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Author’s Inspiration ~ The Shadow Queen #Historical #histfic @anne_obrien
a warm welcome to The Sunday Times Bestselling author, Anne O'Brien. Anne is going to share with us the inspirations
behind her latest book...
The Shadow Queen
The Shadow Queen is the
story of Joan of Kent, a tale of treachery, power-hungry families and legal
subterfuges, in which Joan, a woman of considerable charm and beauty, played a
central role at the Plantagenet Court.
‘What would enhance the pattern of my life further? One word
slid into my
mind. A seductive word. A dangerous word, perhaps, for a woman.
From her first clandestine marriage Joan of Kent’s reputation
was one of scandal and rumour. Her royal blood made her a desirable
bride, but her ambition and passion could become a threat to the stability of
the Plantagenet dynasty.
Joan knew what she must do to survive, the political games to
play, the alliances she must make, even if one man will always own her
heart. But would her ambitions bring her happiness?
A dramatic story of love and loyalty and of the cost of personal
ambition, this is the story of the woman who would ultimately seek power
as the mother to the ten year old King Richard II, from the shadows of the
The Shadow Queen
breathes life back into this remarkable medieval woman, Joan, the Fair Maid of
Kent of Kent.
Joan of Kent: A Many-Faceted Woman
All the medieval women I have written
about in the past have been chosen by me because of the characters with whom
they interacted and the story they had to tell of the politics and social mores
of the day.Joan of Kent was the one to
do the choosing in this writing partnership. She has appeared in cameo slots in previous
novels.This time she demanded a stage
of her own.
I have to admit to an initial
reluctance.I have stepped around this
Plantagenet princess because she was such a complex character with much myth
attached to her and little evidence.Apart from some significant points in her life, certainly of a
scandalous nature, we know very little about her.It is all supposition and possibilities.When it comes to her motivations, we are left
in the dark, reliant on conjecture.More
importantly, for me, it takes more than scandal to make a medieval woman into an
exciting and dramatic subject for a historical novel.For me she must be involved in the events of
the reign with some influence on the lives of those around her.
Yet Joan hovered on my horizon, appearing
in The King's Concubine as a
significant mover and shaker.Ultimately
I had to take her on if only to see which of the contemporary opinions had some
truth behind them. I decided that it would be a writer's act of cowardice to
turn my back on this intriguing woman who became Princess of Wales, Princess of
Aquitaine and ultimately King's Mother.
Was she '... the most beautiful lady in the
whole realm of England, and by far the most amorous.' So says Jean Froissart.Was she'beauteous, charming and
discreet.'The opinion of the Chandos Herald.
Or was this a more accurate, and far less
flattering, summing up of Joan?'...concerningwhose birth (Richard II) many unsavoury
things were commonly said (of Joan), namely that he (Richard) was not born to a
father of the royal line, but of a mother given to slippery ways - to say
nothing of many other things I have heard.'Thus the opinion given in The
Chronicle of Adam Usk.
It would be an interesting exercise.
Joan was notable for her three marriages,
two of them clandestine and one quite definitely bigamous.Here, for once, we have much evidence about
the legalities of the decisions made to solve the problem of Joan's bigamy, but
here was also the intrigue.Was Joan
simply a pawn in the pattern of royal alliance-making, forced into a union with
a powerful family against her will, or did she take her future into her own
hands?Was she sweet and beautiful and
perfectly compliant, or did she have a will of iron? Even more important, was
Joan's first marriage simply the result of a lust-filled seduction of a
gullible young girl by Sir Thomas Holland, who should have known better?
Myth says that Joan had a childhood and
reciprocal love affair with Edward of Woodstock, later Prince of Wales, which
ultimately brought them together into marriage when Joan was widowed.This seems highly improbably since Edward was
two years younger than Joan, and Joan was already wed to Sir Thomas Holland when
barely more than a child.A youthful
love affair is not a likely scenario.So
what was her relationship with Prince Edward, and what persuaded her to engage
in a marriage with the Prince, a marriage equally as clandestine as the one
with Thomas Holland, until a papal dispensation sorted out the mess?
I was also interested to discover if Joan
had ambition.Of royal blood and first
cousin to King Edward III, how did she see her future as the daughter of a man
executed for treason?After the death of
King Edward III, Joan was in the pre-eminent position of King's Mother for her ten year old son Richard
II.Did she wield any influence?And what was her relationship with the
infamous Alice Perrers and the equally ambitious John of Gaunt?Their paths certainly crossed.Here were relationships I knew I would like
Finally there was the issue of Joan's
insecurity which dogged her final days.Joan's marriage scandals might just cast a dark shadow over the
legitimate inheritance of her son.
What a roller coaster of a life it turned
out to be for Princess Joan, the Fair Maid of Kent.Using the evidence where we have it,
particularly in Aquitaine where neither Joan nor Prince Edward made many
friends, I have developed her character of much notoriety, some charm and considerable
ambition.This is Joan of Kent, The Shadow Queen.
Links for Purchase
sale in Waterstones, WHS and all good bookshops a well as on Amazon
About the author
O’Brien was born in WestYorkshire.
After gaining a BA Honours degree in History at Manchester University and a
Master’s in Education at Hull, she lived in East Yorkshire for many years as a
teacher of history.
now lives with her husband in an eighteenth-century timber-framed cottage in
the depths of the Welsh Marches in Herefordshire, on the borders between
England and Wales, where she writes historical novels.The perfect place in which to bring medieval
women back to life.