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland on July 7th by Penguin and I'm very excited about that, as well as handing in the manuscript for its first sequel on January 14th; I'm back to work in the United States for a week in February, I hope to complete my masters in medieval history, my friend Aisleagh is getting married and I have made some truly wonderful friends in the past year, who I'm very excited to be starting 2011 with in my life. Don't get too conceited though; I am very capricious! Literally, at any second I can change my mind. Bam! ... I jest ... I do not jest.

This also marks the start of the first full calendar year in which I will be keeping this blog, having started back in spring 2010. Bearing that in mind, I thought I would have a look back over some of this blog's statistics to see what we've achieved since starting.

Well, since March this blog has had 96,857 hits. Of those, nearly 40% came from the United States and trailing along in a distant second were my own compatriots in the United Kingdom. Canadian, German, Australian, French, Dutch, Brazilian, Spanish and Finnish readers made up the rest of the international Top 10. And perhaps most interestingly of all, here are the top ten most popular articles: -

(A link to The Daily Telegraph's interview with the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire)

(A post where I discuss the perennial fascination with Henry VIII's second wife)

(A look at the fashions and spending habits of Marie-Antoinette and her clique at Versailles)

(I commented on a news story of how a graphic London tourist poster showing Queen Mary I as a zombie had upset some mothers - and historians)

(Conclusion of The Fall of Anne Boleyn series, in which I chronicled Anne's arrest, downfall, trial and death)

(Anniversary posting taking a look at the day on which the two men accused of adultery with Queen Catherine Howard were executed at Tyburn)

(Part III of The Queens of England series, profiling one of the medieval period's least-known queens, Adeliza of Louvain, second wife of Henry I and ancestress of Anne Boleyn)

To everyone who has read Confessions of a Ci-Devant and either left comments or been in touch to tell me how much you've enjoyed (or disagreed with!) a particular post - keep it coming. To everyone who reads it, thank you and I hope everyone has a wonderful 2011.

Gareth Russell


  1. Happy New Year! "Confessions of a Ci-Devant" is a fabulous contribution to the blogosphere!

  2. That is incredibly kind of you; thank you very much.

  3. Oh dear, my own goals seem further away than ever. I must say this is a fantastic blog, the research impeccable and the commentaries salient and incisive... but I don't know how you do it! I can't imagine you're much more than five or so years older than myself, but I don't know how I can achieve the same goals. I'm a qualified historian and I've been studying history since I picked up my first history book when I was a very small girl, 4/5 I think and it was coincidentally a book on the Tudors. The Tudor period has been one of my especial focuses ever since... but even studying it for so long most if not all of your articles and arguments have far greater knowledge of the Tudors than I, to my extreme dismay as I really feel that I ought to know these things equally as well. I'm also an avid reader and desperately aspiring writer, and I would love to write a book, whether it be fiction or a factual historical work, in fact to me it's a deep seated need, a pressing compulsion. :( But I don't see how I can. I don't want to write an historical fiction novel unless it's as accurate as possible, in fact I'm a little bit terrified that I'll get even one smalll fact wrong... and as for a factual work, I genuinely don't see how I can when my knowledge is so obviously sub-par compared to amazingly knowledgeable people like yourself. Am I being too hard on myself? What do I do?! I know what I want but I have no idea how to start and I have serious concerns about my own competency in terms of knowing the facts well enough (or maybe it's just that I don't have confidence in myself, but I honestly don't know whether to think I'm an awful historian for not knowing my subject well enough or whether I'm just being nuts). I feel like a complete failure as I can't even seem to get a job in the history field at the moment and the only ones that even consider me are well below the position I should expect to be starting with as a qualified graduate, and I've always known that I don't want to work in anything else, I want more than anything to do something in the field that I love and have a passion for. But even with a job I have no clue how I'd ever find the spare time to do enough research, I mean for goodness sakes I don't even seem to have the time NOW to read every single book and every single article and my knowledge is already woeful. I actually ashamed of how bad my knowledge is. I really feel like my dream of being a history writer is unbelievably far away right now.

    As a massively successful history buff and published author, would you very kindly give me the benefit of your advice?

  4. Hi Faye,

    I'm flatted, but I'm sure you overestimate me. I'm in my early twenties at the moment; just completed my masters.

    I suppose the only thing anyone can do with history, as you probably know, is to keep reading. When she wrote her biography of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire in 1997, Amanda Foreman said you kind of have to live with the subjects of your historical fascination, developing Stockholm Syndrome for them like a kidnapping victim does for their kidnapper. Haha. A bit excessive perhaps, but I know exactly what she means! I think you need to become a little bit obsessed and read everything you can. And above all, I love it. Enjoyment is the biggest part of it all, I think.

  5. Urgh, you're only a year older than me? I feel like such a failure! How can you know all that stuff, and write totally original groundbreaking articles like you do?! I've been studying the Tudors since I was like 5 and most of what you write is stuff I never knew before. As for original and significant contributions to the academic community... I haven't even been able to come up with a single idea. It's like I can even see what's out there that could use a closer examination or a reinterpretation. I don't understand much about methodologies, and whilst I can present different sides of arguments I've never been able to see something wrong with a professional's argument myself, I've always relied on other people's counter-arguments. And I feel like I'm the only one - everyone else, my colleagues at uni, even people I find online such as yourself, are impossibly knowledgeable and insightful and can see all the stuff I can't see... I really feel like the one sitting in the corner wearing the dunce's hat, the one that everyone secretly pities because you know they're just not smart enough to go any further, the one that you have to sit down and explain everything to twice over and really slowly. Do you know what I mean? Am I the only one who feels this way?

    And when someone told me today what high standards would be expected from my Masters dissertation, and told me that to become a real expert in my field would require me to take countless more advanced and difficult degrees and decades of study, I despaired. I mean, I don't even think I can write a good Masters dissertation... I can't even think of an idea, I seem totally blind to critical analysis or original thinking, I barely scraped through an undergraduate dissertation and worse I don't even understand where and how I could have gone so wrong with that one. I just honestly have no clue how I'm ever going to achieve my dream of being an expert historian and published author.

    Sorry for ranting about all this to you, I don't feel like I can admit this to my peers or tutors in case they tell me that I'm struggling too much and confirm that I'll never be able to make it because I'm just not intelligent enough.


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