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Friday, July 29, 2011
Introducing Debut Tudor-era Historical Fiction Author, Michelle Diener (Giveaway!)
Thank you to Eliza for inviting me to blog! I thought I'd talk about the heroine of my Tudor-set historical as I count down to the release of my debut novel, IN A TREACHEROUS COURT, which is set in the court of Henry VIII.
The main characters in IN A TREACHEROUS COURT are based on real people. My heroine, Susanna Horenbout, was trained in her father's studio in Ghent (in modern day Belgium), and art historians are sure she was sent over to Henry's court ahead of her father and brother. The hero is John Parker, one of Henry VIII's 'new men', courtiers who were not noblemen, but in the meritocracy Henry began to establish, loyalty, and usefulness, could definitely overcome a lack of blue blood. They are both outsiders, but talented enough, and intelligent enough, to find a place for themselves in the world they find themselves in.
And what a world it is! Aside from the fact that historians know Susanna was sent to London before the rest of her family, and that she worked for her father in his studio, and that her work was highly praised by one of the most eminent artists of the day, Albrech Dürer, there is no record of what she did for Henry VIII as an artist that remains. This gives me a lot of leeway in my work, which is a great plus, but it saddens me that there are no records or works that remain that can be attributed to her. There is a brass plaque in All Saints Church in Fulham, London, which commemorates her mother, and art historians think it is likely the piece is by her, but that is the only thing we have of hers left. We know she was given a gold cup at Christmas by Henry on two occasions, something he gave to those who had rendered him great service during that year, but we don't know what that service was. I have made up something full of intrigue and danger, of course :) .
However, if she did work for Henry as a painter, which seems the obvious conclusion to draw, then she would have been one of only three women who did work personally for Henry at the time - the other two were Anne Harris, who did his laundry, and Mrs Cornwallis, who made the King's puddings. There were four other women employees, but they worked in the laundry as well, and washed the Queen's clothes. Everything else was done by men. It puts into perspective the kind of attitudes and prejudices Susanna would have encountered. And on top of that, she was a foreigner.
All of this, of course, leads me to another mystery, and that is how Susanna and Parker came to meet and marry. The way art historians were able to work out that Susanna preceded her family was a record of her marriage to Parker, which pre-dated the time when her brother entered Henry's employ. How did she come to marry a courtier who, as the Keeper of the Palace of Westminster, held the King's personal purse? Parker was also Yeoman of the Crossbows, and was later promoted to Yeoman of the King's Robes. Henry would usually marry off the daughters of his courtiers to other courtiers, manipulating and balancing the power of his court through these connections. So for Parker to marry an artist from Ghent, with no connection to court? Very intriguing!
As you can tell, I had a great deal of fun writing the books, and loved how much real history I could use to do so. To celebrate the upcoming release, I'll be giving away a copy of IN A TREACHEROUS COURT to one lucky commenter, and I'd love to know, what is your favorite historical period?
Michelle Diener is the author Tudor-set historical fiction. Her debut, IN A TREACHEROUS COURT releases August 2011 and the second book in the series will release in early 2012. Ms. Diener was born in London, raised in South Africa and now resides in Australia. Visit her website for more information on her books (pre-order available!) her writing and her! http://www.michellediener.com/