Warning! This is a rant!
I love to read historical fiction. Love it. However, one of my pet peeves is when the writer gets the history wrong. I have no problem with historical 'maybe's, but I have massive problems when known history gets played with for the sake of a plot.
For example: It's possible Queen Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots met. It's possible. There was a time when they were in the same part of England and Elizabeth did have a habit of riding off and people not knowing where she was. Did she meet Mary? No one knows...but it's possible. Were they best friends? No. Would they have gotten along? Probably not. People are people after all, regardless of the date. Elizabeth was ruled by her head, Mary was ruled by her heart. Usually these people do not see eye to eye.
People have been writing books against a panoply of great historic events for a long, long time. That's great. But get the history right. Get the dates right. Don't have people meeting in a building that wouldn't be built for another 100 years, or one that was destroyed 50 years earlier (examples of both I've read recently). Don't write anachronisms. Do your research. Were they writing with quills, or were fountain pens in regular use? How much food would regularly be served at a meal, and what kind of food? Central heating is a fairly recent invention, don't have characters flitting through corridors dressed in nothing but wisps of chiffon in an English winter. They'd freeze.
Don't get me started on the current television series The Tudors. In my opinion, Tudor history is interesting enough without having to add things.
I recently watched a television movie about the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and the events leading up to the abdication. This is one of my subjects; I think I may have read almost every book on the subject, including autobiographies and letters. I watched the interview with the screenwriter before I watched the movie and I was encouraged. She'd done her research and certainly talked very knowledgeably about the subject. I then watched the movie and ground my teeth when there was a historical error 2 minutes into it. Now, I realize that this particular story would have to be condensed for a movie. But, couldn't the events be condensed correctly?Case in point: Their first meeting was mentioned correctly, but their second meeting was wrong. Grrrrr.
This same credo must hold, surely, for writing in any period. If you're mentioning current events, then get them right. Get the date right. Get the cell phone right. If you're writing in a time that can only be described vaguely as 'now' then don't call attention to world events or (what is now) up-to-the-minute technology.
Historical fiction is called that for a reason. There's obviously fiction. But get the history right. If you're going to use real people as characters then do your research. Learn their speech patterns from letters. Of course, things will get made up; no one can tell what Churchill and King George VI said to each other during their first meeting, but get the date of the meeting right.
Okay, rant ended.
Do you read historical fiction? Do historical inaccuracies bother you or do you get swept up into the story and not really care?