Greenan Castle

The weather has been beautiful today in Ayr, so we decided to take the children to visit a local castle that I plan to write about in my next book.

It is only a small castle, but it was owned by the family of a character in the book, so I thought it would be nice to put a local spin on it.  The castle is now just a ruin, but it sits in a beautiful position, atop the cliffs, with views across the bay as far as Arran and a lovely beach below it.

It was built in the 15th century for members of the Kennedy family but was forfeited to the Scottish crown in 1476.  King James IV then handed it to the family of the Earl of Angus in 1493.

The grandson of this generation was Archibald Douglas, 6th Earl of Angus, who married Margaret Tudor (sister of Henry VIII), after the death of her husband King James IV.

They had a daughter, Margaret Douglas, who was then married to the Earl of Lennox.  They had a son, Henry, who is known to history as Lord Darnley.

It is Lord Darnley who appears in my next book, though not in the traditional role of husband to Mary Queen of Scots.  She does not murder him either !!

To find out more about how he fits in, you will have to read the book when it is released !!

The castle was probably built as a tower house, and below is a drawing that I found online as to how it MAY have looked at the time I write about it, also is a picture of the ruin that is there today.


Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury

Today she died, in a horrible way, on the scaffold at the Tower of London, on the orders of her distant relative, Henry VIII.  Her crime??  Being a Plantagenet.

She was born the eldest child of George, Duke of Clarence and Isabel, daughter of the Earl of Warwick.  Her first few years of life would probably have been quite priviledged.  She had a younger brother, Edward, who would have been her father’s heir.

She was barely three years old when her mother died, shortly after giving birth to another son.  Her father soon acted quite mad, I tend to think because of grief, though he had always had a rather ambitious attitude, and was comitted to the tower of London.

Sent to the Tower at the same time was a bishop called Stillington, who would become more famous years later, with his role in Titulus Regis.

It has been suggested that the Bishop had gone to George with information about his brother Edward’s previous marriage to Eleanor Talbot, which George had taken to his brother, hence his being locked up.

The Bishop was released soon after but George was condemned to death.  If the information that he held about the Talbot marriage were true, the Woodville children were illegitimate and George was the legitimate heir to the throne.  Perhaps he threatened too much to get that information out there, that would come out years later, when Richard, Duke of Gloucester found out similar information from the same Bishop………..

But I digress.

Margaret’s life would be turned upside down by the execution of her father in the Tower, when her brother and her were sent to live with the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, her aunt and uncle.

Her life would would be upset again, when at 10 years old, the King died and the DUke of Gloucester became King Richard III (no I am not getting into the Richard III argument here, that is for another time and place !!).

As children of the elder brother of Richard, Margaret and Edward would have had a better claim to the throne if it were not for their father’s attainder, years before.

Only two years later, Richard was dead and Henry Tudor had taken the throne from him. Once Tudor married Elizabeth of York, daughter of Edward IV, Margaret was taken into their household.  Her brother was not so lucky, he was committed to the Tower, because of his potential as a Yorkist claimant to the throne.  He would later be executed as a traitor, having being encouraged to aid the escape of Perkin Warbeck.

Margaret was given to the King’s cousin Richard Pole in marriage, once she was of age.  The marriage appears to have been relatively happy and they had five children together.

Unfortunately, he died quite young and left her as a widow.  One of her sons was committed to the church and she took her youngest children to live at Syon Abbey with  herself, among the nuns.

The boy committed to the church was Reginald Pole, who I chose as a major player in my story.  In real life, he had an eventfull life, rising to become a Cardinal.

The younger children, Geoffrey and Ursula stayed with her until she was brought to court as lady in waiting to Catherine of Aragon when Henry VIII came to the throne.

Ursula is of interest to myself, as she appears in my own family tree, seventeen generations ago.

She was granted the honour of guardianship of the Princess Mary, who thought much of her by all accounts.  Mary is said to have been very upset when Margaret was executed.

In my book, this is when history varies from my alternative, I have Mary falling in love with Margaret’s son while in her care and marrying secretly.

In 1536 Reginald Pole fell out with Henry VIII because of the Anne Boleyn marriage and England’s split with the Church of Rome.  At this time, Reginald was not living in England, so in revenge, Henry had his mother, brother and nephew arrested and imprisoned in the Tower.

They were there for two years before Henry had them executed.

She refused to acknowledge any wrongdoing to the crown right to the end.  Once on the platform, she was told to put her head on the block but refused, and had to be forced onto it.

The executioner was new to the job and made a real mess of killing her, the first blow only cutting her shoulder, allowing her to get to her feet and attempt to escape.  It is said that it took a dozen blows in all to take off her head.

She was laid to rest in the Church of St Peter Ad Vincula, in the Tower grounds, the same one that Anne Boleyn had been buried in a few years earlier.

It is often said to be the cruellest of Henry VIII’s executions, killing a 67 year old woman in this way.

She was seen as a martyr to the Catholic faith by many at the time, to the point that she was beatified by Pope Leo XIII in 1886 and her feast day is the 28th May.

She had quite a life and suffered a cruel and painful death, so I believe that martydom was probably well deserved.


Today is the feast day for the Venerable Bede.  As a former resident of County Durham, where his body alledgedly lies in the Cathedral in Durham City, I thought I would write a few lines about him.

He lived between around 670 and 735 in the Durham and Northumberland area and was a monk.  He was only seven years old whenhis family sent him to the monastery at Monkwearmouth, now in Sunderland City.  What a seven year old made of the life of a monk can only be guessed at, though I suppose if he was sent that young, it would have become th only life he knew very quickly.  It is rumoured that his parents were nobles, though no proof of that exists.

He is mostly known for his writings, both translations and explanations of bible texts and his own musings.  His best known work is ‘An Ecclesiastical history of the English People’ which is five books long.  It follows the religious history of the country from the times of Roman invasion until his own days.

Most of his work was originally written in Latin, though I have heard that he occasionally wrote in Greek also.  His writings were copied many years later, when his popularity grew and his remains were moved from the Jarrow monastery where he died to the Galilee chapel in Durham Cathedral.

He still has a strong following in the north and is considered a very important historian for the very early years of england.  Hence why children in the north are still taught about him in schools !!

Shakespeare and the Hollow Crown

Over the last few days, I have become involved in a few discussions on Richard III and the Princes in the Tower.  This is probably due to the Hollow Crown series that has recently been shown on bbc.

What we should remember about all of the Shakespeare plays is that they were plays, not truth.  Yes there is some historical fact in there, but it was never written as true history, it was written to entertain.

I am not a fan of Shakespeare, I find his work hard to follow sometimes, though I did the usual acting out Shakespeare when I was younger, at school, college, etc., so I did not watch the latest bbc adaptation, though I do know the stories.

These plays were written for the enjoyment of the audience at the time, I highly doubt he thought that we would still watch them hundreds of years later, never mind for them to be discussed with such passion about their historical validity.  He would probably have been happy if they were still being read when he died, he would have expected them to be forgotten after that, I would think.

I know with my own books, I would love to think that they would be remembered and read after my death, but I say straight up front that my books are not history, they are fiction, even if the dates are true for most big events.  Hey am sure my kids would be happy to collect the royalties after I am gone in any case !!


Henry VI

545 years ago tonight, the ousted KIng Henry VI died in the Wakefield Tower at the Tower of London.

If you are a Shakespeare fan, you probably attribute his death to Richard III, though as he was still only 19 years old, I tend to think it was more likely to be his elder brothers George and King Edward had a little more to do with his death.

Henry had been King of England for most of his life, though because of his apparent mental illness, he was probably not aware of that fact some of the time.

His wife, Margaret, is by all accounts a very domineering woman.  Though faced with a mentally ill husband, you have to ask yourself if she was forced into that position, especially once she had a son and had to fight for his interests.

I feel that Henry’s life was quite a sad one.  He was used as a pawn between uncles when he was a child King, then slowly appeaered to lose his mind as he grew older.  It may be that he would have been glad to meet his maker on this evening.

I am not condoning his murder, though in the times he lived, it was possibly the only way that Edward was ever going to consolidate his own kingship.  He had been kind to the former King previously and let him live quietly in the Tower, but a force had gathered with him as the figurehead, although he probably knew nothing about it, and had briefly overthrown the Yorkist King.

It would always be a threat that someone would attempt it again, if he lived.

It was said at the time that he had died from melancholy, and in all truth, who are we centuries later to say that he did not die because of his mental illness.  The balance of probability is more likely that he was killed, if not by the York brothers then on King Edward’s orders.

Mental illness was not understood at all in those times, in modern days he could maybe have been medicated and lived a perfectly normal life.  Many people do, and it is a known fact that you coud pass people with schizophrenia, bi-polar etc in the street and not know any different, because today’s medication can be so effective for some people.  But you only ever hear of the ones that it does not work for in the news.

So today, in memory of an early sufferer, I want to give a shout out to all of those who suffer in secret from mental illnesses of all descriptions.  People do not always know what you have to deal with on a daily basis, but do not let that hold you back.  You are stronger than you think you are, hold your head high and walk tall.  You are as vital a part of our communities as anyone else.  Never let anyone tell you any different.


Anne Boleyn

As anyone interested in history will know, as it is all over history groups today, it is the 480th anniversary of the execution of Anne Boleyn.

She must be one of the most famous Queens of England, though she only held that position for three short years.

The question of whether she was guilty of the crimes for which she was executed is still asked among historians to this day.  Some of the dates used in her indictment can be proved as lies, as she can be placed elsewhere on those dates.  One of the dates used, she was still in confinement following the birth of her daughter, Elizabeth !!

Personally I think she was innocent, at least to a degree.  Most agree that she was a flirt, that was how she caught the King’s eye in the first place.  Many women use flirting as a way to get what they want, even today, I am sure things were not that different back then.  Perhaps she was guilty of flirting with her courtiers, though I doubt she would be guilty of sleeping with everyone that she was blamed for.

Mark Smeaton was, by all accounts, tortured until he admitted to an affair with the Queen.  Under torture, many men would amdit to anything to make it stop!  None of the other men who were blamed and killed admitted to any relationship with her, though they were nobles and unable to be tortured.

My feeling is simply that the King had tired of her and moved on with his love.  Why he wanted her dead and not just locked away somewhere in a nunnery or something is a little deeper question.

I think it stems from the way his relationship with Catherine, his first wife ended.  He sent her away and disowned her, thinking that would be the end of it, but she still held many followers at court until the day she died.  In my opinion, he did not want Anne to hang around and garner support as Catherine had done.  Catherine was older than Anne, she was coming to the end of her life when Henry dumped her, Anne was young enough to live for many years yet, Henry could not risk that.

He had to get rid of her fully, and if that meant her death, then that is what he wanted.  He did not have to do it so publicly.  Yet you have to think that it would maybe have been easier to simply poison her and be done with her.  Perhaps he wanted to prove something, maybe that he had the right to kill someone if they fell out of his favour?

As it goes, she is one of the best remembered people in history, mostly thanks to the way he got rid of her.  I am sure that is not what he intended.  He probably thought she would be killed and everyone would forget about her and move on, as he wanted to do.

So in death, she got one up on her murderous husband.  Go girl !!


I recieved a glowing review for my book today.  Someone I have never met, read my tome (it is pretty long, I admit that) and enjoyed it enough to write this about it.

on 5 May 2016
An incredible book, wide ranging and all encompassing, embracing a totally different side to Mary Tudor than I have ever read before! and showing that historical fiction can be a flexible and enjoyable genre, (even when, like me, one’s first love is historical fact).
With over 900 pages this epic will keep you reading well after the light should have been out as it carries you forward wanting to know more and become more involved.’
I am so happy that I am almost bouncing!
It is amazing to get 5 star reviews on groups like Goodreads, but to actually hear what someone thinks rather than just the image is brilliant.
Not only does it give me the impetus to carry on with my new book, but it makes me feel that my work is being appreciated, and thats a good feeling.