Thursday, December 7, 2017

The Fate of Kings and Its Relevance to Our Times

I am excited to welcome Mark Stibbe to my blog today to introduce his new release, The Fate of Kings. Studying history is a passion of mine that I can see Mark shares. His novel may take place in the late 18th century, but it is easy to see how the themes are applicable to modern times. As President Harry S Truman once said, 'The only thing new in the world is the history you don't know.' Are you wondering how the era of William Pitt the Younger might give insight to the politics of today? Read on.

~ Samantha

Guest Post by Mark Stibbe

The setting of The Fate of Kings in many ways couldn’t be more topical. The story focuses upon a fictional Vicar, Thomas Pryce, who becomes enrolled in the nascent British Secret Service, formed in 1793. That year had many parallels with our own unsettling times.

In the winter of 1792, the parliament of William Pitt the Younger was faced with issues related to immigration and terror. Thousands of refugees were pouring into Britain, escaping from the guillotine in France. In December of that year, four thousand emigrés entered the country, appalled by the massacres and decapitations in the cities of their brutalised nation. Britain welcomed these men, women and children with open arms.

However, as it turned out, peoples’ arms were a little too open.

Pitt soon realised that among these legitimate fugitives were French agents and assassins, hell-bent on destroying the foundations of British society. He rushed through an Act of Parliament at the start of 1793 (the Alien Act), designed to filter the wheat from the chaff. He also set up the Alien Office under William Wickham. This created a network of urban magistrates tasked with identifying and interrogating suspected terrorists among the desperate fugitives. Pitt even had Habeas Corpus suspended for a while so these potential Terror-ists could be held longer and questioned more rigorously. This is interestingly what formally launched the British Secret Service.

The first of the Thomas Pryce adventures, The Fate of Kings, is set within this turbulent time. Pryce, the newly enrolled (fictional) Vicar of St Leonard’s Upper Deal, is ideally suited to become an agent. Not only does his life as a clergyman provide a perfect cover, his ability to speak French fluently makes him a most unusual and accomplished asset.

This doesn’t mean that Pryce and his spymaster William Wickham go to work in an unquestioning way. Pryce faces a faith-eroding dilemma during the first story. On Sundays, in his public role, he declares the Ten Commandments, including ‘Thou Shalt Do no Murder.’ In the week, in his private and secret role, he finds himself in predicaments where he must choose whether to kill French assassins, intent on great evil.

Wickham too wrestles with major ethical issues – issues to do with the freedoms that the British public has been used to, and the restrictions that now must be employed in the interests of national security, especially when the terror caused by massed decapitations threatens to reproduce the equivalent of the French Revolution in London and throughout Britain.

As in the 1790s, today we face the same kinds of dilemmas that caused such radical action on the part of Wickham and Pitt. We too must learn to balance mercy with discernment, compassionate action with political decisiveness. Just as Wickham had to root out ‘the spy in our midst’, so we now find ourselves forced to identify and restrain the terrorists in our midst.

The times may be different, but the issues remain strikingly similar.

And The Fate of Kings gives us a unique opportunity to learn from the past and set the course for the future.

Purchase The Fate of Kings 

Amazon US paperback or Kindle

Amazon UK paperback or Kindle

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The Beaufort Dynasty?

Margaret Beaufort Coat of Arms
When Henry Tudor won the crown of England in 1485, he likely did not think he was beginning a new dynasty the way we cleanly divide the Plantagenets from the Tudors. In fact, one might wonder if he or his formidable mother might have named it a Beaufort dynasty were they to give it any label besides Lancastrian.

While Henry had inherited his Welsh surname from his father, Edmund Tudor, his claim to the English throne came through his mother, Margaret Beaufort. She was the great-granddaughter of John of Gaunt through his children with Katherine Swynford who had been given the name Beaufort. During John of Gaunt's lifetime, his Beaufort children were raised up and even legitimized after he married their mother. In 1396-7, he obtained papal consent to the legitimization and convinced the king, his nephew Richard II, to recognize them by law. The Beaufort children were officially 'sprung from royal stock' and recognized as able to 'receive, hold, enjoy, and exercise, as fully, freely, and lawfully as if you were born in lawful wedlock' any 'honours, dignities, pre-eminencies, status, ranks, and offices, public and private, perpetual and temporal, feudal and noble.'

By the time Henry Tudor landed at Milford Haven, his mother was the sole remaining Beaufort heir, the male branches of the family having been rather thoroughly pruned during the Wars of the Roses. Henry claimed the crown through conquest, but his right to challenge the previous king was based upon the royal blood he inherited from his Beaufort mother.

The Beauforts had always been close to the crown - too close indeed for the York challengers to the Lancastrian throne (who incidentally also had some Beaufort blood through family matriarch Cecily Neville). After their legitimization, John of Gaunt saw his oldest Beaufort son created Earl of Somerset. However, Henry IV, though he was close to and depended heavily upon his Beaufort half-siblings, perceived that it was in his interest to limit their ability to rise. A clause was inserted into the original statute: 'excepta dignitate regali.' The Beauforts could receive, hold, and inherit titles, but not The Title. Was this amendment a legal addition to the law? At the time, it did not seem to matter. The Beaufort's loyally served their royal half-brother and his son after him, making no claim to the throne of their own though they did collect plenty of other titles and honors.

Then Henry VI was crowned as an infant after the death of his legendary father, Henry V. Then Henry VI lost everything his father had gained in France and eventually proved unable to rule a country desperately in need of a ruler. In a turn of events Henry IV could not have imagined when he stole the throne from his inept cousin, Henry VI's cousins sought to do the same.

By 1485, with royal and noble bloodlines decimated by war, Henry Tudor's Beaufort blood suddenly made his family tree one of the most prominent in the land.

If you believe rumors of Edmund Beaufort being the true father of Edmund Tudor, the argument for the Beaufort dynasty increases exponentially. When Katherine Valois became a young widow upon the death of her husband, Henry V, the infant king's council was quick to realize that anyone who married her would gain astounding power. Therefore, a fledgling romance with Edmund Beaufort was halted by sending Edmund to serve in France. Katherine soon married Owen Tudor instead, but rumors persist to this day that Edmund, not Owen, was the father of Edmund Tudor, Katherine's eldest son after King Henry.

While this makes a great case for renaming the Tudors as Beauforts, it takes more than a little hope and imagination to believe that Edmund Tudor was recognized by all of the highest ranking men of the land as a Tudor and never believed to be a Beaufort if he really was one (unlike Henry VI's son who some did claim to be a Beaufort bastard rather than royal prince). Surely, someone - for example Margaret Beaufort's acquisitive mother - would have pointed out that Edmund was of Beaufort stock if there was any reason to think that he was.

Henry's mother was justifiably proud of her Beaufort heritage and her son's relationship to King Henry VI through her Tudor husband, who was his half-brother. Margaret was a staunch Lancastrian, striving for years to see Henry receive his birthright from York kings who left him in exile, so she likely would have considered his reign a return to the Lancastrian branch of the Plantagenet royal family. It did not take long, however, for the name Tudor to go down in history.

Additional Reading:
Margaret Beaufort: Mother of the Tudor Dynasty by Elizabeth Norton
The House of Beaufort: The Bastard Line that Captured the Crown by Nathen Amin

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Happy Reformation Day!

Today is the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his 95 Theses to the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg. Alright, maybe Luther didn't really do that, but one thing is certain. When Martin Luther questioned the practices of the Catholic Church in his 'Disputation on the Power of Indulgences,' he started a movement that became far more than he bargained for.

If you have been following my blog, you probably already know that I am Lutheran, so experiencing an anniversary like this is a once in a lifetime event. My family and I traveled to Wittenberg over the summer to see the very places Martin Luther lived, preached, and stirred up trouble! You can take your own virtual trip to Wittenberg here.

I am also at EHFA today blogging about Martin Luther and his interactions with Henry VIII.

Happy Reformation Day!

Monday, October 23, 2017

Henry Tudor's Claim to England's Throne

Portrait of young Henry Tudor
by Musee Calvet
It is often said that Henry Tudor did not have a strong claim to the throne when he took it in 1485. However, he was quick to publicize his three-prong claim in the hopes that people not convinced by one reason would willingly accept another. With many of the branches of the Plantagenet family tree rather thoroughly pruned during the decades of the Wars of the Roses, it is somewhat surprising just how good Henry's claim was.

Tudor's strongest claim was through conquest. Regardless of the semi-royal bloodline that we will discuss next, Henry Tudor marched into England and killed its king. Richard III had left behind his heir, John de la Pole, and a few other nephews and the like, but it doesn't really matter because he was defeated on the field. While we sometimes minimize this claim, people of the time did not. John de la Pole did not fight Tudor (at least not at first), but served him, as did most noble sons of the era who could match their king's pedigree with family trees reaching back to Edward III.

Yet, Henry could also trace his ancestry back to the legendary king, and this was the second prong of his claim. Henry's mother, Margaret, was the heiress of the Beaufort line descended from John of Gaunt, which was legitimized in 1399. The Beauforts had suffered heavy losses during the Wars of the Roses in support of the Lancastrian king, Henry VI. Debate over which Plantagenet branch held a superior claim to the throne had begun as soon as Henry Bolingbroke took the crown from his cousin, Richard II. Unknowingly, Henry IV set the precedent that the crown could be taken by whichever family member was most able, rather than the one who inherited it, and his descendants suffered for it. Confusion over whether a female line should be considered and reluctance to crown children with greater claims than capable adults added fuel to the debate long before Tudor made his claim, causing bloodline alone to be a shaky foundation.

Henry VI
In addition to his mother being the great granddaughter of John of Gaunt, Henry's father was half-brother to the king, Henry VI. Edmund Tudor's blood was decidedly not royal, but his father had married Catherine Valois after the death of her first husband, Henry V. While Catherine could not pass on any right to inherit England's crown to the children of her second marriage, it could not hurt that Henry could call the Lancastrian king his uncle.

Henry Tudor understood that others could match his pedigree, so he planned to take a wife whose status was unquestioned and whose popularity was well-known. When he married Elizabeth of York, Tudor had already established that he took his position in his own right. However, uniting England under the joint heirs of Lancaster and York was a brilliant political move. Those who did not believe in Tudor's claim were likely to support him for the sake of his wife. The union went far toward securing peace and acquiescence to Tudor rule. By timing the wedding when he did (after his own coronation), Tudor ensured that Elizabeth strengthened his claim rather than making it her own.

The fact of the matter is that anyone who might have made a grasp for the throne of England by 1485 had just as questionable of a claim as Henry Tudor. That is precisely how the Wars of the Roses began in the first place with York proposing that their line was superior to that of the sitting Lancastrian king. With so many noble sons dying on the field and disagreements on just which Plantagenet heirs had superior claims for almost a century before Tudor's victory, a claim of bloodline alone was simply not sufficient to bring about peace.

Monday, October 16, 2017

A Lancastrian Surprise

I have been keeping a little project to myself, but I am excited to share it with you today. The Last Lancastrian: A Story of Margaret Beaufort is available NOW. That's right. No pre-ordering & no waiting. Get a glimpse of Margaret long before she dreamed of a Tudor dynasty in this novella prequel to the Plantagenet Embers Trilogy.

Available now on Kindle for only $0.99!

Also on Nook at Barnes & Noble!

Read an early review at Knight of Angels!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Historic Places: Wittenberg

It may seem crazy for me to say that Wittenberg was one of my favorite destinations during a trip that included powerhouses like Paris, Florence, and Rome, but there it is. This little town, which one can easily stroll through in under 30 minutes had this Lutheran girl captivated from the moment I stepped off the train to see the building-sized 'Die Bibel' towering over me. Add in a few billboards marketing 'Luther-burgers' and posters shouting 'Luther!' and the anticipation was killing me by the time we reached Lutherhaus.

Maybe I need to back up a bit. For those who do not have an obsession special interest in Martin Luther, the little village of Wittenberg (actually Lutherstadt Wittenberg) is where an unremarkable monk performed an act that would rock the world from its foundations almost exactly 500 years ago. When he nailed his 'Disputation on the Power of Indulgences' - or as they are much better known, the 95 Theses - to the door of Castle Church on October 31, 1517, Martin Luther had no idea what he was getting himself into.

That church and the parish church where Luther spent much of his time preaching still stand in Wittenberg within view of each other and connected by a quaint cobblestone street. The entire area is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. I could go on and on about the history of Martin Luther and the Reformation, but let's just take a look at Wittenberg itself.

Upon entering Wittenberg, I had the wondrous sensation of being surrounded by an entire community that was just as enthusiastic about Martin Luther as I was. This doesn't happen in my lovely little hometown in Michigan. Just seeing his name and image everywhere I looked made me smile. What other Lutherans may not even realize is that Luther is known in Germany for more than his epiphany regarding the grace of God. He is widely revered as the father of the modern German language due to his extensive Bible translation work and other writings.

But, I'm getting off course again. Back to Wittenberg . . . .

Lutherhaus is one of the first places you encounter when entering Wittenberg. This former Augustinian monastery was home to Martin Luther when he was a monk and later became his family home, which was generously shared with a large variety of students and visitors. Now, it serves as a Reformation museum and something of a welcoming station for those visiting the village. One of the well-preserved rooms of the house is the living room where Luther held his famous Table Talks. The cozy atmosphere found within this sprawling structure gives life to the real family that lived within these walls.

Other rooms were filled with pamphlets written by Luther, a thick first edition of the Bible translated into German, and even one of Luther's own study Bibles complete with verses underlined by his own hand! We saw 16th century priest's vestments, paintings, and even an old trunk used for carrying all those coins paid for indulgences.

And that was just at Lutherhaus. Due to our time being limited by the train schedule, we had to move on to see the rest of Wittenberg, though I could have spent hours taking in everything that was available here.

St Mary's Church

Continuing in Luther's footsteps along the 'historic mile' takes one past shops featuring every imaginable product with Luther's name or face emblazoned on it. I refrained....mostly. We went home with a Lutheran rose decal for my car, a Martin Luther shot glass, and a bottle of 'Reformator' liquor. Anyway, this walk will also take you past the home of friend of Martin Luther and fellow reformer, Philip Melanchthon. This building is an example of renaissance architecture and holds an exhibit of the Augsburg Confession. The steeples of Luther's parish church of St Mary's can also be seen upon exiting Lutherhaus.

Martin Luther gave hundreds of homilies inside this ancient church. With portions of it dating back to the 12th century, it is the oldest structure in Wittenberg. The key features of the church are the Protestant altarpiece and the baptismal font which was part of the church when Luther's own children were baptized there. This church was also the location of Luther's wedding when he married former nun, Katharina von Bora. 

The Town Hall is only steps away from St Mary's and is home to a large statue of Martin Luther in its courtyard. Philip Melanchthon is also featured here. The pair are also found together near the altar of All Saint's, or Castle Church, the next stop on our trip through Wittenberg.

Castle Church
Walking toward Castle Church, it is obvious that necks are craning and eyes are straining for that first view of The Door. Unfortunately, the door, at least the original one which served as a community bulletin board of the 16th century, no longer exists. A steel door embossed with the words of the 95 Theses now stands in place of the destroyed wooden original. It is no less amazing to stand in front of it and know that this is where the first, maybe only vaguely interested, people stood and read Martin Luther's bold remarks about the corruption in the Catholic church. 

Our tour guide and at least one book that I have read point out that it is unlikely that Luther actually nailed the theses to the door himself as history remembers. While he was not yet the famous figure he would become, Luther was an important man with servants and students to perform menial tasks such as this for him. Or maybe he, sensing that this was an important document that he might need to defend and discuss, did it himself. Does it really matter?

Not to me. I was thrilled just to be standing there.
Inside Castle Church, the air is thick with the cloud of witnesses that have worshiped there. Upon the tower of the church are engraved the words "Ein' feste Burg ist unser Gott" (A Mighty Fortress is Our God), and one can imagine a congregation, led by Martin Luther himself, singing it with their voices reaching the high arched ceiling above. In Luther's time, this was the new church, having been built in 1506. The graves of Luther and Melanchthon are found near the altar of this church made famous by their work as reformers. When Luther was buried there in 1546, it was Melanchthon who preached at his funeral.

It was such a blessing to visit this amazing town as it was preparing for the 500th anniversary of the posting of the 95 Theses. If you are ever in Berlin, I highly recommend you hop on the train and make your way to Lutherstadt Wittenberg and spend a day walking in Martin Luther's footsteps.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Surviving the Birth of a Dynasty

Henry VII crowned at Bosworth
Few who had fought in the Wars of the Roses could have foreseen Henry Tudor's rise to the throne of England. He was not even born when the first battles broke out between Richard, Duke of York, and Henry VI. While Tudor may have been viewed as the last hope of the Lancastrians to those who had witnessed the deaths of most of that Plantagenet branch, history has come to view him as the father of a dynasty.

Several key players had to determine how they were going to survive in this new world after years, sometimes decades, of loyalty to York kings and princes. 

One person Tudor was quick to obtain control of was the last of those York princes, Edward of Warwick. His father, George of Clarence, had been convicted of treason and executed by his own brother, King Edward IV, and Edward was only a boy when Tudor became king. Still, the new king understood what a threat Edward and those who might use him for their own purposes posed. Soon after Tudor's arrival in London, he had Edward of Warwick imprisoned in the Tower, where he remained for the remainder of his life.

Henry VII seemed not as concerned about female Yorkists and their descendants. Edward's sister, Margaret, not only remained free, she became a royal ward until Henry had her married to his loyal follower and distant relative, Richard Pole. One of Margaret's sons, Reginald Pole, found particular favor with the king and was supported in his quest for higher education, despite the fact that his claim to England's throne was probably stronger than Henry's was. It was a claim Reginald never tried to press, but the Pole family did later experience more than their fair share of drama under the second Tudor king, Henry VIII.

The greater concern for Henry VII was the daughters of Edward IV. Richard III, the last York king, had died childless (at least without legitimate children), but his brother had left a passel of heirs to worry about. His sons, Edward and Richard (yes, all men in the late 15th century were either Edward, Richard, or Henry), had disappeared/died during the reign of their uncle, and we will not discuss that controversy here. Instead, we will look at what Henry Tudor had to deal with: Edward's five surviving daughters.

Elizabeth of York and her sisters
A solution for the eldest of these daughters had already been proposed. On Christmas Day in 1483, almost two years before his victory at Bosworth, Henry had vowed to marry Elizabeth of York. On January 18, 1486, he made good on that promise, gaining a valuable wife and ally in bringing peace to his kingdom.

Elizabeth's next oldest sister, Cecily, had been married to Ralph Scrope during Richard III's short reign, but Tudor had that marriage annulled in order to match her with loyal Lancastrian (and again distantly related) Viscount John Welles. Cecily did not challenge the king or try his patience until she married without his permission after the death of Welles. He stripped her of her lands and titles, leaving Cecily to survive the birth of the dynasty but live it out in obscurity.

The next York princess, Anne, married Thomas Howard, but died childless. Edward's youngest daughter, Bridget, also posed no threat to the Tudors when she became a nun at a very young age.

Catherine, was the only female of the York line, besides Margaret Pole, to go on to have children who would challenge the Tudor kings (and at least one queen). She was married to William Courtenay whose close relationship to Edmund de la Pole earned him a long visit to the Tower. The de la Poles, Richard, Edmund, and John, were sons of another Elizabeth of York, this one Edward IV's sister rather than his daughter. John de la Pole died fighting against Henry VII at the Battle of Stoke, and Edmund was imprisoned then executed. Only Richard escaped the Tudors to make a life for himself on the Continent. As for the Courtenays, William died shortly after finally being released by Henry VIII, and his son, Henry Courtenay, was executed as part of the alleged Exeter Conspiracy.

The Exeter Conspiracy was also Henry VIII's excuse for ridding himself of Henry Pole, Margaret's oldest son. By then, 1538, Reginald was safely in Rome and her other remaining son, Geoffrey, joined him there after their brother's execution.

Cardinal Reginald Pole
Henry Courtenay left a surviving son behind, who was imprisoned but not executed. Edward Courtenay remained in the Tower until the reign of Queen Mary I. She had him released but refused to marry him, so he became the joint focus of rebellions that hoped to place he and Princess Elizabeth on the throne together in place of the Catholic queen. Edward was sent into exile where he died, possibly of poisoning.

Reginald Pole became the most significant member of the York family tree to survive the Tudor dynasty (his sister Ursula also survived, remaining far from court with her husband, Henry Stafford). After outrunning assassins sent after him by Henry VIII, he almost became pope in 1550 and served as Queen Mary's Archbishop of Canterbury during her attempt at counter reformation. He and Mary died on the same day, November 18, 1558.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Historic Places: Berlin

The history of Berlin cannot possibly be summarized in a blog post, so I will simply share what I was able to see during my visit. Since its 13th century founding, Berlin has seen more turmoil and change than most other cities. From its birth as a medieval trading post to the bustling modern metropolis that it is today, Berlin has always claimed an important position at the center of European history.

The Berlin we see today is heavily impacted by World War II and its aftermath. Although Berlin has been reunited since the Berlin Wall was (rather accidentally) opened in 1989, the effects of the separation remain evident. Some portions of the city that were completely destroyed during the war shine with obvious newness, while other areas boast centuries old structures that transport one back to a time long before world wars. This eclectic mix of old and new make Berlin a city with a variety of experiences to offer.

Of course, Berlin, like the rest of Germany, cannot escape its part in World War II, and the city is filled with reminders such as portions of the Berlin Wall, remains of SS headquarters, and Reichstag. Memorials are found throughout the city designating areas where escapes were made or those who were killed are remembered. The history of this area is handled in a sensitive way that does not make excuses or whitewash the past. The Berlin Wall Trail guides you through more than can be taken in during a single day, including the Topographie des Terrors, Checkpoint Charlie, and several artistic displays inspired by the city's history.

The Brandenburg Gate is a wonderful example of Berlin's history and evolution as a city. Built in the late 18th century, this monument was originally intended to demonstrate Prussian supremacy and create an impressive entrance onto the Boulevard Unter den Linden. When Berlin was divided into East and West, those in American/British controlled Berlin could peer into the Soviet controlled section from a raised platform near the Brandenburg Gate, which was itself a part of the wall. It now serves as a symbol of the city's deep roots and unity.

Of course, besides all this great history, Berlin offers the best of German beer & sausage, to die for cocktails, and the wittiest pedestrian crossing signals I have seen (my daughter was especially excited to spot the ampelmannchen she had learned about in German class). Our hotel had a top floor pub that offered fantastic views of the city sprawled out before us. I could see the Pope's Revenge, a gleaming cross that appears when the sun shines on Berlin's Broadcast Tower.  The cross earned this nickname because at the time the tower was built in East Berlin crosses had been removed from the communist controlled city. Today, there is much more that unifies Berlin than divides it.

Due to the briefness of our visit, I was only able to walk through Museum Island and admire the architecture. We did not have time to stroll through the exhibits, which makes Berlin a city that will remain on my 'return to' bucket list. However, I had other priorities during this trip: a day tour to Wittenberg, which was gearing up for the 500th anniversary celebration of the Reformation!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Elizabeth of York on Henry's Great Matter

The Family of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York
I am frequently asked what I believe Elizabeth of York would have thought of her son's Great Matter, which welcomed the Reformation to England though that was far from Henry VIII's intent. As a woman who clung to her faith during turbulent times and who chose peace at great personal cost, how would Elizabeth have advised her son when he planned to rid himself of Katherine of Aragon? It is not a simple question, and, of course, I cannot answer it with certainty, but I can share my thoughts.

Elizabeth's opinions on events that occurred outside her lifetime can be difficult to guess because there are important issues that she did live through that remain mysteries. We do not know how she felt about Richard III or if she plotted to assist Henry Tudor in coming to power. We do not know how she felt about Perkin Warbeck or if she thought he might be her brother, Richard Duke of York. She kept her ideas about the controversies of the day close and submitted to her husband, Henry VII, as she saw as her duty.

The Family of Henry VIII
Henry VIII inherited the devotion to the Catholic faith that his parents shared. However, he also became a man who always expected to get what he wanted. When he formed the Church of England and broke with Rome, the faith that he created was Catholicism with himself as the Head of the Church in place of the pope. Protestants would continue to be punished for their heretical ideas until Henry's son, Edward VI, took the throne. What would Elizabeth have thought of this act?

On one hand, Elizabeth understood the importance of an heir. The disappearance of her brothers is what cleared the way for her to become queen with the first Tudor king at her side. She risked her own life to bear another child when Prince Arthur died, leaving Henry an only son. Elizabeth would have understood that it was a precarious position to leave the kingdom with a single young girl as heir. Elizabeth had never put forth her own right to the crown over her husband's. Would she have fought for the rights of Princess Mary?

Katherine of Aragon
Even though Elizabeth would have believed that her son would be better off with more children, she may have accepted the situation as God's will. After living through extraordinary times, Elizabeth was accustomed to leaning on her faith and accepting that worldly matters do not always turn out the way we think they should. I believe it would be difficult to convince her of the necessity of setting Katherine aside. It is very possible that Elizabeth would have been just as vehement that Katherine was Henry's true wife as Katherine was.

If Elizabeth could have been convinced that Henry really did require a more fertile wife, I still believe that she would have been horrified by his decision to break with Rome. The very idea would have been more shocking than we can imagine to almost any monarch who ruled before Henry VIII. The pope was God's representative on earth and the final authority in all matters. For Henry to set himself up as equal or above him would have been blasphemy to his mother. She may have been convinced to encourage Katherine to retire to a nunnery, but I do not believe Elizabeth of York would have ever supported her son's more extreme measures.

Would the Church of England have been formed if Elizabeth had still been alive? Would Henry have listened to his mother to any greater degree than he took the advice of anyone else who did not tell him what he wanted to hear? That may be speculation that is beyond me, but I can fairly confidently state that Elizabeth of York would have opposed her son's actions and at least attempted to steer him along a different path.

Elizabeth of York
I would like to think that Elizabeth would have seen possibilities for her granddaughter that had not existed for herself and that Henry would have been convinced that Princess Mary was a more than adequate heir, especially with the right husband at her side. Surely, the Reformation would have made it to England one way or another, but maybe the Dissolution of the Monasteries could have been erased. History might have missed out on Queen Elizabeth I, but maybe the reign of a happily married Queen Mary I would have been much more peaceful. Maybe Henry would have gone on to have a son after Katherine naturally departed this world instead of tearing the kingdom apart to make way for Anne Boleyn.

Or maybe Henry would have completely ignored his mother and done whatever he wanted anyway. But it is fun to think of the possibilities.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Bosworth and the Brandons

August 22nd is famous as the date of the Battle of Bosworth and the end of the Plantagenet dynasty. It is true that Richard III died on this day in 1485 in a courageous final charge in defense of his kingdom, but the day was also a turning point for the Brandon family.

Sir William Brandon was a standard bearer for Henry Tudor, the man who challenged Richard on the field near Bosworth. William was the son of a Cambridgeshire knight of the same name and is best known for the circumstances of his death and the son he left behind. William had been a part of the failed Buckingham Rebellion, but he continued to support Tudor's claim to England, leaving behind a wife and children including an infant son to fight at Bosworth. Shortly before King Richard was brought down by a swarm of enemies, William Brandon died by his hand.

Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk
Charles Brandon was less than two years old when his father died in battle, but William's service to Henry Tudor ensured his son's bright future in a way that might never have occurred had William survived. When King Richard was killed and Tudor crowned as Henry VII, the new king was eager to reward those who had made his reign a reality. Therefore, the young son of the royal standard bearer was brought up alongside the his own children.

This privileged position gave Charles the opportunity to become a close companion to the boy who would become Henry VIII. Charles was an opportunist, eventually going so far as to marry the king's sister, Mary. Even being one of Henry's closest friends did not entirely save Charles from his wrath after this treasonous move. The couple was fined and removed from court for a time but were eventually forgiven and welcomed back.

It had been Charles' only significant fall from royal favor. His relationship with King Henry brought Charles several lucrative and privileged positions and titles. At the pinnacle of his success, this son of a Cambridgeshire knight was made Duke of Suffolk, a title that had been previously held by the Yorkist de la Pole family. Charles was at Henry's side at the Field of Cloth of Gold and through his Great Matter and the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

Charles Brandon died on August 22, 1545, exactly 60 years after his father.

The two sons he left behind followed him to the grave six short years later, dying of the sweating sickness on the very same day. This left Charles' daughter, Frances, as head of the family. She and her husband, Henry Grey, inherited the Suffolk title and attempted their own grasp for the crown through their daughter, Lady Jane Grey, in 1553. The Brandon family had come a long way, but this was a step too far. Both Henry and Jane were executed for treason under Queen Mary I.

Monday, August 7, 2017

New Release: Plantagenet Embers Kindle Box Set

I am thrilled to announce that the Plantagenet Embers Trilogy is now available as a Kindle Box Set! When you purchase the trilogy as a set for only $9.99, it is as if you are getting one book FREE!

This set includes the full content, including author's notes, for three novels:

Plantagenet Princess, Tudor Queen: The Story of Elizabeth of York

Faithful Traitor: The Story of Margaret Pole

Queen of Martyrs: The Story of Mary I

If you haven't read them yet, now is your chance to take advantage of a great deal on three wonderful summer reads!

Available worldwide through Amazon.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Was Queen Mary advised by a heretic?

Queen Mary I
Painting by Eworth
The reign of Queen Mary I is best known for her attempt at counter-reformation in England. Since we have the benefit of knowing that it did fail, it is easy to look back and wonder how she believed it could succeed. Yet at that time, Mary was able to take the crown that was rightfully hers through great popular support for her and her religion. Her partner in bringing the 'true faith' back to her kingdom was her cousin, Cardinal Reginald Pole.

Reginald Pole was the son of Margaret Pole Countess of Salisbury who had served as Mary's governess. Margaret and Mary's mother, Queen Catherine, had been close friends and may have hoped that Reginald could be a potential suitor for the princess, but her father had other plans for her. In the meantime, Reginald grew up provided with the best education money could buy through the support of Kings Henry VII & VIII. By the time Mary became queen in 1553, Reginald was known as a great scholar and only his refusal to campaign on his own behalf had prevented him from being elected pope in 1550.

Instead, he returned to his homeland to assist Queen Mary in putting her religious house in order. Mary was a staunch Catholic. It was one of the things that had driven a wedge between her and her father and siblings. She assumed, of course, that the good Cardinal was of one mind with her in all church matters, but there was much more to Reginald Pole that met the eye.

The words of Matthew 10:16 were favored by Pole. He had them painted on a window when he lived in Lambeth Palace, and they appear on his tomb.

Be as wise as serpents and as simple as doves.

This line reveals a bit about the deep-thinking man who was more willing than most leaders of the Catholic Church to consider the arguments of the reformers. Reginald was devoted to rooting heresy out of England, but this did not necessarily mean to him what it meant to his queen. Like some men who were persecuted as heretics, he believed that Catholicism should be reestablished free of the corruption that had lead to the Reformation.

Cardinal Reginald Pole
Pole discussed religion with learned men throughout Europe from Thomas More to Niccolo Machiavelli. He was a friend of Michelangelo and Contarini, another Cardinal famous for wishing to be reunited with Lutherans. By reformers, Pole was considered a Papist but he later came under investigation by Inquisitors who called him a secret Lutheran. Pole's writing frequently seems to favor the Lutheran doctrine of justification through faith alone, and he scandalously proposed that church leaders should lead by example and bear the church's burden rather than setting themselves higher than their flock. He believed in a personal relationship with God, not solely through membership of a church, stating that all people are brides of Christ, not just the Catholic Church. These fine lines may seem insignificant to us today, but in the 16th century men had burned for less.

Yet Pole was a highly respected leader of the Catholic Church and was sent to bring England back into the fold. He believed in faith, discipline, and charity, but he also believed that it was vital to put a stop to heresy before it could spread and lead people to eternal damnation. This is what made him the ideal person to cope with the situation in Marian England.

While Pole had defended the right of Protestants to have their views heard, he also supported meaningful debate and edifying conversation that would (hopefully) end with all parties agreeing upon the truth. This gentle easing of people to faith was just what was necessary in a country that had been enduring religious changes - and not all for very religious reasons - for two decades. His position in England is also likely what saved him from more drastic encounters with the Inquisition. He was able to defend himself in writing while emphasizing that his continued presence was required in England.

He was nothing if not clever.

Pole's belief that all heretics should be given the opportunity to hear the truth and be healed before they were condemned coincided well with Queen Mary's merciful character. While we may know her as 'Bloody Mary', her council often accused Mary of not taking decisive enough actions against her enemies. The burning of heretic leaders, those with the most power to lead others astray, did not begin until 1555. As was the case with every previous English monarch, heresy was considered akin to open rebellion.

Disputation of the Trinity
Andrea Del Sarto, 1517
(Web Gallery of Art)
Pole advised the English clergy 'to entreat the people and their flock with all gentleness and to endeavour themselves to win the people rather by gentleness than by extremity and rigour.' Bonner thought Pole was too lenient and found his positions on heretics disappointing. This paints a very different picture of the counter-reformation than has been brought to us by Elizabethan chroniclers.

By the end of 1558, when Reginald and Mary both died on the 17th of November, 284 Protestants had been burned for heresy. Pole felt treatment this harsh should be reserved for only the worst of criminals, those who did not only privately practice heresy but actively spread it. Reunification and peace were his goals, but he had run out of time to see those objectives reached.

But was Reginald Pole a heretic? Ironically, those on both sides of the 16th century religious debate accused him of being one, which just might make him a man who understood men and faith better than any of his accusers.

Additional Reading:

Reginald Pole: Prince & Prophet by Thomas F Mayer
The First Queen of England by Linda Porter

Friday, July 14, 2017

Historic Places: Iceland

My family's recent European vacation started and ended with layovers in Iceland. Admittedly, I knew little of Iceland's history when these flights were booked, but I love to learn about new times and places so this was a great opportunity.

These layovers are actually a small part of Iceland's recent history. Icelandair offers cheap flights to Europe with 1-7 day layovers at the Keflavik airport in order to boost the country's economy and increase tourism, and from what I could see it is a great plan. We used our 17 hour layover to visit the world famous Blue Lagoon, but there are plenty of other attractions including Reykjavik, glacier tours, volcano tours, and the continental divide. If you visit at the right time of year, you can enjoy breathtaking views of the Northern Lights.

Despite its frigid moniker and far north location, Iceland's climate is not much different than the New England states. This is due to the same favorable gulf stream that keeps the UK more moderate in weather than Canada and other similarly far north regions. One important difference is the hours of sunlight, which are short in the winter and extraordinarily long in the summer. During our night there in mid-July, we saw something of an extended sunset that never became full dark.

Iceland's history begins with visits by Vikings (and those running from them), as is evinced in the Icelandic language. It's history as an independent country began relatively recently with separation from Denmark in 1944. There may be fewer people living in all of Iceland than in many US cities, but it still has a surprisingly deep history.

The Icelandic Parliament called Althingi has existed since 930, making it one of the world's oldest government institutions. It has endured through the era of local chieftains, Norwegian rule, and under the authority of Denmark. Today, it is made of of 26 members, 20 elected and 6 appointed. Through the centuries, it has operated as an open assembly, high court, legislative body, and mediator between the people of Iceland and foreign rulers.

Since Irish monks fled to Iceland in an attempt to outrun Viking invaders in the 9th century, Iceland has endured less battles for power than most European countries. One of the few invasions that has taken place was by the British during World War II when they were afraid that Germany would take the island and use it as a launching point for attacks on the UK. Iceland's greater tragedy was when the Laki volcanic fissure erupted over several months from 1783-1784. With crops and livestock decimated and several thousand people killed, evacuation of the island was considered.

A famous Icelander you have probably heard of is Leif Eriksson, who likely deserves more credit than Christopher Columbus for 'discovering' the Americas. In fact, it is possible that Columbus visited Iceland in 1477 and learned of the previous trip. Did Eriksson sail off course on his way to Greenland, discovering North America but never getting any credit for it? Probably. Apparently, Columbus was great at both exploring and marketing.

Today, Iceland manages to somehow be both barren and beautiful, with a sky that seems larger than at home and water of clearest blue. It is rocky and harsh terrain but is wonderfully untouched. If you get the opportunity to see a bit of Iceland, don't miss it. Don't be afraid to rent a car - the roads are blissfully free of traffic and they drive on the right.  ;-)

Saturday, July 1, 2017

From the Scriptorium: July 2017

July 2017 Edition

Bookish News

Faithful Traitor is on its way in audiobook format!
Comment below for a chance to win a FREE Audible code!

I am beyond excited to have my Margaret available on Audible and hope that you enjoy her story as read by the lovely Rachael Baresford.

Margaret Pole overcame great diversity in her life only to meet her end as a traitor under Henry VIII. I hope that you will enjoy listening to her story. It is also available in paperback and Kindle.

Coming soon: Plantagenet Embers Kindle Box Set! Stay Tuned!

Featured Reviews

Queen of Martyrs has received a wonderful review from book blogger Rebecca Hill.

Faithful Traitor is summed up nicely by this Amazon UK reviewer.

Plantagenet Princess, Tudor Queen was recently featured on Tudors and Other Histories.

Want to see your review featured? Leave a link in the comment below or drop me a private message.

Did you miss it?

This past month was very busy for me personally with my oldest son graduating from high school and the five of us leaving for a tour of Europe, but I did get this excerpt from Queen of Martyrs posted!

You are also invited to comment on the identity of the mysterious Margaret Keymes mentioned in the will of Katherine Gordon. Was she the daughter of Cecily of York? Did Katherine intend to suggest her belief that Perkin Warbeck was truly Richard of York by mentioning Margaret in her will? Add your voice to the discussion.

Who Was Margarett Keymes?

I look forward to posting some great new Historic Places articles when I return home. Where is your favorite place in the world to visit?

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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Who Was Margarett Keymes?

If you make a habit of studying the Wars of the Roses and early Tudor era, you have undoubtedly encountered the debate over Perkin Warbeck, probably more times than you care to count. Was this charming Edward IV look-a-like really his son, Richard of York? Could he have been a well-trained doppelganger or even an unrecognized bastard son?

Of course, he could have been any of these, which is why the debate ensues to this day. Into this sometimes heated discussion quietly slips a girl who may or may not have anything to do with it.

Katherine Gordon before Henry VII
'Margarett Keymes' is mentioned in the will of Katherine Gordon. Katherine was the daughter of the Scottish Earl of Huntley and was married to the infamous Perkin Warbeck during his ill-fated bid for the English crown. After his death in 1499, Katherine went on to live several decades and marry three additional husbands. When she died in 1537, she left 'suche of my apparell as shalbe thought mete for her by the Discretion of my husband and my saide executor' to her 'Cosyn margarett Keymes'.

I was made aware of this mention after writing a blog stating that Cecily of York had no surviving children. This was supplied as evidence that she had left a daughter, Margaret, as offspring of her final marriage to Thomas Kyme (sometimes Kymbe or Keme). If so, it would also be evidence that Katherine Gordon went to her death 38 years after her first husband still believing that he was the true son of Edward IV and that his sisters, including Cecily, were therefore her relations.

Cecily of York
In her book, The Perfect Prince, Ann Wroe takes this mention as proof positive of both these controversial points. Historian Rosemary Horrox also points to evidence of Cecily and Thomas living on the Isle of Wight and having children there to back up these claims, but this evidence also claims that Cecily is buried on Isle of Wight, which is incorrect. (Source mentioned as Heraldic Visitation of Hampshire, 1576, which I have not been able to obtain a copy of thus far. In records kept by Margaret Beaufort, Cecily is recorded as living, dying, and being buried in places besides Isle of Wight.) In this article, historian Susan Higginbotham clarifies that Cecily and her third husband only spent brief time on Isle of Wight and that there is no evidence that Cecily bore any children who survived her.

If that is the case, who is Katherine's 'Cosyn margarett Keymes'? I admittedly have not exhaustively researched this topic, so would rather open it for discussion.

Perkin Warbeck
Do you believe that Katherine Gordon always kept faith in her doomed first husband? It is a romantic notion, yet there is no record of her mentioning him after his death. Her will mentions her 'dere and welbelovyd husband Sir Mathew Cradock' and her 'Welbelovyd husband Cristofer Asseton' to whom she was married when she died. There is a brief mention that she was the 'some tyme wife unto James Strangwis', but there is not a whisper of Perkin Warbeck or Richard of York.

(Find Katherine's will in it's entirety here on pages 24 & 25.)

I am more hesitant to interpret this evidence as sure proof of Cecily's childbearing and Warbeck's true identity as some, but I am also interested in learning more. What do you think? Who was Margarett Keymes?