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Post William Ashby: How to Structure a Biography
Created by John Eipper on 08/09/19 6:37 AM

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William Ashby: How to Structure a Biography (Timothy Ashby, Spain, 08/09/19 6:37 am)

John Eipper asked me on August 6th: "How are you planning to structure your William Ashby bio? In a straight chronological fashion, or with an in medias res 'hook'?"

I'm very much using an in medias res approach. The book opens in the wee hours of July 29th, 1588, when William Ashby, only two weeks into his job as Queen Elizabeth's ambassador to Scotland, is reading for the third time a letter from Sir Francis Walsingham, "touching the appearing of the Spanish fleet upon the coast of the west country." Ashby is in his drafty, rodent-infested lodgings in a dank close near St. Giles Cathedral, for which he must pay the exorbitant rent of 20 shillings per day.

He knows from his intelligence contacts that the impecunious King James VI (who was so broke that his last two cooks had quit and the royal kitchen closed) was seriously considering large bribes from the Spanish and French for an alliance that would allow the Armada to use Scotland as a base from which to invade England--"the King was greatly solicited and pressed to hearken to the large offers made to him by Spain and France." The Ambassador is sleepless and exhausted, consumed by a moral and professional dilemma that could not only end his career but result in literally losing his head. He has been charged by Walsingham and the Queen to promise anything to keep King James "in amity" with the English, or at least neutral. But he knows that he must personally take the blame for any failure, as Good Queen Bess expects what today would be called "plausible deniability."

JE comments:  You've already hooked us in, Tim!  (Timothy Ashby has also sent a post on a decidedly more current subject, Boris Johnson's first fortnight as Prime Minister.  WAIS usually doesn't publish twice from the same colleague on a single day, but what rule isn't meant to be bent...?) 

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