This post is an accompaniment to LAST CHILD, the sequel to KINGS AND QUEENS. There is a link to it at the beginning of the book.
What is its purpose?
Although Last Child can be read just as a contemporary drama, it mirrors the period of Tudor history between the death of Henry VIII and the early reign of Elizabeth I. Readers who know little about this period in history might like to know about the events paralleled by my novel.
This summary is necessarily brief, and I apologise to the history lovers for the lack of detail about the religious aspect and various uprisings. My aim is to relate the events that are relevant to my book, and I hope I have done so accurately. I use several sources for research, and historical accounts differ a fair bit; however, if you spot any definite errors I'd be most grateful if you could let me know, in the comments.
Henry VIII had three living children at the time of his death: Mary, from his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, Elizabeth, daughter of Anne Boleyn, and Edward, his only son, whose mother was Jane Seymour.
After his death, the throne passed to nine-year-old Edward. Next in succession was Mary, and then Elizabeth. Because of Edward's age the realm was to be governed by a Regency Council as per instruction in Henry's will, but such Council members as William Paget and Anthony Browne soon voted that the Edward's uncle Edward Seymour (Ist Earl of Hertford) should be made Lord Protector, and thus rule in his nephew's stead. Seymour's main rival was the Protestant John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland.
Dudley had grown up a ward of Sir Edward Guildford, whose daughter, Jane, became his wife. His aim was to continue with the Reformation: the maintaining of England as a Protestant rather than a Catholic country.
Devoutly Catholic Mary lived in her own house in Hunsden, Hertfordshire.
nb: The fourth wife of Henry VIII, Anne of Cleves, continued to be seen at court until as late as 1554, during the reign of Mary Tudor. Anne fell out of favour as Mary thought she was supporting Elizabeth. After this she led a quiet and obscure life, and is thought to have been generally content. She was remembered by her servants as being a particularly generous and easy-going mistress.
Elizabeth lived in the house of her stepmother, Catherine Parr, and Catherine's new husband, Thomas Seymour, brother of the Lord Protector. She was said to have been intimately involved with Thomas Seymour, and was sent away when Catherine discovered this; Catherine died in childbirth a few months later.
Thomas Seymour was in competition with his elder brother Edward. He urged Edward to throw off the Protector and "bear rule as other kings do". He smuggled his nephew pocket money, saying that the Protector held the purse strings too tight. His actions were discovered; he was charged with embezzlement, plotting to marry Elizabeth and overthrow his brother, and was beheaded shortly afterwards.
There were rebellions in the country, mostly due to religious and agrarian grievances. The second important one was led by a tradesman called Robert Kett, and was due to the encroachment of landlords on common grazing ground. The Lord Protector grew unpopular with the Council and was constantly in competition with Dudley. Although he headed a victory at the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh in Scotland, he was thrown into the Tower and eventually beheaded for felony and trying to overthrow the regime of John Dudley, who emerged as leader of the Council. Dudley was long thought of as a schemer who elevated and enriched himself at the expense of the crown, but during the twentieth century his administrative and economic achievements were recognised.
John Dee was an occult philosopher, alchemist, astronomer and astrologer at court during this time. He was arrested and charged with treason during Mary's reign, for casting horoscopes for her and Elizabeth, but escaped the death penalty. He later became an advisor to Elizabeth.
Under John Dudley's influence, Edward renounced his father's Third Act of Succession that would have placed the Catholic Mary on the throne in the event of his death. Edward's never strong health deteriorated and he died in July 1553 at the age of fifteen, having named Lady Jane Grey as his successor. Dudley was said to have kept his death a secret for several days to stop Mary claiming the throne. Jane Grey was the wife of Dudley's son, Guildford, and Edward's first cousin once removed; she was only sixteen and Dudley intended to rule through her. Jane was (famously) queen for only nine days until the Privy Council changed sides and proclaimed Mary as queen after fierce battles between Dudley's and Mary's supporters. Jane was charged with treason, imprisoned in the Tower and initially spared, being executed later.
As soon as Mary became Queen, John Dudley was arrested and beheaded. He begged for mercy for his sons. He took Catholic communion before his execution, bringing shame on his family.
Now on the throne, Mary's mission was to return the country to its Catholic faith. During her reign she had over 280 dissenters burnt at the stake, and became known as 'Bloody Mary'. There was much contention over her choice of some victims. Never a happy woman, her life had been darkened by the treatment of her mother, Catherine of Aragon, by her father, and her fall from her father's favour during the reign of Anne Boleyn. Several suggestions for betrothal had been made during her youth but none came to anything. She was briefly courted by a duke of Bavaria, who was seen as unsuitable.
As she was thirty-seven when she came to the throne, it was essential that she marry and produce an heir, quickly, to prevent the Protestant Elizabeth succeeding her. It was decided that she would marry the much younger Phillip of Spain. A portrait of him was sent to her, which she found favourable. There was more unrest across the country and at court when the marriage was announced, including Wyatt's Rebellion, headed by Thomas Wyatt, after which Wyatt was executed. Phillip was to be named King of England, but the people did not want a Spanish king. Elizabeth was said to have been involved in the ensuing unrest and was put under house arrest at Woodstock Palace, under the care of Henry Bedingfield.
Phillip had no amorous feelings towards Mary, but accepted the marriage as a political move. She, however, fell deeply in love with him and was desperate to provide him with an heir. When her menopause began and she put on weight, she believed herself to be pregnant. All preparations were made for the birth, but when months went by and no baby appeared it was agreed that she'd suffered nothing more than a 'phantom pregnancy'. Phillip left England to command his armies in the Low Countries, and Mary was distraught. After Phillip's brief return she went through another imaginary pregnancy, though some thought her claim that she was with child was more an act of madness and desperation. Phillip did not stay around to find out.
A heartbroken Mary died shortly afterwards, having reluctantly named Elizabeth her successor, though she'd expressed a belief that her half-sister was really the daughter of Anne Boleyn and lute player Mark Smeaton, rather than Henry VIII. Around this time, Phillip proposed marriage to Elizabeth, which she rejected.
Others important in Mary's court were her chief lady in waiting and friend, Jane Dormer, her 'mistress of robes', Susan Clarinceaux, Reginald Pole (the papal legate), and William Cecil, who became Elizabeth's chief advisor. Jane Dormer later married the Duke of Feria, a Spanish friend of Phillip's.
Elizabeth was the last monarch of the Tudor dynasty. She was urged to marry, and had various suitors including King Erik XIV of Sweden. Her closest relationship, though, was with the handsome, charming and popular Robert Dudley, son of John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland. They are said to have been in love with each other, though Robert was married to Amy Robsart, the only child of a Norfolk landowner, Sir John Robsart of Syderstone Hall. Theirs was originally a love match, but Amy did not hold her husband's attention and he spent more time with Elizabeth at court. No-one knows whether or not Elizabeth and Robert were lovers, but most suspect that they were.
After Robert's release from prison at the end of Mary's reign, he organised Elizabeth's coronation in January 1559. She gave him the position of Master of Horse at court, and a house at Kew. Amy did not follow him, visiting him in London only once. She was most unhappy about his relationship with the Queen. There was talk of Robert divorcing her and marrying Elizabeth. In September 1560 Amy fell down some stairs while staying with friends (including a Mrs Odingsell) at Cumnor Place, near Oxford, the house of Sir Anthony Forster. She broke her neck. Robert's steward, Thomas Blount, was sent to Cumnor Place to report on the enquiry. There has always been much controversy over the incident, officially declared 'misadventure'; some think it was an accident, some that it was a murder arranged by her husband so that he could marry Elizabeth, and some that it was suicide due to her low state of mind and the fact that she probably had breast cancer. Because of this controversy, the prospect of the Queen marrying Dudley was out of the question, but their closeness continued throughout their lives.
Many years later, Robert married Lettice Knollys, the granddaughter of Mary Boleyn. Elizabeth expressed a lifelong hatred of her.
Elizabeth never married, seeming to have an aversion to it. She told an imperial envoy "If I follow the inclination of my nature, it is this: beggar-woman and single, far rather than queen and married".
Others important in Elizabeth's life were William Cecil, Kat Ashley (originally her governess), and Blanche Parry, who succeeded Kat Ashley as Chief Gentlewoman of the Privy Chamber.
Last Child ends at the beginning of the Elizabethan Era, or the 'Golden Age'; I do hope this post has been helpful.