Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Let's Talk about Queen Mary I

I am excited to invite you to participate in a chat on Queen Mary over at the Tudor Society. The expert talk - featuring yours truly - is live now, so you can watch that before the live chat commences on Friday, January 25th.

Here are the times in different time zones:

London, UK - Friday 25th January at 11pm
Madrid, Spain - Saturday 26th January at 12am
New York, USA - Friday 25th January at 6pm
Los Angeles, USA - Friday 25th January at 3pm
Sydney, Australia - Saturday 26th January at 10am

I look forward to discussing all things Queen Mary with you!

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

The Counter-Reformation of Queen Mary I

Queen Mary I does not enjoy the popularity of her sister or the entertainment value of her father. Her relatively short reign was spent striving toward a goal that few of us understand today. The modern worldview that firmly separates church and state makes it difficult to comprehend how responsible Queen Mary felt for her subjects' salvation and how passionately she believed she was doing the right thing with her attempt at counter-reformation in England.

We look back with the benefit of almost 500 years of hindsight and wonder how Mary failed to realize that her plans to return England to Catholicism after her father's break from Rome twenty years earlier were doomed. The fact that Protestantism flourished after Mary's death indicates to us that Mary should have seen the signs that it was coming or that she should have taken a dose of modern tolerance and embraced her subjects' differences, but to promote either of these ideas is to fail to fully understand the mindset of a 16th century monarch.

As Eamon Duffy states in his Fires of Faith: Catholic England under Mary Tudor, "No sixteenth-century European state willingly accepted or could easily imagine the peaceful coexistence of differing religious confessions." Even Mary's sister, Elizabeth, who would later claim "no desire to make windows into men's souls" was scarcely less active in her persecution of Catholics. In Mary's time, the idea that faith was separate from law or that varying beliefs could thrive within one geographic area was not the progressive thought we believe it to be but something between heresy and treason.

Mary did not go into her reign believing counter-reformation would fail but that she was obligated to give it her best shot. Quite the contrary. When the common people helped secure her crown, which they knew meant a return to the Catholic mass, Mary was certain that most of her subjects shared her ambitions. Not only did she have vast popular support, but she had her cousin, Cardinal Reginald Pole. He had almost been elected to the papacy in 1550, and with his support England's smooth transition to the 'true faith' seemed assured.

During Mary's first Parliament, the marriage of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon was deemed valid, erasing Mary's illegitimacy if not the scars left from that difficult period of her life. Her brother Edward's religious reforms were also overturned, allowing Mary to reasonably believe the changes she planned to make would occur quickly and easily.

Pole published sermons to be used throughout Mary's kingdom in an effort to reach those too young to remember the old faith that they might embrace it. However, they soon realized that reformed teaching was being perpetrated at some of the highest levels in the church. Heresy is a charge that does not make sense to the modern mind but was more serious than we can imagine in the 16th century. To secure the salvation of her subjects, Mary believed that it was necessary to outlaw Protestant books and teaching. When some reformers resisted, the burnings began.

The 284 people burned for heresy during the reign of Queen Mary is what she is chiefly remembered for. The most notable, historical figures such as Latimer, Ridley, and Cranmer, did go to the stake with Mary's consent, but many of the other, more controversial convictions occurred under the supervision of local law enforcement who sometimes allowed charges of heresy to be used more to settle scores than root out false teaching. Burning heretics was meant to give them a foretaste of hell in the hope that they would recant and be saved for eternity. Better to suffer a finite time on Earth than forever in hell. However, Mary and her counter-reformers were surprised to find that a shocking number of convicted Protestants held firm to their beliefs, becoming witnesses to their faith rather than examples of recantation.

In the meantime, Mary made what was possibly her most serious mistake. Instead of choosing an eligible Englishman, such as Edward Courtenay or even Reginald Pole, as a husband, Mary fell in love with Prince Philip of Spain. Fear that this would make England a vassal of Spain or the Holy Roman Empire, which Philip's father ruled, caused rebellions and distrust of Mary's queenship much more than her return to Catholicism had. When the two fused into one surge of disillusionment with Mary's reign, the objectives that had seemed within reach fell away from England's first queen regnant.

During her five year reign, Mary suffered two false pregnancies, likely caused by uterine cancer. The marriage that she fought so hard for proved loveless and childless. Finally, her devotion to her people and her faith failed to be enough to see England restored to Rome and what she considered the 'true faith.' She died knowing that Elizabeth, the sister she did not trust but had little choice but to name as her heir, would reverse all of her efforts. Little did she know how stridently that sister would also work to blacken her name in order that the name of Elizabeth I would shine more gloriously.

The auspicious beginning of Mary's reign and the outpouring of love from her subjects would have helped heal the wounds left from a difficult life at the hands of her father and given her hope for the future. However, Mary could not see as clearly as we see today that successful counter-reformation in England was not what God had in mind for her after all.

Additional Reading
Fires of Faith: Catholic England under Mary Tudor by Eamon Duffy
The First Queen of England by Linda Porter

**This article originally appeared on the blog for EHFA.**

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Brandon - Tudor Knight

Those of you who admire Charles Brandon will love this new release from Tony Riches! Learn more about the courageous knight who was the best friend of King Henry VIII and dared to marry his sister, Princess Mary.

~ Samantha


New Release announcement from Tony Riches

From the author of the international bestselling Tudor Trilogy comes a true story of adventure, courtly love and chivalric loyalty.

Handsome, charismatic and a champion jouster, Sir Charles Brandon is the epitome of a Tudor Knight. A favourite of King Henry VIII, Brandon has a secret. He has fallen in love with Henry’s sister, Mary Tudor, the beautiful widowed Queen of France, and risks everything to marry her without the King’s consent.

Brandon becomes Duke of Suffolk, but his loyalty is tested fighting Henry’s wars in France. Mary’s public support for Queen Catherine of Aragon brings Brandon into dangerous conflict with the ambitious Boleyn family and the king’s new right-hand man, Thomas Cromwell.

Torn between duty to his family and loyalty to the king, Brandon faces an impossible decision: can he accept Anne Boleyn as his new queen?

Available now on Amazon UK and Amazon US.

About the Author

Tony Riches is a full-time UK author of best-selling historical fiction. He lives in Pembrokeshire, West Wales and is a specialist in the history of the Wars of the Roses and the lives of the early Tudors. Tony was a finalist in the 2017 Amazon Storyteller Awards and is listed 130th in the 2018 Top 200 list of the Most Influential Authors. For more information about Tony’s books please visit his website tonyriches.com and his popular blog, The Writing Desk and find him on Facebook and Twitter @tonyriches

Monday, December 10, 2018

Tudor Reformation

When Henry VIII wrote his Defense of the Seven Sacraments in opposition to Martin Luther, he probably would have balked at the idea that the reformation would take root in England through his own actions. While Luther was a voice calling for an end of corruption in the Catholic Church, Henry split with Rome for reasons that were much more personal but no less far reaching. One wonders if Henry could possibly envision his quarrel with the pope resulting in England becoming a Protestant nation under his children.

Henry VIII took his place on both sides of Reformation history. His essay disputing Martin Luther earned him the title Defender of the Faith. However, his 1534 Act of Supremacy made the king's word the highest in the land on matters of religion, cutting the pope out of the picture. Henry's Church of England was Catholicism without the pope. It was his insatiable need for authority that drove Henry's move toward Protestantism. Little did he know that the movement would carry on further than he ever intended after his death.

Edward VI became king at the age of nine and became a staunch Protestant. During his reign, Catholic mass was banned and a new Book of Common Prayer was written for Church of England worship. Priests were allowed to marry, while their vestments and churches were stripped of their elaborate splendor. Masses for the dead were no longer said, and veneration of saints was discouraged. Although these were significant changes, some reformers said Edward did not take them far enough. They wanted to see full Lutheranism or Calvinism adopted, while others held tight to their ancestral Catholicism. Edward did not live long enough to see an end to these issues. When he died at age fifteen, his older - and very Catholic - sister became queen.

Queen Mary I quickly and decisively thwarted plans to make her Protestant cousin, Lady Jane Grey, queen in her place. Mary had the support of the people and immediately began reverting the country to Catholic worship. Relations with Rome were reinstated, and Edward's reforms were reversed. While some of Mary's subjects welcomed this counter-reformation, others pushed back. In the 16th century, monarchs were still determining how to cope with competing religions, and the idea that Protestantism and Catholicism could reside side-by-side was unthinkable, so Mary pressed on with her 'true faith' through sermons designed to teach about Catholicism, a return to traditional mass, and, eventually, the burning of Protestant leaders for heresy. In 1558, Mary died, leaving her work undone and her crown to her Protestant sister.

Elizabeth I proved a better politician than either of her siblings. She returned the country to Protestantism while claiming that she would not make religious decisions for her subjects. Instead of burning for heresy, Catholic priests were hanged, drawn, and quartered for treason. Since Elizabeth's reign was much longer than Edward's or Mary's, she is better remembered for other historical events and aspects of her reign. The focus on religion that Edward and Mary are known for was purposely downplayed by Elizabeth. Although she is the one less identified by her religious beliefs, Queen Elizabeth secured England's place in history as a Protestant country.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Shakespeare: Playwright or Plagiarist?

My guest today has written a novel about some intriguing and controversial questions. Was the famous Bard nothing but an ambitious actor and plagiarist? Is Christopher Marlowe the writer who deserves to be a household name centuries later? Novelist DK Marley provides one possible answer to these questions in her new book, Blood and Ink. Learn more about it in the interview below.

~ Samantha


So much has been written about Shakespeare. How is your novel different?

Yes, there are many novels on Shakespeare, expounding the continued belief that he wrote the plays and sonnets attributed to him, but this novel gives wing to the possibility of someone else being the writer.

Would you say this novel is of historical importance?

I would rather say it is of historical interest. I am not a historian. Even though I love doing research for my novels, my passion is fiction and a story like this that is rich with intrigue and theories, well, it is the stuff historical fiction writers dream about. Both characters, William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe, have a world full of questions surrounding them. There are endless avenues any writer can traverse when it comes to these two men.

What made you want to write about Marlowe and Shakespeare?

The first time I visited England in 1997, I took a tour of the Globe Theater and there in the museum was a wall dedicated to the five other men who may have written the plays, a thought I had never imagined before. To this day, I truly don't know why Marlowe stood out to me, but I took out my notebook and began writing notes about him, knowing a story was there.

When I came back home and started researching on the Internet about the possibility, I came across some amazing discoveries. The more and more I delved, the more the theory sounded plausible. Given the fact that Marlowe was already a playwright and had access to far greater resources than Shakespeare ever did, the idea had merit, but the problem was the issue with his death at the age of twenty-nine in Deptford.

William Shakespeare
When I came across Peter Farey's discussion, the problem resolved and all of my questions melded together into one solution: he never died, but was exiled. This was truly a sixteenth century case of conspiracy and identity theft. The idea of a crime novel or suspense was quite interesting to me, even something on the line of Dan Brown's books, but in finding my own voice, historical fiction felt more like home, especially the time period of the Tudors. The Elizabethan era has always been my favorite period and I love tackling the job of weaving a bit of the old language with our modern tongue. While I tried to stay true to history, I did use artistic license, such as the additions of the subplot of Marlowe's imaginary friend, to round out a writer's torture who is plagued with a “muse,” as was Marlowe who was referred to as the “muse's darling.”

My grandmother gave me my first book of the complete works of Shakespeare when I was eleven years old. The language, the history, and the style of writing has intrigued me ever since. During my school years, I immersed myself into English Literature, even acting the part of Calpurnia in Julius Caesar when we studied that play.

Many will scoff at the idea that Shakespeare was merely an ambitious actor who stole the works of Marlowe. How do you approach this?

Of course, there will, and I expect that, but again, I do not claim to be a Shakespearean scholar or historian. Yet, sometimes the simplest of explanations lean more toward truth than elaboration. That is why I used the quote from Francis Bacon, who himself is another candidate for writing the plays - “The forbidden idea contains a spark of truth that flies up in the face of he who seeks to stamp it out.”

There may be a spark of truth to the idea that Shakespeare did not write the plays and there always will be those who wish to stamp out debate.

This is the same kind of wall the writers and men of ambition and progress, those of the “School of Night” faced during the Elizabethan era. I have been to some delightful debates over the years discussing the question of Shakespeare's authorship, the first and foremost being the lectures held at the Globe Theater in 2007.

There is even a petition people can sign on the internet called the Declaration of Intent for the Shakespeare Authorship Debate, although the site supports Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford, as being the writer, which is fine with me, for any support for anyone other than the man Shakespeare shows I am not alone in believing that this actor from Stratford was not the man who wrote such eloquent and astounding verses; and yet, I am not against those who do believe.

The question reminds me of a small episode where this very thing took place. I was standing in a group at the first debate held at the Globe and a gentleman looked at me when he discovered I was a Marlowan, and said, “O, you are one of those. I suppose you believe he was exiled.” Very calmly, I replied, “Well, you have to admit that the idea makes for a great story, and that is what I am, a story teller.”

Christopher Marlowe
What kind of evidence is there that Marlowe survived the tavern brawl in Deptford? And what evidence is there against William Shakespeare being the writer?

To me, Marlowe was as a brilliant writer as he was a spy. A man who could create such astounding characters, even if you only attribute those we know about – Faustus, Tamburlaine, Edward – shows he had the ability to form well-rounded characters. Walsingham was known for recruiting boys of genius at a young age for the underground spy ring, so a boy of Marlowe's caliber, a boy and man who could morph characters, would have fit into Walsingham's plans. It would not have been a difficult thing for Marlowe to do as a writer, for oftentimes writers use this technique for getting into the minds of their characters.

What kind of questions should a person ask who is looking to do some research on this topic?

1. Do we know Marlowe survived the death in Deptford without a doubt? No, but tell me this:

2. Why was one of the most beloved playwrights of his day, before Shakespeare, buried in a common churchyard?

3. Why did the Queen provide her own coroner for the inquest when she herself was not within the verge of the murder, and then give instructions that no one delve further into questionings about Marlowe's death?

4. Why was Marlowe with three other well-known spies instead of presenting himself before the Privy Council at eleven o'clock, which was his punishment for the supposed seditious writings found in Kyd's apartments?

5. Who is the mysterious man known simply as Monsieur Le Doux during those years Marlowe would have been dead?

6. Why do we not hear anything about Shakespeare's writings until after Marlowe dies?

7. Who is the Mr. W. H. to whom the sonnets are dedicated?

8. Who is the “dark lady” of the sonnets?

9. What kind of education did the two men have?

10. What is the secret riddle of the epitaph above Shakespeare's tomb?

11. Why was his grave dug twelve feet deep instead of the normal six foot?

12. Why did Shakespeare's son-in-law, Dr. John Hall, leave off any mention of the day Shakespeare died in his journal?

There are so many questions, I could go on and on. If a person holds up all of these in relation to Shakespeare, the questions loom; and yet, when I held up each of these questions to Marlowe, all the answers, for me, fell into place.

Shakespeare did not have the education for such lofty writing, he did not have the background and there is no evidence of his having traveled. Even his friend, Ben Jonson, railed him on his lack of languages. Also, maybe just to me, but I thought it odd, there is no mention of his writings, or any books he may have had in his possession for his own research, in his will. For those in favor of Shakespeare, I am sure they will say it is because the plays belonged to the playhouse and the actors, but still, to me, there is a question.

There is no doubt Shakespeare was an ambitious man and a brilliant actor, and considering the time period he lived with poverty and sickness so rampant, a man might do anything to make sure of the survival of his family, the legacy of his name and his own ambition.

When you read some of the sonnets, many of the ones I have quoted in the novel, the desperation of a man writing the words resounds. Clearly, the sonnets show a man desperate for someone to recognize the hidden clues, clues that smack of the life of Marlowe, not Shakespeare. It was a common practice in those days to hide clues or riddles within writings, so this style of writing would not have been unusual for Marlowe. Also, he had all the means available to him to undertake a masque to save his own life – the money, the backing, the patrons, and a favor from the Queen herself, who was known to take great pains to protect those who protected her.

Any final thoughts on the Shakespeare authorship question?

Yea, simply this – an early American author, Napolean Hill, said, “All great truths are simple in final analysis, and easily understood; if they are not, they are not great truths.”

Are you saying after all of this that you are a strict Marlowan and not a Stratfordian?

Well, no. I am saying that there are reasonable questions to the debate, and I am saying that the premise makes for a great story; but in truth, we will never know unless someone stumbles upon some profound letter one day revealing to the world the true author. Until then, I will remain an avid Shakespeare-lover. There are questions I have, but I have no questions about the beauty and genius behind the works themselves.


If you loved Ken Follett's A Column of Fire, take another journey into 17th-century England with the 5-star reviewed historical fiction novel, Blood and Ink. History shows Kit Marlowe died in a tavern brawl in Deptford in 1593, but did he? England is torn apart by religious metamorphosis and espionage. The stages of England and bright intellectual boys are used to bolster Queen Elizabeth I's reign and propagate the rising Protestant faith. At the age of eight, Christopher Marlowe, the muse's darling, is sucked into the labyrinth of secret spy rings, blood, murder, and betrayal, while his own ambition to become England's favorite playwright drifts further from his grasp. As Christopher grows to manhood, he sinks further into the darkness, and a chance meeting with an unknown actor from Stratford-upon-Avon, William Shakespeare, sets him on a path of destiny - a fate of forced exile and the revelation that the real enemy is not an assassin of Rome, but a man who stared into his eyes and smiled. One he did not expect...
Read the editorial review by the Historical Novel Society here.

Blood and Ink is available in ebook, audio, & paperback on Amazon or in hardcover at Barnes and Noble.

Connect with DK Marley

DK Marley is a historical fiction writer specializing in Shakespearean themes. Her grandmother, an

English professor, gave her a volume of Shakespeare's plays when she was eleven, inspiring DK to delve further into the rich Elizabethan language. Eleven years ago she began the research leading to the publication of her first novel Blood and Ink, an epic tale of lost dreams, spurned love, jealousy and deception in Tudor England as the two men, William Shakespeare and Kit Marlowe, fight for one name and the famous works now known as the Shakespeare Folio. She is a true Stratfordian (despite the topic of her novel Blood and Ink), a Marlowe fan, a member of the Marlowe Society, the Shakespeare Fellowship and a signer of the Declaration of Intent for the Shakespeare Authorship Debate. Her new series titled The Fractured Shakespeare Series will tackle adapting each play into a historical fiction novel. She has traveled to England three times for intensive research and debate workshops and is a graduate of the intense training workshop "The Writer's Retreat Workshop" founded by Gary Provost and hosted by Jason Sitzes. She is also a blogger for The Jabberwocky Blog. She lives in Georgia with her husband and a Scottish Terrier named Maggie.


Prince of Sorrows - A Fractured Shakespeare Series, Book One – Hamlet – Now Available in Paperback, Ebook and Audible

Child of Love & Water - available in paperback and ebook

Connect with DK Marley on Facebook, Twitter, or her website.