Your Questions

Q

Dear Mr. Cornwell. I recently saw the movie The Four Feathers, and during the opening credits it states that the white feather was a symbol of cowardice in the British Army. Would you happen to know when/why this was started? Was this also true during Sharpe's era? Thanks, and I also want to state that I enjoy ALL of your books, especially the Arthur trilogy.
Axel

A

I suspect it was. I've never thought about it, but Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable says that the saying comes from cock-fighting, and that when a gamebird has had enough and wants out of the fight it raises the hackle feathers on its neck which are fringed with white - so it's showing a surrender flag, and thus the saying. I've no idea if that's true, but it sounds convincing.


Q

Dear Mr. Cornwell, Although you so often hear it, I will add my voice to those who have proclaimed you among their favorite authors. I have read most of your books, first becoming aquainted with Sharpe on the occasion of a birthday gift from my librarian mother many years ago. An association she inferred, I am sure, from my fondness for Hornblower in my childhood. What really sets you apart, however, is your fine attention to detail - historical, cultural, visual - and how it so completely engulfs readers in your character's trials and triumphs among historical events. Events often heard and wondered about in dry abstraction, but here lived with a wonderful wet immediacy. You are often compared to O'Brien or Forester. I won't say one is better than another. I will say that you are the only author which I will not hesitate to purchase off the shelf of the local bookseller; knowing full well that I am in for a grand time, and will probably learn something in the bargain. That said, two questions: Are there differences between the U.K. and American editions of your books - the one I know of is the title to "The Archer's Tale" - but have there been other differences in text? and Are you read much by the French? Do the poor French have any authors willing to cast them as anything other than the hapless recipients of Britain's might? Many thanks for many hours of brilliant storytelling. --Andrew Cox Stavros

A

There is no difference in the text of the two versions of my books, except the US publisher Americanises the spelling of some words.

The French read the Arthur books, and they do well there. Not sure they've caught onto Sharpe yet! And I don't know if they have a Sharpe quivalent of their own - be interesting to find out!


Q

Hi Bernard, Just a quick question if you don't mind. I've noticed that in almost all your series that there is some narrative on the local bird population, plus there is Harper's well known love and knowledge of birds. I was wondering if bird watching was a passion of yours? If it is, and following on from other invitations you have had on this site, then next time you are over in England give me a shout and I'll take you to view the Osperys on Bassentwaite Lake as I'm a keen ornithologist myself. Regards Ed.

A

I'm not a dedicated ornithologist - no way - but I like birds! Sort of glance at them rather than watch them! And I'd love to see your ospreys. Here on Cape Cod we have three nesting within half a mile, and in Florida, of course, they're ubiquitous as rats, but they're wonderful to watch.


Q

Dear Bernard, Whilst browsing through Hatchards website I noticed that you are due to appear there on the 4th of October to sign copies of your new book the Pale Horseman. Can you confirm that this is correct and whether this will form part of a UK book tour? Apologies if this appears premature, however, I have enjoyed your booksignings in the past and want to ensure that I don't miss out. Many thanks and best wishes, Steven

A

It probably means I am. At this stage I don't know the schedule, but we'll be sure to post it once we get the details.


Q

Hello Mr Cornwell- I'm a big fan of your Sharpe books and an currently reading The Last Kingdom- also excellent. Anyway have you ever considered writing about how Sharpe gets conscripted into army by Hakeswill(who I believe you mentioned in Sharpe's Tiger was the man who signed him up?) back in London before Sharpe's Tiger? Could make a interesting book/study as you like writing about Hakeswill!! Yours Richard L, Shropshire UK

A

I think not as I'm disinclined to take Sharpe back in time again - but who knows? Never say never.


Q

Hi One time you commented that you learned alot from John Keegan's face of Battle. I went out and read it, and then I read several more of his histories which I found absolutelty engrossing, especially The History of Warfare. Keegan analyzes narratives of battle in the Face of Battle, has he ever commented on your stories? Thanks for keeping up this site - it is a pleasure to read. James

A

Not that I know of. He is good, isn't he?


Q

I'm just reading The Last Kingdom, obtained at Costco. I bought the book because I recognized the Viking ships, of course, but looking inside saw the names Alfred the Great, Ragnar Lodbrok, King Aella, and so on. Now I've gotten to to p. 62 and see Ivar the Boneless.!! These people are all our ancestors!!! How did you find all this info on them??? I have a cousin who has recently compiled all our genealogy from these people, and they are all included!!! I'll gladly share my info with you, if you'll tell me how you learned all these details to write these great novels!!! Margaret Carole Bendler Jacob

A

Thanks for your nice comments! There are all sorts of places where you can find out about these folk, though much of the information is shrouded in mystery. We know most about King Alfred because he wrote himself, and had his biography written in his lifetime by Bishop Asser. The quickest resources, which will lead you onto other books, are The Blackwell Encyclopaedia of Anglo Saxon England and, for the Vikings, I'd recommend John Haywood's Encyclopaedia of the Viking Age. The snag here being that both were published in Britain and I can't say offhand whether they were also published in the States. I have their genealogies too - I wonder if they're the same as your cousin's - they're all in A Biographical Dictionary of Dark Age Britain, 500 - 1050. Guess where that book was published too! Thanks.


Q

Dear Bernard, First thanks for all your wonderful books, I am literally counting down the days until 'The Pale Horseman' is released. Now a question or two (sorry!). Which battle fought during the Napoleonic wars was the most significant/crucial for the British and allies (especially out of Trafalgar and Waterloo)? Which one did you like writing about? Thanks for your time and keep up the great work!! Thanks, Ben.

A

I suppose the crucial one was Trafalgar, because it virtually guaranteed that Britain could not be defeated by France. I'm not sure which battle I most enjoyed writing about - I think I'm equally fond of Trafalgar and Waterloo.


Q

Bernard , thank you for the many happy hours of reading you have given me .I have just finished reading your latest book, I think that I have read just about every thing that you have published . Have you considered writing any world war one sags ? the possibilities seem endless. looking forward to your nexst release in October . regards John H.

A

No, I'll stick to the more ancient past.


Q

Dear Mr. Cornwell, I have been an avid reader of your books for many a year and read "The Last Kingdom" with the usual enjoyment. As something of an Anglo-Saxon enthusiast, I was interested in your description of Alfred's Wessex flag as a white dragon on a green background. I have seen reference to the Wessex flag as a white dragon on a red background and of a golden dragon on a red background. But I cannot find details of the green background you mention. I've talked to some other Anglo-Saxon enthusiasts and they aren't sure of the origin of the green background either. I would much appreciate if you could tell me the source of where you found this information if you have it at hand anywhere. Keep up the superb work and I look forward to reading "The Pale Horseman". leeghancock

A

Honestly don't have a clue. I've got it in a notebook, so I copied it down from somewhere, but as I keep explaining (and apologising) I rarely note my sources because they aren't really relevant to an historical novelist. I'll keep an eye out though, and if I come across the reference again I'll make sure to let you know.


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