A Song of Sixpence by Judith Arnopp

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Judith, who is from Wales in the UK, is the author of seven historical fiction novels. Her early novels, Peaceweaver, The Forest Dwellers and The Song of Heledd, are set in the Anglo-Saxon/Medieval period but her later work, The Winchester Goose, The Kiss of the Concubine, Intractable Heart and A Song of Sixpence, concentrate on the Tudor period. She is currently researching for her eighth novel about Margaret Beaufort, the mother of Henry VII. Judith is also a regular blogger and author of historical articles.

A Ssong of Sixspence By JA

Blurb of A Song of Sixpence

In the years after Bosworth, a small boy is ripped from his rightful place as future king of England.

Years later when he reappears to take back his throne, his sister Elizabeth, now Queen to the invading King, Henry Tudor, is torn between family loyalty and duty.

As the final struggle between the houses of York and Lancaster is played out, Elizabeth is torn by conflicting loyalty, terror and unexpected love.

Elizabeth must choose between supporting the man claiming to be her brother, or her husband, the king?

Set at the court of Henry VII A Song of Sixpence offers a unique perspective on the early years of Tudor rule. Elizabeth of York, often viewed as a meek and uninspiring queen, emerges as a resilient woman whose strengths lay in endurance rather than resistance.

London – Autumn 1483

Ink black water slaps against the Tower wharf where deep impenetrable dark stinks of bleak, dank death. Strong arms constrict him and the rough blanket covering his head clings to his nose and mouth. The boy struggles, kicks, and wrenches his face free to suck in a lung full of life saving breath. The blanket smothers him again. He fights against it, twisting his head, jerking his arms, trying to kick but the hands that hold him, tighten. His head is clamped hard against his attacker’s body. He frees one hand, gropes with his fingers until he discovers chain mail, and an unshaven chin. Clenching his fingers into a fist, he lunges out with a wild inaccurate punch.

With a muffled curse the man throws back his head but, keeping hold of his prisoner, he hurries onward, down narrow, dark steps, turning one corner, then another, before halting abruptly. The boy hears his assailant’s breath coming short and sharp and knows he too is afraid.

The aroma of brackish water is stronger now. The boy strains to hear mumbled voices, low and rough over scuffling footsteps. The ground seems to dip and his stomach lurches as suddenly they are weightless, floating, and he senses they have boarded a river craft. The invisible world dips and sways sickeningly as they push out from the stability of the wharf for the dangers of the river.

The only sound is the gentle splash of oars as they glide across the water, far off the clang of a bell and the cry of a boatman. He squirms, opens his mouth to scream but the hand clamps down hard again. The men draw in their breath and freeze, waiting anxiously. A long moment, a motionless pause before the oars are taken up again and the small craft begins to move silently across the surface.

River mist billows around them; he can smell it, feels it seeping through his clothes. He shivers but more from fear than cold.

He knows when they draw close to the bridge. He can feel the tug of the river; hear the increasing rush of the current, the dangerous turbulence beneath. Surely they will not shoot the bridge, especially after dark. Only a fool would risk it.

The boy wriggles, shakes his head, and tries to work his mouth free of the smothering hand. He strains to see through the blinding darkness but all is inky black. The boat gathers pace and, as the noise of the surging river becomes deafening, the man increases his hold, a hurried prayer rumbling in his chest.

The whole world is consumed in chaos, rushing water, clamouring thunder, biting cold. In the fight for survival, the boy continues to battle fruitlessly for breath, struggle for his freedom. The body that holds him hostage tenses like a board and beneath the boy’s ear beats the dull thud of his assailant’s heart. The blanket is suffocating hot, his stomach turning as the boat is taken, surging forward, spinning upward before it is hurled down again, between the starlings, shooting uncontrollably beneath the bridge.

Then suddenly, the world is calmer. Somehow the boat remains upright on the water. It spins. He hears the men scrabble for the oars, regain control and his captor relaxes, breathes normally again. Exhausted and helpless, the boy slumps in the soldier’s arms, his fight defeated.

All is still now; all is quiet. The oars splash, the boat glides down river, and soon the aroma of the countryside replaces the stench of the city.

His clothes are soaked with river water; his stomach is empty, his body bruised and aching. Defeated and afraid, the man releases his hold and the boy lies still in the bottom of the boat.

He sleeps.

The world moves on.

Much later, waking with a start, the boy hears low, dark whisperings; a thick Portuguese accent is answered by another, lighter and less certain. This time when he blinks into the darkness, he notices a faint glimmer of light through the coarse weave of the blanket. He forces himself to lie still, knows his life could depend upon not moving but his limbs are so cramped he can resist no longer. He shifts, just a little, but it is too much. His kidnapper hauls him unceremoniously from the wet wooden planks.

The boy’s legs are like string. He stumbles as they snatch off his hood and daylight rushes in, blinding bright. He blinks, screwing up his face, blinking at the swimming features before him, fighting for focus. He sees dark hair; a heavy beard; the glint of a golden earring, and recognition and relief floods through him.

“Brampton!” he exclaims, his voice squeaking, his throat parched. “What the devil are you doing? Take me back at once.”

Brampton tugs at the boy’s tethered arms, drawing him more gently now to the bench beside him.

“I cannot. It is unsafe.”

“Why?” As his hands are untied the boy rubs at each wrist in turn, frowning at the red wheals his bonds have left behind. His Plantagenet-bright hair glints in the early morning sun, his chin juts forward in outrage. “If my father were here…”

“Well, he is not.”

Brampton’s words lack respect, but the boy knows him for a brusque, uncourtly man.

“But where are you taking me? What is happening?”

“To safety, England is no longer the place for you.”

The boy swallows, his shadowed eyes threatening tears. Switching his gaze from one man to the other, he moistens his lips, bites his tongue before trusting his breaking voice. “Where is my brother? Where is Edward?”

Brampton narrows his eyes and looks across the misty river. He runs a huge, rough hand across his beard, grimaces before he replies and his words, when they come, spell out the lost cause of York.

“Dead. As would you be had I left you there.”


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My Guest Author Judith Arnopp

Henry Tudor – the infant prince by Judith Arnopp

We are used to thinking of Henry as obese, ailing, suspicious and vindictive but he wasn’t always so. We know from contemporary descriptions of him that in his youth he was athletic, talented and cordial; a perfect example of a Renaissance prince. I have discussed in previous posts the degeneration that took place during Henry’s mid-life resulting in the ‘monster-king’ we know and love, but today I’d like to go further back to Henry’s infancy. There are many questions I want to address. What sort of child was he? Did his upbringing have any bearing on the king he was to become? Or did his childhood relationships with women impact upon the way he treated the women he was to encounter as an adult? And to what extent did the constant rebellion that affected his father’s reign impact upon Henry’s crushing need to produce a male heir?

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Henry was born at the Palace of Placentia in Greenwich on 28th June 1491. He was the third child of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. As second son he was never intended for the throne; that honour was to go to his older brother, Arthur, a boy who, as far as we can tell, resembled his father both in looks and manner. Henry was more like his maternal grandfather, the giant, bright haired Yorkist king, Edward IV. This likeness seems to have been more than just physical and in several aspects the lives of the two kings bear similarities; both married for love, both shared a love of fine cuisine and both were subject to violent outbreaks of temper.

Like most royal children Henry’s early life was governed by women. While Arthur, as heir to the throne, was given his own extravagant male orientated household at Ludlow, Henry shared a nursery with his sister Margaret, and later his other siblings joined them. It was a world of women, very different to that of his brother. Henry’s wet nurse, Anne Uxbridge, provided nourishment in his early years while his two rockers, Margaret Droughton and Frideswide Puttenham, saw to his other comforts. As Elizabeth of York continued to dutifully fill the royal nursery, the role of ‘lady mistress of our nursery’ was bestowed upon Elizabeth Denton who served in the queen’s household long after the children had outgrown their need of her.

This team of women who cared for the royal infants should not suggest that Elizabeth kept her children at arm’s length. In fact Elizabeth seems to have been exceptionally close to her younger children. With Arthur far from court and growing up almost a stranger, she took an active role in the upbringing of his siblings. David Starkey suggests that Henry’s handwriting is so similar to his mother’s that it can only indicate she had a hand in their early education too.

The nursery at Eltham was next door to Elizabeth’s favourite palace of Greenwich and that had connections with her own royal father, Edward IV. As David Starkey points out in his book,Henry, the prince who would turn tyrant, at this point Edward IV had only been dead for a decade and the palace staff would have known and remembered him, and perhaps some ‘items of his household stuff were still in use.’ (Starkey. p. 69)

It is widely accepted that Elizabeth was fond of her father and it is very likely he would have featured in the stories she told of her childhood. Whether Henry VII liked it or not, growing up in his grandfather’s palace, with his grandfather’s possessions and staff around him, the young Henry could not help but be aware of him, and influenced in some degree by his memory.

At his mother’s knee Henry heard the tales of old, of knights and battle, chivalry and romance. He learned the importance of treating maidens gently and your foe mercilessly. The stories he heard at this time would influence him for the remainder of his life. Henry always aspired to being a knight like the men of old. Even as late as 1542 when he was growing old and infirm, he gamely donned his armour, climbed onto to his charger and rode off to war with France for his ‘second Agincourt.’

As Henry grew from infancy into a small boy new siblings arrived, and some departed. When Henry was just four years old his sister, Elizabeth, who had blossomed briefly into his life died suddenly in September 1495 aged just three years old. What affect this loss of a playmate may have had is impossible to say. Childhood death was commonplace in Tudor England but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t difficult. As humans we never get used to death. Henry would have missed her. He and Margaret might have been lonely. It was his first brush with death and the loss perhaps made him wonder and worry a little. In 1496 Elizabeth’s place in the nursery was filled by another sister, Mary and a brother, Edmund followed in 1499. Sadly, like Elizabeth, Edmund did not survive for long but Mary has long been regarded as Henry’s ‘favourite’ sister. The lesson Henry learned from this was that childhood was dangerous – sons and daughters could be lost. His father, beset by rebellion, was made more insecure by the loss of each child; Henry must have noticed this and soon, the lesson would become further ingrained.

In 1491 a man claiming to be the younger son of Edward IV arrived on the scene. We now know him by the name of Perkin Warbeck and it is widely accepted that he was an imposter, a base born son of Edward IV, or perhaps someone who just happened to bear a family likeness. Regardless of who he was, Henry VII seems to have been rattled by his claim. Warbeck had the backing of France, Burgundy and Scotland; the powers of Europe were ranged against the unstable claim of Tudor and the king had plenty of reasons to be worried. England was home to many supporters of York; men who would go to any lengths to reinstate the old Plantagenet line. Some would even go so far as to accept an imposter. The fact that the king was so unsettled by Warbeck’s claims could suggest that he had no idea if the princes of York were living or dead.

In order to marry Elizabeth Henry repealed the act, titulus regius, that had made her and her brothers illegitimate and allowed the crown to pass to their uncle, Richard III. In reversing the act, legitimising his wife and turning Richard into a usurper, he also made the missing princes (if indeed they were still alive) legitimate also. In validating their blood, he also validated their claim to the throne …before himself. Imposter or not, neither Henry nor Elizabeth welcomed the return of a son of York this late in the game; as much as Elizabeth may have loved her brothers, she was queen now and in all probability, would have wanted the crown to pass to her own son, Arthur.

It was time for the Tudors to show their trump card; their two strong, healthy, legitimate sons. In an unspoken yet eloquent declaration Henry bestowed many of the titles that had belonged to the younger York prince, Richard of Shrewsbury (whom Warbeck was claiming to be), onto Henry. This action spoke louder than any words. The Princes of York are gone but, in their place, here are my sons; the princes of the house of Tudor.

Starkey says, ‘Henry’s creation and endowment as duke of York marked his entry into his inheritance as a prince of the blood. It also made the rivalry with Warbeck evident and unescapable. ‘The dukedom (of York)’ one of Henry’s future servants, Sir William Thomas, asserted flatly, ‘belongs to the king of England’s second son.’ Only force would determine which of the rival dukes would possess it.” (Starkey, P. 103)

The extravagant formalities that made the young Henry a royal duke were his first introduction to ceremonial bling and began a love affair with pageantry that would last his whole lifetime.

Henry VII had spent his youth in a similar vein to that of Warbeck. He was exiled, unsure whom he could trust, the future a dark unfathomable void. He would either become king or die in the attempt. The king knew only too well how tenuous the counterfeit prince’s survival was. Henry VII sent spies far and wide trying to capture him, made constant attempts to persuade or bribe Warbeck’s supporters to hand him over. And during this time he also continued to parade his legitimate sons in the face of Warbeck’s on-going claims. The situation dragged on until 1497, when Prince Henry was six years old, and the Cornish, fed up with Henry’s taxation laws, rose up in favour of Warbeck against the king. While Warbeck rode south with Scottish troops, the Cornish marched on Black Heath from the west, throwing the royal family into panic.

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While the king called his men to arms, Elizabeth of York fled with her children to the safety of the Tower. Just as in her youth, during the wars of the roses, when she was forced to take refuge with her mother in the Tower and later in sanctuary at Westminster, she must have been afraid and vulnerable, the future uncertain. She had no way of knowing the outcome and she could not be convinced that her husband would triumph. Her overriding fear must have been that her own children might shortly join the ranks of her missing brothers. The walls of the Tower were thick impenetrable stone, she was as safe from physical danger as it was possible to be, but the memories, if not the ghosts, of her brothers, must have cried out to her from the shadows. Her children must have sensed those fears and been terrified too.

Luckily for Henry, Warbeck was captured and thrown into the Tower, (eventually to be beheaded on dubious charges that warrant another blog post) the rebels were punished and the royal family resumed their lives. The King and his council continued to govern, Elizabeth continued to oversee the upbringing of her children and Henry and his sisters continued with their education.

Henry’s first teacher was John Skelton, a poet and philosopher under whose instruction Henry’s fertile mind flourished. In 1499 the Dutch scholar Erasmus and his friend Thomas More visited the nine-year-old prince at his home in Eltham. Erasmus remarked afterwards on Henry’s ‘dignity of mind’ and ‘courtesy,’ and it seems the prince was not slow in coming forward either.

When Thomas More made a gift of a literary composition to Henry, Erasmus was embarrassed not to have anything of his own to offer. He was angry with More for not warning him that an offering was expected. The oversight did not go unnoticed and afterwards at dinner, the young Henry issued the scholar a challenge to write something for him. Erasmus spent the next three days hastily composing one hundred and fifty three lines of verse dedicated to the prince. (Erasmus’ Prescription for Henry VIII) The incident began a correspondence and friendship that was to last many years.

On 14th November 1501 a great royal wedding took place between the Prince of Wales, Arthur, and the Spanish princess, Catherine of Aragon. The couple had been betrothed since they were three years old but it was only now, with Warbeck no longer a threat, that they were considered of an age to marry. The wedding took place at St Pauls and it was Henry who led the princess ‘from the Bishop’s Palace, across the churchyard of St Paul’s, through the west doors and along the elevated walkway to the wedding platform.’ (Starkey p 144) Then, after the ceremony, he led her back again to be united with her husband at the door of the bridal chamber.

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A week of great ceremony followed during which time Henry VII held a Friday evening entertainment in Westminster hall. The Prince of Wales danced with his aunt, Lady Cecily, and then it was Henry’s turn to dance with his sister, Margaret. He led her formally by the hand, bowed to the audience and proceeded to follow the steps. “But now Henry stepped out of the script. Finding that his heavy clothes got in the way of his fun, he ‘suddenly cast off his gown’ – which had been obtained at much expense – and ‘danced in his jacket’ with his sister. His parents looked on proudly and indulgently.”(Starkey: p.146)

This is the first recorded sign we have of the joy loving figure Henry would become and the picture of the chubby ten year old prince dancing in his shirt sleeves is an endearing one. The boy took a risk but it was a calculated one. He knew it was breaking the rules but he also knew there was nothing his father could do to prevent it – not until later when the revel was over. Unfortunately the king’s response to this breach of etiquette is not recorded but it is the first indication that Henry was the sort of boy to go his own way. For several weeks after the wedding great joy was held throughout the kingdom, but the joy was not to last. In less than five months, Arthur, the Prince of Wales, was dead, Catherine of Aragon was widowed and the king and queen were devastated.

The death of his older brother marked a great change for Henry. No longer the second son his status was drastically altered; his life never to be the same again. Henry, Duke of York, second son of an unpopular monarch was now thrust into global prominence. But, having lacked the strict male upbringing of his older brother, Henry was not ready to be Prince of Wales, and he was certainly not ready to be king. He had a lot to learn and he would have to learn quickly.

Henry VII and Elizabeth were plunged into deep mourning. Records tell us that their grief was profound, Elizabeth was summoned to the king’s chamber to comfort him and she is reported to have reminded her husband that they were lucky to have in Henry another ‘fair and goodly prince,’ and that they were yet young enough to have other children.

There is some suggestion that sexual relations between the two had ceased sometime previous to Arthur’s death but necessity brought them together again and, as good as her word, Elizabeth quickly fell pregnant. Since the day she became Henry’s queen, cementing the union of York and Lancaster and end the wars of the roses once and for all, Elizabeth had done her duty and never put a foot wrong. Now, if she could give the king another son, the Tudors would be secure again with, to use Starkey’s term both ‘an heir and a spare.’ But before the year was out Henry’s mother was gone, she died on 2nd February 1503 shortly after giving birth to a daughter, Katherine; a little girl who followed her mother to the grave a few days later.

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From now on the king, unnerved by grief and beset by increasing insecurity, was to keep his heir close. During the last years of his father’s life Henry was seldom seen in public. The Spanish ambassador was to remark that the prince was, “never permitted to go out of the palace, except for exercise through a private door leading to the park. At these times he is surrounded only by those persons especially appointed by the king as his tutors and companions and no one else, on his life, dared approach him. He takes his meals alone and spends most of the day in his own room, which has no other entrance other than through the King’s bed chamber. He is in complete subjection to his father and grandmother and never opens his mouth in public except to answer a question from one of them.” (Hutchinson p. 95)

For a boy like Henry; outgoing, active and physically agile, this virtual imprisonment must have been hell and possibly exacerbated the grief he was no doubt suffering for the loss of his mother. An illustration in a book of illumination discovered a short time ago in the National Library of Wales depicts the aftermath of Elizabeth of York’s death. The king, dressed in mourning, is being offered a book and, in the background his daughters, Margaret and Mary, are wearing black veils. Somewhat apart from the others, a young boy with red hair weeps onto his mother’s empty bed. It is a picture of segregation and solitude; a sad, heart wrenching illustration of a formerly ebullient prince.

1503 marks the end of Henry’s childhood. The future yawns wide and empty before him. His childhood with its stories of chivalry, the warm nurturing presence of his mother and nursery staff is unreachable. He cannot return to the time of joy that went before. In a short time he has lost his brother and his mother and been thrust from a fairly predictable future as a royal Duke into the terror of the unknown trials of monarchy.

Henry’s early status of ‘second in line to the throne’ would impact upon every aspect of his upbringing and it was perhaps this early need to play second fiddle that fed his later desire to be centre stage. Nobody, least of all Henry, knew what sort of king he would make but his early lessons stayed with him. Henry would continually seek the unconditional love he’d known from his mother in his early years; he would strive and fail to become the perfect renaissance prince that his early teachers, Skelton, Erasmus and More had impressed upon him; and he would also strive and fail to fill the royal nursery with sons as his father would have wished.

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“Laughing child, possibly Henry VIII, c.1498. Possibly commissioned by or presented to Henry VII. Guido Mazzoni“from the royal collection.

Link to manuscript of young henry here

Link to Perkin Warbeck here

Link to Henry meeting Erasmus and More here

Link to Henry VII and Elizabeth here

Further reading

Erasmus’ Prescription for Henry VIII: Logotherapy Marjorie O’Rourke Boyle Renaissance Quarterly Vol. 31, No. 2 (Summer, 1978), pp. 161-172)

Young Henry: The Rise of Henry VIII By Robert Hutchinson

Henry, The Prince who would turn Tyrant, David Starkey

Winter King, The Dawn of Tudor England, Thomas Penn

Judith Arnopp

Judith Arnopp is the author of six historical novels. The first three are set early in the historical calendar in Anglo Saxon and Norman Britain, the last three in Tudor England. She is currently working on her seventh A Song of Sixpence which tells the story of Elizabeth of York, mother of King Henry VIII.

Her books include:

Peaceweaver: set during the run up to the Battle of Hastings

The Forest Dwellers: set after the Battle of Hastings.

The Song of Heledd: set in 7th Century Powys.

The Winchester Goose: at the court of Henry VIII.

The Kiss of the Concubine: the story of Anne Boleyn

Intractable Heart: the story of Katheryn Parr

You can find out more about Judith and her work on her webpage:

Judith’s blog  

Judith’s Amazon Page UK

Judith’s Amazon page US: Amazon Page US


Interview with Author Judith Arnopp

Judith Arnopp

In 2007 Judith Arnopp graduated from the University of Wales, Lampeter with a BA in English Literature and a Masters in Medieval Studies; she now combines those skills to write historical novels.

Her early books; Peaceweaver, The Forest Dwellers and The Song of Heledd concentrated on the Anglo- Saxon/ medieval period but in 2010 she published a short pamphlet of ‘Tudor’ stories entitled, Dear Henry: Confessions of the Queens. Some people loathed it but many loved it and she received endless requests for full length ‘Tudor’ novels.

For a while Judith buried herself once more in study, refreshing her already extensive knowledge of the period. The result was The Winchester Goose, the story of a prostitute from Southwark called Joanie Toogood whose harsh existence is contrasted with that of Henry’s fourth and fifth wives, Anne of Cleves and Katherine Howard. The Winchester Goose is a multi-narrative illustrating Tudor life from several, very different perspectives; a prostitute, a Spy, and a Lady-in-Waiting at the royal court.

Judith’s next book The Kiss of the Concubine details the life of Anne Boleyn, told in the first person- present tense, the story takes you to the very heart of England’s most talked about queen. She is currently working on a third Tudor novel Intractable Heart, the tale of Henry’s sixth and last wife, Katherine Parr.

Judith also blogs about the Tudor period, both on her own blog-page and on the English Historical Fiction Author’s website. Her work reaches a world-wide audience and her following is steadily increasing.

As a self-published author Judith maintains direct control of her work and avoids the hassle involved with agents and publishers. Self-publishing speeds up the process but accuracy and attention to detail is paramount. Her small team is made up of three proof readers, an editor, and a cover designer all of whom work with Judith toward a finished product that is as polished as they can get it, but still they seek ultimate perfection.

Stephanie: Hello Judith! Welcome to Layered Pages and thank you for chatting with me today…I think it is fantastic you have been writing stories that take place during the Tudor era. My interest lie in that area currently and your latest book, “Intractable Heart” looks fantastic! Please tell me about your story?

Judith: I have tried to imagine how it might have felt to be a woman married to Henry VIII. With five of Henry’s ex-wives before her, Katheryn must have been all too aware of what becoming queen might entail yet she faced it bravely. She put aside her own desire to marry Thomas Seymour and instead married an ageing, cantankerous and dangerous man. She injected all her energies into becoming a good wife to Henry and a good Queen Consort for England and I think she did amazingly well. I wanted to illustrate that. I am not really interested in the rich trappings, the glitz and glamour of being royal; I like to strip that all away and reveal the person beneath, her thoughts, feelings, and desires. I hope I have managed that with Intractable Heart.

Stephanie: Next to Katherine of Aragon, Katheryn Parr is one of my favorites of Henry VIII wives. What are some of the misconceptions people have about her?

Judith: While I was writing The Kiss of the Concubine I couldn’t help but be drawn into reading about the other wives. Of course, I knew about Katheryn Parr from my student days and was surprised to discover she wasn’t the placid nursemaid type figure that she’d been depicted. The woman I read about at school entirely lacked the vitality of everyone’s favourite queen, Anne Boleyn, but the deeper I looked into Katheryn’s life, the more I liked her.

She was much younger than I’d thought, only thirty six when she died. She was also a strong woman and Henry respected her enough to set her up as regent over England when he went to war with France. Katheryn also was the first English queen to become a published writer; she wrote two books on religion and the church and was a strong supporter of the reformation. The title Intractable Heart is a phrase taken from her book Lamentations of a Sinner. Another aspect of her character that really stands out for me was her ability to ‘manage’ Henry.

Judith Arnopp latest book

Stephanie: As your story opens, Katheryn and her step children are held hostage at Snape Castle. What are some of the hardships she had to endure during her confinement?

Judith: To be perfectly frank, we don’t really know very much about it. History tells us there was a siege at Snape while she and her step-children were in residence but few written details of it remain. I had to research other recorded instances to learn of the deprivations and suffering of siege warfare. There were many instances of violence but we don’t know that anything like that occurred at Snape. That is my invention, as a writer of fiction I have to include some fictionalised events to enrich the story and to illustrate character development. In this case I was creating an answer to some of the mysteries of Margaret Neville’s life. As a girl she was betrothed to Ralph Bigod whose father, Francis, was hung in the aftermath of the Pilgrimage of Grace. She was never betrothed again, or married and she died quite young of an unspecified illness. I came up with my own fictional ideas as to why that might have been.

Stephanie: Treachery ran rabid in the Tudor court, what is the one thing that made Katheryn different from the other queens?

Judith: Her intelligence I think, although I don’t mean to say that the other wives were thick. I alluded earlier to Katheryn’s ability to ‘manage’ Henry, and she was the only queen to wriggle out of arrest and possible execution. A warrant was written out and signed by Henry but she got wind of it and managed to see the king before the arrest could be made. She seems to have sweet-talked her way out of it, and when Wriothesley and the guard came to take her to the Tower, Henry sent them about their business and her life was spared. I think Katheryn had the ability to keep her emotions in check and maintain a cool head in a heated situation.

Stephanie: Many have different opinions on Thomas Seymour. Whether they like him or not. What are your personal opinions of the kind of man he was?

Judith: I have a soft spot for Thomas, it probably shows. I think, as far as I can ascertain, Seymour wasn’t as bad as he was painted. After his execution there was such a public outcry that the council had to issue defamatory statements to convince the people that his death was deserved. So anything written after his death needs to be taken with a pinch of salt.

I think he probably had a good dose of ‘second son syndrome’ and was jealous of his brother’s power. He was so determined to get that which he didn’t have, that he failed to appreciate what he did possess. Lord High Admiral is not something to be scoffed at and he had manors and lands a plenty. It seems he was never satisfied and continually strove to climb higher and become ever richer and more powerful.

Whether he loved Katheryn or not is open to debate. He mourned her death and went a little crazy afterwards. His alleged relationship with Elizabeth is no worse than that of any other extra marital affair. I think we have to be careful not to judge him by modern day standards and remember that it wasn’t child abuse; Elizabeth was of marriageable age. His crime was messing with a royal princess; she was too close to the throne. I tend to agree with Elizabeth’s summing up of Thomas Seymour: ‘a man of great wit and very little judgment’, if indeed, she ever actually said that.

Stephanie: Katheryn’s work was published and she very devout in her faith. Is her work available today to the public? And what can we learn from her?

Judith: I know some of it is available because I have a copy of Brandon G. Withrow’s book, Katherine Parr: a guided tour of the life and thoughts of a reformation queen. It has excerpts and some insightful notes on her beliefs. Most of it is pretty dry reading but I think it is quite revealing of her opinions and the inner workings of her mind. If nothing else, reading her book (or skimming if I am honest) did provide an excellent and very personal title for my novel.

Stephanie:What was Henry’s daughter, Elizabeth’s relationship with Katheryn really like? I hear so many different opinions.

Judith: Well, we can never be entirely sure but I think it was very good. All Henry’s children spoke well of Katheryn and illustrated love and a consideration that there was no need to express if they hadn’t wished to. There were many letters and gifts exchanged, all of which illustrate a strong bond. There was a cooling off between Katheryn and Mary due to religion and the speed with which she remarried after the king’s death but they were reconciled later. With Elizabeth in particular, especially if the reports of her and Thomas Seymour are true, she seems to have been particularly close. We don’t know what was said in private but after Elizabeth was sent away from Chelsea they continued to communicate regularly, there doesn’t seem to have been a major breach. In my opinion this again shows she was a strong woman, able to rise above such things, or perhaps able to understand that Elizabeth was young and vulnerable. It seems to be Thomas that she was not able to wholly forgive.

She educated Henry’s children, finding eminent tutors for Edward who leaned to toward Lutherism. She tried to get Mary change her traditional methods of worship but didn’t push her. She also took Henry’s niece and Seymour’s ward, Jane Grey, under her wing. But, most interestingly of all, Elizabeth was with Katheryn during the regency and it may have been the queen who showed the young Elizabeth that women could rule alone in a world of men. Something which would stand her in very good stead.

Stephanie: What were some of the influences Katheryn had over Henry that his other wives didn’t?

Judith: She read to Henry, and soothed him when his leg was playing up; that much is true although she would never had changed his dressing or put salve on his wound as I have read in some novels. I think her ability to take his mind from his problems was her greatest influence over him.

She was also very clever. When her life was on the line, instead of weeping and wailing or tearing out her hair, she outwitted him. Accused of trying to instruct the king, she argued that on the contrary she had been trying to take his mind off his painful ulcer. The next time Henry tried to trick her into argument she claimed that, as a woman, she was in no position to argue theological topics with someone so obviously her intellectual superior. Very shrewd move.

Also, instead of resenting his children, she embraced them and showed him that, actually, the family he already had was made up of three rather brilliant people. Her influence on them was much greater than she is given credit for. In their later years they may have displayed what we see today as tendencies toward megalomania but they were monarchs, and Tudor monarchs at that. We shouldn’t judge them.

Stephanie: What is up next for you?

Judith: A holiday I hope. Even just a home break from work for a short time. I hadn’t intended to begin writing Intractable Heart until this summer but when our house sale fell through in the middle of last year, I was so miserable I buried myself in work without a proper rest after publishing The Kiss of the Concubine. I am due a lovely long luxurious break but I am sure while I am taking it I will be plotting. I have thought about Elizabeth of York and the Perkin Warbeck affair …but time will tell.

Stephanie: How has your career as a self-publishing author been and what advice could you give to others who are thinking of taking this choice in how they publish their work?

Judith: It has been hard work but it certainly got easier once I stopped looking for agents and publishers. I had an agent for a while but they all want to change you into a commercial entity. I don’t want to be a puppet; I don’t write to make huge sums of money, I just want to make a living doing the thing I love to do for the people who love my work. I like to keep it real. For me, by far the hardest thing is the marketing. I am naturally very shy and to push my work under people’s noses and make them read it is the most difficult thing ever.

Stephanie: Is there a message you would like to give to your readers?

Judith: Read an independent author, even if it is only once a month. Give them a chance. Read the free sample on Amazon before you buy it, what is there to lose? Maybe start off with trying one of mine. J

Stephanie: Where can readers buy your book?

Judith: Amazon is the best place to start, or direct from the FeedaRead website. Since I have a great regard for trees my books are print-on-demand and also available on Kindle (for a much lower price.)

Stephanie: Thank you, Judith! It has been a pleasure chatting with you today.

Judith: Thank you for having me, Stephanie, I hope we can do it again soon.

Amazon links to, “Intractable Heart.”

UK Link

US Link

Judith Arnopp’s published work includes:


The Forest Dwellers

The Song of Heledd

The Winchester Goose: at the court of Henry VIII

The Kiss of the Concubine: a story of Anne Boleyn

Dear Henry: Confessions of the Queens

A Tapestry of Time

Intractable Heart

Other Links:



Amazon Author Page

English Historical Fiction Authors