The Heretic Wind:
the life of Mary Tudor, Queen of England
By Judith Arnopp
Adored by her parents and pampered by the court, the infant Princess Mary’s life changes suddenly and drastically when her father’s eye is taken by the enigmatic Anne Boleyn.
Mary stands firm against her father’s determination to destroy both her mother’s reputation, and the Catholic church. It is a battle that will last throughout both her father’s and her brother’s reign until she is almost broken by persecution. When King Edward falls ill and dies Mary expects to be crowned queen.
But she has reckoned without John Dudley, the Duke of Northumberland, who before Mary can act, usurps her crown and places it on the head of her Protestant cousin, Lady Jane Grey.
Furious and determined not to be beaten, Mary musters a vast army at Framlingham Castle; a force so strong that Jane Grey’s supporters crumble in the face of it, and Mary is at last crowned Queen of England.
But her troubles are only just beginning. Rebellion and heresy take their toll both on Mary’s health, and on the English people. Suspecting she is fatally ill, and desperate to save her people from heresy, Mary steps up her campaign to compel her subjects to turn back to the Catholic faith.
All who resist will face punishment for heresy in the flames of the Smithfield fires.
In the following excerpt Mary has been sent to Hatfield to serve in the household of the Princess Elizabeth. She has just been informed that the king is visiting the palace and she must stay in her chamber as he does not wish to see her.
“The gentlemen from court are here, my lady and my lord Cromwell wishes to speak to you.”
“Indeed,” I raise my brows in surprise. I had thought I was to remain here in my chamber but I do not contradict her. Hastily, I straighten my hood and arrange my tired gown before following the girl downstairs to a dark antechamber in a little used part of the house. They are so determined that my father shall not see me that they keep me hidden, like a dirty secret.
Cromwell and another man wait at the hearth, neither bow to me when I enter. I firm my chin, lift my head and look down my nose at them. I am Mary Tudor. I am not some kowtowing girl to be so rudely used.
“I hope you are in good health, Lady Mary.”
I can scarcely prevent my lip from curling into a snarl when I make reply.
“I am not, sir. I am most rudely treated and grieving for the company of my mother, as well you know. My chamber is not befitting to my station and my gowns are too small and need replacing. The servants here are rude. Anne Shelton treats me as her inferior.”
Cromwell smiles insincerely, his face creasing into peaks and furrows. He clasps his hands as if he is about to pray … to the devil I presume.
“Lady Mary, you are disobedient to the king’s wishes. If you wish your circumstances to improve then you must denounce your title and acknowledge the king’s union with your mother was illegal. Then and only then, will you be taken again into your father’s favour …”
“As his bastard.”
He inclines his head. “The marriage was no marriage, your birth no different to that of your brother, Fitzroi yet, look at the benefices he receives. Your father honours him as his son, as he would honour you as his daughter if you would only cease to be so stubborn.”
“I was born within wedlock, sir, I am no bastard! My mother is a God faring woman, she would never stoop to immorality. She is a princess of Spain and the rightful Queen of England and would never lie!”
He throws open his hands, revealing red work-worn palms and I remember he is the son of a blacksmith. What times are we living in when the son of a blacksmith can grind a princess of the realm into the dust? I stand a little straighter.
“You waste your time, sir, with your bullying and bombast. You do not frighten me. You can mistreat me all you like; you can send me to the tower and threaten me with death but I will never renounce my title or my position as the true born princess of the realm and my father’s legitimate heir.”
His face pales, his lips a slash of bitter red and I know he silently curses me. I curse him in return. As he opens his mouth to speak, I forestall him, stepping forward and looking directly into his shifty eye.
“I wish to greet my father, sir. Pray inform that the Princess Mary await his convenience.”
He smirks and thrusts his face closer, his tainted breath blasting directly into mine. “Oh no, Lady Mary. You shall not see the king. You will remain here at Hatfield and see nobody until you do as I say. You will serve the infant princess and I shall instruct Lady Shelton to heap any humiliation she pleases onto your head. Until you realise that you have no claim on your father, you will be kept away from him. I am confident that he will neither miss nor even enquire as to your health. He has a new heir now.”
He pushes past me so violently I almost lose my footing. The chamber door clangs closed behind him, the sound of it reverberating through the hall, through my body, and lodging deep in the darkest places of my mind. I clench my trembling hands. He will pay for this, one day. As God is my witness, he will pay.
When the sounds of their footsteps have faded away, I pick up my skirts and run from the chamber, skim swiftly through the corridors to the upper floor, and tumble onto the terrace where I sometimes take the air. They might refuse to convey to the king my entreaty for a meeting but he shall see me. I will make sure of it. This terrace overlooks the front of the house, I need only linger here until it is time for him to leave and then …
Hours pass and I am quite cold before the doors open and household spills down the steps to wave the king on his way. His horse is brought from the stable, he sidesteps, tossing his head and chomping on the bit. He is fresh from waiting around in the stable and the groom struggles to keep him steady. Father will enjoy a heady gallop back to court.
A babble of fawning conversation floats up to me, a chorus of laughter. I lean over the edge but all I can see is the fluttering feather on his cap and then his voice, louder than the rest, drifts up to where I am waiting. I close my eyes, and glory in the sound of it.
Clinging to the balustrade, I stand tiptoe to gain a better view. He seems smaller from my advantage point, shrunken somehow yet his hair is as bright, his shoulders just as wide as I remember. The big brave laughing man of my childhood. Despite everything, I smile.
He has one arm thrown around Cromwell’s shoulder, listening as the obnoxious toad spits poison into his ear. Father nods and smiles again before raising his hand to Lady Shelton who falls into a deep curtsey of farewell, her black skirts pooling around her like a puddle of oil. My heart leaps as he turns away, seizes the pommel, and takes a last look round. He is leaving! He cannot leave!
I lean further forward, raise my hands, call out and wave frantically. “Father! Father!”
At the last moment the movement catches his eye and he hesitates, lets go the saddle and for a moment, as if frozen to the spot, he looks at me. Our eyes lock, his face drooping into a thousand sorrows. As my heart breaks, my mouth turns upside down and my grief and longing for him emerges in a wail of misery. I blink to clear my eyes and, lifting my fingers to my lips, I capture a kiss within them and let it fly toward him. It is an old game we used to play and unable to help himself he reaches out … and catches it.
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Judith Arnopp’s historical fiction is set in the Tudor period featuring prominent women like Margaret Beaufort, Anne Boleyn, and Mary Tudor but she also includes prostitutes, nuns and spies who made up the underbelly of Tudor England.
Her favourite reader comment is that the characters seem to ‘walk off the page, take you by the hand and lead into their world.’ This is precisely what Judith set out to do.
After studying medieval history to masters level at university ten years ago she began writing professionally and in that time has produced twelve HF books, contributed to several non-fiction anthologies and takes part in author workshops and talks on the Tudor period. She also makes Tudor clothing and is a keen gardener. Judith is currently working on a novel written from the point of view of Henry VIII himself entitled, A Matter of Conscience: the Aragon Years. It should be available early in 2021.
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Title: The Heretic Wind:the life of Mary Tudor, Queen of England
Author: Judith Arnopp
Publication Date: January 26, 2020
Publisher: Independently Published
Page Length: 330 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction