Elysabeth St.John: The Ancestor who Inspired The Godmother’s Secret

In a serendipitous moment, I stumbled upon a fascinating ancestor who inspired “The Godmother’s Secret.” While researching my family tree, I discovered that my 15th-century ancestress, Elysabeth St. John, Lady Scrope, was the godmother to Edward V, the eldest of the missing Princes in the Tower. This discovery was not only a personal revelation but also the spark that ignited my idea for a new historical fiction novel.

Bolton Castle, Wensleydale, Yorkshire

As a writer, I draw heavily on my family’s history, using ancestral records, diaries, letters, and the locations they lived in to craft my stories. After completing my 17th-century historical fiction trilogy, “The Lydiard Chronicles,” I was seeking a new era and a fresh cast of characters to captivate readers. My family’s rich history provided the perfect backdrop, and with Elysabeth St. John’s story, I found a whole new generation to explore and bring to life. I set out for Bolton Castle, in Yorkshire, Elysabeth’s home when she married Lord John Scrope, 5th Baron of Bolton.

Order from King Henry VI to Lady Elysabeth Scrope

Elysabeth St. John’s role as a godmother was significant in medieval times, as it denoted a close blood relationship and a responsibility for the spiritual wellbeing of the godchild. In Elysabeth’s case, her godson Edward was the son of King Edward IV, a key figure in the Wars of the Roses. What makes Elizabeth’s story even more intriguing is her relationship to key figures of the time. As a Lancastrian, appointed by Henry VI himself, and the half-sister of Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry Tudor, Elizabeth found herself at the nexus of power and politics in 15th-century England.
“The Godmother’s Secret” delves into Elizabeth’s inner turmoil as she navigates her loyalties to her husband, a devoted follower of King Richard III, her Lancastrian heritage, and her godson, Edward V. The novel explores the challenges faced by women in a male-dominated world, and especially Elizabeth’s inner conflict and her desperate efforts to protect Edward from the intrigue and betrayal that surround him after he is taken to the Tower of London for his coronation.
The mystery of the missing princes, Edward V and his brother Richard, remains one of the most intriguing episodes in English history. Their disappearance, and the lack of definitive proof of their fate, allows for creative speculation and interpretation, which I have embraced in my storytelling. While my novel is a work of fiction, it is grounded in historical research and a deep appreciation for the complexities of the time.
As a historical fiction novelist, I have the privilege of weaving together genuine family facts with imaginative storytelling to create a narrative that is both compelling and historically accurate. About halfway through the first draft I came across a piece of research (basically a dynastic marriage) that made my story plausible, which was thrilling. And there were some events that took place after Bosworth involving the Scrope and St.John family that teased a whole different conclusion than the traditional Tudor version that Richard III murdered his nephews. As far as if my version is true? It’s historical fiction. As writers, we create narrative from the known facts, sift through rumours and gossip until we find the source – or the truth is proven beyond doubt. Until then, we have a secret.

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