When I was last at the Tower I was excited to spend some time inside the Lieutenant’s House. This pleasant dining room is actually the chamber where Guy Fawkes was “questioned” … and his view, if he could even lift his head, was over Tower Green. The Gunpowder Plot would have flattened the House of Parliament (although there is some doubt that the gunpowder itself was fresh enough to ignite). Happy Bonfire Night!
My daughter and I spent the night alone at Lydiard once, hoping to meet some of our ghostly relatives. Alas, although we crept up secret staircases and slept in an ancient four poster bed, none appeared. Perhaps they accepted us as part of the family, and weren’t worth the effort. But, reported apparitions at the Manor include that of Sir John St. John (1585-1648), who has been sighted in the Morning Room and Library. A drop in temperature is said to be noticeable before he appears, followed by the smell of “sweet tobacco”. He is also seen walking in the grounds, where a phantom Civil War-era drummer boy silently beats his drum, perhaps in memory of Sir John’s three sons who died in the war. Not so specific, but still rumored, is a White Lady and a phantom coach and horses.
St. Mary’s Church is haunted by more members of the family including a malevolent grey hooded figure (I’m glad we didn’t bump into that one). The sounds of a female crying, a choir singing and organ music have been heard – long after the last person has left and the door locked behind them.
So proud of the all the work my brother and sister-in-law have done to preserve Lydiard. I hope with all my heart that the council will see the enormous importance of continuing the legacy.
I was fortunate to be able to attend the HNS Conference in Oxford last month, and took the opportunity to explore the Colleges that housed the royal court during the Civil War. As I write my new book, I find myself often looking at the photographs I took, knowing that my characters stood in the same place and saw the same buildings and carvings. Here’s Merton College…and the rooms above the archway is where Queen Henrietta Maria lodged during the Civil War.
M.K. Tod’s new release, Time and Regret, debuted straight into Amazon’s Best Seller lists for Historical Fiction this week. I asked Ms Tod what inspired her as she traveled to the locations of her books. Her post “Through the Eyes of a Historical Fiction Writer” explains the process — and the emotion — beautifully.
Many readers have asked about George Villiers, The Duke of Buckingham, who was responsible for so much mayhem in my book. Although well known for being the favorite of King James, and later, BFF with his son, Charles I, Buckingham was also a ladies’ man.
This is an excellent background article about the “other” George Villiers.
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.
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.
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!
Set during the reigns of James I and his son Charles I, The Lady of the Tower is the compelling story of Lucy St. John, wife of Sir Allen Apsley who was appointed Lieutenant of the Tower of London in 1617. From prologue to last chapter, the author keeps the reader mesmerized with the intrigues and high-stakes happenings of seventeenth century England.
Lucy St. John is a worthy protagonist. Orphaned at an early age and raised by a mean-spirited aunt, Lucy is generous, caring and intelligent. Captivated by a young courtier, Lucy’s hopes for marriage are destroyed when her conniving, self-centred sister interferes. On the verge of leaving England for a secluded life in Guernsey, Lucy meets Allen Apsley.
Elizabeth St. John (a descendant of Lucy) deftly portrays the decadent Stuart court, a time of intrigue and political scandal. Her vividly drawn characters risk all – some for wealth and position, others for family and duty. The Lady of the Tower is both a love story and a highly engaging look at the events and people that tipped England towards civil war.
Author of Lies Told in Silence
In The Lady of the Tower Ms St.John tells this dramatic story of love, betrayal, family bonds and loyalty through the eyes of her ancestor Lucy and her family’s surviving diaries, letters and court papers.
It’s an historically responsible account, very interesting in its arrangement, the skill behind Lucy’s language and idiom, and the remarkable plot, which deals with Lucy’s life from the accession of King James to the throne of England in 1603 to her departure from the Tower of London in May of 1630.
Professor Paul Sellin, UCLA