Thursday 22 August 2019

The Sunday Times bestselling author, Anne O’Brien, is talking about Constance of York the heroine in her #NewRelease — A Tapestry of Treason @anne_obrien

Constance of York
Cousin of King Henry IV
Was she Guilty of Treason?
By Anne O’Brien

It is not often that we discover medieval women engaged directly in political conspiracy as serious as treason.  Usually they leave that to their menfolk.  But here's a dramatic event to disprove the rule that women sat quietly at home, praying and stitching and playing the lute.

Constance of York was not a quiet woman.  Only daughter of Edmund of  Langley, Duke of York, and thus first cousin to both Richard II and Henry IV, she was the key figure in the event.

It could have cost her her life.

In February 1405, Constance was involved in a plot to remove King Henry IV from the throne and replace him with the young Edmund Mortimer, Earl of March, who was confined in Windsor Castle with his younger brother.  Constance took the leading role, setting up the escape, paying a locksmith for duplicate keys, and aiding and abetting the flight of the two young boys from the castle.  What's more she rode across England with them towards the Welsh Marches where she planned to hand the Mortimer boys over to Owain Glyn Dwr, to be used in his Welsh uprising against King Henry.

Unfortunately for Constance, Henry was warned of the escape and she was caught in the act in the company of the Mortimer boys near Cheltenham.  They were all escorted back to face Henry's wrath.

What would be the outcome for a female and a royal traitor, cousin to the King?  Would the penalty be death?
All the drama!

Constance was brought before the Royal Council to answer for her sins, with King Henry himself sitting in judgement.  Rather than remain silent, or confessing to her obvious guilt, Constance put the blame on her brother Edward, Duke of York.  He had instigated the plot, Constance merely following orders.  Constance also said it was not the first time that her brother had planned to kill the King.

York denied it all, claiming (craftily) that he had knowledge of what Constance intended, that he had in fact warned the King so the plot could be stopped, but he had had no part in it.

And what did Constance do?  She challenged her brother to a duel, personal combat, hoping that someone in the Council would take pity on her and volunteer to fight for her good name.

Oh, to be a fly on the wall of Westminster Hall on that occasion!

York was a man of considerable reputation as a jouster and hunter.  Would any man challenge him?  A young man called William Maidstone, probably in a fit of hero-worship, actually offered to become Constance's champion and fight for her.  The challenge was issued.  York accepted it.  Swords were drawn.  Until King Henry stepped in and called the farcical events to an end.

What happened to Constance?  Did the King find her guilty?  Did he imprison her or have his treacherous cousin executed?  Did he believe her accusations levelled at her brother the Duke of York.

I could tell you but that would spoil the enjoyment.  All is there to be revealed in A Tapestry of Treason, published in hardback and ebook on 22nd August 2019.

A Tapestry of Treason

By Anne O’Brien

Her actions could make history – but at what price?

1399: Constance of York, Lady Despenser, proves herself more than a mere observer in the devious intrigues of her magnificently dysfunctional family, The House of York.

Surrounded by power-hungry men, including her aggressively self-centred husband Thomas and ruthless siblings Edward and Richard, Constance places herself at the heart of two treasonous plots against King Henry IV.  Will it be possible for this Plantagenet family to safeguard its own political power by restoring either King Richard II to the throne, or the precarious Mortimer claimant?

Although the execution of these conspiracies will place them all in jeopardy, Constance is not deterred, even when the cost of her ambition threatens to overwhelm her.  Even when it endangers her new-found happiness.

With treason, tragedy, heartbreak and betrayal, this is the story of a woman ahead of her time, fighting for herself and what she believes to be right in a world of men.

The Coffee Pot Book Club


Highly Recommended

Read the full review Here!

Pick up your copy of

A Tapestry of Treason

Anne O’ Brien

Anne O’Brien was born in West Yorkshire. 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.
She 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.

Anne loves to hear from readers, you can find her: Website  Facebook Twitter

1 comment:

  1. I love it when we hear about women from the past who defied the norms of their times, Anne. I think there are more yet to be discovered. Your book is going on my TBR shelf!


See you on your next coffee break!
Take Care,
Mary Anne xxx