Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Who Was Margarett Keymes?

If you make a habit of studying the Wars of the Roses and early Tudor era, you have undoubtedly encountered the debate over Perkin Warbeck, probably more times than you care to count. Was this charming Edward IV look-a-like really his son, Richard of York? Could he have been a well-trained doppelganger or even an unrecognized bastard son?

Of course, he could have been any of these, which is why the debate ensues to this day. Into this sometimes heated discussion quietly slips a girl who may or may not have anything to do with it.

Katherine Gordon before Henry VII
'Margarett Keymes' is mentioned in the will of Katherine Gordon. Katherine was the daughter of the Scottish Earl of Huntley and was married to the infamous Perkin Warbeck during his ill-fated bid for the English crown. After his death in 1499, Katherine went on to live several decades and marry three additional husbands. When she died in 1537, she left 'suche of my apparell as shalbe thought mete for her by the Discretion of my husband and my saide executor' to her 'Cosyn margarett Keymes'.

I was made aware of this mention after writing a blog stating that Cecily of York had no surviving children. This was supplied as evidence that she had left a daughter, Margaret, as offspring of her final marriage to Thomas Kyme (sometimes Kymbe or Keme). If so, it would also be evidence that Katherine Gordon went to her death 38 years after her first husband still believing that he was the true son of Edward IV and that his sisters, including Cecily, were therefore her relations.

Cecily of York
In her book, The Perfect Prince, Ann Wroe takes this mention as proof positive of both these controversial points. Historian Rosemary Horrox also points to evidence of Cecily and Thomas living on the Isle of Wight and having children there to back up these claims, but this evidence also claims that Cecily is buried on Isle of Wight, which is incorrect. (Source mentioned as Heraldic Visitation of Hampshire, 1576, which I have not been able to obtain a copy of thus far. In records kept by Margaret Beaufort, Cecily is recorded as living, dying, and being buried in places besides Isle of Wight.) In this article, historian Susan Higginbotham clarifies that Cecily and her third husband only spent brief time on Isle of Wight and that there is no evidence that Cecily bore any children who survived her.

If that is the case, who is Katherine's 'Cosyn margarett Keymes'? I admittedly have not exhaustively researched this topic, so would rather open it for discussion.

Perkin Warbeck
Do you believe that Katherine Gordon always kept faith in her doomed first husband? It is a romantic notion, yet there is no record of her mentioning him after his death. Her will mentions her 'dere and welbelovyd husband Sir Mathew Cradock' and her 'Welbelovyd husband Cristofer Asseton' to whom she was married when she died. There is a brief mention that she was the 'some tyme wife unto James Strangwis', but there is not a whisper of Perkin Warbeck or Richard of York.

(Find Katherine's will in it's entirety here on pages 24 & 25.)

I am more hesitant to interpret this evidence as sure proof of Cecily's childbearing and Warbeck's true identity as some, but I am also interested in learning more. What do you think? Who was Margarett Keymes?

Monday, June 12, 2017

The Spanish Rescue or When Mary Had Her Chance to Flee

An excerpt from Queen of Martyrs: The Story of Mary I

June 1550

Mary had not quickly recovered from her disappointment at the hands of her brother. Since returning to Woodham Walter, Mary had contrived plans and written to Charles, begging for his assistance in her escape.

Now, the time had come. The Holy Roman Emperor had acquiesced to her wishes, and a small fleet would soon arrive, their mission to whisk Mary away. She would live out her days at Charles’ court, though she despaired at leaving Edward to his fate if he carried on his heretical ways. Still, when she remembered her mother’s impoverished, lonely death, Mary assured herself that she was doing what she must.

Whispers had crept through the district that Mary was plotting to leave the kingdom. It was impossible with a household the size of hers to prepare for such a feat without some rumors spreading, but no one from the king had arrived. If news had reached Edward, he had not taken it seriously.

Mary paced the corridors of her estate. There were more productive tasks that she could be attending to, but she could bring her mind to focus on none of them. Instead, she found herself memorizing the precise color of the region’s bricks and the smell of honeysuckle, for she was afraid that she would forget these small details of her daily life that would not exist in her new world.

Pain was her constant companion since leaving her brother. The headaches had been like nothing she had experienced before, even when she lost her mother. She had grown pitifully thin, because most food nauseated her. Mary would not trouble herself or others over this though. Soon, she would be relaxing in the Low Countries, at peace and snacking on fresh oranges.

The idyllic image brought a smile to her face. She deserved some peace in her life. If her brother was as independent and astute as he claimed, she need not feel that she was abandoning him.

She was not sure how many circuits of the corridors she had completed when Rochester found her. Before he uttered a word, she could see that the news had arrived and her deliverance was at hand.
“Ships have been spotted,” he whispered. His handsome brow was creased with worry, and Mary felt some guilt for the stress that she put him through.

“You have served me more loyally than any other,” Mary said. She had the urge to put a hand to his face to soothe the tension in his rigid expression, but it would not have been proper. Her words served to soften his clenched jaw a bit, and that would have to suffice.

“I would be willing to suffer death for my faith if that was what I felt God was calling me to do,” she added, though she owed him no explanation. “England is no longer a place for me.”

Rochester nodded with his lips pressed into a thin line to hold back any disagreement he might have given voice to. He had agreed to go with her, for as much as he was uncertain of the plan he would leave no one else responsible for Mary’s safety.

“Let us then be about our business,” he said. There was no reason for him to say more. The plot had been discussed at length. Four ladies had been chosen to accompany the princess, but they would carry little with them. Disguised as commoners, they would leave Woodham by boat and meet the Spanish ships. It was deceivingly simple.

Mary spun, her skirts stirring the rushes, and fled to her room. As soon as she entered, she dismissed all except the four she trusted to travel with her.

“Fran, our clothes,” she ordered, sending the woman scurrying without further instructions needed. “Susan, the jewelry.”

They could not carry anything of great size or weight, so Mary’s precious jewelry would be distributed among them. Besides the largess of Charles V, it is all they would have to live upon.

A few other frantic whispers sent the ladies to their preassigned tasks, and they were ready in less than an hour to depart. Part of Mary was thrilled by the adventure, but her guts were twisted with anxiety and uncertainty that she could not alleviate.

Rochester arrived to lead them to the water’s edge. He was confronted by five pale faces with wide eyes following him from under dark wool hoods. “Are you ready?” he asked.

“Yes,” Mary said with much more confidence than she felt. “God be with us.”

“Amen,” the four other women murmured as they left the room in a somber single file line.

Mary was thankful that her head had cleared as she followed Rochester’s broad form, yet she was still plagued by a growing sense that something was wrong. The small party left the manor for the canopy of stars and darkness of night, and their path was clear. No one on watch noticed them to inquire who they were or what their business was. Through the summer foliage, they made their way to the pier that stretched out into the river.

The boat that was usually utilized for trips to the port town of Maldon was bobbing upon the low waves. Besides the fact that they were leaving in the dead of night, there would be no reason to suspect this boat when it took their intended course. Once they reached Maldon, their success was assured by the presence of Charles’ warships.

Rochester stood at the side of the boat, ready to hand the women across the span between the dock and the vessel. He had not spoken the words, but his countenance told Mary that he retained doubts. She stiffened her spine and told herself to stop second-guessing.

In a moment, she was on the boat, her ladies huddled tightly around her more to soothe their fear than to ward off chill. Mary realized that the summer night was mild and pleasant. It seemed odd that it had taken her so long to notice.

The boat was rowed by Rochester and a younger man he had chosen to assist him. No one spoke as they made their way up the dark river. Mary marveled that the water’s vivid turquoise of day was replaced by an oily black at night. The murky river was more eerily threatening than the same calming scene in the warm summer sunshine.

In that darkness, Mary’s imagination conjured up images of a gloomy hell that remained in shadow despite the inferno of flames. Souls in agony twisted and screamed in eternal pain that nothing could soothe. Mary closed her eyes in vain as the images continued to dance upon the back of her eyelids. Her brother’s face appeared upon one of the wraithlike figures being tortured by the demons, and his eyes bored into her accusingly.

You have left me to this fate, his face seemed to say. Mary’s eyes flashed open, and the vision disappeared. It was replaced once again by the disapproving countenance of Rochester and her terrified ladies. She searched the dark water for answers as their boat silently cut through its surface.
That darkness would not only swallow up her brother and his evil advisors. Mary started counting the little waves, pretending that they were Englishmen who followed her brother’s heresies to their doom. Squeezing her eyes shut, her face crumpled in mental anguish.

“I cannot do it,” she announced.

When no one responded, Mary wondered if she had not spoken the words aloud. She forced her eyes open, and found that her ladies were looking to her in confusion. Then her gaze met Rochester’s and found understanding. He had stopped rowing, and now gave a signal to the young man to halt as well.

“I cannot leave my people to this future,” Mary repeated more confidently. “Whatever I can do, I must, though it may cost my very life.”

Rochester nodded his approval as the women embraced Mary with happy exclamations and the boat was turned around. Mary wondered how upset Charles would be that she had changed her mind at the last moment, with his ships there waiting to receive her, but she found that she did not care. A great peace had enveloped her when she made her decision, and she knew that God had plans for her yet in the kingdom of England.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

From the Scriptorium: June 2017

June 2017 Edition

Bookish News

My dear Mary continues to get rave reviews, and I couldn't be happier to see that readers are enjoying seeing a different side of this much maligned Tudor queen. Besides a fabulous blog tour, awesome reviews for Queen of Martyrs are coming in on Amazon US, Amazon UK, and Goodreads.

Faithful Traitor will soon be available in audiobook format! If you enjoyed listening to Plantagenet Princess, Tudor Queen, you will be happy to hear that Margaret's story is currently being narrated by the same wonderful narrator, Rachael Beresford. Margaret Pole was also celebrated in May with my 10 Days of Margaret Pole.

With recent TV dramas bringing attention to Elizabeth of York, this blog and my book, Plantagenet Princess, Tudor Queen, have been drawing in new readers. If you have recently read it, I would love to read your review!

I also plan to release a Kindle Box Set soon! Stay tuned!

Featured Reviews

Queen of Martyrs was featured on Tudors Dynasty's website with a great review!

Faithful Traitor continues to receive some of my most positive reviews. This one, on Amazon, is short but sweet!

Plantagenet Princess, Tudor Queen has several new reviews recently with the attention coming from a certain television program. Fellow historical fiction author Annie Whitehead combined her review with a short interview.

See your review featured by including a link to it in the comments below!

Did You Miss It?

My most popular post last month was 'Not My White Princess', an article written to clarify some differences between the Hollywood and historical versions of Elizabeth of York.

Not My White Princess

I was also honored to be invited to the blog of writer Wayne Turmel for a fun interview.

From Roses to Tudors

Historical fiction author Tony Riches was a guest this month with an excerpt from his newest novel, Henry.

A Private Moment Between Henry and Elizabeth

Finally, I took a look at the event of Queen Mary's reign that seems to define her in the minds of many modern readers and history enthusiasts.

What if Mary Hadn't Burned Heretics?

Thanks to all my readers!

Thank you to everyone who has read one of my books, and a special thanks to everyone who has written a review!

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Saturday, May 27, 2017

10 Days of Margaret Pole

Today is the 476th anniversary of Margaret Pole's execution at the Tower of London. To commemorate this great lady, I have been celebrating 10 Days of Margaret Pole on Facebook and Twitter leading up to this day. If you have missed a day, the articles are all here:

Margaret Pole's Wild Ride on Fortune's Wheel

Who Was Richard Pole?

Long Live the King!

The Not-So-Illustrious Marriages of the Pole Children

Another Stillborn Birth for Katherine

Margaret Loses Governess Post

Coat of Arms Tells a Story

Geoffrey Pole is Taken to the Tower

The Execution of Henry Pole

Reginald Pole Learns of His Mother's Death

Tower of London Memorial
On that morning 476 years ago, Margaret was informed that she would be led to the block that day.

She had no warning. She had not had a trial. She was 67 years old and cousin to the king.

Yet, she bravely endured this final injustice as she had the previous trials in her life, with dignity and faith.

An apocryphal story has Margaret running circles around the axeman and attempting to evade her execution. This does not come from eye witnesses - what few there were at the rushed and badly botched execution - and I cannot imagine Margaret behaving in such a way. A final words of protest were found on the wall of her cell within the Tower where she had been imprisoned for over a year before her execution.

For traitors on the block should die;
I am no traitor, no, not I!
My faithfulness stands fast and so,
Towards the block I shall not go!
Nor make one step, as you shall see;
Christ in Thou Mercy, save Thou me!

In King Henry VIII's rush to clear the Tower of traitors, he had not been able to locate a very skilled executioner. Witnesses cringed as Margaret's head, neck, and torso endured many strikes rather than a quick, clean beheading. I only pray that God, in his mercy, had already taken the poor woman to heaven before her body was mangled. There she had many loved ones to reunite with.


If you enjoyed this 10 Days of Margaret Pole and are interested in more of her story, you might like Faithful Traitor, my novel of her life as a Plantagenet heiress living under the rule of Tudor kings.

Faithful Traitor is available worldwide on Amazon in paperback and on Kindle. It is also free with Kindle Unlimited. If you have enjoyed this novel, I would love to read your review!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

What if Mary Hadn't Burned Heretics?

Queen Mary I is most remembered for the burning of heretics that took place during her reign, and she has been given the cruel sobriquet of 'Bloody Mary'. But what would have happened if Mary had not allowed the burning of heretics?

We assume because religious persecution is unacceptable today that it must have been the same during Mary's lifetime, but that couldn't be further from the truth. Monarchs were expected to lead their subjects in matters of faith, but that became much trickier with the advent of the Reformation. Suddenly, people were divided in ways they had never been before, and rulers had to determine how best to proceed in this new world.

According to historian Eamon Duffy, 'No sixteenth-century European state willingly accepted or could easily imagine the peaceful coexistence of differing religious confessions, and such a coexistence does not seem a particularly realistic aspiration for Mary's England.' In his book, Fires of Faith: Catholic England under Mary Tudor, he points out that we only believe that the counter-reformation was doomed to fail because we have the advantage of knowing that it did. To Mary and those who advised her, they were doing the only thing they logically could do in seeing to the salvation of Englishmen.

The idea that burnings were repugnant to Mary's contemporaries and further drove people from Catholicism is a false idea based on our modern mindset that people must have felt that way. Mary's subjects, from the moment they supported her rule over that of Lady Jane Grey, expected the return of the old faith and the stomping out of the new that would go along with it. Throughout Europe, rulers continued to attempt to regulate the faith of the people long after Mary's reign ended in 1558, and the forms of punishment were no less brutal with Elizabeth ordering the hanging, drawing, and quartering of Catholics during her reign.

Had Mary not attempted to see England united in faith, she would have been viewed as a weak and ineffective monarch - a concern already at the forefront as she ruled as England's first queen regnant. Her supporters expected her to punish heretics and would have been disappointed in her had she sat back and done nothing. In contrast, there was very little outcry regarding the punishments when they took place. The discontent that Mary did have to cope with was the public disapproval of her marriage to Philip of Spain. For those unused to being ruled by a woman, the fear of becoming one more piece of the Holy Roman Empire was very real.

Just as her brother, Edward VI, had been encouraged to lead the nation in faith and punish those who did not follow, Mary had an obligation to uphold holy laws. Protestants and Catholics did not disagree on a monarchs role, but on who were the heretics that should be punished. Mary is often accused of seeking revenge for the many wrongs that she had suffered before she became queen, but in reality she was doing her duty of putting the country's church affairs in order with the advice of an extensive and learned council.

Mary also did not immediately resort to the burning of heretics. For more than than the first year of her reign, her focus was on ensuring that the true faith was preached so that those who had grown up during her brother's reign had the opportunity to hear and learn. Beginning in 1555, those who continued to lead people away from Catholicism were given harsh punishments for their role in what many believed was the spreading of heresy which doomed people to eternal damnation. Those who refused to correct the error of their ways, served as examples for those they led astray.

When people were burned, it was believed that they were given a foretaste of hell that would be their last chance to repent and receive eternal life in heaven. In its way, this punishment was intended as a final effort to convert those believed lost to heresy. Had Mary simply allowed her subjects to live and die condemned for eternity, she would have been accused by her contemporaries of failing to do her duty, but we might not remember her today as 'Bloody Mary'.