I love Historical fiction. I know it isn't a very popular genre but it always drags me in. I love it when a writer brings a historical figure to life the way no history book can. However it brings up a very important issue, What is the responsibility of the writer to stay on track with the facts? The creative process gives the writer the freedom to explore the character and bring them to life but what happens when they ignore the facts? Some say that is shouldn't be an issue, it isn't a history book it is a novel, a fictional novel at that. But can all people separate the two? Are we taking a story about a historical figure and taking the information as fact? As a writer I feel there is a responsibility when you take a real historical figure to respect the facts when writing the book. If you don't want to keep with the true storyline of the person then why write about them? Why not make up a character who you can do whatever you want with?
This came to full front when I watched the film "Elizabeth" staring Cate Blanchet. They played foot lose and fancy free with the facts to make a movie. The thing that upset me was that the real story is actually better!
One of my favorite authors is Philippa Gregory, her novels stay with the facts but add the extra excitement needed to keep the reader interested. It is possible to respect the facts and write an incredible story.
To be blunt if you don't want to respect the facts about a character make one up instead.