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Posts Tagged ‘tudor

The inspiration behind The Haunting of Edenbridge Castle, by Judith Arnopp

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To celebrate the release of Hauntings, the collection of historical ghost stories released this month, today I’m hosting one of the other authors in that selection, the talented Judith Arnopp, who’s here to tell you a little about the background of her tale, the Haunting of Edenbridge Castle. I hope you enjoy, and don’t forget to go buy the book. Ten great spooky tales for Halloween, the book link follows at the end of the post. For now, I’ll turn you over to Judith.

It starts with a cold case, an unsolved disappearance of a police officer just before the outbreak of WWII. The story line moves backwards, through the witchcraft trials of the 17th century, and further back to the time of Henry VIII and the childhood of Anne and George Boleyn. And it all takes part in an abandoned castle that rings with the echoes of past inhabitants.

I don’t believe in ghosts but, of course, I’ve never seen one. I expect I’d change my mind if I did. When I was asked to contribute a story to Hauntings, I was in two minds as to how to tackle it. In the end, I just sat down and started typing to see what would happen and Edenbridge was born. A castle teeming with past tragedies, grief and human frailty.

As the astute will have noticed, I originally set the story at Hever Castle, but I changed the name because the history of Hever is so well known, I didn’t want to blur the edges between fact and fiction even further.

I may not be convinced of the existence of ghosts but I have a keen interest in perspective and human perception so the question of how a spirit might view itself was very appealing. Would they know they were dead, or would they just live in a constant spiral of events, reliving their reality, or would they somehow become fused in the life of the person they haunted. Several of the characters in the story question who is the ‘haunt’ and who the ‘haunted.’ To Anne and George, the girl is the spirit but she is certain the people she ‘sees’ are shades of the past. But can she be sure?

The girl sees what others can’t. She knows she is different, even her mother fears her, and they are both all too aware of the events taking place in her own time, the 1640s. Is she perhaps a witch? The girl’s reality takes place during the witch hunts, a reality in which women are persecuted, tortured and hanged. The girl is unsure whether it is worse to be a ghost or a witch and is very much afraid that she may be both.

In the mid-1600s, John Stearne and Matthew Hopkins from Manningtree in the Stour Valley initiated a hatred for witches, which inflated into mass hysteria that spread across the country. Hopkins later rose to fame as The Witchfinder General. Villages around Huntingdon, Keyston, Molesworth and Little Catworth were at the centre and the trials are famous as are the executions. The injustices and horror of those times are horrific, even centuries later.

The knowledge that, They are burning witches at Huntingdon echoes in the girl’s mind. In 1646 nine women and men from the vicinity of Huntingdon were tried for witchcraft; at least four were hanged on Mill Common. The stories spread across East Anglia and beyond and suspicion of witchcraft was infectious. Witchcraft became an explanation for anything vaguely outside the norm and after a farcical trial, the punishment was usually death. Imagine, in that scenario, fearing someone close to you might be tainted; even worse, imagine fearing yourself to be a witch.

Although there are fun elements to my story, it isn’t a jolly tale; ultimately, it is a consideration of the bleak hopelessness of a restless spirit. Anne and Henry’s story becomes more tragic if we imagine them caught in an endless circle of life, with the same unchangeable future forever looming Anybody’s life would be but what could be worse than a young girl, caught amid the thundering echoes of other people’s tragedies, knowing their fate yet powerless to change it.  Happy Halloween!

A lifelong history enthusiast and avid reader, Judith holds a BA in English/Creative writing and an MA in Medieval Studies.

She lives on the coast of West Wales where she writes both fiction and non-fiction based in the Medieval and Tudor period. Her main focus is on the perspective of historical women but more recently is writing from the perspective of Henry VIII himself.

Her novels include:

A Matter of Conscience: Henry VIII: the Aragon Years

The Heretic Wind: the life of Mary Tudor, Queen of England

Sisters of Arden: on the Pilgrimage of Grace

The Beaufort Bride: Book one of The Beaufort Chronicle

The Beaufort Woman: Book two of The Beaufort Chronicle

The King’s Mother: Book three of The Beaufort Chronicle

The Winchester Goose: at the Court of Henry VIII

A Song of Sixpence: the story of Elizabeth of York

Intractable Heart: the story of Katheryn Parr

The Kiss of the Concubine: a story of Anne Boleyn

The Song of Heledd

The Forest Dwellers


Judith is also a founder member of a re-enactment group called The Fyne Companye of Cambria and makes historical garments both for the group and others. She is not professionally trained but through trial, error and determination has learned how to make authentic looking, if not strictly HA, clothing. You can find her group Tudor Handmaid on Facebook. You can also find her on Twitter and Instagram.

You can catch up with Judith on Facebook here, on twitter here, on her website here, or at her blog here, and most important of all, click on the cover below to head off and buy yourself a copy of the book.

Written by SJAT

October 11, 2021 at 9:00 am

The Swan Diptych

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Last review before Christmas, and last review of the year: The Swan Diptych by Ian Thomson.

I’ll begin by pointing out that when I started to read the book I had absolutely no idea what to expect, since I knew nothing about it. I believed it to be a work of Historical Fiction. Beyond that: nothing.

And by the time I was a third of the way through it, I was floundering, wondering how on earth I could categorise or pigeon hole the book. It is in the main part historical fiction, but there are heavy elements of fantasy in places, especially in the first of the two stories, while there is a strong undercurrent of crime novel, especially in the second.

The first of the two stories, which takes place in 14th century Lincoln, tells the tale of a Royal visit that goes somewhat awry due to the mental derangements of the cathedral’s dean and the inadvertent pooping of a swan. The story is largely HistFic, but includes the point of view of the swans, who speak at times, lending the fantasy element to the tale. That being said, that element does not detract from the feel of the story and I finished it with a smile on my face, brought about by a gentle, clever humour and a well-written tale. This story is, however, quite short. Perhaps only 1/4 of the whole book.

The rest of the novel is taken up by the second story, though this one in truth feels more like three tales cobbled together into one. It begins as a 16th century murder mystery in a Cambridge college and sets itself up as a proper whodunnit. It was atmospheric and rich and I was just getting into it when it was resolved, less than halfway through the book! The story then shifted to telling the backstory of the murderer in more detail than the story that spawned it, which felt a little odd, and yet it was in itself an excellent story. Then, when that one was over, we leapt forward a generation to another Royal visit, in the time of Elizabeth I, when young students from the first part are now the old masters. Here we are treated to a potted history of the college in the form of a document for the Queen. In all honesty, at three quarters of the way through the book, the second tale felt so disjointed and I couldn’t see where the story was really going. At that point I was preparing to allocate three stars to the book. Then, in the final hour, that last part of the second story threw us the point and the twist that made it make sense.

Overall, while parts of the book were for me a little disjointed, the stories were good and extremely well told. Thomson is apparently an English professor at Lincoln, and his skill with the language shows in his writing. It is graceful and flowing and elegant. And for me, hw stands out in his ability to use archaic language and old-fashioned words and yet fit them seamlessly into the text so that even an uninformed reader can divine the meaning of words he might not know from the context alone. I love, for example, the word ‘flummery’. It made my day reading it.

The Swan Diptych is an engaging read and for any minor difficulties I found with the story structure, full of dark humour, gorgeous language, vivid descriptive and gripping scenes. It will make an excellent few hours’ read for anyone, especially those with an interest in the medieval through Tudor eras, those with an interest in collegiate or ecclesiastical matters, or just those who love a good tale.

Written by SJAT

December 24, 2015 at 12:16 pm

Christopher Gortner – The Tudor Conspiracy

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My interest in the Tudor era stemmed not from my history teacher (who was a teacher of the most excellent sort), and not from books (I was not reading history texts at that age), but from two things: My first visit to the historical sights of London – including the Tower and Hampton Court – and the Royal Armouries (then in the tower) with the magnificent armour of Henry VIII. Needless to say, as a lover of history, the interest that triggered has never left, and though my focus is primarily on the ancient world, I still love a little Renaissance culture from time to time.

If, like me, you’re fascinated by the intrigues, plots, wars and religious troubles of the Tudor era, you’re probably already aware that Christopher Gortner, author of a number of excellent novels, including The Queen’s Vow – Review here, has a fabulous novel out, named The Tudor Conspiracy, already available in hardback but now in paperback release. The sequel to The Tudor Secret, and second in the ‘Elizabeth’s Spymaster‘ series, this novel sees Mary Tudor, new to the throne of England, facing plots and threats. Her half-sister Elizabeth is in grave danger as one of Mary’s perceived enemies, and only the resourceful Brendan Prescott can save her by plunging into a world of danger and plots.

I am privileged to have been asked to be part of Christopher’s Blog Tour for the release of the new book, and there follows a guest post by the man himself, in which he delves into the rivalry between the two sisters who sit at the heart the novel’s plot. Read and enjoy:

The Tudor Conspiracy

Mary and Elizabeth: Sisters and Rivals

There is something fascinating, and disturbing, about family members who turn on one another. The Tudor dynasty is no exception. Though Henry VIII did not sire many children, considering how often he wed, history has perhaps no sisters more famous for their rivalry than his two daughters, Mary and Elizabeth.

Born of the king’s marriages to his first and second wives, respectively, Mary and Elizabeth were both declared bastards in turn after Henry divorced Mary’s mother, Catherine of Aragon, and had Elizabeth’s mother, Anne Boleyn, beheaded. The rivalry between the two mothers, each determined to hold onto their crown and defend their child, set the stage for a legacy of mistrust between the daughters, who were as different in temperament as any sisters could be.

The eldest by seventeen years, Mary went from an adored childhood to a horrifying adolescence in which she saw her beloved mother supplanted by another. Humiliated and relegated to the status of a servant in her baby sister Elizabeth’s household, the scars of Mary’s teenage years can’t be underestimated.

Elizabeth, on the other hand, was barely three when her mother died and she was made illegitimate. A famous quip from this time is attributed to her when informed of her new status: “How is that yesterday I was Princess Elizabeth and today only Lady Elizabeth?” Young as she was, Elizabeth had a keen grasp of her situation. She grew into womanhood surrounded by danger and became adept at the rules of survival, aware that one misstep could lead to her doom, her mother’s example always before her.

Both sisters understood the perils intrinsic to royal life, but while Elizabeth learned to play the cards dealt to her, Mary remained steadfast in her right to stand above the crowd. They both had courage but their experiences couldn’t have been more disparate. Elizabeth was born into, and raised, in the Protestant Faith; like their brother Edward, she embraced it. Mary resisted, both from a deep-seated belief inculcated in her as by the rigidity of her own character, which was not given to change even when circumstances called for it. In the end, whatever rapprochement the sisters found as outsiders uncertain of their place, denigrated into savage rivalry when Mary became queen against all odds and they found themselves pitted against each other.

Mary could not forgive the insults tendered to her by Anne Boleyn and in time, she came to see Elizabeth as the very incarnation of her late mother. In turn, Elizabeth began to recognize the stony threat that Mary’s hatred posed to her and her fragile position as the sole hope for the Protestant cause in England. Their pasts had made them who they were; and their struggle for supremacy would divide the country, sisters and rivals unto death.

This rivalry is the core of my new novel, THE TUDOR CONSPIRACY. Thank you for spending this time with me. To find out more about me and my books, please visit me at: www.cwgortner.com

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My thanks again to Christopher Gortner.

The Tudor Conspiracy by Christopher Gortner is published by Hodder & Stoughton in paperback and ebook, £8.99.

Go buy it. Amazon link here.


Written by SJAT

January 23, 2014 at 11:25 am