Publication Date: February 2020
Page Length: 332
Genre: Historical Fiction
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.
Throughout her formative years, 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, almost broken by persecution, she learns of King Edward's death.
She expects to be crowned queen but Mary 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.
Mary is at last, Queen of England but her troubles are only just beginning. Rebellion, and heresy and the subsequent punishments take their toll both on Mary's health, and on the English people.
Suspecting she is fatally ill, 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.
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In November 1558 Mary Tudor died at St James’ Palace at the age of 42. By the standards of today, that is a horribly young age to die but Mary had suffered a hard life and was prematurely aged, and very sick.
Everyone is guilty of something. In most cases we are remembered for our good deeds, our happiest days, and our kindest actions but Mary, as with her father, Henry VIII, is only remembered for cruelty.
The burning of heretics sounds dreadful to us because we live in a (ahem) tolerant society but in the 16th century burning was the standard punishment for heresy. Mary didn’t dream up the idea for the satisfaction of her monstrous soul.
While I am in no way seeking to excuse or white-wash her actions, I think she deserves a fuller picture. When one considers the world she grew up in, her tragic childhood, her adult disappointments, her frustration you come to realise there was much more to her than cruelty.
There are many recorded instances in which she was kind and generous, and I think she was terribly well-meaning. She adored her subjects and envisioned leading her people to salvation, but things didn’t turn out as she intended. Her reign was far from benign.
While researching for The Heretic Wind I discovered Mary Tudor to be a sad, isolated, and desperate woman whose intention was to be a good and loving Queen. The fact things turned out rather differently were mostly due to exterior forces. Her conviction that the Catholic faith was the only faith is difficult for us to understand but we don’t have to look very far to find other religious zealots. It doesn’t begin or end with Mary.
In The Heretic Wind, the mortally sick and embittered Mary looks back on her life and explains to some extent, the reasons why events unfolded as they did. In the excerpt below her parents’ marriage is over and Henry’s determination to have Anne Boleyn is gathering pace.
Father is now the Supreme Head on Earth of the Church in England. I had never dreamed he would go this far. The people of England, afraid to protest too loudly, mutter among themselves and only the bravest in the land dare speak out against it.
The church, like the queen, is a victim of Anne’s ambition, yet my mother has no champion. Although a few of the old families – the Staffords, the Nevilles, the Courtenays – are firmly on her side, their own influence is waning as the friends of Anne Boleyn wax.
My governess, Margaret Pole, stands with us, as do Elizabeth Stafford and Gertrude Courtenay, but they have no power, no real influence over the king. They are soon as far out of favour as my mother and me.
The gossip reaches me in my sick bed at Alton. As womanhood encroaches, I am afflicted with great monthly suffering. For one week a month it feels as if demons are prodding me with red-hot forks. My belly is bloated, wracked with pain, and my mood is as deep and dark as Hell itself. I look into my glass and see my hair hanging limply either side of a pale face; my pores are enlarged, and a pustule the size of a quail’s egg is lodged in the crease of my nose.
I might as well be dead.
My women offer what comfort they can but I burrow beneath the covers and give way to despair, mourning the dainty princess I once was. Everything is ruined. I want my mother, but her company is denied me. From time to time her letters are smuggled in. They are my single source of comfort. And that is fleeting.
Why does my mother’s cousin, the king of Spain, not come to our aid? He could invade our shores, set his assassins on the Boleyn woman, and force my father to reinstate us! My mother is close kin to them and so am I. Why do they sit by and allow our rights to be stolen? There is so little I understand.
But at last, because I have been so ill, I am permitted to return to court where everyone is talking about the king’s great matter.
In every parlour across Europe, the details of my parents’ marriage are being discussed. I am being discussed. Did my mother lie with Prince Arthur? Was she a virgin at the time of her marriage to my father? Am I the legitimate heir, or just a bastard? That word again … Bastard.
It haunts me.
At court, close to the leading players in this marital farce, the conversation ceases when I enter a room; the silence makes my ears burn with humiliation. People are hesitant, afraid to show kindness toward me for fear it will put them out of favour with the king, or with his whore. As their backs turn slowly away from me, I ache with loneliness.
Gradually, the pain turns to resentment, resentment to bitterness. I suspect everyone of spying for the great goggle-eyed whore as I have begun to think of her. She makes no secret of her hatred. Because of this, fearful of everyone’s motives, I rebuff those who do run the risk of befriending me. I go about court in fear of my life, terrified that the next person I meet may conceal a dagger, or a phial of poison in their sleeve.
I have no doubt she is wicked. I have heard how she goes against God’s teaching and embraces the new religion that is creeping across the channel from Europe. She supports Tyndale and his heretical scribblings, and I have no doubt that, in the privacy of his chambers, she dribbles her heresy into my father’s ear.
Like a bear in a trap, chained to a woman he does not love, the king grows more furious by the day. Angered by Wolsey’s failure to win the annulment of the marriage, he turns against his erstwhile friend. When he is taken, I know beyond doubt that the best the Cardinal can hope for is a lengthy stay in the Tower, for once my father turns against a man his fate is sealed.
Judith Arnopp's novels are set during the War of the Roses and the Tudor era. They focus on women like Margaret Beaufort, Elizabeth of York, Anne Boleyn, and Mary Tudor.
She has a Master's degree in medieval studies and a BA in English and creative writing from the University of Wales, making Historical Fiction the only obvious career choice.
She lives on the coast of West Wales with her husband, John, and now her family have flown the nest, she writes full time from her home overlooking Cardigan Bay.
Her first three books were set in the Anglo Saxon period but since switching to the Tudor era her career has flourished and she now has twelve books in her catalogue, the thirteenth due for publication early in 2021. All books are available on Kindle and in paperback, some are on Audible.
Judith also writes non-fiction, her work features in several anthologies and magazines.
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