Monday, 24 April 2017

What Elizabeth Learned from Mary

By Samantha Wilcoxson

Mention the name of Elizabeth I and visions of a glorious queen with red-gold hair immediately come to mind. She shepherds her people and stands firm against the Spanish armada. Her devotion to her subjects is so complete that she cannot even bring herself to find a spouse. Long after her death, Queen Elizabeth I is adored, possibly more so than she was during her lifetime.
In contrast, her older sister, Queen Mary I is remembered as ‘Bloody Mary’ when she is remembered at all. The sisters shared the auburn hair that they inherited from their father, Henry VIII, but that is not all they had in common. A closer look reveals that Elizabeth learned much about ruling as queen regnant from the example of her sister.
The role modelling that Mary provided for Elizabeth began long before either of them became queen. The girls were often part of the same household when Elizabeth was young, beginning with Mary’s forced servitude in the infant Elizabeth’s household as part of Henry’s striving to emphasize that it was Elizabeth who, at that time, was princess while Mary was a bastard. By the time both girls were brought to court by stepmother Katherine Parr, both were bastardized princesses.
Mary’s early roles in Elizabeth’s life would have demonstrated how to be pious and submissive in the face of adversity. Elizabeth would get a different view of what positions a woman could fulfill when her father went to war in France, leaving Katherine as regent with Mary at her side. Katherine Parr was an important person in the lives of these motherless girls. She showed that a woman could order a kingdom just as well as a household, and both girls took note.
Both Katherine and Mary offered Elizabeth examples on the effects that the wrong marriage could have on a woman’s life. If she were not haunted by the fact that her mother had been executed by her father, Elizabeth need look no further than Katherine and Mary for further reasons to remain single. Thomas Seymour, Katherine’s fourth husband, gave Elizabeth an early lesson in flirtation, if not more, and was executed for treason shortly after Katherine’s death following childbirth. Mary’s marriage to Prince Philip caused an uproar of rebellion as the efforts to restore Catholicism became fused with England’s marriage to Spain in the minds of Englishmen.
However, Elizabeth took note of the finer details of Mary’s reign and used them to her advantage when her turn came. While the lack of a husband caused its own problems, not the least of which was the end of her family’s dynasty, Elizabeth had learned from her father’s marital scandals and the repercussions of her sister’s choice that it was safer to remain alone. Elizabeth is famous for stating, “I have already joined myself in marriage to a husband, namely the kingdom of England.” What is not so widely remembered, is that Mary said almost the same thing.

In 1554, with Wyatt’s Rebellion underway, Mary decided to address the people of London and encourage them to rise up in her defense. She said, in part, “What I am loving subjects, ye know your Queen, to whom, at my coronation, ye promised allegiance and obedience, I was then wedded to the realm, and to the laws of the same, the spousal ring whereof I wear here on my finger, and it never has and never shall be left off. . . . I cannot tell how naturally a mother loveth her children, for I never had any, but if the subjects may be loved as a mother doth her child, then assure yourselves that I, your sovereign lady and your Queen, do earnestly love and favour you. I cannot but think you love me in return.”
Elizabeth was a clever woman, better at reading political situations than Mary ever was. She was quick to use language and strategies that had worked for her sister, but also eager to put distance between herself and the memory of the aged, childless queen and learn from Mary’s mistakes.

Where Mary had seen herself as the spiritual leader of her people, Elizabeth understood that changing times made Head of the Church of England a difficult title to bear. Mary had believed that it was her duty to reconcile her kingdom to Rome and her people to God, but Elizabeth was careful to keep her faith more private than any previous ruler of England had. She saw, as few monarchs of her day did, that religion was becoming an issue that people were no longer united in.
Elizabeth used this difference between herself and her sister to bolster her position. In turn, Mary’s name was blackened. The harsh sobriquet ‘Bloody Mary’ was never applied to the devout queen during her lifetime, but the sister who benefitted from her example also found that she appeared more glorious if her predecessor seemed evil in comparison. Instead of receiving credit for demonstrating that a woman could reign, Mary became the enemy whom Elizabeth triumphed over. Yet, Elizabeth would not have been the success that she was without the sister who paved the way for her.
Additional Reading
Mary Tudor: Princess, Bastard, Queen by Anna Whitelock
The First Queen of England by Linda Porter
The Children of Henry VIII by Alison Weir

Samantha Wilcoxson is the author of the Plantagenet Embers Trilogy. An incurable bibliophile and sufferer of wanderlust, she lives in Michigan with her husband and three teenagers. Her most recent novel, Queen of Martyrs: The Story of Mary I was recently released and is available in paperback and on Kindle. You can connect with Samantha on her blog or on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads

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Sunday, 26 February 2017

Trisha Hughes talks to us about her new release

Today I welcome historical author, Trisha Hughes to the blog. Take it away, Trisha.

In history, to be an English king and to be murdered was no more than a hazard of the job and there have been a vast number of kings where this has actually been the case. The story of the kings and queens of England is a wonderful drama, far more surprising than you might think.

Times were brutal and they felt the need to take certain measures into their own hands, and trust me, there have been many extraordinary and various ways that royal family members have sought to delete relatives who were obstacles in the path of their determined progress to the throne. Many were not averse to the odd assassination or two by poisoning, starving, burning, imprisonment and an old favourite, beheading. It was hard enough to snatch the throne but it was even harder keeping it.

Many historians pass hazily over the precise methods employed to delete family members. Some choose to leave it as an insinuation of ‘died under suspicious circumstances’, because the entire truth will never be fully known. Some historians are not so coy. Neither am I.

When we speak of Britain’s monarchs, most of us would agree that early periods of time are clearly muddled. Many of the early British kings are hidden in the mists of time while some, the ones who lost crucial battles, have almost completely disappeared when the victors erased their rivals from all surviving records. There are kings who ruled for only a few months and there are some who ruled for over fifty years. There are also some who should never have ruled at all. They include, among their number, the vain, the greedy and the downright corrupt as well as adulterers, swindlers and cowards. Yet this group also shares one thing in common. In their lifetimes, they were the most powerful individuals in the land. My story, ‘Vikings to Virgin – The Hazard of being King’, spans 1500 years and is full of lust, betrayal, heroism, murder, cruelty and mysteries.

Buy your copy here
If you know anything about the British, you’ll know that among the good and the well-meaning monarchs, some of them were ruthless, not to mention greedy, murderous and totally corrupt. Their story is better than a thriller about a serial killer on the loose because this story is absolutely true. Don’t imagine a fairy story with handsome kings whisking off princesses on their white horses to the sound of trumpets and the cheers of their people. Imagine powerful individuals who were brutal and would stop at nothing to get what they wanted and who were more than happy to get rid of the odd family member or two who were standing in the way of their progress to the throne.  

My story is based on facts, but it's told as a rambling narrative and is written in a way that I hope is easy to read. It’s a story of kings who struggled to hold on to their throne, of horrendous bloody battles, of tiny boys becoming rulers, of ruthless usurpers and of queens who proved to be more powerful than anyone could have ever imagined. It’s a story of invading armies, of rival family members, of spies and conspiracies. But what these people all had in common was during their lifetimes, they were the most powerful people in the land.

‘Vikings to Virgin – The Hazards of being King’ starts when Britain was just a race of people struggling to survive. It travels in time until the Britons first glimpsed a square sail and a dragon-headed prow on the horizon, churned by oars through the waves as blue water foamed around the hull of a mighty ship. The Vikings arrived in their long boats on a cold miserable January morning while the English people were enjoying their tranquility. No one heard the muffled sounds over the water. They were still rubbing sleep out of their eyes after a savage night of arctic air had cut its way through cracks in walls.

This book is a journey through time from the Romans, the Saxons and the Vikings and moves on to the brazen usurpation by the Normans followed by the arrival of the Plantagenets.  These early years were full of savagery and cruelty but by the end of the Plantagenet dynasty, they had transformed England into a sophisticated revered kingdom. But it was a long hard struggle during which the War of the Roses emerged.

The War of the Roses was basically a terrible family squabble that ended up a bloodbath between
royal cousins where each house was eager to snatch the crown and the throne of England for themselves away from other family members. Like most families, differences and intrigue slowly emerged and it wasn’t until 1455 with the first Battle of St Albans that anyone even knew there were two sides. But as with most rebellions, it left both sides vulnerable since it usually meant that battles were fought ‘to the bitter end’, leaving fewer contenders alive after every battle.
These two royal house, the symbolic red rose of the Lancasters and the equally symbolic white rose of the Yorks, were both making a claim for the throne and it ended up being a long and bloody battle with sporadic periods of extreme violence and bloodshed and an unprecedented number of attempts to usurp the throne. It was a dangerous period full of unfathomable brutality, shifting alliances, murders, betrayals, plots and the savage elimination of other direct descendants of the Plantagenets.
It ended when Henry Tudor usurped the throne from Richard III and a different sort of battle began as he continued on the bloodbath with gusto.
Book I of my trilogy ends with a comet blazing across the London skies, half the size of the moon, streaking fire behind it as it lit up the skies in glorious shads of red, white and gold. Tudor colours. In a suspicious England, it was a sign they had been waiting for. A sign of better times to come. And heaven knows, they needed it after the reign of Bloody Mary. With Mary, they’d suffered persecution worse than any other previous generation and they welcomed Elizabeth, an intelligent 25-year-old who dazzled everyone with her clever wit as she stepped up to take the throne, promising a better world, after her half-sister Mary Tudor’s death.

The story of the kings and queens of England is a wonderful drama and far more surprising than you might think. And I’ve loved every minute of it.


Trisha Hughes started her writing career with her autobiography ‘Daughters of Nazareth’ eighteen years ago. The debut novel was first published by Pan Macmillan Australia and became a bestseller in 1997 beating the current Stephen King book to the top 10 bestsellers at the time.  Since then she has discovered a thirst for writing.  She’s written crime novels but her latest book, the first in her ‘V 2 V’ trilogy, ‘Vikings to Virgin – The Hazards of being King’ is her passion and due for release on 28th February 2017. She is currently working on the second in the series ‘Virgin to Victoria – The Queen is dead. Long live the Queen.’

You can buy your copy of Vikings to Virgins here
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