Helen Waddell was born in Japan in 1889, the youngest of 10 children. The family moved to Ireland where she excelled at school and won a place at Queens’ University Belfast. But she gave up a promising academic career to care for her step mother. At 31 she went to Oxford University where she studied for a PHD and she then moved to Paris to continue her research into 12th and 13th Century French history. After a spell working for a publishing company in London, she published Peter Abelard which was one of the biggest selling books of the 1930s and Waddell was propelled into literary stardom. She died in London in 1965.