Friday, 15 July 2016

Karen Aminadra Book Launch of The Suitable Bride

Today I am celebrating the launch of my eighth novel! Yes, eighth! 
I cannot even believe I am here already! It has been such an exciting journey and wonderful four years since I published my first novel.

The Suitable Bride is book 2 in The Emberton Brothers series and is a clean Regency romance novel.
In the first novel, we followed the story of Richard, the eldest of the three brothers. In this book, we follow Edward the middle one.
Edward is the driven one out of the three. He has spent years working hard at achieving his dream. He’s a politician and dreams of being Prime Minister of Britain one day. He knows the advantages there are to be had in marrying and is eager to find a bride from amongst the set who will help advance his career.
Frances Davenport is the daughter of a lord. She is privileged and has led a life that has had its ups and downs…literally speaking ;-) She’s a little naughty. She doesn’t believe there is one single man out there who can please her as a husband and is resigned to that fact. Until she meets Edward, that is…

To celebrate the release of The Suitable Bride I am having a bumper giveaway with a big list of goodies! Please visit my blog to enter! And good luck!

Edward Emberton wants to be Prime Minister. He has a passionate vision for the future of England, which includes the abolition of slavery. As the son of a tradesman, his journey to Parliament has been a difficult one, but there is only one thing left to cement this foothold on the steps to Parliament – a suitable bride. She must be of noble birth, reasonable intelligence, mild temperament, and extraordinary beauty.
Frances Davenport is most of those things. And a suitable marriage to Edward isn’t only the answer to her prayers; it’s a way to keep her secrets. Edward is handsome, driven, and better still, enchanted by her beauty. It’s more than a suitable match; it couldn’t be more perfect.
But appearances are often deceiving, and Frances’ beguiling beauty comes with its own set of problems. Edward and Frances are about to discover that there’s more to marriage than suitability because neither is as suitable as they seem…


Author bio -
Karen is a multi-genre author who writes novels within many different genres; Historical Romance, Historical Crime, and modern Chick-Lit.
She can usually be found sat at the computer either writing a novel, writing down new ideas or on social media chatting!
Her love of reading, writing short stories, and her childhood imaginary world led quite naturally to writing novels. Encouraged to read by her bookworm father and grandmother and by winning a writing competition in just her first year of secondary school, she was spurred on, and she has been writing stories ever since. Her love of mystery and plot twists that she put into that first story continues today.
She has travelled to and lived in many countries, not just in her imagination, and has gained an insight into people’s characters that shines through in her work. Today, with her feet firmly back in the United Kingdom, she travels the world, the universe and in time through her imagination and her novels.
She is now the author of eight novels;
Charlotte – Pride & Prejudice Continues,
Rosings – Pride & Prejudice Continues book 2,
Relative Deceit – Death in the Family,
The Uncanny Life of Polly,
It’s a Man’s World – Lettie Jenkins Investigates,
Wickham – Pride & Prejudice Continues book 3,
The Spice Bride – The Emberton Brothers Series book 1.
The Suitable Bride – The Emberton Brothers Series book 2.
In 2012 she received a B.R.A.G Medallion ™ for her debut novel Charlotte – Pride & Prejudice Continues.
In 2013 she was once again honoured with a B.R.A.G Medallion ™ for Rosings – Pride & Prejudice Continues book 2.
In 2016 she received another prized B.R.A.G Medallion™ for Wickham -Pride & Prejudice Continues book 3.

For more information and to download a free book visit

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Raglan Castle Tudor Weekend

If you can ever get along to Raglan Castle for the Tudor Weekend be sure to do so. This is our third year and we will be going again, for sure.

We got there on Friday afternoon when it was quiet and we had to wrestle with the wind to get our gazebo up. Thankfully, someone was watching over us and we were helped by a friendly friar who must have had God's ear because things went more smoothly once he came along.
Saturday morning dawned dry but it didn't look promising. We wriggled into our Tudor clothing and prepared to meet our public. It was a slow day, the ever present threat of rain and the knowledge that it was free entry into the castle on Sunday, kept the visitors at home.

The visitors I did meet however were interesting, funny and very enthusiastic. I have never met people from so many corners of the world. America, Canada, Australia, Thailand, Essex :) Lots of them went home with one of my books tucked beneath their arm, and even more with a card so they can look me up on kindle.

Tudor clothing, particularly women's, was not designed for comfort. as the day wore on my bodice felt tighter, my knees grew weaker from so much standing and i was very very hot - thankfully it wasn't a hot day, or I would have melted for sure.

My partner in crimes against Tudor history, John, was not too hot. He is not a warm  blooded mortal at the  best of times and so relished the comforts of his thick velvet (modern day thermal vest hidden beneath) his nice worsted stockings, and the benefits of a hat.

Sunday was much busier. Early on, before we were properly attired a large coach party of Americans arrived. We were photographed, questioned and had a  thoroughly good morning chatting to them. People, particularly the women and little girls are really interested in the clothes and what it is like to wear them and this year we had a french hood for the girls to try on and have their photo taken, next year I hope to have more items for them to try. If any of you should read this I'd love to see some of the photographs. I even remembered to remove my glasses - staring blindly into the lens, blinking like a mole in the sunlight.

I had a lengthy discussion with a lady who was a big fan of Henry VII but had no idea he'd grown up at the castle. i pointed out that Margaret Beaufort visited Henry there, and later his wife, Elizabeth of York visited too. This happy lady went off determined to look at it afresh, with the knowledge she was walking in Henry's shoes.

We had a few showers of rain, nothing heavy but enough to illustrate the inadequacies of our silly modern gazebo - a medieval style canvas tent is on my shopping list before next year's event.

I sell my books at discount prices at these events so it is not for profit. it is pure fun. I love meeting readers, new and old. Meeting up with old friends, the Amicorum reenactment group, and the Beaufort Company, watching a reenactment of the Battle of Bosworth and hoping every year for a different outcome.

The Tudor Weekend is not the only event at Raglan worth visiting. The castle offers something new, something fun, and surprisingly educational with living crafts, historical talks, refreshments, battles, executions, mock jousts, archery and knight's school; not to mention the wonders of Raglan Castle itself. If you ever make it there, be sure to look for me. I am the one in the posh red gown.

Saturday, 11 June 2016

A Queen In All But Name - Annie Whitehead

Today I am pleased to welcome Annie Whitehead to my blog. Anne is a history graduate and prize-winning author. Her novel, To Be A Queen, is the story of Aethelflaed, daughter of Alfred the Great, who came to be known as the Lady of the Mercians. It was long-listed for the Historical Novel Society’s Indie Book of the Year 2016. Her new release, Alvar the Kingmaker, which tells the story of Aelfhere of Mercia, a nobleman in the time of King Edgar, is available now.


“From top to bottom, this country has no sense of itself.” This was a line of dialogue spoken by the character of Robert the Bruce in the film Braveheart. Many will, quite rightly, take issue with the film’s portrayal of history, but as a summation of the succession squabbles in Scotland at that time, it’s not far off the mark. The same could be said of medieval Wales, where brother fought brother and principalities were carved up. A similar situation existed in 9th century Mercia and, as with Wales and Scotland in the 12th and 13th centuries, it allowed others to march in and take over.

Aethelflaed, who died this day in AD918, was not a Mercian. She was a West-Saxon, the daughter of Alfred the Great of Wessex. She was born around the year 869 - we don’t know where - and was the eldest child of Alfred and his wife, who was a Mercian princess of the Gaini tribe. Alfred’s sister was married to King Burgred of Mercia, so here, already, there was a double connection between the two royal houses, alliance cemented by marriage twice over.

There is evidence to suggest that Aethelflaed was fostered by her aunt and spent her early years in Mercia. At this time there were essentially four Anglo-Saxon kingdoms: Northumbria in the northeast and East Anglia in the east had already been overrun by the Danish Vikings and now those Danish invaders were pushing at the borders of Mercia in the midlands. Mercia could not hold them off, caught as it was in a succession dispute. Unable to stand united, the Mercians failed to arrest the advancing army. Wessex, in the southwest, was, as Bernard Cornwell called it, The Last Kingdom.

But not all of Mercia had been subjugated. Burgred had been deposed and went into exile, and the rival Mercian king, Ceolwulf, who was accused of being a collaborator, had been killed in battle with the Welsh. Onto the pages of history, seemingly from nowhere, rode a nobleman called Ethelred, who was determined to re-establish Mercian independence.

Ethelred entered into alliance with Alfred. Together, they wrested London from the Vikings and, to cement their alliance, Alfred gave his eldest daughter, Aethelflaed, in marriage to Ethelred, probably around the year 887. Although we don’t know the precise age of either of them, it is safe to assume that he was the elder of the two, by some distance. This cannot be described as anything other than a political marriage. Aethelflaed was yet another ‘peace-weaver.’

She had Mercian blood, through her mother. Her uncle, Aethelwulf of the Gaini, frequently fought alongside Ethelred. She was not a complete stranger to the Mercians, but this could so easily have been another tale of a woman, married off, and quietly slipping between the pages of the chronicles.

The alliance between Mercia and Wessex held, and when he was old enough, Aethelflaed’s brother, Edward, fought alongside Ethelred and Alfred. Or rather, the three of them fought in different locations, weakening the impact of the invading ‘hordes’. The tide began slowly to turn, with the war against the Danes now being fought, effectively, by three armies.

click here for more information

In 902 the Battle of the Holme was a decisive victory for Edward, but Ethelred was not with him, nor was he fighting at Alfred’s side. And he was not fighting elsewhere either. Something was wrong. The chronicles don’t give us much of a clue, but it’s clear that after this point he no longer rode out in battle. He continued to witness charters however; something was stopping him from fighting, but not from leading.  But his place was not taken by another Mercian lord. In 907 the Mercians defended Chester from a Viking siege, but it was Aethelflaed who directed proceedings. An Irish chronicle has her fighting back with swarms of bees, which is more than likely  just a tale, but fun nonetheless. The Irish came to regard her as a queen, as did the Annales Cambriae, the Welsh chronicle.

In 910 the invaders were beaten again at the Battle of Tettenhall, but Ethelred was not there. In that same year, Aethelflaed is recorded as building a burh (a fortified town) at a place called Bremesbyrig, unidentified on the modern map. In 911, Ethelred died, and yet no new male ruler was appointed. Edward, who was by this time king of Wessex, moved quickly to take London and Oxford out of Mercian hands and under his direct control, but he stopped short of subjugating the whole of the erstwhile kingdom of the midlands and Aethelflaed continued with her fortification and building programme in Mercia.

In 915 we not only have her location but the exact date - June 19th - when she took an army into Brycheiniog in Wales to avenge the killing of an abbot who was dear to her. And in 917 she was in charge of the siege of Derby which resulted in Derby being returned into English hands. (As one of the ‘Five Boroughs’ of the Danelaw, it was strategically and symbolically an important victory.) In 918, shortly before her death, delegates from the kingdom of York made an appeal to her for aid against the norse armies of Ragnall.
I often have to take a moment to consider what a unique story this is. In a time of almost perpetual medieval warfare, a country was content to allow a woman to lead, even into battle. Whether or not she actually wielded a sword in anger, this is still remarkable. And yet, it was not remarked upon. Scant information is available, even by the standards of the age.

Okay, there wasn’t really anyone else (the internecine squabbles referred to earlier made sure of that) but even so, it appears that the Mercians were happy to let a woman lead them, and not even a native one at that, so it must, in part, have been down to her personality. She was a special woman. So why is she not better known?

I think there are two reasons: in terms of fiction, the Anglo-Saxon age has suffered a little on account of the unfamiliar and difficult-to-pronounce names. In terms of non-fiction, history is written by the victors. No, not the Vikings, but the kingdom of Wessex. Remember that Mercia tore itself apart until it ran out of kings. Its independence was in jeopardy long before the Vikings came a-calling. And after Aethelflaed’s death, her brother Edward gave Mercia to his natural son, Athelstan, who quickly became king of Wessex, too, upon Edward's death. A ‘merger’ was inevitable from that point. And of course, our greatest source of information, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, was commissioned by Alfred and written by West-Saxons. Mercia was never going to get star billing.
Humphrey Bolton [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
But she is remembered fondly by some. There is a statue of her in Tamworth, the ancient Mercian capital, which was re-dedicated in 2013, 1100 years after she fortified the town, and where they still refer to her as “The Lady of the Mercians.” A great lady, indeed.

For more information about Annie Whitehead you can follow her blog: Visit her website

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

The Joy of Book Fairs

Christoph Fischer and Me 
I attended my first book fair on Saturday. I have been to Christmas Fairs before and I attend Raglan Castle’s annual Tudor Weekend in the summer where I sell lots of books and meet readers and re-enactors but this was my first proper venture into the world of Book Fairs.
I am a very shy person. I thought I might feel like an amateur. I thought it might be ‘clicky’ or my elaborate Tudor style table layout wouldn’t be appropriate for this type of event. Happily, I was wrong. It was a lovely day.

I had only met two of the other authors previously, and a handful were as yet unseen Facebook contacts; the rest were strangers. I don’t usually like strangers. But now, after Saturday’s book fair, they are friends. More than one confessed to also being nervous and uncertain of what was expected, and this sharing of confidence made me realise that other authors are nothing to be afraid of. They are just ordinary people with stories to share.

We were all brought together by the tireless efforts of Christoph Fischer, a prolific author himself, who provides unflagging support of his fellows. The moment we arrived and began to set up our tables a sort of camaraderie emerged. We helped carry boxes, borrowed tablecloths, admired one another’s posters, peeped between the covers of each other’s books. With so much in common, I knew right away it was going to be a good day.

There were talks. I kicked off with a talk about Tudor portraits. After having made comprehensive prompt notes to help me along, I then forgot my reading glasses and couldn’t read a word. I need not have worried. I realised I would just have to ‘wing it’ and the audience was patient and brilliantly supportive. They offered up intelligent, interesting questions for me to answer about the Tudors. In fact, in the end we ran over the allotted time and some of them joined me at my book table afterwards to continue the discussion.

There were workshops from Judith Barrow (author of the Patterns Trilogy) and Sharon Tregenza who writes children’s fiction. Wendy Steele, author of what she describes as 'fantasy with a dollop of magic,' gave a talk on Fantasy and Magical Realism. Carol Lovekin read from her new release Ghostbird, and Julie McGowan read from Don’t Pass Me By. I was delighted to meet Thorne Moore, whose atmospheric books I really enjoy. At the table near mine was Rebecca Bryn. The evening before I’d started reading her book, The Silence of the Stones, although I’d no idea she would be attending.

There were many, many more authors present, too many to mention in detail but the fair provided something for everyone, all literary tastes catered for.

A steady stream of visitors kept the day interesting. I had many stimulating conversations, gained some news readers and met readers who have been following me since my early days. For me, the most thrilling person to come to my stall and buy my books was a young girl. I don’t know her name but she was no more than twelve, and she reminded me of myself at that age. When her mother handed her the books she purchased, she clutched them to her chest and spoke shyly but with great passion of her love of history. It is always nice to meet a kindred spirit. I told her I’d begun writing when I was her age and hope she went away encouraged to begin to write her own.

To boost our flagging energy local food outlet Iechyd da kept us topped up with tea and coffee and some rather delicious cake. We could not have done without them.

This morning I learned that the Llandeilo Book Fair was so successful, another has been booked for 10th December 2016 – hope to see you there.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

The life of Margaret Beaufort

Margaret Beaufort in often depicted both in fiction and non-fiction as manipulative, duplicitous, vindictive, sometimes a little mad. In my own book, A Song of Sixpence, she appears in her latter years, an unwelcome mother-in-law in the marriage between Elizabeth of York and Henry VII. Writing from Elizabeth's perspective, Margaret at first appears hardened, unfriendly but as their relationship continues, and Elizabeth produces a string of heirs for the king, Margaret softens, just a little, and their friendship develops. Ultimately, as she has at many deathbeds during her life, Margaret weeps copious tears at her daughter-in-law's demise. 

I could have written her all sweetness and light but I don't believe she was like that. My research shows a woman who lived an incredibly hard life, and difficult lives take their toll. She would have had trust issues, perhaps she learned self-containment was the best policy but Margaret's cool exterior shields a warm and vulnerable heart. Margaret was a good woman; a virtuous, generous soul whose determination to get her son on the throne took guts and strength. 

Women who live such lives often don't have time for niceties, in my experience they can be efficient to the point of rudeness. Margaret would not be one to suffer fools gladly, or tolerate nonsense. Once Henry was on the throne her vast experience and level head enabled her to offer wise and solid advice. She gave freely to charity, endowed universities and hospitals and encouraged theological study. All these characteristics are positives yet she is consistently depicted in the negative, that is, if we believe serious, pious, pro-active, politically motivated women to be negative.

Margaret was no beauty, she was not a simpering, pathetic princess and is therefore difficult to slot into a fictional stereotype. She enters A Song of Sixpence toward the end of her story. She has achieved her ambitions, her goal to put her son, her blood on the throne of England has been realised. Henry has overcome all opposition, the royal nursery is full of children. She is elderly, and as the king's mother afforded the honour of a queen. The key words for the latter part of her life story are : success, triumph, honour. But what about her beginnings?

An excerpt from The Beaufort Bride:

The Lady Margaret

Bletsoe Castle 1449

It is a wild night. Outside, the trees are blackened by rain. They thrash their limbs in a dance of anguish, shedding leaves and twigs across the lawn, but here, at the nursery window, I am safe and dry. I press my hot cheek against cool thick glass and peer into the darkness of the garden.
The shrubs and hedges assume threatening shapes; the yew tree by the gatehouse is a hump of deep black menace. My seven-year-old mind forgets the times my stepsisters and I have happily played there on the green mead in the sunshine; tonight I see only threats, only danger, only demons.
A fistful of raindrops spatters against the window and I draw back with a gasp as a yellow leaf, as large as my face, smacks suddenly onto the glass. I stare at it, stuck there like a hand held up in warning. Do not look, Margaret!
But I do look. I cannot help it. If there is a beast in the garden, I have to see it. I have to witness the moment it leaps from the darkness.
Ever since I can remember the grown-ups have kept secrets from me. I didn’t know my mother had been married before, that my siblings had a different father to mine. It was Oliver who told me, and ever since he has delighted in revealing other, more horrible things. Now, to deny him pleasure, I am determined to learn secrets for myself. Secrets that are sometimes best left undiscovered.

No one tells me when I am made a ward of the Duke of Suffolk, fated to marry whomever he pleases. It is Oliver who breaks the news and, at first, I don’t believe him.
“Don’t be silly,” I scowl. “Stop teasing.”
“Oh, I’m not teasing.”
He slides from his seat and comes skulking toward me, his head thrust forward, a grin of mischief smeared across his dirty face. “You have to do as he says and go happily to your marriage, even if he weds you to a grandfather who will beat you twice daily.”
“He wouldn’t do that.”
I can hear the doubt in my own voice and it spurs him on to greater revelations.
“He can do with you as he wishes and you have to obey him or, if you don’t, you’ll be shut up in the Tower as your father would have been if he hadn’t -”
 A sudden movement and Edith comes to stand beside me. She places her hand on my arm.
“Oliver, be quiet. You are being cruel. Don’t listen to him, Margaret, just ignore him. Why don’t you come and help me sort colours for the tapestry I am planning?”
Edith, my older and favourite sister, grabs my wrist and tries to tug me toward her chair but, drawn to the awfulness of Oliver’s secret, I pull away.
“What do you mean, Oliver? My father in the Tower; what do you mean?”
He stands tall, runs two fingers across his upper lip, presenting a sudden image of how he will look when he is a man with a fine moustache and beard. His head is back and he squints down his long nose with a smirk. He is no longer a companion of the nursery; he is an accuser, a torturer, a devil with wickedness upon his lips.
“Your father was a traitor, waiting to be sent to the Tower. The king was going to chop off his head … but your father sliced his own wrists before he could be taken.”
With a gasp of horror, my stepsisters look up from the hearth where they are sewing. Everyone is looking at me. My cheeks begin to burn. I can feel their eyes boring into me, waiting for my reaction. I cannot move; my ears are ringing. It is as if he has struck me but I manage to raise my chin and clench my lips across my teeth.
Oliver watches my struggle for composure, but his venom is subsiding. He is clearly calculating our mother’s reaction should I run to her with the tale of his sins.
It takes a great deal of effort to shrug my shoulders and turn away as if nothing is amiss. His uncertain laughter follows my stiff-legged journey toward the door. I reach for the latch but before I pass through it, I feel Edith’s hand on my shoulder.
“Margaret, don’t believe him. He heard it from the servants – it is likely just tittle-tattle.”
I look into her kind eyes and read the lie hidden there. She seeks to spare my hurt, but I can tell she believes the story. I try to smile but my mouth goes out of shape, my chin trembling. She places a gentle hand on my coif but I shake it off, cuff away the first tear before it has a chance to drip onto my cheek.

I find Mother just returned from chapel. She halts when she sees me and hands her prayer book to one of her women.
“Margaret? What is the matter? Are you ill?”
I shake my head and perform a wobbly curtsey.
“No Mother, I am well.”
She sits down and beckons me closer, places a hand beneath my chin. She feels my brow for signs of fever, pulls down my lower eye lid and bids me stick out my tongue. I obey, passively waiting while she examines my teeth and looks in my ears.
“You are very pale, and you are trembling. What has happened? Have you been fighting again?”
“No, Mother.” Although I threaten to, I never bear tales of Oliver’s taunting. I search around in my head for a small lie that will explain how I have heard the rumour of my father’s disgrace. “I heard someone talking.”
She sits back, links her fingers and rests her hands on her stomach.
“You should never heed gossip, Margaret.”
“No, I don’t but … they said bad things about my father.”
I watch her face blanch and know without her confirmation that Oliver’s tale is true. Her face squirms unattractively as she tries to school her features into obedience.
“Who have you been listening to?”
“Oh … I – I don’t know. We were playing hide-come-seek and I was hiding in a cupboard when some servants were passing … I couldn’t see who it was.”
I will have to make confession and do penance for such a lie, but I refuse to bear tales. It will only make Oliver resent me more.
“Is it true, Mother?” I step closer. “Was my father a bad man? Did he ... did he …?”
I cannot form the last words and as my fear spills from my eyes, her own composure dissolves. She fumbles for a kerchief, blows her nose.
“Oh, Margaret.” She screws the square of linen into a ball and looks at the ceiling. “Your father was a good man, an honest man but … well, he was not always wise. He made mistakes in France and angered the king. When King Henry refused him an audience, your father fell into despair. I … we are not sure what happened … it was a long time ago, six years.”
I listen to the horrid truth, counting back the years on my fingers. 1443, the year I was born.
“So, if my father was a traitor, are we all disgraced? Am I a disgrace? Am I, Mother?”
She sighs, casts about for her kerchief again and dabs her nose.
“No. Your great uncle, the Cardinal, and your uncle Edmund will ensure we remain in the king’s good graces. You must learn that everything is not black and white, or good and evil. There are many different shades. Your father was neither; he was just a man, and all men make mistakes … even kings.”
The end of her sentence is barely audible. I jerk my head and stare into her eyes, trying to fathom what she means. I have been taught an anointed king is sacrosanct. It has never occurred to me that kings can err.
“So the king was wrong?”
“Mistaken, perhaps, is a better word; an error of judgement.”
“What about us? Is Oliv - are the servants right when they say that I must marry whomever the Duke says?”
She looks around the room, her lashes fluttering like damp butterflies that cannot decide upon which blossom to settle.
“We must all marry where we can, Margaret. A woman is seldom given choice.”
“But what if he picks an old man who will beat me twice a day?”
The words are out before I can stop them, Oliver’s laughter echoing again in my ears. She pauses with the kerchief just below her nose.
“No! Where do you get such ideas, child? Come here.”
I long to slide onto the chair beside her and inhale her sweet herby scent that speaks of security. I wish I could snuggle to her bosom. If she was not big with child I could crawl into her lap as if I were a baby. She places her hand upon her swollen belly. “I suppose it is time I told you of your future. You are an important asset to the Duke but he has chosen very carefully for you.”
“Who will want to marry me when my father was so bad?”
She laughs musically, tilting her head back. “Oh my dear child, do you not realise how rich you are? You are an heiress and will be an asset to any husband. Men have already been seeking the honour of your hand.”
I digest this news slowly. So, Oliver was right. I am to be sold.
“You said ‘chosen’ so the Duke has already decided?”
Her hand, that has been gently rubbing the place where her unborn child is curled, stops suddenly. She smiles and looks down at it. She has felt the child kick – another half-sibling. I will no longer be the smallest. I will no longer be the baby of the family. I pray this child will be kinder than Oliver.
“The Duke fancies you for his son, John, who is destined to be a great man.”
I have seen the Duke of Suffolk many times, the great William de la Pole who has fought so long for the king in France. Oliver says that he has almost single-handedly kept our territories in English hands. He is a favourite of the king, but the populace dislike him and have christened him ‘Jackanapes.’
The duke is a big man, large and rough. I remember when I was little, hiding behind my mother’s chair when he came into her parlour. His giant frame blocked the sun from the window and his laugh made the wine cups rattle on their tray. I am filled with dread that his son will be the same.
“Suppose I do not like him?” I whisper with sickness washing in my belly. Mother smiles and closes one eye before answering conspiratorially.
“Then you will make the best of him, as do all women in our position.”


I am happy to announce that Book One of The Beaufort Chronicles: The Beaufort Bride will be released on Kindle at the end of this week. This book tracks Margaret's life from her beginnings at her mother's house, Bletsoe Castle, through her life in Wales and the trials of her marriage to Edmund Tudor, her widowhood, the birth of Henry and her betrothal to Henry Stafford.

Book Two: The Beaufort Woman illustrates Margaret's development from a child into a young woman. It traces her journey through the wars of the roses, her second widowhood, her marriage to Stanley, and her political manoeuvres through the complexities of the conflict between York and Lancaster. She does not rest until the attainment of her dreams at Bosworth field.

Coming soon in 2016

Book Three details the reign of Henry VII and her role as The King's Mother in establishing, once and for all, the Tudor dynasty.

Book One: The Beaufort Bride will be published on 17th March. The kindle version is available to pre-order now and a paperback will follow very soon. Click here to purchase your copy.

Judith Arnopp is the author of eight historical novels of the Tudor and Medieval period. She also blogs and offers talks on Tudor history. You can visit her webpage for more articles and information

Photographs from Wikimediacommons or author's property.

Monday, 29 February 2016

Sudeley Castle and Katherine Parr

As the spring approaches and we all begin to think about day trips and picnics I thought I'd reblog this piece I wrote about Sudeley.

 Sudeley Castle is a comparatively small place in the scheme of things, set against the backdrop of the Cotswolds. Sudeley is, and has been, many things; today it is a family home, a beautiful garden, a historic jewel, and the last resting place of an English queen. The Castle is steeped in history and was first mentioned in a 10th century charter. King Ethelred hunted deer in the park and later, when the castle passed to Goda, her distant relationship to William the Conqueror, saved it from Norman take over.

Sudeley remained in the hands of Goda’s family until the reign of Henry V when the castle was gifted to Thomas Boteler in way of repayment for his action in the war with France. It was Boteler who began to transform Sudeley into an enviable home, enlarging and updating the existing fabric of the building to create a place fit for royalty.

When the Lancastrians were defeated and Edward IV took the throne the Boteler family were forced out and Sudeley’s new owner was no other than the king’s brother, Richard of Gloucester, later King Richard III of car park fame.

When the tables turned again and Richard was defeated at Bosworth, Henry VII took it over, bestowing it on his loyal uncle Jasper Tudor. After Jasper’s death Sudeley once more became crown property.

Henry VIII visited once with Anne Boleyn. They met with Thomas Cromwell there to discuss the reformation of the monasteries and took a keen interest in the Blood of Christ housed at nearby Winchcombe Abbey. At this time the castle was run down and unoccupied for much of the time.

On his accession to the throne Edward VI made his uncle, Thomas Seymour, Lord of Sudeley and after his marriage to Katheryn Parr, Seymour and his new wife made their home there.
 The Seymours implemented many improvements and Katheryn took great care in choosing the d├ęcor of the nursery for their expected child. Unfortunately, to Thomas Seymour’s sorrow, Katheryn died scarcely a year later, having given birth to a healthy daughter, whom they named Mary.

With Thomas’ ward, Lady Jane Grey, acting chief mourner Katheryn was laid to rest in St Mary’s church adjacent to the castle. Today visitors to Sudeley can view a love letter and portrait gifted to the queen by her husband.

Katheryn’s step daughter and friend, Elizabeth Tudor, later Queen Elizabeth I, visited Sudelely on three occasions during her reign. It is easy to imagine her walking in the garden, remembering her stepmother, recalling conversations, small personal details of their shared life that are now lost to history.
Sudeley’s history doesn’t stop with the Tudors. During the civil war Prince Rupert made the castle his headquarters, and Charles I stayed there for a time during the campaign to take Gloucester.

During the course of the war Sudelely passed back and forth between Royalist and Parliamentarian hands until Parliament ordered the ‘slighting’ of Sudeley making the house indefensible. The roof was removed, and the rest of the building fell swiftly into decay. The fine worked stone was quarried by locals until the grand castle became nothing more than an attractive romantic ruin. For the next two hundred years it was left to the mercy of the elements, a trysting place for lovers, or a hideaway for thieves.

In 1782, Katheryn Parr’s grave was rediscovered. The lead casket was opened the body found within reported to be 'uncorrupted'. She was reinterred in 1817 by the Rector of Sudeley and a plaque copied from the original inscription on the lead coffin placed upon it. Today there is an effigy on the tomb but this was made in Victorian times.

Sudeley remained in elegant decay until the nineteenth century when it was bought by two brothers, John and William Dent, who embarked upon a restoration project. They employed architect Sir Gilbert Scott to restore the chapel. The walls and large parts of the castle were restored. Finally Lady Emma Dent spent almost fifty years putting the finishing touches, filling Sudeley with fine art and historical artefacts.

Yet, of all the people mentioned in this potted history; the Lords, the ladies, the kings, the politicians; it is Katheryn’s memory that lingers. Visitors flock there, not just to see a splendid house and a magnificent garden; they go there because of Henry VIII’s last queen, Katheryn Parr.

The Tudor style parterre is only a reconstruction but, although Katheryn may have gone it is easy to imagine her there, inhaling the scent of the flowers, the kiss of summer rain on blush pink petals.

While you move quietly between the roses, or pass through the old yew hedge, you can imagine a footstep on the gravel behind you, the sweeping red skirts of her kirtle as she joins you. And as she follows you around the flowerbeds, you may feel the brush of her hanging sleeves.

Judith is the author of seven historical novels and is currently working on a trilogy tracing the life of Margaret Beaufort. Book one of The Beaufort Chronicles, The Beaufort Bride will be out soon.

For more information about Judith's work please click here

Pictures of Sudeley Castle and of the church at the castle are both licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license, the former to Gordon Robertson, the latter to Jason Ballard.  The picture of Katheryn Parr's tomb is licensed to TudorQueen6 via the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.  The portraits of Thomas Seymour and Katheryn Parr are in the public domain due to expiration of copyright.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

The Plight of Picard

My blog today is very different to the ones I usually write. No mention of history or books but my post today concerns something even closer to my heart.

This is Picard in his younger days. He is a Welsh Mountain Pony, the most well-mannered little man you could wish to meet, which is surprising considering his history.

We first met Picard when he was a foal. We were at a horse sale in West Wales, buying buckets and lead ropes for the ponies at home. We were horrified when a large over-crowded livestock lorry turned up and men with large sticks began driving yearlings from the back. They were terrified. It was a horrible sight, the sort that makes you shamed to be human. Every year the surplus wild ponies are rounded up on the mountain, they are squeezed into trucks and sold for silly prices at sales around the country. The low prices often mean they are bought on impulse, go to unknowledgable homes, or end up as fodder for the meat man, shipped to Europe for the horse meat industry. It seems a sorry waste of life for these beautiful ponies to end up as dog meat.

Needless to say, when it was Picard’s turn to be hounded into the sale ring, frightened with whips to make him prance and show off his good points, he was the last of a very long queue. The few people who had come in search of a cheap pony to rehome had already bid, their pockets were empty and the only person (I use the term lightly) bidding on Picard was the meat man. The meat man never bids high so I took my hands from my pocket and decided to take this wide eyed, terrified baby home.

My daughter already had a Shetland she was growing out of so I thought maybe Picard would turn out to be a good second pony. I won him with a £12 bid – a muddy, dark grey pony with burs in his coat and terror in his eye. He didn’t want to get in the truck; there was no way to load him without scaring him even more but with great difficulty we managed to get him safely home. 

He trembled in the corner of his stable for days, freaking out each time we went in to change his water and replenish his hay. The burrs and mud had to remain in his coat while I sat on a bucket with my back to him and sung nursery rhymes and lullabies so he'd become accustomed to my voice and presence. This went on for days and still he wouldn’t look at me. Each time I turned round he stuck his nose in the corner and put his head down. He was so unhappy in those early days but eventually we noticed a change. He no longer tried to scale the stable wall when we went in; he began to trust the bucket and snatch a little hay from the rack.

When he was ready to emerge from the stable his first friend was Rudolph, the Shetland, his second was Jazz, another Welsh Mountain Pony, and Cynon the cob cross. His time was spent with them in the field where he could gallop about, kicking his heels, happy in their company. It was a brilliant thing to see.

Whenever we rode or groomed the other ponies, Picard watched from a distance, ready to flee if we so much as took one step toward him. But, slowly, he came to realise we were never going to wallop him over the head with a pole, or force him to do anything he wasn’t happy with. Little by little he grew calmer, we were allowed to brush him, we could lift his feet one by one, scratch his hind quarters but never his head. He remains head shy to this day and getting a head collar on was a nightmare but by degrees, we managed it. My eight year old daughter could lead him around, sit on his back, tack him up but he was never really happy with it and we could only progress so far. After a year or so, we desisted but he remained with us, a companion to our other ponies.

That was twenty years ago, hopefully things have changed for ponies like Picard but I don’t think they have. There are far too many greedy, unkind human beings and too many unwanted ponies. One by one our ponies died of old age and now Picard is the only one remaining.

Age is catching up with my husband and I now. Our children have left home and, due to health issues, we have had to give up our beloved smallholding. We sold it at the end of last year and the new owners kindly allowed Picard to stay until the new home we had sorted for him was ready. He was due to move to a lovely home next week but to my horror that has now fallen through and the new people who now live in the lovely smallholding want him moved.

So this blog is a plea for a good forever home for a much beloved veteran who requires gentle handling and understanding. He lives out all year round, survives on air and doesn’t require lush grazing. Picard is very gentle. He has never kicked or bitten and will follow you to the moon if you wave a bucket under his nose and he is good with the farrier. We are happy to help with his costs and essential veterinary care. Most of all we want the last years of his life to be as happy as the last twenty. He needs a safe, secure, caring home, preferably with other horses.

If anyone can help or knows someone else who might please contact me on or message me on facebook. Please share this blog widely so that we might find reach a good Samaritan.

Thank you for listening.