Tracy Borman

Bestselling author and historian Tracy Borman took time to discuss her career, history obsession and her upcoming appearance at the Chalke Valley History Festival. Find out what dastardly deeds caught her attention while writing The Fallen Angel.

-How would you describe yourself in fifty words or less?

Author, historian and broadcaster whose obsession with the Tudors borders on the unhealthy.  I’m also joint Chief Curator of Historic Royal Palaces and Chief Executive of the Heritage Education Trust.

-Why do you love history?

I’ve always loved it and I think that’s innate, rather than something learned.  Apparently my paternal grandfather was a fellow history-lover so perhaps I get it from him, although sadly he died before I was born.  Thanks to my work for Historic Royal Palaces, I spend a lot of time in beautiful historical buildings, but for me what sets my passion for history alight is the research.  The thrill of getting my hands on original documents in The National Archives, the British Library and elsewhere is something that never diminishes, even after all these years of writing and researching.

-Can you think of one specific event that led to this?

I think the reason I’m a historian now is thanks to my ‘A’ level history teacher, who really encouraged my passion for the subject…and made me fall in love with the Tudors.  She also opened my eyes to the fact that history isn’t just about ‘facts’, dates and events; it’s about real people – human beings with emotions just like us.  That changed everything for me.

What drew you to Tudor and Stuart history?

See above.  Mrs Jones has a lot to answer for!  But I also became fascinated with the Stuarts when researching my non-fiction book, Witches: James I and the English Witch Hunts.  It was such a dark and turbulent period of our history, yet one that’s often overlooked.  That research inspired my fiction trilogy, The King’s Witch, The Devil’s Slave and The Fallen Angel.

-Do you have any favourite characters or persons from these eras that appeal to you? Any that you dislike?

My all-time historical heroine is Elizabeth I.  I admire her so much – her self-discipline, courage, shrewdness and the way she confounded expectations as a ‘weak and feeble woman’ ruling over a court and kingdom dominated by men.  Mary, Queen of Scots, on the other hand, deepened the prejudice against female rulers by being reckless, self-indulgent and entirely led by the heart.  The two women couldn’t have been more different – and I think you can tell who’s my favourite!  For the Stuart era, I was really drawn to Anne of Denmark, queen consort of James I.  I think there’s much more to her than meets the eye, particularly with regard to her clandestine links to the Catholic community and, possibly, even the Gunpowder Plotters – as I hint at in my novels.

-What led to your interest in the Duke of Buckingham & James I/VI?

It was the research I carried out for my non-fiction book, Witches.  The transition from the Tudor to the Stuart dynasty led to great uncertainty in England, which soon darkened into hostility towards the new king – and, ultimately, an attempt to blow him and his entire government to the skies.  James himself is an intriguing character – not easy to like, despite his intellectual gifts and wry sense of humour.  As for his favourite, Buckingham, he was an out and out villain – both in my novel, The Fallen Angel, and in real life.  But villains are so much more fun to write about than heroes so I’m grateful for all his dastardly deeds, even if his contemporaries didn’t quite feel the same.

-Tell us one thing you learned while writing The Fallen Angel that blew your mind.

I think it would have to be the fact that Buckingham may have had a hand in James I’s death.  Evidence has been uncovered recently that shows Buckingham had access to poisons and physicians who dealt in them.  He was certainly in close attendance on the king in his final weeks.  It may just be circumstantial – there were often rumours of poison surrounding royal deaths – but let’s just say the dastardly duke had the means.

-What’s your involvement with Chalke Valley History Festival?

I’m proud to be a patron of the festival and have taken part in it every year since 2015, when I postponed my honeymoon in order to be there!  It’s been wonderful to see it get bigger and better every year.  Come rain or shine (and there’s been plenty of both!) it’s the highlight of my events calendar. 

-When will you be appearing?

2pm on Thursday 24 June.

-How can we find you on social media?

Twitter

Instagram

Website 

Purchase your ticket here

About Tracy Borman…

Tracy Borman studied and taught history at the University of Hull and was awarded a PHD in 1997. She went on to a successful career in heritage including working for the Heritage Lottery Fund, The National Archives and English Heritage. She is now Chief Executive of the Heritage Education Trust and also joint Chief Curator for Historic Royal Palaces. She is a trustee of The Buccleuch Living Heritage Trust and The National Archives Foundation, as well as a Patron of Lavenham Library and a Honorary Patron of the Chalke Valley History Festival. She is the author of a number of highly acclaimed books, including Thomas Cromwell: The Untold Story of Henry VIII’s Most Faithful Servant; Matilda: Wife of the Conqueror, First Queen of England; Elizabeth’s Women: The Hidden Story of the Virgin Queen; and Witches: A Tale of Sorcery, Scandal and Seduction. She is also a regular broadcaster and public speaker, giving talks on her books across the UK and abroad.

About Chalke Valley History Festival

The aim is to excite, enthral and entertain about the past. All proceeds from the festival have, since 2012, been directed to the Chalke Valley History Trust, which promotes the understanding of history to all ages, but especially children.

The Chalke Valley History Festival began in June 2011 on a small scale and as a fundraiser for the local cricket club. Club stalwart and historian James Holland had the idea for a festival but it was James Heneage, founder and former CEO of Ottakar’s bookshops and now historical novelist, who suggested a festival dedicated to history.

It began with the help of a number of local volunteers, among whom Peter Bell and Rachel Holland played a big part in that first year and continue to do so today. Jane Pleydell-Bouverie came on board in autumn 2011 and has been at the heart of the festival ever since. The Daily Mail became the festival’s principal sponsor in 2013, and it now consists of a week of talks, discussions, debates, as well as extensive and immersive living history and historic air displays.

Since 2013, the festival has also incorporated the History Festival for Schools. ‘An understanding of the past is essential,’ says Co-Founder James Heneage, ‘without that, it is impossible to make sense of the present or prepare for the future.’

2017 saw the festival move to a new site of over 70 acres in Broad Chalke, but still in the heart of the beautiful Wiltshire Chalke Valley.

Church Bottom, Bury Lane, Broad Chalke,
Near Salisbury, Wiltshire, SP5 5DP

Find out more and purchase tickets here!

The Tudors in Love

Why did Henry VIII marry 6 times?

Why did Elizabeth I’s courtiers hail her as a goddess come to earth?

Feast your eyes on the cover of The Tudors in Love: The Courtly Code Behind the Last Medieval Dynasty from bestselling historian Sarah Gristwood.

Alison Weir says, “The Tudors in Love is a masterclass in marshalling a vast canon of research into a riveting, pacy page-turner. Sarah takes us on a virtuoso romp through the loves and tropes of medieval and Tudor royalty, seen from the novel angle of courtly love.”

Coming September 2021. Pre-order info available soon!

Shared courtesy of the author.

Essex – Tudor Rebel

Book two of the Elizabethan Series

New from Tony Riches, Author of the best-selling Tudor Trilogy

Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, is one of the most intriguing men of the Elizabethan period. Tall and handsome, he soon becomes a ‘favourite’ at court, so close to the queen many wonder if they are lovers.

The truth is far more complex, as each has what the other yearns for. Robert Devereux longs for recognition, wealth and influence. His flamboyant naïveté amuses the ageing Queen Elizabeth, like the son she never had, and his vitality makes her feel young.

Robert Devereux’s remarkable true story continues the epic tale of the rise of the Tudors, which began with the best-selling Tudor trilogy and concludes with the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.

Author Bio

Tony Riches at Pembroke Castle

Tony Riches is a full-time UK author of best-selling Tudor historical fiction. He lives in Pembrokeshire, West Wales and is a specialist in the history of the Wars of the Roses and the lives of the early Tudors. Tony’s other published historical fiction novels include: Owen – Book One Of The Tudor Trilogy, Jasper – Book Two Of The Tudor Trilogy, Henry – Book Three Of The Tudor Trilogy, Mary – Tudor Princess, Brandon – Tudor Knight and The Secret Diary Of Eleanor Cobham. For more information about Tony’s books please visit his website tonyriches.com and his blog, The Writing Desk and find him on  Facebook and Twitter @tonyriches

Purchase sites:

AMAZON US

AMAZON UK

Medicine, Magic and Music: Elizabeth I

Elizabeth I
Coronation Portrait

The last Tudor monarch, Queen Elizabeth I, was the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. Her early life went from Princess to being declared illegitimate after her mother was executed. At one point, her sister Mary had her placed in The Tower on charges of treason. Elizabeth was never expected to rule England, but she did. Many would say her reign is unmatched in the history of England. She became Gloriana…Good Queen Bess…The Virgin Queen.

The years of 1558–1603 saw English art and high culture reach a zenith known as the English Renaissance. Elizabethan music experienced a shift in popularity from sacred to secular music and saw an increase in instrumental music. Professional musicians were employed by the Church of England, the nobility, and the rising middle-class. Elizabeth I loved music and was an accomplished musician, noted as played the lute, virginal, and gitterne-an early form of the guitar, along with various other instruments. She believed dancing was a great form of physical exercise and employed musicians to play for her. During her reign, it became a common practice to employee musicians. The interests of the queen were expected to be adopted by her subjects. All noblemen were expected to be proficient in playing the lute and young women in society were expected to be skilled in vocal or musical training as part of their education. Music printing led to a publishing market for those who received permission from the queen.

Even though England broke with the Roman Catholic Church in 1534, English did not become the official language of the Church of England until the reign of Elizabeth’s stepbrother Edward VI. Queen Elizabeth re-established the Church of England following the rule of Mary I, and introduced measures of Catholic tolerance. The most famous composers for the Anglican Church during Queen Elizabeth’s reign were Thomas Tallis and his student William Byrd. Both composers were Catholics and produced vocal works in both Latin and English.

Secular vocal works became wildly popular during the Elizabethan Era with the introduction of works from Italian musicians.The music of Italian madrigal composers inspired musicians who are now known as the English Madrigal School. Thomas Morley, a student of William Byrd’s, published collections of madrigals which included his compositions, and those of his contemporaries. The most famous of these is entitled The Triumphs of Oriana, which was made in honour of Queen Elizabeth.

Gitterne
Courtesy ©Trustees of the British Museum

Instrumental music was popular during the Elizabethan Era. The most popular solo instruments of the time were the virginal and the lute. The virginal was a variant of the harpsichord, and one of Elizabeth’s personal favorites. The lute was the most popular instrument of the era. Lutes could be played as solo instruments or as accompaniment for singers. Compositions of the latter variety were known as lute song. The most popular Elizabethan composer for the lute was John Dowland. Contemporary readers will recognize this name as Elvis Costello included a recording of Dowland’s song “Can she excuse my wrongs” as a bonus track on the 2006 re-release of his The Juliet Letters.

In October 2006, Sting, released an album featuring Dowland’s songs titled Songs from the Labyrinth, in collaboration with Edin Karamazov on lute and archlute. He states that he has been fascinated by the music of John Dowland for over twenty five years. In order to give a feeling of the tension and intrigues of life in late Elizabethan England, Sting recites portions of a letter written by Dowland to Sir Robert Cecil in 1593.

Henry VIII’s grandmother and his father (Lady Margaret Beaufort and King Henry VII) were devout Catholics, yet they were highly superstitious. Both kept a retinue of soothsayers and diviners in their employment, along with their physicians. They aimed to be of one accord with the planets and signs from the heavens. Elizabeth I even chose the exact moment of her coronation based on an astrology chart drawn by her physician John Dee. The Tudors believed that “as above, so below”. If the royal humors were balanced within the body, their body would be in tune with the heavenly realm. We see how the love of music shaped the lives of three extremely influential queens during the Tudor era. We may no longer believe that music is needed to balance our ‘humours’ however the importance of music and dance, in all its various forms, continues to shape contemporary society.

Originally published April 2016 by History.Net

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Sources for Medicine, Magic and Music: The Healing Properties of Music Observed in the Lives of Anne Boleyn, Mary Queen of Scots & Elizabeth I, Parts 1-3.

Calendar of State Papers, Scotland, page 613.

Buchanan, George. Rerum Scoticarum Historia. Edinburgh, 1582.

Fraser, Antonia. Mary, Queen of Scots. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1969.

Hawkins, Sir John, A General History of the Science and Practice of Music, Volume 2. J. Alfred Novello, 1853.

Ives, Eric. The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn. Blackwell Press, 2005.

Page, Christopher. The Guitar in Tudor England: A Social and Musical History. Cambridge University Press, 2015.

Starkey, David. Elizabeth: The Struggle for the Throne. Harper Perennial, 2007.

Weir, Alison. The Life of Elizabeth I. Ballantine Books, 1998.

Oxford University, Bodleian Library and Radcliffe Camera. Special thanks to this site for allowing glimpses into the astrological charts compiled by the Elizabethan astrologers/physicians, John Dee and Simon Forman.

 “500 Years Later” by CR Chalmers and EJ Chaloner, Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, Royal Society of Medicine Press.

“King Henry VIII’s Medical World” by Dr. Elizabeth T Hurren, Senior Lecturer History of Medicine at Oxford Brookes University.

Medicine, Magic and Music

Part 2 – Mary, Queen of Scots

Mary, Queen of Scots

Mary, Queen of Scots, also known as Mary Stuart or Mary I of Scotland, was Queen of Scotland from December 1542 to July 1567 and Queen Consort of France from July 1559 until December 1560.

Mary was the daughter of King James V of Scotland and Marie of Guise, a member of the House of Guise, which played a significant role in 16th-century French politics. Mary was the only surviving legitimate child of King James V and she acceded to the throne when her father died. She was six days old. She spent the majority of her childhood in France while Scotland was ruled by regents along, and in 1558 she married the Dauphin of France. He became King Francis II in 1559, and Mary was briefly Queen Consort, until his death in December 1560. The young widow returned to Scotland, arriving in Leith on August 19, 1561. Four years later, she married her first cousin, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, but their union was unhappy. In February 1567, his residence was destroyed by an explosion and Darnley was found murdered in the garden.

James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell, was thought to be the master-mind behind Darnley’s death, however he was acquitted of the charge in April 1567. Twelve days later he married Mary. It has always been a question as to whether the marriage was one of force or whether she agreed or not. Another theory is that she was in complete agreement with the marriage.

Following an uprising against the couple, Mary was imprisoned in Loch Leven Castle. On July 24, 1567, she was forced to abdicate in favor of James, her one-year-old son by Darnley, her deceased husband. After an unsuccessful attempt to regain the throne, she fled southwards seeking the protection of her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I of England. Mary had previously claimed Elizabeth’s throne as her own and was considered the legitimate sovereign of England by many English Catholics. Unsure of what to do with the capricious Mary, and with many of her counselors perceiving her as a threat, Elizabeth had her confined in manor houses in the interior of England. After eighteen and a half years in custody, Mary was found guilty of plotting to assassinate Elizabeth, and was subsequently beheaded.

Mary remains a controversial figure in history. There are a few things we know for certain. She was tall, citations note her height at 5’ 10” to six feet, her grandmother was King Henry VIII’s sister Margaret, she was the mother of James I and VI of England and Scotland, and she was considered beautiful in her own time and by our contemporary standards. As an old adage states, someone that beautiful has to be guilty, and Mary Stuart is quite possibly the best example of that statement in history. He married her handsome English cousin Henry, Lord Darnley, a reckless match which she later regretted.

Henry, Lord Darnley
Public Domain

She loved music and was skilled at playing both the lute and viola. Two of her favorite activities were music and dancing, which was shunned by the strict Protestant Calvinist beliefs of John Knox, the head of the Scottish Kirk (Church). The powerful Scottish Lairds (Nobles) were increasingly becoming members of the Scottish Kirk and frowned upon her practices as well. A truce of sorts was reached in which Mary and her court could enjoy their Catholic Masses in private. The young Queen and her entourage, known as the Four Maries, were allowed to enjoy their masquerades and merry making within the confines of the castles at the Queen’s state events. Knox felt that the young queen, and her love of dance and music had turned the royal enclaves into brothels, rather than places for honest women.  

The turning point for in Mary Stuart’s life came with the death of David Rizzio. He was an Italian courtier and musician, who rose to become the private secretary of Mary, Queen of Scots. Mary’s husband, Lord Darnley, is said to have been jealous of their friendship. Darnley joined in a conspiracy of Protestant nobles, led by Patrick Ruthven, Lord Ruthven, to murder him. This murder became the catalyst for the downfall of Darnley, and it had serious consequences for Mary’s turbulent career.

Rizzio, whose name appears in records as David Riccio di Pancalieri in Piemonte went from Turin, Italy to the Court of the Duke of Savoy, at Nice, France. Finding no opportunities for advancement there, he was employed by the Count de Moretto in 1561, who was leading a diplomatic mission to Scotland. Once in Scotland, Rizzio, found that there were no further opportunities for him and he was dismissed from service. He ingratiated himself with the Queen’s French musicians. James Melville, a personal friend of Rizzio, said that “Her Majesty had three valets in her chamber, who sung three parts, and wanted a bass to sing the fourth part”. Rizzio was considered an excellent singer, which brought him to the attention of the Queen.

Having grown wealthy under her patronage, he became the secretary for relations with France in 1564, after the previous secretary of the post retired. This post attracted a quarterly salary of £20. Ambitious-seeing himself as all but a Secretary of State, Catholic and a foreigner, Rizzio was much too close to the Queen. Rumors swirled that Mary was having an affair with the Italian Fiddler, as some called him and that her child was possibly his.

Maty witnessing the death of Rizzio
Public Domain

Jealousy on the part of the vain and arrogant Lord Darnley led to his murder in the Queen’s presence, in her supper chamber in the Palace of Holyroodhouse after the royal guards were overpowered and the palace was turned over to the control of the rebels. Commanded by Patrick Ruthven, they demanded Rizzio be handed over. The Queen refused. Rizzio then hid behind Mary but was seized and stabbed to death in the presence of the Queen. He was stabbed 56 times on March 9, 1566 by Lord Darnley and his co-conspirators. The Queen was seven months pregnant at the time of the murder.

After this violent struggle, Rizzio’s body was thrown down the main staircase, stripped of its jewels and fine clothes. He was buried within two hours in the cemetery of Holyrood. Records state that his body was removed by the Queen’s orders and deposited in the sepulchre of the Kings of Scotland.

Mary’s turbulent life continued. Lord Darnley was dead with a year, and a few years later the beautiful Scottish Queen escaped into England in hopes of being rescued from her own nobles by her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I. This ended badly as well, with her execution in 1587 on charges of high treason against her cousin. And it all began because she wanted a fourth musician in her chamber. It should be noted that her son was born heathy and although he was taken from her at an early age, he eventually become King James VI and I, the first Stewart King of Great Britain.

Next stop in Medicine, Magic and Music: The Healing Properties of Music observed in the Lives of Anne Boleyn, Mary Queen of Scots & Elizabeth I is a look into how music and the arts flourished in the reign of Elizabeth I.

Reveal: The Project

Ralph Sadler was born in Hackney, Middlesex, the elder son of Henry Sadler, a minor official. At approximately seven years of age, Sadler was placed in the household of Thomas Cromwell. He was an intelligent and resourceful child who was taught many skills-learning to read and write, becoming fluent in French, Latin and Greek, and given knowledge of the law. He eventually became a courtier and diplomat who served four Tudor monarchs: Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I. 

Sir Ralph and Mary Queen of Scots

In April 1540, Sadler was made principal secretary to King Henry VIII. In the same year, he was knighted, made a privy councillor, and began more than 30 years of service. Sadler survived Cromwell’s fall from power and execution but during the power struggle following Cromwell’s death he was arrested and sent to the Tower for a time. He was able to clear himself and was released in a few days, returning to the council chamber. He played a leading role in the examination of Catherine Howard and her relatives in November 1541, regained the King’s trust and was knighted for his part in holding matters of state while the court went on a summer progress.

On the accession of Mary I to the throne, after the resolution of the succession crisis, Sadler lost most of his offices, including master of the great wardrobe, he was removed from the commissions of the peace and excluded from the Privy Council. For a short time in 1553 he was under house arrest. For the rest of Mary I’s reign he did not sit in any parliament, remaining in semi-retirement at Standon, Hertfordshire.

During the reign of Elizabeth I he was restored to favor and sent to Scotland in 1559 to arrange an alliance with the Scottish Protestants. He eventually became one of the architects of the Treaty of Edinburgh. In 1568 he was appointed Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. When Mary, Queen of Scots, fled to England, Sadler was unwillingly appointed to meet with Scottish commissioners, becoming a reluctant jailer of the Scottish Queen. From summer 1584 to spring 1585, Mary was housed at Wingfield Manor and Tutbury Castle, under Sadler’s charge. During that time, Elizabeth grew increasingly disturbed by the presence of Mary Stuart on English soil and Sadler was instructed to restrict her freedom, being required to post guards around the area where Mary was held. Eventually, Sadler sat on the council that sentenced Mary to death.

Sadler married Ellen Mitchell circa 1534. They had three sons and four daughters, one being Sir Thomas Sadler who was named for Cromwell. Sir Ralph died March 1587 and was rumored to be the wealthiest commoner in England. His aging tomb is in St. Mary’s Church, Standon Hertfordshire.

Tomb of Sir Ralph Sadlier

Sir Ralph Sadleir (1507-87), the great Tudor statesman and long-time resident of Standon, England asked to be buried ‘not with anie pompe after the worldly manner, but in such sorte as shall be seemlie and requisite for a Christian man’. His son, Sir Thomas, decided to ignore his wishes and commissioned elaborate, ornate tombs for his father and himself commissioned from the leading London workshops of the Tudor Era. The magnificent tombs of Sir Ralph Sadleir (1507-1587), his eldest son Thomas and the latter’s wife Gertrude are a part of the rich heritage of the Tudor Era.

Sir Ralph, described on his memorial as ‘’faithful to the state and beloved of his countrie’’, served Tudor monarchs as courtier, soldier and statesman. The passage of over 400 years has left the memorials in need of repair and refurbishment. Sadlier’s part in the acclaimed Wolf Hall trilogy by Hilary Mantel–in which he features prominently–has acted as a catalyst to get the needed repairs made.

DONATE TODAY to Sadlier Tombs Refurbishment Project!

Unidentified man by Hans Holbein, thought to be Ralph Sadlier

Nikolaus Pevsner, the noted twentieth century art historian and author of the Buildings of England series, wrote enthusiastically about the Sadleir tombs in the volume on Hertfordshire.

Patrons of this project include renowned author Hilary Mantel whose works include the acclaimed Wolf Hall trilogy tracing the life of Thomas Cromwell.  The first two books, Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies, both won the Man Booker Prize. The third, The Mirror and the Light, has been described by the Financial Times’ critic as ‘majestic and often breathtakingly poetic’.  A major character in all three is Rafe Sadler (Sir Ralph Sadleir) who grew up in Cromwell’s household and served Henry VIII, Edward VI and Elizabeth I.

Ms. Mantel writes of him, ‘Ralph Sadleir was a great Tudor survivor whose story should be better known, and I am proud to have been able to play a part in introducing him to the reading public. What I would like to see is a full modern biography, surely overdue – but meanwhile I can think of no better project than to conserve his family monuments’

Dame Hilary Mantel

PATRONS

-DAME HILARY MANTEL, DBE FRSL

Author of the double Booker Prize winning Wolf Hall trilogy

-THE COUNTESS of VERULAM, CVO DL

Artist & former Lord Lieutenant of Hertfordshire 

-THE VISCOUNTESS TRENCHARD

Resides at Standon Lordship & is a former High Sheriff of Hertfordshire

These pictures show examples of the conservation, repair and refurbishment required.

DONATE

This Mighty Realm

By Bonny G Smith

This Mighty Realm – The Fourth Book of The Tudor Chronicles

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The fourth book of The Tudor Chronicles, This Mighty Realm, was published on December 1, 2020. Two years in the writing, this brilliant novel tells the exciting story of the stormy relationship between Queen Elizabeth I of England and the young Earl of Essex, in the twilight years of Gloriana’s reign.

What is The Tudor Chronicles, and what inspired you to write it?

The Tudor Chronicles is a set of three complete Tudor novels in four volumes. It currently consists of The Nymph From Heaven, The Baker’s Daughter, and In High Places. These three novels span the years of the reigns of four Tudor monarchs; King Henry VIII, King Edward VI, Queen Mary Tudor, and Queen Elizabeth I.

I grew up reading historical fiction novels, and watching movies about past times. I soon discovered that the vast tapestry that is “history” was a disjointed jumble in my mind. As I got older, I sought to bring a semblance of order to the chaos; I developed an overwhelming desire to understand what happened, when, and most importantly, why, in the long march of human history. I studied Ancient and Medieval History. But out of all the sweeping saga of time, the one fragment that most captured my imagination was the Tudor Era.

I became fascinated by, one might say positively obsessed with, possibly the most famous love triangle that has ever been. I read, I watched, everything I could find about Henry VIII, Katharine of Aragon, and Anne Boleyn.

When I delved deeper into Tudor history, and I discovered that King Henry VIII had two sisters, I was off and running like a hound on the scent. Margaret and Mary both had very interesting lives, but I found absolutely captivating the tale of Henry’s younger sister, Mary, and her romance with Charles Brandon. However, compared to the overwhelming abundance of information on Henry, Anne, and Katharine, I found very little source material about Mary and Brandon. I had a mission now; Mary’s story was too wonderful to leave it languishing on the edges of her brother’s more popular tale. I must remedy this lack.

Up to that point, I had never thought about writing my own book. My career as a telecommunications consultant involved many aspects of writing; I wrote project briefs, training manuals, sales proposals, and reports of all sorts. I could write. But write a book…? Why not?

Amazon US

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The Nymph From Heaven:

The first book of The Tudor Chronicles 

I started out as many aspiring writers do; I wrote a book about myself, Only the Heart Knows Why.Then I wrote two contemporary detective novels, The Heart of the Dragon and The Seven Diamonds. With that writing experience behind me, I was ready for the complicated task of writing history. I felt that Mary Tudor deserved the limelight after having been relegated to relative obscurity by her mega-famous brother and his Six Wives. I started Time Traveling back to the Tudor Era (read: daily research!). I finally gathered enough information about Mary and Brandon to weave a tale, and I embarked upon the labor of love that was writing The Nymph From Heaven, the first book of The Tudor Chronicles.

As I researched and wrote The Nymph, I quickly came to the conclusion that one could not tell Mary’s story without telling Henry’s, and so I took the approach of making Mary and Brandon’s tale the main plot, with Henry, Katharine and Anne’s story as the subplot. This methodology worked beautifully!

But as I wrote, I developed a fascination with Elizabeth Tudor. After all, how can one study the story of Henry Tudor and Anne Boleyn, and not be drawn to their famous daughter? But there was a problem… what about the veritable chasm of time between when Henry dies in 1547, and when Elizabeth finally takes the throne in 1558?

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The Baker’s Daughter:

The second book of The Tudor Chronicles 

It was at this point that I realized that what I was engaged in was not just the writing of one book, but a sweeping saga that had both an alpha and an omega. But did I really want to write a book about Bloody Mary? Who would read it, since Queen Mary Tudor is reviled by so many people? But I soon found that Elizabeth’s young life was very much bound up with Mary’s, who was seventeen years older; and I also discovered that Mary Tudor’s life was such that she inspired more pity than revulsion for her acts. I grew to understand Mary as I wrote her life story. I was, in the end, very glad that I had chosen to write Mary’s heart-rending tale. Ironically, The Baker’s Daughter, a book I wasn’t even sure I wanted to write, soon became my best-selling book.

After the eight years it took to write The Baker’s Daughter, I found that I simply was not ready to say goodbye, neither to novel writing, nor to the Tudors.

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In High Places:

The third book of The Tudor Chronicles 

When I began writing In High Places, I quickly discovered that in order to tell Elizabeth’s tale properly, one really must include the lifelong rivalry between her and her fellow queen and cousin, Mary, Queen of Scots. I had read Mary’s Stuart’s story before, but it seemed that most books told either one queen’s story or the other. Intertwining the fascinating tale of these two rival queens was challenging, but very rewarding. I came to an in-depth understanding of both women and what drove them by researching the juxtaposition with each other in which they both lived their lives. That Elizabeth and Mary’s fates were inextricably linked is undeniable. But by the time I reached the heartbreaking end of Mary’s life on the executioner’s block in 1587, I realized that In High Places had reached its natural end. But what about the rest of Elizabeth’s life and reign?

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This Mighty Realm:

The fourth book of The Tudor Chronicles 

I definitely wanted to write the rest of Elizabeth’s story, but many of the biographies and other sources I had used to write the first three books of The Tudor Chronicles did not contain much information on the last fifteen years of her life. After further research, I found some books that focused on Elizabeth’s relationship with Robert Devereux, the Earl of Essex.

Essex was Robert Dudley’s stepson; he became the second of Elizabeth’s defining relationships. There is much speculation about the nature of their relationship; the aging queen was more than thirty years Essex’s senior. We simply do not know if they were romantically involved or not. Many novelists choose to speculate that they were, but I think their relationship was much more complicated than that.

As the writing of This Mighty Realm progressed to its conclusion, I began to realize that I was not just faced with the end of my journey in telling the story of the Tudors; I was facing having to write Elizabeth’s death. That was jarring; my books take years to write because I strive to make them as historically accurate as possible, and that means an extensive research effort. I had been writing about Elizabeth literally since before she was born! And I was still not ready to say goodbye to the Tudors.

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To Thine Own Self:

The prequel to The Tudor Chronicles 

I had long since had it in my mind that I was actually writing a chronicle. But what exactly is a chronicle? What does it mean? A chronicle is “a detailed factual written account of important or historical events in the order of their occurrence.” While I applaud the efforts of fan fiction and alternative history writers, my own great desire is writing true Historical Fiction. In The Tudor Chronicles, I have strived to ensure that my facts are research-based and as true to what really happened…what we know as “history”…as possible. It is where we have gaps in the facts that the writer of fiction comes into his or her own; we must use our talents and abilities to decide what might have happened as we fill in the blanks of history with plausible assumptions, based on our knowledge of our characters, who were, after all, real people.

So in order to complete my chronicle of the Tudor Dynasty, a fifth and final book is needed. To Thine Own Self is actually many stories; it is the story of The Wars of the Roses; it is the story of the end of the Plantagenet Dynasty and the dawning of the Tudor Dynasty; it is the story of many fascinating people, including Henry VI, and his queen, Margaret of Anjou; Margaret Beaufort, and her son, Henry Tudor; Cecily Neville and Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York; Richard Neville, the Earl of Warwick, the “Kingmaker”; Edward IV, Elizabeth Woodville, Jaquetta of Luxembourg, and many, many others.

My books take years to write because of the meticulous research involved in writing a true chronicle of accurate historical fiction; I have estimated that To Thine Own Self will take about three years to write, and will hopefully be published in 2023.

And with that, what started out as a desire to write Mary Tudor Brandon’s wonderful love story will end with five very long novels, written with love, and with great respect for my characters, over eighteen years of my life.

What’s next for you? Do you have any plans to write more novels?

Yes! I have for years been enthralled by the Borgias. Their story overlays the time period of the late Plantagenet Dynasty and early Tudor Dynasty, so should I write their story, I will not have to leave the time period in which I have Time Traveled for almost twenty years.

I am also fascinated by the many stories of the Plantagenets; in particular, King John has always been a favorite of mine. King John, as with his distant relative, Queen Mary Tudor, has an evil reputation. After the Borgias, it is likely that I will turn my attention to him.

What is the meaning of the intriguing titles of your books? Do they have special significance?

I often get this question about my book titles! In the publishing world, book titles are very important. Just as with the cover of the book, people will often be drawn to a book because of its title. Here is the genesis of my titles:

The Nymph From Heaven comes from the words of Lorenzo Pasqualigo, court jeweler to Henry VIII. Lorenzo, an Italian, was standing next to the Venetian ambassador at Mary’s proxy wedding to Charles of Castile when he saw Mary Tudor for the first time. He was so astounded by her legendary beauty that he said, “She is a paradise! A nymph from Heaven!” Lorenzo’s words found their way into the ambassador’s dispatch to the Doge of Venice, and hence onto the cover of my book!

The Baker’s Daughter comes from a broadsheet (newspapers had not been invented yet) that was circulating London at the time of Queen Mary’s proposed match with Philip of Spain. The marriage was extremely unpopular in England; the rhyme from which the title is derived is a cruel taunt, and an apt metaphor for Mary’s unfortunate life: “The baker’s daughter in her russet gown; better than Queen Mary without her crown.”

In High Places has significance only for myself. It was a phrase I seemed to encounter constantly as I read histories and biographies about royalty; those who lived their lives “in high places”. And who among us is higher than a monarch?

Finding This Mighty Realm as a title was serendipitous; it comes from the speech in Parliament given by Nicholas Heath, the Lord Chancellor of England, as he proclaimed Elizabeth “queen of this mighty realm of England…” upon the death of her sister, Queen Mary.

To Thine Own Self is a line from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and seemed to me to describe perfectly Henry VII’s character, and his struggle to gain the throne of England. This excellent advice is spoken from a father to his son, as he departs over the sea: “This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.”

I have remained true to my purpose of lovingly crafting my Tudor Chronicles, through the many vicissitudes and distractions of my own life; and I am glad I did, because my readers seem to enjoy reading my books as much as I enjoy writing them!🏵

Bonny G Smith is the author of eight novels in five literary genre. She lives in Fairfax, Virginia, in the United States of America. All books are available on Amazon, and other reading venues.

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The Age of Plunder

Book Review by Samantha Yorke

Henry VIII is one of the most famous monarchs to have ruled England.

Yet, what was life like for those that he ruled?

How were they impacted by the wars with France, his marital disasters and the religious Reformation that his chief ministers implemented?

The Age of Plunder does not dwell upon the lives of political and religious leaders such as Wolsey, Cromwell and Cranmer, but instead provides a vivid depiction of Tudor England from the perspective of those who tended the crops, sat at the looms and worked in the mines.

“The scholarship is as sound, the sympathy as warm and the judgments as pugnacious as ever.” New Statesman

“This is a provocative and stimulating book, packed with statistical information, but saved from indigestibility by well-chosen and unusual examples drawn from the author’s vast knowledge of local history.” The Agricultural History Review

In this book W. G. Hoskins reveals how inhabitants of early sixteenth century England were witnesses to the greatest act of plunder since the Norman Conquest, but this time by the native governing class.

The Age of Plunder by W.G. Hoskins is a look at the economic state of the Henrican world of Tudor England. Unlike most books written about this monarch, it focuses on the lives the people in his kingdom. The stories of how Henry’s decisions effected his realm will catch your attention. The divide between privilege and poverty was obscene. The book is somewhat long, dry and academic and is aimed for a scholarly reader. If you are looking for a book about his wives and his court, this is not for you. However, if you want a book centered upon day-to-day life in the world of Henry VIII, and how his economy set the stage for his daughter Elizabeth I, eventually Great Britain and the ascent of the British Empire – the sociology of the era – then this book is for you. It is a book that can be utilised for reference and scholastic purposes, and for that reasons I rate it four stars.

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Special thanks to Net Galley and the publish for giving me a copy of this book in exchange for a fair review.

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Available for purchase on Amazon:

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Ciphers, Secrets, and Spies in the Elizabethan Age

English history comes to Atlanta!

Join the Royal Oak Foundation as we explore the dark corners of Elizabethan history with Carol Ann Lloyd, who will reveal the spy network tasked with keeping Queen Elizabeth I safe.

William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley,
after Marcus Geeraerts, the younger.
©National Trust Images

The Elizabethan era (1558-1603) is often depicted as the “Golden Age” in England’s history—an era of great exploration and military victories in which Queen Elizabeth I is represented in sumptuous clothing and jewels. But the reality, which included religious conflicts that tore families apart; political challenges to Elizabeth’s authority; high levels of poverty and crime; and vulnerability to foreign invasion, was far grimmer.

Numerous plots were hatched to dethrone Elizabeth I and replace her with the Catholic Mary Queen of Scots. William Cecil (later Lord Burghley) was the first to oversee the gathering of intelligence and was aided by Francis Walsingham, another of Elizabeth’s most loyal ministers known as the Spymaster. Walsingham’s network of clandestine agents moved throughout England and Europe using their contacts and skills in navigating court politics to safeguard their Queen.

Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley and Mary, Queen of Scots by British National Trust Images

National Trust houses that were involved in this period of intrigue Baddesley Clinton and Coughton Court in Warwickshire, Oxburgh Hall in Norfolk, and Scotney Castle in Kent. Carol Ann will describe this tumultuous time with its secret plots, intercepted and decoded messages, and assassination attempts and reveal how the ability to control information became the most potent tool of the realm.

Queen Elizabeth I, by English School. ©National Trust Images

Event is Monday, November 25

6:30 p.m. lecture followed by a reception

Tickets:

$35 members & co-sponsors; $45 non-members

Location: Atlanta Decorative Arts Center,

351 Peachtree Hills Avenue, NE

To Register: www.royal-oak.org/events or call Kayla Smith at 212-480-2889, ext. 201. Use code TUDOR 19 to receive a discounted price.

Carol Ann Lloyd

Carol Ann Lloyd is a popular speaker who shares the stories of Shakespeare and English history. She is the former Manager of Visitor Education at Folger Shakespeare Library, where she gave workshops and tours about Shakespeare and Early Modern England. Carol Ann has presented programs at the Smithsonian, Folger Shakespeare Library, Agecroft Hall, and TEDx, among other venues. Ms. Lloyd is a member of the National Speakers Association.

Thank you to our co-sponsors: ADAC; Spalding Nix Fine Arts; Culture Club; Holland MacRae; The English-Speaking Union, Atlanta Branch; Oxford University Society of Atlanta

Thank you to co-sponsors: ADAC; Spalding Nix Fine Arts; Culture Club; Holland MacRae; The English-Speaking Union, Atlanta Branch; Oxford University Society of Atlanta Additional support for Atlanta lectures is generously provided by Ms. Lynne R. Pickens

The Lost Dress of Elizabeth I

Rare surviving piece of dress once worn by Elizabeth I currently on display at Hampton Court Palace alongside world-famous Rainbow PortraitFollowing a three-year conservation project by Historic Royal Palaces, the spectacular Bacton Altar Cloth is on display at Elizabeth I’s former home this autumn, united for the first time with the iconic portrait in which it may once have featured

An elegantly embroidered altar cloth which may once have been part of a dress worn by Queen Elizabeth I will is on display for the first time at Hampton Court Palace this October in an exhibition entitled The Lost Dress of Elizabeth I.  The ‘Bacton Altar Cloth’, discovered in a church in rural Herefordshire, is now considered to be one of the rarest survivals of Elizabethan dress in existence.  After undergoing extensive conservation work at Hampton Court Palace for the past two years, it is exhibited alongside a portrait of the ‘Virgin Queen’ featuring a dress of strikingly similar design.

The Lost Dress of Elizabeth I exhibition
(c)Historic Royal Palaces
David Jensen

The richly embroidered textile – named after the church in Bacton, Herefordshire where it was preserved for centuries – was identified by Historic Royal Palaces curator Eleri Lynn as being part of a high status sixteenth-century court dress back in 2016. The altar cloth has long been associated with Blanche Parry, one of Queen Elizabeth I’s most faithful servants who eventually became her Chief Gentlewoman of the Bedchamber, and who was born in Bacton. Records show that Elizabeth regularly gifted her discarded clothing to Parry as one of her closest confidantes, and for years there was speculation that the altar cloth may have a connection to the Queen. On examining the textile, Lynn – an expert in Tudor court dress – was able to identify previously unseen features, studying the seams of the fabric to confirm it had once formed part of a skirt. 

Following the exciting discovery, Historic Royal Palaces – the independent charity that cares for Hampton Court Palace – agreed to commence a conservation programme to stabilise the fragile fabric in the palace’s world-class textile studio. Further examination of the cloth by experts has added weight to Lynn’s theory that it might once have belonged to the Tudor Queen.  Its creation from high-status silver chamblet silk, use of professional embroidery including real gold and silver thread, and distinct evidence of pattern-cutting all suggest that the item could have formed part of Elizabeth’s lavish wardrobe. The conservation team were also able to test the dyes within the fabric, discovering that it contained expensive Indigo and red dye sourced from Mexico – the kind of materials only available to a person a very high status.

Displayed alongside the altar cloth is the iconic Rainbow Portrait (c. 1600-1602), on loan from Hatfield House, which depicts Elizabeth I wearing a gown that bears a tantalising resemblance. On display for the first time ever at Hampton Court Palace, the portrait – attributed to Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger – was commissioned by Robert Cecil and is filled with symbolism including motifs of eyes and ears. Accompanying the painting will be a selection of rare domestic print books dating from the Tudor period, which would have provided inspiration for many of the embroidered motifs fashionable during Elizabeth’s reign – including those found on the Bacton Altar Cloth – brought together for the first time with other stunning embroidery work from the period. Unpacking the Virgin Queen’s now iconic style, the exhibition will explore the artistry and majesty of the Tudor wardrobe, Elizabeth’s inner-circle of women, how embroidery served as a way of female bonding at court, along with the fascinating world of secret symbols and Elizabethan codes. 

Eleri Lynn, Collections Curator at Historic Royal Palaces, said “After three-years of painstaking conservation and research, we’re thrilled to finally be putting this exquisite object on display at Hampton Court Palace, Elizabeth’s former home. To have an item of Tudor dress with such a close link to Queen Elizabeth I is extraordinarily rare, and we are very excited to display the Bacton Altar Cloth next to the legendary Rainbow Portrait, with its prominent similarities to the fabric of the cloth itself.”  

The Lost Dress of Elizabeth I will run from October 12, 2019 until February 23, 2020 at Hampton Court Palace, on loan from St Faith’s Church, Bacton.  

For more information and images, please contact Sophie Lemagnen in the Historic Royal Palaces Press Office: sophie.lemagnen@hrp.org.uk/ 0203 166 6304

Historic Royal Palaces is the independent charity that looks after the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, the Banqueting House, Kensington Palace, Kew Palace and Hillsborough Castle and Gardens.  We help everyone explore the story of how monarchs and people have shaped society, in some of the greatest palaces ever built. We raise all our own funds and depend on the support of our visitors, members, donors, sponsors and volunteers. With the exception of Hillsborough Castle and Gardens, these palaces are owned by The Queen on behalf of the nation, and we manage them for the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. Historic Royal Palaces cares for Hillsborough Castle and Gardens under a separate contract with the Northern Ireland Office. Registered charity number 1068852. For more information visit www.hrp.org.uk

All information is shared courtesy of Hampton Court Palace and Historic Royal Palaces.