Friday, March 19, 2010

Can a Novel Change Popular Opinion About a King 500 Years After His Death?

Yesterday I wrote about the bookseller dinner with Lynn Cullen, author of the new novel, The Creation of Eve. She had mentioned in passing that she saw this book as a rebuttal to the vilification of King Felipe. I asked her if she would discuss this in more depth. Here's her repsonse.

from Lynn:
"I love questions. To answer yours about Felipe, I wrote about him because I wanted to re-examine him as a person and king since he’s been so completely vilified by history. As someone who loves English history, I had completely bought into the propaganda so masterfully used against him by the English and the Dutch. The Black Legend that they cooked up in the 1500’s is so effective that even today many Spaniards, let alone everyone else in the world, blame Felipe for their country’s decline, which began in the late 16th century. (The true reason for the fall in Spanish power has its roots in the decline of manufacturing due to the reliance upon income from the New World, but that's another story.)

"But a look at Felipe’s letters and copious notations on court documents—he was a very hands-on king-- reveals a thoughtful, earnest man who loved books, gardening, architecture, and art. Most of all he loved his daughters, after Elisabeth died. But even in his own time, rumors, started by people with a vested interested in his ruin, began to swirl about his bloodthirstiness. He thought his good character and deeds would be evidence enough of the man he really was and so he didn’t try to counter the false reports.

"Little did he know about the power of propaganda. He also had no idea how quickly and widespread the Black Legend could be broadcast. The Dutch and English—the two countries who had the most to gain by his downfall—also had the best printing presses in the world. So you could say that the first booksellers had a hand in destroying Felipe’s reputation. Now, 450 years later, booksellers might have a hand in presenting a more balanced picture of him in the Creation of Eve. Hail to the power of the written word!"

1 comment:

Joel Habush said...

Okay, but my sketchy research indicates that before he died, he had much of his correspondence and other of his personal records destroyed. People will be suspicious of those who indulged in the 16th century version of paper shredding.
And just because someone likes animals and his own children, does not mean he could not be bloodthirsty.