West Wales


I have just returned from a weekend of exploring castles in West Wales, and I was so inspired by my trip that I felt I ought to write a post about some of my thoughts. I was born in Cardiff, and while I am familiar with some of the beautiful spots in South Wales, West Wales is altogether unfamiliar to me. But I know there are some great spots there, so it seemed like the ideal place to spend a weekend. Here are a few of my highlights.

Lettice Knollys & New Year’s Gifts at Queen Elizabeth’s Court


Lettice Knollys

At the Tudor court it was New Year, rather than Christmas, that was the main gift giving event of the year, and it was always celebrated in fine style. During the reign of Elizabeth I, each New Year the Queen would be presented with a whole array of magnificent gifts from her fawning courtiers, who were all eager to ingratiate themselves with the Tudor monarch. Numerous records of these costly gifts survive, and as the Queen’s reign progressed, the gifts she received became increasingly elaborate. At New Year 1559 for example, Elizabeth’s favourite, Robert Dudley, presented her with ‘a faire Cheine set with pearle’. By New Year 1576 however, he was presenting the Queen with a sumptuous jewel, ‘being a crosse of golde conteyning vi very fayre emeraldes, whearof two bigger than the rest, the one of the biggest being cracked, and iii large pearles pendaunte’.

Marie de Guise – Part Two

In June 1538 Marie de Guise married James V of Scotland in a magnificent ceremony in the Cathedral at St Andrews. Marie had arrived in Scotland just days earlier, having left behind her native France and her young son from her first marriage. The celebrations for her wedding were even more splendid than those she had enjoyed for her first marriage, and included hunting, hawking, banquets and tournaments spread out over forty days. After going on a short progress around the country of which she was now queen, Marie made her formal entry into Edinburgh on St Margaret’s Day, 16 November. An observer noted that she ‘made her entrance in Edinburgh with great triumph, and as with order of the whole nobles. Her Grace came in first at the West Port and rode down the High Street to the Abbey of Holyrood, with great sport played to Her Grace all through the town.’ There were pageants and banquets, and the Palace of Holyroodhouse – where Marie was to take up residence – had been specially prepared for her arrival. Tapestries were hung, archery butts set up in the gardens, and Marie’s own coat of arms had been carved on to the front of the palace. No expense had been spared, and it was a royal welcome to remember.

Marie de Guise – Part One

The month of November marks the anniversary of the birth of Marie de Guise, mother of Mary, Queen of Scots. Marie has always fascinated me, so to commemorate the occasion I’ll be posting a series of posts about her life. Lets start at the beginning …

Elizabeth’s Rival: The Tumultuous Tale of Lettice Knollys, Countess of Leicester

I am SO thrilled to announce that my new book, Elizabeth’s Rival: The Tumultuous Tale of Lettice Knollys, Countess of Leicester, will be released in the UK on 2 November! As soon as I have a confirmed US date I’ll be posting it here too. I feel very privileged to have been able to write a second book, and I’ve really loved working on this subject. I hope everyone enjoys it. I won’t give away too much more at this time, but if you would like to know what you can expect, you can read my synopsis by following this link to my agent’s website:



September 2016

Excitingly, there’s less than two months left until Crown of Blood is published, I can’t wait! Later this month I’m hoping to go and visit the newly refurbished Visitor Centre at Bradgate Park, and I’ll be speaking there about the book in November too – do check it out if you get the opportunity.

You can also read my short interview in the current issue of BBC History Magazine – I talked about what it’s like to be a historian and a writer as part of the History Study Guide, and where my inspiration came from.

Whilst I was working on Crown of Blood, I spent a great deal of time researching Syon Park, and it reminded me of a mini project I did about the influence of Robert Adam on Syon when I was an undergraduate.

Alice Chaucer, Duchess of Suffolk

What a busy summer it has transpired to be! I’ve been enjoying a few weeks of research in preparation for my new book, and whilst on one journey I stopped by the pretty Oxfordshire village of Ewelme. I’ve always really wanted to visit Ewelme, mainly due to its links with a lady who has always fascinated me: Alice Chaucer, Duchess of Suffolk.

George Vertue’s Members of the Tudor Court


I’ve been doing lots of work on Tudor portraiture recently, and it’s taken me back to my days at Sudeley Castle. In one of the Castle corridors, aptly named The Vertue Corridor, are thirty-three hung portraits of members of the Tudor court by George Vertue. The originals, now in Windsor Castle, were taken from life by Henry VIII’s court painter, Hans Holbein. Holbein drew at least eighty members of the court, and over the centuries these have been lost and found and re-mounted on several occasions. The identities of the sitters have been the cause of much controversy, and some of them are still unidentified.

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