Today I'm welcoming Judith Arnopp and her book - A Matter of Conscience: Henry VIII, The Aragon Years - to my blog as part of the blog tour hosted by The Coffee Pot Book Club (founded by Mary Anne Yarde)
A Matter of Conscience Henry VIII, The Aragon Years
‘A king must have sons: strong, healthy sons to rule after him.’
On the unexpected death of Arthur Tudor, Prince of Wales, his brother, Henry, becomes heir to the throne of England. The intensive education that follows offers Henry a model for future excellence; a model that he is doomed to fail.
On his accession, he chooses his brother’s widow, Catalina of Aragon, to be his queen. Together they plan to reinstate the glory of days of old and fill the royal nursery with boys.
But when their first-born son dies at just a few months old, and subsequent babies are born dead or perish in the womb, the king’s golden dreams are tarnished.
Christendom mocks the virile prince. Catalina’s fertile years are ending yet all he has is one useless living daughter, and a baseborn son.
He needs a solution but stubborn to the end, Catalina refuses to step aside.
As their relationship founders, his eye is caught by a woman newly arrived from the French court. Her name is Anne Boleyn.
A Matter of Conscience: the Aragon Years offers a unique first-person account of the ‘monster’ we love to hate and reveals a man on the edge; an amiable man made dangerous by his own impossible expectation
Series: Book one of The Henrician Chronicle
Author: Judith Arnopp
Publication Date: February 2021
Publisher: Feed a Read
Page Length: 335 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
You can purchase a copy of the book via -
Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B08W48QQ9C
Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Matter-Conscience-Henry-Aragon-Years-ebook/dp/B08W48QQ9C
Now for the excerpt -
Autumn 1514 – Henry and Wolsey inform Mary Tudor that she is to be wed to the king of France.
“An alliance, Your Majesty,” Wolsey murmurs. “I was thinking … your sister, the Princess Mary is ripe for matrimony and now the French king has been widowed …”
I let his words sink in. Mary is almost eighteen, the flower of our court. I would prefer to keep her with us but … when Margaret was wed to the King of Scots, the king we recently killed at Flodden, Mary was adamant that she would never marry a man in his dotage. At the time of their marriage, James was no more than thirty, yet he seemed old to us who were still in the nursery. Louis is three times Mary’s age. Such a marriage will not sit easily with my sister.
I rub my chin.
“Such an arrangement will not please her. She is likely to protest, and she never complains quietly.”
“No, Your Majesty. I thought perhaps, rather than call her before the council to break the news, you could have a quiet word.”
I give a sharp cough of scorn.
“Indeed, Thomas, and I thought I employed you to do my dirty work, not the other way around.”
He closes his eyes in acquiescence.
“Of course, if Your Majesty prefers.”
I stand up, look from the window across the parkland, the scudding colours of autumn calling me to hunt before the winter closes in too deep.
“We will do it together, Thomas. There is strength in numbers.”
He laughs softly, and gathers his papers together, tucks them beneath his arm.
“Concentrate your mind on the dowry, Your Majesty. Two hundred thousand crowns is the figure I have in mind, plus a further fifty thousand a year.”
That will not help restore our coffers, I think. A lot to spend on top of my sister’s displeasure. I will be the double loser. She will be Queen of France, sleeping with an old man, but I will still be the one to pay the higher price.
Mary screams and rages and I am thankful Wolsey chose to relate the news in my small privy chamber. With tears of anger, she clenches her fists, stamps her foot but it serves no purpose. It cannot be helped. She is a princess of England and has her duty, just as I have mine.
For a while I let her rant. I watch her as, like a spoiled child, she snatches off her hood and kicks it across the chamber. Wolsey raises his eyebrows, steps back, his mouth fallen open, and I smile at his alarm. I have witnessed Mary’s temper since infancy. She was born angry. If I think hard, I can still recall her in swaddling bands, red faced and screaming for the wet nurse. There is nothing new or remarkable in Mary’s temper.
At length, her anger spent, she collapses exhausted into a chair, and glowers at me. Anyone would think I was committing her to a life in the stews instead of the highest honour a woman can have.
“You will be a queen …” I observe, “lavished with honour and dignity. Across Christendom, your name will be spoken in hushed tones …for ever more.”
“I care nothing for that. You know me, Henry. Titles mean nothing. I want to be happy, not lauded. The betrothal to Charles of Spain was one thing, I knew it would never happen, but this … And didn’t you promise me when you first became king that I could stay in England and take a husband of my own choosing?”
I shake my head, shrug my shoulders. I have no memory of any such promise.
“As a princess of England, you must do your …”
“Don’t!” She holds up a hand, silencing me. I could have her thrown in the Tower for such a thing, but she is my sister … my favourite sister, she always has been.
“If it were in my power …”
She turns and leans over me so threateningly I almost shrink away. The angry bones of her face harden, obliterating her beauty. My soft sister is suddenly hard and bitter. She looks like Grandmother. I grasp her wrist.
“I have no choice, Mary. It may not be so bad. Louis is old, and they say his health is …precarious, perhaps in time, you will be widowed and then you can marry where you will.”
She straightens up, her scowl scored deep, but she is at least considering the matter. Our eyes are fixed, one to the other; hers are hurt, but her rage is subsiding, overridden by dismay. I wait, my heart sick, for her response.
She folds her arms, strides from one side of the room to the other, and back again. Finally, she halts before me.
“I will do this on one condition only.”
“Name it,” I say, relief rushing upon me. “You can have anything in my power to give.”
“Louis is growing old. As you say, he may not have long to live. I demand, in writing, that on his death, I am no longer yours to barter. Once widowed, my future is to be my own.”
She stands back, hands on hips, regarding me. It is a high price. Mary is a beauty, her blood a jewel to be traded. Her freedom will cost me much but … I have to agree. When I glance at Wolsey, he is noncommittal, staring disinterestedly into a dark corner.
I frown, my mouth droops.
I incline my head. “Wolsey will attend to it.”
“But you are to sign and seal it. I also expect to choose my own accompanying household.”
I incline my head again. She can have all she wants as long as the deed is done. If Louis can manage to get a child on her, a nephew on the throne of France will offer some compensation for failing to win it for myself. If he dies, I get my sister back. I win either way
A lifelong history enthusiast and avid reader, Judith holds a BA in English/Creative writing and an MA in Medieval Studies.
She lives on the coast of West Wales where she writes both fiction and non-fiction based in the Medieval and Tudor period. Her main focus is on the perspective of historical women but more recently is writing from the perspective of Henry VIII himself.
Her novels include:
A Matter of Conscience: Henry VIII, the Aragon Years
The Heretic Wind: the life of Mary Tudor, Queen of England
Sisters of Arden: on the Pilgrimage of Grace
The Beaufort Bride: Book one of The Beaufort Chronicle
The Beaufort Woman: Book two of The Beaufort Chronicle
The King’s Mother: Book three of The Beaufort Chronicle
The Winchester Goose: at the Court of Henry VIII
A Song of Sixpence: the story of Elizabeth of York
Intractable Heart: the story of Katheryn Parr
The Kiss of the Concubine: a story of Anne Boleyn
The Song of Heledd
The Forest Dwellers
Judith is also a founder member of a re-enactment group called The Fyne Companye of Cambria and makes historical garments both for the group and others. She is not professionally trained but through trial, error and determination has learned how to make authentic looking, if not strictly HA, clothing. You can find her group Tudor Handmaid on Facebook.
You can connect with Judith Arnopp via the following platforms -
Website • Blog • Twitter • Instagram • Amazon
You can learn more about the author and her book by visiting the other blogs on this tour.
That's it for now.
Till the next time.
Take care Zoe