1502 — Reuben Kane and Hildred Taferal born in Devon, Reuben in April, Hildred in August. Reuben is the child of poor fisher-folk in the coastal village of Salcombe, Hildred a scion of gentry living in a manor house outside Kingsbridge. Hildred is a younger son; Reuben has two brothers and two sisters.
1511-1516 — Reuben grows up on fishing boats and has acquaintance with the smugglers and pirates who abound along England’s southern coasts. His father, injured at sea and unable to fish thereafter, works in the Taferal stables. Reuben assists him. He and Hildred get into scrapes together, both being venturesome and bold. Hildred, as a matter of course learning horsemanship and the sword, shares this knowledge with Reuben. They practice fencing together with sticks. Reuben for his part aids Hildred to enjoy boyish adventures on boats, and to become associated with a gang of smugglers.
The 1520s — Hildred becomes a soldier and travels on the continent, taking Reuben with him as his second-in-command. He becomes a condottiere of note in the Italian Wars. Reuben, however, becomes the better swordsman. He studies with a master of the Dardi school, the great Achille Marozzo.
At one time Hildred and Reuben attempt a mission for Cardinal Wolsey. Its purpose is to establish an Anglo-French alliance to break the Emperor Charles’ domination of Italy so that the Pope can safely annul Henry VIII’s first marriage, to Catherine of Aragon. Despite this and other gambits, Wolsey fails and falls from power.
Hildred and Reuben encounter Agnes de Chastillon, the “Sword Woman”, and her comrade Etienne Villiers. The encounter is friendly. At the sack of Rome Reuben meets the hot-headed Benvenuto Cellini, hears him boasting of having shot the Duc de Bourbon, and challenges him. He beats Cellini but spares his life upon discovering what an artist he is.
At home, Hildred’s brother Martin marries Edwina Denham.
1528-30 — Hildred and Reuben return to Devon, as close as brothers or closer than most. They woo and win their respective wives, marry at the same time, and proceed to father children. Reuben soon has a son and a daughter, Nathaniel and Violet. They are born in 1530 and 1532, respectively. Nathaniel will be Solomon Kane’s father.
1531-34 — Francisco Pizarro conquers the Inca Empire.
1535 — Reuben Kane’s wife Susannah dies bearing their third child. Reuben is shattered.
1536 — Hildred Taferal’s nephew John is born.
The 1540s — Hildred and Reuben serve in Henry VIII’s wars against Scotland. They fight at Solway Moss (a disaster for Scotland) and in 1544 march with the Earl of Hertford, to enforce a betrothal between the infant Mary Queen of Scots and King Henry’s son Edward (later Edward VI).
They are also involved in the Italian War of 1542-46, in which Henry VIII takes part. An army of 40,000 men goes to Calais, but with little result. Politically, that is. Reuben Kane, eight years a widower now, does find his second wife, a Picardy girl of Protestant leanings named Lisette of Chauny. Given her religious beliefs, she’s safer in England. She will become mother to three of Solomon Kane’s aunts and two of his uncles.
1547 — Henry VIII dies early in the year. Hertford — now Duke of Somerset, with the title of “Protector” – continues England’s efforts in Scotland.
1548 — Reuben and Hildred return to Scotland as soldiers, under the command of Lord Grey of Wilton. The jocularly named “Rough Wooing” is a merciless, beastly business. The English relentlessly devastate southern Scotland, and the Scots play football with English prisoners’ heads.
Hildred gains the rank of baron; he’s now Hildred, Lord Taferal. He and Reuben Kane are both glad to return to their homes and wives. Hildred has children, but they die young and Hildred eventually passes away without issue. Reuben, on the other hand, has fathered (by his first wife) Nathaniel, Violet and Hester. Lisette, his second wife, bears Travers, Alcina, Joan (after Joan of Arc), and the twins Peter and Edith.
1549 — Franciscan monk Diego de Landa arrives in Yucatan to bring the Catholic faith to the Mayans. His first appointment is to the mission of San Antonio in Izamal. He’s a zealous man, to the point of fanaticism, which the Maya will have cause to lament.
1553 — Future English pirate and renegade corsair Jack Ward born in Faversham, Kent.
1554 — Solomon Kane is born at Salcombe, the son of Reuben Kane’s son Nathaniel and Nathaniel’s wife Dymphna, during the reign of Mary Tudor, or “Bloody Mary”.
1557 — The Portuguese gain a foothold in Macao. King of Spain bankrupt.
1558 — The Emperor Charles V dies. “Bloody Mary” also dies. Solomon Kane is now four years old. Mary’s sister Elizabeth ascends the throne of England. The magician John Dee, once well regarded at Mary’s court but then imprisoned for a time, has helped Elizabeth escape beheading by his arts, and will be much in the new monarch’s favor.
1559 — In June, at the betrothal of his daughter Elizabeth to Philip II of Spain, King Henri of France takes part in the jousting, wearing the black-and-white colors of his mistress, Diane de Poitiers. Jousting against Gabriel, Comte de Montgomery, he receives fatal injuries and on the 10th of July he dies. From that day his queen, Catherine de Medici, takes a broken lance as her emblem, and the motto, “Lacrymae hinc, hinc dolor.” (“From this come my tears and my pain.”) The king’s death was prophesied by Nostradamus, then living and in great favor with Catherine.
1560 — The Roman Church is overthrown and Protestantism is established as the national religion in Scotland.
Solomon Kane is taught the sword from an early age by his grandfather Reuben.
1562 — Diego de Landa conducts the infamous auto-da-fe of Mani, at which some forty Mayan codices and 20,000 cult images are burned. He is recalled to Spain on charges of excessive violence and overstepping his authority.
1564 — Solomon Kane is now ten. He has four sisters – Margaret, Amy, Rose and Beatrice — and no brothers. He has the privilege of reading fairly often in the library of his grandsire’s old comrade-in-arms, Lord Taferal, and comes to love Le Morte D’Arthur, first printed by Caxton in the late fifteenth century. In his fancy he rides with the perfect knight Galahad and pictures himself battling the wicked beside Joshua and Gideon of Old Testament times. Many lads have such dreams, but Solomon in future years is to act them out with irresistible force. Solomon also reads Dante’s DIVINE COMEDY and Foxe’s Actes and Monuments, better known as the Book of Martyrs, first published in 1563. The accounts of torture instill in the boy a horror of Popery and the Holy Office long before he has any experience of these things himself.
1565 — Marylin Taferal is born. Her father, George Taferal, is Hildred’s younger second cousin. She swiftly becomes the light of Hildred’s life. He’s ageing, and now childless. Sir John Taferal, Hildred’s nephew, almost thirty now, married to an heiress and with two little children of his own, has his eye on Hildred’s wide rich lands. He begins to fear that Hildred may leave them to Marylin.
The little girl also becomes dear to Solomon and his sisters’ friend, Bess Rowley. Although she is only four when Solomon leaves Devon for the first time, she has come to regard him as a great sailor and lispingly calls him “Captain Kane”. She remembers what she used to call him when he finds her in Negari again, years afterwards.
1568 — In July a Spanish fleet is attacked and destroyed by the Dutch “Sea Beggars”.
1569 — Two worthless young nobles attack Bess. Solomon defends her and runs one of them through the shoulder. He forces the second to run for his life. The pair’s fathers have powerful friends, though, and Lord Taferal advises the fifteen-year-old Solomon to leave Devon for a while. Just before the lad departs, his grandfather Reuben dies in his sleep, aged sixty-seven. Bess loves him and weeps when he goes.
Solomon travels to Dover. The Dutch “Sea Beggars” fighting against Spanish rule in the Netherlands use it as one of their bases. Solomon joins them. He gains his first real experience of sea fighting with these tough-handed rebels against tyranny.
1569 — The “committee of doctors” appointed to investigate Diego de Landa’s conduct in Yucatan absolves him.
1570 — Peace of St. Germain, favorable to Huguenots, ends three years of terrible civil war between Catholics and Protestants in France.
1571 — When the Bishop of Yucatan dies, Diego de Landa is appointed bishop in his place.
1572 — The Sea Beggars’ fleet of 24 vessels, under the command of Willem de la Marck, Adam van Haren and Martin Brand, sails from Dover. Solomon Kane is in van Haren’s ship. They attack and capture the city of Den Briel on April Fool’s day, then repel an attack by a Spanish force by flooding the surrounding land. Afterwards they plunder Delft.
For diplomatic reasons Queen Elizabeth bars the Sea Beggars from her ports.
1572 — Kane, disillusioned by the Sea Beggars’ conduct at Den Briel, wanders into France. The wedding of Henri III of Navarre and Margaret de Valois takes place on 18th August. Henri being staunchly Protestant, the marriage is not acceptable to Catholics in France.
On the 22nd August an attempt is made to assassinate Admiral de Coligny, the Huguenot leader. Next day the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre occurs. The bloodshed spreads from Paris, and its victims number thousands before the end. Even among these atrocities, the conduct of one French army captain in particular, Gaston Pequigot, is outstanding enough to gain him the nickname “Gaston the Butcher”.
1573 — Diego de Landa takes his seat as Bishop of Yucatan. His period as Bishop is marked by continued savage efforts to extirpate idolatry among the Maya. His methods are considered excessive even by Spanish secular authorities.
1573 — Kane comes back to Salcombe. He’s now nineteen. His skill with the sword was noteworthy even at the age of fifteen; he has refined and improved it since. He remains in Salcombe for a year, and because of Bess Rowley he takes service with the Taferals. He and Bess are both adored by eight-year-old Marylin Taferal, but Hildred’s nephew Sir John sees her as a danger and has decided to be rid of her.
Solomon’s restless nature urges him to wander forth into the world. His affection – and even young love – for Bess, impels him to remain. An obsessive, vengeful and paranoid streak has also begun to emerge, combined with his harsh Protestant religion. Not yet twenty, he has seen much of the fearful wrongs that run wild in the world, and heard more. Like Kipling’s “gentleman rankers”, he has known the worst too young.
1574 — Death of Charles IX of France. Henri III ascends the throne. Solomon yields to the promptings of his wanderlust and leaves again. Bess’s heart is broken; Solomon’s parents call him a ne’er-do-well. Solomon himself doesn’t understand what is driving him.
Shortly after the young Kane’s departure, Sir John Taferal kidnaps Marylin and sells her to a Barbary corsair, a renegade known as El Gar. This was possibly an English corruption of “El Giaour”. Sir John makes it appear that Marylin has drowned, and her family is fooled. They believe her dead. El Gar sells Marylin to a merchant of Constantinople, the center of the Ottoman Empire. The truth will not become known for years.
Kane wanders across to Falmouth in Cornwall, a notorious haven for pirates, smugglers and wreckers. In Falmouth young Kane has his first meeting with the pirate Jonas Hardraker, “The Fish-hawk”, a cruel, vicious man who plunders from the Channel to the Baltic. Hardraker is an associate of the powerful crooked Killigrew clan. This first encounter between Hardraker and Kane is inconclusive. After that he crosses the Irish Sea.
1575 — Kane rather deems the Irish papists savages, but he finds the English officials in Ireland more obnoxious. He encounters Grace O’Malley, the pirate queen of Connacht, then about forty-five years old, and her eldest son Owen, a man with a kindly, forgiving nature, whom he likes. After that he accepts the hospitality of Turlogh O’Neill, “O’Neill Mor”, leader of the clan. (The O’Neills have been deprived of the title “Earl of Tyrone”.)
The massacre of Rathlin Island is instigated and ordered by the First Earl of Essex, Walter Devereaux. In July two hundred MacDonnells are slain for resisting the English, though they have surrendered. Then four hundred non-combatants, men, women and children, are hunted out of the island’s crags and caves and slaughtered indiscriminately.
Kane hears of it from a child who survived the massacre. Her name is Maeve MacDonnell. She returns from her grave in the twentieth century, to prevent the resurrection of Odin, in the REH story “The Cairn on the Headland.” The inscription on her tomb bears the dates “1565-1640”, so she would have been ten when Kane gave her shelter and protection.
1576 — He resolves to avenge the atrocity. Leaving Maeve in O’Neill care, Solomon goes to Dublin shortly after the Earl of Essex arrives there. In September he enters Dublin Castle and slays him with his bare hands. Essex’s rival the Earl of Leicester is suspected of the murder, and there are whispers of poison, but the investigations are half-hearted from a desire to avoid political scandal. A post-mortem finding announces that Essex died of natural causes.
Kane has also had a few harrowing supernatural adventures while in Ireland.
Art credit: Solomon Kane by Jeffrey Jones
Read Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five