Edith Pargeter

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Edith Pargeter
Ellis Peters.jpg
Born Edith Mary Pargeter
28 September 1913
Horsehay, Shropshire, England
Died 14 October 1995 (aged 82)
Madeley, Shropshire, England
Pen name Ellis Peters; John Redfern; Jolyon Carr; Peter Benedict
Occupation Author
Citizenship British
Education Dawley Church of England School; Coalbrookdale High School for Girls
Genre historical fiction; mysteries; nonfiction works about Shrewsbury; translations from the Czech
Notable works "The Brother Cadfael Chronicles"; the George Felse mysteries; the "Heaven Tree" trilogy
Notable awards OBE; British Crime Writers Association; Mystery Writers of America

Edith Mary Pargeter, OBE, BEM (28 September 1913 – 14 October 1995), also known by her nom de plume Ellis Peters, was an English author of works in many categories, especially history and historical fiction, and was also honoured for her translations of Czech classics; she is probably best known for her murder mysteries, both historical and modern. She is well known for her medieval-detective series The Cadfael Chronicles.


Pargeter was born in the village of Horsehay (Shropshire, England). Her father was a clerk at a local ironworks. She was educated at Dawley Church of England School and the old Coalbrookdale High School for Girls.[1] She had Welsh ancestry, and many of her short stories and books (both fictional and non-fictional) are set in Wales and its borderlands, or have Welsh protagonists.

During World War II, she worked in an administrative role in the Women's Royal Naval Service (the "Wrens") and had reached the rank of petty officer by 1 January 1944 when she was awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) in the New Year Honours.[2]

In 1947 Pargeter visited Czechoslovakia and became fascinated by the Czech language and culture. She became fluent in Czech and published award-winning translations of Czech poetry and prose into English.[3]

She devoted the rest of her life to writing, both nonfiction and well-researched fiction. She never attended university but became a self-taught scholar in areas that interested her, especially Shropshire and Wales. Birmingham University gave her an honorary master's degree.

Pargeter wrote under a number of pseudonyms; it was under the name Ellis Peters that she wrote her later crime stories, especially the highly popular series of Brother Cadfael medieval mysteries, many of which were made into films for television. The Brother Cadfael Chronicles drew international attention to Shrewsbury and its history, and greatly increased tourism to the town.

She died at her home in Madeley, Shropshire in 1995 at the age of 82. She had recently returned home from hospital following a stroke. In 1997 a new stained glass window depicting St Benedict was installed in Shrewsbury Abbey and was dedicated to the memory of Edith Pargeter.[4]


The Mystery Writers of America gave Pargeter their Edgar Award in 1963 for Death and the Joyful Woman. In 1980, the British Crime Writers Association awarded her the Silver Dagger for Monk's Hood. In 1993 she won the Cartier Diamond Dagger, an annual award given by the CWA to authors who have made an outstanding lifetime's contribution to the field of crime and mystery writing. Pargeter was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) "for services to Literature" in the 1994 New Year Honours.[5] To commemorate Pargeter's life and work, in 1999 the CWA established their Ellis Peters Historical Dagger award (later called the Ellis Peters Historical Award) for the best historical crime novel of the year.[6][7]

Pargeter's Cadfael Chronicles are often credited for popularizing what would later become known as the historical mystery.[8][9]


As Edith Pargeter[edit]

The Heaven Tree Trilogy[edit]

  • The Heaven Tree (1960)
  • The Green Branch (1962) (1230 William De Braose, a Norman Marcher Lord was hanged for an affair with Joan, lady of Wales, the wife of Prince Llywelyn ab Iorwerth.)
  • The Scarlet Seed (1963)

The Brothers of Gwynedd Quartet[edit]

Four novels about Llewelyn the Last:

  • Sunrise in the West (1974)
  • The Dragon at Noonday (1975)
  • The Hounds of Sunset (1976)
  • Afterglow and Nightfall (1977)

Jim Benison aka World War 2 Trilogy[edit]

  • The Eighth Champion of Christendom (1945)
  • Reluctant Odyssey (1946)
  • Warfare Accomplished (1947)


  • Hortensius, Friend of Nero (1936)
  • Iron-Bound (1936)
  • The City Lies Four-Square (1939)
  • Ordinary People (1941) (aka People of My Own)
  • She Goes to War (1942)
  • The Fair Young Phoenix (1948)
  • By Firelight (1948) (US title: By This Strange Fire)
  • The Coast of Bohemia (1950) (non-fiction: an account of a journey in Czechoslovakia)
  • Lost Children (1951)
  • Holiday With Violence (1952)
  • Most Loving Mere Folly (1953)
  • The Rough Magic (1953)
  • The Soldier at the Door (1954)
  • A Means of Grace (1956)
  • The Assize of the Dying (1958) (short stories)
  • A Bloody Field by Shrewsbury (1972) (US title: The Bloody Field)
  • The Marriage of Meggotta (1979) (about Margaret de Burgh, daughter of Hubert de Burgh, 2nd earl of Kent, who saved Prince Arthur the first time King John tried to have him killed)

As Ellis Peters[edit]

George Felse and Family[edit]

  • Fallen into the Pit (1951) (originally published under her own name)
  • Death and the Joyful Woman (1961) (Edgar Award for Best Novel, 1963)
  • Flight of a Witch (1964)
  • A Nice Derangement of Epitaphs (1965) (US title: Who Lies Here?)
  • The Piper on the Mountain (1966)
  • Black is the Colour of my True Love's Heart (1967)
  • The Grass-Widow's Tale (1968)
  • The House of Green Turf (1969)
  • Mourning Raga (1969)
  • The Knocker on Death's Door (1970)
  • Death to the Landlords! (1972)
  • City of Gold and Shadows (1973)
  • Rainbow's End (1978)

Brother Cadfael[edit]

See The Cadfael Chronicles for the full list of books and stories, plus radio and TV adaptations.


  • Death Mask (1959)
  • The Will and the Deed (1960) (US title: Where There's a Will)
  • Funeral of Figaro (1962)
  • The Horn of Roland (1974)
  • Never Pick Up Hitchhikers! (1976)
  • Shropshire (non-fiction, with Roy Morgan) (1992) [10]
  • Strongholds and Sanctuaries : The Borderland of England and Wales (non-fiction, with Roy Morgan) (1993)

As John Redfern[edit]

  • The Victim Needs a Nurse (c.1940)

As Jolyon Carr[edit]

  • Murder in the Dispensary (1938)
  • Freedom for Two (1939)
  • Masters of the Parachute Mail (1940)
  • Death Comes by Post (1940)

As Peter Benedict[edit]

  • Day Star (1937)


  1. ^ goodreads.com
  2. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 36309. p. 28. 31 December 1943. Retrieved 18 October 2010.
  3. ^ "In Profile: Edith Pargeter". BBC - Shropshire. July 2008. Retrieved 5 December 2013. 
  4. ^ visitshrewsbury.com
  5. ^ The London Gazette: no. 53527. p. 13. 30 December 1993. Retrieved 18 October 2010.
  6. ^ "The CWA Dagger Awards". theCWA.co.uk. Retrieved 18 November 2013. 
  7. ^ "The CWA Ellis Peters Historical Dagger". theCWA.co.uk. Retrieved 17 November 2013. 
  8. ^ Picker, Lenny (March 3, 2010). "Mysteries of History". PublishersWeekly.com. Retrieved November 13, 2013. 
  9. ^ Rivkin Jr., David B. (February 27, 2010). "Five Best Historical Mystery Novels". WSJ.com. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved November 17, 2013. 
  10. ^ http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/p/edith-pargeter


  • Songer, Marcia J. "The Ultimate Penance of Brother Cadfael." CLUES: A Journal of Detection 23.4 (Summer 2005): 63-68

External resources[edit]