March 22, 2010

Alisa Libby: Researching Those Crazy Tudors

Today I am kicking off Alisa Libby's Traveling to Teens tour with a guest post on her research for her newest novel, THE KING'S ROSE. Be sure to stop by later today for my review. I was going to add pictures to this post from my own trip to Hampton Court, but my laptop crashed last night. You'll have to imagine it for yourself, but believe me, it is well worth seeing if you're ever in the London area.


Book Cover

(Clicking on the book cover to go to Amazon is a good idea - THE KING'S ROSE is currently bargain priced.)


There are many different ways to research a historical novel. I spent many hours reading about the Tudor court for my novel The King's Rose, but I'll tell you about something more fun: ghost hunting. My husband(/research partner) and I took a trip to England. We visited Windsor Castle, Hampton Court, Westminster Abbey and the Tower of London, among other places. A highlight of the trip was the night-time “ghost tour” of Hampton Court Palace. We were there to see a specific ghost: Catherine Howard, who supposedly haunts a particular gallery in the Palace.

Catherine Howard was a teenager when she was married to King Henry VIII of England. He was an incredibly powerful king and Catherine was his fifth wife—he had divorced two and beheaded one before her (the other had died shortly after giving birth to his long-awaited heir). Catherine was a youthful, pretty, fun-loving creature, which is perhaps why Henry found her so appealing. Unfortunately, she may have been a bit too fun-loving. After just over a year of marriage, the King was informed that Catherine was having an affair with one of his servants. Upon this revelation, Queen Catherine was imprisoned in her chambers at Hampton Court.

According to legend, Catherine broke free of the guards and ran from her chambers at Hampton, screaming “Henry! Henry! Henry!” It wasn't proper to use the first name of the king in public (even for a queen). She was desperate to see the king; perhaps she hoped that seeing his young, blushing bride would soften his actions against her. Supposedly his advisers thought the same, which is why Catherine never reached her goal. She was caught and dragged back to her apartments, screaming like a crazy person. She never saw Henry again. A few months later she was executed at the Tower of London. The legend follows that her ghost still haunts that gallery at Hampton, screaming Henry's name.

Hampton Court is a gorgeous palace. If you like macabre, gothic stuff like I do, it's even more stunning at night. The entire outside of the palace was lit in spooky, shadowy blue and purple. However, I have to admit that I didn't see Catherine's shrieking ghost in the spooky, “haunted” gallery. Perhaps this is for the best. Ghosts aside, it was amazing to visit the place where she experienced both her greatest triumphs (her first official presentation to the Court as queen was at Hampton) and her terrifying fall from grace.

One of the final stops on our trip was the Tower of London. Because I am a morbid individual, I made sure to schedule this visit on February 13th, the anniversary of Catherine's execution. We visited the site where she was executed (by beheading) and her burial place in the Chapel of Saint Peter ad Vincula. Catherine doesn't get many visitors. All the visitors and the roses go to Henry's infamous second wife, and Catherine's cousin, Anne Boleyn. Catherine is the far less famous beheaded bride—but I found her fascinating. I left a stone on her grave, a sign that I had paid her a visit. I like to think that she understood.

In case you are interested in reading more about those crazy Tudors, here are some titles you may enjoy. For more about The King's Rose and my first book, The Blood Confession, visit my website: You can also visit my blog:

A TUDOR TRAGEDY, the Life and Times of Catherine Howard by Lacey Baldwin Smith


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