Monday, May 30, 2011

The Letters of Frances Grey, Marchioness of Dorset

Three letters by Frances Grey, Marchioness of Dorset and later Duchess of Suffolk, have been preserved in printed sources. Mary Anne Everett Wood, the nineteenth-century editor of Letters of Royal and Illustrious Ladies of Great Britain, knew of no others in existence. The letters appear in three separate sources: Samuel Haynes' A Collection of State Papers Relating to Affairs in the Reigns of King Henry VIII, King Edward VI, Queen Mary, and Queen Elizabeth (volume 1); Patrick Fraser Tytler's England Under the Reigns of Edward VI and Mary (volume 1); and in Wood, volume 3.

The first two letters are addressed to the recently widowed Thomas Seymour, in whose household Jane Grey had been residing before the death of Seymour's royal wife, Katherine Parr. Stunned by the death of his wife from what was probably childbed fever, Seymour had decided to send his ward, Jane, back to her parents, but had since regrouped and now wished Jane to continue in his household, where his mother would be living. After Thomas wrote to Jane's parents and went in person to persuade them, Jane did return to Thomas Seymour's household, but not for long, for Thomas was arrested for treason in January 1549 and executed on March 20, 1549. (The "lady of Suffolk" Frances refers to in the first letter was her stepmother, Katherine, Duchess of Suffolk.)

The recipient of the third letter, purely personal in nature, was Francis Talbot, the fifth Earl of Shrewsbury, born in 1500. Shrewsbury supported Lady Jane's accession to the throne three years after the date of the letter here, but probably reluctantly; he quickly declared his allegiance to Queen Mary. Talbot was the son of George Talbot, fourth Earl of Shrewsbury, and Anne Hastings. Through his mother, Francis was the grandson of William Hastings, murdered by the future Richard III on June 13, 1483.


Frances to Thomas Seymour, Lord Admiral of England, September 19, 1548:

Although, good Brother, I might be well encoragid to ministre such Counsaile unto you as I have in store, for that yt hath pleased you; not onlye so to take in worthe that I wrytt in my Ladie of Suffolk's Lettre, but also to require me to have in redines suche good Advises, as I shall thinke convenient against our next metyng; yet considering howe unhable I am to doe that hereto belongithe, I had rather leave with that Praise I have gotten at your Hand, then by seking more, to lose that I have alredie wune. And wheras of a Frindlye and Brotherlie good Wyll you wishe to have Jane my Doughter continuyng still in your House, I give you most hartie Thankes for your gentle Offer, trustyng nevertheles that, for the good Opinion you have in your Sister, you will be content to charge Hir with hir, who promyseth you, not onlye to be redye at all Tymes to accompt for the ordering of your deere Neese, but also to use your Counsaile and Advise in the bestowing of hir; whensoever it shall happen. Wherfor, my good Brother; my request shalbe, that I may have the Oversight of hir with your good Will; and therby I shall have good Occasion to thinke, that you do trust me in such wise; as is convenient that a Syster to be trusted of so loving a Brother. And thus my most hartye Comendations not omytted, I wyshe the holle Delyverans of your Gryefe and Contynuance of your Lordshipes Helthe. From Broadgate 19th of this September.

Tour lowyng Sister and assured Frende,

Francys Dorsset

To the right Honorable and my very good Lorde my Lard Admirall.


Frances to Thomas Seymour, October 2, 1548

Mine own good brother,

I have received your most gentle and loving letter, wherein I do perceive your approved goodwill which you bear unto my daughter Jane, for the which I think myself most bounden to you, for that you are so desirous for to have her continue with you. I trust at our next meeting, which, according to your own appointment, shall be shortly, we shall so communicate together as you shall be satisfied, and I contented; and forasmuch as this messenger does make haste away, that I have but little leisure to write, I shall desire you to take these few lines in good part: and thus wishing your health and quietness as my own, and a short despatch of your business, that I might the sooner see you here, I take my leave of you, my good brother, for this time. From my Lord's house in Broadgate, the second of October.

Your assured friend and loving sister,

Frances Dorset.


Frances to Francis Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, June 15, 1550.

After my most hearty commendations to you, my very good lord, forasmuch as at this present I have divers of my friends in Shropshire, whom I have cause to gratify with venison this summer, and, debating where I might be best provided for them, have thought good most heartily to desire you to bestow one stag upon me for this purpose, to be taken within your park of Blackmeyr, and to be delivered unto this bringer at such time as he shall farther attend you for the same. Your lordship's favour wherein to be shewed, the rather at this my request, shall not fail the semblable requital thereof, at any time hereafter when occasion shall require. And thus I bid you right heartily farewell.

From Loughborough, the 15th day of June,

Your lordship's assured friend,

Frances Dorset.

To my very good lord, my lord the Earl of Shrewsbury.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Lady Jane Grey, the Abused Child?

In August 1550, Frances Grey, Marchioness of Dorset, made one of the worst mistakes of her life. She went hunting, leaving her daughter Jane at home to receive a visitor. The conversation that took place in her absence would damn her reputation for centuries.

The visitor was Roger Ascham, and the account he wrote of this encounter in his book The Schoolmaster, twenty years after it occurred, has become famous—and notorious:

Before I went into Germany, I came to Broadgate in Leicestershire, to take my leave of that noble lady Lady Jane Grey, to whom I was exceeding much beholding. Her parents, the duke and duchess, with all the household, gentlemen and gentlewomen, were hunting in the park. I found her in her chamber, reading Phaedo Platonis in Greek, and that with as much delight as some gentlemen would read a merry tale in Boccace. After salutation, and duty done, with some other talk, I asked her, why she would leese such pastime in the park? Smiling, she answered me; "I wist, all their sport in the park is but a shadow to that pleasure that I find in Plato. Alas! good folk, they never felt what true pleasure meant." "And how came you, madam," quoth I, "to this deep knowledge of pleasure and what did chiefly allure you unto it, seeing not many women, but very few men, have attained thereunto?" "I will tell you," quoth she, "and tell you a truth, which perchance ye will marvel at. One of the greatest benefits that ever God gave me, is, that he sent me so sharp and severe parents, and so gentle a schoolmaster. For when I am in presence either of father or mother; whether I speak, keep silence, sit, stand, or go, eat, drink, be merry, or sad, be sewing, playing, dancing, or doing any thing else; I must do it, as it were, in such weight, measure, and number, even so perfectly, as God made the world; or else I am so sharply taunted, so cruelly threatened, yea presently sometimes with pinches, nips, and bobs, and other ways (which I will not name for the honour I bear them) so without measure misordered, that I think myself in hell, till time come that I must go to Mr Elmer; who teacheth me so gently, so pleasantly, with such fair allurements to learning, that I think all the time nothing whiles I am with him. And when I am called from him, I fall on weeping, because whatsoever I do else but learning, is full of grief, trouble, fear, and whole misliking unto me. And thus my book hath been so much my pleasure, and bringeth daily to me more pleasure and more, that in respect of it, all other pleasures, in very deed, be but trifles and troubles unto me."

I remember this talk gladly, both because it is so worthy of memory, and because also it was the last talk that ever I had, and the last time that ever I saw that noble and worthy lady.

Ascham’s recollection, however, was not the first time he referred to his Bradgate visit. In a letter to John Sturm on December 14, 1550, in which he discussed various learned English ladies, he wrote, “This last summer . . . I turned out of my road to Leicester, where Jane Grey was living with her father. I was immediately admitted into her chamber, and found the noble damsel—Oh, ye gods!—reading Plato’s Phaedro in Greek, and so thoroughly understanding it that she caused me the greatest astonishment.” If anything disturbed Ascham about his encounter with Jane the previous summer, he did not see fit to mention it to Sturm at the time.

On January 18, 1551, Ascham wrote to Jane personally:

In this long travel of mine, I have passed over wide tracts of country, and seen the largest cities, I have studied the customs, institutes, laws, and religion of many men and diverse nations, with as much diligence as I was able: but in all this variety of subjects, nothing has caused in me so much wonder as my having fallen upon you last summer, a maiden of noble birth, and that too in the absence of your tutor, in the hall of your most noble family, and at a time when others, both men and women, give themselves up to hunting and pleasures, you, a divine maiden, reading carefully in Greek the Phaedo of the divine Plato; and happier in being so occupied than because you derive your birth, both on your father's side, and on your mother's, from kings and queens! Go on then, most accomplished maiden, to bring honour on your country, happiness on your parents, glory to yourself, credit to your tutor, congratulation to all your friends, and the greatest admiration to all strangers!

It is Ascham’s much later recollection of his visit with Jane—published long after Jane and her parents were dead—that has colored our view of Jane and her family ever since. Nonfiction and fiction alike have used this incident to create a lurid picture of a pathetic young girl, viciously abused at worst and emotionally deprived at best by her cruel parents.

There are a number of reasons for doubting this portrayal, however. First, Jane Grey was not waiting tables in order to pay for her high-powered education: it was provided by her parents. While Jane’s parents, Henry and Frances Grey (the Marquis and Marchioness of Dorset, known after October 1551 as the Duke and Duchess of Suffolk) may have been motivated in part by a desire to make their daughter as attractive a marriage partner as possible (and responsible parents, of course, did their best to ensure a good marriage for their children), it is also possible that they recognized their daughter’s intellectual gifts and wished to encourage them. And would the unfeeling, authoritarian parents of legend have allowed Jane to skip the hunting trip and enjoy her book in solitude in the first place?

Moreover, in allowing Jane to receive visits from men like Roger Ascham in the privacy of her chamber and to correspond with him and other scholars, the duke and duchess were hardly acting like people with something to hide, as one might expect from parents who were mistreating their daughter even by contemporary standards. While Jane’s parents might have seen the correspondence she sent and received, they weren’t present at their daughter’s famous meeting with Ascham, about which Ascham later spoke openly. Indeed, the fact that Jane complained so freely about her parents belies the fact that she was cowed by them.

Correspondence by those who knew Jane also fails to bear out the notion of Jane as a mistreated, abused child. If anything, the picture that emerges is of a father, at least, who took pride in his daughter’s intellectual accomplishments and shared her religious views. In July 1551, Jane wrote to thank the reformer Henry Bullinger in Zurich for “that little volume of pure and unsophisticated religion” which he had sent to her and her father; both were reading it, she added. Earlier, in May 1551, while Jane’s father was in Scotland, John ab Ulmis wrote to Bullinger that he had been visiting Jane and her mother at Bradgate, where he had been “passing these two days very agreeably with Jane, my lord’s daughter, and those excellent and holy persons Aylmer and Haddon [Jane’s tutor and the family chaplain].” Ulmis went on to gush, “For my own part, I do not think there ever lived any one more deserving of respect than this young lady, if you regard her family; more learned, if you consider her age; or more happy, if you consider both.” In a letter written that same day to a Conrad Pellican, a scholar of Hebrew, Ulmis urged Pellican not to be bashful about writing to a nobleman’s daughter. He dated his letter from “the house of the daughter of the marquis.” The previous year, in December 1550, Ulmis noted that Jane was translating a treatise “On marriage” from the Latin to the Greek as a New Year’s gift for her father, whom Holinshed described as “somewhat learned himself, and a great favourer of those that were learned.” Henry Grey himself wrote of Jane in December 1551 to Bullinger, somewhat pompously (but then, so is the rest of the letter), “I acknowledge yourself also to be much indebted to you on my daughter’s account, for having always exhorted her in your godly letters to a true faith in Christ, the study of the scriptures, purity of manners, and innocence of life.”

Even John Aylmer, the tutor that Ascham recalled Jane speaking of so fondly, believed that the adolescent Jane needed a firm hand. As he wrote in a letter to Bullinger in May 1551:
For what favour more useful to herself, or gratifying to the marquis, or acceptable to me, can possibly be afforded her, not only by you, but also by any other person of equal learning and piety, than that she, whom her father loves as a daughter, and whom I look upon with affection as a pupil, may derive such maxims of conduct from your godly breast, as may assist her towards living well and happily? And you are well able to determine, in your wisdom, how useful are the counsels of the aged to guide and direct young persons at her time of life, which is just fourteen. For at that age, as the comic poet tells us, all people are inclined to follow their own ways, and by the attractiveness of the objects, and the corruption of nature, are more easily carried headlong unto pleasure, which Plato calls the bait of mischief, than induced to follow those studies which are attended with the praise of virtue. In proportion therefore as the present age teems with many disorders, must more careful and discreet physicians be sought for; that the diligence, and labour, and exertion of excellent men may either remove or correct such evils as are implanted by the corruption of nature, and the infirmity of youth: for as we feed off the too luxuriant crops, and provide bridles for restive horses, so to these tender minds there should neither be wanting the counsel of the aged, nor the authority of men of grave and influential character. You have acted therefore with much kindness in administering to the improvement of this young lady; and if you will proceed in the same course, you will afford great benefit to herself, and gratification to her father.

In December of that year, Aylmer suggested that some words about clothing and music might be in order:
It now remains for me to request that, with the kindness we have so long experienced, you will instruct my pupil in your next letter as to what embellishment and adornment of person is becoming in young women professing godliness. In treating upon this subject, you may bring forward the example of our king's sister, the princess Elizabeth, who goes clad in every respect as becomes a young maiden; and yet no one is induced by the example of so illustrious a lady, and in so much gospel light, to lay aside, much less look down upon, gold, jewels, and braidings of the hair. They hear preachers declaim against these things, but yet no one amends her life. Moreover, I wish you would prescribe to her the length of time she may properly devote to the study of music. For in this respect also people err beyond measure in this country, while their whole labour is undertaken, and exertions made, for the sake of ostentation. If you will handle these points at some length, there will probably, through your influence, be some accession to the ranks of virtue.

One wonders how Jane took being offered her cousin Elizabeth as an example!

James Haddon, a chaplain at Bradgate, also wrote in December 1551 to Bullinger: “You can indeed confer no greater obligation upon his grace than by continuing (as you have once done already) to impart godly instruction to his daughter. For, although she is so brought up, that there is the greatest hope of her advancement in godliness, yet your exhortations afford her encouragement, and at the same time have their due weight with her, either as proceeding from a stranger, or from so eminent a person as yourself.”

Haddon, it should be noted, felt it necessary to take in hand not only Jane, but her parents, whose card-playing sent him off on a lengthy diatribe to Bullinger in August 1552. After noting that the couple had suffered a relapse over the previous Christmas, he wrote, “I bear with it, just as a man who is holding a wolf by the ears. But I perceive some good arising from this concession, which in fact is no concession at all, but in some measure a remission of duty, or rather of strictness in the performance of it; because I do not find fault in public, although individually and in conversation I always reprove in the same way as heretofore. But because they see that I in some measure yield to them, even against my own opinion, and consider that I deal tenderly with this infirmity of theirs, they are willing to hear and attend to me more readily in other respects.” The duke, at least, showed no hard feelings, for in October 1552, Haddon, about to take up a position to which he had been appointed by the king, wrote, “But it has pleased God to render his grace so much attached to me, and me too in my turn so devoted and attached to his grace, that I cannot entirely separate from him, but must occasionally visit him.”

Of Jane’s parents, it is Frances who has become the chief object of opprobrium by modern writers, although Jane in Ascham’s recollection did not single her out for complaint. As Leanda de Lisle, who along with Eric Ives is almost unique in not accepting modern accounts of Frances at face value, writes in The Sisters Who Would Be Queen, “While Jane is the abused child-woman of these myths, Frances has been turned into an archetype of female wickedness: powerful, domineering, and cruel.”

Frances Grey is a much more shadowy figure than her husband and her daughter, but contemporary sources do not support her portrayal as a vicious woman who terrorized her hapless daughter. Unlike Anne Seymour, Duchess of Somerset, whose difficult personality elicited negative comments from everyone from Katherine Parr on down, none of Frances’s contemporaries seems to have disliked her. Queen Mary treated her kindly, and the ambitious Bess of Hardwick, who chose Frances to be the godmother of her first child, still had “an agate given to me by my Lady Marquess” in 1567. Though she is often portrayed as a dominant figure in making her daughter queen, at least one source, the Marian sympathizer Robert Wingfield, wrote that she was “vigorously opposed” to the match of Jane and Guildford Dudley. There is no evidence that she shared her daughter’s or her husband’s intellectual interests, but there is equally no evidence that she discouraged her daughter’s intellectual development or that she resented her because she was not a boy, although she certainly must have grieved for the loss of her son who died as an infant. (For that matter, despite the prevailing notion that Frances spent most of her time in the saddle, there’s no evidence that she particularly enjoyed hunting, other than her one recorded absence on a hunting excursion on the day that Ascham showed up at Bradgate.)

Jane’s expiatory letter to Queen Mary, written while Jane was a prisoner, is notable for its refusal to blame any of the events of the summer of 1553 on her parents. If anything, Jane comes out of her account as something of a mother’s girl, complaining that her mother-in-law, the Duchess of Northumberland, had reneged on her promise that “I could remain with my mother” and that when the duchess told her that she had been made heir to the Crown, “I cared little for those words and refrained not from going to my mother.”

It is often stated that Frances’s callousness toward her daughter is shown by her failure to plead with Mary for her life and by her remarriage just weeks after the death of Jane and Henry Grey. Frances’s hasty remarriage is a myth; she married her second husband, Adrian Stokes, a year after she had lost her daughter and her husband to the headsman. As for the former charge, it is recorded that Frances successfully pleaded with Mary to free her husband in 1553, but it does not necessarily follow that Frances made no request at the same time to free her daughter. There is no evidence that she visited her daughter in the Tower, but there is likewise no evidence that the Duchess of Northumberland, who is known to have been working desperately to free her sons, visited her imprisoned children either. It may simply be that permission for such a visit was denied.

Before her death, Jane wrote to her father in her prayer book (Eric Ives has suggested in his book Lady Jane Grey that a second letter to Henry Grey, stylistically different from the one in the prayer book, may not be genuine) and to her sister Katherine. No letter to Frances survives, but Michelangelo Florio, Jane’s erstwhile tutor in Italian, stated that Jane wrote to her mother. It is quite possible that the letter has been lost or that Frances destroyed it, perhaps because it was purely of personal, not of religious, value. The absence of a surviving letter, then, does not suggest that Jane and her mother were estranged at the time of Jane's death.

So what of the recollection by Roger Ascham which began this piece? Assuming that Ascham was recalling the conversation correctly twenty years after the fact, it may be that Jane’s parents were strict disciplinarians—as indeed, Tudor parents were expected to be. It may be that that they were perfectionists. It may also be that Jane, as an unusually intelligent girl, resented being treated as just another daughter from whom misbehavior or slacking off would not be tolerated. But to damn Jane’s parents through this single outburst by a teenage girl, recalled years after the fact, is both anachronistic and irresponsible.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Death of Henry VI

On May 21, 1471, Edward IV and his forces, having defeated their Lancastrian opponents, rode triumphantly into London. With them was a very high-profile captive: Margaret of Anjou, queen to Henry VI. Margaret was brought to the Tower, where her husband was already a prisoner. Just weeks before, the couple's son, Edward of Lancaster, had died at age seventeen at the Battle of Tewkesbury.

The night his queen arrived at the Tower, Henry VI died. Though the Historie of the arrivall of Edward IV in England, and the finall recoverye of his kingdomes from Henry VI, the official account of the Yorkist triumph, claimed that the former king had died of "pure displeasure and melancholy," few believed this, then or now. The Milanese ambassador summed up the general feeling about the matter: "King Edward has not chosen to have the custody of King Henry any longer, although he was in some sense innocent, and there was no great fear about his proceedings, the prince his son and the Earl of Warwick being dead as well as all those who were for him and had any vigour, as he has caused King Henry to be secretly assassinated in the Tower, where he was a prisoner. . . . He has, in short, chosen to crush the seed."

Henry VI's remains were exhumed in 1910. According to W. H. St. John Hope, who was present, some hair was still attached to the skull. The hair was "brown in colour, save in one place where it was much darker and apparently matted with blood." As W. J. White has pointed out, however, Hope did not have the qualifications to identify the substance as blood; he was an architectural historian. Dr. A. Macalister, a professor of anatomy who was also present at the exhumation, supplied Hope with a report about the condition of the remains, but made no mention of the hair or the blood. He did, however, state that "the bones of the head were unfortunately much broken," although again as White points out, this does not necessarily indicate a violent cause of death; the bones could have been broken over time, especially since the corpse had previously been exhumed in 1484 and moved from Chertsey Abbey to Windsor.

Even if the evidence from the exhumation does not conclusively prove that Henry VI died a violent death, it still seems likely that he did. Henry had suffered many reversals over the years before his death, and had personally witnessed the Lancastrian defeat at Barnet, having been dragged along to the site with Edward IV's army. While the news of his son's death at Tewkesbury and his wife's being taken captive must have been shattering for Henry VI to hear, it is hard to believe that it was such an unexpected shock that it would have caused his death. And with Edward of Lancaster dead, it would have been foolish for Edward IV to keep the Lancastrian cause alive in the shape of his father.

If Henry was murdered, as seems most likely, the identity of his murderer or murderers is one of the best-kept secrets in English history. Richard, Duke of Gloucester, has been credited with the deed in popular legend, but there is no evidence that he was the murderer or that he carried the deed out alone if he was. He was present at the Tower the night of Henry's death, but so were many others.

The next morning, Henry VI's body was treated with all of the respect due to that of a deceased king. The Issues of the Exchequer record the following expenses:

To Hugh Brice. In money paid to his own hands, for so much money expended by him, as well for wax, linen, spices, and other ordinary expenses incurred for the burial of the said Henry of Windsor, who died within the Tower of London; and for wages and rewards to divers men carrying torches from the Tower aforesaid to the cathedral church of Saint Paul's, London, and from thence accompanying the body to Chertesey. By writ, &c, —15l. 3s. 6 1/2d.

To Master Richard Martyn. In money paid to him at different times; viz., at one time to his own hands 9l. 10s. 11d., for so much money by him expended for 28 yards of linen cloth from Holland, and for expenses incurred, as well within the Tower aforesaid, at the last valediction of the said Henry, as also at Chertesey on the day of his burial; and for a reward given to divers soldiers from Calais guarding his body, and for the hire of barges, with masters and sailors rowing the same on the river Thames to Chertesey aforesaid; also at another time 81. 12s. 3d., for so much money paid by him to four orders of brethren within the city of London; and to the brethren of the Holy Cross therein; also for other works of charity; viz., to the Carmelite brethren 20s., to the Augustine Friars 20s., to the Friars Minors 20s., and to the Friars Preachers, to celebrate obsequies and masses, 40s.; also to the said brethren of the Holy Cross, 10s.; and for obsequies and masses said at Chertesey aforesaid, on the day of the burial of the said Henry,—52s. 3d. By writ, &c,—18l. 3s. 2d.

Henry, as these records indicate, was buried at Chertsey Abbey in Surrey. (A drawing of the abbey can be found here.) There his body rested until 1484, when Richard III had the remains moved to St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle--just feet away from where the king who had supplanted him, Edward IV, had been buried the year before.


Frederick Devon, Issues of the Exchequer. London: John Murray, 1837.

W. H. St. John Hope, "The Discovery of the Remains of King Henry VI in St. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle." Archaeologia, 1911.

W. J. White, "The Death and Burial of Henry VI." Parts I and II. The Ricardian, September 1982 and December 1982.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Guest Post by D. L. Bogdan

I'm delighted to feature a guest post from D. L. Bogdan, author of Secrets of the Tudor Court and Rivals in the Tudor Court, her latest novel. I've eagerly read both novels. The first features Mary Howard, Duchess of Richmond, daughter of Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk, while the second features Thomas Howard, his duchess, and his mistress. Anyway, here's D. L. Bogdan!

In my new book RIVALS IN THE TUDOR COURT, I delve into the lives of Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, his fiery wife Elizabeth Stafford, and mistress, the vulnerable and submissive Bess Holland. In the novel I try to examine why Thomas became the brutal man he was in later years while exploring a set of very unique and intense family dynamics. Married to the Lady Anne Plantagenet, daughter of Edward IV, in his early years, the couple is destined for tragedy as they lose all four of their children, followed by Anne herself. The Duke’s subsequent marriage to Elizabeth is no less tragic, though much of it seems to be of self induced—Elizabeth’s single-minded devotion to Catherine of Aragon, Thomas’ indifferent, and at times supportive, attitude toward Henry VIII’s changeable morals, his intense fear of loss, and the eventual taking of a mistress, all culminated toward the sabotage of any potential happiness the couple could have enjoyed.

One of the most interesting aspects of writing this novel was getting to know Elizabeth Stafford. What little remains of her legacy indicates a strong woman ahead of her time. Her willingness to serve as messenger between the Spanish ambassador and Queen Catherine of Aragon during her fall from favor, for example, reveals a daring and loyal woman with spirit. In addition, the letters to Lord Privy Seal Cromwell outline her struggle with her abusive husband during a time when such issues were not only kept silent, but were accepted as the standard. As with some instances today, it was saddening to see the lack of support from her family. I was never able to ascertain if it was out of fear of Norfolk that her son, the Earl of Surrey, and daughter Mary Howard seemed to side with their father against her. Knowing Norfolk’s grip on power and his penchant for manipulation provides plausible reasons why it would be easier on those to side with him, but it is tragic nonetheless. Even Elizabeth’s own brother refused to help her, stating in one letter that her nature was “willful and sensual”. No matter what conclusions we can draw, we are still left with more questions than answers. One of the joys of being a novelist is trying to answer these questions through dramatic interpretation.

This novel, as with its predecessor SECRETS OF THE TUDOR COURT, was a vehicle for me to explore an issue that is close to my own heart: abuse. The impact of any form of abuse is felt throughout an entire family and I wanted to share the full gamut of emotions that it can evoke; confusion, isolation, terror, anger, regret, love-hate, and blurred boundaries are just a few of them. As a survivor of domestic violence, it was important for me to share my interpretation of the Howards’ story as an illustration of hope for the abused of today, not because the story is a happy one by any means, but because of the simple fact that Elizabeth showed immense courage and strength by reaching out for help and exposing the Duke of Norfolk for what he was, despite the consequences to her reputation and relationships with her family. To have that kind of fortitude in such a dark era serves as an inspiration to me and I hope will encourage others to reach out for the help that is readily available now. We are fortunate enough to live in a time where, unlike Norfolk’s women, our cries can be heard. That more than anything is the message I hope people will take away from RIVALS IN THE TUDOR COURT.

Visit D. L. Bogdan at her website or at her blog.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Hugh and Eleanor at Tewkesbury Abbey

I got an e-mail the other day from Stephanie Decavallas, who did this beautiful drawing (in two color schemes) of Eleanor de Clare, heroine of The Traitor's Wife, and her husband, Hugh le Despenser the younger, at Tewkesbury Abbey. Naturally, I wanted to share it with my blog readers! Which version do you prefer?

You can find the rest of Stephanie's work here (and order a print). Thanks again, Stephanie!

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

The Victorians Strike Again: The Tablette Booke of Ladye Mary Keyes

While checking something for a future blog post, I looked into David Baldwin's biography of Elizabeth Woodville and found this discussion of Mary Grey, younger sister of Lady Jane Grey: "In 1577, the year before she died, she compiled a memoir of the troubles that had beset her family, which was eventually published as The Tablette Booke of Ladye Mary Keyes. This provides a fascinating insight into her life at Bradgate (and the strict manner in which she, Jane, and [her sister] Katherine were brought up there), and is a unique, personal source of information for Jane's last days in the Tower."

Alas, David Baldwin was caught by that dirty trickster, the Victorian Lady Novelist. Like the purported diary of Elizabeth Woodville, The Tablette Booke of Ladye Mary Keyes is fictional, though, as Leanda de Lisle notes in her book The Sisters Who Would Be Queen, it has fooled other writers besides Baldwin. It was published in 1861 by Flora Francis Wylde, who also produced an "autobiography" of her own grandmother, Flora MacDonald, described by Hugh Douglas in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography as "so full of obvious inaccuracies that it could not have been written by the heroine."

The Tablette Booke is, however, great fun. Here's the splendid scene where the foster-mother of the very good Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset, confronts the very bad John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, in his prison cell and tricks him into converting to Catholicism. (I've added paragraph breaks for the reader's convenience.)

He was sittinge verie melancholie in his Pryson Roome, his Armes folded and Eyes bente downe, havinge sat in that Posishon for manie Houres. Truelie harte-broken was this humbled Man, for on that Afternoone had he taken Leve of alle his Familie, wiche painefulle Partinge over, he seemed like unto One deade to everie Thinge: his Faculties appeared benumbed. Wile in this State, at about eighte o' the Clocke, the Doore was unbarred, wiche flowlie openninge, showed the rinkled Face of the ould Crone. He started from his Settel. "What com you for, Beldam, to disturbe my laste Houres? fain woulde I be alone and endevor to seeke a quiett Minde and Conscience."

"Ha!" quothe she; "what saithe your Grace — a quiett Conscience? What shoulde give it to you? What have youre late Actes beene to merit suche a Bleffinge? aske youre nobel Harte, Monster!"

"Begone, Woman, tormente me no more; jeer not this at my miserabel Fate, but be satisfied, if youre bitter Wrathe and Malice can be appesed." He waved his Hande: "Go, I dye To-morrow at Noone."

"No, dye youre Grace wille not, if my Advice and Counselle be followed."

"What Advice! what woulde you have me to do?" almoste scremed the franticke Man, the Love of Life springinge up in his Veines, overcominge the Hatred and Contempte for the humbel Beinge before him; "telle me quicke, what am I to do? Take alle I have—Howses, Landes, Monie, my Jewels, Plate, alle—alle,— but, oh, spare my Life!" What a wretchedde State for this prowde Nobel to be reduced to! he hid his Face and wepte aloude.

The oulde Woman eyed him withe a witheringe Looke of Scorne for manie Minutes. There was a deade Silence. At lengthe she did steppe quite close to him. "Duke of Northumberlande" saide she sternlie, foldinge her Armes, "let us speke of former Daies. Youre Spyte and Rancor was wreked on my Foster-Son, the Duke of Somersett; by youre eville Speche and more vile Counselle was that nobel Beinge put to Dethe; and it was to avenge his moste foule and cruelle Murder that I tookt a solemn Oathe to destroye you: nowe knowe, that had not youre owne Ambishon led you on, Steppe by Steppe, to worke oute youre owne Ruine, these Handes shoulde have dabbled in youre Bloud, for I woulde have stucke a Dagger in youre Harte. Naye, starte not, my prowde Duke; it shoulde have beene done: but holde, the same Lippes that saide the Vowe can unsaye it, and soe shalle it be, if you do as I shalle telle you."

"Oh, I wille do anie Thinge, everie Thinge," exclamed the wretchedde Man; "what is it?"

"Simplie this," saide the Crone; "youre Life is spared, and youre Pryson Doores open, if you wille forsweare your vile hereticke Noshons, and become a faithfulle Member of the Holie Romijhe Churche: all that is required is, that youre Recantashon be mayde in a publicke Manner."

Northumberlande becam whyte as the Plaster on the Walle; his Face was ghastlie to beholde; and when his Emoshon allowed of Speche, he indignantlie rejected the demon-like Proposal. Even this harde-harted, bad Man was shocked at an Idea wiche moste certainlie did com as a Temptashon from the Eville One. "What!" cried he, "woulde you have me selle my Soule to save my Bodye? No, — leve me, I wille dye a true Protestante."

"Then farewelle, stiffe-necked, obstinate Foole! dye in youre Sinnes." She mayde a Stryde to the Doore.

"Yet stay," gasped the miserabel Man, "is there no other Waie to save me?"

" None; soe you perishe To-morrowe. See," continued his Tempter, taking a Parchemente from under her Cloke —"see you this Seale, my Lorde? It is that of the Councille, withe Quene Mary's Signe Manuel; it wantes youre Name writt under youre Hande, with mine as a Witnesse, to save youre Life, to restore you to Freedom and Happienesse, to Honour, Welthe, and Stashon, and to the Bosom of youre owne nobel Familie. I see you waver; com, here is a Penne, my Lorde Duke: no longer delaye, for Time is preshous."

Withe a Looke of Agonie, and a Grone eskapinge from his overwroughte Harte, he seised the Penne and affixed his Name. Moste truelie had Satan got Holde of a Victim. The Conteste in the Minde of the poore Man was dredefulle; but he yielded to the dire Necessitie of the Momente. The Love of Life was stronger than the Force of Religion in his Soule. The oulde Crone clutched the Paper, and truelie did her Eyes glisten. "Duke of Northumberlande" saide she, "youre Life is nowe safe; yet true it is, that for Forme's Sake, you wille have to appeare on the Skaffolde, and after redinge of this Paper, you wille be free as the Aire you Brethe. By To-morrowe's Lighte wille oure Holie Catholicke Churche have gained a truelie nobel Converte. Gardiner shalle heare youre Expresshon of Repentance, wiche for oure Triumphe muste be mayde in Publicke, and on an ignominious Skaffolde. Heare you that, moste prowde and hawtie Duke?" She lauffed ironikallie when she did leve the Chamber, and Northumberlande shuddered at the sinister Looke she did caste on him . . .