14.7.11

A New Direction

I’m a compulsive buyer of books, both new and second hand and one day while browsing along my shelves I spotted one I’d bought years ago in Hay-on-Wye. It was called Queen of Hearts, written back in the 60s by Charlotte Haldane. It proved to be an autobiography of Marguerite de Valois and as I began to read I was immediately intrigued. Margot, as she was familiarly known, was no average woman, rather one born before her time, and I wanted to know more about her. So I began on a journey of twelve months research and discovery which led me to write a stirring tale of her adventures, her intrigues and passions, and the dangers she faced in the sixteenth century French Court.

The trilogy begins with Hostage Queen where Margot’s mother, who was Catherine de Medici, marries her off to Henry of Navarre, despite Margot being a Catholic and Henry a Huguenot, in order to bring to an end to years of religious wars. Margot wasn’t exactly thrilled by the prospect as she was in love with Henri de Guise. But as with all royal princesses, she was expected to bring political benefit through marriage. Within days of their wedding Paris was embroiled in the Massacre of St Bartholomew and the couple are kept virtual prisoners in the Louvre. Navarre was a likeable enough fellow but not the faithful sort. Once Margot realised this, she started a love affair with Guise, a dangerous undertaking, and intrigue and scandal surrounded her at every turn. Margot lived in fear of her life while recklessly flouting convention as far as she dare. Somehow she had to save her husband's life, help him to escape, and then follow him to safety. A task fraught with danger…                                   Buy Hostage Queen on Amazon:



The second book, Reluctant Queen, continues the story of Henry IV and Margot, of what happened when she was reunited with her husband in Nerac, and with her relationship with Guise. It then moves on to Henry’s mistress, Gabrielle d’Estrées. History tells us that when Gabrielle was sixteen years old she was so lovely that her mother sold her as a mistress to Henri III. A most unnatural mother if ever there was one. Gabrielle, however, got the worst of the deal as she was passed on from lover to lover, including the Cardinal de Guise, who she was with for more than a year until May 1588 when he left for Paris to support his nephew, the Duke de Guise, in what became known as the Day of the Barricades. And then she caught the eye of the new King Henry IV. Margot absolutely refuses to divorce him in order to allow him to marry his whore, but there are more ways than one of getting rid of a troublesome wife…

Out in papberback at the end of July 2011

Buy Reluctant Queen on Amazon

I’ve just finished the last in the trilogy, titled The Queen and the Courtesan, which will be out in the Autumn. In this Henry is embroiled with Henriette d’Entragues, but she isn’t satisfied with simply being his mistress, she wants a crown too. Despite his promises to marry her, he is obliged by political necessity to marry Marie de Medici, an Italian princess who will bring riches to the treasury. But Henriette isn’t for giving up easily. She has a written promise of marriage and is prepared to do whatever it takes to declare the royal marriage illegal. Queen Margot eventually returns to Paris, much to the new queen’s despair. Hasn’t she enough problems dealing with a mistress out for revenge, let alone an ex-wife?

The fascinating part of writing this type of true historical is the research. I love working out what kind of people they were, why they made the mistakes they did, what was their motivation, what made them tick and how did others respond to them? The same rules of characterisation apply, except that you can’t make it up. You have to be a bit of a detective and build them from clues. Then it’s a case of reading through a mass of material, and as it’s impossible to put everything in, deciding which are the relevant parts for your story. I discovered it was vital to read widely, so that I could negotiate my way through political and religious bias, what was likely to be rumour or propaganda, and often pick up gems from one source that weren’t available in others. It’s like putting together a jig-saw, but gathering the pieces from different boxes. I was sorry when the tale was told and I had to say goodbye to my characters whom I’d come to know and understand so well.

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