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?

Monday, June 12, 2017

The Spanish Rescue or When Mary Had Her Chance to Flee

An excerpt from Queen of Martyrs: The Story of Mary I

June 1550

Mary had not quickly recovered from her disappointment at the hands of her brother. Since returning to Woodham Walter, Mary had contrived plans and written to Charles, begging for his assistance in her escape.

Now, the time had come. The Holy Roman Emperor had acquiesced to her wishes, and a small fleet would soon arrive, their mission to whisk Mary away. She would live out her days at Charles’ court, though she despaired at leaving Edward to his fate if he carried on his heretical ways. Still, when she remembered her mother’s impoverished, lonely death, Mary assured herself that she was doing what she must.

Whispers had crept through the district that Mary was plotting to leave the kingdom. It was impossible with a household the size of hers to prepare for such a feat without some rumors spreading, but no one from the king had arrived. If news had reached Edward, he had not taken it seriously.

Mary paced the corridors of her estate. There were more productive tasks that she could be attending to, but she could bring her mind to focus on none of them. Instead, she found herself memorizing the precise color of the region’s bricks and the smell of honeysuckle, for she was afraid that she would forget these small details of her daily life that would not exist in her new world.

Pain was her constant companion since leaving her brother. The headaches had been like nothing she had experienced before, even when she lost her mother. She had grown pitifully thin, because most food nauseated her. Mary would not trouble herself or others over this though. Soon, she would be relaxing in the Low Countries, at peace and snacking on fresh oranges.

The idyllic image brought a smile to her face. She deserved some peace in her life. If her brother was as independent and astute as he claimed, she need not feel that she was abandoning him.

She was not sure how many circuits of the corridors she had completed when Rochester found her. Before he uttered a word, she could see that the news had arrived and her deliverance was at hand.
“Ships have been spotted,” he whispered. His handsome brow was creased with worry, and Mary felt some guilt for the stress that she put him through.

“You have served me more loyally than any other,” Mary said. She had the urge to put a hand to his face to soothe the tension in his rigid expression, but it would not have been proper. Her words served to soften his clenched jaw a bit, and that would have to suffice.

“I would be willing to suffer death for my faith if that was what I felt God was calling me to do,” she added, though she owed him no explanation. “England is no longer a place for me.”

Rochester nodded with his lips pressed into a thin line to hold back any disagreement he might have given voice to. He had agreed to go with her, for as much as he was uncertain of the plan he would leave no one else responsible for Mary’s safety.

“Let us then be about our business,” he said. There was no reason for him to say more. The plot had been discussed at length. Four ladies had been chosen to accompany the princess, but they would carry little with them. Disguised as commoners, they would leave Woodham by boat and meet the Spanish ships. It was deceivingly simple.

Mary spun, her skirts stirring the rushes, and fled to her room. As soon as she entered, she dismissed all except the four she trusted to travel with her.

“Fran, our clothes,” she ordered, sending the woman scurrying without further instructions needed. “Susan, the jewelry.”

They could not carry anything of great size or weight, so Mary’s precious jewelry would be distributed among them. Besides the largess of Charles V, it is all they would have to live upon.

A few other frantic whispers sent the ladies to their preassigned tasks, and they were ready in less than an hour to depart. Part of Mary was thrilled by the adventure, but her guts were twisted with anxiety and uncertainty that she could not alleviate.

Rochester arrived to lead them to the water’s edge. He was confronted by five pale faces with wide eyes following him from under dark wool hoods. “Are you ready?” he asked.

“Yes,” Mary said with much more confidence than she felt. “God be with us.”

“Amen,” the four other women murmured as they left the room in a somber single file line.

Mary was thankful that her head had cleared as she followed Rochester’s broad form, yet she was still plagued by a growing sense that something was wrong. The small party left the manor for the canopy of stars and darkness of night, and their path was clear. No one on watch noticed them to inquire who they were or what their business was. Through the summer foliage, they made their way to the pier that stretched out into the river.

The boat that was usually utilized for trips to the port town of Maldon was bobbing upon the low waves. Besides the fact that they were leaving in the dead of night, there would be no reason to suspect this boat when it took their intended course. Once they reached Maldon, their success was assured by the presence of Charles’ warships.

Rochester stood at the side of the boat, ready to hand the women across the span between the dock and the vessel. He had not spoken the words, but his countenance told Mary that he retained doubts. She stiffened her spine and told herself to stop second-guessing.

In a moment, she was on the boat, her ladies huddled tightly around her more to soothe their fear than to ward off chill. Mary realized that the summer night was mild and pleasant. It seemed odd that it had taken her so long to notice.

The boat was rowed by Rochester and a younger man he had chosen to assist him. No one spoke as they made their way up the dark river. Mary marveled that the water’s vivid turquoise of day was replaced by an oily black at night. The murky river was more eerily threatening than the same calming scene in the warm summer sunshine.

In that darkness, Mary’s imagination conjured up images of a gloomy hell that remained in shadow despite the inferno of flames. Souls in agony twisted and screamed in eternal pain that nothing could soothe. Mary closed her eyes in vain as the images continued to dance upon the back of her eyelids. Her brother’s face appeared upon one of the wraithlike figures being tortured by the demons, and his eyes bored into her accusingly.

You have left me to this fate, his face seemed to say. Mary’s eyes flashed open, and the vision disappeared. It was replaced once again by the disapproving countenance of Rochester and her terrified ladies. She searched the dark water for answers as their boat silently cut through its surface.
That darkness would not only swallow up her brother and his evil advisors. Mary started counting the little waves, pretending that they were Englishmen who followed her brother’s heresies to their doom. Squeezing her eyes shut, her face crumpled in mental anguish.

“I cannot do it,” she announced.

When no one responded, Mary wondered if she had not spoken the words aloud. She forced her eyes open, and found that her ladies were looking to her in confusion. Then her gaze met Rochester’s and found understanding. He had stopped rowing, and now gave a signal to the young man to halt as well.

“I cannot leave my people to this future,” Mary repeated more confidently. “Whatever I can do, I must, though it may cost my very life.”

Rochester nodded his approval as the women embraced Mary with happy exclamations and the boat was turned around. Mary wondered how upset Charles would be that she had changed her mind at the last moment, with his ships there waiting to receive her, but she found that she did not care. A great peace had enveloped her when she made her decision, and she knew that God had plans for her yet in the kingdom of England.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

From the Scriptorium: June 2017

June 2017 Edition

Bookish News

My dear Mary continues to get rave reviews, and I couldn't be happier to see that readers are enjoying seeing a different side of this much maligned Tudor queen. Besides a fabulous blog tour, awesome reviews for Queen of Martyrs are coming in on Amazon US, Amazon UK, and Goodreads.

Faithful Traitor will soon be available in audiobook format! If you enjoyed listening to Plantagenet Princess, Tudor Queen, you will be happy to hear that Margaret's story is currently being narrated by the same wonderful narrator, Rachael Beresford. Margaret Pole was also celebrated in May with my 10 Days of Margaret Pole.

With recent TV dramas bringing attention to Elizabeth of York, this blog and my book, Plantagenet Princess, Tudor Queen, have been drawing in new readers. If you have recently read it, I would love to read your review!

I also plan to release a Kindle Box Set soon! Stay tuned!

Featured Reviews

Queen of Martyrs was featured on Tudors Dynasty's website with a great review!

Faithful Traitor continues to receive some of my most positive reviews. This one, on Amazon, is short but sweet!

Plantagenet Princess, Tudor Queen has several new reviews recently with the attention coming from a certain television program. Fellow historical fiction author Annie Whitehead combined her review with a short interview.

See your review featured by including a link to it in the comments below!

Did You Miss It?

My most popular post last month was 'Not My White Princess', an article written to clarify some differences between the Hollywood and historical versions of Elizabeth of York.

Not My White Princess

I was also honored to be invited to the blog of writer Wayne Turmel for a fun interview.

From Roses to Tudors

Historical fiction author Tony Riches was a guest this month with an excerpt from his newest novel, Henry.

A Private Moment Between Henry and Elizabeth

Finally, I took a look at the event of Queen Mary's reign that seems to define her in the minds of many modern readers and history enthusiasts.

What if Mary Hadn't Burned Heretics?

Thanks to all my readers!

Thank you to everyone who has read one of my books, and a special thanks to everyone who has written a review!

Keep up with all the latest bookish news by subscribing to my blog or following me on FacebookTwitter, or Goodreads.

Enjoying the Historic Places Blog Series? See more historic places by following me on Instagram!

Saturday, May 27, 2017

10 Days of Margaret Pole

Today is the 476th anniversary of Margaret Pole's execution at the Tower of London. To commemorate this great lady, I have been celebrating 10 Days of Margaret Pole on Facebook and Twitter leading up to this day. If you have missed a day, the articles are all here:

Margaret Pole's Wild Ride on Fortune's Wheel

Who Was Richard Pole?

Long Live the King!

The Not-So-Illustrious Marriages of the Pole Children

Another Stillborn Birth for Katherine

Margaret Loses Governess Post

Coat of Arms Tells a Story

Geoffrey Pole is Taken to the Tower

The Execution of Henry Pole

Reginald Pole Learns of His Mother's Death

Tower of London Memorial
On that morning 476 years ago, Margaret was informed that she would be led to the block that day.

She had no warning. She had not had a trial. She was 67 years old and cousin to the king.

Yet, she bravely endured this final injustice as she had the previous trials in her life, with dignity and faith.

An apocryphal story has Margaret running circles around the axeman and attempting to evade her execution. This does not come from eye witnesses - what few there were at the rushed and badly botched execution - and I cannot imagine Margaret behaving in such a way. A final words of protest were found on the wall of her cell within the Tower where she had been imprisoned for over a year before her execution.

For traitors on the block should die;
I am no traitor, no, not I!
My faithfulness stands fast and so,
Towards the block I shall not go!
Nor make one step, as you shall see;
Christ in Thou Mercy, save Thou me!

In King Henry VIII's rush to clear the Tower of traitors, he had not been able to locate a very skilled executioner. Witnesses cringed as Margaret's head, neck, and torso endured many strikes rather than a quick, clean beheading. I only pray that God, in his mercy, had already taken the poor woman to heaven before her body was mangled. There she had many loved ones to reunite with.


If you enjoyed this 10 Days of Margaret Pole and are interested in more of her story, you might like Faithful Traitor, my novel of her life as a Plantagenet heiress living under the rule of Tudor kings.

Faithful Traitor is available worldwide on Amazon in paperback and on Kindle. It is also free with Kindle Unlimited. If you have enjoyed this novel, I would love to read your review!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

What if Mary Hadn't Burned Heretics?

Queen Mary I is most remembered for the burning of heretics that took place during her reign, and she has been given the cruel sobriquet of 'Bloody Mary'. But what would have happened if Mary had not allowed the burning of heretics?

We assume because religious persecution is unacceptable today that it must have been the same during Mary's lifetime, but that couldn't be further from the truth. Monarchs were expected to lead their subjects in matters of faith, but that became much trickier with the advent of the Reformation. Suddenly, people were divided in ways they had never been before, and rulers had to determine how best to proceed in this new world.

According to historian Eamon Duffy, 'No sixteenth-century European state willingly accepted or could easily imagine the peaceful coexistence of differing religious confessions, and such a coexistence does not seem a particularly realistic aspiration for Mary's England.' In his book, Fires of Faith: Catholic England under Mary Tudor, he points out that we only believe that the counter-reformation was doomed to fail because we have the advantage of knowing that it did. To Mary and those who advised her, they were doing the only thing they logically could do in seeing to the salvation of Englishmen.

The idea that burnings were repugnant to Mary's contemporaries and further drove people from Catholicism is a false idea based on our modern mindset that people must have felt that way. Mary's subjects, from the moment they supported her rule over that of Lady Jane Grey, expected the return of the old faith and the stomping out of the new that would go along with it. Throughout Europe, rulers continued to attempt to regulate the faith of the people long after Mary's reign ended in 1558, and the forms of punishment were no less brutal with Elizabeth ordering the hanging, drawing, and quartering of Catholics during her reign.

Had Mary not attempted to see England united in faith, she would have been viewed as a weak and ineffective monarch - a concern already at the forefront as she ruled as England's first queen regnant. Her supporters expected her to punish heretics and would have been disappointed in her had she sat back and done nothing. In contrast, there was very little outcry regarding the punishments when they took place. The discontent that Mary did have to cope with was the public disapproval of her marriage to Philip of Spain. For those unused to being ruled by a woman, the fear of becoming one more piece of the Holy Roman Empire was very real.

Just as her brother, Edward VI, had been encouraged to lead the nation in faith and punish those who did not follow, Mary had an obligation to uphold holy laws. Protestants and Catholics did not disagree on a monarchs role, but on who were the heretics that should be punished. Mary is often accused of seeking revenge for the many wrongs that she had suffered before she became queen, but in reality she was doing her duty of putting the country's church affairs in order with the advice of an extensive and learned council.

Mary also did not immediately resort to the burning of heretics. For more than than the first year of her reign, her focus was on ensuring that the true faith was preached so that those who had grown up during her brother's reign had the opportunity to hear and learn. Beginning in 1555, those who continued to lead people away from Catholicism were given harsh punishments for their role in what many believed was the spreading of heresy which doomed people to eternal damnation. Those who refused to correct the error of their ways, served as examples for those they led astray.

When people were burned, it was believed that they were given a foretaste of hell that would be their last chance to repent and receive eternal life in heaven. In its way, this punishment was intended as a final effort to convert those believed lost to heresy. Had Mary simply allowed her subjects to live and die condemned for eternity, she would have been accused by her contemporaries of failing to do her duty, but we might not remember her today as 'Bloody Mary'.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

A Private Moment Between Henry and Elizabeth

Tony Riches is the author of the bestselling Tudor trilogy, covering the lives of Owen, Jasper, and Henry Tudor and the birth of the Tudor dynasty. He has been kind enough to offer my readers an excerpt from the most recent installment in the series, giving us a peek into the private lives of Henry and his wife, Elizabeth of York.

~ Samantha

Guest Post by Tony Riches

The final book in the best-selling historical fiction Tudor Trilogy, this is the story, based on actual events, of Henry Tudor, who changes the history of England forever.

Bosworth 1485: After victory against King Richard III, Henry Tudor becomes King of England. Rebels and pretenders plot to seize his throne. The barons resent his plans to curb their power and he wonders who he can trust. He hopes to unite Lancaster and York through marriage to the beautiful Elizabeth of York.

With help from his mother, Lady Margaret Beaufort, he learns to keep a fragile peace. He chooses a Spanish Princess, Catherine of Aragon, as a wife for his son Prince Arthur. His daughters will marry the King of Scotland and the son of the Emperor of Rome. It seems his prayers are answered, then disaster strikes and Henry must ensure the future of the Tudors.

April 1489
Reaching out with slender fingers, the latest gift from the King of Spain munched at the succulent grape as if it were an apple. Less than a foot high, with a long, thick tail, the monkey had brown fur except for a cap of black. It fixed Henry with a pleading stare and held out a hand for more.
He offered another grape, which it took and began to suck at the sweet juice. ‘Do you think it has too-knowing eyes?’ Henry smiled. ‘I feel it can read our thoughts.’
Elizabeth spoke in a hushed tone, as if frightened of alarming it. ‘Does it have a name?’
‘I thought to call him Rodrigo,’ Henry laughed at her surprised expression, ‘after our esteemed ambassador. I wonder if this little monkey has also been sent to spy on us?’
‘Will the ambassador not be... offended?’
‘He should take it as a compliment that I consider his name worthy for my new pet.’ Henry gave her a grin. ‘Others have given us presents of lions, yet I received a monkey as a gift from his master.’
‘You plan to keep it in our private apartments?’ Elizabeth frowned with concern as she watched Henry feed the creature another ripe grape.
‘It amuses me.’ He grinned at her discomfort.
Elizabeth studied the thin gold chain which ran from a leather collar around the monkey’s tiny neck to prevent it escaping. ‘It has sharp little teeth...’
‘I think Rodrigo is clever enough not to bite the hand that feeds him.’
‘The ambassador...’ Elizabeth lowered her voice so the ever-present servants could not overhear. ‘Has he made progress with his negotiations?’
Henry nodded. ‘It seems we’ve found a suitable princess for our son. I expect a considerable dowry—and if de Puebla’s word is to be relied on, Princess Catalina is a pretty girl and bright for her age.’
‘It must be difficult to be certain.’ Elizabeth looked doubtful. ‘I understand the princess is only four years old...’
‘Arthur is only two years old, yet you agree he’s as handsome as his father—and as quick-witted as his mother?’
Elizabeth smiled at the thought. ‘Of course, but then as you often remind me, he is a Tudor.’
‘Half Tudor, half prince of the House of York.’
‘And soon there might be another...’
Henry embraced her. ‘Elizabeth!’ He stared into her amber eyes. ‘You are with child again?’
‘God willing.’ She failed to prevent a giggle at his enthusiasm for the news.
‘I prayed for God’s blessing upon us yet it seemed to be tempting fate to ask for another child.’ His face became serious. ‘I haven’t forgotten the toll Arthur’s birth took on you.’
‘It is a small enough price to pay.’ A fleeting shadow drifted over her face, the fear of all parents, then the moment passed.
‘I will pray for your good health and that this time it goes easier for you. Now we must celebrate our growing family!’

About the Author

Tony Riches is a full time author of best-selling historical fiction. He lives in Pembrokeshire, West Wales and is a specialist in the fifteenth century, with a particular interest in the Wars of the Roses and the lives of the early Tudors. For more information about Tony’s other books please visit his website and his popular blog, The Writing Desk and find him on Facebook and Twitter @tonyriches.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Not My White Princess

The popularity of the Starz series The White Princess has raised some questions about the historical Elizabeth of York. Based upon a book by Philippa Gregory, this show would have people believe that "Lizzie" was a fiery character who plots against her own husband.

I have no idea where any of this comes from.

Elizabeth of York is, of course, near and dear to my heart. One of the reasons that I wrote about her was that she seemed to be a forgotten, yet vital, part of history. I wanted to shed some light upon her life and character, but I have to admit that this wasn't exactly the type of attention I was hoping she would get. The real white princess would not recognize herself in this production.

The real Elizabeth was pious, generous, and devoted to her husband. History remains silent on what Elizabeth's feelings were toward Henry Tudor before their marriage, but she would have seen it as her duty to build a good relationship with him. Their daily habits indicate that they were devoted to each other, often travelling together and spending more time together than many royal couples.

For an idea of what a day in the life of Elizabeth looked like, see this article that I wrote for Tudor Times.

Elizabeth had grown up during turbulent times. She went into sanctuary with her mother and sisters once when her father, Edward IV, was forced into exile by the forces of his cousin and one time ally, the Earl of Warwick, and again when her father died. She had watched the power struggle between her father and Henry VI, Warwick, and Margaret of Anjou. She had been there when her uncle became Richard III and her brothers disappeared. The last thing Elizabeth wanted to do was start it all up again. She and Henry strove for peace with their union and for the most part achieved it.

Did Henry and Elizabeth have marital ups and downs? Certainly. Who doesn't? They had the added stress of minor rebellions and pretenders claiming to be Elizabeth's brothers, so I think they kept their relationship together rather well. They are both noted for their faithfulness during a time when monogamy was not expected of men, and certainly not of kings. Frankly, to suggest anything else is disrespectful of their relationship.

If you are watching The White Princess for light entertainment, enjoy. Just remember that behind the Hollywood story there is a real historical couple whose truth is just as interesting as fiction.

Monday, May 1, 2017

From the Scriptorium: May 2017

May 2017 Edition

Bookish News

April sure was a busy month. Queen of Martyrs has found its way to many shelves and the top of Amazon's Hot New Releases list for Biographical Fiction! The blog tour introducing my Mary was wonderful. Thank you to the many blog hosts, reviewers, and readers who have made this book release a success. For more on QoM & all the blog tour stops, click here.

In other writing news, I have started writing a few items for All About History magazine. If you are a subscriber, watch for my fun alternate history article coming up that has Queen Mary selecting someone else to be her king. Bye-bye, Philip! (Wouldn't that have saved her a lot of heartache??)

Also, production is in process to bring my Margaret to audiobook! I am so happy to be able to bring the story of this amazing woman to more readers of historical fiction. It is also great to again be working with narrator extraordinairre, Rachael Baresford. More on this soon.

Featured Reviews

Queen of Martyrs - Besides the amazing book reviews that were part of the blog tour, QoM has received several 5-star reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. It was difficult to choose which one to feature here, but I selected this one because this GR reader seems to really 'get' what I was attempting to accomplish with my version of Mary's story.

Cindy's review of Queen of Martyrs on Goodreads

Faithful Traitor - FT was named a Discovered Diamond last month! Reviewing and selecting the best of independently published historical fiction is the objective of the hardworking Discovering Diamond's team, and I am thrilled to have my Margaret recognized!

Discovering Diamonds Review of Faithful Traitor

Plantagenet Princess, Tudor Queen - The introduction to the Plantagenet Embers trilogy continues to draw people into the private life of Elizabeth of York. One reader got so carried away, she wrote this extensive review of my story and how it fits into the greater Wars of the Roses history.

Plantagenet Princess Tudor Queen on Themis-Athena's Garden of Books

Did you miss it?

Besides tons of great articles on Queen Mary as part of the QoM blog tour, I was also invited to Tudor Times last month. If you are watching The White Princess, you might be interested in what the life of Elizabeth of York actually looked like.

A Day in the Life of Elizabeth of York

People are clearly looking for the real history behind the Hollywood story, because this article from the archives has been viewed many times recently as well.

The Quiet Strength of Elizabeth of York

I was also honored to welcome guest Edoardo Albert to my blog once again. He was kind enough to share some amazing historic places he has visited as part of his writing research.

The Persistence of the Past

Thanks to all my readers!

Thank you to everyone who has read one of my books, and a special thanks to everyone who has written a review!

Keep up with all the latest bookish news by subscribing to my blog or following me on Facebook, Twitter, or Goodreads.

Enjoying the Historic Places Blog Series? See more historic places by following me on Instagram!

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Queen of Martyrs Blog Tour

Have you missed any of the great articles, interviews, and excerpts that have been a part of the Queen of Martyrs blog tour? Get caught up right here!

We begin with a spot at The Writing Desk of fellow author Tony Riches, where I address reader expectations of 'Bloody Mary'.

"Why 'Bloody Mary'?" at The Writing Desk

Next, some surprising similarities between the much loved Katherine of Aragon and her daughter at EHFA.

"Mary I: Her Mother's Daughter" at English Historical Fiction Authors

This one includes an excerpt! And a look at the complicated relationship between Mary and her cousin, Lady Jane Grey

"Mary and Jane: Reluctant Rivals" at Lady Jane Grey Reference Guide

Ever wondered about the person behind the books? Suzy Henderson interviewed me for her blog.

"Interview with Author Samantha Wilcoxson" at  Blog of Suzy Henderson

Just for fun! What if Mary had chosen someone else to be her husband?

"Mary and Reginald: What Could Have Been?" at Tudors Dynasty

Another fun stop - I got to 'interview' one of my favorite secondary characters from Queen of Martyrs: Frances Waldegrave.

"An Interview with Frances Waldegrave" at History Imagined

Readers might be surprised by this look at the relationship and similarities of character between Mary and her more favored sister, Elizabeth.

"What Elizabeth Learned from Mary" at Blog of Judith Arnopp

Finally, I was a guest of book blogger Poppy Coburn with a post regarding what Queen of Martyrs is truly about - exposing the real Queen Mary behind the myths and misconceptions.

"Exposing the Real 'Bloody Mary'" at Blog of Poppy Coburn

Now for the BOOK REVIEWS! 

Two blogs have also featured beautiful reviews of Queen of Martyrs:

Troy Rodgers at Knight of Angels
He's the one who convinced me to write it! Talk about pressure!

Sharon Connolly at History- The Interesting Bits
Sharon has her own book coming out soon: Heroines of the Medieval World - I can't wait to get my hands on it and find more wonderful women to write about!

You can also find several brilliant reviews for my Mary at Goodreads, Amazon, & Amazon UK.

Have you written a review? Please link it in the comments below!!

Don't want to miss anything? Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, or Instagram.

One more thing....if you ever want to find articles I have written for other websites/blogs, you can find them here.

Whew! It's been a busy month! Thank you for your support!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Publication Day for Queen Mary!

The day is finally here to welcome Queen Mary to your bookshelves! Queen of Martyrs was written to challenge each reader to consider the story of 'Bloody Mary' a little more deeply. Was she vengeful and bitter? I don't think so. The Mary Tudor I have come to know was merciful and devout, choosing her course of action based on the good of the people of England and what is right in the eyes of God. Of course, not everyone agreed at that turbulent time on what God's wishes were, but salvation was still a matter of state, leaving Mary in a sticky situation that has caused her name to be blackened for almost 500 years.

My heart broke for Mary as I watched her go through loss and longing over and over again. How different would her story be if just one person had shown her the devotion and love that she so desired to share? After the deaths of her mother in 1536 and her former governess in 1541, Mary was left with no one who would ever demonstrate the same kind of unconditional love for her.

She never forgot that she was a princess and her father's legitimate heir. Though she would often be weak physically and  naive politically, Mary demonstrated unprecedented strength when she claimed the throne that men conspired to deny her.

Read her story and see if you are not tempted to feel some sympathy - and maybe even cheer a bit - for a lonely bastardized princess who became queen.

A fun blog tour will be taking place over the next few weeks to celebrate this book release. Stay tuned for guest posts, book reviews, interviews, excerpts and more from Queen of Martyrs: The Story of Mary I. The tour started a few days ago at the blog of historical fiction author Tony Riches. Visit The Writing Desk for some background on the woman I hope fewer people will be calling Bloody Mary.

Read an amazing review from the friend who encouraged me to write about Queen Mary at Knight of Angels.

Next, I am at EHFA with Mary I: Her Mother's Daughter, and Sharon Connolly of History - The Interesting Bits has published a lovely review of Queen of Martyrs.

Curious about the relationship between Mary and Lady Jane Grey? You will enjoy this post at the Lady Jane Grey Reference Guide which includes an excerpt from Queen of Martyrs!

A fun post at Tudors Dynasty looks at Mary's marriage possibilities and how things could have turned out better if she had not chosen a Spanish husband.

Suzy Henderson has interviewed me about my writing process and how a book about Elizabeth of York turned into the Plantagenet Embers Trilogy.

Future stops in the blog tour will include History Imagined, book blogger Poppy Coburn, and the blog of historical fiction author Judith Arnopp. Enjoy!

Queen of Martyrs is available on Amazon in paperback and on Kindle.


If you have already received Queen of Martyrs on your Kindle, many thanks to you for pre-ordering!! Unfortunately, you may have received the wrong file. Due to a mix up between myself and Amazon, an ARC was sent out to those who pre-ordered. You should be able to update content though your 'Manage your Content and Devices' page under your Amazon account.

I apologize profusely for this mix up and spent several days attempting to clear it up before today, but that is one of the few disadvantages to being an independent author. To Amazon, I am less than a little fish in a big pond. I am a tiny shrimp in a giant ocean. If you have any trouble downloading the correct version of QoM, please contact me directly and I will ensure that you receive it.

Thanks again for supporting my writing!
~ Samantha

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The Persistence of the Past

Edoardo Albert is a talented writer of books and articles on diverse topics from Daily Science Fiction to History Today. He has previously been a guest here with a wonderful post on researching, writing and Northumbrian kings, and I am happy to welcome him back. Today, he takes us on a visit to Bamburgh Castle and the Isle of Anglesey, where he found a few physical connections to the long ago kings who feature in his novels.

Welcome, Edoardo!
~ Samantha

Guest Post by Edoardo Albert

Writing, as I do, about 7th-century Britain, you’d think that there would be few tangible remains for anyone interested in the doings of these seminal but all-but-forgotten kings to touch and see and visit. And seeing as how the Anglo-Saxons preferred wood for their buildings rather than stone, you’d be right – in the main. After the conversion of the Anglo-Saxons to Christianity – a process that I write about in my novels – there an increasing number of relics to see and appreciate, from the luminous beauty of the Lindisfarne Gospels to the churches of Saints Peter and Paul at Monkwearmouth, where the great Anglo-Saxon scholar Bede wrote the Ecclesiastical History of the English People, but there’s precious little from before and during the conversion period.

Which makes what there is, all the more precious.

Bamburgh – Bebbanburh then – was the stronghold and capital of the Idings, the Anglian rulers of Bernicia who, under Æthelfrith, took over the kingdom of Deira (centred on York). For anyone wishing to get close to the events in my books, there is no better place to visit. Bamburgh Castle as it stands today is the result of the renovations carried out in the 19th century by Lord Armstrong, Victorian industrialist and one of the richest men of the time. Personally, I prefer a castle intact, even if done up, rather than one in romantic ruins, so I’m pleased that Lord Armstrong rescued the castle from decay. But despite all the centuries of occupation, there are still traces of its days of glory as the centre of the most powerful kingdom in Britain.

Here’s a photo of me, standing beside
the well, wondering how they did it.
To find the first of these, go down deep into the castle’s depths. There, in the basement, you’ll find the well. Sitting atop a huge great lump of dolerite, an extrusion of the Great Whin Sill, and set beside the sea, there was only one thing Bamburgh lacked to make it the perfect stronghold for a bunch of marauding Anglians on the make: water. Yes, you could store water in butts, but to withstand a siege, the castle needed water. So Æthelfrith dug a well. Through solid rock. Until he reached water. They dug down through 44 metres (144 feet) of rock, making a hole two metres (six feet) wide. How did they do it? We don’t know for certain, as they left no records of the engineering that went into this remarkable feat, but one possibility is that fires may have been set on top of the rock, heating it as much as possible, before cold water doused the fire, and cooled and contracted the rock, making it split. But they must have set a lot of fires to dig down so deep. 

The Bamburgh blade now rests in a display cabinet in the castle,
a rusty reminder of past glory and lost greatness.
Also in Bamburgh Castle, in the small exhibit of finds from the ongoing excavations of the Bamburgh Research Project, there is an unprepossessing slab of corroded metal. It’s not much to look at: the remains of a broken sword retrieved from the earth after centuries buried. But this may be what is left of the most remarkable sword ever made. You see, in making a sword, smiths have to reconcile opposites. A sword must be sharp, to cut through armour and shield, bone and muscle, but it must also be flexible, so that it does not break in battle, leaving its wielder weaponless. Steel is hard and can be sharpened to a razor’s edge, but it is brittle. Iron is flexible but it will not hold an edge and so, in battle, will become little more than a metal club.

To overcome these contradictions, sword smiths of the so-called Dark Ages (they certainly weren’t ignorant so far as the properties of metals were concerned) developed the technique of pattern welding, where cores of iron were heated, wound together and beaten out, removing impurities, while a steel edge was welded to the blade. Up until the early 2000s, no blade had been found with more than four strands of iron welded together. And then the Bamburgh blade was sent for analysis to the Royal Armouries. It had six. Six iron cores, repeatedly heated and beaten and welded together. It would have taken thousands of man hours to create such a blade and only a master sword smith would have been capable of it. Such a sword would surely have been wielded by the greatest of warriors, perhaps the king himself. What is more, the sword was dated to the seventh century. The sword itself was passed down through the generations, sheathed in peace and wielded in war, for four centuries before, finally, it broke, and consigned to the earth in the grounds of Bamburgh Castle. Such a burial place suggests the esteem in which the sword was held.

The gravestone of King Cadfan, embedded in the wall
of a quiet country church in Anglesey.
Outside Bamburgh, the most evocative and moving seventh-century survival I have found is set into the wall of a quiet country church on the Isle of Anglesey. Anglesey, separated from the north west of Wales by the Menai Strait, was the bread basket of the kingdom of Gwynedd, one of the realms where the Britons maintained their life and their faith despite the incursions of the Anglo-Saxon invaders. The kings of Gwynedd had their seat at a settlement called Aberffraw. Visit the village today and it’s a quiet, peaceful place. A mile east of Aberffraw is the even quieter hamlet of Llangadwaladr and the church of St Cadwaladr. And embedded in the wall of the church is the gravestone of King Cadfan of Gwynedd, the father of King Cadwallon, the ‘furious stag’ of Welsh hope, who fought and almost brought down the Anglo-Saxon kings of Northumbria. Cadwallon himself, killed by Oswald in battle, has no gravestone but this mute stone gives testament to the learning of the ancient kingdom, for it is written in Latin: CATAMANUS REX SAPIENTISIMUS OPINATISIMUS OMNIUM REGUM (‘King Catamanus, the wisest, most illustrious of all kings’). Catamanus is the Latin form of Cadfan.

In the quiet of rural Wales, standing in the church dedicated to King Cadfan’s grandson, it seems almost possible to pierce the veil of centuries and see back to the grieving people and family who had this stone cut in memory of their king and father.

Connect with Edoardo

Connect with Edoardo on his website, where you can find more about his articles, podcast, and short stories. His books include the Northumbrian Thrones trilogy, featuring 7th century kings Edwin, Oswald, and Oswiu. He has also published several nonfiction books, including London: A Spiritual History, In Search of Alfred the Great, and Northumbria: The Lost Kingdom

Find these and more by Edoardo Albert on Amazon.

You can also connect with Edoardo on Twitter

Saturday, April 1, 2017

From the Scriptorium: April 2017

April 2017 Edition

The biggest news this month is the upcoming release of Queen of Martyrs! I cannot wait to hear what you all think of Queen Mary's story. If you are looking forward to reading it on Kindle, you can pre-order it now. On April 12, it will be available in paperback as well.

Why April 12? Because it is my birthday! One of the advantages of being an independent writer is setting my own deadlines, so I decided that a book release was the best way to spend my day, certainly better than dwelling over creeping numbers and fine lines!

Also to celebrate the advent of Queen Mary, I have a great blog tour planned. We will be visiting The Writing Desk, Knight of Angels, EHFA, Lady Jane Grey, Suzy Henderson, Judith Arnopp, History, the Interesting Bits, and History Imagined. See my In the News page to stay up to date on guest posts so that you don't miss a single book review, excerpt, interview, or historic article!

Featured Reviews

Queen of Martyrs on Goodreads - I can't wait to read your review!

Faithful Traitor on Goodreads

Plantagenet Princess, Tudor Queen at The Review

See your review featured! Leave a link in the comments below.


I was privileged to participate in the Michigan Library Association's Spring Institute at a special Evening with an Author, organized to support local literacy efforts. Thank you to everyone who joined me in Frankenmuth, Michigan for great book talks and, of course, plenty of German food and Christmas cheer at any time of year.

In the News

I have started writing for the magazine All About History! If you already subscribe, you know that this publication is packed with interesting articles on all eras of history as well as fun features such as book reviews and alternative histories. Look forward to my own version of alternative history coming up soon in which Queen Mary chooses Reginald Pole as her husband instead of Prince Philip of Spain!

Did You Miss It?

Who would dare to stand up to Henry VIII? A teenage girl. Get warmed up for the rest of Mary's story by reading about her courageous stand against her father. (The scene described in this post actually takes place during Mary's younger years in Faithful Traitor.)

Mary Takes a Stand

Judith Arnopp's guest post last month quickly became one of the most viewed articles on this blog. Apparently, many of you are interested in the Lady Margaret Beaufort and Judith's inspiration for writing about her.

Why Margaret Beaufort?

Another guest, Trisha Hughes, stopped by to celebrate the release of her new novel, Vikings to Virgin - The Hazards of Being King. This is one I look forward to reading!

The Hazards of Being King

Taking an article for the archives, we revisited the fate of the York princesses who suddenly found themselves subjects of a new dynasty.

York Sisters in a Tudor World

Have you visited all the wonderful places on my Historic Places Blog Series?

You can follow me on Twitter, Goodreads, or Facebook to ensure that you never miss a thing!

I'm also now on Instagram @Samantha_Wilcoxson.