Friday, May 27, 2016

On EHFA for Margaret Pole's Execution Anniversary

I am honored to be a guest blogger on the English Historical Fiction Authors blog for the 475th anniversary of the execution of Margaret Pole. My new book, Faithful Traitor, features Margaret and her attempt to survive the reigns of Henry VII and Henry VIII. You can get a taste of her story in today's post.

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Unexpected Tudors

Allegory of the Tudor Succession, 1572
Though the dynasty is fabulously popular today, nobody before 1485 would have wagered too much on the chances of England hosting a Tudor dynasty. The roots of the Tudors can be traced back far earlier than that, but, for today, I would like to look at the individual Tudors and just how unexpected each of their reigns were.

Henry VII

Henry Tudor was a minor nobleman from a bastard royal line. On top of that, he had been in exile for years before the crown was unexpectedly found upon his head. Before the death of Edward IV, there was little thought of Tudor becoming the last red rose or final hope of the Lancastrians or any other such poetic title. He was simply one of many on the losing side. His father and grandfather, Edmund and Owen Tudor, had both been killed in the Wars of the Roses. Left with his uncle, Jasper Tudor, Henry had little reason to think he would return to England, let alone as it's king.

Even with the shocking death of Edward IV and rise of Richard III, Tudor counted on foreign mercenaries, betrayal, and a lot of luck to secure his victory. His marriage to Princess Elizabeth of York eased the minds of many Englishmen that York and Lancaster were finally united and paved the way for a relatively peaceful reign. This unity may have brought peace, but it also caused the end of a three century long dynasty. The Plantagenets had gone down in familial infighting. The Tudors arose.

Henry VIII

For the first decade of his life, little Henry Tudor, named for his illustrious father, had no inkling of becoming king. His older brother, Arthur, was loudly and widely proclaimed the future king that would bring England unprecedented glory. Sadly, Arthur's future was cut short, and England received the unexpected heir who became one of the most famous (infamous?) monarchs in English history.

Upon his father's death in 1509, Henry VIII welcomed his extended family in a way that Henry VII had never been quite comfortable doing. William Courtenay was released from the Tower and carried Henry's sword at his coronation. Margaret Pole was raised as Countess of Salisbury. Only the de la Poles originally bore Henry's wrath.

Then his first wife Catherine failed to have a son. Suddenly, Henry was suspicious of each person with a drop of royal blood, and his insecurity saw to the death of many whom he had formerly raised up. The birth of Prince Edward to his third wife, Jane Seymour, did little to ease his paranoia.

This unexpected Tudor caused England's break with Rome, the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and tyranny that remains fertile ground for historians and fiction writers today.

Edward VI

Edward VI is the only Tudor who was expected from the moment of his birth to rule England. In fact, if there is anything unexpected about poor Edward, it is that his reign was unmercifully short. Only nine years old when he became king and not quite sixteen when he died, Edward's story is a tragic one. He was the most staunchly Protestant of the Tudors and made many reforms in the Church of England in his brief reign. The tragedy did not end with his own death. Due to his hope to disinherit his sisters and place a reformist cousin on his throne, Edward inadvertently caused a revived round of family battles and bloodshed.


Lady Jane Grey is not typically included in lists of England's Kings and Queens. I have seen discussions on why this is, most notably that she did not have a coronation (but neither did Edward V . . . . so that discussion is for another day). I have chosen to include her here because no Tudor ruler was quite as unexpected and controversial as she was.

Despite what you may have read in sensationalist fiction, Edward's decision to disinherit his sisters came long before his death was eminent. Not wishing to leave the future of his country and the reforms that he had made in the hands of sisters who were not only women but were bastards, Edward had begun work on naming a new heir months before his death. His cousin Jane was by all accounts intelligent, devout, and expected to marry a reputable Englishman to assist her in ruling until her future son could do so.

Nobody expected Mary, the middle-aged daughter of Henry VIII to put up much of a fight.

Mary I

Mary had so much working against her when she decided to boldly proclaim herself queen. Jane was in London, already proclaimed and signing documents as 'Jane the Queen.' She had the support of Edward's council and had been named successor in Edward's will. However, Mary was through cowering and accepting the events that had transformed her from princess to bastard. She would be queen, as her mother and governess had always taught her.

As a girl, Mary had been her father's heir and had been raised to be a queen, if not of England than as a consort of another country. Her reality had turned out quite differently. She was content for her brother to reign, despite the religious differences between them. She understood that he outranked her. The same could not be said for the future sons of Jane Grey.

Mary had a surprising amount of support from East Anglian gentry and had little trouble overpowering the sect led by John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland. Jane's nine day queenship was at an end.

Elizabeth I

Elizabeth may be the next most famous Tudor after her father, but she had little reason to believe that she would ever become queen. Bastardized before she would have understood the term, Elizabeth was in line behind a brother and sister who would have each been expected to have sons. Not until the death of a childless Mary in 1558 would Elizabeth's way become clear.

The final Tudor made no plans for the continuation of her dynasty. Though she led many men on for several years, she never married any of them. She failed to name a successor and punished her extended family for daring to marry and have children themselves. While her father had obsessively strove for an heir, Elizabeth avoided them. In doing so, she gave England something even more unexpected than the Tudors: the Stuarts.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Those Crazy Kids: Rules of Regency Courtship with Maria Grace

I am excited to welcome author Maria Grace to my blog today. If you have always wished to continue the story of Pride and Prejudice, Maria's books are perfect for you. In her latest release, The Trouble to Check Her, we are treated to a deeper look into Austen's Lydia Bennett. I have asked Maria to share some of her in-depth research on Regency era courtships that went into the making of this novel. Welcome, Maria!

~ Samantha

Thanks so much for having me, Samantha! The business of courtship and marriage plays such a role in so many of our stories, it has been a fascinating study for me and I’m thrilled to be able to share some of that with you and your readers.

In the Tudor era, courtship was more a seducer’s art. But at the dawn of the 19th century, it became the road leading to matrimony. Since young people now enjoyed a degree of choice over their marriage partner, they needed advice on how to judge character, how to behave in public toward the opposite sex, how to attract the opposite sex, even the proper way to make or refuse an offer of marriage.
Conduct literature exploded in response to the new anxieties and uncertainties of finding a proper mate. They happily provided rules for courtship behavior that they asserted were necessary to safeguard both sexes. Gentlemen required protection from being trapped into matrimony, and ladies needed to be guarded from becoming attached to men who were not sincere in their intentions toward them.

Since courtship and marriage were serious steps for middle class men and women, they were usually not embarked upon until their middle to late twenties. In the process, young men were counseled not to embark upon it lightly, and young women not to give affections too easily.

 I cannot even understand how it is flattering to a man's vanity, to gain the affections of a deserving and too credulous woman, whom he never intends to marry. He ought to lose more in his character for integrity, than he can gain as one successful in courtship. His manner of address, consisting of a visible attachment. While his heart is not engaged, is most detestable able hypocrisy. And to say that he is not bound in honour, because he has subjected himself to no specific promise, is the highest aggravation of his guilt. Were he to act in the same manner in his common transactions with mankind, his character would be forever blasted. (Gener, 1812.)

A woman is often placed in a very delicate situation. She may be distinguished by a kind of attention which is calculated to gain her affections, while it is impossible to know whether the addresses of her pretended lover will end in a serious declaration. (Gener, 1812)

As in most things in society in that era, men played the active role in the prescribed procedure for proper courtship. Women had to wait for pursuit by a suitor. Siblings and friends could be recruited as messengers to alert a potential suitor of a young lady’s inclinations, but she could take no further initiative. Even if a suitor made the first move, she was expected to behave with considerable reserve and not openly encourage a man’s suit. 

ONE of the chief beauties in a female character is that modest reserve, that retiring delicacy, which avoids the public eye, and is disconcerted even at the gaze of admiration. (Gregory, 1774) 

Ironically, the one area in courtship where the lady might have an active role was in refusing unwanted attentions. This restricted her choices from among those who made advances toward her. It was not uncommon for a woman to feel pressured to accept the first reasonable offer they received, since another might never come their way again.

Discretion in all things

Those marriages generally abound most with love and constancy, that are preceded by long courtship. The passion should strike root, and gather strength before marriage be grafted on it. A long course of hopes and expectations fixes the idea in our minds, and habituates us to a fondness of the person beloved…
 (The Young Husband's Book 1839.)

Unmarried men had to exercise caution around unmarried young ladies. Attentions or worse, particular friendliness, might be interpreted as romantic interest by the lady herself or her friends and family. Since men were not to express interest unless they were serious about a woman, misunderstood actions could lead to accusations of intentionally leading a woman on. Pressure to offer marriage might follow.

The Advantages of being reserved are too many to be set down; we will only say, that it is a Guard to a good Woman, and a Disguise to an ill One. It is of so much Use to both, that those ought to use it as an Artifice who refuse to practice it as a Virtue. (The Whole Duty of a Woman, 1737)

Female conduct manuals universally cautioned women not to be forward in their dealings with men or to encourage their advances. A woman must never confess her feelings until absolutely convinced of his intentions. Some went so far as to insist a woman must never look at a man unless he made the first advance. Not surprisingly, it was difficult for either party to truly discern the feelings and intentions of the other. Only at the moment an offer of marriage was made could a man declare his feelings and a woman her own in return.

If a couple was observed violating any of the myriad of courtship rules, onlookers would immediately assume a proposal had been offered and accepted. Even mild displays of friendliness could inspire speculations about a possible offer of marriage. Forbidden behaviors included using Christian names, paying compliments, driving in carriages alone together, correspondence, and any kind of intimate touching. 

To help prevent misunderstandings and ruined reputations, young, unmarried women were never alone in the company of a gentleman or at any social event, without a chaperone. Except for a walk to church or a park in the early morning, a lady could not walk alone. She always needed to be accompanied by another lady, an appropriate man (family or close family friend), or a servant.  Though a lady might drive her own carriage, if she left the family estate, a groom must attend her. Similarly, on horseback she needed an appropriate companion to protect her reputation. 

All forms of touching were kept to a minimum. Putting a lady's shawl about her shoulders, or assisting her to mount a horse, enter a carriage or climb stairs were acceptable. A gentleman might take a lady's arm through his, to support her while out walking. But he must never try to take her hand. If he did, she must immediately withdraw it with a strong air of disapproval, whether she felt it or not. Even shaking hands was frowned upon.

Since the courting couple could never be truly alone, conversations had to be extremely discreet leaving much to be interpreted from facial expressions alone. Even those were proscribed by many advice writers.

There is another Character not quite so criminal, yet not less ridiculous; which is, that of a good humour'd Woman, one who thinketh me must always be in a Laugh, or a broad Smile, because Good-Humour is an obliging Quality; thinks it less ill Manners to talk impertinently than to be silent in Company. (The Whole Duty of a Woman, 1737)

Once engaged, couples were expected to proclaim that fact clearly, in part ensuring that neither could back out without serious social repercussions. These consequences were important because, although society had moved away from marriages as arranged affairs, their natures as business transactions had not yet changed.


Gener, S., and John Muckersy. M. Gener, Or, A Selection of Letters on Life and Manners. 3rd ed. Edinburgh: Printed for Peter Hill ..., A. Constable & and A. MacKay ;, 1812.
Gregory, John. A Father's Legacy to His Daughters By the Late Dr. Gregory, of Edinburgh. The 2nd ed. London: Printed for W. Strahan ;, 1774.
Jones, Hazel. Jane Austen and Marriage. London: Continuum, 2009.
The Whole Duty of a Woman,  Or, an Infallible Guide to the Fair Sex. Containing, Rules, Directions, and Observations, for Their Conduct and Behaviour through All Ages and Circumstances of Life, as Virgins, Wives, or Widows. With Directions, How to Obtain All Use. The 2nd ed. London: Printed for T. Read, in Dogwell-Court, White-Fryers, Fleet-Street, 1737.
The Young Husband's Book a Manual of the Duties, Moral, Religious, and Domestic, Imposed by the Relations of Married Life. Philadelphia: Lea & Blanchard, 1839.

The Trouble to Check Her

Lydia Bennet faces the music…

Running off with Mr. Wickham was a great joke—until everything turned arsey-varsey.  That spoilsport Mr. Darcy caught them and packed Lydia off to a hideous boarding school for girls who had lost their virtue.
It would improve her character, he said.
Ridiculous, she said.
Mrs. Drummond, the school’s headmistress, has shocking expectations for the girls. They must share rooms, do chores, attend lessons, and engage in charitable work, no matter how well born they might be. She even forces them to wear mobcaps! Refusal could lead to finding themselves at the receiving end of Mrs. Drummond's cane—if they were lucky. The unlucky ones could be dismissed and found a position … as a menial servant.
Everything and everyone at the school is uniformly horrid. Lydia hates them all, except possibly the music master, Mr. Amberson, who seems to have the oddest ideas about her. He might just understand her better than she understands herself.
Can she find a way to live up to his strange expectations, or will she spend the rest of her life as a scullery maid?

You can purchase The Trouble to Check Her at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or KOBO.

About the Author

Though Maria Grace has been writing fiction since she was ten years old, those early efforts happily reside in a file drawer and are unlikely to see the light of day again, for which many are grateful. After penning five file-drawer novels in high school, she took a break from writing to pursue college and earn her doctorate in Educational Psychology. After 16 years of university teaching, she returned to her first love, fiction writing.

She has one husband, two graduate degrees and two black belts, three sons, four undergraduate majors, five nieces, six new novels in the works, attended seven period balls, sewn eight Regency era costumes, shared her life with nine cats through the years and published her tenth book last year.

You can connect with Maria through:
And on Pinterest!