Queen's Gambit: A Novel

Queen's Gambit: A Novel

by Elizabeth Fremantle

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Overview

This brilliant historical fiction debut takes you into the heart of the Tudor court and the life and loves of the clever, charismatic Katherine Parr, Henry VIII’s sixth and last wife.

Widowed for the second time at age thirty-one Katherine Parr falls deeply for the dashing courtier Thomas Seymour and hopes at last to marry for love. However, obliged to return to court, she attracts the attentions of the ailing, egotistical, and dangerously powerful Henry VIII, who dispatches his love rival, Seymour, to the Continent. No one is in a position to refuse a royal proposal so, haunted by the fates of his previous wives—two executions, two annulments, one death in childbirth—Katherine must wed Henry and become his sixth queen.

Katherine has to employ all her instincts to navigate the treachery of the court, drawing a tight circle of women around her, including her stepdaughter, Meg, traumatized by events from their past that are shrouded in secrecy, and their loyal servant Dot, who knows and sees more than she understands. With the Catholic faction on the rise once more, reformers being burned for heresy, and those close to the king vying for position, Katherine’s survival seems unlikely. Yet as she treads the razor’s edge of court intrigue, she never quite gives up on love.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781476703060
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: 08/06/2013
Pages: 424
Product dimensions: 6.50(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Elizabeth Fremantle is the author of Sisters of Treason, Queen’s Gambit, and Watch the Lady, and has contributed to Vogue, The Wall Street Journal, Vanity Fair, The Sunday Times (London), and other publications. She has also reviewed fiction for The Sunday Express. She lives in London, England.

Read an Excerpt

Queen’s Gambit


  • The notary smells of dust and ink. How is it, Latymer wonders, that when one sense blunts another sharpens. He can pick up the scent of everything, the reek of ale on the man’s breath, the yeasty whiff of bread baking in the kitchens below, the wet-dog stink of the spaniel curled up by the hearth. But he can see little, the room swims and the man is a vague dark shape leaning over the bed with a grimace of a smile.

    “Make your mark here, my lord,” he says, enunciating as if talking to a child or an idiot.

    A waft of violets sweeps over him. It is Katherine—his dear, dear Kit.

    “Let me help you up, John,” she is saying, as she shifts his body forward and slips a pillow behind him.

    She lifts him so easily. He must have wasted quite away these last months. It is no wonder with the lump in his gut, hard and round as a Spanish grapefruit. The movement starts something off, an excruciating wave that rises through his body forcing an inhuman groan from him.

    “My love.” Katherine strokes his forehead.

    Her touch is cool. The pain twists deeper into him. He can hear the clink of her preparing a tincture. The spoon flashes as it catches the light. The chill of metal touches his lips, and a trickle of liquid pools in his mouth. Its loamy scent brings back a distant memory of riding through woods and with it a sadness, for his riding days are over. His gullet feels too thick to swallow and he fears setting off the pain again. It has receded but hovers, as does the notary who shifts from one foot to the other in an embarrassed shuffle. Latymer wonders why the man is not more used to this kind of thing, given that wills are his living. Katherine strokes his throat and the tincture slides down. Soon it will take effect. His wife has a gift with remedies. He has thought about what kind of potion she could concoct to set him free from this useless carcass of his. She’d know exactly what would do it. After all, any one of the plants she uses to deaden his pain could kill a man if the dose were right—a little more of this or that and it would be done.

    But how can he ask that of her?

    A quill is placed between his fingers and his hand is guided to the papers so he can make his mark. His scrawl will make Katherine a woman of considerable means. He hopes it will not bring the curse of fortune hunters to her door. She is still young enough, just past thirty, and her charisma that made him—already an elderly widower—fall so deeply still hangs over her like a halo. She never had the ordinary beauty of other men’s wives. No, her attraction is complicated and has blossomed with age. But Katherine is too sharp to be taken in by some silver-tongued charmer with his eye on a widow’s fortune. He owes her too much. When he thinks of how she has suffered in his name, it makes him want to weep, but his body is incapable of even that.

    He has not left her Snape Castle, his Yorkshire seat; she wouldn’t want it. She would be happy, she has said many times, if she were never to set foot in Snape again. Snape will go to Young John. Latymer’s son did not turn out quite the man he’d hoped and he has often wondered what kind of child he might have had with Katherine. But that thought is always shadowed with the memory of the dead baby, the damned infant that was made when the Catholic rebels ransacked Snape. He cannot bear to imagine how that baby came about, fathered by, of all people, Murgatroyd, whom he used to take out hunting hares as a boy. He was a sweet lad, showed no sign of the brute he would become. Latymer curses the day he left his young wife alone with his children to go to court and seek pardon from the King, curses the weakness that got him involved with the rebels in the first place. Six years have passed since, but the events of that time are carved into his family like words on a gravestone.

    Katherine is straightening the bedcovers, humming a tune; it’s one he doesn’t recognize, or can’t remember. A surge of love rises in him. His marriage to her was a love match—for him, anyway. But he hadn’t done what husbands are supposed to do; he hadn’t protected her. Katherine had never spoken of it. He’d wanted her to scream and rage at him—to hate him, blame him. But she remained poised and contained, as if nothing had changed. And her belly grew large, taunting him. Only when that baby came, and died within the hour, did he see the smudge of tears on her face. Yet still, nothing was ever said.

    This tumor, eating away at him slowly, is his punishment, and all he can do to atone is make her rich. How can he ask one more thing of her? If she could inhabit his wracked body even for an instant she would do his bidding without question. It would be an act of mercy, and there is no sin in that, surely.

    She is by the door, seeing the notary out, then she floats back to sit beside him, pulling her hood off and discarding it at the foot of the bed, rubbing her temples with the tips of her fingers and shaking out her Titian hair. Its dried-flower scent drifts over and he longs to bury his face in it as he used to do. Taking a book, she begins to read quietly, the Latin tripping easily off her tongue. It is Erasmus. His own Latin is too rusty to get the sense of it; he should remember this book but he doesn’t. She was always better learned than him, though pretended otherwise, never one to blow her own bugle.

    A timid knock interrupts them. It is Meg holding the hand of that gawky maid, whose name escapes him. Poor little Meg who, since Murgatroyd and his men came, has been jumpy as a colt, which made him wonder what might have been done to her too. The little spaniel comes to life with a frenzied wagging and wriggling about the girls’ feet.

    “Father,” Meg whispers, placing a spring-meadow kiss on his forehead. “How do you?”

    He lifts his hand, a great dead lump of driftwood, placing it over her soft young one, and attempts a smile.

    She turns to Katherine, saying, “Mother, Huicke is here.”

    “Dot,” Katherine says to the maid, “will you see the doctor in.”

    “Yes, my lady.” She turns with a swish of skirts, making for the door.

    “And Dot . . .” adds Katherine.

    The maid stops in the doorway.

    “ . . . ask one of the lads to bring more wood for the fire. We are down to the last log.”

    The girl bobs, nodding.

    “It is Meg’s birthday today, John,” says Katherine. “She is seventeen.”

    He feels clogged up, wants to see her properly, read the expression in her nut-brown eyes, but the detail of her is blurred. “My little Margaret Neville, a woman . . . seventeen.” His voice is a croak. “Someone will want to marry you. A fine young man.” It strikes him like a slap in the face—he will never know his daughter’s husband.

    Meg’s hand wipes at her eye.

    Huicke slips into the chamber. He has come each day this week. Latymer wonders why it is that the King sends one of his own physicians to care for an almost disgraced northern lord such as he. Katherine thinks it is a sign that he is truly pardoned. But it doesn’t make sense and he knows the King enough to suspect that there is an ulterior purpose to this gesture; although what it is, he’s not sure.

    The doctor is a thin black shadow approaching the bed. Meg takes her leave with another kiss. Huicke draws back the covers, allowing a rancid stench to escape, and begins to palpate the lump with butterfly fingers. Latymer hates those kid-clad hands. He has never known Huicke to remove his gloves, which are fine and buff like human skin. He wears a ring set with a garnet the size of an eye over them. Latymer loathes the man disproportionately for those gloves, the deceit of them pretending to be hands, and the way they make him feel unclean.

    Sharp bursts of pain peck at him, making his breath fast and shallow. Huicke sniffs at a phial of something—his own piss, he supposes—and holds it up to the light while talking quietly with Katherine. She glows in the proximity of this young doctor. He is too fey and girlish to be a threat at least, but Latymer hates him anew for his youth and his promise, not just for his gloved hands. He must be quite brilliant to be in the King’s service and still so young. Huicke’s future is laid out before him like a feast, while his own is all used up. Latymer drifts off, the hushed voices washing over him.

    “I have given him something new for the pain,” she is saying. “White-willow bark and motherwort.”

    “You have a physician’s touch,” Huicke replies. “I would not have thought to put those together.”

    “I am interested in herbals. I have a little physic garden of my own . . .” She pauses. “I like to see things grow. And I have Bankes’s book.”

    “Bankes’s Herbal, that is the best of them. Well, I think so, but it is rather scorned by the academics.”

    “I suppose they think it a woman’s book.”

    “They do,” he says. “And that is precisely what recommends it to me. In my opinion women know more about healing than all the scholars in Oxford and Cambridge together, though I generally keep that to myself.”

    Latymer feels a bolt of pain shooting through him, sharper this time, folding him in half. He hears a scream, barely recognizing it as his own. He is dying of guilt. The spasm wanes eventually to a dull ache. Huicke has gone and he supposes he must have been asleep. He is struck then with a sudden overwhelming sense of urgency. He must ask her before speech deserts him, but how to phrase it?

    He grabs Katherine’s wrist, surprised by his own strength, rasping, “Give me more tincture.”

    “I cannot, John,” she replies. “I have already given you the limit. More would . . .” Her words hang.

    He grasps her more tightly, growling, “It is what I want, Kit.”

    She looks at him, straight on, saying nothing.

    He thinks he can see her thoughts like the workings of a clock, wondering, he imagines, where in the Bible to find justification for this; how to reconcile her soul with such an act; that it could send her to the gallows; that if he were a pheasant got at by the dog, she would think nothing of a merciful twist of his neck.

    “What you ask of me will damn us both,” she whispers.

    “I know,” he replies.

  • What People are Saying About This

    author of The Crown - Nancy Bilyeau

    "Queen's Gambit is a lovely, sensual, subtle read, telling the story of Katherine Parr with both rich imagination and scrupulous attention to factual detail. After reading this historical novel, you truly comprehend what it would mean to be the sixth wife of a dangerous man wielding absolute power. Katherine is no selfless nurse here, nor religious fanatic, but a complex and compelling person who both men and women were drawn to. This is a very impressive novel.

    author of A Rose for the Crown and Royal Mistress - Anne Easter Smith

    "Elizabeth Fremantle's rich narrative breathes vibrant life into Henry VIII's most intriguing, intelligent and least known wife, Katherine Parr.

    author of Claude and Camille: A Novel of Monet - Stephanie Cowell

    "Queen's Gambit is an earthy, vivid portrait of Tudor England seen through the eyes of Henry VIII's last wife Katherine Parr and her loyal maid servant. Elizabeth Fremantle has added a richly written and engrossing novel to the endlessly fascinating story of the Tudors.

    Reading Group Guide

    This reading group guide for Queen’s Gambit includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Elizabeth Fremantle. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


    Introduction

    This brilliant work of historical fiction brings to life the remarkable story of Katherine Parr, Henry VIII’s sixth and final wife. Widowed for the second time at age thirty-one, Katherine Parr reluctantly returns to the court of Henry VIII, where she finds herself falling deeply in love with the dashing courtier Thomas Seymour. She believes she might finally be able to marry for love, but, captivated by Katherine’s honesty and intelligence, Henry Tudor has other plans. When Henry Tudor proposes marriage, Katherine has no choice but to become his wife. Katherine must draw upon her instincts to navigate the treachery of the Tudor court. Yet, even as she treads the razor’s edge of court intrigue, she never quite gives up on love.

    Topics & Questions for Discussion

    1. Elizabeth Wilhide has praised Queen’s Gambit, saying, “Fremantle…sheds an intriguing new light on Katherine Parr, one of history’s great survivors.” Aside from surviving her marriage to Henry VIII, in what ways is Katherine Parr a survivor? What do you think her greatest act of survival is? Why?

    2. Neither Katherine nor Meg will talk about what happened at Snape. How have the events affected each of the women? Do you agree with Dot’s decision to keep Meg’s secret? Why does Dot finally tell Katherine the truth about what Meg endured at Snape?

    3. Clothing is important throughout Queen’s Gambit. The first time we encounter Henry, he is “absurd in his minstrel garb.” (p. 25) How does this color your impression of him? Why does Henry wear this costume? Katherine, too, places a lot of importance on her jewels. She “insists on wearing her finest things, the most bejeweled of her dresses, her heaviest hoods, in spite of the cloying heat,” and, although she tells Dot that she would give up all of her jewels, “still she insists on wearing them.” (p. 218) Why do you think Katherine adamant about wearing her heavy clothing and jewels? Do you believe her when she says that jewels mean nothing to her?

    4. The first time we encounter Henry, he invites Katherine to play against him in a game of chess. When she makes her first play, she employs the queen’s gambit. Henry accepts the play and tells her “You mean to route me at the centre of the board.” (p. 28) How does this game foreshadow Katherine’s relationship with Henry? Why do you think that Fremantle has chosen Queen’s Gambit as the book’s title?

    5. When Katherine becomes regent, she thinks “My enemy’s enemy is my friend.” (p. 145) In what ways do you see this sentiment playing out in the Tudor court? Are there any allegiances that were surprising to you? Which ones?

    6. Although Huicke is originally sent to care for the dying Lord Latymer in order to gather information about Katherine for Henry, the two forge an close friendship. Why do you think that Huicke reveals the true purpose of his visits to Katherine? When back at court, Huicke will not tell his peers “of his genuine fondness for her. The air is too thin for friendship at court, so this is precious to him.” (p. 149) How does their friendship evolve as Katherine’s favor with the King ebbs and flows? Why is the friendship so valuable to both Katherine and Huicke?

    7. The power of the written word is a major conceit throughout the novel. While the papers, containing the last testimony of Anne Askew, that are found on Dorothy’s person lead to her imprisonment, it is her ability to read them that saves her. In what other instances does the written word prove dangerous? How does the book that Elwyn gives Dorothy while she is imprisoned cause her to rethink Anne Askew’s actions?

    8. Elizabeth Tudor tells Jane Grey, “Think of the power. I would like the feeling of that, to have all the women in the world do your bidding. I would make a good man I think.” (p. 323) What do you think she means when she says, “I would make a good man”? What sort of power do the men in the Tudor court wield over the women? Do they abuse their power?

    9. When Dot visits her mother after being married, she “felt distant from her, as if she was a foreigner and a great ocean separated them.” (p. 295) In what ways has Dot changed? Why is Dot’s mother unwilling to meet William? Do you agree with her decision?

    10. Both Katherine and Dot “had married for love. A daft thing to do really”. (p. 319) Why is marrying for love seen as folly in the Tudor Court? Compare and contrast Katherine’s and Dot’s marriages. Do your opinions of Thomas Seymour and William Savage change throughout the course of the book? In what ways?

    11. When Katherine ultimately marries Thomas Seymour, she does so without the blessing of the king although she could be charged with treason for doing so. Why do you think that she agrees to go along with the clandestine wedding? Why do you think that Seymour delays asking the king for permission?

    12. Although Katherine is committed to religious reform, when Henry dies, she stops the archbishop from praying over him in English, asking that instead that they pray “In Latin. He would have liked that.” (p. 285) Why do you think she does so? Although Katherine’s beliefs remain, her “dreams of bearing the torch are gone.” (p. 307) What do you think precipitated this change in her?

    13. Family is particularly important to Katherine. When Huicke suggests that Elizabeth be sent away after it seems she’s gotten too close with Seymour, Katherine will not because “that would mean breaking up her fragile family and she will not do that.” (p. 306) Why does Katherine ultimately sent Elizabeth away? Do you think that she is justified in doing so? Compare Katherine’s views on family to that of her brother Will who “has never really thought of [Katherine’s] happiness.” (p. 287)

    14. Before Katherine sends Elizabeth to Lord Denny’s house at Chestnut, Katherine tells Elizabeth, “There are events in life from which we learn our most profound lessons and sometimes those events are the ones of which we are most ashamed.” (p. 317) Do you agree with Katherine? What shameful things has Katherine done throughout the course of her life? Do you think that she’s learned any lessons as a result? If so, what sort of lessons has she learned?

    Enhance Your Book Club

    1. Much of Queen’s Gambit takes place at Hampton Court Palace. Visit the official site (http://www.hrp.org.uk/HamptonCourtPalace/stories/palacehighlights/ALivingTudorWorld.aspx) to find out more about the Palace, take a virtual tour of the Hampton Court Palace Gardens and watch a video about the clothing that Katherine Parr wore on her wedding day.

    2. To learn more about Katherine Parr and Henry VIII’s other wives, visit http://tudorhistory.org/wives/.

    3. There are many magnificent feasts in Queen’s Gambit, including one celebrating Katherine’s marriage to Henry. Visit http://www.sixwives.info/tudor-food-recipes.htm to see how the members of Henry’s court ate. Then, adapt the recipes for modern times and bring them to your book club.

    4. To read more about Elizabeth Fremantle and to read more about her research, visit her official site at http://www.elizabethfremantle.com/


    A Conversation with Elizabeth Fremantle 1.

    Congratulations on the publication of your first novel! What has the experience of publishing your first book been like so far? Given that your day is working as a reader for Literary Scouts, how does the experience of being on the other side of the process, as a writer, compare?

    My role as a reader for Literary Scouts was not truly as a publishing insider. I was employed to judge and analyze fiction from an entirely impartial perspective so would most often be sent material with no idea which agent was submitting or which publishers were interested, giving me a blank canvas on which to form an opinion. Looking at such a vast number of novels from all genres honed my critical eye more thoroughly even than my Masters study of Creative Writing, giving me too, an invaluable perspective on the market. So when I came to write Queen’s Gambit I had an awareness of what it is that a contemporary readership seeks and expects, but also a sense of what grips a reader and what drives a narrative.

    My advice to hopeful writers is to read widely and always form an opinion on what you read–if you don’t like it, why; if you feel it lacks pace, why; if you don’t find the characters appealing, why–this has been invaluable work for my own writing. I also approached my writing with full knowledge of how difficult it is to get published and make a mark as a debut author. The work has made me understand more clearly that you cannot second guess the market and that a novel written with true feeling comes over as such, but more than that I have learned that there is no mysterious alchemy to novel writing – it is more about discipline, hard work, and being prepared to start over than anything. 2.

    Katherine Parr is such a fascinating historical figure, not least because she’s the only wife of Henry VIII who survived. Why did you decide to make her the focus of Queen’s Gambit?

    I have had a fascination with the Tudor queens since I read my first Jean Plaidy novel as a child and so when I began my search for a protagonist I knew that, though the Tudor period is hugely oversubscribed in fiction, it was was the place to start. Katherine Parr was for me already fascinating, by dint of the fact that she was the least reported on of Henry VIII’s wives, though she was the one who was Queen during the time when he was at his most irascible and despotic and I found the notion of her as the one who survived most appealing. The more I read about her the more I realized that, as I had suspected, history had miscast her as the perfect, dull nursemaid figure. She was one of the first women to write an original work in the English language, was highly intelligent, diplomatic, political, and I felt strongly that I wanted to explore her story through the medium fiction, which allows a different, more personal, imagined inner perspective than that of a historian. 3.

    Nancy Bilyeau praises your “scrupulous attention to factual detail” in Queen’s Gambit. What kind of research did you conduct to get the details of the Tudor court right? Was there anything that surprised you?

    My research was largely textual: history books–both biographical and those of social historians; letters; documents; images, and I spent a good deal of time wandering around old houses and palaces imagining what life must have been like living in them with none of the modern luxuries. The Hampton Court kitchens provided much inspiration for Dot, bringing to life her environment, and many hours spent gazing at Early Modern portraits trying to get beneath the skin of the sitters, feel the discomfort of the elaborate dress, helped me to understand a little of the people I was writing about.

    Much was surprising–learning about some of the horrific punishments for minor crimes; the extraordinary culinary feats such as pies with live frogs inside, or monstrous creatures made out of the parts of different animals and birds stitched together to adorn the festive table; the fact that Tudors didn’t wear underpants, or use forks and that they travelled constantly between palaces for reasons of hygiene, and also the horror of the statistics of death in childbirth and infant mortality. But what surprised me too is the ways in which we are still so similar to these distant cousins. 4.

    What would you like your readers who are interested in Tudor England to take away from Katherine Parr’s story?

    First and foremost I hope that I have managed to bring into vivid life these people who lived almost five hundred years ago and given something too of the sights, sounds and smells of the palaces and places they inhabited and the small details–the food they ate, the complication of their clothing, the general discomfort of life then. Hopefully too, I have ignited a curiosity in readers to further explore the women of the period many of whom have extraordinary stories. 5.

    You begin Queen’s Gambit with Lord Latymer’s death. Why did you choose that moment to begin telling Katherine’s story?

    I felt this was the place my story began not only because Latymer’s death marks the beginning of Katherine’s love affair with Seymour and of her being courted by the King, but also as it is the beginning of her great friendship with Huicke. This prologue offered the opportunity to show a little of Katherine in her previous life and allow us to have a perspective of her from someone outside the story, in Latymer. But the most cogent reason for beginning the book with this scene is that it allows us to see the complexities of Katherine’s character, not only to see her caring side but also that she is prepared to risk her immortal soul to save Latymer from his suffering. This sets up the theme of poisoning that runs through the novel. 6.

    Although Dorothy “feels like a child with no understanding of an adult world,” (p. 217), the reader learns a lot about the workings of Henry VIII’s court through her eyes. When you began writing Queen’s Gambit, did she always have such a prominent role? In your author’s note, you say that she was “almost certainly more gently born than I have made her.” Why did you decide to give her more humble beginnings?

    A version of Dot was a protagonist from the earliest stages–though in a first draft she was called something else before I decided to base her on Dorothy Fountain. I wanted to show the court from another perspective (a perspective of the ordinary person, if you will) to have a contrast to Katherine’s story, but also to explore the possibilities of social mobility within the court environment.

    I had been conflicted about basing her on Dorothy Fountain because the woman herself was certainly more gently born and therefore did not fully fit with my agenda. But by this time I had introduced the homosexual Huicke, already an audacious speculation, and I had been cogitating long and hard on the differences between history and fiction, finding fiction seeks to tell a different kind of truth. So Dot came fully into being, and I think it adds something extra to the experience of the novel, that there was a woman of that name in the service of Meg and Katherine, and little details, like the four pounds a year Meg left her in her will and the marriage to William Savage, are accurate, which is, I think, rather satisfying. 7.

    The Bookseller calls you “a major new voice in historical fiction” and calls Queen’s Gambit “the answer to the question about what Hilary Mantel fans should read while waiting for the final part of her trilogy.” Was Hilary Mantel an inspiration to you when you wrote? Who were your other influences?

    I am, without doubt, a huge fan of Hilary Mantel’s Cromwell novels and feel it is an honor to be mentioned in this way. Jean Plaidy, who wrote dozens of historical novels under several pseudonyms, was a childhood favorite who left an indelible mark on me and I have great respect for Alison Weir, both as a biographer and novelist; I have also enjoyed many of Philippa Gregory’s books. Susan James, Elizabeth Norton, and Linda Porter’s biographies of Katherine Parr were an inspiration too.

    I have been much influenced by film and television and remember distinctly being allowed to stay up and watch Anne of a Thousand Days and Keith Michel as Henry VIII on the BBC when I was a child. More recent screen inspiration was derived from Chereau’s La Reine Margot, the BBC version of Gregory’s The Other Boleyn Girl (quite different from the feature film version), Helen Mirren as Elizabeth I and Shekur Kapor’s films about Elizabeth, which though largely inaccurate, are a feast for the eyes. Lastly I have to name check our very own William Shakespeare, always and forever an inspiration, whose masterful works continue to speak through the centuries. 8.

    In the world Dot has risen into, to be a woman is “to be still and silent and pretty, in public at least.” (p. 299) Do you think that women in Henry VIII’s court had any power? How were they able to exercise it, if at all?

    Hopefully the novel speaks for itself on this issue…but yes, absolutely, though their power was necessarily mediated through their male relatives. My interest really lies in this issue and I hope that the novel works as an exploration of the position of women in the Early Modern period. It has long fascinated me that these women manage to emerge as powerful characters in what was a truly misogynistic culture.

    In my view it is the ways they found to circumvent the prevailing mores of female silence, domesticity and modesty, that is of interest. In my next novel one of the protagonists is a female court painter who holds a unique position as a woman with a means to express herself through her art. Katherine Parr too, as an author, found her voice through an expression of her faith. It is this process of finding the fissures in the conventions of society through which women have found ways of being heard that I find fascinating. 9.

    There seems to be perennial interest in the Tudors, from books to television shows and films. Why do you think the public is so fascinated with them? What makes you so interested in the Tudors?

    To borrow the words of Andrew Marvell: If I had but world enough and time…I suppose the period was one in a state of flux, both religiously and culturally; England’s position in Europe shifted significantly over the century, and those times of change are always fruitful in terms of the emergence of new and interesting ideas. England was also flourishing with an extended period of relative peace in the wake of the endless bloodshed of the Wars of the Roses. The sixteenth and seventeenth centuries marked the beginning of modernity with the burgeoning merchant classes and the social mobility that went with that, allowing men like Wolsey and Cromwell to appear from nowhere.

    And of course figures like Shakespeare, Elizabeth I, Bloody Mary, and inevitably Henry VIII all hold a glamour that perhaps cannot be found in any other century. For me too it is a time of women – the first two reigning Queens of England (if you don’t count Matilda), the first women writers, the beginnings of education for women, all came in the sixteenth century. 10.

    Elizabeth Tudor becomes quite a presence at the end of Queen’s Gambit Will you be writing more about her in an upcoming book? Can you tell us more about your next book?

    Elizabeth certainly does make an appearance in my next novel Queen Jane’s Shadow as does Mary Tudor her older sister. The novel is set some six years after the end of Queen’s Gambit, after the boy king Edward VI has died and there has been a struggle for the throne between the protestant backed Lady Jane Grey and the Catholic Mary Tudor, who wins with great public support.

    As the novel opens that support is waning as Mary is about to make an unpopular Spanish marriage. The story is focused around three women: the four-foot hunchback Lady Mary Grey, Lady Catherine Grey (the younger sisters of Lady Jane) and the court painter Levina Teerlinc who helps them negotiate the troubling and dangerous times of Mary’s reign. When Elizabeth inherits the throne, though the religious conflicts settle, things become increasingly treacherous and complicated for the girls.

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    Queen's Gambit: A Novel 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
    StephWard More than 1 year ago
    'Queen's Gambit' is an enchanting and thrilling historical novel that tells the story of Katherine Parr, King Henry VIII's sixth wife, as she deals with the treachery and deceit of court life and attempts to rid her of the throne. In order to survive life at the palace, Katherine gathers a tight knit circle of women around her including her step-daughter, Meg, and Dot, a loyal servant. Although Katherine was forced to marry King Henry while her true love, Thomas Seymour, is sent to the Continent - she refuses to give up hope, life, or the idea of love. I'm not normally a big fan of historical fiction, but the description of this book drew me in. The reign of King Henry VIII is quite infamous and I thought that an inside look at what was happening inside the court - especially from a woman's perspective - would be fascinating. Any expectations I had before reading this novel were left far behind as the author plunged me into Tudor England and the little known life of Katherine Parr. The plot was intriguing and I loved learning all that I could about Katherine - as a person, her history, her beliefs and dreams. She was a fantastic lead character for the book. She's devoted, strong, intelligent, and kind, but she stands for what she believes in and won't give in to social pressures. The setting of the story was beautifully written. It felt like I was right alongside Katherine in Tudor England. The vivid descriptions and detailed imagery brought the characters and the setting to life before my eyes. The story was compelling, with fine attention to detail and the intricate ways of the English court of that time. The author wrote with such a natural pace that the book flowed effortlessly and I found myself engrossed from the first pages. This is a remarkable work of historical fiction that sheds much needed light on the person, the life, and the struggles of Katherine Parr - Henry VIII's last wife - who often gets looked over in history. Highly recommended for fans of Tudor England and historical fiction. Disclosure: I received a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
    irishclaireKG More than 1 year ago
    Overrated. This novel drags badly when it goes into complex and too in depth detail of the religious complexities of the day; editing that more and staying focused on the already intriguing Katherine Parr's plight at court would have increased readability. I was greatly disappointed after reading other stellar reviews.
    sneps More than 1 year ago
    A Fantastic Historical Book! This book is traditional in giving the details to a Tudor lifestyle and stays true to the era. You do not need to be a Tudor historian to appreciate this book, nor do you need to know about Katherine Parr and her marriage to King Henry VIII. I love that the author writes this novel in a way that is easy to read, easy to follow, and develops the characters with such transparency, that you will want to read more about Katherine-one of the less known wives of Henry VIII. Because I am not an expert on Tudor history, Elizabeth Fremantle gave me a more intimate look into the life of Katherine Parr. The struggles Katherine endures with the loss of her husband, having a second chance at love with someone she can’t marry, and being forced to marry a man that she loathes, are just so unimaginable for one person to experience….and for it to be true….wow!! Elizabeth just weaves such a beautiful story that it really kept me spellbound throughout the story. I love the extra spice added into the storyline with characters, such as Dot (her servant) and Meg (step-daughter), and just gave the story some pause between the intense struggles Katherine experiences. Again, I realize this is historical fiction, and Tudor fans may be bothered by some of the interactions that take place (ie, Katherine and Thomas), but it still makes for an excellent read!! If you love historical fiction, love a book about love and relationships, and enjoy Tudor history, then grab this book!!-booksintheburbs
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Very Good Book - Page turner-Well written. Will be reading all of Elizabeth Fremantle Books !
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago