Posted in Guest Post

Unrivaled Passion for a Renaissance Queen: Reassessing Anne Boleyn

Guest Post by Rebecca Monet, Author of the Queen Anne Boleyn Paper Doll Book: An Illustrated Biography

When the term “Rival Queens” is used, it is assumed to mean Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots. That is, if you aren’t Tonya Ulynn Brown and myself—then it jokingly becomes Elizabeth’s mother, Anne Boleyn, and Mary Queen of Scots. We jest, but while my respected peer’s passion has drawn me to her much-maligned Scottish Queen (one whom I’ve learned was the first queen regnant of the British Isles!)— I, too, hope others will engage with Anne’s story, as Tonya has graciously invited me to answer the question, “What made you interested in Anne Boleyn?”

My fascination with Anne is not only recent, but quite unexpected. Though I have a soft spot for England, with an on-going interest in ancient empires and twenty years of flamenco dance under my belt, my history pursuits have always leaned toward the exotic. Add to this a walloping helping of all things French, and I give ten points to Mary Queen of Scots. But then, Anne would understand the French fascination too—since, like Mary, she spent most of her formative years at the French court as well—but more on that, shortly.

That said, it was all the more surprising that while the world was locked down during March of 2020, I grew obsessed with a British queen.

At the time, I had decided to go 2 for 2: to meet lockdown head on with binge watching paired with exercise. Using my mini trampoline, I bounced my way through “The Crown,” which, despite watching on my parents’ recommendation, led analytics to proffer a wide selection of British History programs. I gave a perfunctory scroll and came across a lovely lady in crushed green velvet with the words “The Last Days of Anne Boleyn” scribed beneath her. I thought, “This should keep my attention for about an hour.” It has been two years and counting.

So gripped was I by her story, that my bouncing slowed to an eventual stand still. I sat on the side of my mini trampoline to watch the rest of the documentary and for over two hours I googled Anne. It was the documentary’s words, “Anne Boleyn…with a single blow of a sword, became the first queen in Britain’s history to be executed.” Henry VIII and his wives are so intwined with the notion of beheading, that I hadn’t considered Anne to be the first. Add to that the narrator’s final introductory words, “So who was the real Anne Boleyn and why was she executed?” And you have, in essence, my marching orders. It became an academic pursuit which fit the vernacular phrase, “Oh no you didn’t.”

Matched to the gross injustice Anne suffered was my fascination that Anne was not the most beautiful woman at court. This fact added mystery to the question, how did Henry become obsessed with her, dedicating seven years of precious Tudor lifespan pursuing her in marriage?

Despite scenes such as those in The Tudors (which I watched only after writing the Queen Anne Boleyn Paper Doll book, and a good thirteen years following the show’s premiere)—it was not love at first sight for Henry and Anne. It was a slow dawning which led to deep obsession; making their seven-year courtship all the more tantalizing— especially since my study of her evidenced the fact that she was not the pursuer (as “Other Boleyn” stories might wish for you to believe).

In fact, to suffer the idea that Anne was a commoner, a daughter following the schemes of her father and a blindly ambitious courtier in pursuit of power, is to align with the obsolete and misogynist views of male Victorian historians (not particularly accurate fellows). In an effort to moralize and elevate Henry— transforming him into a straddled, keen-eyed Santa Clause for their dreamy “Merry Ol’ England”—these historians deliberately dropped the agency of the six women married to Henry VIII in some sort of figurative (and grossly apocryphal) hostage exchange.

Deconstructing centuries old analysis and dramatic tropes, it is best to start with removing Thomas Boleyn from the equation. He did not need his daughters to elevate himself. He was favored by Henry VIII’s father long before Henry VIII himself made Thomas a Knight of the Bath when Anne, by today’s standards, would have been in kindergarten. In short, Thomas did not use Anne to rise in the court of Henry the VIII;

he was already a shining star— having, for one thing, been selected by Henry VIII to retain his interests with the Holy Roman Emperor against France while acting as diplomat to the court of Margaret of Austria in the Lowlands.

It is here that Thomas secured a position for Anne as one of Margaret’s filles d’honneur (or demoiselles d’honneur / maid of honour). Not to be confused with a housekeeper, Anne was in fact tutored in French and educated alongside Margaret’s nephew: the young, future Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V. Hense, Margaret of Austria’s given moniker, La tante de l’Europe (The Aunt of Europe). This was a prestigious and highly competitive position for Anne to attain. Margaret’s court was, as historian Gareth Russell has aptly quipped, “Hapsburg Prep.” And while there, Anne most likely rubbed shoulders with many contemporary thinkers and artists of the age, such as Albrecht Dürer and Erasmus.

Thomas Boleyn was a Humanist and Anne’s position at Margaret’s resplendent Renaissance court lived up to his ideals. He enjoyed seeing his daughter educated in a time when few women were. In fact, when Anne entered fully into Henry’s court in 1522, she was unusual in more than one way. Not only could she read and write when most women in Henry’s court could not (or at least they were highly limited in these skills), but she brought with her the proficiency of more than one language and all the talent, intelligence and artistry of the Renaissance; a way of being which was not only de rigueur, but Henry VIII’s greatest passion. Henry longed to be the consummate Renaissance prince and, as Dr. Owen Emmerson of Hever Castle has said, Anne “was the Renaissance” when she came to Henry’s court. She embodied it.

Most likely this is because after a short time at Margaret’s court, Anne was called up to the court of France—bouncing from one of the two most prominent Renaissance courts north the Alps to the other—in order to be a lady-in-waiting to Mary Tudor when Mary went to France to marry the aged Louis XII. The marriage ended with Louis’ death only three short months later. Anne remained, probably due to her French language skills (which she acquired from Margaret of Austria’s court).

Anne served and traveled with the devout and meek Queen Claude— the new queen of France and daughter of Louis XII—debunking yet another misnomer about Anne: specifically, that she learned the “art of love” in France; for, Claude ran a pious court (unlike her husband, King Francis I and his court which
held his “privy band of ladies,” in which Anne did not take part).

Yet, it is likely Anne might have met Leonardo da Vinci while in France, as Francis I brought Da Vinci to his court to paint, create architectural additions and plan court entertainments—going so far as to hang Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa in his stool room (bathroom).

With a Renaissance resumé such as this, it is clear to see why Henry VIII was in direct competition with Francis I for the honorary title of “Renaissance Prince;” even having the cheek to pebble the Venetian ambassador with questions such as, “Is (Francis) as tall as I am? Is he stout? What sort of leg has he?” Following up with a jovial but no less rivalrous declaration, “Look here! I also have a good calf to my leg!”

Henry longed to be the

consummate Renaissance prince

and, as Dr. Owen Emmerson of

Hever Castle has said, Anne “was

the Renaissance” when she came to

Henry’s court. She embodied it.

In today’s world, Henry VIII and Francis I would be the perfect frenemies, right down to a fateful wrestling match at The Field of Cloth of Gold where Henry suggested they have a go and where he was roundly— and quite humiliatingly— defeated by Francis.

So, when this witty, intelligent, multi-talented Anne Boleyn left France after nearly a decade of serving a pious queen along with the queen’s formidable mother-in-law (sometimes a queen regent, Louise of Savoy), and bright sparkling sister-in-law— the sister of Francis I and a true Renaissance woman— Marguerite de Navarre (who was dubbed by her 20th century biographer as “The First Modern Woman”), one can see why Henry VIII was enthralled with Anne; for, according to Lancelot de Carles, a French diplomat, she “listened carefully to (these) honourable ladies, setting herself to bend all endeavor to imitate them to perfection.”

Queen Claude
Louise of Savoy
Marguerite de Navarre

This was not because of her father’s plan to hook her up with the King (an idea that most likely frightened Thomas more than inspired him), and it was not because Anne was a commoner grasping for glory (she came from nobility and had royal blood). It was because she breezed in with the freshness and vitality of the Renaissance, and at a time when Henry desperately needed a male heir. It was, in essence, a perfect

Henry fell madly in love with a woman who was not the golden, pale ideal of feminine Renaissance beauty, but a woman whose mind and inner being held its ideals, a woman whose years on the continent, as Suzannah Lipscomb describes, “transformed her from a teenage girl into an extremely desirable woman. The Anne that emerges back in England is one who has been shaped by many different influences—who is both pious and worldly, who’s both sophisticated and something of an innocent. She’s one who can play musical instruments, who can sing, who can dance, who can speak French, who is sophisticated and witty; who’s been exposed to a world of cosmopolitan glamour. And she’s such an attractive prospect because—precisely because—she is so complex.”

In the end, the very power Anne indirectly gave Henry—the impetus to break from Rome, making his rule indelibly imperial—was the same power that brought her down. The courtly love with which enthralled Henry, also ensnared Anne when she jokingly said to his groom of the stool, Henry Norris, “You look for dead man’s shoes, for if ought came to the king but good, you would look to have me.”

Henry’s need for a male heir and false accusations against Anne were the final implosion to nudge Cromwell into reassembling Anne’s remark as treasonous. In the following days and with a speed heretofore unprecedented, Cromwell orchestrated Anne’s fallacious trial which was loosely constructed on accusations which Professor Eric Ives and others have painstakingly researched and found to be highly inaccurate. Her end was swift and bewildering, even to her dissenters. Though it began with a strong desire for justice, it is Anne’s inner beauty and intelligence which impelled me to stay. When I think of Anne, I think of Shakespeare’s description of Cleopatra, “Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale her infinite variety.”

In the end, I doubt time will be able to disengage my love for this true Renaissance woman who became one of England’s most intriguing queens, as well as many other remarkable women of the age; one being Mary Queen of Scots, a queen who also happened to arrive on home shores from France, fresh with hopeful dreams.

Free Download entitled “She Was the Renaissance:” an in-depth dissertation regarding Anne’s time at both Margaret of Austria’s Court and the French Court is available at

Dr. Owen Emmerson holds the Queen Anne Boleyn Paper Doll book in front of Hever Castle.

About the Author

Rebecca Money is a writer and illustrator who grew up in the state of Maryland in the U.S.  She received a degree in illustration and for nearly twenty years, created custom murals in private homes in Atlanta, Georgia. She has spent the last fifteen as a mother and writer. Her mural clients would jokingly call her “Rebecca Monet.” It wasn’t until her last year of painting murals that her father discovered, through a genealogy-fascinated cousin, her clients were not off the mark.  She has since adopted “Rebecca Monet” as her pen name.  A perennial student at heart, she loves writing, art, history, flamenco and going really fast on carting tracks.  “I think Anne would have especially loved the latter and I enjoy the thought of seeing her, French hood flying, as she beats everyone else to the finish line” ~ RM

Be sure to check out Rebecca’s Queen Anne Boleyn Paper Doll book at

Photo Credits (in order of appearance)

  1. Hever Rose Portrait of Anne Boleyn:
  2. The Last Days of Anne Boleyn. Directed by Rob Coldstream, performance by Daniel Flynn & Tara Breathnach. BBC, 2013.
  3. Tomb of Thomas Boleyn. Photo by Ann Longmore-Etheridge.
  4. Anne at Mechelen, coloured “Mechelen” page using a free “fan art” face option: Monet, Rebecca. Queen Anne Boleyn Paper Doll Colouring Book. Rebecca Monet, 2020. Available at
  5. Anne with Leonardo da Vinci, coloured page using “fan art” face option : Monet, Rebecca. Queen Anne Boleyn Paper Doll
    Colouring Book. Rebecca Monet, 2020. Available at Left to Right # 6-8:
  6. Portrait of Queen Claude of France: Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain.
  7. Portrait of Louise of Savoy: Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain.
  8. Portrait of Marguerite de Navarre: Attributed to Jean Clouet, Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain.
  9. Anne Boleyn art by Dmitry Yakhovsky for MadeGlobal Publishing from: Richards, Natalia. The Falcon’s Flight: a Novel of Anne Boleyn. MadeGlobal Publishing, 2020. Available on Amazon in print and for Kindle
  10. Photo of Dr. Owen Emmerson holding up the Queen Anne Boleyn Paper Doll book in front of Hever Castle : Photo taken by Dr. Owen Emmerson, Historian and Assistant Curator at Hever Castle.
  11. Pages from the Queen Anne Boleyn Paper Doll book.

A few key documentaries and podcasts which informed this article and the Queen Anne Boleyn Paper Doll Book:

Henry & Anne: The Lovers Who Changed History. Directed by Chris Mitchell, performance by Professor Suzannah Lipscomb (self), Jack Hawkins & Emma Connell. Lion Television, 2014.

The Last Days of Anne Boleyn. Directed by Rob Coldstream, performance by Daniel Flynn & Tara Breathnach. BBC, 2013.

Grueninger, Natalie and Natalia Richards. All Things Boleyn with Natalia Richards, Episode 72, Talking Tudors podcast, 8 May 2020.

Amanda Harvey Purse, Tudor historian and author of The Boleyns: From the Tudors to the Windsors, featured on the Anne Boleyn Files:

Books which informed this article and the Queen Anne Boleyn Paper Doll Book:

Bardo, Susan. The Creation of Anne Boleyn: In Search of the Tudors’ Most Notorious Queen. Oneworld, 2014.

Dugan, Holly. The Ephemeral History of Perfume: Scent and Sense in Early Modern England. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011.

Emmerson & Ridgway. Hever: A Castle and its People. (date and publisher TBD as of publication)

Ives, Eric. The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn: The Most Happy. Blackwell, 2009.

Lipscomb, Suzannah. 1536: The Year that Changed Henry VIII. Lion Books, 2012.

Mackay, Lauren. Inside the Tudor Court: Henry VIII and his Six Wives through the eyes of the Spanish Ambassador. Amberley, 2015.

Morris, Sarah. Le Temps Viendra. Spartan Publishing, 2013.

Morris & Grueninger. In the footsteps of Anne Boleyn. Amberley, 2015.

Richards, Natalia. The Falcon’s Rise: A Novel of Anne Boleyn. MADEGLOBAL Pub., 2019.

Vasoli, Sandra. Struck with the Dart of Love. MADEGLOBAL Pub., 2016.

Vasoli, Sandra. Truth Endures. MADEGLOBAL Pub., 2016.

Vasoli, Sandra. Anne Boleyn’s letter from the Tower: A New Assessment. MADEGLOBAL Pub., 2015.

Weir, Alison. The lady in the tower: the fall of Anne Boleyn. Emblem, 2011

Posted in Author Interview

Interview with Catherine Meyrick

I was first introduced to Catherine Meyrick’s writing after she released her second book, The Bridled Tongue. Let me tell you! This was a story filled with tension that kept me guessing how Catherine was going to pull all of the loose ends together (which she managed beautifully!) It is well researched and as a writer of 16th century fiction myself, I really appreciated her attention to detail. (To read my original review of The Bridled Tongue click here.

When planning my blog posts for the upcoming months, I knew I wanted to include Catherine in my great line up of authors’ interviews and guest blogs. Catherine was kind enough to answer some writerly questions for me and I appreciate her insight. She answered these questions for me way back in October 2021. It was not long after I had lost my mother and I was still recovering from Covid-19, so I guess life just got in the way. But she is so interesting and I wanted to be sure to get her interview posted.

Read on to find out a little more about this Australian author.

Tonya: When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

Catherine: Rather than thinking that I ‘wanted to be a writer’, my experience has been more of a slow progression from oral storytelling to writing stories down, later followed by the thought that ‘one day’ what I wrote might be published but that was all in some vague future.

Storytelling was a constant through my childhood whether it was listening to my parents and grandparents telling stories about incidents in their lives (or, in the case of my grandfather, just making things up and finishing with ‘and then it started to rain and I woke up’ when he got tired of it), listening to serials and plays on the radio (we didn’t get a TV until I was eleven), listening to Dad reading to us at bedtime and, occasionally, overhearing the fascinating stories, otherwise called gossip, told by Mum’s visitors. Once I could write, it seemed natural to try to write stories down. I enjoyed ‘composition’ when I was at school and loved the books we had in secondary school with pictures and sentences that could be used to inspire a story. I was encouraged at school and that probably gave me the confidence to continue writing through my late teens and twenties though my efforts, poetry and short stories, ended up in the bin whenever I moved house. I saw it as something I just did and realized that most of it was rubbish. When I was at home, after my first child was born (she is now in her early thirties), I was decided to move beyond unfinished bits and pieces and write something substantial. The first few years were really re-education as I tried to shake off years of formal and stilted essay and Public Service report writing. Once the children were at secondary school, I took several writing courses which did improve my style. It was at that point that I began thinking that what I was writing might be something others would be interested in reading.

Tonya: In your opinion, what is the hardest part about writing historical fiction?

Catherine: Possibly the most difficult thing for me is developing an awareness of what I do not know. It is always what you don’t know that you don’t know that will trip you up.

As an example, when I had nearly finished writing The Bridled Tongue I read, by chance, that Elizabethan women didn’t wear earrings. Sheer panic set in as earrings were an element in a couple of scenes that I didn’t want to remove. I spent an afternoon searching for images of 16th century women and found that while there were plenty of women wearing earrings throughout the 16th century, these were mainly Spanish and Italian women. The only woman I could find wearing them in England was Mary, Queen of Scots in the 1570s and she had had a French upbringing. Up until the 1580s, it is impossible to tell if English women were wearing them at all because of the shape of women’s headwear, and later the ear-high ruffs. This supported the idea that they were not wearing them because what’s the point of wearing something so pretty if no one can see it? From the 1580s, before earrings appear with any frequency, there are images of women wearing baubles in their hair near the ears. By the end of the 1590s earrings are common but not ubiquitous. I kept the earrings by mentioning that the women wearing them were embracing a new fashion.

While something as small as a pair of earrings is not crucial to the story, if you make assumptions about bigger things you open yourself to being seen as someone who doesn’t know their history well enough. Even with the little things, if you get them wrong, it can erode the reader’s confidence in the authenticity of the world you are trying to recreate.

Assuming is an issue with language as well, particularly when reading contemporary sources. The meaning of words can change over the intervening centuries so it’s important to be aware of this when you are reading and to always use a dictionary such as the OED that includes the historical development of a word as well as its current meaning.

I suppose the best advice is to be vigilant and assume nothing.

Tonya: Is there a genre you would love to write but are too afraid to try?

Catherine: I would love to write a ghost story, one of those unsettling stories where more is implied than what is written, where the darkness of the past echoes into the present leaving the reader uneasy long after the book is closed. I used to make up ghost stories as a child to scare my sister but usually ended up scaring myself more.

Such skill is needed to write these stories well—the creation of atmosphere and tension, implying rather than showing, an ending that resolves but, the more you think about it after you have finished reading, isn’t really resolved at all. One of my favourite short stories is ‘The Tower’ by Marghanita Laski. It is brilliant. It starts in bright sunshine in Florence and ends in something worse than shadows. While not strictly a ghost story, it is chilling and ambiguous. I read it thirty years ago and it still gives me the shivers.

At this point, I doubt I could do such a story justice. Perhaps one day…

Tonya: Which one of your book characters is your favorite? Why?

Catherine: My favourite character is always the one I am currently working on or have just released into the world. So, it is Ellen Thompson, my great-great-grandmother, the central character of the book I’m planning to release in April next year (2022). Ellen was born in Hobart, Tasmania in 1858, the daughter of two transported convicts. Between the ages of nineteen and twenty-six she faced every single thing, short of her own death, that women fear most in life. Hers is the story of the resilience of the human spirit, the story of so many ordinary women of the past.

Tonya: What is your favorite time period to read? Is that also your favorite time period to write in?

Catherine: I used to read a great deal set in the fifteenth to the eighteenth centuries. These days I read widely and will read pretty much anything, provided the story is good. The bulk of my reading is historical but this year I have read from the fourteenth century through to contemporary. I particularly like murder mysteries. Two series that I would absolutely recommend are the Purveen Mistry series by Sujata Massey, set in India in the 1920s, and the Harriet Gordon mysteries by A.M. Stuart set in Singapore in the early 1910s. Both are excellent with female main protagonists.

I would have said that the Elizabethan period was my favourite to write but I have found writing ‘Cold Blows the Wind’ liberating. This is partly because it is closer to home in time and place. I haven’t needed to think about where the sun sits in the sky, the time it rises and sets, the depth of colour of the sky or how far away it looks, the stars at night. In a way, it has been writing about ‘home’ although I have never lived in Hobart (my father was born and grew up there) where it is set, just visited quite a number of times. It has been a delight to write the sort of Australian vernacular that was spoken by my maternal grandparents who were born in the 1880s. I had imagined that I would return to the Elizabethan period when this one was finished but I won’t be. I am planning to truly write about home—the suburb where I have lived for the last thirty-four years. The story will be set in the aftermath of World War One. I’ll see how I feel about the 1580s when that is done.

Tonya: Do you have authors that you feel have influenced your writing or inspired you?

Catherine: There are so many wonderful writers that I admire whose writing I wish I could emulate. The greatest are Terry Pratchett, Dorothy Dunnett and Hilary Mantel. I love Terry Pratchett’s writing for the sheer entertainment, the humour with seriousness beneath, the cultural references and the underlying commentary on the human condition. Dorothy Dunnett’s novels have an incredible breadth of vision and complex plotting combined with beautiful prose, depth of characterization and rich evocation of the period. Hilary Mantel has the ability, in a single sentence, to perfectly encapsulate a critical event and the effect it had on ordinary men and women; reading it you are awed by the depth both of her research and her understanding.

I believe that you don’t necessarily have to analyze their work to learn from them. In those moments when you pause reading, awestruck by what you have read, you do take in some understanding of the way brilliant storytelling is constructed. At very least, it allows you to realize when your own writing falls short.

Tonya: What is the biggest obstacle in your writing process?

Catherine: My biggest obstacle is the length of time it takes me to write. I start out with a general plan and I know how the novel will end but my early drafts are seriously lacking. My work goes through many drafts and heavy editing as I slowly refine characterization, structure and language. And, while I do a lot of research prior to writing, this continues while I am writing because, sometimes, I need to check things I have assumed to be correct. If my assumptions are wrong that can mean more rewriting. Once I do have a draft I am not ashamed of, I then pass it on to a structural editor. In the case of The Bridled Tongue and my current work in progress, that is Jenny Quinlan of Historical Editorial. She is brilliant and can see what is missing, what needs to be cut or developed further. Both novels are so much better for her advice. All this takes time. I see this as the slow cooker approach to writing, the one that brings out the full flavour of the ingredients.

Tonya: How long did it take you to write your books?

Catherine: I began my work in progress about ten years ago. I barely touched it between mid-2017 and early 2020 as in that time I published my two other books. I have been working on it solidly since The Bridled Tongue was released over eighteen months ago. The other books took about the same length of time. Usually after a revision, I will put the draft aside and work on something else. So, for a while, I was cycling through three stories. I was working near enough to full time up until a couple of years ago, so that meant I had to juggle writing, work and family commitments. Possibly, if the time was compacted, I have spent about three years writing each book.

Tonya: What is your biggest inspiration for stories? Where do you get your ideas?

Catherine: Each novel has had a different inspiration. Forsaking All Other had its beginnings in a daily writing exercise—a scene of a woman lost in the meaner streets of Elizabethan London. There was something about the scene and the character herself that made me want to develop it further and place it in the wider context of the period and of the lives of ordinary women at that time.

The Bridled Tongue grew out my own experience of gossip both as the subject of it and observing it in action with others, the way minor incidents or slips of the tongue can be twisted into something else and once the snowball starts the most ludicrous things can be said and be believed. While, usually for us today, it is embarrassing and uncomfortable for the subject of gossip, in earlier times it could be dangerous.

Tonya: What are you currently working on?

Catherine: I am revising a novel with the working title ‘Cold Blows the Wind’. It is set in Hobart, Tasmania between 1878 and 1885 and is based on a period in the life of my great-great-grandparents, Sarah Ellen Thompson and Henry Watkins Woods. Their story had been forgotten until I uncovered it through my genealogical research about twelve years ago. They were both the children of convicts and belonged to the lower end of the social scale where life was a constant struggle and the middle-class virtues we see as ‘Victorian’ were not much regarded. The story touches on such issues as secrets, family ties, poverty, and the struggles of unmarried mothers. I am hoping to show just how hard life was for these people, women in particular, and the spirit they showed as they did their best for those they loved. While I would describe it as a love story, encompassing not only romantic love but a mother’s love for her children, it certainly doesn’t fall into the standard definition of a romance.

Tonya: What inspired you to write the book you are currently working on?

Catherine: From early in my genealogical research, I felt that I wanted to write something about one of my female forebears. I had read A Cargo of Women: The Novel by Babette Smith, based on the life of her great-great grandmother Suzanna Watson who was transported to New South Wales in 1829 having stolen to feed her children. This book is tight and gripping and reads like any good novel. I had read other novels based on family history that did not work anywhere near as well. A Cargo of Women showed me that it could be done well. The story of Ellen Thompson and Harry Woods had been pretty much lost to memory until I began my obsessive digging. My father was not sure what his great-grandmother’s name was and no one even knew who Harry Woods was. By the end of my research, I knew the whats and wheres of Ellen and Harry’s lives but I did not know the whys. My novel sets out possible motivations and reasons for what happened. I would say over 90% of what happens in the novel is factual but the reasons for it happening are my speculation. The novel only covers a period of seven years but they were tumultuous years for Ellen. I hope, through Ellen, to show what life was like for many women in the past, the everyday courage they showed in their struggles to protect and care for their children in a world that seemed to conspire against them. Ellen and Harry illustrate what I firmly believe – that the people of the past, plus and minus a few attitudes, are just like us with similar hopes and dreams and challenges to face.

Tonya: What words of wisdom would you share with inspiring authors?

Catherine: I think the most important thing of all is to read and keep reading—the classics, whatever is popular now, prize winners, your chosen genre, anything that appeals to you. My belief is that through reading, to a degree, you learn by osmosis. And make sure you read works on the craft of writing. A reputable writing course is a good investment. And revise and redraft, as many times as is needed even if you end up completing more than a dozen drafts like I do. What you want is for your book to be the best it can be. If you can, find a couple of readers, or other writers you can share with, who you can try your new story out on and who are willing to give you their honest opinion. Listen to any professional advice you are given and think especially seriously about those things they say that you hate the most–they are probably right. Be honest with yourself and most of all, keep faith and don’t give up.

Catherine Meyrick is an Australian writer of romantic historical fiction. She grew up in Ballarat, a city in regional Victoria, but has lived all her adult life in Melbourne. Until recently she worked as a customer service librarian at her local library. She has a Master of Arts in history and is an obsessive genealogist. When not writing, reading and researching, Catherine enjoys gardening, the cinema and music of all sorts from early music and classical to folk and country music (she just loves the banjo) and, not least of all, taking photos of the family cat, Dusty, to post on Instagram.

Writing with company

List of published books:

Forsaking All Other (2018)

The Bridled Tongue (2020)

Connect with Catherine at the following sites and check out her books:


Twitter:  @cameyrick1

Facebook:  CatherineMeyrickAuthor

Check out Catherine’s books:

Love is no game for women; the price is far too high.

England 1585.

Bess Stoughton, waiting woman to the well-connected Lady Allingbourne, has discovered that her father is arranging for her to marry an elderly neighbour. Normally obedient Bess rebels and wrests from her father a year to find a husband more to her liking.

Edmund Wyard, a taciturn and scarred veteran of England’s campaign in Ireland, is attempting to ignore the pressure from his family to find a suitable wife as he prepares to join the Earl of Leicester’s army in the Netherlands.

Although Bess and Edmund are drawn to each other, they are aware that they can have nothing more than friendship. Bess knows that Edmund’s wealth and family connections place him beyond her reach. And Edmund, with his well-honed sense of duty, has never considered that he could follow his own wishes.

With England on the brink of war and fear of Catholic plots extending even into Lady Allingbourne’s household, time is running out for both of them.

Death and life are in the power of the tongue.

England 1586

Alyce Bradley has few choices when her father decides it is time she marry as many refuse to see her as other than the girl she once was—unruly, outspoken and close to her grandmother, a woman suspected of witchcraft.

Thomas Granville, an ambitious privateer, inspires fierce loyalty in those close to him and hatred in those he has crossed. Beyond a large dowry, he is seeking a virtuous and dutiful wife. Neither he nor Alyce expect more from marriage than mutual courtesy and respect.

As the King of Spain launches his great armada and England braces for invasion, Alyce must confront closer dangers from both her own and Thomas’s past, threats that could not only destroy her hopes of love and happiness but her life. And Thomas is powerless to help.

‘People never forget. When the fancy takes them, they bring the old stories out and embroider them further.’

Posted in Guest Post

The Tudors and the Reformation

Guest post by author Samantha Wilcoxson

On 31 October 1517, a monk nailed ‘Disputation on the Power of Indulgences’ to the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. He had no way of knowing a notice of discussion regarding Catholic Church practices would cause his name to go down in history.

Some historians question whether Martin Luther really posted his 95 Theses on the eve of All Saint’s Day. However, the changes that resulted from Luther’s actions cannot be denied, even if some myth is blended with history. Thanks to the boldness of one German monk (and the innovation of the printing press), what it meant to be a Christian changed across Europe.

 Martin Luther nails his 95 theses to the doors of Castle Church, Wittenberg, Germany. Painting by Ferdinand Pauwels (1873). Source: WikiCommons

Following these events, Henry probably would have balked at the idea that the reformation would take root in England through his own actions. While Luther was a voice calling for an end of corruption in the Catholic Church, Henry split with Rome for reasons that were more personal but no less far reaching.

Henry’s 1534 Act of Supremacy made the king’s word the highest in the land on matters of religion, making Henry’s Church of England a form of Catholicism with the king’s authority taking the place of the pope.

The ‘little monk,’ as Henry had called Luther in his ‘Defense’ did not hesitate to respond. Luther publicly questioned Henry’s authorship of the treatise and said it should not be taken seriously. In typical Henry VIII style, the king used Luther’s accusation later when he wished to dissolve his marriage with Katherine of Aragon, claiming that it was Cardinal Wolsey who had defended of the sacrament of marriage. Luther gave his support to the devoutly Catholic Katherine and, in his booklet ‘Against Henry, King of the English,’ accused Henry of being ‘a fool,’ ‘effeminately querulous,’ and ‘stupid.’

“Henry…did not hesitate to respond…”

Reginald Pole, Catholic cardinal and cousin King Henry VIII, also chose to write vehemently against him in his book, De Unitate. Pole had not intended it for publication. He expected it to be a personal communication between himself and his cousin. Pole believed the fire and brimstone call to repentance was necessary to get through to the tempestuous king.

Pole understood better than most the passions and beliefs of both Catholics and Protestants and was known to have sympathized with many of the reformers’ arguments, such as the need to abolish corruption among the clergy. For England to break with Rome was a devastating blow to church unity and Pole was devoted to reconciliation. He thought all should, “Believe as firmly as if your salvation depended upon faith alone; act as if good works were all sufficient.”

In De Unitate, Pole chose not to argue for the authority of the pope but appeal to Henry’s responsibility as the spiritual leader of his people. At least one friend warned that the work was too harsh, but Pole retorted that flattery and compromise had brought them to this point. He vehemently refused to support Henry’s marriage to Anne Boleyn or the legalized murders of Fisher and More.

He also included warnings that Charles V stood ready to rescue the Princess Mary, who would never be excluded from the succession on Pole’s watch. Henry feared union between Reginald and Mary and did not take the warnings well.

Pole was attainted in absentia, charges that were reversed when he returned to England to serve as Mary’s Archbishop of Canterbury. The king also sent assassins after Pole, but their attempts were unsuccessful. Henry demonstrated no willingness to consider any of the guidance provided in De Unitate. Henry was Head of the Church of England, and no one was going to convince him otherwise.

Henry continued to distance himself from the Catholic Church. The Dissolution of the Monasteries caused an immeasurable loss of history and religious life, and acts such as the destruction of Thomas Becket’s tomb horrified Christendom. Before the king’s death in 1547, Pole was convinced he was a predecessor of the Antichrist.

Once Henry’s break with Rome had been made, it was easy for his son, Edward VI, or advisors acting with his authority, to usher in full Protestantism and ban the Catholic mass. A new Book of Common Prayer was written for Church of England worship, priests were allowed to marry, and churches were stripped of their elaborate splendor. Masses for the dead were no longer said, and veneration of saints was discouraged. Some reformers wanted to see full Lutheranism or Calvinism adopted, while others held tight to their ancestral Catholicism. Edward did not live long enough to settle these issues. When he died at age fifteen, his older sister became queen.

Manuscript depicting a Catholic mass. Source unknown.

Mary immediately began returning the country to Catholic worship. Her relatively short reign was spent striving toward a goal that is difficult to comprehend with a modern worldview that firmly separates church and state. Mary felt responsible for her subjects’ salvation and passionately believed she was doing the right thing with her attempt at counter-reformation in England. As Eamon Duffy states in his Fires of Faith: Catholic England under Mary Tudor, “No sixteenth-century European state willingly accepted or could easily imagine the peaceful coexistence of differing religious confessions.” Even Mary’s sister, Elizabeth, who would later claim “no desire to make windows into men’s souls” ruthlessly persecuted Catholics.

During Mary’s first Parliament, the marriage of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon was validated, erasing Mary’s illegitimacy if not the mental scars her father had caused. Edward’s religious reforms were overturned, allowing Mary to reasonably believe the counter-reformation would occur quickly and easily.

Not only did she have vast popular support, but Mary had her cousin, Cardinal Reginald Pole. He had almost been elected to the papacy in 1550, and his support seemed to assure England’s smooth transition to the ‘true faith.’ Pole published sermons for those too young to remember the old faith that they might embrace it. However, reformed teaching occurred at some of the highest levels in the church, and to secure the salvation of her subjects, Mary outlawed Protestant books and teaching. When some reformers resisted, the burnings began.

Mary is chiefly remembered for the 284 people burned for heresy during her reign. Burning heretics was meant to provide a foretaste of hell in the hope that heretics would recant and be saved. Better to suffer a finite time on Earth than an eternity in hell. However, Mary and her counter-reformers were surprised to find that many convicted heretics held firm to their beliefs, becoming witnesses of Protestantism rather than examples of recantation.

Mary and Reginald both died on 17 November 1558, knowing that Elizabeth, Mary’s half-sister and heir, would reverse their efforts. Mary may have failed in restoring England to Rome, but she did leave her sister a kingdom and demonstrated that it could be ruled by a woman.

Elizabeth quickly took charge and ensured that Mary became remembered as ‘Bloody Mary’ for the Protestant burnings. Foxe’s Book of Martyrs included inaccurate versions of events, such as Latimer allegedly saying to Ridley as their fires were lit, ‘Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man; we shall this day light such a candle by God’s grace in England as shall never be put out.’

Protestant bishops Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley are burnt at the stake in Oxford, 16 October 1555. Original Publication : Fox’s Book of Martyrs.

Elizabeth proved a better politician than either of her siblings. She returned the country to Protestantism while claiming that she would not make religious decisions for her subjects. Instead of burning for heresy, Catholic priests were hanged, drawn, and quartered for treason. Elizabeth ruled much longer than her siblings but downplayed the focus on religion, and she is better remembered for other events. Although she is less identified by her religious beliefs, it was Queen Elizabeth I who secured England’s place in history as a Protestant country.

Samantha Wilcoxson writes historical fiction and a history blog. Her works include the Plantagenet Embers series and Luminous: The Story of a Radium Girl. Samantha is passionate about history and exploring the personal side of events. In her writing, she urges the reader to truly experience what it might have felt like to live through a moment in history. She is currently working on the publication of her first nonfiction work, Women of the American Revolution, and a novelization of the life of patriot Nathan Hale.

Connect with Samantha at the following sites and check out her books:

Amazon Author Page

Connect with me on Instagram for a chance to win Samantha Wilcoxson’s book, Queen of Martyrs the story of Mary I!

Posted in Historic Characters

Rival Queens: Mary, Queen of Scots & Queen Elizabeth I

Mary Queen of Scots & Queen Elizabeth I. If only they could have been friends. 


I recently came across some gorgeous photos from Harper’s Bazaar with model’s posing as the rival queen cousins, Mary Stuart and Elizabeth Tudor. This got me thinking about the turbulent relationship between the two women and I thought I’d jot a quick blog about it.

Mary looked up to her dear cousin, Elizabeth, who was nine years older than she. She wrote to her often, entreating her for guidance and trying her hardest to please Elizabeth in her choice for a second husband.

The two queens exchanged gifts with their letters and Mary also attempted to arrange a meeting with Elizabeth but it never worked out.

But as Elizabeth dithered on her choices for Mary and drug her feet after suggesting Mary marry Elizabeth’s favorite, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, the Scottish queen decided to take matters into her own hands. Relations quickly deteriorated between the Cousin Queens when Mary exerted her right to choose her own husband. <enter Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley>

Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. Artist Unknown.
Elizabeth put Dudley forth as a possible suitor because she knew he would be loyal to her and could keep an eye on Mary. When Mary reluctantly agreed to meet him, Elizabeth began having second thoughts.
Mary’s second husband, Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley.
Artist Unknown.
In Mary’s eyes Darnley was the perfect choice, as he also held a legitimate claim to the English throne. This made him a terrible choice in Elizabeth’s eyes.

Mary tried to persuade Elizabeth many times to name her as her heir, especially the older Elizabeth got and it became apparent that she would never marry and birth a child. At one point Elizabeth even admitted that she preferred Mary over another cousin and heir-in-line, the Protestant Lady Katherine Grey. Lady Katherine was the granddaughter of Henry VIII’s youngest sister, Mary.

Lady Katherine Grey. Artist: Michael Stinnett. Although a Protestant, Katherine angered Elizabeth by marrying without her consent, therefore putting her out of favor as a choice for Elizabeth’s heir.

When Mary fled to England to escape the wrath of her Scottish lords, she still held out hope that she would find favor with her cousin. But it was not meant to be.

Elizabeth had Mary arrested and held her under house arrest for the next 19 years before signing Mary’s death warrant. Mary was beheaded with her cousin’s approval, at the age of 44.

Although portrayed together in paintings, movies, and photos, the two queens never met.

Harper’s Bazaar U.S. retrieved from

Photographer: Mark Seliger
Models: Julia Banas as Elizabeth and Lea Julian as Mary

To see the rest of the photos in this beautiful photo shoot, click here.

Posted in Book Review

A Murder by Any Name

Book Title: A Murder by Any Name: An Elizabethan Spy Mystery

Author: Suzanne M. Wolfe

Time Period: Late 16th Century

Setting: London, during the reign of Elizabeth I

My Rating:

I loved everything about this book. Starting with the cover…which I admit is THE thing that caught my attention in the first place, to the colorful 16th century language of not only the court royals but the common folk as well. The main character, Nick Holt, is extremely likable. What makes his likability so unusual is that, although he is of noble blood and is a spy for Queen Elizabeth, he also has a compassionate nature and can make even the lowest servant feel at ease. And although he himself has shady dealings as a tavern owner who frequently visits women of less-than-stellar reputations, he’s not a complete rake.

Of course, I can’t speak of characters without mentioning Nick’s sidekick and true star of the show, Hector, Nick’s Irish Wolfhound. I always love when authors not only include animals in their stories (after all, they are so much a part of our world) but give them real personality and a human connection that pet owners can truly relate to.

The murder of a young noblewoman is at the heart of this story, and I’ll admit I was stumped the whole way through the story, trying to figure out who the culprit was. Ms. Wolfe does an amazing job at weaving an intriguing story that keeps you guessing and mixing it with historical tidbits and facts that don’t feel like a historical information dump.

Well researched and artistically written, A Murder by Any Name is a great start to this Elizabethan Spy Mystery Series. It will be interesting to see where Nick and Hector go from here.

Purchase your copy of A Murder by Any Name: An Elizabethan Spy Mystery by Suzanne M. Wolfe here.

Posted in Book Review

The Bridled Tongue

Book Title: The Bridled Tongue

Author: Catherine Meyrick

Time Period: Late 16th Century

Setting: Elizabethan England

My Rating:

Alyce Bradley is practically past her prime in terms of making a good match. When she is faced with marriage to a man that repulses her, the offer of marriage from another man, though rumored to be a womanizer and a pirate, almost appeals to her.

Alyce makes her choice, and has to live with it. And slowly she is making it work. But when jealousy and bad blood cause Alyce to be accused of damnable deeds, she will face the most difficult trial of her life.

She is not the perfect, beautiful protagonist that you see quite often in fictional stories, which is one thing that makes this story unique. Alyce has a sharp tongue, is quite practical and solemn, and has a hard time showing her affection. But she has likable qualities, and the one I found to be most admirable was her ability to bite her tongue when those around her were being rude to her. I found myself quite often thinking of all the things I would have said in response to the characters that verbally mistreated her, had I been in her shoes! (Yeah, I probably would have been accused of witchcraft for being insolent, incorrigible, or whatever other bad qualities that get attached to women who aren’t demure and meek. LOL)

Meyrick gives you a wonderful insight into the everyday life of a late 16th century English household and the workings of a manor house. Her attention to detail concerning the court systems, jails and commerce of the time period are wonderfully described making you feel as if you are experiencing it for yourself. She demonstrates perfectly how tittle-tattle, jealousy, and revenge played a large part in the witchcraft accusations in the 16th century, and it is easy to see how one might find themselves on the wrong side of the law, just because a neighbor (or worse-a friend or relative) had it out for them.

Alyce had so much stress in her life. From a husband whom she was trying to get to know and understand in the small snatches of time they were allotted together, to a jealous sister, and a delusional former suitor. I fretted throughout the story as to how she was going to get out of her predicament. Meyrick really knows how to build the tension and keep you guessing as to what is going to happen next. I worried myself to find out how all the loose ends were going to come together to resolve the conflict in poor Alyce’s life. I am a sucker for a knight in shining armor and I tend to lean toward the whole rescued damsel in distress trope. Alyce’s husband tries to be that for her but can’t. And I’m ok with that. I was still pleased to see the author give Alyce the happy ending that she deserved!

This was my first exposure to reading books from this author. I do plan on reading more of her wonderfully detailed works.

For more information about author Catherine Meyrick visit her at:

To purchase The Bridled Tongue visit:

Posted in Events in History

The Arrest of Mary, Queen of Scots

“In my end is my beginning.”

The celebrated poet, T.S. Eliot may have penned these famous words in his poem, “East Coker”, however, he was not the first person to use them.  Mary, Queen of Scots took this phrase as a motto sometime during her long captivity in England. Embroidering the words on her canopy of state, they served as a sort of prophetic epitaph of her life, that ended so tragically at the hands of the Queen of England, Elizabeth I.

Some scholars speculate that she may have been referring to her late grandfather-in-law, Francis I’s symbol of the salamander with these words. In medieval times the salamander had an allegorical element that symbolized a righteous person’s ability to withstand fire, just as the three Hebrew children in the Biblical story, emerged unharmed from the fiery furnace.

Medieval manuscript depicting a salamander enduring the flames.
National Library of France, Department of Manuscripts, French 2286, fol. 10r.

Mary was an unrepentant Catholic. She never swayed from her religious beliefs, even though it caused heartache for her for most of her life. It is no secret that she considered herself a martyr for her Catholic faith (even going so far as to wearing a red petticoat, the martyr’s color, at her execution). She is known to have told her cousin, the Duke of Guise:

“For myself, I am resolute to die for my religion. . . With God’s

help, I shall die in the Catholic faith and to maintain it

constantly. . .without doing dishonor to the race of

 Lorraine, who are accustomed to die the sustenance of the faith.”

In her Essay on Adversity, written in 1580, Mary wrote of the lives of rulers:

“Tribulation has been to them as a furnace to fine gold—a means

of proving their virtue, of opening their so-long blinded eyes, and

of teaching them to know themselves and their own failings.”

Perhaps Mary saw herself emerging victorious on the other side of this mortal life with that everlasting life promised to believers that can only come after death.

Mary’s words can also be a bit predictive. They are a sort of foretelling of the immortal, romanticized life that she has taken on since her death. She is, beyond a doubt, one of the most controversial figures in Scottish history. Whether you believe she was complicit in her second husband’s death, and guilty of plotting a treasonous over-taking of the English throne, one cannot deny that she has had more than her fair share of 15 minutes of fame, and she remains one of those characters in history that we non-participants either love to love, or love to hate.

A little back history

After her disastrous second marriage to Lord Henry Darnley ended in his death by strangulation, Mary was kidnapped, raped and accepted a marriage proposal by another man accused in the death of her husband (we’ll save that story for another day.)  When Mary followed through with the marriage barely two months after Darnley’s death, suspicions were heightened concerning Mary’s involvement with Darnley’s murder.

Panel paintings of Mary, Lord Darnley, and James Bothwell on wall of the Mary Queen of Scots House in Jedburgh, Scotland~photo: Tonya U. Brown~2017

Soon Scottish lords were seeking to implicate Mary in Darnley’s murder as well, and she was forced to abdicate her throne to her one-year old son, James. When attempts to raise an army to take back her throne failed, she ended up imprisoned at Loch Leven Castle where she eventually miscarried Bothwell’s twins. She finally escaped ten months later with the help of one of her sympathizes.  

Surrender of Mary Queen of Scots at Carberry Hill, 1567. Illustration for the Historical Scrap Book (Cassel, c 1880).

Mary attempted a second time to raise an army, trying in vain to defeat her leading opponent, her half-brother James Stewart, Earl of Moray. When she was not successful, she fled to England, hoping to obtain help from her cousin, Queen Elizabeth.

Any indications of sympathy that Mary may have received from Elizabeth were short lived. She was quickly taken into custody and remained so, moving from residence to residence under house arrest for the next 19 years. Although records indicate that she led a somewhat pampered life while in England (after all—she was a queen), the fact remained that Mary was still a captive of Elizabeth’s. With her health declining, she made it no secret that she would use any means necessary to escape her situation. This was not a confession to treason, but merely an admission that she had tried on more than one occasion to escape.

 A victim of one scheming nobleman after another, she continued to be a political pawn, having no control of her own life. When her private letters were produced for Elizabeth to read, the contents were condemning. Through plots originating at the hands of her supporters in an attempt to rescue her, and plots formed at the hands of her enemies in an effort to entrap her, Mary endured some of the most farcical examples of court intrigue that have ever existed and rivals anything even Hollywood could come up with.

The day finally came

On August 11, 1586, Mary was arrested for her part in another murder plot to kill Elizabeth that would eventually come to be called the Babington Plot.  Mary’s long-time English foe, Elizabeth’s Secretary of State, William Cecil, and another of Elizabeth’s secretaries, Sir Francis Walsingham, had finally succeeded in scrounging up something to pin on the Scottish queen.

Forged postscript to a letter by Mary Queen of Scots to Anthony Babington and alongside Babington’s record of the cipher used~The National Archives~United Kingdom

By this time, Mary was suffering from arthritis, making movement in her arms and legs very painful. She could not walk without assistance and was confined to a bed most of the time. She testified in court that due to her illness, she had no desire to take the reins of government again. She also complained that her letters and papers had all been taken from her, and that she had not been given any counsel as to how to proceed in her trial. The most adamant of her complaints, however, was the fact that since  she was not an English subject, they had no right whatsoever, to try her under English law.

Her pleas and complaints went unheard, and after Elizabeth’s attempts to end her Scottish problem with other means had failed, she finally signed the death warrant to execute Mary on February 1 the following year. She was executed seven days later. Mary was 44 years of age when she laid down her life in typical martyr fashion, her red petticoat announcing to the world the glorious death to which she had been called.  

Execution of Mary, Queen of Scots~Robert Herdman~Glasgow Museums
Notice the red petticoat peeping out at the bottom of her gown?

The following pictures were taken at the Mary Queen of Scots House in Jedburgh, Scotland when I was there in 2017. They depict examples of the high demand for relics pertaining to Mary and her fascinating story. There are many more relics at Jedburgh, but here I have posted only the ones that pertain to this post.

One final note of interest…

If you are interested in seeing some of the places that Mary stayed after her initial arrest in Scotland in 1567, or if you want to start at the beginning of her life in 1542, this is an excellent book. The author is Andrew Burnet.

Mary Was Here by Andrew Burnet
Mary Queen of Scots~Unknown Artist~Hermitage Museum~St. Petersburg, Russia