Monday, 12 December 2016

First of the Tudors by Joanna Hickson

Release Date: 1st December 2016
Publisher: Harper
Genres: Historical Fiction

I am thrilled to have Joanna Hickson on the blog today with a fantastic guest post! First, lets find out what her book First Of The Tudors is all about.......

Book Blurb

Jasper Tudor, son of Queen Catherine and her second husband, Owen Tudor, has grown up far from the intrigue of the royal court. But after he and his brother Edmund are summoned to London, their half-brother, King Henry VI, takes a keen interest in their future.

Bestowing Earldoms on them both, Henry also gives them the wardship of the young heiress Margaret Beaufort. Although she is still a child, Jasper becomes devoted to her and is devastated when Henry arranges her betrothal to Edmund.
He seeks solace in his estates and in the arms of Jane Hywel, a young Welsh woman who offers him something more meaningful than a dynastic marriage. But passion turns to jeopardy for them both as the Wars of the Roses wreak havoc on the realm. Loyal brother to a fragile king and his domineering queen, Marguerite of Anjou, Jasper must draw on all his guile and courage to preserve their throne - and the Tudor destiny…


Historical curve balls in a writer’s research. 

What is a historical curve ball you may ask?  Well, when history suddenly takes a swerve just after your intensely researched manuscript has been sent to the printers, threatening your novel with an own goal – that! 

Let’s start with one of the most controversial characters in English history – King Richard III. At one time Shakespeare’s depiction of a megalomaniac, child-murdering cripple was accepted as accurate but now those of us who wish to chart his opponent’s story encounter messianic support for a ‘betrayed’ Richard, particularly from the United States where Henry Tudor seems to have become a pariah by default.   How has this happened?

On a recent trip to the Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Site I asked one visiting American why so many of her compatriots were such passionate Ricardians and received a very interesting reply.  She told me that Josephine Tey’s novel Daughter of Time, which sets out to prove that Richard III was not guilty of murdering the Princes in the Tower, was a set book in English in her State (Georgia) and many others and has firmly fixed thousands of opinions over the years.  It seems that such is the power of historical fiction across the pond that Richard Plantagenet has become a misunderstood champion of the people, a much-maligned man and monarch and a candidate for England’s best-loved king.  

Even in England and particularly in Leicester, where his body was reinterred in the cathedral after being almost miraculously discovered under tarmac in a local car park, he has almost reached the status of a saint – not bad going for a king who only sat on the throne for two years and six weeks and left a trail of executed ‘traitors’ in his wake – not to mention a couple of disappeared and disinherited ‘bastard’ princes!  (The quotation marks are mine, intended to indicate that this was how Richard himself described them). 

Known as the Foxes, even Leicester City football team’s promotion to the Premier League and subsequent rise up that chart has been credited to the influence of ‘Saint’ Richard. In the Guardian newspaper, journalists Chris Moran and Stephen Moss imagined the dead king’s relish of this elevation in a parody on Richard’s famous soliloquy in Shakespeare’s play.
‘Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this championship.
Since Leicester was my final resting place,
Following my reverse at Bosworth Field,
The Foxes have become my second love,
A steady passion for my vulpine ways,
And after last year’s fight with relegation,
How sweet the plaudits of a smitten nation!’

It is not documented that anyone actually prays for saintly intercession at Richard’s spanking new tomb in Leicester Cathedral but it has certainly become a must-visit destination for Richard fans and Leicester City supporters alike.  For those of us trying to tell the story of the Tudor rise to power, encounters with fanatical Ricardians can be a challenge.  Not that we aren’t up to it of course and at least we win the penalty shoot-out at Bosworth!

Other curveballs may be kicked when fresh archaeology or research changes the ‘facts’ of history.  At Pembroke Castle in West Wales for instance visitors are informed that King Henry VII was born in a certain chamber in a certain tower and presented with a diorama in which the swaddled baby is in the arms of a nurse and his mother, Lady Margaret Beaufort, is seated beside the cradle at the fireside doing her embroidery.  At the same time an icy wind is whistling down the chimney, howling through the unshuttered windows and slamming the doors that give access to the wall-walk along the battlements.  Of course there is no real fire in the grate in this exhibition but were there to be one, the flames would be battling to give out much warmth in such conditions.  This was a tower built to give shelter and vantage point to the soldiers of the garrison while defending the castle from enemy attack, not for accommodating the birth of a child to a highly vulnerable thirteen-year-old mother.  Even allowing for the harshness of medieval living conditions, it is hard to imagine a less suitable room for the confinement of a young lady of high nobility.

By the time I returned to my writing desk I had already decided that in my book Henry Tudor would not be born in that chamber or that tower.  But where to set such a historically important event?  It’s exact location is not recorded; I would be flying in the face of tradition by removing it from the tower but I could be facing ridicule if I set the scene somewhere that later proved to be completely inaccurate.  

It would be spoiling readers’ enjoyment to reveal the location I chose but I will just say that some news came out of Pembroke Castle only a week or so ago, some time after First of the Tudors went to print, which I’m happy to say completely justified the choice I made.  

One curve-ball kicked into touch - phew! 

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