To celebrate the release of This Other Eden by Margaret Williams, The Tudor Roses are hosting the first day of her virtual book tour with an excerpt from the new book. We are also offering one lucky person the chance to win a copy of the book. All you have to do is tell us what interests you about the Pilgrimage of Grace and one of you will be chosen as the winner by us and Spartan Publishing. To enter you can leave a comment here, on our Facebook page or email us (details of both at the end of the blog). The closing date for entries is Sunday 13th December 2015 - good luck! Now on with the blog...
Margaret Williams is no stranger to adventure. She has been married for thirty three years to her Welsh husband, whom she met as result of a coach crash in Bulgaria, while they were travelling across Europe on the old Crusader route to Palestine. Margaret has always been passionate about her family history and Tudor history, and it was through her research that she realised her Bowerbank line must have lived through and witnessed the events leading up to the Pilgrimage of Grace as it affected Cumberland. She used the actual names of family members as characters, and researched how certain trades would have dominated their imagined lives. Margaret visited the Eden Valley on several occasions and was struck by the beauty of the landscape and the river there, and walked along that narrow foothold above the water leading into the gorge described in the book.
Margaret has published several short stories, and This Other Eden is her debut novel.
Summer - Progress toYork
In February, the King's leg ulcerated again. It forced him to endure weeks of inactivity, while the pus was allowed to drain. In moments of depression, he was to reflect that Cromwell was "the most faithful servant he ever had." But with the approach of spring, his black mood shifted, the rebellious leg calmed, and mobility of sorts was restored. The idea of a royal progress was conceived. To the north then, to York, he would show himself in those rebellious parts of England he had never seen. A coronation for Katherine at York, perhaps? That was one of the suggestions that traitor Aske had made when he came to court that Christmastime of 1536. Well, the King thought wryly, in a way neither he nor those so-called Pilgrims had foreseen, circumstances had conspired to bring about one of their most pressing demands, the "expulsion of villein blood" from the Council. i.e. Cromwell's death.
And why not invite James, his sister Margaret's son, the King of Scotland, to come south and meet with him at York? There was need of talk between them. The lad seemed incapable of governing those Lowland Border Scots of his, who continued to enjoy their wild sport of conducting raiding parties over the Border into northern England, even as far as the town of Penrith.
So, it was arranged, and the great northern progress was ready to set out at the end of June. It was a magnificent display, almost on a par with that of the Field of the Cloth of Gold in France, some twenty years before. By degrees, the awe-inspiring procession made its way through towns and villages whose inhabitants had never seen their sovereign, and as intended, were suitably impressed. On roads that were sometimes little more than tracks, the glittering troupe traversed the wilder territories of the realm, until at last, in mid-September, the city of York was finally reached. It was a relief after the long journey, to enjoy the luxuriously appointed buildings of a former religious house made ready to receive the Court there, and that of King James, too, when he should arrive.
Pedlar Jack was anxious to begin his journey home. In the summer he had travelled to York to buy provisions. Now, at the summer's end, it was time to return to Carlisle, serving those villages in the remote country districts en route before the winter began. But now, with the arrival of the King, not to mention the expected arrival of the King of Scotland, how could he not linger in York awhile longer? It was news, and he would be the proud narrator of an event the north had never witnessed before.
York was packed with folk who had flocked there to see the arrival of the great cavalcade, and the stable where Jack slept with his pony train was invaded by other travellers seeking a lodging. He struck up a companionship with a travelling tinker,a fellow who, like himself, was always journeying to make a living.
"Tomorrow," his companion informed him as they ate their shared meal, "the King is to receive the public submission of those rebels he pardoned after the great rising hereabouts. You remember - the Pilgrimage of Grace they called it."
"Aye, I remember it" Jack replied, "and so do many in York." He lowered his voice, fearing to be overheard by any in the stable where they supped.
"There was scant merriment in York then, when Robert Aske was hung here in chains."
"So I have heard," the younger man replied. "My own father saw it."
Next day they joined the jostling crowd early. It was a rare sight, the brilliant apparel of the royal entourage, the clergy and York's own city fathers, anxious that no mishap should occur to mar the proceedings.
There was a stir as the King arrived, and a roar of welcome. Jack and the tinker watched. Some two hundred men knelt down in the street before the King. These were those former rebels fortunate to have escaped the noose when the King's justice was meted out when that fateful rebellion failed.
They had already been pardoned, but now they were required to make their further submission.
"What are they giving to the King?" someone in the tightly packed crowd asked.
"Purses," another replied, "and there's gold in those purses, I'll warrant."
"Ah," an old man spoke sadly, and drew his sleeve across his eyes.
"The price of so many lives," he sighed.
King James of Scotland however, never came to meet his uncle - no message was ever received from him. At length, by the end of September, it was obvious that the King of Scots was not coming, much to his uncle of England's annoyance. However, despite the young pup's rudeness, and the fact that there had been no coronation arranged for Katherine, Henry was pleased with the majority of the enterprise, and it was especially so at York, where he was pleased to receive the abject submissions of those who had been beguiled into rising against him by the Pilgrims.
He had shown himself in his splendour, to those subjects who inhabited the wilder regions of his realm. To them, he must have seemed a distant figure, a name only. Now they had seen him in reality, and witnessed his colourful ceremonies.
He had heard their legal complaints, and dispensed justice. The King, for his part, had seen and wondered at the stern beauty of these northern regions of England, the gaunt treeless moors and dense stretches of forest where wolves were said to still roam. Here was a harshness of life that bred hardness and endurance in its people.
It bred too, he reflected, the Pilgrimage of Grace in mind, a tenacity and stubbornness that enabled them to resist any change they considered contrary to their ideals.
By the end of September, there was the threat of worsening weather, and the return journey could be delayed no longer. They packed up the tents that were pitched in the Abbey grounds intended for the accommodation of the overflow of both the English and the Scots Courts, and then they began the long journey back to the softer south.
The shock of what awaited Henry immediately upon his return to London struck him with the velocity of a thunderclap. Disbelief was his first reaction. It could not be! They were malicious lies, those allegations concerning his sweet Katherine's wanton behaviour whilst living in the household of her step Grandmother, the dowager Duchess of Norfolk. She was accused of improper relations with a certain Henry Manox, employed by the Duchess to teach her music - surely she could not have been much more than twelve or thirteen years of age at that time. But, more seriously, there was Francis Dereham, some sort of distant cousin, come recently to Court, and seeking employment in the Queen's household. He had a loose tongue, and he claimed that they were pre-contracted, and that therefore she was his wife.
That, together with the testimonies of some of the young women who shared the same bed-chamber with Katherine at the Duchess's establishment at Lambeth, made the accusations of her promiscuous past incontrovertible, The King wept. Then came rage, explosive in its intensity, following hard upon his grief. That rage spilled over too against those who had supported his intention to marry again, especially the Howards. Had not Katherine's own uncle, the Duke himself, assured the King of his niece's "pure and honest condition?"
Serious as the matter was, if it had rested there, perhaps the marriage could have been declared invalid, and Katherine herself banished in disgrace. But more, and worse, was to come, Whilst the King had lain sick in February, Katherine and his much-favoured Gentleman of the Privy Chamber, the young and handsome Thomas Culpeper, had, it seemed, entered into a secret liaison. Perhaps it was inevitable that she, shackled to an old and ailing husband, and he, rash and beguiled by her beauty, should throw discretion to the winds, and with the wild abandon of youth take so terrible a risk. Night after night, wherever the recent progress halted on the way to York and back, they contrived to meet, Lady Rochford standing guard outside the locked door of the Queen's chamber.
The situation was dire. Both Culpeper and Dereham were arrested, and Katherine, thoroughly frightened, was divested of her title of Queen, and placed under house arrest at Hampton Court. Then, she was sent under guard to Syon House.
On the first day of December, the fate of Culpeper and Dereham was sealed. They were tried and convicted of high treason, and condemned to death, though not as originally sentenced, to that most cruel death of hanging, drawing, and quartering. Perhaps it was the King's former fondness for the wild, young Culpeper that prompted him to commute the sentence to the mercy of simple beheading. On the tenth of December sentence was carried out, the two heads thereafter being impaled on spikes on London Bridge.
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Cover photo for This Other Eden taken and supplied by Darren Wilkins.