Swindon in the Past Lane | Good Gentlewomen

polyptych

Thank you, Swindon Historian Frances Bevan, for such a nice review on her blog, Swindon in the Past Lane. What’s even more fun is all the interesting information you provided about the polyptych, which was certainly a big inspiration for my novel. Frances also posted her review on her brilliant site Good Gentlewomen, a fascinating record of St.John women through the ages, and a site that I return to again and again for its wonderful accounts.

 

English Historical Fiction Authors: “The Six Lady St.Johns”

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I recently was asked to contribute an article to the English Historical Fiction Authors blog, and very much enjoyed writing the “back story” to The Lady of the Tower. We writers always have trouble saying goodbye to our research, let alone whole chunks of our writing, so it was a great opportunity to air out the facts behind the novel.  When you read of the lives of “The Six Lady St.Johns” I think you’ll find why I found their stories so fascinating and felt compelled to write The Lady of the Tower. This beautiful photograph is of Lydiard House, Wiltshire, where the six sisters were born in the late 1500s.

http://englishhistoryauthors.blogspot.com/2016/05/the-six-lady-stjohns-and-their.html

17th Century Author Spotlight

The Six Sisters Lucy Barbara Eleanor L to R Katherine far R

I really enjoyed Cryssa Brazos’s thoughtful interview, and the interaction with her readers. I bumped into Cryssa at the Historical Novelist’s Conference in Denver last year. It was great to meet an informed writer who has such a passion for our underserved period of choice – the 17th century – and who could also stand and talk for hours about minutiae from the English Civil War. Thanks for having me on your blog, Cryssa!  And here’s the portrait of the six sisters, which stimulated some good conversation!

17th century author spotlight: Elizabeth St. John

 

The Gardens of the Tower of London

Lydiard Walled Garden

A large Elizabeth garden is indicated in the Haiward and Gascoyne Survey of 1597, and entry from the Bloody Tower as well as the Lieutenant’s Lodging are both shown.  Perhaps that’s why, when Lucy St.John was in residence at the Lodging, she gave Sir Walter Raleigh access to the hen house in her garden for his alchemy.  He also kept a still house there, and according to a contemporary account, the door of his lodging in the Bloody Tower was “always open all day to the garden.”  I like to think that the walled garden at Lydiard Park may have inspired Lucy to create her own apothecary garden within the Tower.

 

The Queen’s House in the Tower of London

Lieutenants Lodgings

The gabled Lieutenant’s Lodgings in front of the green appear incongruous against the stone bulk of the surrounding towers,  But, along with the more famous profile of the White Tower, or Traitor’s Gate, these buildings are an integral part of the history of the Tower of London.  Officially called “The Queen’s House”, it is thought that this structure was originally commissioned by Henry VIIIth for his new wife, Anne Boleyn, although the existing buildings are a remodel of the home she stayed in prior to her execution in 1533.

Much of The Lady of the Tower takes place within the Lodgings, the gardens, and the Bloody Tower, where Lucy’s protagonist, the Countess of Somerset was lodged when Lucy arrived – a most unfortunate circumstance.

 

 

Within the Lieutenant’s Lodgings

Thomas-Mores-cell-011

Leading from the Lieutenant’s lodgings is a small passageway to the entrance to the Bell Tower, where Sir Thomas More spent his last days.The present residences were constructed in 1540, based on medieval foundations, and have traditionally been the homes of the Lieutenant of the Tower and his deputies. They contain offices, receiving rooms, kitchens and bedrooms, as well as a formal chamber in which many prisoners were questioned – including such traitors as Guy Fawkes.  Lady Arbella Stuart was also lodged in the Queen’s House – because she secretly married the love of her life, William Seymour, and became a contender for the throne.  This made James I rather uncomfortable, so he imprisoned her to thwart any potential uprisings in her name.