Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Image of His Grandfather

Henry VIII
The more I look at the turbulent times as the Plantagenet dynasty morphed into that of the Tudors, the more similarities I notice between Edward IV and his grandson Henry VIII. It is all the more interesting since Edward seems to be romanticized more and remembered as a golden warrior king, while Henry is infamous for his scandalous marital history. Yet, were it not for those six wives, their stories would be strikingly similar.

Both Edward IV and Henry VIII were confident young men and widely acclaimed when they came to the throne. Each was welcomed and celebrated in a way that their fathers had not been, the handsome teens capturing the hearts of the people more successfully than Richard Duke of York or Henry VII had. Looking much alike, with their tall, athletic frames and red-gold hair, anyone seeing them together would have immediately seen the family resemblance.

Of course, no one did see them together. By the time Henry took the throne, his maternal grandfather had been dead for twenty-six years, much longer than Henry had been alive. Surely, his mother, Elizabeth of York, would have noticed the similarities between her beloved father and spirited son. But by 1509, she was also dead. There were a few to take note that the new Tudor king looked much like a Plantagenet, but it is not likely that they commented upon it.

Elizabeth of York
(Edward IV's daughter and
Henry VIII's mother)
The Tudors did not necessarily announce themselves as a new dynasty the way we consider them as such. Henry VII saw his reign of one of peacekeeping. Putting back together the shards of Lancaster and York, rather than creating a new royal family. While it is easy for us to draw a dividing line through the year 1485, that is not quite the way it would have seemed to someone living at the time. Therefore, it would have seemed natural for Henry to appear to be a reincarnation of his warrior king grandfather. People undoubtedly hoped that he would also be as virile.

There was certainly every reason to think that Henry would sire many children. He was one of eight children, though only he and two sisters survived to adulthood. His grandfather had ten children by his wife, Elizabeth Woodville, and at least a few illegitimate children. As the almost eighteen year old Henry accepted his new crown, few could have foreseen the obsessive quest for an heir that would define his reign.

Maybe it was because of the arrogance of youth or willingness to step out on their own that led both of these new kings to raise up new men to surround themselves with. Instead of calling upon the patriarchs of ancient families to advise them, Edward and Henry preferred to seek wisdom from whatever source provided it. Men like William Hastings and Charles Brandon are examples of this. Others, who might have been expected to hold greater positions, such as the Stafford men, were held at a distance by both kings.

Edward IV
These eerily similar kings lost the optimism of their youth and degenerated into cruelty and suspicion toward those who might challenge them. Edward IV executed his own brother, George of Clarence; Henry executed George's daughter. Neither had any serious charge against them. Margaret had not even had a trial.

Edward, a man who seemed to be at his best when at war, disintegrated into self-destructive habits when his kingdom was at peace. Known to gorge himself on food and then purge so that he could eat more, Edward lost the muscular physique of his younger years under layers of fat, just as his grandson would though Henry's was also due to injuries that made it painful to walk. As they aged and grew more cantankerous, both kings had problems with women.

Elizabeth Woodville was a strong, ambitious woman, which made her unattractive to most men of the 15th century. The marriage matches, titles, and positions given to her many siblings caused people to turn against her and Edward. Henry's problem was quite the opposite, it seemed that no matter how many women he married, he could not cause one of them to give him a son. While Edward struggled to balance the wants and needs of a large extended family and many children of his own, Henry became obsessed with his need for a son to inherit his kingdom. Even after the birth of his own Prince Edward, named for his illustrious grandfather, Henry carried on to marry three more women. As a younger son himself, Henry understood the need for an heir and a spare.

Raised up with great expectations and hopes for the future, both of the promising young kings died leaving young boys to inherit their throne. Edward's son is lost to history as one of the Princes in the Tower, but Henry's son did not fare much better. After reigning only six years, Edward VI succumbed to illness, and the princess who Henry never thought was good enough to be his heir became Queen Mary, England's first Queen Regnant.

The wars between cousins that put Edward on the throne did not end with his death. Instead, there was a resurgence as the people failed to accept Richard III's rule. Henry Tudor was the most distant of Plantagenet cousins, but the familial infighting did not stop there. In order to secure her throne, Mary was forced to imprison her cousin, Lady Jane Grey, who the council had attempted to enthrone. Queen Elizabeth, Mary's sister, spent much of her life putting off making the decision regarding which of her cousins would be named her heir. Maybe it was not so much that Edward and Henry were so similar, but that some things just never change.

The Plantagenet Embers series explores the Wars of the Roses and early Tudor era. Find it on Amazon and Audible. Read FREE with #KindleUnlimited!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Digging for the Historical King Arthur

Historical fiction author Mary Anne Yarde is celebrating the release of book two of her Du Lac Chronicles. I asked her how she decided to write about the aftermath of the legendary, but a little bit difficult to pin down, King Arthur. Welcome, Mary!

~ Samantha

Digging for the Historical King Arthur 

I have been fascinated with the life and times of King Arthur and his Knights of The Round Table since I was a child — I guess growing up a stone's throw from Glastonbury (The Ancient Isle of Avalon) may have had something to do with that. My book series, The Du Lac Chronicles, tells the story of what happened after the death of Arthur, and continues the story of his Knights and their sons. But in order to write about the end of Arthur’s reign, I needed to know about the beginning. A not so easy task, it turned out.

The history of a historical Arthur is not written in stone but is, instead, engraved in folklore. Firstly, where did he come from? Well, that is an easy question to answer…
King Arthur was English. No, hang on, he was Welsh. I think you have made a mistake, Arthur was Scottish. He was from Brittany, didn’t you know?
And so it goes on. Arthur is so famous that everyone wants to claim him and, over the years, there have been many names thrown out there as to who he really was. But...and there is always a big fat but when we are dealing with Arthur, we are digging up folklore, and that is not the same as excavating relics. We can make Arthur fit wherever we want him to, and that is where the problem lies. It is very easy to make mistakes, and I have read many books that claim to have found the real Arthur, only they haven’t, it is just a theory, sometimes a very shaky one.

What doesn't help when we come to this period in history, which is commonly referred to as The Dark Ages, is the lack of reliable primary sources. What was written down was written down for a purpose and that purpose was usually politically motivated, which in itself is fascinating, although not so helpful. Now, in these early texts when Arthur is mentioned, there is nothing about him being a king. Nennuis describes him a warrior on par with Ironman, but no mention of a crown. It isn't until the 12th Century when Geoffrey of Monmouth writes his great work that the Arthur we know is born. Monmouth's work, which was supposed to be an accurate account of British history, is in fact, one of the greatest works of fiction ever written. Monmouth is borrowing from folklore — although he did keep mentioning something about a lost manuscript that he found and then conveniently lost again when asked to share it! It is folklore that drives the legend of Arthur and his knights forward, and I think that is important and it tells a great deal about the time in which these stories are told.

My books are not just set in Britain but Brittany and France as well, so I needed to have a good understanding of what was happening in these countries in the 5th Century in order to keep the history real in the telling. Before we look at any of these countries we need to look at the powerhouse of the world at this time, and that was the Roman Empire. However, the golden age of the Roman Empire was almost over; she was politically unstable and was withdrawing her forces from far-flung provinces such as Briton, to defend her borders. But this dawning new era brings some of the most fascinating historical figures that ever lived. These were the days of men such as Clovis. Clovis won a decisive victory against Rome, at the Battle of Soissons in AD 486. But, Clovis’s ambition didn’t stop there. Roman Gaul and parts of Western Germany fell to him as well. He forged a new empire through blood, war, and marriage. He made Paris the capital of his new kingdom, and he was the first King of a united Frank (France).

The Saxons and the Angles crossed the South Sea to take advantage of vulnerable Britain who, since the Romans had left, had split back into various smaller kingdoms. There was much infighting and unrest, it was the perfect opportunity for the Saxon’s to come over and stake their claim.

Brittany, like Britain, wasn’t one united country, but many, and they were a race of warriors. While they were busy fighting each other, they missed the real threat to the kingdom, which eventually would be their undoing and they would find themselves at the mercy of Frank.

While all this is going on, the Church is creeping into the crevices, and spreading the word of God and, what could be consider of equal value, one language — Latin. It could be argued that it was the Church that united Britain in the end.

This was a time of great unrest and change, but one thing remained constant for the general populous and that was storytelling. Arthur may well have been a general but folklore made him a Christian King and gave him a castle full of noble knights. Arthur and his Knights (most of them anyway) cared about the people they represented. Arthur was a good king, the like of which has never been seen before or after. He was the perfect tool for spreading a type of patriotic propaganda. Arthur was someone you would want to fight by your side. But he also gave ordinary people a sense of belonging and hope. He is, after all, The Once and Future King.

I have tried to show what life was like in the 5th Century in my books, but I have been heavily influenced by folklore, because when you are dealing with this period in history you cannot dismiss it. Brittany, for example, is terribly difficult to research historically, but when it comes to folklore she is rich and if that is all she is going to give us, then so be it. Folklore is its own special brand of history, and it is often over looked by historians which I think is a shame. You can tell a lot about a people by the stories they tell, and people are still fascinated by this larger than life King, which I think says it all. Arthur may well have been a general, or a knight, he may have been English, he may not, but it doesn’t matter because his story is timeless, it will never grow old.

The Du Lac Devil: Book Two in the Du Lac Chronicles

“The Du Lac Chronicles has rivalry and treasure enough for any ‘Game of Thrones’ aficionado.” Tony Riches, author of The Tudor Trilogy

The best-selling Du Lac Chronicles continues:

War is coming to Saxon Briton.

As one kingdom after another falls to the savage might of the High King, Cerdic of Wessex, only one family dares to stand up to him — The Du Lacs.

Budic and Alden Du Lac are barely speaking to each other, and Merton is a mercenary, fighting for the highest bidder. If Wessex hears of the brothers’ discord, then all is lost.

Fate brings Merton du Lac back to the ancestral lands of his forefathers, and he finds his country on the brink of civil war. But there is worse to come, for his father’s old enemy has infiltrated the court of Benwick. Now, more than ever, the Du Lacs must come together to save the kingdom and themselves.

Can old rivalries and resentments be overcome in time to stop a war?

“Mary Yarde has woven a compelling story with a beautiful setting, a story that features an equally compelling conflict. The reader is introduced to the key characters in the very opening pages of the story and the conflict comes across as a great hook. The Du Lac Devil combines great writing with storytelling skills to keep the reader’s eyes riveted on the pages. The writing is clear and beautiful and the descriptions are vivid, painting a picture that readers can easily visualize as they read. The dialogues flow naturally and they help to deepen characterization and to enhance the plot. I also enjoyed the narrative voice which came through as strong, clear, and confident. Yarde creates characters that are real and memorable and a story that readers will love to share.” ~ Readers’ Favorite See full review here

“Mary Anne Yarde has once again given us a tale of Arthurian beauty and romance. Filled with danger, intrigue and love.” ~ M.T. Magge, author of The Treasure of Gwenlais — award winning, Amazon Best Seller.

The Du Lac Devil is available now on Amazon US and Amazon UK.

About Mary Anne Yarde

Born in Bath, England, Mary Anne Yarde grew up in the southwest of England, surrounded and influenced by centuries of history and mythology. Glastonbury—the fabled Isle of Avalon—was a mere fifteen-minute drive from her home, and tales of King Arthur and his knights were part of her childhood.

At nineteen, Yarde married her childhood sweetheart and began a bachelor of arts in history at Cardiff University, only to have her studies interrupted by the arrival of her first child. She would later return to higher education, studying equine science at Warwickshire College. Horses and history remain two of her major passions.

Yarde keeps busy raising four children and helping run a successful family business. She has many skills but has never mastered cooking—so if you ever drop by, she (and her family) would appreciate some tasty treats or a meal out!

Connect with Mary Anne Yarde
Amazon Author’s page

Monday, December 5, 2016

Historic Places: York

There are volumes of books written about the amazing city of York, so I will not attempt to cover its entire history here. What makes York so unique is that most of its history is still right there for you to see. From the medieval city wall, to the towering minster overlooking the city, to the tilting Shambles, York invites you to come in and experience history firsthand.

I had been anticipating this stop since we first planned our trip. This was what I had been waiting for, a city that allowed me to experience settings that have retained elements from the time period that I write about. It was tempting to run my hands along the walls on the off chance that a famous Plantagenet might have once placed their hand in that same spot.

To enter York, we passed through an arch in the medieval wall. I was astounded to learn that great portions of the wall were demolished in 1800 to create space and easier access to the city. Of course, the medieval gates were inconvenient for a modern city and the wall had long since fallen out of use for defense, but it is still a sad story. Thankfully, those who fought to preserve the wall saved what they could, and York displays the most complete medieval city wall system in England.

Now the city's efforts go to preserving and restoring the wall instead of tearing it down. Two of the gateways, called 'bars', include small museums that I was eager to see. We made our way first to the Richard III Experience at Monk Bar.
My husband, who is a solid 6'2" felt a bit claustrophobic making his way through the tiny doorway and up the narrow stairwell. I was thrilled. Not only am I much smaller, but I knew that these passageways had been designed for people of another time, and here I was walking in their footsteps. I hadn't expected to learn anything new about everyone's favorite villain/hero king, but I read every line of every display . . . just in case.

Our intention had been to then make our way to the Henry VII Experience at Micklegate Bar, just to keep things fair, of course. Unfortunately, we were there on a day that it closed early and had missed our chance. Instead, we walked along the wall where I imagined soldiers standing guard and armies camped out in the distance laying siege to the town. The kind city of York now provides a fence along the open side of the walkway to ensure proper safety for the wall's modern users.

One does not need to be standing upon the city wall to see York Minster. The huge cathedral dominates the city skyline and dwarfs all other structures in the vicinity. To imagine this giant, beautiful structure built before any modern technological advances is mind-boggling. Each surface of the building boasts intricate carvings, ancient stained glass, soaring towers, and unimaginable beauty. Folks, they just don't make them like this anymore.

Of particular interest was the Rose Window in the south transept. Displaying red and white roses crafted in the early 1500s to celebrate the wedding of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, this window has been painstakingly restored to preserve the centuries old glass. During a fire in 1984, the window was severely cracked and damaged but remained in place, making it possible for careful detailed repairs to be made.

(See those tiny people down there? I couldn't even fit the entire side of the church in one picture!)

I can only imagine how inspiring it must have been for the people hundreds of years ago to see this wondrous building. It does not fail to awe modern visitors any less.

I could go on and on about the interesting places to see and historic fun facts about York, but I will settle for one more must see area if you are visiting. The Shambles is a little street straight out of the 14th and 15th centuries. I was first struck by how narrow the 'street' was. We would not consider it a street now, and I am not sure a single car could fit between the tightly packed buildings, but this would have been the norm when these shops were first built. Again, my imagination of historic settings was reinforced by reality, and I just wanted to stand there and soak it all in.

No, it's not just you. Those buildings really are leaning in toward each other across the street, sideways into each other, and every which way. They may look like they are about to fall down, but the buildings in the Shambles have been carefully preserved to maintain the historic structure while keeping it safely intact. It's so wonderful to see an area like this preserved instead of torn down for another boring modern structure. It would be impossible to build anything new that could match the charm of the Shambles. Just as they were hundreds of years ago, these shops are open for business to the curious people strolling down the cobblestone street.

This is a city that I simply must make my way back to someday.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

From the Scriptorium: December 2016

December 2016 Edition

During the last month, I have opened up a new online store, where everyone can order signed copies of my novels, and my NaNoWriMo efforts have been dedicated to completing a first draft of Queen of Martyrs. Keep reading for more news on book giveaways, additions to Kindle Unlimited, and more!

In the News

This month, I was honored to recognize the anniversary of the deaths of Queen Mary I and Cardinal Reginald Pole on the same day, November 17, 1558. You can read my article about these two leaders of the counter-reformation in England at English Historical Fiction Authors.

Of course, the same day is more often mentioned as the day that Elizabeth I became queen, but, for obvious reasons, I chose to take a look at her much maligned older sister and her intriguing priestly cousin instead.

Bookish News

The first draft of Queen of Martyrs is complete! I have enjoyed this unexpected journey with Mary more than I could have imagined, but it is not over yet. I am moving on to editing in the hope of releasing early review copies in January.

I have another exciting book project in the works, but cannot reveal details just yet. Let me assure you, it will be one that all my fellow anglophiles will enjoy!

Kindle Unlimited by Amazon has been extended to the Australian market! If you would like to read my books for FREE, you can do so anywhere that KU is offered.

Don't forget to sign up for a chance to win a copy of Faithful Traitor. Today is the LAST DAY.

Finally, I would like to thank Goodreads users for loving my books. I have just reached an overall rating of over 4.0 out of 5.0 stars! This is not easy to achieve among the discerning Goodreads readers, so I am incredibly humbled and grateful. Thank you!

Featured Reviews

Plantagenet Princess, Tudor Queen on David's Book Blurg

Faithful Traitor on Reading the Ages

Over the Deep by Blair Hodgkinson

Add a link to your review in the comments below to see it featured in future newsletters!

Did you miss it?

This month included the shared birthday of two royal York children. Read about Prince Edward and Princess Anne, both born on November 2, 1470 and 1475, respectively.

Another popular post this month took a look at the forgotten daughter of York, Princess Bridget.

You want it? You got it.

Are you hosting an author event? Is there a topic you would like to see covered by my blog? Let me know what you would like to see here, and I will do my best to deliver.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Forgotten Daughter of York

Princess Bridget of York
Nun at Dartford Priory
On November 10, 1480, Elizabeth Woodville gave birth to her seventh daughter. Born during the most peaceful days of her father's reign, Bridget's position would have seemed charmed and secure until Edward IV died unexpectedly less than three years later.

Bridget joined the large York royal family just over a year after her older sister, Katherine, and only months after older sisters, Mary and Cecily, had been made Ladies of the Garter. Queen Elizabeth's last child is often overlooked in the drama that occurred during her early life, but Bridget would leave it all behind for a monastic life just as her namesake, St Bridget of Sweden, had done.

Born at Eltham Palace, Bridget was baptized the following day with her eldest sister, Elizabeth, standing as godmother. It is likely that the decision to dedicate this child to the church had already been made. Cecily of York, Bridget's grandmother, had recently retired to Berkhamsted to devote her life to religious study and worship. She is thought to be the one to suggest the unconventional name of Bridget for the youngest York princess.

As a toddler, Bridget went with her mother and sisters into sanctuary when her father died in 1483. Hearing that Richard of Gloucester had taken control of the boy who was now Edward V, Elizabeth panicked and rushed her remaining children to Westminster Abbey. While the rest of the family waited in fear to see how events would unfold, Bridget was young enough to be blissfully ignorant.

The girls did not leave sanctuary until March of the following year, after Queen Elizabeth had convinced the man who was by then Richard III to publicly promise to see to the protection and well-being of her five surviving daughters. Blessed by her youth, Bridget would not have understood the loss of her two brothers that devastated her mother and older sisters. Edward V and little Richard of York would never be seen again.

Then, in 1485, the world shifted again. The Plantagenet dynasty, which had begun in 1154, came to an end when Richard III was killed in the Battle of Bosworth by the forces of Henry Tudor. In an underdog victory that none could have foreseen, the Tudor dynasty was born and Bridget found herself the youngest princess of a defeated regime. She was almost five years old.

Since Bridget's eldest sister, Elizabeth, became Henry Tudor's bride, her position was safe if uncertain. What would Henry VII decide to do about all those York girls with royal blood running through their veins? Parliament had bastardized them, but Henry quickly had them legitimized for his wife's sake. Their marriage would unite their houses and bring peace, but who could he safely marry her sisters to?

Dartford Priory
1786 Print
In Bridget's case, Henry had no worries. By the time she was ten years old, Bridget was dedicated to the church. She was sent to the Order of St Augustine at Dartford, which had been founded by her ancestor, Edward III, in 1349. Dartford was an affluent priory with a reputation for scholarly and religious study. It was the lone order of Dominican nuns in England. Bridget became eligible to take vows on her thirteenth birthday in 1493, but it is unknown precisely when she did become a nun. She also stayed in touch with her sister, the queen, until Elizabeth's death in 1503. One of the few times that Bridget left Dartford was for the funeral of the first Tudor queen.

Bridget died in 1517 and was buried at the priory. However, the exact location of her grave was lost due to the Dissolution of the Monasteries by her nephew, Henry VIII.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

A Sad Birthday for York

King Edward V
National Portrait Gallery London
November 2nd is an important day in York history. On this day in 1470, Edward IV was granted his greatest wish. After the births of three daughters, Queen Elizabeth Woodville bore Edward a son. She was in sanctuary at the time, though she never seemed to doubt that her golden warrior husband would return to reclaim his kingdom and his family.

Her faith was well placed. Approximately six months later, Edward did return and for the first time met his heir, who had been christened Prince Edward in his absence. Over the next decade, Prince Edward was joined by two more brothers and four more sisters. One of these sisters, Anne, was born on Edward's fifth birthday. While this day was likely filled with rejoicing, neither of these siblings would enjoy a happy life.

Prince Edward was at Ludlow, training to become king someday that should have been far off when he received the news that his father had died. At only 12 years old, the prince became Edward V in April 1483. However, the name Edward Prince of Wales seems to be a cursed one, for his predecessor, referred to by the Yorks as Edward of Westminster had died in battle, fighting for the throne of his father, Henry VI, that would have eventually fallen to him. Edward V's successor as Prince of Wales, Edward of Middleham, also met an early and untimely end.

Anne of York
Lady Howard
Pages and pages have been written about the possible fate of Edward V and his brother Richard Duke of York. Their brother, George had died in 1479, but these remaining two brothers became known as the Princes in the Tower. Their disappearance in 1483 remains one of histories most astounding unsolved mysteries.

Their sister, Anne, survived her brothers and was married to a member of the ambitious Howard family during the reign of Henry VII. However, their union produced no children, and Anne died just three weeks after her 36th birthday. (Her sisters each died at a similar age, except for Catherine who died at age 48.)

A prince and a princess, each born with so much promise and sharing a birthday, met sad ends as their dynasty crumbled and the Tudors took their place.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

From the Scriptorium: November 2016

I've decided to add a new monthly feature to my blog! The 'From the Scriptorium' post each month will highlight book news, reviews, historical blogs & articles, events, media mentions, and more. Here is my first go at it. Let me know if there are other features that you would love to see.

Happy Reading!

November 2016 Edition

Last month was exciting! October was full of Kindle sales and guest posts, and now it is time to start looking forward to the holiday season. I will be kicking it off in a few days at the Trinity Christmas Bazaar on November 5th. Come and see me and give the unique gift of signed books to your friends and family this year!

In the News

I have been busy over the past month with several guest blog posts. You can find them all here:

Bookish News

November is NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month, so you can expect to find me closeted away with my laptop and stacks of books most days this month. My goal is to make great strides toward getting Queen of Martyrs completed.

You can keep up with what I am reading by following me on Goodreads.

Featured Reviews

One for Plantagenet Princess Tudor Queen: review by Author Stephanie Churchill
One for Faithful Traitor: 5-star review on Amazon

Have you written a review? I would love to feature it! Add a link in the comments below.

Did you miss it?

My post this month on Cecily of York was my most popular blog to date! I knew you guys loved Cecily, and I'm glad you enjoyed learning more about her. If you missed it, you can read it here - Marrying Down: Cecily of York.

You want it? You got it.

Is there a topic you would like to see a blog on? Interested in hosting an author event? Is there a newsletter feature I've missed that you want to see? Let me know in the comments below & I will do my best to deliver.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Faithful Traitor Kindle Sale!

Faithful Traitor: The Story of Margaret Pole is part of an Amazon Kindle Sale for the first time since its release. Take this opportunity to be inspired by the woman who dared to be a Plantagenet matron in a Tudor world as the embers of her dynasty cooled.

1.99 in the US and UK - that's 43-61% off regular price! Limited time only.

Already read Faithful Traitor? I would love to hear what you think of Margaret's story! Post a link to your review below.

Happy reading!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Marrying Down: Cecily of York

When I began writing the story of Elizabeth of York, I had not given much thought to her sister, Cecily. I knew that she would be included to some extent, but had not anticipated how much she would be revealed. I allowed her character to develop and become a larger part of the novel as the story unfolded. Much to my surprise, many readers have named Cecily as one of their favorite parts of the book. Therefore, I decided it would be fun to take a look at this York princess, who seemed to be on a quest to find true love with a man who would not look to Cecily to raise him up.

Cecily's first marriage was to Ralph Scrope of Upsall. This marriage was arranged by her uncle, Richard III. Scrope was a supporter of the last Plantagenet king and, therefore, made a good choice of husband for one of Richard's nieces. When they were married in 1485, Scrope was twenty-years-old to Cecily's sixteen.

Little else is known of this first marriage. Had Cecily requested to marry the younger brother of a baron? Was Richard looking for a way to neutralize the threat of Cecily's royal blood? We do not know. What is known is that Henry Tudor chose to have the marriage annulled upon his accession.

Henry Tudor married Cecily's older sister, Elizabeth, and left Cecily unmarried for approximately two years. Why he had annulled her first marriage if he did not have another immediately in mind was a fun question to answer in historical fiction, but his true motives were probably more innocent. By 1488, Cecily was married again, this time to Henry's choice for her: Viscount John Welles.

Cecily in stained glass,
Cecily seems to have been devoted to making her marriage work, despite who she was partnered with, an attitude that was not atypical for the late 15th century. Welles was about twenty years Cecily's senior, but historical evidence would have us believe that they got along well enough. They had two daughters, both of whom unfortunately predeceased their father.

When Viscount Welles died in 1499, Cecily was left alone.

Rather than wait to discover who King Henry would pair her with next, Cecily made her own love match, just as her mother and grandmother had done before her. Information on her third marriage is hazy, but it took place in 1502 and caused more dire consequences than Cecily could have imagined.

She surely knew that the king would punish her and the common husband she had chosen, but it is doubtful that Cecily foresaw that she would fall into obscurity. Or maybe she simply did not care.

Cecily's third husband was a man named Thomas Kyme (sometimes Kymbe or Keme). The revelation of this marriage as written in Plantagenet Princess, Tudor Queen appears below. Henry never forgave Cecily for choosing to marry a squire, though she did receive some much needed assistance from her sister the queen, and the king's mother, Margaret Beaufort.

It would also be Margaret who would pay Cecily's funeral expenses when she died just a few years later in 1507, though her final resting place has been lost to time. She and Kyme did not have any children, but I hope that this York princess found the love she had been searching for.

An excerpt from Plantagenet Princess, Tudor Queen:

“Bess, I am married.”
Elizabeth gasped. It was the scene with her aunt Katherine being repeated before her eyes. It took her a moment in her current mental state to recover enough to respond. “God’s blessings to you and your husband. Who is he?”
“Oh, thank you, Bess! He is wonderful, and I hope that the king will agree. His name is Thomas Kyme, and he is . . . . well, he is a squire.”
Elizabeth smiled her first real smile of the day. Cecily may have had poor Ralph Scrope torn away from her, but she would have her common husband. “And you are in love?”
“Madly!” Cecily’s glowing face and wide grin attested to the truth of it.
“I will, of course, speak to Henry on your behalf, though he may curse the Woodville women’s habit of marrying for love. I would suggest that we also speak to my mother-in-law that she may take up your part. She has always been somewhat partial to you, respecting you for your boldness.” At the mention of the lady Margaret, another thought occurred to Elizabeth, one that made her blood run cold but she had to push it aside for the moment.
“Thank you, Bess! And God bless England’s most wonderful queen!”
Elizabeth waved away Cecily’s exuberant appreciation. “Henry may not be in the mood to be overly generous, mind you.”
“I do not care,” Cecily said firmly. “As long as my marriage is left intact, he may take whatever he desires.”
Henry did. Though Cecily was allowed her Linconshire squire, he confiscated her estates.

Read more about York sisters, Elizabeth & Cecily, in Plantagenet Princess, Tudor Queen.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Kindle Sale, Cover Reveal, & Giveaway . . . Oh My!

I have great news for my readers this month!

Kindle Sale

The first bit of news is that Plantagenet Princess, Tudor Queen has been selected by Amazon UK as a Monthly Kindle Deal! That's right, if you are in the UK, you can read the story of Elizabeth of York for only 99p. It hasn't been available for that price since it was chosen for the sale almost a year ago, so snatch it up.

Cover Reveal

Readers are more eager than ever before to get started with the Plantagenet Embers series because the cover of book three has been revealed!

Queen of Martyrs will tell the story of Mary I. Though she is commonly remembered as 'Bloody Mary', I intend to help people take a closer look at this devout woman who endured much heartache in her life and investigate her motives for the religious unrest of her reign. You can look forward to Queen of Martyrs in 2017.

Book Giveaway

Finally, all this good news has me feeling like celebrating, so how about a book giveaway? Comment on this blog and be entered to win your choice of an audiobook of Plantagenet Princess, Tudor Queen or a ebook of any of my current titles. Share a link to a review, give me your thoughts on the new cover, or just say 'hello'. I love to hear from you!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Historic Places: Jedburgh Abbey

If there's one thing that I loved about traveling in the UK . . . alright, there was millions of things I loved about traveling in the UK, but one thing that really stood out is the beauty and history found everywhere. Jedburgh Abbey is a great example of this. On our bus tour of England and Scotland, stopping here was a rest stop. I'm not kidding. This is the kind of place we saw when we stopped to hit the restroom, grab a coffee, and stock up on delicious British chocolate.

Jedburgh Abbey is a beautiful remnant of another age and one of those sights that makes me really angry at Henry VIII. Dissolution of the Monasteries?! What a horrible idea! So much history lost, records destroyed, buildings torn down....oh my, don't get me started.

A religious site predating the Norman invasion, Jedburgh Abbey has changed hands between Scotland and England so many times, I originally gave it to the wrong one in this article. Another one of our stops was the giant rock with 'England' inscribed on one side and 'Scotland' on the other. I'm lame and do not have a picture of it because this was one of our only cold, rainy days and I didn't venture off the bus. Anyway . . .

Unrelated to the Abbey, but also picked up during bus stops.
King David I of Scotland established the site as a priory in 1138 and an abbey in 1154. The Augustinian monks in service here were quite consistently coping with battles raging around them throughout the middle ages due to their border location. Not only would they have cared for those displaced or injured, but the Abbey itself was plundered by troops.

Jedburgh Abbey has stood for centuries, and it is a breathtaking sight. One cannot help but wonder what it looked like in all its former glory because the ruins are more impressive than most modern structures. As with many abbeys and cathedrals, it was built over the course of decades, and evidence of evolving architectural styles can be seen in the Roman columns and arches and intricate Gothic carvings.

Edward I used Jedburgh as lodgings during at least one of his many trips north to subdue the Scots. He was kind enough to have lead stripped from the roof for use in siege engines during another venture in return for the monks's hospitality.

Through the years, Jedburgh was used as a base for armies of Scotland, England, and even France, leaving destruction in their wake each time. And each time rebuilding was more limited due to the large amount of funds required and the precarious position of the Abbey. All this before Henry VIII changed the future of monastic life in England forever.

What remains of Jedburgh Abbey is a beautiful monument to the past. We don't have 'comfort stops' like this in the US.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Another Stillborn Birth for Catherine

On September 17, 1513, Catherine of Aragon again suffered the trials of childbirth, this time while she was regent of England as Henry VIII went to war in France. This child was either stillborn or died shortly after birth but is believed to have been a boy. This excerpt from Faithful Traitor is my version of the events of that month.

September 1513

(An excerpt from Faithful Traitor: The Story of Margaret Pole)

Margaret kept her back straight and stiff as she knelt before the altar that was set up in her room for private worship. Months at court left her buzzing with anxiety and unable to let down her guard even long enough for prayer. The ease that she should have felt with Henry’s leaving was replaced by concern for her sons and other people she cherished who had gone to war. She fervently prayed for each of them by name, and was disturbed by the ache in her knees when she finally rose.

As a girl, she had been able to leap from the altar unaffected by the cold stones that left her elders rising more slowly. With chagrin she realized that her younger self would put her in that category of elders with her grown children marrying and following their king to glory in France.

“I suppose I am old,” she whispered to the sculpted Jesus who had already listened to her silent prayers. The statue had been a gift from her cousin Elizabeth upon Margaret’s marriage. Many times had her eyes taken in the fine details of craftsmanship that made her savior seem so lifelike that at times she expected him to give vocal response to her heavenly requests. His sky colored eyes gazed solemnly into hers but revealed nothing of his divine wisdom.

Returning to the demands of her day, Margaret turned from the unchanging stare with a swish of skirts and strode toward Catherine’s rooms. She had not far to go and was thankful, for the narrow corridor was much cooler than her private room with its cheerful fire chasing away the autumn chill that invaded through each crevice of the palace. She pulled her mantle closed to trap the cozy warmth of her rooms close to her body, not releasing her grasp until she had gained entry to Catherine’s comfortable quarters.

Margaret Pole
Countess of Salisbury
The queen did not have her fire roaring as Margaret had. Younger and burdened by the weight of her coming child, Catherine did not feel the cold as her friend did. In fact, she had discarded her mantle and was wearing a dress more suited to summer while her ladies took places closer to the small fire. Her face lit up when she noticed Margaret’s arrival.

“I have wonderful news,” Catherine said in a low voice meant only for Margaret. “Henry will be pleased with tidings from Scotland as our Lord Howard of Surrey is leading his troops toward an encampment near Flodden Edge. The Scots believe that we cannot bring the battle to them with our troops in France, but they are confidently marching toward their own defeat.”

Margaret did her best to appear impressed by the news that Thomas Howard felt himself ready for battle. Well advanced in age, Surrey looked to recapture a bit of his family’s former glory, but Margaret was sure the Scots had good reason for their optimism.

Catherine did not notice Margaret’s doubt and continued, “He is hopeful that King James himself will be there.”

“Will that not inspire his troops to fight that much more fervently?” Margaret asked and then winced that she had allowed the question to escape.

Catherine, however, merely shrugged. “It will not matter. James is ineffective and will fail.”

“Henry’s faith in you was well placed, your grace. I would not have foreseen your aptitude for war.”

With a confident smile that made Margaret wonder where the queen’s shy blushes had gone, Catherine stated, “Henry will have every reason to be pleased with me upon his return.”

Margaret nodded. A prince in the cradle and the Scots put back in their place. This would please the king a great deal if events went according to his queen’s plan. Margaret prayed that they would. Surely, God would bless Catherine this time.

As if her thoughts had prompted the action, Margaret watched Catherine’s eyes widen in fear and her hand reach under the bulge of her belly. Without giving her a chance to speak, Margaret ordered the most senior of Catherine’s ladies to clear the room and send for the midwife.
The hours of agony had once again paid Catherine poor reward. The child, who was born an almost cruelly perfect baby boy, had struggled to take breath only briefly. One could almost convince themselves that he was sleeping, so finely formed were his outward features that his death was a mystery.

Rather than collapsing into tears, Catherine’s face appeared to be carved from stone when she was given the news that strident efforts had not saved her son’s life. She was no longer a girl and had grown used to pain and disappointment, but she was also now the regent ruler of England and would not show weakness, regardless of how fractured her soul felt.

After a brief rest taken as women silently tidied the rooms that should have been filled with a newborn’s cries and happy celebrating, Catherine requested writing tools to inform Henry of the birth and death of his son.

Catherine of Aragon
First wife of Henry VIII
Queen of England
Catherine was still abed several days later when a messenger wearing the evidence of long travel arrived and requested an audience with the queen. He was ushered into Margaret’s presence instead with Bishop John Fisher, Catherine’s most trusted advisor, at her side.

“Your grace,” the young man said hesitantly, as if uncertain who he addressed or how to properly address her. “I’ve come with a message for the queen.”

“You will have heard then that she has recently born a child and cannot receive visitors at this time.” Margaret knew that she sounded harsh but also knew that a woman must in order to obtain authority and respect from men. “Queen Catherine sends me as her proxy, and anything you have to say to her you may tell me.”

With a glance at Fisher, the man assented. “I bear her majesty victorious news from Northumberland, my lady. Surrey has taken the day and the King of Scotland lies dead upon the field near Flodden.”

Margaret controlled her features to hide her emotions upon hearing that James IV, the husband of Margaret Tudor, was dead. His son, now James V, had not yet reached two years of age. What would Henry think of the ascendancy of his nephew?

The messenger was continuing with details of the battle, men captured, and others lost, while Margaret considered what this battle would mean to her family and the game of royal dynasties with Henry’s sister in control of the infant King of Scots. Excusing herself as soon as she was able, Margaret rushed to share the news with Catherine.

An unpleasant smile formed on Catherine’s face as Margaret relayed the news. “I will have the head of the Scots’ king as a gift for my husband to uplift him as he also prepares for battle.”

Margaret was caught with her mouth agape. Of all of the things she had thought her friend might say, this was an order she had not anticipated. “Catherine?”

A cruel gleam that Margaret had seen in others but never in Catherine lit the younger woman’s eyes. “See it done, Lady Salisbury. The king will be pleased to have the head of that arrogant Scot presented to him before he destroys the French.”

Seeing other faces in the chamber no less shocked than her own, Margaret mumbled assent and bowed from the room.

She was thankful when Fisher pointed out the logistic difficulties of transporting King James’ head to Henry in a desirable condition and suggested a gift of his bloody doublet in its stead. As gruesome as the business was, Margaret thanked God that Catherine did not have to report a double failure to her mercurial husband.

“Do you believe that Henry will order his sister to return to London?” Margaret asked Catherine as they shared a simple meal in Catherine’s rooms a few days later.

“It is the course that I plan to recommend to him,” Catherine said as she shoved a healthy portion of fluffy white bread into her mouth. Margaret was saddened that a thicker waistline was all Catherine had to show for her many pregnancies. “He will wish to groom her son for kingship, I have no doubt.”

“It will serve him well to have an ally in Scotland, rather than a rival,” Margaret agreed. Best to befriend the boy while he was young and develop a sustainable relationship with the Scots.

“Of course, he will be more than an ally, since he will also be Henry’s heir.”

Catherine seemed to be frequently taking Margaret by surprise. She considered those who Henry might name as his heir besides the young King of Scots. There was Edward Stafford, but of course he would prefer a son of his own sister. “Only until he has a son of his own,” she said as her mind flitted through the Tudor family tree for acceptable substitutes.

“That is in God’s hands,” Catherine stated harshly, closing the subject of her own childbearing.

“As are we all,” Margaret agreed, submissively bowing her head before this hardened version of her faithful friend.

Continue Reading Faithful Traitor: The Story of Margaret Pole

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Why Historical Fantasy?

We're doing something a little bit different on my blog today. For those of you who love medieval style fantasy, I have a wonderful author to introduce you to. Stephanie Churchill is a reader of historical fiction who did not want to write it, a writer of fantasy with no love of dragons or magic. So, how did she find herself writing The Scribe's Daughter?

Welcome, Stephanie!

~ Samantha

Guest Post by Stephanie Churchill

When I decided to take a stab at writing, my mentor gave me this one first, and best, piece of advice: “Write for yourself, not for the market, not for publishers or editors, and not for readers.”  The idea was that if you don’t love your writing first, why would anyone else want to read it?  If what you write doesn’t make you happy, fulfilled, energized and excited, what on earth are you doing it for?  And how will you sustain it as a career (or even as a hobby, for that matter)?  With these words ringing in my ears, I took up my pen and started drafting.  Eventually The Scribe’s Daughter was born.  It’s a book that mucks about, in and out of genres while not remaining true to any single genre.  In fact, pegging it as a specific genre nearly topped the list of Things That Were Really Difficult To Do when trying to decide how to market the book.  It feels like historical fiction, but there is no history in it.  So that makes it fantasy, right?  Except there are no fantastical creatures and no magic.  I had created something hard to define, neither one nor the other, defying the genre gods by its refusal to commit.

In light of this, I have been asked by many readers, why not just write historical fiction?  Because. Don’t tell me what to do.  Okay, okay… if you want a non-snarky answer (what fun is that?)…  My first love is historical fiction.  I have read a lot of it, including novels by novices and novels by long-timers.  Several of them are personal friends of mine.  I respect their craft, and the integrity they bring to the genre.  I also know how hard they work to create their masterpieces, the hours of dedication to historical accuracy, and the amount of research that goes into accomplishing all these things.  This is the bar they have set, but I know there is no room in my life right now for that level of perfection.

Why does research take so much time, you might ask?  Good question.  If a fabric is mentioned… say, cotton… I want to be sure that cotton was really used in the time and place of my story.  That takes research.  Multiply one fact by pages and chapters, then multiply it again for all the little details in a book, and you get the idea of how much research it takes to write truly historically accurate historical fiction.

Here’s an example: “William surveyed the field, searching for the remnants of the vanguard amongst the carnage of battle.  As he walked the edge of the meadow, the boundary between an unspoiled world and the territory trampled by horses and men struggling at the height of their blood lust, his hand brushed the tops of a profusion of bright yellow black-eyed Susans.  It struck him just then, the juxtaposition between perfection and chaos on either side of him.” Nice detail – the black-eyed Susans --  right?  You could almost see where William walked.  But let’s say my book is set in 13th Century Devon.  I’d be in trouble.  Black-eyed Susans weren’t introduced into Britain from North America until the early 16th Century.  While they are common enough around my house, William wouldn’t see them for another three centuries!  Readers might not notice or care, but I would know, and I would care.  So why not just leave out mention of black-eyed Susans and refer rather generically to flowers instead?  While a reader might not consciously recognize the detail, our brains still processes the information to paint a picture in our mind’s eye as the story unfolds.  So… yes, it might be just me, but until I am able to commit to research and be true to what I think historical fiction should be, I will stay away from it in its purest form.

The next obvious question I get asked is this: since you labeled your book fantasy, why didn’t you include magic or fantastical creatures?  Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do?  This one is easy.  See paragraph 2, subpoint 1.  For quicker reference, I quote: “Because.  Don’t tell me what to do.”  No, seriously.  I didn’t want to.  If I am writing first for me, myself, and I – which I was -- and I didn’t want to include dragons and wizards, why should I?  The genre gods hold no power over me, and magic or magical creatures served no purpose in my story.  “Write for yourself first,” remember?  Kassia’s story was the one on my heart, and that’s the one that came out.

Enough about what my book is not.  The inspiration for my writing is definitely history, and there is enough historical feel to my book for historical fiction lovers to feel right at home.  So much of our fiction culture is bathed in historical feeling, particularly the Middle Ages, that it’s almost commonplace.  Think Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings saga, Martin’s Game of Thrones, and even your local Renaissance festival.  Here are some of the ways that I borrowed from my love of history and historical cultures to write The Scribe’s Daughter.

Corium, Kassia’s home, feels Mediterranean and medieval, in look and climate -- like Viterbo, Italy for instance, but on the coast like Naples.  She moves on to the country of Elbra, a place reminiscent of Turkey.  While in Islay Bay, Kassia meets Serdar Janko Barbaros, a man with a name and title echoing Eastern European culture (a serdar is an Ottoman noble rank).  Throughout the book, Kassia dresses at various times in homespun (wool), cotton, and silk, all of which were known in medieval Europe, and were worn regularly, depending on one’s social class.  While I stay away from detailing the various wefts and weaves of each, I did some brief research on brocades, samites, and taffetas, just to make sure I didn’t misspeak when mentioning a particular outfit (remember my black-eyed Susans example?).  Kassia encounters herbs and the medicinal use for each: elderflower, feverfew, belladonna, yarrow… all of which were commonly used in the medieval period for infusions or poultices, to treat fever or other illnesses.

Outside the tangible details of food and clothing, the reader also encounters historical social norms throughout the book.  Kassia experiences life in several noble households, and much of it isn’t to her liking.

Once she reached a marriageable age, a noble woman could expect to be used as a bargaining chip to advance her family’s wealth, land holdings, and social status.  Marriage and love did not automatically coexist.  After she married, the noble lady wasn’t free to do as she pleased.  Rather than pass her days idly reading poetry and daydreaming, duties awaited: from overseeing all things domestic – food, clothing, and household management – to serving as her husband’s representative and hostess when he was away.  A noble lady lent her hand to stitching and needlework, engaged in charitable work, and oversaw aspects of her children’s domestic education.  To what degree she did these things of course depended on her social rank, but even a queen had work to do.

However, since I did not commit wholly to historical fiction, everything was optional.  If I had written historical fiction, Kassia, and everyone else in the book, would have had to live fully immersed in every historical detail.  Women would wear veils and wimples (coverings for hair, neck and chin).  A powerful church and its prelates would have dictated the hours of the day, mass would be attended, feasts and festivals scheduled.  Again, because I could indulge, I skipped these medieval conventions.  There is no way Kassia could have pulled off being as independent and snarky otherwise.  At least not in the way I wanted to write her.

And finally, I come to plot.  Oh, history definitely played a role in the storyline, but I’m afraid this little gem will have to wait until everything is revealed in the next book.  Suffice it to say that the stories of several prominent medieval families heavily influenced aspects of Kassia’s family’s story.  Hopefully I can tell all at some point in the future, once the story of Kassia and her sister Irisa is all told.  Until then…

Intrigued about The Scribe's Daughter? Purchase it on Amazon.
Connect with Stephanie on her website or Twitter.