A Cromwell Adventure – Part 8: Author Q+A2 – The Classic FAQ’s

Nine days from now, SHAKING THE THRONE will be available! Today is part two of a ten-part series, letting you into the world of King Henry VIII’s Chief Minister Thomas Cromwell, and his master secretary Nicóla Frescobaldi, as they embark on part two of THE QUEENMAKER SERIES.

Part one of the series, FRAILTY OF HUMAN AFFAIRS, is out now, covering Cromwell and Frescobaldi in 1529 – 1533,  SHAKING THE THRONE, covering 1533-1536, will be available worldwide on October 1st. NO ARMOUR AGAINST FATE shall cover 1537 – 1540 and will be released September 2019.

Let’s jump right in, with answers to the most commonly asked questions about the adventures of Cromwell and Frescobaldi, in order of most common FAQ’s, but first, the synopsis –

November 1533 – Thomas Cromwell and Nicóla Frescobaldi have their queen on the throne. The Catholic Church is being destroyed as the Reformation looms over England. Cromwell has total power at court and in parliament, while Frescobaldi wins favour with the King’s illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy.

But England’s fate is uncertain. The nobles still despise Cromwell and his Italian creature. Anne has not given the king a son. Queen Katherine refuses to give up her title, and Thomas More and Bishop Fisher defy their king. The final Plantagenets think they should hold the throne, while the Catholics want Princess Mary named as heir.

England can be reformed, but Cromwell must dissolve all the monasteries and abbeys, and with the King on his side, the plan to change religion will sever heads. Queen Anne is losing Henry’s love, but Cromwell could suffer if Anne loses her crown. Frescobaldi creates a daring plan to replace Anne and regain the Pope’s favour, but Cromwell must execute the plans on his own. Schemes will go astray and the wrong heads will be severed to satisfy a vengeful sovereign.

Kings will rise, Queens shall fall, children will perish, and the people of England will march in a pilgrimage to take Cromwell’s head, but Frescobaldi will have to make the ultimate sacrifice.

Read part 1 of the FAQ’s here, otherwise here we go…

DO I NEED TO KNOW ALL ABOUT THE TUDOR PERIOD TO READ THE SERIES?

I realise there are a large number of my readers who do not read much in terms of Tudor fiction. Whether you’ve come here from the Canna Medici series or from Secrets of Spain, or are new to my work, you can read the Queenmaker series. I have tried to write the series in way that caters for the broad range of readers who buy my books.

There are a large number of characters in this series, as I feel that no one in history could be left out. Plus, I have chapters which have half a dozen Thomases sitting around a table, so I always double down on making sure it is clear who is who, etc. If you know the Tudor period, you will have no trouble; if you are new, you should be able to keep up.

I do recommend reading the books in the order I wrote them. You could read them out of order, though if you read SHAKING THE THRONE first, you may not fully understand the dynamic of Cromwell and Frescobaldi.

WHAT ABOUT FRESCOBALDI’S SISTER?

Nicòletta Frescobaldi is the Duchess of Florence. The historical figure of Alessandro de’Medici, Duke of Florence, is written as faithfully as possible (here is a great book on ‘The Moor’).  The Duke did marry Margarete of Austria and have a mistress name Taddea who had his children, rather than his wife. The marriage between Nicòletta and Alessandro is pure fiction. Alessandro de’Medici was the alleged son of Pope Clement, and Nicòletta/Nicòla bind them all together. As Alessandro was faithful to no one, not even his favourite mistress, it is not inconceivable that he would keep a wife outside of Florence, hidden away from everyone. That theory allows me to write the Duchess as hidden from sight, and unable to keep her bastard daughter Giovanna. Of course, Nicòletta and Nicòla are the same person, as Nicòla is the sole surviving Frescobaldi family member.

CAN A WOMAN TRULY PRETEND TO BE A MAN?

You only have to look at many names in history to find it is entirely possible. Elisa Bernerström, Saint Marina, Hua Mulan, Hatshepsut, Hannah Snell, Margaret Ann Bulkley, Chevalier d’Eon… the list goes on. It is less about appearance, and more about confidence in pretending to be a man. In a world where men are powerful and women are not even human, it is easy to imagine women adopting new lives so they can live, rather than simply survive.

FRESCOBALDI SAYS “THE MIND OF A MAN IN THE BODY OF A WOMAN.” IS FRESCOBALDI A MAN TRAPPED IN THE WRONG BODY? IS IT RUDE TO ASK THE QUESTION?

In this instance, no, it’s not rude. Nicòla has a female body and a ‘male mind’, as it was thought, at that time, that educating a woman was folly, for they had no imperative other than reproduction. Frescobaldi certainly believes herself a woman, thinks and acts as a woman, but is considered the fantastical creature because it is impossible for a woman to be so naturally intelligent, cunning and capable (so they thought in the 1500’s). Queen Elizabeth I had to routinely say her weak female form was something she managed to overcome. We now know women are just as smart as any man, as capable, as powerful. Frescobaldi believes she has a male mind because that is what she has been told her entire life. Frescobaldi believes herself wholly a woman.

WERE CROMWELL AND HENRY VIII REALLY GOOD FRIENDS?

It is impossible to say for certain. Cromwell definitely gave the King everything he wanted, whenever he wanted it. I personally wrote Henry as a man ready to trust, ready to befriend, despite having been hurt before, the same way he never gave up on love (or what he thought was love). Cromwell was not a stuffy, boring politician – he was widely known as the king of parties and lavish events, hosted the King and everyone of note in England in his manors, was generous, charming, and kept swathes of birds in his Austin Friars garden, along with the ‘beast’ to entertain his guests (I wrote the beast as a leopard for the purpose of the story). I find it entirely possible Henry and Cromwell would have established a bond over the long periods they would have spent together.

Up tomorrow, the last few FAQ’s before we then head into details on the themes featured in the Queenmaker series. 

FRAILTY OF HUMAN AFFAIRS, the first edition in the Queenmaker trilogy, is available worldwide in paperback and on Kindle now.

FROM NOW UNTIL OCTOBER 1ST, GET BOOK ONE FOR 50% off on Kindle.

The moderate man shall inherit the kingdom. That man needs to be the Queenmaker.

London 1529 – Cardinal Wolsey has ruled England in King Henry VIII’s name for most of his reign. Now Henry wants to leave his extraordinary Spanish wife of twenty years, Queen Katherine, to marry Anne Boleyn and secure a male heir for the kingdom. Only God can end a marriage, through his appointed voices on Earth, the powerful Cardinal Wolsey, and Cardinal Campeggio sent from Rome in the Pope’s place. Wolsey’s faithful attendant, commoner Thomas Cromwell, has the mind, the skills and the ambition to secure a royal annulment.

Cromwell’s forgotten past in Italy reappears with Campeggio’s new attendant, Nicóla Frescobaldi, the peculiar son of Cromwell’s former Italian master. While the great Cardinals of Christendom fight the King, the Pope and their God for an annulment, Cromwell and Frescobaldi hold the power over a country at war with its own conscience. Cromwell is called the double-minded man, whose golden eyes make money appear. Now Cromwell wants the power to destroy the Catholic Church in England. Frescobaldi is known as the waif-like creature, the Pope’s favourite companion, but Frescobaldi wants freedom from Pope Clement and his Medici family in Italy.

Cromwell and Frescobaldi will place themselves into the heart of religious and political influence as they strive to create an English queen, or lose their heads for their crimes and sinful secrets.

A Cromwell Adventure – Part 7: Author Q+A1 – The Classic FAQ’s

Ten days from now, SHAKING THE THRONE will be available! Today is part one of a ten-part series, letting you into the world of King Henry VIII’s Chief Minister Thomas Cromwell, and his master secretary Nicóla Frescobaldi, as they embark on part two of THE QUEENMAKER SERIES.

Part one of the series, FRAILTY OF HUMAN AFFAIRS, is out now, covering Cromwell and Frescobaldi in 1529 – 1533,  SHAKING THE THRONE, covering 1533-1536, will be available worldwide on October 1st. NO ARMOUR AGAINST FATE shall cover 1537 – 1540 and will be released September 2019.

Let’s jump right in, with answers to the most commonly asked questions about the adventures of Cromwell and Frescobaldi, in order of most common FAQ’s, but first, the synopsis –

November 1533 – Thomas Cromwell and Nicóla Frescobaldi have their queen on the throne. The Catholic Church is being destroyed as the Reformation looms over England. Cromwell has total power at court and in parliament, while Frescobaldi wins favour with the King’s illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy.

But England’s fate is uncertain. The nobles still despise Cromwell and his Italian creature. Anne has not given the king a son. Queen Katherine refuses to give up her title, and Thomas More and Bishop Fisher defy their king. The final Plantagenets think they should hold the throne, while the Catholics want Princess Mary named as heir.

England can be reformed, but Cromwell must dissolve all the monasteries and abbeys, and with the King on his side, the plan to change religion will sever heads. Queen Anne is losing Henry’s love, but Cromwell could suffer if Anne loses her crown. Frescobaldi creates a daring plan to replace Anne and regain the Pope’s favour, but Cromwell must execute the plans on his own. Schemes will go astray and the wrong heads will be severed to satisfy a vengeful sovereign.

Kings will rise, Queens shall fall, children will perish, and the people of England will march in a pilgrimage to take Cromwell’s head, but Frescobaldi will have to make the ultimate sacrifice.

ISN’T “NICOLA” A FEMALE NAME?

In short? No.

The long story? When people read or hear about the story of Cromwell and Frescobaldi, they read/hear “Nicola.” But Frescobaldi, being Italian, is “Nicòla,” which is a traditional Italian name for men of the nobility (ending in “a” gave English speakers the wrong impression it was feminine, but never was). The Frescobaldi family, which has suffered from war and illness, is down to only two people, Nicòla Frescobaldi and his sister, Nicòletta Frescobaldi. But, given the storyline, I chose the character name of Nicòla so a reader can identify with either male or female when reading the name, as Nicòla’s sexuality and orientation is a prime part of the storyline.

WHO IS THOMAS CROMWELL?

I am surprised anyone still asks this question, though go back ten years and plenty of people wouldn’t have a clue. Thomas Cromwell was low-born man born in around 1485, who ran away from home in Putney, England, at around 15. Cromwell went on a long and undocumented adventure through Italy, before returning to England around 10-15 years later, to work for a cardinal. Cromwell was an extraordinary man for any time period; he amassed a thorough education for a man of no means, and caught the eye of King Henry VIII, who was in need of a legal mind to secure his annulment to Queen Katherine. The ability to dismiss Katherine and install Anne Boleyn as queen made Cromwell one of the most powerful men in England’s political history. Click here to read all about Thomas Cromwell –  A Cromwell Adventure – Part 2 (opens new tab)

THOMAS CROMWELL IS A REAL HISTORICAL FIGURE, SO IS FRESCOBALDI A REAL HISTORICAL FIGURE TOO?

No, Frescobaldi is a fictional character in the series. All the characters in the book are real, and the timeline follows the real life events of the 1530’s, with the exception of Frescobaldi. When Cromwell was in Florence in the early 1500’s, he was begging in the streets, and caught the eye of Francesco Frescobaldi, a wealthy merchant who could speak English. The Frescobaldi family took young Cromwell in, and Nicòla Frescobaldi is the fictional son of the real man who saved  Cromwell. There is no historical record of Frescobaldi’s real-life children, though the family was a central figure in merchant Florence for several hundred years.

WHAT IS THE QUEENMAKER SERIES ALL ABOUT?

The Queenmaker series is based on Cromwell and Frescobaldi’s relationship. Frescobaldi arrives in England in May 1529, as an attendant to powerful Cardinal Campeggio. But Frescobaldi is no humble servant, for Frescobaldi is the favourite of Pope Clement VII, and is sent to spy on, and manipulate, Thomas Cromwell, the secretary of England’s powerful Cardinal Wolsey. Frescobaldi believes that Thomas Cromwell, who once lived in the Frescobaldi manor, was Niccolò Machiavelli’s muse when he wrote “The Prince” in the early 1510’s. Cromwell denies this, and yet displays all of Machiavelli’s traits and beliefs. Cromwell and Frescobaldi are bound together by their love and admiration for patriarch Francesco Frescobaldi, and soon find they are two similar minds – Cromwell, a common man placed in a position far higher than he should be, and Frescobaldi, an astute mind trapped in a ‘weak’ body. Between the pair, they can create any queen, destroy a religion, change any laws, and behead any enemy.

WHY READ ANOTHER BOOK ABOUT THOMAS CROMWELL?

This work of fiction is unique in that the books alternate between the POV of Cromwell and Frescobaldi. What Cromwell did to England – destroying the Catholic faith, implementing Protestantism, destroying the monasteries, removing Queen Katherine for Anne Boleyn, beheading Anne Boleyn for Jane Seymour, and replacing Jane Seymour with Anne of Cleves – is well known. But little of what Cromwell was thinking is known when he did all these things. Cromwell sat in obscurity for four hundred years, only to be dug from the archives as a villain, and recently has been rewritten as a hero. The Queenmaker Series does neither, as Cromwell can be compassionate, but he can also be cold. Ultimately, he serves his king and himself.

The book also tells the story from Frescobaldi’s POV, the “Waif”, Cromwell’s creature, who scurries about court in silence, always following Cromwell and doing his bidding. Frescobaldi is incredibly tough, intelligent  and well-connected. While Frescobaldi is mocked at court for being an effeminate creature, Frescobaldi has connections to Henry, Katherine, Anne, Cranmer, Fitzroy, More, Wyatt, Smeaton, Chapuys and plenty more central figures in Europe in the 1530’s.

HOW ACCURATE IS THE FICTIONAL SERIES IN TERMS OF HISTORICAL EVENTS?

I have battled to make sure the events, details, people involved,  locations, facts and the outcomes are as accurate as possible, based on all the research I have done, the result of many different sources. While the relationship between Cromwell and Frescobaldi is different from reality (obviously), Cromwell’s life, family, work, creations, and the changes to England’s landscape are all carefully laid out. There are 1001 books on Anne Boleyn and her demise, a central theme in this book (SHAKING THE THRONE is based on England 1533-1536), so this book tells the story through the eyes of Cromwell and Frescobaldi, rather than Anne.

Tomorrow – Part 2: more truth v reality in the 1530’s, what order to read the Queenmaker series,  Cromwell’s relationship with Wolsey and Henry, Frescobaldi’s sister, historical source used,  and more…

FRAILTY OF HUMAN AFFAIRS, the first edition in the Queenmaker trilogy, is available worldwide in paperback and on Kindle now.

FROM NOW UNTIL OCTOBER 1ST, GET BOOK ONE FOR 50% off ON KINDLE.

The moderate man shall inherit the kingdom. That man needs to be the Queenmaker.

London 1529 – Cardinal Wolsey has ruled England in King Henry VIII’s name for most of his reign. Now Henry wants to leave his extraordinary Spanish wife of twenty years, Queen Katherine, to marry Anne Boleyn and secure a male heir for the kingdom. Only God can end a marriage, through his appointed voices on Earth, the powerful Cardinal Wolsey, and Cardinal Campeggio sent from Rome in the Pope’s place. Wolsey’s faithful attendant, commoner Thomas Cromwell, has the mind, the skills and the ambition to secure a royal annulment.

Cromwell’s forgotten past in Italy reappears with Campeggio’s new attendant, Nicóla Frescobaldi, the peculiar son of Cromwell’s former Italian master. While the great Cardinals of Christendom fight the King, the Pope and their God for an annulment, Cromwell and Frescobaldi hold the power over a country at war with its own conscience. Cromwell is called the double-minded man, whose golden eyes make money appear. Now Cromwell wants the power to destroy the Catholic Church in England. Frescobaldi is known as the waif-like creature, the Pope’s favourite companion, but Frescobaldi wants freedom from Pope Clement and his Medici family in Italy.

Cromwell and Frescobaldi will place themselves into the heart of religious and political influence as they strive to create an English queen, or lose their heads for their crimes and sinful secrets.

HISTORICAL BOOK REVIEW SERIES: ‘The Black Prince of Florence’ by Catherine Fletcher

Ruler of Florence for seven bloody years, 1531 to 1537, Alessandro de’ Medici was arguably the first person of color to serve as a head of state in the Western world. Born out of wedlock to a dark-skinned maid and Lorenzo de’ Medici, he was the last legitimate heir to the line of Lorenzo the Magnificent. When Alessandro’s noble father died of syphilis, the family looked to him. Groomed for power, he carved a path through the backstabbing world of Italian politics in a time when cardinals, popes, and princes vied for wealth and advantage. By the age of nineteen, he was prince of Florence, inheritor of the legacy of the grandest dynasty of the Italian Renaissance.

Alessandro faced down family rivalry and enormous resistance from Florence’s oligarchs, who called him a womanizer-which he undoubtedly was–and a tyrant. Yet this real-life counterpart to Machiavelli’s Prince kept his grip on power until he was assassinated at the age of 26 during a late-night tryst arranged by his scheming cousins. After his death, his brief but colorful reign was criticized by those who had murdered him in a failed attempt to restore the Florentine republic. For the first time, the true story is told in The Black Prince of Florence.

Catherine Fletcher tells the riveting tale of Alessandro’s unexpected rise and spectacular fall, unraveling centuries-old mysteries, exposing forgeries, and bringing to life the epic personalities of the Medicis, Borgias, and others as they waged sordid campaigns to rise to the top. Drawing on new research and first-hand sources, this biography of a most intriguing Renaissance figure combines archival scholarship with discussions of race and class that are still relevant today.

cover and blurb via amazon

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I do so love the Medicis, especially this guy. No, he was a hideous human being, but everyone needs a bad guy. This guy was so awful he got a spot in my last book, and will get a spot in each of my Cromwell books.

Florence was far from a nice place to visit in the 1500’s. The weather might have been nice, but it would be easy to be killed for your alliances. Poison was a popular weapon and so were swords, and that leads us to Alessandro de’ Medici, the first Duke of Florence.

Alessandro’s birth in summer 1510 is a mystery in itself. His mother was Simetta da Collevecchio, a Moorish servant from Africa. She worked in the Medici household, and while officially Alessandro’s father was recorded as Lorenzo de’ Medici, it is said his father was, in fact, Lorenzo’s great-uncle, Cardinal Giulio de’ Medici. He is also well-known as Pope Clement VII. Alessandro was raised as Lorenzo’s bastard, alongside Lorenzo’s other bastard, the great Catherine de’ Medici.

Alessandro and Catherine were bounced around after Lorenzo died after Catherine’s birth, and Pope Leo, a gay Medici pope, had the children cared for. The Holy Roman Emperor gave little Alessandro a duchy in Penne in 1522, and in 1523, Alessandro’s real father was made Pope.

Ippolito de’ Medici, Pope Clement’s cousin (though they were raised side by side by the former Pope Leo) ran Florence, though he was looking to be made cardinal. But the Medicis were overthrown in 1527, when Rome was being sacked by the Emperor’s soldiers, locals in Florence tore up the city and destroyed the Medicis. By the time the Medicis took Florence back in 1530, they had a new man to rule – 19-year-old Alessandro de’ Medici.

If Alessandro thought he was safe after being made the first hereditary duke of Florence, a title that his father Pope Clement bought for him from the Emperor Charles, he was mistaken. This was Florence, and the pace would never let up. Alessandro needed a bride, and the Emperor had a bastard daughter; his bastard ‘sister’ Catherine was being prepped to be queen of France.

Alessandro was nicknamed Il Moro, due to his dark skin, the first dark-skinned noble in Europe. Alessandro was rich and entitled, he was known as a tyrant, depraved, lewd and disgusting. Of all the evils in Alessandro’s life, inside and out of the fort he built inside Florence’s walls, he had one enemy – Lorenzino de’ Medici. A distant cousin, in 1537 he lured Lorenzo out of normally safe locations in order to have sex with Lorenzino’s sister. Only there was tyrannicide committed – Alessandro was dead by his cousin’s sword. Lorenzino wrote a story about the murder, to get the Medici enemies to rise up. Only they didn’t and Lorenzino had to flee. Alessandro was hurried to San Lorenzo cemetery and secretly buried to keep the situation was quiet as possible.

The truth is tough to find with Alessandro’s life and death and this book does not have new information, but it’s a good read nonetheless if you are new to the tale. As the author states – Alessandro had to pay for his father’s sins, not only his own. Everyone seemed to know his true father was the Pope. Those who wanted the papacy and its power hated Alssandro; other Medicis hated Alessandro for rising so high; his people were not a faithful lot.

Not all I know about Alessandro is in the book; not everything in here I agree with, but I mean no disrespect to the author in this. The details are hard to come by. Alessandro’s lavish life is well documented, but the full knowledge of that time will be known to the Medicis alone. He is one Medici definitely worth reading about.

A Cromwell Adventure – Part 6: Anne Boleyn

a copy of an Anne Boleyn painting, thought to be from about 1534

Everyone knows Anne Boleyn; home wrecker, whore, poisoner, birther of the vicious redheaded queen, married to a vicious redheaded king. But as we all know, history is not kind to women, thus most of what is known is a lie, and most basic details about Anne’s life are not known by the wider public. Here is a neat round-up if you are new.

Anne was the daughter of Lady Elizabeth Howard, daughter of the second Duke of Norfolk (and brother of the 3rd, obviously), and Thomas Boleyn, a courtier and diplomat (who married up in my opinion). Anne’s birthdate is unknown, and is either accepted as 1501 or 1507. It has been suggested Anne was born anywhere from 1499 to 1512, but as a daughter, the date was not considered worth recording. Based on research and writings, it is generally believed Anne’s sister Mary was born 1499, and her brother George was born about 1504, putting Anne around 1501 (as Eric Ives claims; he’s my personal Anne historian of choice). There is also evidence of further Boleyn sons, Thomas and Henry, but we will leave that for another post.

Anne was born to parents with a rich family history in the  Howards and their Norfolk dukedom, though the Boleyn family also boasted Earls, knights and one Lord Mayor. The Howard family could be traced right back to King Edward I, and Anne’s family were well-respected and noble by the time of her birth.

Anne Boleyn moved across to Europe in 1513, aged either 12 or 6 (depending on your preference) to study while her father worked for the ruler of the Netherlands, Margarete of Austria (daughter to the Holy Roman Emperor). Anne learned the traditional subjects of dancing, sewing, manners, music, singing, along with more useful skills such as math, history, grammar, reading and writing, etc. Anne’s mind would have quickly flourished with all this, along with more social subjects like chess, dice, falconry and hawking, horseriding and hunting. Anne sent a year in her studies and serving at the court until her father arranged for her to go to France, to serve King Henry’s sister Mary, who was due to marry the King of France.

Princess Mary’s marriage to the French king lasted three months before he died, but Anne stayed in France, serving the new Queen Claude for seven years. The life and education Anne would have received is unclear, but would have been the best a girl could have hoped for. The French court would have taught her French culture, along with their games, dances, literature music and poetry, and the ever-present flirting and courtly love. The French court would have also influenced Anne’s religious beliefs, where the traditional Catholic learnings were being questioned by many reformers and writers.

Anne was a pretty girl, with dark hair and black eyes, and olive-coloured skin, rather than the more pasty English and French girls. But her personality was what shined, setting her apart from others. Anne was also known as educated, witty, funny and sophisticated. She could gossip and flirt as well as any, then also hunt, gamble and play with the best of them. Anne’s lack of beauty (or what was considered a beauty standard of the era) was noted, yet her charm made up for it (that’s not my view, it’s the sexist opinion of the time). Much has been made of her appearance, such as her sixth finger (could have been nothing, could have been little more than a sixth nail, no one knows), to moles on her neck, crooked teeth, jaundice skin, but much of it is considered a 16th century way of blackening her reputation over time. King’s don’t leave their queens for monster-like women, do they?

Anne’s family had been busy while she lived it up in France. Her older sister Mary had also been in France, but was called home in 1519, and much was made her whoreish behaviour at the court, even with the new French king. Mary was married off to William Carey in 1520, but then became King Henry’s mistress, up until around 1525. One or both of her children may have been Henry’s. Again, that’s another post.

Anne’s father Thomas had been locked in a dispute for the title of Earl of Ormond in Ireland, as the eldest son of one of the women who had inherited the title from their father. With many family members battling for the prize, it was decided Anne had to leave France in 1522. She came home to England, with plans to marry into Ireland, to James Butler, a cousin also with a claim to the title. Anne had no desire for the plan, and Thomas Boleyn kept negotiations slow, so slow that James Butler married someone else in the family for the inheritance.

Image result for anne boleyn
Holbein style painting of (probably) Anne, date unknown

Anne went to the English court in 1522, bursting on the scene in a masque for King Henry, alongside her sister Mary, and the king’s sister (also a Mary). It wasn’t long before Englishmen were falling over themselves for Anne, though King Henry was still bedding her sister. Despite loving the attentions and affections, Anne fell in love with Henry Percy, future Duke of Northumberland. Only, his father, the current duke, hated the idea, and Anne’s and Henry private betrothal was cut off by Percy’s family and Percy’s boss Cardinal Wolsey, the most powerful man in the country and right hand of the king.

Anne continued in the service of Queen Katherine, and spent much time with her friend Thomas Wyatt, whose love for Anne grew with their friendship. Wyatt’s wife had been charged with adultery, but there was one bigger obstacle. Anne’s sister Mary had fallen pregnant again during her affair with the King, and his eye needed a new girl to bed, and it fell on Anne in late 1525/early 1526. Poor Wyatt had to stand back, and Anne spent time away from court at Hever Castle, to avoid Henry. But he was a persistent man, and a king, so eventually Anne came around to being a mistress, but a celibate one. Anne was smarter than her sister.

King Henry wanted out of his marriage to Katherine. Now he had met a woman worthy of being a new queen. Anne was young and had a womb that might give Henry and England a son and heir. By 1527, Henry was petitioning the Pope for annulment, to no avail. Everything was tried (see my great matter post if you aren’t aware).  But in 1528, Anne, along with much of England, caught the sweating sickness, a now-ancient illness which killed within days. Anne managed to survive the illness, a rare occasion, though her sister’s husband (and cuckold) did not. Henry sent his best doctor to care for Anne (though went nowhere near her himself, a real germophobe) and she became his obsession; Henry had to marry her at any cost.

Long story short, Henry could not gain an annulment and solve the great matter, not from the Pope, nor the legatine court set up in London to decide on his marriage’s validity. This is when Anne’s influence as a woman educated in reformation and Protestant teaching came in useful. She had Henry turn on the leader of England, Cardinal Wolsey, and along with Thomas Cromwell, Anne had moves made to extract the Catholic faith from laws around marriage. Queen Katherine was banished from court and Anne and Cromwell was at Henry’s side in all matters (but Anne still wouldn’t get in bed with Henry).
Image result for anne boleyn
imagined painting of Anne and Elizabeth by Gustaf Wappers 1838
In late 1532, Anne went with Henry  to the French court, and Anne, now Marquess of Pembroke in her own right (yet another post), was presented as future queen of England. It is suggested this is when Anne gave in to Henry’s sexual demands, and they married in secret in London in January 1533, or even more secretly in France months earlier (yet another post). Together with Cromwell’s law changes, and a reformer placed as Archbishop of Canterbury saw Henry and Anne allowed to be legally married and Anne crowned in June 1533.
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Anne gave birth in September 1533, to Princess Elizabeth, not the son she had promised the king. Laws were sent out, making sure only Elizabeth could inherit the throne, not Henry’s daughter Mary, Queen Katherine’s daughter. Heads rolled as influential men like Sir Thomas More and Bishop John Fisher refused to agree to Henry’s rule over the church and baby Elizabeth’s inheritance. Anne was lavished as the new queen; she had 250 servants in her household and spent much time on the love and attention of her daughter. Historians state Anne lost a child in late 1534 and Henry was tiring of his new wife. His first wife was still alive, tucked away in poverty, and Anne, his pet project, wouldn’t give him a son as promised. Henry didn’t want to go back to Katherine, and made up with Anne, who got pregnant again by spring 1535.
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19th century imagined sketch of Henry and Anne by George Cruikshank
1536 had a bumpy start, but Queen Katherine died of cancer, causing joy for Henry and Anne. Finally Anne was out from Katherine’s shade and she could be recognised as a queen, not a whore. Everyone believed Katherine was poisoned by Anne, but there was no proof, but Princess Mary, Katherine’s daughter, was not forgiving to Anne. But Henry was tired of his second wife, and with her pregnant, as his eye found Jane Seymour, one of Anne’s ladies-in-waiting (one of sixty!). In late January, King Henry’s famous accident occurred, when he fell during a joust and was unconscious for two hours. Anne was in a panic, and miscarried her son five days later.
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Henry had a blonde in his sights, and Anne’s son was dead. Anne was forced to see Henry lavish love on Jane Seymour as the Boleyns were put aside. Anne then fell out over confiscated monasteries with Thomas Cromwell, the man who had got her the crown, and without Cromwell or Henry, Anne was doomed. Henry and Cromwell came up with a plan; charge Anne as adultery with courtiers and incest with her brother, and she could no longer be queen.
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Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, who had made the marriage of Anne and Henry could unmake it; Thomas Cromwell had George Boleyn, Mark Smeaton, Francis Weston, William Brereton and Henry Norris (all whom worked for Henry) charged with adultery. With a false charge, false evidence and a corrupt jury, Anne and her fake accomplices were found guilty. The men were all promptly beheaded.

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Image result for anne boleyn execution
imagined execution image from Matthäus Merian 1629
Anne’s day came on May 19, and executed by an expert French swordsman (again, the whole event is for another post). She was dumped in an unmarked grave at St Peter ad Vincula chapel until 1876, when workers identified her (and perfectly formed hands), and is now marked there. Anne’s daughter of course went on to be Elizabeth I and reigned England for 40 years, also never gaining a son.  Anne may have wielded power for a time, but never really stood a chance as a woman up against King Henry and Thomas Cromwell. All images of Anne were destroyed, any and all paintings are now recreations of her likeness.
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The way I write Anne in my first Cromwell book is of a quiet woman, intelligent and charming, but very much eclipsed by the situation around her. In the second book she shall become more of a power, more of the strong Anne many portray her as.

A Cromwell Adventure – Part 5: Queen Katherine

Katherine of Aragon was the Queen of England for 24 or 27 years, depending on how you look at history. Either way, Katherine is one of history’s most profound queens.

Portrait by Juan de Flandes thought to be of 11-year-old Katherine

Katherine of Aragon was born at the Archbishop’s Palace in Alcalá de Henares outside Madrid on 16 December 1485, the youngest child of the mighty Queen Isabella I of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon, the two monarchs who brought modern Spain together. Unlike the stereotypical Spanish look, Katherine had red hair and blue eyes to go with pale skin, a possible throwback to her English ancestry from her mother. Named after Catherine of Lancaster, her great-grandmother, Katherine was third cousins with her father-in-law Henry VII of England, and fourth cousin to her mother-in-law, the extraordinary Elizabeth of York. By age three, Katherine was already betrothed to Henry and Elizabeth’s son, Prince Arthur, heir to the English throne.

Katherine received an excellent education, especially for a girl, in both canon and civil law, history, languages, religion, literature, theology and genealogy. Her strong Catholic faith was the focal point of her upbringing, and spoke Spanish, Latin, Greek and French. Even with all these academic studies, she also mastered all the ‘female’ subjects, like dancing, sewing, mannerisms, weaving, and lace-work.

Katherine and Arthur married by proxy in mid 1499, but she needed to wait to travel to England until Arthur was 15, the agreed age he should be with his bride. Katherine arrived in England in November 1501 to meet her husband and married officially on November 14 at Old St. Paul’s Cathedral. While Katherine’s dowry was 200,000 crowns, her parents paid only half upfront, an issue which would rear its head later on. While both Katherine and Arthur could speak Latin, they could not understand each other with their accents and pronunciations.

Prince Arthur was an intelligent and kind boy raised to be a leader but suffered constant ill-health. The marriage was never consummated (as sworn by Katherine and her ladies), and they moved to Ludlow Castle in Wales, 150 miles from London. Arthur was Prince of Wales, the title for the future King, but Arthur fell ill months later, possibly of the sweating sickness. Katherine too caught the illness, and awoke from fighting the disease to find Arthur had already died, aged only 15, on 2 April 1502. This was a devastating loss for the Spanish princess, Arthur’s parents and the country who had a good king-in-waiting to keep the country at peace.

Portrait of Katharine of Aragon by Michael Sittow, c1502

Sending Katherine home to Spain meant Henry VII had to return the 100,000 crowns in dowry to the Spanish monarchs. He wanted to keep the money, and potentially get the other half of the dowry payment. When Elizabeth of York died in 1503, Henry considered marrying Katherine for the money, but instead betrothed Katherine to Henry, Arthur’s younger brother and new heir to the throne. But with Katherine’s mother now deceased in Spain, her ‘value’ was less than before. As Henry was not old enough to marry, only 11 at the time, Katherine had to wait. Her father would not pay the rest of her dowry, Henry would not send her home, and Katherine resorted to living in poverty in London, selling all she had to feed herself and her attendants. Despite all this, she was the Spanish ambassador to England in 1507, and seen as a weak negotiator, being female. Only everyone had underestimated Katherine.

Henry VII died in 1509, and the new Henry VIII promptly married Katherine by choice, rather than by any pre-contract or agreement. The Pope consented to her marrying her brother-in-law due to non-consummation with Arthur. Katherine was now aged 23, considered old for a bride, and Henry was just about to turn 18. They had a private wedding but huge double coronation at the Tower of London, with days of celebrations for all and the people of England were thrilled with their young new king and perfect bride at his side.

Within months, Katherine was already pregnant, only to lose her daughter during a premature birth. One year later she gave birth to her son, Henry, who died of unknown causes (possibly stomach related) at only 52 days old. Just a few months into her third pregnancy in 1513, Katherine was alone in England as regent while Henry fought in France. She led the country and a led an army in full amour against Scotland, killing the Scottish king, while Henry failed in his French invasion. Sadly Katherine’s son died in premature labour that November.

By January 1515, Katherine gave birth yet again, another stillborn son. She got pregnant soon after, following her typical pattern of ease in getting pregnant, but hopes were low after four losses. But in February 1616, Katherine gave birth to Mary, strong and healthy, lifting Henry’s hopes for a healthy male heir. Katherine had an early miscarriage in 1517, and then in November 1818 she gave birth one more time, to another daughter who died just after birth. Katherine was at her end after extraordinary pressure on her body to produce the male heir.

Katherine portrait by Lucas Hornebolte

Katherine turned to her Catholic faith and her studies once more as she aged, and promoted education in women, which started to increase in popularity. The Princess Mary was titled Princess of Wales in a male heir’s place, but the issue of no son loomed. Henry had taken several mistresses during the marriage, and Bessie Blount, one of Katherine’s ladies, gave birth to a son in 1518, not considered for the throne by illegitimacy. Henry would not give his throne to a woman, thanks to a history of wars under female rule (basically men not able to get their crap together led by a woman).

Katherine’s nephew, Charles V, King of Spain, became the Holy Roman Emperor, making him in control of much of Europe. She tried to broker a peace deal with him, then instead encouraged Henry to sign the famous peace treaty with France at the Field of Gold and Gold in 1520. It lasted a short time, and England aligned with Charles, and Mary was considered as a wife for the Emperor.

Henry had a mistress, Mary Boleyn, but after two pregnancies (a daughter and son, maybe Henry’s, maybe not), in 1525, Henry changed his mind and wanted Mary’s sister, Anne Boleyn. A non-sexual relationship began sometime in 1526, and Katherine assumed it would be another flirtation, a woman Henry would bed and then marry off. But Anne was young enough to give birth, potentially to a male heir, and in 1527 Henry petitioned the Pope for an annulment, but was denied. As the law stated a woman could not marry her first husband’s brother, Katherine was in trouble despite gaining dispensation years ago. Thanks to a siege in Rome and the Pope a prisoner, the annulment was not granted. By 1529, Henry set up a legatine court in London, with English Cardinal Wolsey and Cardinal Campeggio from Rome, to settle the matter for good. Katherine was on trial as a wife and queen.

Wolsey was a champion of Henry and had ruled alongside Henry for twenty years. They stated the laws, civil and God’s law, that a man could not marry a brother’s wife, and dispensation could not change that. They also stated that Katherine lied, and that she had slept with Arthur almost thirty years earlier. Katherine had powerful allies – her nephew the Emperor pressured the Pope not to give an annulment, and in England the most celebrated powerful religious minds of the age – Bishop John Fisher and Sir Thomas More supported her claim, along with Princess Mary Tudor, Henry’s sister.

The court case quickly crumbled and no result was given, the decision handed back to Pope Clement in Rome. Cardinal Wolsey, Henry’s greatest friend, was arrested for colluding with the Pope to keep Katherine on the throne, and he died on the way to trial in late 1530. Katherine would to give up her throne, the only life she knew.

In 1531, Henry left Katherine at Windsor Castle, to live with Anne Boleyn by his side, though it was said Anne refused to sleep with him until an annulment was finalised. Katherine was moved to The More in Bedfordshire in late 1531, a small manor with few staff, to be forgotten about while Anne Boleyn took her place. Henry had Thomas Cromwell, Wolsey’s successor, change laws making the Pope unable to grant an annulment, and instead was able to gain an annulment through English clergy, the new Archbishop Cranmer, a Protestant reformer. Henry secretly married Anne Boleyn in Calais in November 1532 and again in England in January 1533, when she found herself pregnant. Katherine was titled Katherine, Dowager Princess of Wales, but she refused to believe the claims her marriage was over.

Katherine was moved between palaces several times and reduced to poverty once more. By 1535, she lived at Kimbolton Castle, in a single room, and forbidden to be with her daughter, despite Mary’s ill-health. Katherine and Mary could be reunited if they acknowledged Anne as queen and neither women would give in. Katherine continued to grow ill, and begged Charles the Emperor to protect the Princess Mary on her behalf. Katherine died on 7 January 1536, not seeing her daughter in four years. Poison was claimed, as her heart was black, though cancer is a more likely option. Henry and Anne celebrated, then claimed their yellow outfits were Spanish mourning colours, a fact never true in any time period.

The day of Katherine’s funeral at Peterborough Cathedral, seen by her last followers, Anne miscarried a son. Princess Mary was not allowed to attend her funeral, and the life of the greatest English queen was over, aged only 50. The people of England loved Katherine until her dying day and never accepted Queen Anne, who would be beheaded only a few months after Katherine’s death. Mary would continue her Catholic mother’s fight, and became Queen in 1553.

Up next… Anne Boleyn