Confirms that the calendar in TDW is reckoned from January to December, more or less, as ours is.
(This is not a foregone conclusion; the early Roman Empire began the year in March. But the change to January occurred in 153 BC, long before TDW history diverged from ours.)
It is the end of 1477 AD.
[...] minnesingers weeping into their lutes.
A German troubador tradition, performing songs of courtly love.
[...] the Worshipful Company of the Art and Mystery of Dentistry was turned out in mass to cheer the passage of the sun into Capricorn, auspicious for the pulling of teeth.
The astrological sign of Capricorn governs the skin, bones, and teeth. The sun enters this sign (in its annual trip around the zodiac) on the winter solstice; so this celebration must occur every year at this time.
Cecily Neville, dowager Duchess of York, had been called the Rose of Raby in her youth; [...]
"Raby" is the castle where Cecily was born.
"My daughter Margaret," she was saying to Cynthia, "considered becoming a priestess of Minerva, but there was a German alliance to cement. And Ursula, the youngest, seems determined on a career in one of the knightly orders. [...]"
The idea of a woman entering a knightly order would be outre in our history, but seems to be presented matter-of-factly here. (Ursula would be 22 at the time of this scene -- the same age as Cynthia.)
"[...] When they drove my Richard out of the country, I turned myself and the children over to King Henry; he didn't dare hurt me then, for fear of thunderbolts as an oathbreaker... but believe me, dear, in that year I learned what rudeness was."
This was Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York, and the year 1459-1460 AD.
If Henry swore an oath to protect the family of his enemy, was he kept to it by fear of losing face in front of his allies, or by fear of genuinely being struck by lightning? If the latter, the gods are more active than we have seen thus far.
"[...] And is there such an agreement?"
"No such document exists, my lady."
"That is good news, then... to know there is one tiny bone of sense in George's body."
He was not tall, but was powerfully built, with a warrior's big shoulders. Dark hair hung to his collar; his features were even, flat, not unattractive. He pulled off his cap with a ringed hand, shouted, "Good evening, Mother! Time for rejoicing: despite the roads and London, the younger son is--" He looked around the dinner table. "Oh, shit."
His greeting is slightly elevated towards the theatrical, albeit probably as a conscious gesture; when he sees that Cecily has guests, he cuts himself off with an entirely un-self-conscious obscenity. (Note that he will not recognize Hywel for another few moments.)
"I've told them something of your situation," Hywel said, "and they're willing to serve with you. If you're interested in having them, of course."
"Of course," Richard said lightly.
"Around Robin Hood's barn" is an idiom for "unnecessarily complicated" or "the long way around." Richard is in charge of the permanent border scuffle with Scotland, but he implies that it is a lot of scuffling for not much gain.
"Albany is in Denmark."
"What's he doing in Denmark?"
"Wavering, I imagine."
Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, famously spends his play being indecisive.
[...] reading from a book on a stand, the new Caxton printing of Malory's Arthuriad; [...]
The TDW equivalent appears earlier (it is 1477), and under a different title. Rather than being French, "Arthuriad" is a Greek form, like "Iliad."
Cynthia said clearly, "How many troops does she come with?"
Cecily looked up, startled. "Why, no soldiers as such, dear, but most of Norfolk duchy. I see you know how this is done."
"Only above the rank of Baron," Cynthia said.
Then he swallowed, said "Oh, blast, yes," and sat down heavily.
"Richard liveth yet" is a line from a mnemonic verse of Cecily's children, written when Richard was very young. Some have argued that this line supports Shakespeare's picture of Richard as sickly and deformed. Others say that it merely contrasts him with his siblings who did not survive infancy.
"I... don't know your faiths, and I am sorry if this is a wrong question, but tomorrow is an... important day. Is there--"
Hywel said "It's her pain, of course... all her senses are cut off, as an ache turns to numbness; she can function, walk, talk, but she's a shell. I think I know someone in Wales who can help... but until then, we have to keep something else from filling that shell."
The person in Wales is Mary Setright.
Hywel spoke quite coolly. "What I learn in certain ways I do not repeat. It is an essential rule. Wizards who will not keep rules... Gregory, you saw the Frenchman die. And Cecily, I think you recall, at Wakefield, in the snow..."
"The Frenchman" was Guillaume, who died on p170. His failure was not an ethical rule, as is Hywel's attention to psychic privacy, but the conservation of energy in spell-casting. Hywel is identifying the cases anyway, which may be the point.
"Where I am," Gregory said, "There is no death. What are we going to do?"
When the young man who would become Edward IV fought his first great battle, a strange thing happened in the sky overhead: three suns shone together. Edward's advisors were still divided as to whether this was a sign from the gods or a refraction phenomenon of the "sundog" variety.
The vision is narrated in Henry VI part 3, act 2, scene 1.
Edward himself played no favorites: he went from no particular faith to the earnest worship of Phoebus Apollo, in time constructing a new hall in the London Pantheon, and endowed a school of opticks at Minerva College, Oxford.
The "London Pantheon" is probably analogous either to Westminster Abbey, or to St. Paul's Cathedral. (The first one, which was destroyed in the fire of 1666.)
Several of the colleges of Oxford University have Christian-derived names, which might become "Minerva College" in TDW history. None, however, seem to be associated with a school of optics.
The little Duke of York and his bride Anne Mowbray [...]
This marriage occurred in our history (although in St. Stephen's Chapel in Westminster Palace). It is January 15th, 1478 AD.
This is one of the few scenes in TDW at which none of the protagonists are present. It is the only such scene -- except perhaps for the last line of the novel, p376 -- which is written to a personal scale, as if an entirely anonymous narrator were present. (Other such historic scenes, such as p335-p336, cover an entire city, and so can be taken as a distant view from any or all of the protagonists.)
"[...] All right, I fought you; I helped Warwick throw you out of the country; I did it, and I lost, and I know what that sort of loser gets. Just like Henry... Tell me something, Dick, about old Henry -- was it you then, too?"
The identity of the killer is not known in our history, or in TDW either (see p147). Shakespeare, of course, blames Richard.
"You stopped... oh, gods, Dick. I didn't... I mean, I'm sorry."
George misunderstands "we stopped it" to mean Hywel and Richard (where Hywel actually meant the group in chapter 6, p170). George is therefore reacting to the notion that Richard would have made an effort to protect him. Hywel prevents Richard from correcting this -- presumably to keep his interrogation on track.
Consistent with our history. The third man appears to have been named Thomas Blake. Of the three, only Blake avoided execution.
"[...] Of course, this was a month after George had the Twynho woman dragged out of her bed and hanged, in the speed record for legal process."
"You weren't there when Isabel died," he said, on the edge of a sob. "She just lay there, couldn't move, couldn't lift her hands... and when I kissed her, I could taste the poison on her breath. It tasted of fruit, and she hadn't had fruit. She was so long dying... in such pain..."
But a sweet odor on the breath is is a symptom of diabetes; and the rest of this description is consistent with untreated diabetes, as well. Although no character in the book makes this connection, it is very possible that Ford -- who was diabetic himself -- intended it.
Hywel said "I didn't mean to make you lie, just then."
"[...] Das Leben ist Lieblich. [...]"
German: "Life is lovely."
"Gregory, are you well?"
"Well? Ja, 'bin ganz wohl. There is no disease that can afflict me, no drug poison me. I will live for a long time... Who knows how long. [...]"
German: "Yes, I am well."
Confirms that vampires are completely immune to these dangers...
He held [the knife] loosely in one hand, squeezed. The steel blade bent into waves between his thumb and fingers.
...and that vampires are inhumanly strong, as well.
"I cannot promise she will go to Wales," Gregory said, "but I do not think she will go to Scotland."
"I am all right. Though while I spoke to her..." He laughed once, ash-dry. "In fact, I am well. I told you, I have given this... performance... before. It is not all play-act, of course; I am the hungry animal, I know. But this time, the reason was better than hunger... Yes, I think I am well."
"[...] She's not a hollow vessel needing someone to fill her; she's a knight needing a quest. For her soul's sake." She paused, looking at the illustration on the book page, of jousters riding one another down. "That's why she must go with Hywel: there are better quests than war."
This short scene, the heart of the chapter, considers quests. Arthur's Grail quest (or "Cauldron quest" in TDW history; see p231) is archetypical. Cecily is comparing it to Cynthia's needs: her desire to be a doctor in Richard's war, and some greater need beyond that.
But we also have Gregory's comment (p191) that helping Cynthia is a "better reason" to play the vampire than hunger. (He may have used that persona to seduce donors.) He too is better off when pursuing a goal beyond survival.
"The said duke nevertheless, for all this no love increasing but growing daily in more and more malice..."
The bill of attainder quoted in this scene matches the one in our historical record. (Rotuli Parliamentorum, vol. 6, p193-195.) The unabridged act is three pages long.
Dimitrios said "How do the English put a royal duke to death?"
"[...] 'Enough wine to sate him,' indeed. [...]"
George was convicted of treason in January of 1478, and sentenced to death. He was spared a public execution, but died nonetheless -- almost certainly at Edward's word -- on February 18. The tradition is that he was drowned in a butt of malmsey wine, but this is unverifiable.
(Although, for what it's worth, Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable agrees with TDW that George chose his fate.)