Red Ned Tudor Mysteries

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Tudors, A Quick Guide for the Perplexed Part 1

The Tudors: A Modern Family

Greetings my well regarded readers. Forgive the delay since my previous missive. It has been frantically busy here in the Antipodes. The summer holidays, as damp and cyclone and flooding afflicted as they were have ended. Now we have that special time of year when the 2011 school year starts. All the eager Houslings have been reequipped, clothed and reshoed ready for their first week, and by all that is holy, wasn’t that an incredibly expensive experience. For the privilege of free education at a State school it seems that the House clan has to cough up thousands in text books, computers and “compulsory” fees which are apparently really ‘non compulsory’ except that you have to pay them, or the Houslings are barred from accessing the computers or the library and so on. Anyway the woes of ‘modern’ education could fill a thousand blogs so we’ll leave that complaint for much later.

As my devoted readers will have noticed the epublishing debate rages on I include a link from the LA Times that may prove informative and amusing.,0,1203901,ful/l.story

Which concisely points out a simple fact ignored by many publishers- the reading public are actually the ones who work out whether a book or writer is worthwhile. As has been stated in other media, a growing number of published authors are waiting for their contracts to run out so that they can place their older work straight out in the e-book market. For e-publishers this shift is also welcome news, since they’re relying on niche markets and simple forms of advertising as well as social media to promote their work. To indie writers and especially your humble servant the good doctor its a viable and cost effective opportunity to get our stories straight to the reader, without going through the grovelling, marketing and accounting hoops of the publishing industry.

Which as far as I’m concerned is excellent, since their usual prognostications have as much validity as that famous quip from Decca to the Beatles in 1962–‘we don’t like their sound and guitar music is on the way out’. Or of course the ever popular Chairman of IBM’s prediction in 1943- ‘I think there is a world markets for five computers’. Oh dear how wrong they were.

So I suppose its entirely reasonable to understand how the publishing industry totally missed the surge in Tudor interest.

I mean its such a boring dreary period. Absolutely nothing happened, no dramatic love triangles (Henry, Katherine and Anne) no illicit affairs (Henry’s mistresses all several of them) no bloody revenge of spurned wives from the grave (Katherine to Anne as on historian has suggested no zombies though) a complete lack of tragedy and pathos (the death of Jane Seymour and the official murder of Anne). And its not as if there’s any link with a few modern social crises such as growing radical religious division (protestants v’s catholics) or even the abuses of government or elitists hierarchies (Oh dear, where to start the list, the church, the Act of Supremacy, stacking Parliament).

Then again its was such a different world and of course they didn’t have the benefit of the internet or social media. Instead the early printing presses that ran almost 24/7 pumping out books, pamphlets and ballads all striving to put new ideas into public circulation. Not that the flood of new literature or radically fast communication had anything to do with the sudden burgeoning of ideas and changes in society. So as I said it’s no wonder that the publishing industry has consigned the Tudors to the status of a lowly niche market, inhabited by readers of historical romance and history devotees nutters. (oops Uber editor’s correction that should have been devotees, after all would our dearly beloved publishing industry ever label any of their readers as nutters?

So be it, as you’ve no doubt read in my prior posts, the Tudor era is where I’ll be launching my first series of books. As I’ve briefly outlined above this fascinating period of British history is packed full of bloodshed, treachery, manipulative scheming politicians, overt sexual tensions, a dominating monarch and a simmering religious feud that threatened to erupt into civil war. This has recently been made even more accessible by the history programs of David Starkey on Henry VIII and his Wives as well as the kind of accurate cross between a soap opera and history for television series The Tudors

Leading on from that I was checking up with my ‘unbiased’ reviewer this afternoon regarding my Tudor novel I’d recently sent him to proof read. He quite gratifyingly said it was really good and a lot of fun to read. Naturally I thought this was fantastic news. Imagine at this stage a series of energetic cartwheels and popping champagne corks. Then after my brief moment of euphoria, he uttered those dreaded words feared by any writer- ‘however’. It amazing how a simple word like ‘however’ can strike you with bone shaking dread. His use of it was luckily only as a member of the very general reading audience, thus not quite so chilling. He found it a little confusing sorting out the characters and their motives. Considering the twists, turns, reversals and abrupt terminations of the Tudor family affairs that is perfectly understandable, so as a rough guide to the perplexed here is the potted version of Tudor characters

Historical Characters

Henry VIII: King of England and Ireland, though he also longs for a chance to renew a hereditary claim to the French crown, which is why it’s stored amongst the royal titles in case of need. Henry has a serious problem due to the ravages of disease and the lottery of genetics. He is the last legitimate male Tudor. Apart from him, there is only one daughter Mary and a scattering of nieces and nephews via his two sisters. What’s worse is that he knows that if he has a ‘sudden accident’, his wife Katherine will immediately arrange a marriage of his daughter Mary to her cousins, the Hapsburgs. This possibility doesn’t improve the notoriously fickle royal humour, since Henry views her family as inherently manipulative and untrustworthy. So as the biological clock ticks away Henry desperately needs an annulment of his first marriage so that he can marry again and gain a son as heir. Simple isn’t it.

Katherine of Aragon: Queen of England and aunt of the Hapsburg Emperor Charles V, who happens to be master of half of Europe as well as the limitless riches of the New World. Katherine has a serious problem. She could only provide one living child for the English throne, a daughter Mary. By 1528 she is past child bearing age and she knows Henry is desperate for a male heir. However that can only happen if she is out of the way. This presents a difficulty since Katherine likes being queen and she wants her daughter to be queen. The solution is simple- she gains her Hapsburg nephew’s support and stymies Henry’s efforts for a legal papal divorce. In this endeavour Katherine is not alone, she has a number of both public and secret English backers in positions of power and influence. Some are men of principle and honour, while others seek to gain from a continuation of the current dynastic problem, or profit from the dispute. One more factor that is frequently ascribed to her motives, is a very deep Castilian desire for revenge. No one casts aside the daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain!

Anne Boleyn: the beloved mistress of King Henry and the essential reason for the annulment commission. Her sister is rumoured to have had a son to Henry so in royal eyes the odds of a male heir are good. Anne however, wants the legal recognition of a marriage for advancement and protection. Thus the complicated legal and biblical wrangling and negotiations to and fro with the Pope that lasts for years. It’s also been said around the court that Anne is both the driving force behind Henry and keen on the heretical ideas of Luther. If her potential husband has to break with Rome, then she won’t shed a tear over it. Whether she or Henry made the first move to ramp up the affair is now irrelevant. In the bitter factional rivalry of the Tudor court it has become a do or die effort. Anne is very aware of the penalty for faltering or failure- a quick river trip to the Tower.

Thomas Wolsey: Cardinal legate, Archbishop of York and the Lord Chancellor of England. The supreme administrator of the kingdom and right hand of the king. He has gained this position by solving all the king’s problems and increasing his master’s status amongst the powers of Europe. However, as an upstart commoner he is loathed by the nobility, while as the instigator of high taxes and for his supreme arrogance, he is actively hated by the commoners. With the advent of Anne Boleyn Wolsey’s power begins to slip and the Cardinal is caught in a quandary. If he pushes Anne’s cause she gains power. If he doesn’t, he loses the trust and support of the King and falls. In the end he plays a dangerous game of prevarication and delay, hoping for change of mood in his fickle royal master or until he can find a substitute for that damn Boleyn woman. Or alternately a shift in the power balance in Europe makes ‘Lady Anne’ vulnerable.

Here endeth part 1 I will conclude this blog with a promo from the up coming Cardinal’s Angels that will be released on Smashwords and Amazon very soon.

The Cardinal’s Angels

A novel of Murder, Treason and Heresy in Henry VIII’s England

This set of stories follows the life and adventures of Edward (Red Ned) Bedwell, a young apprentice lawyer at Gray’s Inn and reluctant investigator who experiences first hand the tumult and intrigue during the reigns of the Tudor monarchs from Henry VIII to Queen Elizabeth I. As a comparison it is similar to the Lindsay Davis Falco novels set in ancient Rome and like other historical mystery novels examines the rivalries, ambitions and human foibles that frequently led to treachery and murder.

It is the year 1529, and the kingdom is embroiled in the factional politics of ‘the King’s Great Matter’, Henry VIII’s divorce from Katherine of Aragon. While celebrating the successful ‘sting’ of Canting Michael the gang lord of Southwark at the bear baiting ring, Ned finds himself dragged into a tavern brawl over honour. Later in the notorious ‘Clink Goal’ he awakes with only a blurry recollection and finds himself accused of murdering a royal official, a servant of Cardinal Wolsey, the Lord Chancellor of England, a dangerous man to cross. To save himself from the charge of treason and secure the support of his unwilling uncle, Ned has to search out the real culprits and their motives for murder. In the back streets of London he acquires some very reluctant allies – Meg Black an apprentice apothecary and her brother Rob, who find themselves caught up as witnesses to the deadly brawl. Their combined skills, inventiveness and trust are put to the test as the hunt by competing lords of the kingdom intensifies. What is so important that the retainers of the Dukes of Norfolk, and Suffolk as well as those of the spurned Queen Katherine are so keen to kill for? Is it the mystery of the Cardinal’s Angels, golden coins of the realm found hidden within church candles or a set of cryptic letters in the slain man’s purse? What could be worth more than gold and why is Dr Agryppa, the astrologer, so keen to help Ned, and if so would he risk his soul in accepting the bargain?

If that isn’t complicated enough, Ned over heard a discussion between Meg Black and her business partner regarding his permanent ‘removal’ in case ‘he’ discovered their secret trade?

As the good doctor says keep taking the pills!

1 comment:

  1. Can you do a spotters' guide or some sort of flowchart for distinguishing between the Marys? I think there was four, Tudor, Stuart, Bloody and the Scottish Mary.