Friday, July 22, 2016

Margaret Pole Loses Governess Post

In July 1521, Margaret Pole received one of increasingly severe blows from her cousin, the king. This was a temporary setback rather than the beginning of her loss of favor that occurred due to the falling out between her dear friend, Catherine of Aragon, and Henry VIII.

Up to this point, Margaret had been consistently shown favor by the second Henry Tudor. He had restored to her the earldom of Salisbury, which had been held by her ancestors until the death of Richard Neville during the Wars of the Roses. This provided her with vast holdings and income, though she was required to pay a large fee for the honor of the title as well.

Not much more than a year earlier, Margaret had been given the position of governess to the precious Princess Mary. The friends, Catherine and Margaret, may have held hopes that their children would be united in marriage, further establishing the unity of the York and Tudor lines. This idea does not seem to have appealed to Henry. However, he was happy to have Margaret in charge of Mary's upbringing and education

Henry and Catherine's problems were in the early stages. Henry had sired a son with Bessie Blount, and doubts about Catherine's ability to give him a legitimate son were held far and wide. There was no talk yet though of an annulment.

Margaret's lost post was the result of another cousin's misstep. Edward Stafford, duke of Buckingham and rather proud of it, had voiced his feelings regarding the king and his own royal heritage one too many times. He was arrested in April 1521, despite having served Henry in France the previous year. His execution took place without delay on May 17.

Close ties existed between Margaret and Edward. In fact, their children, Ursula and Henry, were married. This advantageous pairing seemed like a good idea until Edward was convicted of treason. Margaret must have been terrified as the union suddenly appeared to be a plot to unite strong royal bloodlines to compete with the king's.

With anyone close to Buckingham, or those with more distinguished ancestry than Henry VIII's, brought under suspicion, Margaret may have been grateful to only lose her governess post. Princess Mary was her goddaughter, and the two shared a great love for one another. Still, pragmatic Margaret may have been content to bide her time and wait for the dust to settle.

Her patience paid off. In 1525, she was reestablished as Mary's governess. This time she would hold the post until 1533 when fortune's wheel started it's plunge for the Pole family and many others closely connected to the Spanish queen.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Heresy against the Church of Henry

Henry VIII
Charges of heresy and gruesome punishments for the offenders are sadly commonplace throughout history. Catholics, Protestants, Jews, and those of any other faith have been victims of persecution at some point. However, it is under the reign of Henry VIII that we see charges of heresy stem from the fact that one dared to disagree with the king.

Henry is famous for destroying a tie that had existed for centuries between England and the Roman Catholic Church. His new Church of England was not born because he had theological differences with the Pope but because he couldn't tolerate being underneath anyone's authority. By naming himself Head of the Church of England, he announced to the world that his word was equal to God's. Some of the persecution that took place after Henry made this extraordinary change demonstrated his desire not to please God, but himself.

Thomas Cromwell
Both Catholics and Reformists were sent to their death under Henry's watch, emphasizing the fact that it was not misinterpretation of the Bible that he was most concerned about. After executing one of his most faithful followers, Thomas Cromwell, for his faux pas in pairing Henry with a German bride, Henry went on to order other deaths.

Within days of Cromwell's demise in 1540, six others were put to death. Three of them were Reformists burnt at Smithfield. The other three were Catholics who were hanged, drawn, and quartered after convictions of treason. Henry's inquisition sniffed out any who preached against Catholic tenets of faith or failed to recognize him as God's new representative to replace the Pope. While Henry tended to charge Protestants with heresy and Catholics with treason, it came down to the same thing: failure to worship Henry.

He cruelly dealt with his own daughter based upon this tyrannical need to place himself above all others. Not only did he steal the title of princess from the girl who had been raised to believe that she would be his heir, but he kept her from her mother and dismantled her household. Mary was adamant that she would not deny her faith or the legitimacy of her parents' marriage, so Henry punished her further. Refusing to allow Margaret Pole, Mary's godmother and former governess, to support Mary's household, he sent the former princess to wait upon her infant half-sister, Elizabeth. Among rumors that Anne Boleyn would have Mary poisoned or that Charles V might rescue her and take her to Spain, Henry inflicted even greater punishment by refusing to visit her himself and having her closely watched.

Heretics burned at the stake
Nothing besides complete obedience could ensure survival during Henry's reign. The fate of his wives attests to this, and his treatment of other friends and family was not much better. Thomas More, Thomas Wolsey, Margaret Pole, and countless others enjoyed Henry's favor for a time before his wrath was turned upon them each for nothing more than failing to agree with him and make events occur according to his wishes. In the case of the Pole and Courtenay families, thinning their numbers also relieved Henry of the threat of Plantagenet royal bloodlines.

Traitors hanged, drawn, & quartered
Many theories exist to explain why Henry turned into a bloodthirsty egotist as he got older. Would he have broken with Rome if Katherine had successfully borne him a son? Early in his reign, he had welcomed his extended family to court, but he became increasingly threatened by them as their broods grew and his did not. Did injuries cause brain damage that made him suspicious and cruel? His temper increased exponentially with age and onset of diseases. Whatever the reasons, heresy against the Church of Henry was a charge to be carefully avoided in Tudor England.

Monday, July 11, 2016

The Tudors: What keeps us coming back for more?

The Tudor dynasty lasted 118 years and ended over four centuries ago. Many interesting people have lived and events have taken place both before and after this relatively short-lived dynasty, so what is it about those Tudors that keeps us coming back for more?

By my count, there are approximately a gazillion novels and biographies written featuring the Tudor monarchs and their contemporaries. Yet each time a new book is released, I count myself among the millions who line up to eagerly consume it. Why?

I obviously have an interest in the Tudor era, though I must admit to have accidentally ended up writing about it. My first love is the Plantagenets. That quick-tempered, flame-haired bunch has a vast cast of characters and a long history, far exceeding that of the Tudors. Before the Wars of the Roses doomed them to extinction, the Plantagenets had ruled England for more than 300 years. It was when I took a closer look at one of the quieter Plantagenets that I found myself entering the world of the Tudors.

Elizabeth of York had so little written about her despite an incredible life story that brought her close to all the major players in the close of one dynasty and birth of another. How could I resist? And once I had immersed myself in Elizabeth's story, it was easy to see that her cousin, Margaret Pole, also was deserving of more attention.

Then one of my beta readers asked me if Queen Mary's story was going to be next.

What? No. I don't write about Tudors.

Well, actually, it looks like I do.

I have a few theories about what keeps people intrigued by the Tudors and how this writer has even ended up writing a (soon to be) trilogy featuring them without even meaning to.

Strong men. Henry VII may not be remembered as a musclebound soldier, but you have to admit that it took some nerve to take on Richard III with outnumbered mercenaries in a country he was not well-known in. His strength was evinced in many ways as he made peace, put down challengers, and brought England to a better economic standing. No one would deny that the second Henry Tudor was a strong man who knew what he wanted and usually got it. I don't need to go into detail on this best known Tudor monarch who went through six wives and created an entirely new church to ensure that he would get his way. Less is known about Edward VI, but in his short life he demonstrated that he was his father's son, reforming the church drastically and attempting to subvert the law with his will regarding succession.

Strong women. Much of the drama of the Tudors arises because their women are just as strong in will and spirit as their men. The first two queens of England to rule in their own right were Tudor sisters, Mary and Elizabeth. Elizabeth receives all sorts of credit for refusing to share her rule with a man, but her older sister is often left in her shadow. The fact that Mary ruled at all is proof that she inherited strength from her parents. Those who put Jane Grey on the throne had not expected serious challenge from Edward's sisters, but they had underestimated Mary Tudor. She had been pushed around by her father all her life and was done being told she was unworthy. Her story has been less told than her sister's, so I plan on remedying that with my next book. Hopefully, many people will see that there is much more to poor Mary than false pregnancies and the burning of heretics.

Truth better than fiction. All of history is filled with stories that are better than anything that I could make up, but the Tudor dynasty is practically endless tragedy, betrayal, and scandal that would seem implausible in a novel . . . except that it's all true. A nobody taking the throne, pretenders claiming that same throne, the struggle to bear a son, SIX wives, murder, war, female rulers, conspiracies, adultery......there is almost no fictional plot that I can think of that doesn't actually occur sometime between 1485 and 1603.

What-ifs. It doesn't need to be alternative history, though there is plenty of that, to explore the what-ifs that plague the Tudor dynasty. What if Arthur had lived, or Katherine had a son, or Elizabeth married? With all the astounding circumstances of the Tudor century, there is much for novelists to work with and gaps to be imaginatively filled in. Was Perkin Warbeck really Richard of York? Did Elizabeth secretly have a baby with Thomas Seymour? Was Mary ever really pregnant? Were Mary Boleyn's children fathered by Henry VIII? So many questions that we probably have the answers to, but we're not completely sure.

It comes down to drama. The stuff that makes the best entertainment can all be found in the Tudor dynasty, wrapped up in cloth-of-gold and occurring in fairytale palaces. The riches, the art, the personalities, and the almost unbelievable drama will always keep us coming back for more.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Plantagenet Princess Tudor Queen available on Audible

It is just a little difficult to believe that one of my very own novels is now available in audiobook format. I listen to books every day, so it is exciting to hear words written by my own hand coming through the speaker! If you listen to audiobooks, I encourage you to give my Elizabeth a try.

Many thanks to my talented narrator, Rachael Beresford, who put in countless hours of recording work to give new life to my characters. 

As always, I love to receive reader feedback. If you have listened to Plantagenet Princess, Tudor Queen, let me know what you think of it in the comments below or link to your review.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Long live the king!

An excerpt from Faithful Traitor

April 1509

“Long live the king! Long live King Henry!”

Margaret wasn’t sure how to feel about the death of Henry Tudor, who had committed the legalized murder of her brother and defeated her uncle in battle. She certainly wouldn’t be shedding any tears for the man who had turned her future upside-down when he walked away from Bosworth as the victor. She had tried to find the good in him for Elizabeth’s sake, but now they were both gone. Their son Henry, who looked so much like his grandfather, King Edward, stood in his father’s place.

Henry was tall, handsome, and charismatic - everything that his father had failed to be. He made people laugh, and they felt special to be spoken to by the king himself. His red-gold hair gleamed in the sun like a Plantagenet crown. But he was not truly a Plantagenet, Margaret reminded herself. Whatever resemblance he had in appearance and personality with Elizabeth’s father, Henry was a Tudor.

As he made his way toward Margaret, she forced herself to think about Richard. He was the one gift that the late king had given her that she could be thankful for. She still missed him and caught glimpses of him in the way Geoffrey laughed and the curl of Reginald’s hair. Before her thoughts ran away with her, she dropped into a deep curtsey.

Henry VIII
“Cousin!” Henry boomed. “Rise, dear Margaret and give me a kiss!”

Margaret smiled in spite of herself and grazed her lips against young Henry’s cheek. “You look very well, your grace.”

He did. All of the women of marrying age in the vicinity looked jealously at Margaret for gaining his attention. The fact that she was his close relation and twice his age made little difference.

“I pray that your reign will be long and prosperous,” she added, curtseying again to indicate that he was free to leave her for more interesting members of his audience.

“Thank you, Lady Pole. You can be sure that I will be sharing my bounty with you and your family.”

Margaret opened her mouth to inquire his meaning, but he had already moved on, closely followed by a herd of sycophants hoping to profitably attach themselves to him.

It was true that she had struggled in the years since Richard’s death, though she had refused to marry again in order to ease the burden on herself. Her reluctance had only partially been due to loyalty to the one she had loved. She had also been hesitant to inquire who Henry Tudor would choose to pair her with a second time. It was safer to be alone and focus on her children. Would this Henry choose to raise her up to a status more suitable to her ancestry?

Her answer came within weeks. Margaret was asked to come to court and wait upon her closest friend, Princess Catherine, who was soon to become Henry’s queen.