1st April is release date for a new edition of The Traitor's Wife by Susan Higginbotham, and to help celebrate we have a guest post from Susan, and also will be hosting a giveaway! Details of the giveaway will be posted on Monday of next week. Thanks Susan, for guest posting for us.
Over here in the United States, another season of “The Tudors” will soon be starting. If the past two seasons are any indication, we’ll see lots of sex, a few beheadings, treachery, and betrayal. Its myriad inaccuracies aside, “The Tudors” is a vastly entertaining show, and I’ll be planted in my wing chair faithfully each week, Boswell the cairn terrier sitting on my lap, watching it.
But in a few weeks, “The Tudors” will have run its course for the year, and you’ll need another source to get your share of human beings at their worst and even at their best. You could always pick up a novel about the Tudors—I suppose you might be able to find one or two if you look hard enough—but might I suggest the Plantagenets? Even more specifically, might I suggest the reign of Edward II? Though he had five fewer wives than Henry—one did quite enough damage—his reign was eventful enough to suit any Tudor fan.
Edward II was very much unlike his mighty, warlike father, Edward I. He wasn’t a coward, a weakling, or a fop—to the contrary, he fought sturdily at Bannockburn and in his father’s wars, and he was an outdoorsman who enjoyed vigorous physical activity such as rowing, swimming, and digging ditches. But he lacked his father’s gift for commanding the respect of his nobles, and one of his most attractive qualities—his unswerving loyalty to those he loved—proved to be his undoing.
There were two great favorites in Edward II’s life: Piers Gaveston and Hugh le Despenser the younger. The men are usually portrayed as being Edward II’s lovers, but at this juncture, we can’t know this for sure. What we do know for certain is that Edward cared for them deeply and showered them with favors, to the immense annoyance of the rest of the nobility—and of Edward’s queen, Isabella.
Thanks to Christopher Marlowe’s famous play Edward the Second, Gaveston has become by far the better known of Edward II’s favorites. Yet it was the lesser known Hugh who in many ways is the more colorful of the two men. It was Hugh—who had a brief and quite successful career as a pirate—whose greed for land and power, fueled by an accommodating king, would bring the reign to its final, tragic crisis.
Hugh also had a wife, Edward II’s favorite niece, Eleanor de Clare. She doesn’t even appear in Marlowe’s play, yet her life was a dramatic one. A lady-in-waiting to Queen Isabella, she was also a sister-in-law of Piers Gaveston. She was twice imprisoned in the Tower of London. She was accused of stealing from the crown. One of the richest women in England, for a time she was penniless, stripped of all of her great estates. In the last few years of her life, two men waged a legal battle in the papal courts as to which one was her husband. She was also an eyewitness to her uncle’s tragic reign and to its aftermath—and it is mostly through her eyes that I chose to tell its story in The Traitor’s Wife. I believe you’ll find it an interesting one.
And you’ll never have to worry about Jonathan Rhys-Meyers showing up in a fat suit.
The Traitor's Wife is being released by Sourcebooks on 1 April. For more details, including details of the follow up to this book, Hugh and Bess, which is being released in August, visit Susan's website.