I’m delighted to welcome Elizabeth St John to the blog to tell me a bit more about the research she undertook when writing The Godmother’s Secret.
If you knew the fate of the Princes in the Tower, would you tell? Or forever keep the secret?
In a complete moment of serendipity, I discovered that a 15th century ancestress, Elysabeth St.John, was the godmother to Edward V, the eldest brother of the missing Princes in the Tower. When I was looking for inspiration for my new book, The Godmother’s Secret, I literally entered my own name into our digitised family tree to see who else was recorded. I had just completed my 17th Century historical fiction trilogy “The Lydiard Chronicles” and was looking for a whole new generation to fall in love with. As a little background, my books are inspired by my own family stories that I have discovered through our ancestral records, diaries, letters, and the locations they lived in. I’m fortunate the St.John family was prominent in English history, and so we left quite a trail—which can be both good and bad!
So, back to Elysabeth St.John, Lady Scrope. In medieval times, a godmother was considered a blood relative, and was responsible for the spiritual wellbeing and security of their godchild. A serious commitment. Where the history gets interesting is Elysabeth St.John was also the half-sister to Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry VII. Elysabeth’s husband, Lord John Scrope, was a close ally and relative of Richard III. Margaret was married to Thomas Stanley, a powerful northern lord an ally of Edward IV and Richard III. So not only was Elysabeth (a Lancastrian) godmother to the York heir, and married to a fervent York supporter, she was also aunt to the Tudor claimant. For anyone familiar with the Wars of the Roses, and the ultimate battle at Bosworth Field, you’ll know how that worked out. Talk about family feuds!
My plot revolves around Elysabeth’s vow as godmother and her desperate efforts to protect her 12-year-old godson, Edward V, from the intrigue and betrayal that surrounds him after she delivers him to the Tower of London for his coronation. He was automatically king upon the death of his Edward IV (“the king never dies”). However, he had yet to be anointed when the Duke of Buckingham moved Edward into the Tower for his own safekeeping and to prepare for his coronation. In my novel, Elysabeth is navigating her own conflict, upholding her loyalty to both her husband and her sister as competing factions battle for the throne. More than anything, Elysabeth defies the bounds of blood and loyalty to make her own decisions for her godson’s survival in a hostile medieval world where women had little authority.
And remember, the princes went missing. Their bodies were never discovered, and no one was ever found guilty of murdering them. Even the bones that are claimed to be theirs in Westminster Abbey are not authenticated. Their disappearance is the biggest mystery in English history. As a historical fiction novelist, I could weave in genuine family facts and create my version of their story. About halfway through the first draft I came across a piece of research (basically a dynastic marriage) that made my story plausible, which was really exciting. As far as if my version is true? It’s historical fiction. As writers, we create narratives from the known facts, sift through rumours and gossip until we find the source – or can dismiss them.
Of course, wading into the biggest controversy in English history is bound to raise some eyebrows. Did Richard III kill his nephews? Was Margaret Beaufort to blame? Why did the Duke of Buckingham suddenly rebel after the princes disappeared? Or was the whole murder accusation Tudor propaganda? I hope readers enjoy the way I’ve presented the story of the Princes in the Tower.
Wow, what a fabulous story, and connection. Thank you so much for sharing. Good luck with the new book.
Here’s the blurb:
What if you knew what happened to the Princes in the Tower. Would you tell? Or would you forever keep the secret?
November, 1470: Westminster Abbey. Lady Elysabeth Scrope faces a perilous royal duty when ordered into sanctuary with Elizabeth Woodville–witness the birth of Edward IV’s Yorkist son. Margaret Beaufort, Elysabeth’s sister, is desperately seeking a pardon for her exiled son Henry Tudor. Strategically, she coerces Lancastrian Elysabeth to be appointed godmother to Prince Edward, embedding her in the heart of the Plantagenets and uniting them in a destiny of impossible choices and heartbreaking conflict.
Bound by blood and torn by honour, when the king dies and Elysabeth delivers her young godson into the Tower of London to prepare for his coronation, she is engulfed in political turmoil. Within months, the prince and his brother have disappeared, Richard III is declared king, and Margaret conspires with Henry Tudor to invade England and claim the throne. Desperate to protect her godson, Elysabeth battles the intrigue, betrayal and power of the last medieval court, defying her husband and her sister under her godmother’s sacred oath to keep Prince Edward safe.
Were the princes murdered by their uncle, Richard III? Was the rebel Duke of Buckingham to blame? Or did Margaret Beaufort mastermind their disappearance to usher in the Tudor dynasty? Of anyone at the royal court, Elysabeth has the most to lose–and the most to gain–by keeping secret the fate of the Princes in the Tower.
Inspired by England’s most enduring historical mystery, Elizabeth St.John, best-selling author of The Lydiard Chronicles, blends her own family history with known facts and centuries of speculation to create an intriguing alternative story illuminating the disappearance of the Princes in the Tower.
This title is on #KindleUnlimited.
Universal Link: https://geni.us/GodmothersSecret
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Meet Elizabeth St. John
Elizabeth St.John spends her time between California, England, and the past. An acclaimed author, historian, and genealogist, she has tracked down family papers and residences from Lydiard Park and Nottingham Castle to Richmond Palace and the Tower of London to inspire her novels. Although the family sold a few country homes along the way (it’s hard to keep a good castle going these days), Elizabeth’s family still occupy them— in the form of portraits, memoirs, and gardens that carry their legacy. And the occasional ghost. But that’s a different story.
Having spent a significant part of her life with her seventeenth-century family while writing The Lydiard Chronicles trilogy and Counterpoint series, Elizabeth St.John is now discovering new family stories with her fifteenth-century namesake Elysabeth St.John Scrope, and her half-sister, Margaret Beaufort.
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2 thoughts on “I’m delighted to welcome Elizabeth St. John and her new book, The Godmother’s Secret to the blog #HistoricalFiction #BlogTour #TheCoffeePotBookClub”
Thanks so much for inviting me to share some of the history and research behind The Godmother’s Secret!
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Thank you for hosting Elizabeth St.John today. Such a fascinating post. x