The Rebel, The Courtier, The Spymistress: Cousins Separated by Loyalty and Bound by Love During the English Civil War

Frances Apsley, sister-in-law to Luce Hutchinson and cousin to Anne Wilmot

Three extraordinary women—cousins and best friends—shaped the destiny of the St.John family during the civil war, and in “Written in Their Stars” I bring them all together. Writing these powerful characters – “The Rebel, The Courtier and The Spymistress” — was a brilliant challenge. Researching their lives, both from family documents and archival information, was just the start. Distinguishing their voices and creating the family dynamics that ruled their actions was a lesson in reading between the lines and a psychological challenge to put myself in their very different lives.
Luce Hutchinson, “The Rebel”, knew the execution of Charles I would change her life forever, destroying the monarchy and creating unimaginable torment within her family—especially since her beloved husband, John, was one of the “king-killers.” The new commonwealth promised hope and a fair government to women such as Luce, but its survival was anything but certain.
Luce’s Royalist brother, Allen Apsley, and his wife, Frances, “The Courtier”, were determined to restore the exiled young Charles Stuart to the throne of England. They vowed never to give up their beliefs, fighting tirelessly even as the royalist cause seemed hopeless.
Complicating matters further, their brilliant and enigmatic cousin, Nan Wilmot, Countess of Rochester, “The Spymistress”, played both sides for her own gain. She married Henry Wilmot, Prince Charles’s close friend, and used her substantial estates and cunning to spy on Cromwell’s regime and defy his wrath, all in the name of supporting the royal family’s return.

Adderbury House, Home of Anne Wilmot, Countess of Rochester

Nan’s involvement was not purely altruistic. Her manipulation of both the Royalists and the Commonwealth served her personal agenda of keeping her substantial estates intact during the Civil War. As a trusted spymistress to King Charles, she recruited Frances, who was exiled with Allen to the court in Paris, as an intelligencer. Together, they orchestrated intricate plots and gathered information to undermine Cromwell’s rule.
The intertwined fates of the family highlight the complexities of loyalty, betrayal, and survival in a time of political upheaval. Their stories reveal the relentless struggle for power and the enduring hope for a restored monarchy amidst the chaos of the English Civil War.
Separated by loyalty and bound by love, Luce, Nan and Frances held the fate of England—and their family—in their hands. Written in Their Stars is a true story inspired by Luce Hutchinson’s memoirs.  On sale through 25 June as a Kindle Deal for 0.99 / 99p.

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