Gracias de Gyvill was the favorite court musician of Prince Pedro of Spain (later known as Pedro the Cruel). He was sent by the Prince as a gift to his young bride-to-be, Joanna of England, Edward III’s second daughter, to amuse her and entertain her with songs of her future home on her way to Spain.
Not much else is known of Gracias. It is supposed that he died of the plague that swept through France in 1348. His grave site is unknown, his body never recovered because the royal château and docks were set on fire in order to stem the tide of the plague.
Almost every source cites this exact message, of Prince Pedro’s gift to Princess Joanna. The main exception to this rule is a novel entitled Gracias, written by Susan Wetherall, in the first person in Gracias’s POV. In this tale, he and the princess have a lover’s tryst.
A similar situation occurs in “In the Wake of King Death,” an original play written for Northern Kentucky University Department of Theatre and Dance. In this fictionalized version, Princess Joanna is appalled to find her retinue of courtiers dying all around her. To assuage her grief, she seduces Gracias.
No account of Princess Joanna ever hint that she would have had an illicit affair with someone, much less with someone not of her station in life.
In Beleaguered, my third medieval novella, I do include Gracias in a very minor role as the musician sent from Spain to entertain Princess Joanna. He teaches the courtiers a particular dance that provokes a startling reaction from Alyse.
I tried to weave small bits of historical fact—like Gracias, who was an historical figure—into my tale to give it some dimensionality. He’s like a “fun fact” that helps bring my story to life.