“The Virgin Queen”, by Leanda de Lisle

March 10, 2017 in Guest Writers, QAB Author Highlight, Queens of World History by Beth von Staats

Editor’s Note: Queenanneboleyn.com is very excited to learn that Leanda de Lisle is completing the “finishing touches” on her new biography White King, The Untold Story of Charles I. This highly anticipated and comprehensive look at England’s tragic Stuart King and his family will release in the United Kingdom on August 31, 2017, by Random House. An American release by Penguin Books is anticipated in January 2018.

If you are seeking an outstanding introduction to the Tudor Dynasty of English History, look no further than Tudor: The Family Story. Do enjoy a short excerpt from Leanda highlighting the origin of Queen Elizabeth Tudor’s sobriquet as “The Virgin Queen”.

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The Phoenix Portrait, Nicholas Hilliard

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The Virgin Queen

by Leanda de Lisle

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Was it better for a Queen who could not marry never to have felt love? In verse Elizabeth begged, ‘let me live with some more sweet content/Or die and so forget what love e’er meant’. Her father, Henry VIII, had feared it would be hard to find a King consort for a Tudor Queen, ‘with whom the whole realm could and would be contented’ as’, and so it had proved. The anxieties she had expressed to the emissary of Mary, Queen of Scots in 1561, that she could not marry without triggering unrest, had deepened following Mary’s disastrous marriages. Elizabeth continued to look publicly for a husband to fulfill national expectations and surely hoped it was not impossible that she might find someone suitable, but in their absence, she had settled for a kind of celibate marriage with Robert Dudley. It was a kind of ‘sweet content’.

People always rushed to see Elizabeth and Dudley together. The antiquarian John Stowe recalled witnessing them meeting once in 1566. Dudley had entered London with a train of seven hundred lords, knights, and gentlemen accompanied by the Queen’s footmen, as well as his own. They had marched from Temple Bar, through the City, across London Bridge into Southwark while the Queen came, ‘secretly.. [across the water] taking a wherry with one pair of oars for her and two other ladies’. When she had landed Elizabeth got into a blue coach and as Dudley and his army reached her on the highway, she came out and greeted him with kisses, before she mounted a horse and they rode on together to Greenwich palace. Later Stowe had watched Dudley return to London in advance of the Queen, the night sky lighting his way with the strange glow of the northern lights.

Nine years later, in 1575, Robert Dudley had prepared a magnificent eighteen days of entertainment for Elizabeth’s visit at his seat at Kenilworth castle in Warwickshire. When the great day came Elizabeth had enjoyed a feast in a specially built pavilion before Dudley rode with her to his castle, the flickering flames of the candles from the windows reflected in the lake and glittering like a vision from a fairy tale. Over the following two and half weeks there had been masques, pageants, and dramas, with the subject of marriage a constant theme. But Elizabeth would turn forty-five in 1578, suitors had come and gone for two decades, and the pretence that she would ever marry was coming to an end.

One last serious discussion of a match was underway with Elizabeth courted by the twenty-four-year old brother of the French King Henri III, the Duke of Anjou. The old friendship with Spain had soured over their religious differences and the piracy of Spanish gold. Elizabeth needed France as a friend, but to England’s beleaguered Catholics the marriage proposal also represented the desperate hope of an end to the increasingly vicious persecution to which they were being subjected. English Catholics reasoned that Elizabeth’s fears about their loyalty would be greatly reduced if she were married to a Catholic, but their hopes for the Anjou marriage were matched by Protestant opposition. These divisions over the Anjou match were to be played out during the royal progress into East Anglia that summer.

As usual a book was drawn up of the proposed route of the progress, which the Queen would then agree, and she picked the clothes she was to wear. Elizabeth’s face now had the square jawline of middle age and her aquiline nose dropped a little at the tip, giving it a hooked appearance. But what she had lost in youth she made up for in the increasing magnificence of her dress. The Spanish style cone shaped skirts of the 1560s had given way in the 1570s to much fuller skirts, thickly embroidered fabrics, and still more elaborate ruffs. Elizabeth did not always remember all the clothes, ruffs and jewels, she needed for each stop of her progress. She once overheard a carter, who was being sent back on a third trip to the Royal Warbrobe, slap his thigh, complaining, ‘Now I see that the Queen is a woman..as well as my wife’. More her Tudors predecessor Elizabeth had a sense of humour, and asking loudly from her window, “What a villain is this?’, she then sent him three coins ‘to stop his mouth’.

The progress of that summer arrived in Norwich on Saturday 16 August 1578 where, amongst the composers of the coming entertainments was a poet called Thomas Churchyard. A principle theme of his shows was to be the virtues of chastity – his patrons were against the Anjou match. He had been rehearsing his shows in Norwich for weeks but he was uncertain when and where his performances could go ahead and the weather was unsettled. When that Monday proved dry Churchyard was determined to seize any opportunity that might arise to put on his opening pageant.

Sometime before supper the Queen was spotted standing at a window with her ladies. As Churchyard’s players swung into action Elizabeth saw an extraordinary coach appear in the gardens beneath her. It was covered with painted birds, naked sprites and had a tower decked with glass jewels and topped with a plume of white feathers. As the coach rattled by a boy dressed as Mercury jumped off, made a leap or two and delivered a speech. The subject was God’s desire to, ‘Find out false hearts, and make of subjects true/ Plant perfect peace, and root up all debate.’ Elizabeth looked pleased (as well she might, tired as she was of debate about who she should marry) – but his show was not over yet.

The next day a friend gave Churchyard advance notice of the path the Queen was taking to dinner. They set up quickly in a field where a crowd was gathering. Churchyard had a whole morality play organised, in which the forces of Cupid, Wantoness and Riot were ranged up against Chastity and her lieutenants, Modesty, Temperance and Shamefastness. When Elizabeth arrived it unfolded before her, in praise of the celibate life. She acknowledged Churchyard’s efforts politely with ‘gracious words’, unaware as yet of the true significance of what she had just witnessed.

The famous phrase, the ‘Virgin Queen’ was coined in the parting pageant on Saturday, but Churchyard’s show in the open field was the first to celebrate Elizabeth as such. The sobriquet associated Elizabeth with the cult of the Virgin Mary and when the Anjou match eventually came to nothing like the others before it, a new iconography was born, with classical as well as Christian associations. A favourite theme in the pictures of Elizabeth that Courtiers commissioned was the classical story of the Vestal Virgin who proved her chastity by carrying water in a sieve from the river Tiber to the temple of Vesta. At least eight pictures survive depicting Elizabeth holding a sieve from the period 1579-83. In several of her portraits icons of empire were included, with the abandonment of the Anjou marriage linked to an aggressive foreign policy in which England would found a Protestant empire. But although these are the images of the great Queen we still remember, behind the icon stood an isolated figure.

Elizabeth is supposed to have written the verses of yearning ‘to live in some more sweet content’ when Anjou left England. But the pain and passion it describes surely found their true inspiration in the man she had truly loved: Robert Dudley.

I grieve and dare not show my discontent,
I love and yet am forced to seem to hate,
I do, yet dare not say I ever meant,
I seem stark mute but inwardly do prate.
I am and not, I freeze and yet am burned,
Since from myself another self I turned.

My care is like my shadow in the sun,
Follows me flying, flies when I pursue it,
Stands and lies by me, doth what I have done.
His too familiar care doth make me rue it.
No means I find to rid him from my breast,
Till by the end of things it be supprest.

Some gentler passion slide into my mind,
For I am soft and made of melting snow;
Or be more cruel, love, and so be kind.
Let me or float or sink, be high or low.
Or let me live with some more sweet content,
Or die and so forget what love ere meant.1

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Queen Elizabeth I; Selected Works (2004) edited Steven W May p 12

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Leanda de Lisle

Leanda de Lisle is a renowned journalist and historian who writes articles and book reviews for BBC History Magazine, History Today, the Literary Review, the New Criterion and the Spectator, as well as several national newspapers in the United Kingdom.  Leanda’s first non-fiction book, After Elizabeth: The Death of Elizabeth & the Coming of King James, made a huge impression, a runner-up for the Saltire Society’s First Book of the Year award. Leanda’s book, Tudor; The Family Story (1437-1603), was a top ten bestseller in the United Kingdom and released in the United States, re-titled Tudor: Passion, Manipulation, Murder – The Story of England’s Most Notorious Royal Family for an America audiences. Leanda’s newest highly anticipated biography, White King, The Untold Story of Charles I, will release August 31, 2017.

Fittingly, Leanda lives near Bosworth Battlefield, Bosworth, England. For more information, visit Leanda’s website at LEANDA DE LISLE.

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BOOKS BY LEANDA DE LISLE

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Book Give-Away!!! “War of the Roses: Bloodline”, by Conn Iggulden

July 4, 2016 in QAB Author Highlight by Beth von Staats

war of the roses bloodline

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win

BOOK GIVEAWAY!!!

Conn Iggulden and G.P. Putnam’s Sons are graciously offering a complimentary copy of War of the Roses: Bloodline to one lucky QAB member or browser. If you are interested in being included in a drawing for a chance of winning this wonderful book, send the administrator a message via the website’s contact form. To complete the contact form, click here –> CONTACT US! We will draw a random winner on July 10, 2016. Good Luck!!!

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Watch for Queenanneboley.com’s upcoming review!

Video Credit: Penguin Books UK

Quick Take: In Winter 1461, Richard, Duke of York, is dead – his ambitions in ruins, his head spiked on the walls of the city. King Henry VI is still held prisoner. His Lancastrian queen, Margaret of Anjou, rides south with an army of victorious northerners, accompanied by painted warriors from the Scottish Highlands. With the death of York, Margaret and her army seem unstoppable. Yet in killing the father, Margaret has unleashed the sons. Edward of March, now duke of York, proclaims himself England’s rightful king. Factions form and tear apart as snow falls. Through blood and treason, through broken men and vengeful women, brother shall confront brother, king shall face king. Two men can always claim a crown—but only one can keep it.

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Conn Iggulden

Conn Iggulden

Born in 1971 to an English father and Irish mother, Conn Iggulden is a British historical fiction author. He studied English at the University of London and later taught English for seven years, becoming head of the English department at St. Gregory’s RC High School. He eventually left teaching to write his first novel, The Gates of Rome. 

Conn Iggulden’s first five-part series of novels, entitled Emperor,  focuses on the remarkable life of Julius Caesar, from childhood to death. Conn Iggulden’s next series of novels, the Conqueror series, is based on the lives of Mongol warlords Genghis, Ogedai and Kublai Kahn.

The Wars of the Roses is the extraordinary novel series spanning the thirty-year-long civil war when two families, the Yorks and the Lancasters, ripped England apart during one of the most bloody and brutal periods of British history. Releasing in the United Kingdom in 2013, Wars of the Roses Stormbird  was Conn Iggulden’s first novel focusing on British history. War of the Roses Margaret of Anjou followed in 2014 and War of the Roses Bloodline in 2015.

Due to popular demand, War of the Roses Bloodline is set to release once more through G.P. Putnam’s Sons on July 19th, 2016.

To order your hard bound novel or Kindle version, click the link below!

Wars of the Roses: Bloodline 

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“TRUTH ENDURES: Je Anne Boleyn” Releases Today! Welcome Sandy Vasoli!

May 19, 2016 in 2016: Anne Boleyn Day, Guest Writers, QAB Author Highlight, Queen Anne Boleyn -- All Website Content by Beth von Staats

by Sandra Vasoli

TRUTHENDURES

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TRUTH ENDURES: Je Anne Boleyn

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 I am grateful to Beth von Staats and the wonderful site QueenAnneBoleyn.com for the opportunity to provide insights to accompany the publication of the second (and final, probably!) book in the series titled Je Anne Boleyn.

Struck With The Dart of Love

The first book, Struck With the Dart of Love : Je Anne Boleyn, has been reissued by MadeGlobal Publishing. I am thrilled to announce that its release date is today, May 19, accompanying the worldwide, first-time publication of TRUTH ENDURES: JE ANNE BOLEYN.

The release of both these novels completes a seven-year project. I admit that its finalization has left me a bit melancholy. I have researched, read about, contemplated, and gazed upon various portraits depicting Anne Boleyn continuously for all those years, and, strangely, I have never tired of her as an endlessly fascinating subject. Very often I wondered why this woman captivates so many people around the globe – 500 years after her too-brief life came to its tragic conclusion. After all, there have been many compelling figures throughout history whose lives were cut short in dramatic fashion. Even amongst the cadre of Tudor luminaries, no one seems to capture the imagination as does Anne:  young Anne Bullen from Hever, then Mademoiselle Anne Boleyn, soon to be Marchioness Pembroke, and finally Queen Anne – consort of one of the most powerful men in the world, Henry VIII of England.

Much has been written about Anne, and writings abound as to why she was and is so famous.  As a result of her notoriety, I admit that I struggled to know what to offer in this article which might provide a new insight.

I decided at last to tell you, lovely readers, why I wrote these two books in the way that I did. What motivated me, personally, and what drives my interest today.

HENRY VIII and ANNE BOLEYN Deer Hunting in Windsor Forest Artist: William Powell Firth

HENRY VIII and ANNE BOLEYN Deer Hunting 
Artist: William Powell Firth

The initial inspiration for Book One came as I searched for something new and different to read about Anne Boleyn – who had been a favorite topic of mine for many years. I longed to read something very personal about her – almost intimate – her thoughts, how she made her decisions, what she really felt about Henry and the events of her big, glamorous, tumultuous life. And I could not find precisely that, even though there are surely wonderful biographies and novels galore. So I set out to write it myself, not really knowing how it would take shape.

I began by determining that the story must be told in Anne’s own voice, all in the first person. From that point on – and I do not mean to imply the journey was smooth or easy – the memoir unfolded. It was as if Anne wanted the narrative to be accounted for her way. Throughout the entire process of creation of these two novels, I felt guided and directed. It is for this very reason that the series is called Je Anne Boleyn.

I, Anne Boleyn.

With that as a raison d’être, I would like to share some of the assertions I make – on Anne’s behalf – in both books.

Struck With the Dart of Love opens as Henry and his courtiers are engaged in an exhilarating hunt on a chilly, misty November day in 1525. A young Mademoiselle Anne Boleyn accompanies the field. Anne becomes distracted watching Henry masterfully control his horse, and through a lapse in hunt etiquette, her mare almost overtakes Henry’s hunter and they nearly collide. The error results in an encounter between them – an extraordinary point in time – which changes the course of history. I do believe that while Henry and Anne had previously been in each other’s company upon Anne’s return from France, there was a singular occurrence during which they looked upon one another, and both were ‘struck with the dart of love’. This, of course, was a phrase which Henry penned in a letter he wrote to Anne a year later: but I am convinced that she, too, was ensnared at that very same moment.

Coat of Arms of Henry Percy, 6th Earl of Northumberland, KG

Coat of Arms of Henry Percy, 6th Earl of Northumberland, KG

There has been great speculation about the nature of Anne’s relationship with Henry Percy. I contend, and have depicted it as such in Book One, that for Anne, young Lord Percy was just a dalliance…one which came to be seen as a marriage prospect in the dearth of any other promising possibilities. Not for a minute do I feel that Anne saw Percy as her great love – and consequently hating Cardinal Wolsey for thwarting her chance to marry him. I find Anne too intelligent, too headstrong, worldly and cultured, and with too much ambition to make her mark on the society of the day to marry a young inexperienced courtier like Percy and be banished to Northumberland. Percy was just not her match.

Therefore, how did Anne feel about the King, once they had shared their romantic encounter? Most information we have available to us reveals Anne as a young woman with good moral principles. So she would have been reluctant to leap into a full- blown amorous relationship with the King, a married man. Yet as time elapsed, she was unable to deny her feelings for him, for Henry was, indeed, her true match in every sense. Their chemistry was likely undeniable, and their interests, talents and energies were synergistic.

Henry VIII's Writing Desk

Henry VIII’s Writing Desk

The love letters which Henry wrote to Anne over a period of several years (c.1526 – 1529) are very strong indicators that Anne, from early on, returned the King’s love. Viewed in the original, the quality of the writing, along with the sentiments, tell so much more than mere transcriptions. The early letters are formal, tentative, and carefully penned, and the messages ardent but courteous. Later letters refer to Anne’s responses (therefore we know that they did exist), and not only does the handwriting become more casual indicating a comfortable familiarity, but the terms of endearment he used were more natural and heartfelt. It is doubtful that Henry would have expressed himself thusly had he received nothing but coy, restrained responses.  Further on, the letters’ ribald jokes, and the ease between the couple becomes very evident on the pages. Henry’s true panic when he thought Anne might be dying of the sweating sickness, as made clear from the state of that letter’s scratches and splatters, is a testament to how much he loved her – and how in love they were.

Struck With the Dart of Love is a happy novel.  It is the telling of a love affair which was epic in its scope: the relationship between two exceptional people who were beautiful, stylish, dynamic and charismatic – and prevented, by circumstances, from being together as they would have wished. Most of their time, from their fateful encounter till the close of 1532, is characterized as a story which captivates us as only a highly romantic tale of a King’s love for a beautiful and exotic woman can. Of course, there were moments of great frustration…Henry and Anne endured many disappointments as they waited in vain for a sanction to marry from the Church – their Church; something which was never granted them. But in many ways, the tolerance and endurance required to withstand impediments to their marriage made them stronger, and they grew in unity. Often, it was Henry and Anne against the world.  They learned to abide, for they were a mighty couple.

The close of Dart of Love sees Anne and Henry, hands entwined and gazes locked upon one another, stating their marriage vows as snow fell on the London rooftops in the pre-dawn of a January morning, 1533.

Queen Anne Boleyn

Queen Anne Boleyn

At the outset of Book Two – Truth Endures, Henry is hale and hearty, firm in his shift toward establishing autonomy from the Church. Anne is content: greatly pleased with Henry’s growing independence. His progress suits her endorsement of Reform from the Catholic Church – an evolution for which Anne is not often given enough credit – and furthermore, she is pregnant. Both Anne and Henry are overjoyed at her condition, and their relationship could not have been better.

While there are sources which describe Henry as tiring of Anne even before their marriage – sick of the tribulation she caused him in his dealings with Rome, and in partial agreement with Anne’s opponents, my research (and that of others like Eric Ives’) and my belief tells me this could not be further from fact. They had everything to look forward to, and although they had been together for some 7 years, they acted as most couples would:  loving, yet bickering and arguing at times. There is ample evidence, as well, that they still shared a great deal of passion.  Therefore, the book reflects their pleasure and satisfaction in 1533 as they await the birth of their child…hoped and expected to be a son.

Elizabeth Tudor by Hans Holbein

Elizabeth Tudor by Hans Holbein

Anne’s experience of birth, as described in the story, is profound. Her emotions upon giving birth to a daughter instead of a son are an indicator of her strength, determination, and her belief in the capability and intelligence of women; a conviction which was not widely held at that time. Her awareness of her daughter’s potential brilliance is a notion Anne holds close to her heart, and one which sustains her through two subsequent tragic pregnancies.

Life becomes ever more complex for Anne – and Henry – as the tide of religious revolution sweeps across Europe, and the dearth of a male heir weighs ever more heavily on Henry, and consequently on Anne. Their highs and lows become more sweeping, and anti-Boleyn factions seek any loophole with which to upset the existing power base. The Spanish ambassador, Eustace Chapuys, does whatever he can to sow negativity about Anne in the futile hope of restoring the former Spanish queen, Katherine of Aragon, to the throne. In copious writings to his master, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, he spews poison and outright lies about Anne, calling her The Concubine, and her daughter The Bastard. His reports are often so biased and vicious that It is difficult to lend them any credence at all. Unfortunately, it is his narrative which has given rise to many of the rumors about Anne, many which have persisted over the centuries.

Imperial Ambassador Eustace Chapuys

Imperial Ambassador Eustace Chapuys

Anne’s second miscarriage in January of 1536 – a tragedy so heartbreaking that one can only imagine her grief – is described by Chapuys coldly; and he perpetrates the myth that Anne’s child was deformed, therefore evidence of her witchcraft. This tale I believe not at all. I doubt that whoever attended her during the time of this delivery spouted such reports; in fact it is highly probable that any child, at a gestation of about 14 weeks, would have had an underdeveloped appearance. In any case, she was expected to rapidly recover physically and emotionally from this event, and carry on as Queen and wife to the King. With the benefit of today’s knowledge, we can share just an inkling of what this failed pregnancy, and also the one which apparently occurred in the summer of 1534 – at almost full term – must have inflicted upon her mental well-being.

These crises, layered upon the very distinct political pressures for the King to turn away from Anne, were just part of the ‘perfect storm’ which built leading to Anne’s downfall. It is maddeningly confusing, as we ponder this situation today, to try and make sense of why a man who so desperately loved a woman who probably was the true love of his life would turn his back on her so utterly…leading to such terrible devastation. Thus remains the mystery: no matter which documents we study now, nor any which may be discovered in the future.  It will never be solved, because we cannot know what thoughts Henry harbored.

Queen Anne Boleyn in the Tower of London (Artist: Edouard Cibot)

Queen Anne Boleyn in the Tower of London
(Artist: Edouard Cibot)

We can glean an insight into Anne’s final thinking, however. Her actions and words while imprisoned in the Tower as recorded by William Kingston have remained to be read. Her trial speech and scaffold speech have been recorded, though posthumously. But we certainly have an amazing view into Anne’s psyche during her imprisonment, as she realized her fate. It is her letter to her husband the King, written in the Tower: a scribed document which rests in the British Library today. This letter represents the very best of Anne, and it clearly depicts the love she had for the husband she had known so well and had cared for so deeply. In it, she eloquently describes her innocence of the charges of adultery, and she does it in such a way that her blamelessness seems without any doubt. She knows this man – her husband – and she knows why she is destined to her awaited end. But she loves him still, and prays for the salvation of his soul.

I hold these words to be Anne’s truth. And, along with the letter, her truth does indeed endure.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sandy Vasoli

Sandy Vasoli

Sandra Vasoli, author of Anne Boleyn’s Letter from the Tower; Struck with the Dart of Love: Je Anne Boleyn, Book One; and Truth Endures, Je Anne Boleyn, Book Two earned a Bachelor’s degree in English and biology from Villanova University before embarking on a thirty-five-year career in human resources for a large international company.

Having written essays, stories, and articles all her life, Vasoli was prompted by her overwhelming fascination with the Tudor dynasty to try her hand at writing both historical fiction and non-fiction. While researching what would eventually become her Je Anne Boleyn series, Vasoli was granted unprecedented access to the Papal Library. There she was able to read the original love letters from Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn—an event that contributed greatly to her research and writing.

Vasoli currently lives in Gwynedd Valley, Pennsylvania, with her husband and two greyhounds.

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QAB Interview with Alison Weir: Release Day — SIX TUDOR QUEENS — “Katherine of Aragon, The True Queen”!

May 5, 2016 in Alison Weir Book Reviews & Interviews, QAB Author Highlight, QAB Guest Interviews and Chats by Beth von Staats

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Alison Weir front page
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Today is a very exciting day at Queenanneboleyn.com. Alison Weir joins us here at the website! Alison’s highly anticipated ‘Six Tudor Queens’ novel series begins with the release of Katherine of Aragon, The True Queen this morning in the United Kingdom, and she is here to talk about itAre you in the United States? If so, don’t worry, your wait will not be long. Pre-order your copy now, and it will be on its way May 31, 2016.
 
After watching Alison’s short video introduction to the ‘Six Tudor Queens’, enjoy QAB’s recent online interview with Britain’s most beloved and popular English History writer and novelist. Welcome back to QAB, Alison!
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Katherine of Aragon Artist: Lucas Horenbout

Katherine of Aragon
Artist: Lucas Horenbout

1. Alison, there is a huge amount of “buzz” on the internet from your fans. Here at Queenanneboleyn.com (QAB), members and browsers are very excited about the release of the first book of your ‘Six Tudor Queens’ novel series Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen. With such high expectations from fans around the world, as well as the huge undertaking composing six historical fiction novels entails, did you find yourself at all anxious when composing this first work? After all, the success of te entire series rides on te coattails of the first novel released. How did you manage the huge amount of research and plot development involved?
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Looking back, if there was any anxiety, it was about the enormous challenge of doing justice to Katherine. I knew that she was often overshadowed by interest in Anne Boleyn, and that there was a general perception of her as an ageing, sad, pious and perhaps misguided, even bigoted, woman. In fact, she had great strengths, as became the daughter of Isabella of Castile, and great abilities, as well as powerful relations. She was feared by the Boleyn faction and even by Thomas Cromwell and Henry VIII himself. And yet, what stands out is her love for Henry, her loyalty and her integrity. One can only admire her determination to stand up for what she believed to be right.

I came to this project armed with decades of research behind me and some new research too. The plan is to write each book entirely from its subject’s viewpoint, which affords a unique perspective, and creates another challenge, because one will always wonder how much Katherine knew. But I loved that aspect. I could not wait to get started, and once I had begun writing, the story flowed – and flowed. It afforded me great insights into Katherine’s character and the world in which she lived, and it also allowed a new view of Henry VIII and the ‘Divorce’.

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Catalina de Aragon Artist: Lucas Horenbout

Catalina de Aragon
Artist: Lucas Horenbout

2. Of all of your novels I’ve had the pleasure to read, Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen stays incredibly close to known historical events. Is this a conscious decision on your part?
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Yes. She was a real person and we know so much about her, so it’s essential to get it right. My task was to make sense of the sources – and the gaps – and to make my fictional portrayal credible within the context of the evidence. Where that exists, I have used it, and I have used my imagination and judgement to write the rest. I do so hope that my portrayal chimes with readers’ perceptions of Katherine.

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Catalina de Aragón Artist: Michael Sittow

Catalina de Aragón
Artist: Michael Sittow

3. Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen is composed with a 3rd person limited narration. We only see what Queen Katherine sees and only experience what she experiences. This can be quite challenging for an author, as finding the voice of the character is so critical. It is also difficult to ensure the writing does stray from the main character’s limited view of events. How did you find Queen Katherine’s voice? To follow that up, how did you envision and then craft her maturity from child to woman and from princess to queen?

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Once again, I was closely following the evidence. We are fortunate in that so many of Katherine’s letters survive, and that they record her feelings, her hopes and her fears. These are crucial tools for creating a fictional reading of her. They allow us to ‘know’ her in a way we can never know Anne Boleyn, for example, because hardly any really personal letters of Anne’s survive, and we are reliant on other records. Other records survive for Katherine too, and they are rich. So it was not difficult to show her maturing over 35 years. 

I like the single-person viewpoint. It works well for this series of six novels. What one queen doesn’t know, another might. For example, Anne Boleyn must have been very much in the dark about what was going on at the time of her fall, yet Jane Seymour will know much more about it. So each book affords a different perspective, and the related e-shorts, which will be published at intervals, will provide back stories. You don’t need to read them, but they may enhance your enjoyment of the series.

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4. Without giving the plot away, you answered the question of whether the marriage of Katherine of Aragon and Author Tudor, Prince of Wales, was or was not consummated. Is this a guess or based on research?
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It is based on new research – all outlined in the Author’s Note at the back of the book. And that research, of course, gives us a new perspective on the validity of Katherine’s marriage to Henry VIII.

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This portrait by an unknown artist was formerly known as Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury. Now art historians are not so sure.

This portrait by an unknown artist was formerly known as Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury. Now art historians are not so sure.

5. One lovely aspect of this novel is the exploration of the close relationships between Katherine of Aragon and her closest friends. Just how critical were people like Maria de Salinas and Margaret Pole to Queen Katherine’s personal well-being? To follow-up, can you share with browsers what impresses you most about Maria de Salinas and Margaret Pole?

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Both ladies were strong characters with firm personal convictions, and I admire them for that, but I have chosen to portray Maria as the more forceful, based on her braving the security at Kimbolton Castle to be with Katherine. Katherine was loved and esteemed by those who served her, and she was close to her ladies, with whom she had shared interests in common. I felt that it was essential to explore those friendships, not least because these ladies could offer views that were at variance with Katherine’s and give an alternative perspective on events.

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Mary Tudor, Queen of England Artist: Master John

Mary Tudor, Queen of England
Artist: Master John

6. Many people judge Katherine of Aragon to be stubborn and selfish, particularly in how her decisions to fight King Henry VIII’s desire to annul their marriage may have negatively impacted the safety and comfort of her daughter Princess Mary Tudor. What are your thoughts on this?
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That’s a rather modern view, which takes no account of sixteenth-century convictions about morality, sin and faith.The Pope had sanctioned Katherine’s marriage; she had every reason to oppose Henry, and one can only admire her standing up – and suffering in consequence – for the rights of her daughter. That’s not being selfish. Had Katherine made a pragmatic decision to bow to Henry’s wishes, Mary would have ranked after any sons born of the King’s second marriage. That was unthinkable to Katherine. She believed that it was her bounden duty to protect Mary’s rights. In the context of expectations of royal motherhood, it was her priority. It was Henry VIII who treated his daughter selfishly and cruelly.

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King Henry VIII (1509) Artist: Unknown

King Henry VIII (1509)
Artist: Unknown

7. Do you actually believe that King Henry VIII was ever truly in love with Queen Katherine or was this simply a marriage of nations?
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There can be little doubt that he loved her at the time of their marriage and in the early years. We will never know if he was truly in love with her, or whether his feelings were a manifestation of courtly love – no doubt he saw himself as a chivalrous St George rescuing the princess in distress. And Katherine was a great prize in the European marriage market, for which he clearly valued her. Her reference to ‘all the love that hath been between us’, made in 1529, suggests a warm marital relationship, but there is no evidence that Henry’s feelings for Katherine were as passionate and obsessive as they were for Anne Boleyn. 

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Queen Isabela of Castile Artist: Luis de Madrazo

Queen Isabela of Castile
Artist: Luis de Madrazo

8. From the death of Prince Arthur, Prince of Wales until the death of King Henry VII, as so powerfully crafted in your novel, Katherine of Aragon lived a highly isolated life of increasing deprivation. How much do you suspect the death of Queen Isabella of Castile impacted how poorly Queen Katherine was treated? What other issues were at play?

I think that Isabella’s death had a big impact, because it immediately devalued Katherine’s worth. No longer was she a princess of a united, strong Spain, but merely a princess of Aragon, and therefore not so desirable a bride for the heir to England. But Henry VII wanted her dowry, which was why he would not send her back to Spain. I think he was waiting to see if he could find a better match for his son, but keeping his options open.

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Queen Anne Boleyn

Queen Anne Boleyn

9. Obviously, I have to ask this question. Your second Six Tudor Queens novel about Queen Anne Boleyn has already been drafted. Can you give us any intriguing hints of what to expect? Will this novel also be written from Queen Anne’s point-of-view?
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It will be, and as I was writing it I realised that it was going to be very different from other novels about Anne Boleyn because a lot of it is written from the European cultural perspective, and that enables us to understand so much more about Anne and what shaped her. I have built on three other theories in this book, which may help to explain certain inconsistencies in her story. 

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Queen Anne Boleyn????

Queen Anne Boleyn????

10. Okay, I was going to stay away from this question, but so many members and browsers are “chomping at the bit” to know, my email box is filling quickly. Is the “print in the news so hotly debated” Anne Boleyn, Queen of England; Joanna Fitzalan, Lady Bergavenny; or perhaps someone else altogether? In all honesty, I am clueless.
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Scroll down this page to read my article on the print, which I wrote for my website: http://alisonweir.org.uk/books/bookpages/more-lady-in-the-tower.asp. It’s important to remember that the clues are in a Victorian lithograph – a few have drawn subjective conclusions based on that, but I suspect that the original portrait looked rather different. If we could see and analyse it, we would perhaps be able to say with more certainty that this is Anne Boleyn. All we can say now is that the evidence we have suggests that it is.

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11. Although you certainly are quite busy enough, are there any hot new projects on the horizon that you would like to tell QAB members and browsers about?
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Yes, I’m working on the first in a series of four non-fiction books right now, but I’m not allowed to say what it’s about. The series will be announced later this year.

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QUEENANNEBOLEYN.COM’S TRIBUTE TO ALISON WEIR’S SIX TUDOR QUEEN’S NOVEL: KATHERINE OF ARAGON, THE TRUE QUEEN!!

YouTube Credit: QAB’s own Mercy Rivera  (piratesse4)

Mercy owns none of the content.

Video Credits: Isabel (La 1 TVE HD), The Tudors (Showtime) 

Music Credit: Lara Fabian (Quédate –Stay)

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Katherine of Aragon The True Queen
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TO PURCHASE Katherine of Aragon, The True Queen
CLICK THE LINK BELOW!!!
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Toni Mount and “The Colour of Poison”

April 25, 2016 in Guest Writers, QAB Author Highlight by Beth von Staats

by Toni Mount

TheColorofPoison

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Toni Mount and The Colour of Poison

I began my writing career, secretly, over thirty years ago, writing a novel about Richard III, just for fun. It became a trilogy and has sat in the drawer ever since. It will never be published now because the ‘King in the Car Park’ discoveries made since 2012 have rendered my version of events obsolete. However, in researching the background for those novels, I dug ever deeper into the social history of medieval England, to discover what life was really like in the fifteenth century. As a result of this research, a publisher asked me to write a factual book about everyday life in medieval London – which I did.

In writing this factual book, I felt I was getting know a few of the people and the streets of the old city of London. Wills and marriage documents, lawsuits and medical ideas of the time built up a picture of some fascinating individuals. But there is one disadvantage with factual history: you cannot say anything of the thoughts and feelings of these people, unless they wrote them down at the time and the record has survived. Diaries and journals haven’t survived – if they were ever written – and just a few letters, such as those of the Norfolk Paston family, now exist to reveal the more private and personal aspects of medieval life.

So a novel was the answer. In fiction, the writer is allowed to see inside the characters’ heads, to know the whys and wherefores of their actions, to share their good moments and their times of distress and report the dialogue exactly. As well as my love of history, I’m a bit of a crime-fiction addict, from Lindsey Davis’s Falco novels, set in ancient Rome, through Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, to the latest Stuart MacBride’s gritty police procedurals of Logan McRae – I love them all, so it was almost inevitable that I would write a murder-thriller-mystery set in medieval London.

My ‘detective’ hero needed to be exceptionally observant and know a bit of basic biology and alchemy since this was as close as I could get to medieval forensic science. An artist, used to working with pigments and making close observations of his subjects, fitted the part and Sebastian Foxley was born. History supplied the background, with King Edward IV’s expensive plans for an invasion of France requiring money urgently, raised by whatever means – fair or foul – and bringing my other factual characters, in Richard of Gloucester’s household, into the city. Francis, Lord Lovell, and his smart town house of Lovell’s Inn were very real but his wicked ways are my invention entirely – he became Richard’s Lord Chamberlain, so I expect he was a nice guy really – my apologies to his good name. Robert Percy was real too and died at Richard’s side at the battle of Bosworth in 1485.

A will, drawn up in 1480 by a London tailor’s widow, Ellen Langwith [Ellen Langton in the novel] provided a landlady with her apprentice, John Brown [John Appleyard] and his sister, Dame Ellen’s maidservant. The servant isn’t named in the will but I promoted her to an apprentice to Dame Ellen’s silk-working business and called her Emily – she supplied the love interest. For my MA degree, I’d studied a fifteenth-century surgeon’s handbook that contained alchemical treatises, as well as medical information. With ideas taken from this, Gilbert Eastleigh’s character was a joy to create and write about, inhabiting his creepy world, half chemistry-half magic. The stage was set.

By chapter two, the characters were taking charge of the story. I just had to write it down. At the time, I was studying with the Open University, doing a diploma in Literature and Creative Writing. The project for the final year required the writing of the first chapters and a full synopsis of a novel but, when the course ended, a few of us continued working together, online, critiquing each other’s work until our stories were finished. I haven’t heard that any of my fellow students have published their work yet, but many of them certainly deserve to have their wonderful novels out there for all to read. I doubt I would have finished mine, if not for their encouragement and positive criticism.

Criminal law of the fifteenth century was a complete unknown to me, so I researched what I could, concerning ‘oath-helpers’, the ‘hue and cry’ and punishments appropriate to each crime. An employee killing his master, or a wife killing her husband, were both cases of ‘petty treason’ and carried similar penalties to treason itself but I admit to taking liberties with both the processes of the law and sentencing. I didn’t want to swamp the story with procedural details when arson, kidnap and unrequited love are so much more exciting.

When ‘The Colour of Poison’ was about to go ‘live’ on Kindle, my publisher at MadeGlobal had to complete a questionnaire for Amazon. One question was ‘Is this book one of a series?’ He emailed me: ‘Will there be a sequel, only I have to tick a box?’ Oh dear. A snap decision was required. I leafed through my three lever-arch folders full of notes and ideas and decided. Yes, there will be a sequel; Sebastian Foxley will be in action again. It’s just a matter of finding time and letting him and his fellow characters take charge of a new tale.

The Colour of Poison is published by MadeGlobal.com and written by Toni Mount. Toni is a writer, speaker and an active member of the research committee of The Richard III Society contributor to The Logge Register of  PCC Wills1479-1486

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Toni Mount

Toni Mount

Toni Mount earned her research Masters degree from the University of Kent in 2009 through study of a medieval medical manuscript held at the Wellcome Library in London. Recently she also completed a Diploma in Literature and Creative Writing with the Open University.

Toni has published many non-fiction books, but always wanted to write a medieval thriller, and her first novel The Colour of Poison is the result.

Toni regularly speaks at venues throughout the UK and is the author of several online courses available at www.medievalcourses.com.

The first Sebastian Foxley Medieval Mystery by Toni Mount.

The narrow, stinking streets of medieval London can sometimes be a dark place. Burglary, arson, kidnapping and murder are every-day events. The streets even echo with rumours of the mysterious art of alchemy being
used to make gold for the King.

Join Seb, a talented but crippled artist, as he is drawn into a web of lies to save his handsome brother from the hangman’s rope. Will he find an inner strength in these, the darkest of times, or will events outside
his control overwhelm him?

Only one thing is certain – if Seb can’t save his brother, nobody can.

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TO PURCHASE THE COLOUR OF POISON,

CLICK THE LINK BELOW!

THE COLOUR OF POISON

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WIN

IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT!!!!

Toni Mount and MadeGlobal Publishing are graciously offering a complimentary copy of The Colour of Poison to one lucky QAB member or browser. If you are interested in being included in a drawing for a chance of winning this wonderful book, send the administrator a message via the website’s contact form. To complete the contact form, click here –> CONTACT US! We will draw a random winner on April 30, 2016. Good Luck!!!

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Excerpt and Author Highlight: “Owen, Book One of The Tudor Trilogy”, by Tony Riches

January 10, 2016 in Guest Writers, QAB Author Highlight by Beth von Staats

Owen by Tony Riches

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Queenanneboleyn.com continues our highlight of Welsh History, heritage and culture, most notably Welsh influence upon Tudor Dynasty, with this fantastic extract from Tony Riches’ newest novel Owen, Book One of the Tudor Trilogy. Now ranked as a best seller in three UK historical fiction categories on Amazon, Owen Tudor, patriarch of the Tudor Dynasty, is taking Great Britain by storm.  Cymru am Byth!!

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Owen Tudor

Owen Tudor

England 1422: Owen, a Welsh servant, waits in Windsor Castle to meet his new mistress, the beautiful and lonely Queen Catherine of Valois, widow of the warrior king, Henry V. Her infant son is crowned King of England and France, and while the country simmers on the brink of civil war, Owen becomes her protector.

They fall in love, risking Owen’s life and Queen Catherine’s reputation—but how do they found the dynasty which changes British history – the Tudors?

This is the first historical novel to fully explore the amazing life of Owen Tudor, grandfather of King Henry VII and the great-grandfather of King Henry VIII. Set against a background of the conflict between the Houses of Lancaster and York, which develops into what have become known as the Wars of the Roses, Owen’s story deserves to be told.

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Excerpt: Winter of 1422

Catherine of Valois

Catherine of Valois

I tense at the sound of approaching footsteps as I wait to meet my new mistress, the young widow of King Henry V, Queen Catherine of Valois. Colourful Flemish tapestries decorate the royal apartments of Windsor Castle, dazzling my senses and reminding me how life in the royal household presents new opportunities. My life will change forever, if she finds me acceptable, yet doubt nags at my mind.

The doors open and Queen Catherine’s usher appears. I have been told to approach the queen and bow, but must not look directly at her or speak, other than to say my name, until spoken to. Taking a deep breath I enter the queen’s private rooms where she sits surrounded by her sharp-eyed ladies-in-waiting. I have the briefest glimpse of azure silk, gold brocade, gleaming pearls and a breath of exotic perfume. I remove my hat and bow, my eyes cast down to her velvet-slippered feet.

‘Owen Tudor, Your Highness, Keeper of your Wardrobe.’ My voice echoes in the high-ceilinged room.

One of her ladies fails to suppress her giggle, a sweet enough sound, if you are not the reason for it. I forget my instruction and look up to see the queen regarding me with confident, ice-blue eyes.

‘You are a Welshman?’ Her words sound like an accusation.

‘My full name is Owain ap Maredydd ap Tudur, although the English call me Owen Tudor. I come from a long line of Welsh noblemen, Your Highness.’ I regret my boast as soon as I say the words.

‘Owen Tudor…’ This time her voice carries a hint of amusement.

I put on my hat and pull my shoulders back. She examines me, as one might study a horse before offering a price. After years of hard work I have secured a position worthy of my skills, yet it means nothing without the approval of the queen.

You look more like a soldier than a servant?’ The challenge in her words seems to tease me.

‘I have served in the king’s army as a soldier.’ I feel all their eyes upon me.

‘Yet… you have no sword?’ She sounds curious.

‘Welshmen are not permitted to carry a sword in England, Your Highness.’ I am still bitter at this injustice.

I remember the last time I saw her, at the king’s state funeral in Westminster. Her face veiled, she rode in a gilded carriage drawn by a team of black horses. I followed on foot as the funeral procession passed through sombre crowds, carrying the king’s standard and wearing the red, blue and gold livery of the royal household.

‘You fought in France?’

‘With the king’s bowmen, Your Highness, before I became a squire.’

The queen has none of the air of sadness I expected. Slim, almost too thin, her childlike wrists and delicate fingers are adorned with gold rings sparkling with diamonds and rubies. Her neck is long and slender, her skin pale with the whiteness of a woman who rarely sees the sun. Her golden-brown hair is gathered in tight plaits at the back of her head and her headdress fashionably emphasises her smooth, high forehead.

King Henry V chose as his bride the youngest daughter of the man they called the ‘mad king’, Charles VI. They said King Charles feared he was made of glass and would shatter if he didn’t take care. Charles promised Henry he would inherit the throne and become the next King of France and there were rumours of a secret wedding dowry, a fortune in gold.

Barely a year into his marriage, the king left his new wife pregnant and alone in Windsor. He returned to fight his war in France, capturing the castle of Dreux before marching on the fortress at Meaux, defended by Jean de Gast, the Bastard of Vaurus, a cruel, brave captain. The king never saw his son and heir, his namesake.

The siege of Meaux was hard won and he suffered the bloody flux, the dreaded curse of the battlefield. Men had been known to recover, if they were strong and lucky. Many did not, despite the bloodletting and leeches. The flux is an inglorious way to die, poisoned by your own body, especially for a victorious warrior king who would never now be King of France.

The queen has an appraising look in her eyes. She has buried her hopes for the future along with her husband. I remember I am looking at the mother of the new king, once he comes of age. One thing is certain; she will not be left to raise the prince alone. Ambitious men are already vying for their share of power and influence.

At last she speaks. ‘And now you are in my household?’

‘My appointment to your service was made by Sir Walter Hungerford, Steward of the King’s Household and constable here at Windsor.’

‘Sir Walter was one of my husband’s most trusted men—the executor of the king’s will.’

‘I worked as squire to Sir Walter for many years, in England and France.’

‘You speak French?’

‘A little, Your Highness.’ I answer in French.

‘Were you with King Henry at the siege of Rouen?’ Now she speaks in French.

‘I was, Your Highness. I will never forget it.’ I answer again in French. I learned the language on the battlefield and in the taverns of Paris and can swear as well as any Frenchman.

‘I heard the people of Rouen were starving… before they surrendered.’ Her voice is softer now and she speaks in English.

‘War is cruel, yet now there is less appetite for it.’

‘I pray to God that is true.’ She glances back at her ladies, who are watching and listening, as ladies-in-waiting do. Queen Catherine regards me, giving nothing away. ‘I welcome you to our household, Master Tudor.’

‘Thank you, Your Highness.’

Our first meeting is over. She is unlike any woman I have known, fascinating, intriguing and beautiful. More than that; there is something about her I find deeply attractive, a dangerous thing to admit. Perhaps my fascination is with the glimpse I’d seen of the real woman, the same age as myself, behind the title of Dowager Queen of England.

‘Aim high, boy,’ my garrulous longbow tutor once advised me, his voice gruff from too much shouting. ‘It’s not the Welsh way to play safe and wait until you have a clear shot!’ The man spits hard on the ground to add emphasis and stares knowingly into my eyes, standing so close I can almost feel the coarse grey stubble of his beard. ‘When you aim high,’ he points an imaginary bow up at the sky, ‘your arrow will fly far into the enemy ranks and strike with the full vengeance of God.’

‘Who, of course, is on our side.’ A daring, foolhardy thing for a boy like me to say to a man who can punch me to the ground or worse.

For a moment I see the old man’s mind working as he tries to decide if I am being disrespectful, sacrilegious or both. The moment passes. I notch a new arrow into the powerful yew longbow and fire it high into the sky, without a care for where it will fall.

I smile at the memory as I return down the long passage to the servants’ hall. Life as a king’s archer was hard, but I enjoyed the camaraderie of the other men and it taught me many things. As well as how to use a longbow, I learned to watch my back, when to speak up and when to remain silent. My tutor died in the thick mud of Normandy, yet his lesson serves me well. I know to aim high.

That night, wide awake in the darkness, I reflect on the unthinkable turn my life has taken. I always imagined I would become a merchant, setting up shop somewhere in the narrow, dirty streets of London, or perhaps an adventurer, sailing off to seek my fortune. I remain a servant, yet for the first time I have my own lodging room, however small and cramped.

My reward for long and loyal service as squire to Sir Walter has been this new appointment, a position of great responsibility. The queen’s wardrobe is a treasure store of priceless gold and jewels, as well as all her expensive clothes and most valuable possessions. Such a senior post in the royal household pays more than I have earned in my life and carries influence, allowing me regular and privileged access to the queen.

I resolve to become indispensable to her. High and mighty lords and dukes will come and go, with their false concerns and self-serving advice, yet I will see her every day, tending to her needs. I recall how she referred to Sir Walter as one of the king’s most trusted men. That is what I wish to become; Queen Catherine’s most trusted man.

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Tony Riches

Tony Riches

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Tony Riches is a UK historical fiction author living in Pembrokeshire, Wales. Here he discusses his latest novel about Owen Tudor, the Welsh servant who married the Queen of England and founded the Tudor dynasty:

I was born near Pembroke Castle and often visit the small room where the thirteen-year-old Lady Margaret Beaufort gave birth to the future king, Henry Tudor. I also recently stood on the remote beach at Mill Bay near Milford Haven, imagining how Jasper Tudor would have felt as he approached with Henry and his mercenary army to ride to Bosworth – and change the history of Britain.

These experiences made me wonder about Owen Tudor. All I knew was that he was a Welsh servant who somehow married the beautiful young widow of King Henry V, Queen Catherine of Valois, and began this fascinating dynasty. I wanted to research his story in as much detail as possible and to sort out the many myths from the facts. There are, of course, huge gaps in the historical records, which only historical fiction can help to fill.

There are numerous references to Owen in other books – but I was surprised to discover no one had tackled a full account of his life. Most authors seemed to lose interest in what happens to Owen after the death of Queen Catherine. I felt Owen Tudor’s story deserved to be told, as he was thirty-seven when Catherine died and he lived to the age of sixty. It was fascinating to explore his later adventures as a Captain in Normandy and his part in the beginning of the civil war which became known as the Wars of the Roses. Amongst other things, I discovered he fathered another son, Dafydd Owen, at the age of fifty-nine, who became a knight and fought at the side of King Henry at the Battle of Bosworth.

As I started the research, I realised the story of Owen’s son, Jasper Tudor, would need a whole book to do it justice. I also decided that Owen’s grandson Henry and his marriage to the intriguing Elizabeth of York would be an ideal subject for a third book – and the idea of a ‘Tudor Trilogy’ was born. I hope this new Tudor trilogy will help people understand and take more interest in the life and times of Owen Tudor, his sons Edmund and Jasper – and his grandson King Henry VII.

Owen was buried in the chapel of the Greyfriars Church in Hereford, later pulled down after the Dissolution of the Monasteries. A plaque marks the spot of his execution in Hereford High Street, his only memorial. I would like to remember Owen, not as a victim of the Wars of the Roses, but as an adventurer, a risk-taker, a man who lived his life to the full and made his mark on the world through his descendants.

You can find out more on Tony’s blog ‘The Writing Desk’ and find him on Twitter @tonyriches. Owen – Book One of the Tudor Trilogy is now available in eBook and paperback on Amazon.

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Owen by Tony Riches

To Purchase Owen, Book One of The Tudor Trilogy

CLICK THE LINK BELOW!

OWEN, BOOK ONE OF THE TUDOR TRILOGY

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QAB Interview with Nathen Amin, Author of “Tudor Wales”

January 6, 2016 in QAB Author Highlight, QAB Guest Interviews and Chats by Beth von Staats

Nathen Amin

Nathen Amin

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Queenanneboleyn.com recently caught up with Nathen Amin, author of the outstanding history book and tour guide Tudor Wales. Also founder of The Henry Tudor Society, Nathen is an outstanding ambassador not only to the history of King Henry VII, but also to the heritage of the true Britons, the Welsh. Cymru am Byth!

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King Henry VII

King Henry VII

Nathen, your website The Henry Tudor Society is a fantastic resource highlighting the life and times of King Henry VII. What gave you the passion to focus so much energy in highlighting the life of England’s first Tudor monarch?

I am a person who generally becomes captivated by certain subjects, often to the point of obsession. At one point two of my interests were Welsh history and the Tudor Dynasty, in particular Henry VIII. Once I begun to delve deeper into Henry’s ancestry, starting with his Welsh-born father Henry VII, it didn’t take too long for two separate interests to become inextricably entwined. I find the topic of Henry VIII and the better known Tudors to almost be a saturated topic. It seems every facet of their lives, their wives, their palaces, to have been exhausted. Henry Tudor and the Welsh Tudors however, certainly a few years ago, were difficult to uncover. Apart from a few key books by respected historians such as SB Chrimes and Ralph Griffiths written many decades previously, it was a topic I wanted to learn about but found no modern outlet for. There was no forum, no social media pages, no websites. I hastily set up a Facebook page and received such a positive response in such a short period of time it inspired me to keep learning, if not only for my benefit but to share what I found with others. It has opened a lot of doors for me and I love the interactions with similar minded people.

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Welsh Dragon

Welsh Dragon

For the benefit of QAB browsers who may be unfamiliar with Welsh History, was King Henry Tudor England’s first monarch of Welsh heritage? If not, who came before him?

It depends on how one defines things such as Welsh, or even England. Wales as we know it was created in 1536 through Henry VIII’s Acts of Union although the people who lived in the lands at the time were undoubtedly a race apart from the English. Before the Anglo-Norman Conquest of Wales in 1282 by Edward I of England the country was certainly not a united entity known as Wales, but rather a smattering of previously independent kingdoms which gradually fell to the English/Normans. There is a school of thought that since the people we term to be the modern Welsh were the original peoples of this island, namely the Britons, then they did once rule over what is now known as England in a period before Anglo-Saxon/Viking/Norman invasions.

To further complicate matters, Edward II was born in Caernarfon, undoubtedly a part of Wales, whilst Henry V was born in Monmouth, presently a part of Wales albeit with an interesting geopolitical history that still sees a very small clamour for it to be reintegrated with England.

To answer your question – the answer will depend on the viewpoint of the individual. Were Ancient British kings (often called the Welsh in modern terms) who ruled over lands now considered to be England the first ‘Welsh’ rulers of England? Or perhaps were Plantagenet kings such as Edward II and Henry V, born in places determined today to be Wales, considered to be Welsh due to their place of birth if not their blood?

Personally speaking I DO see Henry Tudor as England’s first monarch of undoubted Welsh heritage. Many within and without Wales may consider this a revisionist fallacy but certainly Henry was born in Wales, with a partial Welsh ancestry that included kinship to Owain Glyndwr and furthermore identified as Welsh to some extent based on his actions during his reign.

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Owain Glynd?r

Owain Glyndwr

3.       Owain Glyndwr was the last native born Prince of Wales. Would Prince Arthur Tudor be the last Prince of Wales of truly Welsh heritage?

As in the previous question, unfortunately an answer to this question would also depend on the political ideology of the individual the question has been directed to. Personally I think it’s fair to suggest Arthur Tudor was a prince born in England, to a half-Welsh father and an English mother, raised wholly in England and bred to become King of England. He had Welsh blood, but so does almost every monarch of England since then. As a descendant of Henry Tudor, the present Prince of Wales, Charles Windsor, also possesses Welsh heritage and whilst you would be hard-pressed to find anyone in Wales who would consider him to be Welsh, it does raise the question, does he have Welsh heritage or is it now negligible after a period of 500 years? How far down the line must we go before it becomes a non-event?

It must be true to say however that if one considers Arthur Tudor to be a Prince of Wales of acceptable Welsh heritage, then one needs to accept his brother Henry as the last Prince as he held the title after his brother’s death.

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WelshSign

4.       My mother was Welsh, but was of a generation where speaking Welsh was not fostered. Thus, to her ultimate regret, she never learned the language, and neither did her parents. How important do you believe it is to keep the Welsh language alive and vibrant? Why? Do you see more national pride and cohesion since strong efforts to revive the language have come to fruition?

I come from a heartland of the Welsh Language in West Wales and it pains me to have encountered a mocking and misunderstanding of the language throughout my travels outside my home region, even when still within Wales. I feel Welsh has an unfair reputation for being a ‘pointless’ and ‘dying’ language that nationalists are fighting to keep hold off against all rationale. The fact is that around 20% of the country speak Welsh, one of Europe’s oldest languages, and in some parts this rises to over 70%. It is true that in major settlements like Swansea and Cardiff the language is rarely heard but travel to areas such as Carmarthenshire, Gwynedd and Ceredigion (collectively known as Y Fro Gymraeg) and you will often hear Welsh as the natural way of speaking.

Speaking personally, I come from a family of first language Welsh speakers and its certainly my grandmother’s natural language of choice. I personally however speak English first although I can understand Welsh. I am noticing the next generation seem to be encouraged in the language so we may yet see an increase, even as English takes an ever stronger hold not just in Wales but across the world. Its vitally important Welsh is kept alive – why open yourself to one culture when you could have two. I’m desperately regretful I never became more proficient in a language such as French or Italian for the same reason.

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wales collage 5.       Is Welsh history taught to children in schools? Or does it largely fall upon historians and history enthusiasts such as yourself to educate others about the history of Wales?

My understanding is that it is presently somewhere between the two. Certainly when I was at school in the 1990s history was focused very much away from Wales. We studied the Normans and World War II for example. I always say that the entirety of our early years in secondary school were focused on the Norman Conquest with special reservation for 1066. Of course, Wales did not actually fall to the Normans (Plantagenets by then) until 1282 yet this was never something that was discussed. I believe, although I must admit I am currently detached from personal knowledge, that the situation has improved somewhat since the advent of the Welsh Government and increasing autonomy but I’m sure there is still some way to go.

I didn’t realise the Tudors had Welsh ancestry until I was in my 20s!

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Pembroke CAstle

Pembroke Castle

6.       Nathen, your exquisite book Tudor Wales takes readers on a fascinating journey throughout the country, highlighting castles, churches and other sites of interest to Tudor History enthusiasts. Please tell us how you completed your research for this book and just how profoundly Welsh heritage was embedded into the souls of the Tudor monarchs.

I like you referring to my book as exquisite! Whilst everybody within Wales is aware of our plentiful castles, a remnant of the English-Welsh wars that raged for hundreds of years, many may have been surprised just how much Tudor or sixteenth century history Wales possesses. I know I was. Every corner of the country has Tudor heritage… it was generally just a case of getting in the car and looking around. A lot of places connected with the actual dynasty were self-identifying – for example Pembroke Castle and St. David’s Cathedral, the birthplace of one Tudor and the burial location of another. The rest had to be found just through sheer reading. Every book I read revealed another connection. One book mentioned Lamphey Bishop’s Palace as a potential location that Henry Tudor was conceived whilst another book made fleeting reference to Ty Gwyn in Barmouth where Jasper Tudor landed during the Wars of the Roses. It was a case of reading a sheer number of books on the Tudors and keeping a notepad. Once a location had revealed itself, it was then time to research that side specifically – google, the library, guidebooks and on-site investigation. Churches and Castles for example generally predate the sixteenth century so the information was out there just waiting to be found and documented.

Ultimately Tudor Wales was a book where I was researching and learning as I went on, with my notes gradually transforming into the book that became Tudor Wales. It’s a book that I searched everywhere for but never found…so wrote my own.

With regards to Welsh heritage and how much was it embedded into the souls of the Tudors, I wouldn’t have thought they paid too much attention. It’s clear that all Tudor monarchs spent the majority of their reigns in and around the South East of England – it was after-all London that was the powerbase of their kingdoms and they couldn’t be expected to have spent much time in Wales.

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Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond

Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond

7.       Recently, through the research of historians such as Leanda de Lisle and fiction or authors like Tony Riches and Phillipa Gregory, the “early” Tudors, men such as Owen Tudor, Edmund Tudor and Jasper Tudor have become far better known to people. Do you feel Welsh culture and history was previously “short-shifted” in telling the story of the Tudors? Why?

In the few short years since I started my research to where we are now, the awareness of Jasper et al has changed immeasurably. From being ‘unknown’ Tudors its almost as though these ‘early’ Tudors have become the ‘cool’.  And good for them! The stories of these men are as equally fascinating as anything Henry VIII and Elizabeth can offer. I could feel bitter that Welsh culture and history was previously ignored and the Tudors often anglicised but I prefer now to concentrate on the fact that if more light had been shone on the Welsh Tudors, then perhaps I wouldn’t have needed to have written my book and that would have been a personal shame.

Welsh history is beginning to emerge from the shadow of England and is beginning to forge a place for itself – something Scotland and Ireland has long been able to do. I still get frustrated reading Tudor books by Oxbridge educated academics that seem to completely ignore the Welsh aspect of the dynasty, or even when they do they spell the names incorrectly. It shows disrespect that French or Spanish names are transcribed perfectly but a Llywelyn or a Gruffydd is misspelt. Wikipedia alone can provide the correct spellings and it seems shoddy for historians who ostensibly take their research seriously.

Nonethless, we’re slowly getting there.

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Owen Tudor

Owen Tudor

8.       Aside for your obviously regard of King Henry VII, who would be your “next favorite” Tudor? Why so?

If we’re talking solely about the Tudor family, it’s very difficult to choose between Jasper or Owen Tudor. Both were men of incredible resource who seemingly battled and overcame insurmountable odds to progress the family.  As a Soldier Owen Tudor was tough, brave and believed in chivalrous behaviour. As a man it seems he was handsome, romantic and courtly. He seemed to have been an intriguing character, somebody I would certainly like to have made acquaintance with.

Away from the Tudors themselves, my favourite of the period would be Sir Rhys ap Thomas. I was born and bred within miles of where Sir Rhys was based with ancestors based in Talley, the ancestral home of the knight. I am fascinated by Sir Rhys, his career pre-bosworth and his promises to Richard III to defend Wales from invasion and his actions at Bosworth. Were he or his men responsible for the death of Richard? He lived in luxury after Bosworth, notably rebuilding Carew Castle in Pembrokeshire to a point it has become noted as the Welsh Hampton Court of the 16th Century. He reigned as a Welsh King under Henry VII and Henry VIII, with the latter allegedly referring to him as ‘Father Rice’. Any man treated respectably by Henry VIII must have been a great character indeed.

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Margaret Beaufort

Margaret Beaufort

9.       Do you have any exciting new projects on the horizon?

My second, non-Tudor related, book is out later this year, entitled York Pubs. It’s a book that will look at providing the history of 40 of York’s most notable pubs, some with histories stretching back to the Tudor period and beyond. There’s recounting of murders, fires and fights as well as uncovering some of the ghost stories and myths that seem prevalent in York.

Thereafter I shall begin working on a new biography of the Beaufort Family, due out later next year (2017). They rival the Tudors for intrigue and of course, in Henry Tudor, the Beauforts and Tudors became one.

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Nathen Amin

Nathen Amin

Nathen Amin grew up in the heart of Carmarthenshire and has long had an interest in Welsh history and the Welsh origins of the Tudors. This passion has guided him all over Wales to visit a wide variety of historic sites, which he has photographed and researched for this book. He has a degree in Business and Journalism. He grew up in Ammanford, Carmarthenshire and now lives in York. For more information about Nathen, visit his website at RANDOM OBSERVATIONS FROM A RESTLESS MIND.

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QAB Interview with the Delightful Alison Weir!!!!!!!!!!!

December 18, 2015 in Alison Weir Book Reviews & Interviews, QAB Author Highlight, QAB Guest Interviews and Chats by Beth von Staats

Alison Weir

Alison Weir

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Queenanneboleyn.com recently caught up with Great Britain’s most cherished history writer of both fact and fiction, the prolific author Alison Weir to discuss the recent release of her newest biography The Lost Tudor Princess: The Life of Margaret Douglas, as well as her exciting upcoming fiction series Six Tudor Queens, novels highlighting the lives of King Henry VIII’s six wives. As always, we greatly appreciate Alison’s ongoing support and friendship. Get yourself a nice goblet of wassail, glogg or spiked eggnog, and enjoy.

Congratulations to Jayne Smith of Queenanneboleyn.com’s facebook group and @DawnCorleone, follower of @QueenAnneBoleyn on twitter. Your questions for Alison are included in the interview!

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The Lost Tudor Princess

 1. Alison, congratulations upon the recent release of your biography The Lost Tudor Princess: The Life of Margaret Douglas. What fascinated you enough about Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox to write a book about her? Why do you think of he as a “lost princess”?

I’ve long been interested in Margaret Douglas, who generally merited only brief mentions in books on the Tudors. I did some research on her back in 1974, and used it as the basis of my biography, which came about after I realised that the Tudor dynasty was a well-ploughed field and that rescuing Margaret from obscurity could offer new insights on her and on the period. She was regarded or treated as a princess in her day, but that seems to have been forgotten. I think you can see where I got my title!

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Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox (Miniature, Artist Unknown)

Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox
(Miniature, Artist Unknown)

2. Are there any common misconceptions about the Countess of Lennox’s turbulent life that you identified in your research? If so, what are they?

There are a lot of minor misconceptions and factual errors, which have been repeated in many works. More major misconceptions relate to her relationship with Lord Thomas Howard and their subsequent imprisonment in the Tower of London.

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quill ink book

3. Many people are surprised to learn that Lady Lennox was a fine poet. Can you tell QAB browsers about the Devonshire Manuscript and Margaret Douglas’ notable contributions?

There is so much I could say about this, but briefly this manuscript is a remarkable survival, doubly so because it was compiled or written by women, and my research on the poems has revealed some remarkable insights into Margaret’s character and her feelings for Thomas Howard. I’ve been able to link one important poem to later events, which puts it in a completely different context.

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Possibly Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox Artist: William Scrots

Possibly Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox
Artist: William Scrots

4. Margaret Douglas certainly forged her own destiny and that of her loved ones as much as it was possible for a woman during the Tudor Era. Do you find the major life decisions of the Countess of Lennox related to her choice of love interests and her manipulations impacting Scottish and English religion and politics courageous, misguided, or perhaps a combination of both?

I would say that it was a combination of both. Certainly she had courage – although some might call it rashness. She never learned from bitter experience; she was driven by her ambitions, for herself and her sons. She herself claimed that her spells of imprisonment were not for treason but for ‘love matters’, but given her nearness in blood to the throne, and the fact that these love matters all contravened the Act of Parliament passed in the wake of the Thomas Howard scandal, that was a rather naive statement to make! And yet her desire to see England and Scotland united under Stuart rule – born years before it became a reality – was ultimately fulfilled, and it is her blood, not that of her rival, Elizabeth I, that has flowed in the veins of every British monarch since 1603.

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Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester (After Steven van der Meulen)

Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester
(After Steven van der Meulen)

5. I have been asked the following questions a few times by QAB facebook members and browsers, so I thought it would be fun to pass it on to you. A few days before the death of Lady Lennox, she enjoyed dinner with Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. What are your thoughts? Was the poor woman poisoned? Or was this just the “story telling” of Roman Catholic reclusants?

They’ll have to read the book! I’ve laid out the evidence and my thoughts. I’m often asked this question at events, but I never answer it!

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6. Jayne Smith, member of QAB’s facebook group, asks the following question: Margaret Douglas was an interesting and powerful lady. How much of an influence was she upon her son Lord Darnley?

She had a huge influence on Darnley – his father could do nothing with him. It was Margaret who shaped him, spoiled him and plotted for him.

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Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley (Artist Unknown)

Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley
(Artist Unknown)

7. If you could select one accomplishment of Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox as being the most notable by her in English history, what would that be?

It was securing the marriage of her son, Lord Darnley, to Mary, Queen of Scots, which ensured the Stuart succession to the united kingdoms of England and Scotland.

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Katherine of Aragon novel by Alsion Weir

8. Queenanneboleyn.com was very excited to learn of your new upcoming series of novels highlighting “Six Tudor Queens”, each wife of King Henry VIII in turn. Your first novel in the series, Katherine of Aragon, The True Queen releases 5 May 2016 in the United Kingdom. Heavens Alison, that is a HUGE commitment for any writer. What drives you to write both non-fiction and historical fiction so prolifically?

I’m only able to do this series of novels within this timescale because I know the subjects well and am basing the books on decades of research – and exciting new research. What I can’t announce yet are the four non-fiction books that will be interspersed with the novels! Yes, I am busy!

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Alison Weir with two of "The Six Tudor Queens"

Alison Weir with two of the “Six Tudor Queens”

9. I have to ask. This is Queenannebolyn.com after all. Can you give us any hints at all about your upcoming Anne Boleyn novel? Beyond the usual “players”, Anne Boleyn, King Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell, will any other historical figure step front and center as a major character?

There are some important threads of new research – and some credible speculation. I’ve followed a new line of research on Anne Boleyn’s ‘lost’ years in France, and come up with something startling, and I’ve spun a tale based on a local tradition. I have new angles on Henry VIII’s love letters, on Anne’s feelings for Henry, and on her daughter Elizabeth. I’m also looking at the implications of Anne’s last confession. So far it’s unlike any novel I’ve read on Anne Boleyn – I’ve been led down paths I never expected to tread.

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Mary Queen of Scots (Artist: François Clouet)

Mary Queen of Scots
(Artist: François Clouet)

10. @DawnCorleone, twitter follower of Queen Anne Boleyn, has the following question: What subject (person or situation) has been the most challenging for you to write about?

Mary, Queen of Scots, and the murder of Lord Darnley – the most challenging book I’ve ever had to write! A cast of hundreds and reams of conflicting evidence.

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Alison Weir

Alison Weir

11. Alison Weir Tours is at it again! I am told your King Richard III Tour set for April 2016 is already sold out, and plans for 2017 include a “Tudor Tour”. How exciting is that??? Is the itinerary for the Tudor Tour set? What exciting historical sites and events are included?

We are planning a Tudor tour for 2017, but I haven’t finalised the itinerary yet. I’ve been too busy!

QAB Editor Note: Alison Weir Tours are extremely popular and fill quickly. If you are interested in joining the 2017 Tudor Tour, you can request to be placed on a wait list for priority booking by emailing alisonweirtours@hotmail.co.uk. When the tour is announced, places will be filled first to those on the waiting list on a “first-come, first-served” basis. For more more information about Alison Weir Tours, visit the Alison Weir Tours official website.

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12. Do you have any additional exciting news that you want to share with QAB members and browsers?

Watch for new announcements about the Six Tudor Queens series. More than that I cannot say!

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alison weir flowers (550x534)

Alison Weir is the United Kingdom’s most popular and best selling female historian. Alison’s first published work, Britain’s Royal Families, introduced the world to the now recognized genre of  “popular history”, and her sales tell the story. Readers purchased more than 2.3 million books, over 1,000,000 in the United Kingdom, and more than 1,300,000 books in the United States. Rich in detailed research, Alison’s engaging prose captured the interest and imaginations of countless people, instilling a love of history that influenced the career paths of historical fiction writers, historians and teachers, while also greatly increasing knowledge of medieval and early modern English and Welsh history among people throughout the world. For more information on Alison Weir, visit her website at the Official Website of the British Author and Historian Alison Weir.

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TO PURCHASE ONE OF ALISON WEIR’S BOOKS JUST IN TIME FOR CHRISTMAS, 

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BIOGRAPHIES AND NOVELS BY ALISON WEIR

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Coming to QAB in 2016!!

Alison Weir, Author Highlight

Six Tudor Queens!

The Six Tudor Queens

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Blog Tour: My “Remaining Top Five” Tudor Era Historical Figures, by Beth von Staats

July 12, 2015 in QAB Author Highlight, The Tudor Thomases by Beth von Staats

 

"Thomas Cranmer In a Nutshell" Final Blog Stop

“Thomas Cranmer In a Nutshell” Final Blog Stop

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Today I am wrapping up my Blog Tour for my short biography Thomas Cranmer: In a Nutshell at my own beloved website Queen Anne Boleyn Historical Writers. Everything I accomplished within my historical knowledge, short story writing, non-fiction writing and blogging – and everything I hope to accomplish in the future – owes right down to the very roots my passion for my beloved website and those members and writers who share it with me. Since the website’s inception, people often ask me who beyond Thomas Cranmer, and his partner in all things evangelical, Thomas Cromwell, are my favorite English Tudor Era historical figures. This is a harder question than it sounds, because the more I learn about the era, the more people I find downright fascinating. Here are my “remaining top five” favorite Tudor Era historical figures. They may actually surprise you.

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This portrait by Hans Holbein the Younger is thought by some art historians to be Sir Ralph Sadler.

This portrait by Hans Holbein the Younger is thought by some art historians to be Sir Ralph Sadler.

Sir Ralph Sadler and his wife, the Lady Margaret Mitchell Sadler

If I were to mention Sir Ralph Sadler as a favorite Tudor Era historical figure two years ago, most people reading this would think, “Who the hell is he?” Well acclaimed author Hilary Mantel fixed that in her novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies. With no further ado, here is the “historical low down” on “all things Rafe”.

Thomas Cromwell, then a merchant and banker, became guardian of the 7 year old Ralph Sadler while his parents still lived at their behest in their desire for the child’s best interest. Instead of generating income from the arrangement, Cromwell raised Sadler as his own, alongside his children at his home at Austin Friars. Their freely given relationship was exceptionally close. Due to Cromwell’s influence and patronage, Sadler became King Henry VIII’s Principal Secretary and later was knighted by King Edward VI. Ultimately Sir Ralph Sadler, an esteemed diplomat essential to England’s foreign policy with Scotland, became England’s most influential and wealthy commoner, far eclipsing both Cromwell’s own son, Gregory Cromwell, Baron Cromwell of Oakham and nephew, Sir Richard (Williams) Cromwell.

Sir Ralph Sadler was a quick study, hardworking, trustworthy, and very gifted intellectually and socially. As such, he became not only Thomas Cromwell’s most trusted servant, but later also a highly trusted and effective servant, courtier and knight to King Henry VIII, King Edward VI and Queen Elizabeth I. Sadler, an eminently qualified expert in Scottish diplomacy, was a staunch Protestant. As agent to Reformists and Protestants throughout his career, he often engaged in activities in stark opposition to Roman Catholicism. Thus, Sadler’s marriage choice became a story of legend. Unlike the “tall tale” of Cranmer’s dearly beloved wife being hidden in “a large wooden box with breathing holes”, however, the oral history of Sadler’s wife among Roman Catholics was based on truth.

Thomas Cromwell miniature. (After Hans Holbein the Younger)

Thomas Cromwell miniature.

Sir Ralph Sadler married a widow named Margaret Mitchell. Very little is known of Sadler’s wife beyond records that list her as the daughter of John Cromwell and Jayne Smith. Thus, it is believed that Margaret was a relative of Thomas Cromwell, most likely the child of a cousin. In any case, what is known as fact is the woman was a commoner and a widow with two children. As the more “positively painted” story goes, Margaret’s first husband, Ralph Barré, abandoned her, traveled to Europe and presumably died there.

Well, like in our modern era when “friends” and “relatives” appear only when we come into money, install a new in-ground swimming pool or move to a tropical climate, Ralph Barré made a quite unexpected appearance. According to Roman Catholic lore, Margaret was a lowly laundress working at Cromwell’s home at Austin Friars. Hatching a plan with her husband, he made himself scarce, reappearing after she successfully seduced Sadler, married the man, and then birthed children by him.

What was the truth of the matter? The details are not clear, but Ralph Barré factually was Lady Margaret Sadler’s first husband, and he turned out to be very much alive. Was he paid handsomely to accept an annulment and leave the couple in peace? The records do not tell us, but historians firmly established that in 1546 an act of Parliament was passed on Sir Ralph Sadler’s behalf to legally legitimize his children. With a true story as colorful as that, how could the Roman Catholics resist retelling the tale with a few embellishments? After all, as the fictional character Don Quixote teaches us, “All is fair in love and war.”

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Richard Rich, Baron Rich of Leez Artist: Hans Holbein the Younger

Richard Rich, Baron Rich of Leez
Artist: Hans Holbein the Younger

Sir Richard Rich, Baron Rich of Leez

When I state that a Tudor Era historical figure is a favorite, that doesn’t necessary mean the person had scruples or in fact had any redeeming qualities. Sir Richard Rich, Baron Rich of Leez made my list for just these reasons.

Sir Richard Rich, 1st Baron Rich of Leez, Essex — was there ever a more evil or manipulative man in 16th century British history? Simply stated, no. In fact, many historians would be hard pressed to find any British man who walked the earth with less redeeming qualities. With no moral center, not even the zealous religious fanaticism common for the era, the Baron Rich of Leez lived his life flip-flopping to the whims of the monarchs he served, resourcefully allying with and then stepping on anyone in his way to advancement and wealth.

Unfortunately for many in the realm, Rich was long-lived, spreading his venom throughout the reigns of King Henry VIII, King Edward VI and Queen Mary I, amazingly remaining unscathed. With the varying political and religious agendas of these monarchs, ranging from staunch Roman Catholicism to near Calvinist Protestantism and everything in between, just how did he pull this off?

Sir Richard Rich, by 1535 Attorney General of Wales and Solicitor General of England, is famously known for his persecution of those who refused to take the Oath of Supremacy during the reign of King Henry VIII, a vow that assured the King was the acknowledged Head of the Church in England inclusive of the clergy and all religious liturgy and tenants. In the case of Bishop John Fisher, Rich tricked the man into admitting his loyalty to the Roman Catholic papacy, promising to tell no one. Rich then testified to Fisher’s statements at trial. In Thomas More’s case, Rich flat out lied to the same. Both Saint John Fisher and Saint Thomas More were executed by decapitation for high treason based on Rich’s dubious testimony.

In 1536, along with his other titles, Sir Richard Rich was appointed Chancellor of the newly created Court of Augmentations. In this role, he worked in partnership with the Vice-gerant and King’s Principal Secretary Thomas Cromwell to dissolve all abbeys, monasteries and nunneries in England and Wales, displacing thousands and completely upending a way of life going back centuries. What did Sir Richard Rich have to gain by this? Well, he acquired wealth and territories, of course. At bargain basement prices.

In 1540, Sir Richard Rich turned on his close ally and benefactor of his great wealth and land acquisitions, again performing commendably as a “chief witness”, this time against Thomas Cromwell, who was just four months earlier elevated to Earl of Essex. Cromwell was soon executed by decapitation for sacramentary heresy and treason, the charges and testimony falsified.

Sir Richard Rich was an incredibly resourceful villain. As King Henry VIII’s religious views swayed from evangelical to conservative and back again, Rich went along for the ride, playing the role of henchman brilliantly. In July 1540, on the heels of Cromwell’s execution, three men were burned at the stake, declared heretics for preaching doctrines opposed to King Henry’s Six Articles of Faith. On the same day — that’s right, the same day — three more men were hanged, drawn and quartered for denying the Royal Supremacy.

Thomas Wriothesley, Lord Chancellor Artist: Hans Holbein the Younger

Thomas Wriothesley, Lord Chancellor
Artist: Hans Holbein the Younger

In 1546, the Baron of Leez was a busy guy. Along with Lord Chancellor Thomas Wriothesley and Bishop Stephen Gardiner, Rich engaged in a witch hunt, working to discredit and upend minor evangelicals in the hopes of snagging the major players, most notably Katherine Parr, Queen of England; Catherine Willoughby, Duchess of Suffolk; and Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury. One such “minor evangelical” was martyred preacher Anne Askew. Unwilling to testify with whom she associated, Sir Richard Rich and his cohort Wriothesley tortured the woman, racking her by turning the wheeled levers themselves. With arms, legs, elbows and knees dislocated from the rack, Anne Askew was burned at the stake on July 16, 1546.

Upon the death of King Henry VIII and ascension of King Edward VI in 1547, Sir Richard Rich once again did what he did best, turn on one of his closest allies to seek his own advancement. To reach his goal, Rich successfully worked with his other “allies of the moment” and secured the fall of his “interrogation and torture partner” Lord Chancellor Thomas Wriothesley. Things did not work out quite as planned. William Paulet was appointed in Wriothesley’s place. No problem — Baron Rich of Leez quickly convinced Lord Protector Edward Seymour and the Privy Council of Paulet’s “incompetence”, securing the Lord Chancellorship for himself.

Throughout the reign of King Edward VI, Lord Chancellor Rich was a “staunch Protestant”. Just how “staunch” was Rich’s Protestantism? Baron Rich of Leez was heavily involved in proceedings leading to the arrests and imprisonments of conservative and later avowed Roman Catholics, Bishop Edmund Bonner and Bishop Stephen Gardiner. Taking things a step further, in his role as Lord Chancellor, Rich worked tirelessly to insure the Eucharist mass was not celebrated, arresting those performing mass for the ever defiant Lady Mary Tudor. Sir Richard Rich dutifully delivered a letter to the King’s Roman Catholic sister from Edward VI himself commanding her to cease and desist. The Lady Mary’s response? She commanded that Rich keep his lecturing short. Her celebration of the Eucharist continued.

What goes around comes around, even for the brilliantly manipulative Sir Richard Rich. In December 1551, he was compelled to resign his long sought powerful position as Lord Chancellor of England and Wales, feigning illness. The poor man took to his bed at at his estate at St. Bartholomew’s. Why? Like those in modern times who carelessly hit the “send button” before insuring they are emailing or private messaging the correct person, a befriending letter of manipulative warning intended to be sent to the imprisoned Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset was delivered instead to the also imprisoned Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk. I suppose addressing the wax sealed parchment “The Duke” was not quite specific enough for a missive sent to the Tower of London. Rich’s days as Lord Chancellor were over.

Phew! Finally we are done with him. Or are we? Upon the death of King Edward VI in 1553, both Mary Tudor and Elizabeth Tudor were usurped in favor of the King’s cousin, Jane Dudley. Sir Richard Rich was solicited for support of the new queen. Knowing this was his chance to regain power within the realm, the Baron of Leez did what he is now infamous for. Rich flipped his support to whom he gauged would ultimately reign and proclaimed his loyalty to the woman he previously persecuted, Mary Tudor.

Lady Mary Tudor, age 28 Artist: John of Samakov

Lady Mary Tudor, age 28
Artist: John of Samakov

The Baron of Leez always the ultimate host, Queen Mary Tudor spent a few days visiting with Rich and his family at his home in Wanstead before heading to London to take her rightful crown. What was Sir Richard Rich’s most noteworthy service to the realm in Queen Mary’s reign? This should come as no surprise. Baron Rich, loyal subject that he was, became one of Queen Mary’s most active persecutors, orchestrating the arrest and execution by burning of all convicted Protestant “heretics” in his home county of Essex.

After five years supporting the Roman Catholic agenda of Queen Mary Tudor, Sir Richard Rich rode into London with Queen Elizabeth Tudor when she ascended the throne. In his likely only act showing disagreement with a reigning monarch, Rich refused to support Queen Elizabeth’s Act of Uniformity, voting against it in Parliament’s House of Lords in 1559 with the Roman Catholic minority. Sir Richard Rich mellowed in his last years, perhaps in penance and preparation for meeting his God. The Baron of Leez founded a grammar school in Felsted, which in time educated two sons of Oliver Cromwell. He also founded almshouses to care for the poor and built the tower of Rochford Church.

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Father Henry Garnet, Superior of the Jesuit Mission in England

Father Henry Garnet, Superior of the Jesuit Mission in England

Anne Vaux and Eleanor Brooksby 

Forget the mistresses, ladies-in-waiting, noble women, queen consorts and England’s first female monarchs to rule in their own right. Sisters Anne Vaux and Eleanor Brooksby, with the heroic Anne Askew a close second, are my favorite Tudor Era female historical figures. Why? These ladies can be described in two short words, BAD ASS.

Anne Vaux and Eleanor Brooksby, daughters of William Vaux, 3rd Baron Vaux of Harrowden, were wealthy Roman Catholic recusants during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. Anne, a single woman, and Eleanor, a widow, safeguarded and sheltered Roman Catholic priests. Known by their most “precious cargo” Society of Jesus Jesuit priest Henry Garnet as “the widow and the virgin”, they accomplished their goal in fostering the worship of Roman Catholics by renting a variety of houses and estates where priests could meet, lay their head and celebrate mass secretly. Through ingenuity, creativity, boldness and downright sneaky daring-do, the Vaux sisters sheltered not only Father Henry Garnet and several other priests illegally practicing their faith in the realm, but fenced the Society’s finances, safeguarded treasures of the church and relics, and assisted in other “elicit activities” in gross violation of Elizabethan law. The dangers incalculable, for over twenty years, they ventured forward for the glory of God and the papacy.

Just what were these two ladies up to? Eleanor Brooksby, widow of staunch recusant Edward Brooksby, was like her deceased husband a strong follower of the Elizabethan regime’s “enemies of The Imperial Crown”, the Jesuits. Left to raise two small children on her own, Eleanor graciously adopted the young daughter of a deceased aunt. Although she certainly lived an exciting life, Eleanor was modest in dress, and for the remainder of her life remained chaste. Reportedly anxious by nature, Eleanor sometimes panicked when Elizabethan authorities ventured to her door in search of outlaw priests and religious relics. Consequently, her remarkably brave and innovative sister, Anne Vaux, often impersonated Eleanor, chastising those there to search her home for “lack of propriety” or “frightening the children”, any tactic she could think of to delay searches long enough for their “guests” and “religious relics and mass alters” to be safely stashed away. As a single and wealthy woman with “connections”, Anne Vaux could afford to take risks. She did so in abundance.

William Vaux, 3rd Baron Vaux of Harrowden was father of Eleanor Brooksby and Anne Vaux.

William Vaux, 3rd Baron Vaux of Harrowden was father of Eleanor Brooksby and Anne Vaux.

Using aliases to cover their trails, Eleanor Brooksby and Anne Vaux worked in partnership together and with other recusants, such as Saint Nicholas Owen, to insure Roman Catholicism’s survival in England and Wales. While Eleanor or “Mrs. Edwards” often “held down the fort”, Anne Vaux or “Mistress Perkins” traveled throughout the country with young priests in disguise. In fact, Anne traveled along with Father Henry Garnet so frequently that even other recusants and Jesuit leaders believed their close relationship went far beyond “priest and parishioner”, though no impropriety was known to exist. In short, once Father Henry Garnet was named Jesuit superior, his harboring and safety became her life’s passion – and for over 20 years, Anne and Eleanor “pulled off” the seemingly impossible.

How did they accomplish their remarkable work? Well, with money sheltered so effectively that the Elizabethan authorities could not sort out how it was safeguarded or even how much there was, Mrs. Edwards and Mistress Perkins rented multiple properties to provide cover for priests and the sacraments celebrated within them. Boldly the women hosted bi-annual Jesuit conferences; visited, supplied and when possible, bailed out imprisoned priests; and fenced the Jesuits’ finances. In every way imaginable, these two heroic women supported the worship of Roman Catholicism, remaining sometimes just “one step ahead” of those pursuing them, leaving their homes in the dead of night to travel on to the next rented abode in another county. Correspondences that looked innocent enough contained secret messages written with orange juice, which served as invisible ink. In short, historian Jessie Childs sums up the obvious: “… they made a formidable pair.”

Beyond all the daring-do both Anne Vaux and Eleanor Brooksby engaged in to protect priests so they and others could worship secretly within the realm, they also contributed to the Roman Catholic cause in other meaningful ways. Eleanor, obviously the ideal mentor for her daughters, aided her ward Frances Burroughs in taking her vows as a nun, sneaking her and other young women out of England to do so. Evidently, Eleanor, despite the risks, was highly regarded for ensuring children were raised in the Roman Catholic faith. Her grandson Edward Thimelby teaches us that Eleanor “took care that I should be instructed in the Catholic faith”. Both women welcomed guests within their home, Garnet’s presence insuring a continual stream of laypeople and clergy. Sacraments were given. Confessions were heard. Exorcisms were conducted. Mass was celebrated. Throughout Queen Elizabeth, Regina’s reign, the sisters carried forward, though often suspected, undetected.

Robert Catesby Artist Unknown, 1794 print

Robert Catesby
Artist Unknown, 1794 print

Sadly, the story of Anne Vaux and Eleanor Brooksby, along with their “charge from God” Father Henry Garnet, took a tragic turn with the ascension of King James VI/I. In 1605, Father Henry Garnet met with Robert Catesby. Unknown to the priest, Catesby planned to assassinate the king and other high ranking nobility by blowing up Parliament. The plans of the plot were later revealed to Garnet through the confession of Father Oswald Tesimond. Despite the enormity of the confession, Garnet remained faithful to Canon Law and spoke nothing of it. Upon the failure of the plot, Garnet went into hiding under the protection of Anne Vaux and Eleanor Brooksby. After hiding with Father Edward Oldcorne in a cramped “priest hole” for over a week while Jamesian authorities searched Hidlip Hall, finally the men came out, both arrested.

Throughout Father Henry Garnet’s imprisonment, Anne Vaux was never far away. Following him to London, Anne corresponded via veiled letters, hidden messages passed along with invisible ink made from orange juice. Ultimately the letters were intercepted, all contained known by authorities before being passed on one to the other. After attempting to catch a glimpse of her spiritual mentor and friend, Anne Vaux herself was arrested. Heavily questioned, she gave away remarkably little. She was finally released three months after Father Henry Garnet’s execution for treason, which took place May 3, 1606.

Though Henry Garnet was now dead, their greatest life mission over, Anne Vaux and Eleanor Brooksby continued their staunch Roman Catholicism through education of youth. Founding a secret Roman Catholic school, the women fostered the survival of Roman Catholicism in England and Wales, often cited for their recusancy. Shortly after Eleanor’s death around 1625, Anne moved their original school to Stanley Grange, where it thrived for over ten years until given up by a former student. Upon seizure by authorities, nothing was found at there. Tipped off, Anne Vaux, ever resourceful, ingeniously moved the school once more. By then in her 70’s, the date and details of Anne Vaux’s death are lost to history.

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Saint Nicholas Owen

Saint Nicholas Owen

Saint Nicholas Owen

Nicholas Owen is a huge favorite historical figure of mine due to his brilliance, ingenuity, steadfast religious faith, and his unquestioning courage. If I were forced to select just one Tudor historical figure to highlight as a favorite, Saint Nicholas would be my man.

Nicholas Owen, nicknamed “Little John” due to his exceptionally short stature, was the son of Roman Catholic recusants and the brother of two Jesuit priests. A gifted craftsman of carpentry and masonry, “Little John”, a devout Roman Catholic, entered the service of Jesuit Superior Henry Garnet in 1588. For the next eighteen years, “Little John” Owen worked exhaustively to insure the survival of the Roman Catholic faith in England and Wales, sharing his gifted ingenuity to protect the lives of priests and their harboring hosts throughout the realm.

Nicholas Owen was a clever, original and inventive man. Using his gifted carpentry and masonry skills, “Little John” traveled most commonly with Father Henry Garnet and his protective hosts, Anne Vaux and her sister, Eleanor Brooksby, throughout England’s countryside. At every manor, estate and country home where he lodged, “Little John” built ingeniously designed and elaborate “priest holes”. Hinslip House alone had eleven hiding places scattered throughout the property. One Elizabethan official finding a “priest hole” at Hinslip only after wainscot was stripped and walls smashing about, described that “two cunning and very artificial conveyances” were discovered, “so ingeniously framed, and with such art, as it cost much labor ere they be found.”

Though scarcely larger than a man with dwarfism, “Little John” worked alone. During daylight he worked as a common laborer to detract attention from himself, while through the night “Little John” engineered and creatively crafted hiding places behind hidden doors, walls, hearths and cabinets. The variety of “priest holes” equaled in number those he built, no two alike. So expert was “Little John’s” craftsmanship that it is is believed that there are still “priest holes” out there yet to be discovered.

Harvington Hall Priest Hole

Harvington Hall Priest Hole

Once Elizabethan authorities came to know of the creation of “priest holes”, those engineered by Nicholas Owen over time by necessity became increasingly more sophisticated. At Baddesley Clinton mansion, for example, Owen engineered secret trap doors in the turrets and stairwells, connecting them with the sewer system. He also ran feeding tubes into hiding spaces, so priests could receive nourishment while hidden, sometimes days or weeks at a time. There are also “more easily discovered priest holes” engineered, which laid in front of a more elaborate “priest holes” hidden directly behind them. Authorities discovering no one in the first hiding spots moved on, leaving priests safely hidden farther on beyond the decoy.

Over the course of the eighteen years he worked in partnership with the Vaux sisters, Father Henry Garnet and other priests and recusants, Nicholas Owen was involved in exploits beyond his design and construction of “priest holes”, several which also highlight his courage, wherewithal, and ingenuity. Before his ultimate fall, “Little John” was arrested and released twice, first in 1581 and then again in 1594, neither time giving in to his true activities despite torture, both times released with authorities unknowing who was in their grasp. In 1597, “Little John” then masterminded the prison escape of Father John Gerard from the Tower of London. Father Gerard later escaped again to Europe. Encouraged by other Jesuits, Father John Gerard wrote his autobiography, historians’ most treasured contemporary source of the “cloak and dagger” lives recusants and their priests led.

This priest hole is hidden beneath in a spiral stone staircase in Sawston Hall.

This priest hole is hidden beneath a spiral stone staircase in Sawston Hall.

A massive crackdown against Roman Catholics after the Gunpowder Plot of 1606 finally led to the ultimate captures of both Father Henry Garnet and Nicholas “Little John” Owen. This time King James VI and I’s agents knew exactly who they had. Despite a grotesque ulcer on his abdomen, small stature and an injured leg, Nicholas Owen was tortured mercilessly in hopes he would disclose the location of his “priest holes” and the whereabouts of priests and recusants still at large. Unwilling to speak more than prayers to the Virgin Mary, he was tortured literally to death by racking, no trial or execution needed.

Nicholas “Little John” Owen was canonized by Pope Paul VI on October 25, 1970. One of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales, Saint Nicholas Owen is aptly Roman Catholicism’s Patron Saint of Illusionists and Escapologists. His annual Feast Day is March 22nd.

Resources:

Author Unidentified, Chapter X: Sir Richard Rich, British History Online

Author Unidentified, Richard Rich, 1st Baron Rich, Luminarium Encyclopedia Project, England Under the Tudors. The article notes that it was excerpted from the following: 1. Pollard, A. F. “Richard Rich, first Baron Rich.”; 2. Dictionary of National Biography. Vol. XVI. Sidney Lee, ed.; and 3. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1909. 1009-1012.

Caraman, Philip, John Gerard: Autobiography of an Elizabethan, London, 1951. (Latin to English translation of original prose composed by Father John Gerard, SJ.)

Childs, Jessie, God’s Traitors, Terror & Faith in Elizabethan England, The Bodley Head, 2014.

Loades, David, Thomas Cromwell, Servant to Henry VIII, Amberley Publishing, 2013.

Schofield, John, Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII’s Most Faithful Servant, The History Press, 2011.

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Beth von Staats

Beth von Staats

Beth von Staats a history writer of both fiction and non-fiction short works. A life-long history enthusiast, Beth  is the owner and administrator of Queen Anne Boleyn Historical Writers website, QueenAnneBoleyn.com.

Beth’s interest in British History grew through the profound influence of her Welsh grandparents, both of whom desired she learn of her family cultural heritage. Her most pronounced interest lies with the men and women who drove the course of events and/or who were most poignantly impacted by the English Henrician and Protestant Reformations, as well as the Tudor Dynasty of English and Welsh History in general.

Beth’s short biography, Thomas Cranmer In a Nutshell, was recently released by MadeGlobal Publishing. A second biography, Thomas More In a Nutshell, and a full length book focusing on Henrican martyrdom are current works in process.

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WIN

IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT!!!!

MadeGlobal Publishing is graciously offering a complimentary copy of Thomas Cranmer In a Nutshell to one lucky QAB member or browser. If you are interested in being included in a drawing for a chance of winning this wonderful book, send the administrator a message via the website’s contact form. To complete the contact form, click here –> CONTACT US! We will draw a random winner on July 17, 2015. Good Luck!!!

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QAB Interview: Nancy Bilyeau, Author of THE CROWN, THE CHALICE and THE TAPESTRY

February 17, 2015 in News, QAB Author Highlight, QAB Guest Interviews and Chats by Beth von Staats

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Nancy Bilyeau

Nancy Bilyeau

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Nancy Bilyeau, who lives in New York City, is the executive editor of DuJour magazine. A prolific award nominated and short list placing screen play writer, Nancy also previously worked on the staffs of InStyle, Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, and Ladies Home Journal. A lover of medieval English history, Nancy’s debut novel, The Crown released in 2012 and her follow-up novel, The Chalice in 2013. Her stellar novels combine historical fiction and thrillers, detailing the exploits of Joanna Stafford, a prelate nun living during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Queenanneboleyn.com is very excited that Nancy’s third Joanna Stafford novel, The Tapestry, will be releasing March 24, 2015!

Queenanneboleyn.com recently caught up with Nancy and appreciates her support of the website from its early inception. We are proud that she is our first contributing published author. For more information, visit Nancy’s website at Nancy Bilyeau, You will also find many outstanding blog posts composed by Nancy regarding several Tudor Era related topics at English Historical Fiction Authors/Nancy Bilyeau.

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Book Trailer for The Crown

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1. Nancy, you have a very accomplished career as a writer. Most QAB members and browsers know you as a novelist, author of The Crown, The Chalice, and the soon to be released The Tapestry but your talents do not end there. Can you tell us about your career as executive editor of DuJour magazine and your screenplay writing?

Well, I loved reading historical fiction when I was young, and I never lost my fondness for it. I remember being lost in the court of Richard the Lionheart in Norah Lofts’ The Lute Player, of breathing the mist of Camelot in a Mary Stewart novel. Fantastic! I studied English literature at the University of Michigan but it did not occur to me that I could write novels. I concentrated on journalism and editing to carve out a career. I worked at many magazines, from Rolling Stone to Good Housekeeping. After my son was born 16 years ago, I began to feel a yearning to write my own stories. First I tried screenwriting. I completed three scripts. They did well on the contest circuit and I had a manager at one point, but I couldn’t sell a script. My ideas were too expensive. I wrote a script on Mary Shelley, another one on Queen Zenobia.

2. As an American, when and how did you develop an interest in English History, the Tudor Era in particular?

From a very young age I loved English culture. Drawn to it. The first film I saw in a theatre was Oliver Twist. My favorite book as a child was Black Beauty. I loved horses; I begged my parents for riding lessons and used to stomp around school in black riding boots. I suspect I was unbearable.

I became interested in Tudor history when I was 12 and it’s never flagged.

3. How did you develop the expertise to write long fictional works? Was your decision to compose novels a natural progression in your writing?

The Crown is the first novel I wrote. I stumbled into a fiction-writing workshop and wanted to write a mystery set in Tudor period. I took a lot of classes and participated in workshops to figure out fiction, to get feedback and grow. It took five years to write it. During that time I had no agent and no idea if I would be able to sell it.

4. Joanna Stafford, a prelate nun, is the protagonist of your Tudor Era novel series. Why did you decide to develop an ordinary person, a nun yet, as the main character focus of your writing?

I wanted to write a mystery thriller set in the Tudor period but I wanted a fictional female protagonist. It would give me more freedom. I thought a nun was in a very conflict-riven position at this time and would be interesting to write.

5. Nancy, your novels are very rich in historical detail. Can you share with us the extent of the research you completed? As a follow up, did you visit any of the locations depicted in the novels?

I’d been reading Tudor history for many years. For my novels, I read more deeply in certain areas. Everything about medieval monastic life. I have been to Dartford, where the priory stood. And the Tower, and the parts of London where my characters lived. It’s helpful.

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Book Trailer for The Chalice

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6. I am very curious about the paranormal elements of The Chalice. Please share with us your knowledge of just how pronounced beliefs were in psychic and/or magical phenomena.

I learned how deeply saturated the lives of these people were in not only religion, in astrology, in magic, in interest in alchemy. Prophecy was like a lure—a lot of people believed in it, but it was dangerous. I think this is where a lot of Tudor fiction goes wrong—no acknowledgement of how much people prayed and sought answers through faith…or magic.

7. Do you have a commitment to share the challenges of Roman Catholics during the Dissolution of the Monasteries or was this resultant of your choice to highlight the life story of a nun as your main character? Did you consult with historians or religious figures with an expertise in the topic as part of your research?

I did not feel any strong emotional connection to the Catholic struggle in the English Reformation before I started researching The Crown. The more I read, the more I questioned the traditional story. And now I do feel a lot of loyalty to the nuns. I suppose that Eamon Duffy was the closest thing to a leader. I never met him. I never met anyone. I sent a lot of emails to the Dominican order and they didn’t respond. On the second and third books, people responded to my inquiries. I had the expertise of a Dominican nun in America. She read the books and gave me notes. I used the expertise of others in non-religious aspects of the books, such as a curator for the Tower of London.

8. Please tell us what your favorite historical fiction novel is and why.

Mary Renault’s The Persian Boy. Writing is spectacular.

9. Nancy, do you plan to continue telling the story of Joanna Stafford or will you be moving on to new adventures?

I’m working on a new book but it’s a secret. 🙂

10. Is there anything else you would like to share with QAB members and browsers?

I’m still a hopeless Anglophile. I got teary eyed during the steeplechase race in Downton Abbey.

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The Tapestry

To Pre-Order The Tapestry, Click the link below!

The Tapestry

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The Chalice

ON SALE!!!!!!

During the month of February 2015, The Chalice ebook is on sale in the United States on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Get your ebook for $1.99 throughout the month by clicking the link below!!

The Chalice (eBook)

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WIN

IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT!!!!

Nancy and Simon & Schuster are graciously offering complimentary copies of The Crown to FIVE  lucky QAB members or browsers. Each novel will come autographed by Nancy Bilyeau! If you are interested in being included in a drawing for a chance of winning this wonderful book, send the administrator a message via the website’s contact form. To complete the contact form, click here –> CONTACT US! We will draw a random winner on February 28, 2015. Good Luck!!!

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