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history behind the book

"His Mistletoe Lady"

in A Tudor Christmas Anthology

(released on October 1, 2020)


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I hope you enjoyed spending time with Catherine and Diego this Christmas as much as I have!  I love the holiday season, and the Tudors certainly knew how to celebrate with their music, dancing, feasting, and wassailing.  I've also written several tales set in the Elizabethan era, but not much about the reigns of her siblings, so I loved delving deeper into this period.

I imagine that Christmas 1554 was one of Queen Mary Tudor's most happy, and last happy, moments.  She'd come through decades of neglect and persecution to fight for her throne, combat the Wyatt Rebellion, led by noblemen centered in Kent which protested against the Spanish marriage and sought to dethrone Mary and replace her with Elizabeth (which Catherine's father finds himself embroiled in), and marry her kinsman King Philip of Spain.  (Sources say she fell deeply in love; his feelings were more doubtful, or should we say dutiful).  Now England was reconciled with the Catholic Church, and she was expecting an heir.

Things were not so merry for very long.  By summer 1555, the pregnancy was known to be a phantom one—there was no baby at all.  King Philip left to wage war in the Low Countries, and Queen Mary plunged into depression.  She died in 1558, leaving the throne to her despised half-sister Elizabeth.

But I imagine Catherine and Diego's story ends on a happier note.  They are loosely based on the true story of Jane Dormer and the Duke de Feria, who also appear in our tale.  Jane and her duke married soon after Queen Mary's death, and she spent the rest of her very long life (she died in 1612; the duke passed away in 1571) in Spain, a patron of English Catholic refugees.  I envision Catherine and Diego, along with her parents, living in Andalusia, raising beautiful children!

Catherine's mother, Elena, is also based on a real figure, Maria de Salinas, Lady Willoughby, one of Catherine of Aragon's ladies who came with her from Spain and married an English nobleman herself.  She was one of the queen's most loyal friends, defying orders to stay away when Queen Catherine was dying alone at Kimbolton and rushing to her friend's side at the end.  Her daughter became the second wife of the Duke of Suffolk, after King Henry's own sister Mary.

A few sources I enjoyed:

--Hugh Douglas, ed: A Right Royal Christmas (2001)

--Maria Hubert, ed: Christmas in Shakespeare's England (1998)

--Evelyn Reed: Catherine, Duchess of Suffolk (1962)

--Simon Thurley: Whitehall Palace: The Official Illustrated Guide

--Allison Sim: Food and Feast in Tudor England

--Henry Clifford: The Life of Jane Dormer, Duchess of Feria

--Carrolly Erickson: Bloody Mary (1978)

--John Edwards: Mary I: England's Catholic Queen (2011)

--Harry Kelsey: Philip of Spain: King of England (2012)

--Anna Whitelock: Mary Tudor: Princess, Bastard, Queen (2009) and The Marriage of Philip of Habsburg and Mary Tudor, and Anti-Spanish Sentiment in England (2009)

--Albert J. Loemie: The Spanish Elizabethans (1963)

--Barbara J. Harris: English Aristocratic Women: 1450-1550 (2002)





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