give a warm Coffee Pot welcome to Historical Fiction author, Judith
Arnopp. Today, Judith is going to
share with us her inspirations behind her latest series…
The Beaufort Bride - As King Henry VI
slips into insanity and the realm of England teeters on the brink of civil war,
a child is married to the mad king’s brother. Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond,
takes his child bride into Wales where she discovers a land of strife and strangers.
At Caldicot Castle and Lamphey Palace, Margaret
Beaufort must put aside childhood to acquire the dignity of a Countess and
despite her tender years produce Richmond with a son and heir.
While Edmund battles to restore the king’s
peace, Margaret quietly supports his quest; but it is a quest fraught with
As the friction between York and Lancaster
intensifies Margaret, now fourteen, is
widowed and turns for protection to her brother-in-law, Jasper Tudor. Two
months later at Jasper’s stronghold in Pembroke, Margaret gives birth to a son
whom she names Henry, after her cousin the king.
Margaret’s story continues in The Beaufort
As the struggle between York and Lancaster
continues Margaret, now married to Henry Stafford, fights for admittance to the
court of the victorious Edward IV of York and his unpopular queen, Elizabeth
The old Lancastrian king and his heir are dead,
leaving only Margaret’s son, the exiled Henry Tudor, with a tenuous claim to
the throne. York’s hold on England is strong and his royal nursery replete,
with two small princes securing their line. But Edward and Elizabeth’s
magnificent court hides a dark secret, a deception that threatens the security
of the English throne … and all who lust after it.
In 1483, with the untimely death of the King,
Margaret finds herself at the heart of chain of events that threaten the
supremacy of York, and will change England forever.
can scarcely believe I am on my ninth historical fiction book now. My first, Peaceweaver, was
published in 2009 and many things about my writing have altered since then. My
inspiration however has remained the same.
read historical fiction all my life and when I began to think about a writing
career I didn’t consider any other genre. I have always been fascinated not
only with the fashions and social considerations of the past but with the
people, particularly the women. Females had it tough – well, everybody had it
tough but men were at least allowed their place in history. The motivations,
concerns and actions of women, not highly regarded by the male chroniclers,
were largely underrepresented. I like to provide these women, silenced by
history, with a voice. I write from a female point of view, using fiction to
fill the void but I never forget it is fiction, even if it is heavily based on
wives of Henry VIII are often dismissed as ‘boring’ but that is so far from the
truth. Each one of Henry’s queens is fascinating, and there is something to admire
in all of them. Catherine of Aragon refused to bow to Henry’s desire for a
divorce was exiled from court, living in relative penury for the sake of her
daughter’s position. Anne Boleyn, dismissed by history as a scheming home
wrecker was a strong woman who did much for the new religion and possessed a
fierce and challenging intelligence. Henry’s third wife, Jane Seymour, was
queen for such a short time that there is little in the record to reveal her
real character or motivation. Some historians dismiss her as the tool of
ambitious brothers, while some claim she actively sought Henry’s favour with an
eye to the main prize. Whichever way you view her, ultimately she sacrificed
her life to provide Henry with his deepest desire – a son and heir to secure the
of Cleves, faced with the shame of rejection by the fastidious king ultimately
emerged best of all. Henry endowed her with fine residences and she lived a
full life, often at court as a good friend of the king. Katherine Howard made
mistakes yet, despite her tender years, found the capacity to die bravely on
the scaffold. And Katheryn Parr, the last queen, played her role of queen
faultlessly, escaping the executioner’s blade by a whisker, only to die
tragically shortly after giving birth to Seymour’s daughter.
inspirational women who had the misfortune to attract the attention of Henry
VIII and became entangled in his struggle to secure the Tudor line, are the
women who inhabit most of my books.
at the time of Anne of Cleves and Katherine Howard the narrative of The
Winchester Goose passes back and forth between the royal court to the
stews of Southwark where prostitute, Joanie Toogood, makes cynical and comical
observations on the lives of her betters.
Kiss of the Concubine
is the story of Anne Boleyn – another woman who has been tainted both
historically and in fiction. My main inspiration was to allow Anne to tell her
side of the story without resorting to the use of witchcraft or to sleeping
with her brother! Anne reveals a Henry who is a complex, insecure and often
confused man – disappointed in himself and striking out at those who love him
Elizabeth of York
has, until recently, been neglected in fiction. In A Song of Sixpence I
consider the conflicts she, being of York’s line, may have faced as a Tudor
queen. I also introduce the mysterious figure of Perkin Warbeck, a challenger
to Henry VII’s throne. If Perkin was indeed one of the lost princes, how did
Elizabeth overcome the dilemma of choosing between the life of her brother or
her son’s future as king of England.
These days, women
are seldom required to make politic marriages but we are often forced to do
things we’d rather not. When Katheryn Parr agreed to wed Henry VIII she
sacrificed her own romantic inclination to marry Thomas Seymour but she didn’t
go into marriage with the king half-heartedly. She set aside her own plans and
fully embraced her role as queen, championing the new learning, standing as
regent while Henry fought in France and, unlike her predecessor, behaving in a
thoroughly regal and admirable manner. She was also the first English queen to
become a published author! Katheryn Parr was perhaps the most surprising of
All the women I
feature are intelligent, resourceful and brave but also flawed, just as we all
are. My biggest challenge yet has been Margaret Beaufort. Margaret has been
very poorly represented in fiction and the reason for this is quite clear. She was
not a pretty woman, but she was pious, resilient and very, very determined. It
is not easy to turn a strong, plain woman into a romantic heroine and so, in
fiction at least, she has become a harridan, a half-mad zealot. Feminists today
rejoice in the few medieval women who stepped from beneath the thumb of
masculine authority but Margaret is seldom among them. I wanted to change that because
I think a celebration of strong medieval women would be lacking without
Margaret; in fact, she should be leading the parade!
Margaret emerges as somebody
who is imperfect but who seeks perfection, someone whose intentions are
honourable but often conflicted. In the beginning, sent as young girl to be the
wife of a stranger twice her age, Margaret can have had no concept that she
would end her life as the most powerful woman in England.
I embraced her journey from
girl to woman in The Beaufort Bride and The Beaufort Woman, allowing her to
explain her motivation, and describe how she found the strength to fight her
cause with very few weapons. I hope that in providing reasons for her actions, and
colouring her relationships with emotion, I’ve managed to evoke a little
empathy for her too.
Currently, I am working on The
King’s Mother – the third and final book in the series. Having achieved
a status beyond her wildest ambition, Margaret must now try to maintain it amid
the rebellion and unrest that undermines her son’s early reign.
Margaret is a difficult
character to write – sometimes when I try to nudge her along a particular line
of narrative she digs in her heels and refuses to move! I have to rethink it
and try to negotiate a path that suits us both. When it gets tough I remind
myself that the greater the challenge, the greater the reward.
So, I appear to have been
rambling, I do apologise. The short answer to your question, ‘what is my author
inspiration?’ is ‘to give a voice to women in history who have been silenced in
the historical record for too long.’
Thank you for listening.
Links for Purchase
About the author
When Judith Arnopp began to
write professionally there was no question as to which genre to choose. A
lifelong history enthusiast and avid reader, Judith holds an honours degree in
English and Creative writing, and a Masters in Medieval Studies, both from the
University of Wales, Lampeter. Judith writes both fiction and non-fiction,
working full-time from her home overlooking Cardigan Bay in Wales where she
crafts novels based in the Medieval and Tudor period. Her main focus is on the
perspective of historical women from all roles of life, prostitutes to queens.
Her novels include: The Beaufort Bride, The Beaufort Woman
(Book One and Two of The Beaufort Chronicles); A Song of Sixpence; Intractable
Heart; The Kiss of the Concubine; The Winchester Goose; The Song of Heledd; The
Forest Dwellers, and Peaceweaver.
She is currently working on Book Three of The Beaufort
Chronicles: The King’s Mother.
Her non-fiction articles feature in various historical
anthologies and magazines.