Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Geoffrey Pole Taken to the Tower

Tower of London
The year 1538 would turn out to be devastating for Margaret Pole, and it all began on August 29th when her youngest son, Geoffrey, was arrested and taken to the Tower of London.

Geoffrey had been born around the time his father, Richard Pole, died. Since the exact dates of Richard's death and Geoffrey's birth are not known, it is impossible to know if the father ever held his youngest child. Was it this lack of a father that caused Geoffrey to grow to be weaker in spirit and character than his mother and older brothers? I cannot say, but I do know that Henry VIII knew just who to target when he looked toward putting his cousin's family back in their place, which was the same as everyone else's: beneath him.

Geoffrey's older brother, Henry Lord Montague, had been arrested and released over a decade earlier in connection with charges against Edward Stafford Duke of Buckingham. He was another royal cousin who fell due to the fact that he made one too many remarks comparing his own bloodline to that of the Tudor king. Henry Pole, however, was released at that time and continued to serve the king in a variety of roles free of scandal. Until his brother's arrest.

The Tudor monarchs were experts at manipulation as demonstrated by Geoffrey's arrest, which was followed by weeks of silence. While his mother and wife begged for information on the charges, his whereabouts, and permission to visit him, Geoffrey was held in a dungeon-like cell, isolated from any who might have given him support and encouragement. Though he was not physically tortured during this time, the emotional turmoil for all involved left them vulnerable.

It was not until October 1538 that Geoffrey was questioned and quite likely underwent some form of torture. Already the weakest branch of the Pole family tree, weeks of fear, hunger, and neglect left him ripe for giving Henry VIII the ammunition he needed to move forward against the entire family.

It was no secret that the Pole family had been supporters of Katherine of Aragon and the Catholic Church. Margaret and Henry were politically savvy and managed to balance these loyalties with that to their cousin and king, Henry VIII. As the king aged and became more temperamental and suspicious, his wrath fell upon this family that he had once raised to the earldom of Salisbury and barony of Montegue. Following the Pilgrimage of Grace and amid rumors that Margaret still held hope that her son, Reginald, would marry and rule at the side of Princess Mary, the king determined that the Poles had become too much of a threat to his supremacy.

Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury
Geoffrey's testimony led to the arrests of his brother, Henry, who was put in the Tower along with his wife and son. Pole cousins, Henry Courtenay Marquess of Exeter and Sir Edward Neville. Many others were taken to the Tower or placed under house arrest, including Margaret Pole, who was sixty-five years old. She had tread the tumultuous waters of the Tudor era for her entire life, only to watch her family sink in the end.

Upon the arrest of his family members, Geoffrey Pole attempted suicide. This was another blow to his mother who would have believed this to be a mortal sin. He was unsuccessful. His punishment continued when he was released while his testimony was used to press charges against others. Several were executed in what has become known as the Exeter Conspiracy, including Geoffrey's oldest brother, Henry.

Modern monument at Tower of London
Shortly following the executions of Montague, Exeter, and Neville, Geoffrey attempted suicide a second time. It is believed that he made this attempt at least one more time before fleeing to another brother for comfort and protection. Reginald Pole, by this time a Cardinal and one of the reasons for the king's anger against the Pole family, looked after his younger bother as they received increasingly crushing news from England. The final blow came in May 1541, when Henry VIII ordered the execution of their elderly mother, without notice or trial.

Geoffrey did not return to England until Reginald did during the reign of Queen Mary I. All three, Geoffrey, Reginald, and Mary, died in 1558 of natural causes.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Book Birthday News

Just a few days ago, Plantagenet Princess, Tudor Queen celebrated it's first birthday. So much has changed for me in the past twelve months, and I have each of you, my readers, to thank for that. Because my dear Elizabeth enjoys such popularity, I have been able to focus on my novels instead of splitting my time between that and freelance work. It is clear how much of a difference this has made, because the second in the Plantagenet Embers series has recently been released as well.

Between Kindle, paperback, and audio books, more than 21,000 copies of Plantagenet Princess, Tudor Queen have been downloaded or shipped to 12 different countries. I would never have been bold enough to set a goal like this for myself, so, again, I thank you all for helping Elizabeth exceed my expectations.

I especially want to thank everyone who has written a review. Here is a wonderful recent review at David's Book Blurg. If you have written a review, please link to it in the comments below.

I hope that you are also enjoying Margaret Pole's story. It has been given 5-stars by Reading the Ages, and I look forward to reading your reviews as well. The Plantagenet Embers trilogy will be complete with the story of Mary I in Queen of Martyrs, scheduled for release in spring 2017.

Upcoming Event

If you are in the Grand Rapids area, I would love to meet some of you in person! I will be participating in Local Author Night at Schuler Books on September 8th at 7pm. This is your opportunity to pick up a signed copy of Faithful Traitor and hang out with a few awesome authors for the evening.

Guest Blog at English Historical Fiction Authors

I also have a post today at EHFA, where Faithful Traitor is the Book of the Day. In this article, I have taken a look at Margaret Pole's coat of arms and what the colors, symbols, and designs all indicate about this great lady. Check it out!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

A Perfect Setting for Murder: Guest Post by Lizzy Drake

I have often wondered how mystery writers are inspired to create their stories of twists, secrets, and suspense. Of course, I especially love a good historical mystery, so I am excited to welcome Lizzy Drake to my blog today to explore historic Framlingham Castle. It serves as the backdrop for her upcoming Tudor era novel, The Raven's Corpse. She is also the author of A Corpse in Cipher, the first of the Elspet Stafford Mysteries. Welcome, Lizzy!
~ Samantha

It was many, many years ago when I first visited Framlingham Castle in the county of Suffolk, England and even on my first blustery winter visit, wrapped tightly in my hooded jacket and standing on the upper level to get a better glimpse of the Tudor chimneys, I was smitten. Little did I know that it would end up being a backdrop for Tudor murder in one of my historical fiction books to come. The castle has a beauty and mystery immersed in poignant historic events, a place entwined with the Howards, the most powerful family in Tudor England and many of its queens, and the safe keep to which Mary Tudor (later to be known by the unfortunate nickname of Bloody Mary) fled when attempting to claim her throne when the supporters of Lady Jane Grey were in hot pursuit.

For those familiar with their historic sites, Framlingham Castle is West of Leiston Abbey and East of Bury St Edmunds and, as mentioned before, the family seat of the Howards; the family reputably responsible for seeing Anne Boleyn to the throne as well as her cousin Katherine Howard. Both lost their heads, as did many within the Howard family, but the 3rd Duke of Norfolk, the powerhouse behind the uprising and downfall of the two queens, managed to escape with his head intact, even after being sentenced (for a later plot long after the Howard queen was chopped). Some would say he was the biggest snake ever to slither near Henry VIII's court, while others might say he had a deal with the devil.

When visiting Framlingham Castle, one must go through the village first and even with the few modern shops, tea rooms and cars jostling to find ways through the medieval streets, the feeling of stepping back in time begins to take hold. Park in the designated car park or off street, the entrance to the castle is still breathtaking. A wide 'street' bordered with a well trimmed hedge greets tourists and locals alike and through the gatehouse, with the Howard coat of arms barely visible through the battering of the elements above the portcullis, the person can almost see back through time.

The castle itself was built in the 12th century by the Bigod family and passed through the Brothertons, Mowbrays, and finally to the Howard family who inherited it in 1483. When the family was back in the good graces of the Tudors (it did take them a bit of time to recover, having been supporters of the Yorkist cause and it wasn't until after the battle of Flodden when they regained their footing as supporters of Henry VIII and his late father). The Howards had lost some title and slowly regained their family place as Earl of Suffolk and Duke of Norfolk. It was the 3rd Duke of Norfolk who had his hand in the Boleyn case while it was the 2nd who knew his battlefield well enough to be too valuable to dismiss fully from court. The Tudor chimneys are an example of some of the many changes the family made to the castle after their position and title had been reinstated and there are many of them.

The castle has a deep 8metre inner ditch that some might assume to have been used as a moat, but this was never the case – it was a defensive ditch to help protect from attack and one of the reasons it was used as Mary Tudor's place of defensible safety. The inner structures are mostly gone, but the building's archaeology can be seen in evidence of where pitched roofs (such as in Tower 6) where accommodation once was, and of course, the open levels of many fireplaces. Walking in the inner courtyard is like standing inside a giant wedding cake that had been cut out only in the centre but step inside the gift shop and visitor centre (red house and lower court), there are some beautiful interpretations of the castle in Medieval time and Tudor.

The history of the castle and the remains of the keep are well worth a full day's visit in itself, but there are walking trails around the grounds and if the weather is good, take a picnic and blanket and of course, a notebook because if you're a writer as well as a tourist, inspiration will strike in unexpected ways (the gift shop can provide you with an inkwell, ink and quill if you're stepping fully back in time, though a writing slope would be advantageous to have to hand, unless you've got a laptop, which I hear some find highly useful).

For myself, the castle is nothing less than a backdrop for a Tudor murder mystery, the second in my series of The Elspet Stafford Mysteries. It was the hidden museum within a museum, the Lanman Museum, which provided inspiration for the astrologer's tower and the dark man who predicted the Howard's rise to touch the throne in the form of Anne Boleyn. Pure fiction (the astrologer part) but oddly believable as Thomas Howard (future 3rd Duke of Norfolk) would have stopped at nothing to nestle his way closer to the king. Throw in a royal visit from Catherine of Aragon, the king's sister, Mary, and the reluctant sleuth Elspet Stafford, a poisoned astrologer who has been predicting things he shouldn't, those dark twisty turrets and chimneys no longer appear as safe as they did on the tour.

The Raven's Corpse is scheduled for publication in December 2016.

A Corpse in Cipher is available worldwide on Amazon for Kindle and in paperback.

Connect with Lizzy Drake on her blog or on Twitter.

Photo Credits: Holly Stacey at

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Historic Places: Edinburgh

It has been a while since I wrote an installment in my Historic Places blog series, so I decided to revisit it today. Maybe I was avoiding talking about my next stop because there is so much to say that I know it cannot be adequately covered in one simple blog. Edinburgh has a greater variety of places to explore than anywhere else we visited on our recent UK trip along with a deep past to satisfy any history enthusiast.

Castle Rock in Edinburgh had already been the location of a fortress for hundreds of years before the building of Edinburgh Castle in the 12th century. It is easy to see why. When you walk along the ancient walls of the castle, you can see for miles in every direction. The panoramic views of the city are breathtaking. From this height, it is possible to discern the lines drawn between the medieval 'Old Town' and Georgian 'New Town'.

Old Town includes the castle, which protects within it's walls the Chapel of St Margaret, the oldest building in Edinburgh. This tiny stone chapel only holds about 20 people, but it is amazing to step inside and feel the weight of the many who have stood there before you. A stone archway separates the altar from the few wooden pews set upon a stone floor. It looks much as it must have in David I's time. When the castle was captured in 1314, the chapel was the only building left standing.

The remainder of the castle is a unique blend of elements that survive from the early 12th century to some that are startlingly new. The modern Scottish National War Memorial at the center of the castle joins the ghosts of the past to those who much more recently served in Scotland's troops. Much of the castle was restored during the Victorian era and that style is evident in many of the rooms with high ceilings and fireplaces that I could stand inside of.

The great hall was one of my favorite parts of the castle because it was built during the era that I write about. I could imagine Elizabeth of York or Margaret Pole striding through similar rooms in glorious Tudor gowns. It was inspiring to spend time in accommodations that they would have found familiar.

Modern amenities such as afternoon tea and whisky tastings are now offered at the castle, and we were happy to take advantage of them before heading out to walk the 'Royal Mile' that separates Edinburgh Castle from Holyrood Palace.

Walking the streets of Edinburgh, it is easy to see how JK Rowling was inspired to write Harry Potter. Gothic spires stretching out between (relatively) modern buildings does give one a sense that some sort of magic is taking place here. The cobblestone streets and fantastic blend of architecture give Edinburgh a style all its own.

As the residence of the British monarch in Scotland, Holyrood Palace has been the setting of the drama of royalty since it was built in the 17th century. While the palace is in good repair and in current use, the attached abbey grounds are in ruin, giving the impression of the past slowly falling away. The abbey was founded by the same King David I who built St Margaret's Chapel. Holyrood was sacked in 1544, and the reformation ensured that the abbey was left to disintegrate while the palace was rebuilt.

Leaving the meandering streets of Old Town, one finds themselves upon the familiar grid of streets that make up Edinburgh's New Town. This was amusing to we American's who would normally consider the 18th century neighborhood rather old. In a style similar to that found in Bath, this portion of Edinburgh was carefully planned and designed for the neighborhood to become one cohesive unit, with one home almost indistinct from another.

During our visit, a Christmas market was being held in Edinburgh, complete with ice skating, Ferris wheel, mulled wine booths, and many vendors work to explore. We enjoyed spending time here, and, of course, I discovered a book shop! We also found an antique map shop where we bought a gift for our geography-loving son. And I tried haggis....and liked it!

We spent hours simply wandering through Edinburgh, and it seems that there is something to see on every block. A quiet Victorian era graveyard was an inspiring discovery. Feeling like we were the only people in the world, we strolled past unique open style family crypts and worn and tumbled monuments.

The nature of our trip meant that we saw many places but did not get to spend nearly as much time as we would like to in any of them. That is certainly true of Edinburgh, a city I hope to visit again someday.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Not-so-Illustrious Marriages of the Pole Children

Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury
Coat of Arms
When Richard Pole died in 1504, Margaret was left with five small children. The youngest, Geoffrey, may have never even met his father. Many a woman in her position would have lost little time looking for their own next spouse to assist with this large brood and provide a comfortable income. Margaret was thirty-one and possessed a wealth of royal blood if not actual riches.

Choosing the road less traveled, Margaret Pole devoted herself to raising her children and arranging advantageous matches for them, rather than one for herself. Each of these marriages appeared to be wonderful choices at their outset. Margaret may not have been interested in challenging her cousin for the throne, but she would have her children recognized with the noble titles and status that she felt they deserved.

Margaret's oldest child and the one who would find the most success within Henry VIII's court was Henry. He became Lord Montague and enjoyed favor from the king despite the increasing suspicion directed at those with old Yorkist blood. Married to Jane Neville, daughter of Baron Bergavenny, he was expected to inherit wealth through her that his mother could not provide. Bergavenny did not have a son and his wife had died, leaving Jane an heiress. This was the understanding at least until the wily Duke of Buckingham, Edward Staffford, convinced the old widower to marry his daughter, Mary. Once Mary gave birth to a son, Jane's hopes of inheritance disappeared.

The marriage of Mary Stafford and George Neville also created a (not-so-uncommon at that time) dual family link. Edward Stafford's oldest son, Henry Stafford, was married to Margaret Pole's only daughter, Ursula. Therefore, Edward Stafford's own wealth would one day enrich one Pole child, while his daughter stole that of the other. At least that was his plan.

Ursula Pole
Edward Stafford was very proud of his ancestry. He traced his family tree back to Edward III, and his Woodville mother had been the queen's sister. Proud and arrogant, Buckingham was not afraid to point out that his own bloodline was more impressive than Henry Tudor's. When it appeared that the king may die without fathering a son, Stafford was too quick to put his own name forward as the obvious one to follow him.

When Buckingham was executed for treason in May 1521, his son's future, along with that of Ursula Pole, was much diminished. The dukedom was forfeited to the crown, and Henry Stafford would never enjoy the same status his forefathers had. Much later, in 1547, he would be raised to be Baron Stafford, but this fell far short of the future that Margaret thought she had secured for her dear Ursula.

Arthur, Margaret's second son, was wed to a well-off widow, Jane Lewkenor (Pickering). When Arthur died young and left behind small children, Margaret attempted to secure the inheritance for her grandchildren by having Jane enter a convent. The scheme was unsuccessful, however, and Jane rescinded her vows in order to remarry.

Margaret's youngest child, Geoffrey, was also married to an heiress of a rich man without sons. Constance Pakenham was the long suffering wife of the Pole child who would assist the king in bringing down his entire family. Weak and irresponsible, Geoffrey gave testimony that led to the execution of several of his extended family members. Geoffrey was spared but attempted suicide at least twice. When he died during the reign of Queen Mary, he left Constance with little besides the many children he had fathered.

Cardinal Reginald Pole
Though he never married, a discussion of Margaret's children is not complete without mentioning the best known of her offspring. Reginald Pole lived his life dedicated to the church, though the marriage mentioned for him several times over the years was one that would have made him king. His mother and her good friend, Katherine of Aragon, believed the match between their children would further unite the houses of York and Tudor. Long after both women were dead, the marriage of Princess Mary and (by that time) Cardinal Pole was considered after Henry VIII's death and again upon her own rise to the throne. Instead, Mary chose to marry another cousin, Philip of Spain, and made Reginald her Archbishop of Canterbury. In 1550, Reginald fell one vote short of becoming Pope, but he proudly served the Catholic restoration England for the rest of his life instead. Reginald and Mary died on the same day, November 17, 1558.