All posts by Alexandra Walsh

The Arbella Stuart Conspiracy

At last, I can announce the name and show you the cover of the final part of The Marquess House Trilogy.
The Arbella Stuart Conspiracy.
All the secrets are revealed.

The question I’ve been asked the most about this book is: who is Arbella Stuart? To give some context, she was the daughter of Charles Stuart, 1st Earl of Lennox and Elizabeth Cavendish. Charles was the youngest son of Lady Margaret Douglas (The Catherine Howard Conspiracy) and Elizabeth was the daughter of Bess of Hardwick (The Elizabeth Tudor Conspiracy). It was through Lady Margaret Douglas that Arbella received her royal blood and her claim to the English throne. For most people she’s an unknown historical figure, yet, had things gone differently, Arbella could have been queen after Elizabeth I. All this and more is explained in The Arbella Stuart Conspiracy.

Even better, all the present day secrets at Marquess House are revealed as Perdita, Piper and Kit continue their search for the missing jewels and in the process uncover many other secrets.


Check back soon for the publishing date for
The Arbella Stuart Conspiracy.

The Jewellery of Marquess House

Two ruby rings linked by the mysterious inscriptions
Semper Sorores and Luncta Sanguine

 One silver locket set with a single perfect diamond
dedicated to an unknown English king
Separately, they mean nothing – but brought together they hold the key to a secret that could change history forever


The three pieces of jewellery at the heart of The Marquess House Trilogy have always been an important part of the mystery. More than simply decorative baubles, the jewels all have a purpose in the story. In The Catherine Howard Conspiracy, we see all three pieces: the two ruby rings commissioned by Anne of Cleves and the silver locket given as a present to Catherine from her half-sister Lady Isabel Baynton and her husband, Sir Edward Baynton. Beyond this, I’m not going to say any more about the jewellery because I don’t want to put in any spoilers, however, I would like to share the origin of the idea and a bit more about the history and symbolism of jewellery. The specialism of my main character, Dr Perdita Woodville-Rivers.


When I finished my first ever complete manuscript (still languishing in a drawer as it needs a major edit and rewrite), I celebrated this achievement by buying myself a silver and jade ring. It was from a craft shop in Mevagissey in Cornwall and was something I wore for years. Sadly, the jade cracked and began to crumble so it now resides in a small velvet-lined box shaped like a treasure chest. Many people asked me if it was hinged and could open, enabling me to hide things inside. When I’d first seen it, these had been my thoughts, too, but the ring was just a ring and there was no secret cavity within. However, a seed had been planted in my imagination.


A few years later and because of my interest in the history and symbolism of jewellery, I was commissioned to write a feature about key jewels in history and their meanings. It’s a subject I’ve touched upon in both The Catherine Howard Conspiracy and The Elizabeth Tudor Conspiracy describing Isabel’s diamond earrings; the phoenix jewel belonging to Elizabeth I;

Elizabeth I’s Phoenix Jewel

Anne Boleyn’s ship pendant which was a present to Henry VIII and the incredible locket ring that was also a favourite of Queen Elizabeth’s.

Elizabeth I’s Locket Ring

There is also the stunning Lennox Jewel (mentioned in Book Three!) which was said to have been commissioned by Lady Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox for her husband, Matthew Stewart, Earl of Lennox and Regent of Scotland who fell in battle in 1571.

The Lennox Jewel


Below are a few highlights from my jewellery feature which I hope you enjoy and which might make you view your own collections with different eyes as you realise the unexpected secrets and promises you might be displaying unawares!


The Hidden Symbolism of Jewellery

“These gems have life in them: their colours speak, say what words fail of.”
George Eliot, from The Spanish Gypsy


In 1527 an event happened which changed the course of English history. Anne Boleyn gave in to Henry VIII’s persistent courting and sent him a gift confirming that her love for him was reciprocated. It was a symbolic jewel, a small pendant with a picture of a maiden in a boat, tossed upon the waves. While this may seem a small, almost childish gift today, in Tudor England the message of was clear and it was anything but juvenile. The symbolism of the boat meant Anne was asking Henry to protect her from the storms of life. The best way for a man to do this was to marry her. Anne’s carefully chosen jewel gave Henry the spur he needed, and over the next seven years, he turned the religions and laws of England upside down in order make the woman he loved his wife. Quite something for a small golden boat.


With this exchange of jewels the Tudors were following in an ancient tradition, not only were they exchanging coded messages, but connecting with their ancestors in their need to adorn themselves. Jewellery is made from a combination of natural elements and by wearing these precious metals, stones and minerals that formed millions of years ago the wearer is taking part in a magical, almost alchemical experience to become part of their surrounding world. Amazingly, this is something the human race has been doing for over 100,000 years.

The Lennox Jewel: reverse

Ancient beginnings


In 2006, a study in a US science journal revealed the origins of the oldest jewellery in the world. There were two findings of beads made from seashells which had been deliberately drilled in order to string them together to make a necklace or bracelet. Two of the pea-sized shells had been found in a cave in Oued Djebbana in Algeria and were believed to be 90,000 years old. While the other tiny bead had been found in Skhul Cave on the slopes of Mount Carmel in Israel and was believed to be 100,000 years old. Whether these beads were used for religious, protective, ritual or decorative purposes is not clear.


Fast forward a few millennia and in the 19thcentury archaeologists made an unusual discovery in Glebe Cairn in Kilmartin Glen, Scotland. It was the grave of a high-status woman from 2150BC and one of the grave goods found with her was an intricate bead necklace made of jet from Whitby in Yorkshire. Although this necklace showed the woman’s great wealth and importance, it was also an indication of so much more.


“It wasn’t just a beautiful and rare precious rock, it probably was a kind of supernatural power dressing,” explains archaeologist, Alison Sheridan, from the National Museum of Scotland. “Jet has been used as an amulet throughout history and prehistory as people believed it had magical powers. To bury a very important and wealthy woman in one of these necklaces was to send her to the next world wearing something that would protect her as well as emphasise her power.”


The use of jewellery continued to evolve. When in 1922 Howard Carter uncovered the breath-taking tomb of the boy-king Tutankhamen in Egypt the significance of displaying wealth and power after death became clear, status and power was as important in the afterlife as during life. This was shown to be a universal belief when 17 years later the magnificent tomb of an Anglo-Saxon warrior was discovered at Sutton Hoo in Suffolk, England. Here was proof, not only of how important chieftains were sent to the afterlife with boats and weapons, but also with vast amounts of intricate jewellery, to both display wealth and offer protection.


Bold curves and spirals were used to decorate the jewellery. There were depictions of animals, trees, insects and animals, all stylised and representing status or protection. The snake, a Celtic symbol of eternity and eternal life, was prevalent, as was a stylised dragon.

Sutton Hoo Helmet

The famous helmet from Sutton Hoo depicts a dragon coming down over the warriors face, not only to protect the wearer but to intimidate the enemy, too. This reputation of superior craftsmanship and artistic skill was enhanced further when, in 2009, amateur metal detector Terry Herbert found the largest ever hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold and silver jewellery in a field in Staffordshire. It was made up of 1500 pieces many featuring the intricate, woven patterns echoing the curling snake of life.


So, by the time the Romans arrived in 55BC it was hardly surprising that jewellery was in every day use as hairpins, belt buckles and brooches to hold clothing together. Although as time went by, a more controversial use for jewellery emerged: slave beads. These were decorative glass beads that were used across Europe and Africa from the 16thcentury which could be traded for goods, services and, rather chillingly, slaves.


The Secret Language of Jewellery


It was a few more centuries before the sophistication of passing messages within jewellery developed to the level used by Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII. Although it is interesting that the jewel Henry gave Jane Seymour, his third wife, on their wedding day was an emerald and pearl pendant. The emeralds were to indicate love and fertility, while the pearls were patience, purity and peace. As this marriage took place a mere ten days after Anne Boleyn’s execution Jane would have understood the significance of this gift and perhaps realised that after the storm-tossed furore of Henry’s marriage to Anne, she should take the hint and remain calm, quiet, pliant and, hopefully, fertile. Thankfully, she was able to fulfil this role and just over a year later gave Henry his longed for son and heir.


While jewellery still has it’s very obvious symbols indicating wealth, status and religion, the more subtle language remains something of a mystery today. How many people if given a ring shaped like a snake for an engagement ring would think it was a beautiful gesture? Most women now would be appalled but when Prince Albert proposed to Queen Victoria in 1839, this was the style of ring he gave her. She was delighted, as a snake symbolises eternity, so the secret message within the ring was that he was becoming engaged to her and would love her for all eternity, theirs was a marriage of souls that would last forever.


In fact, it was the Victorians who took the secret language of jewellery to an extremely sophisticated new level. It was a period of great change and prosperity. Suddenly, people had money to spare and with all the foreign imports, as well as the new machine-powered production lines, jewellery was available to the majority of the population. Not only that, the Victorians had a queen who was deeply in love with her prince and romance was thriving. Yet, as there was still the necessity for young men and women to be chaperoned, they embraced the language of symbolism within their jewellery to develop a secret language to express their feelings. Something they could not do vocally as lovers were rarely alone.


Entire courtships could be carried out through secret messages in the tokens they exchanged: if a man was to present a woman with a heart-shaped pendant studded with amethysts she would understand it to mean he loved her with true devotion. While if she reciprocated with a tie-pin featuring a small robin with glittering rubies emblazoned on the its red chest, it would mean: trust in the passion of my love. Forget-me-nots made from tiny sapphires were another popular jewelled memento, again usually in a brooch. If lovers had to be parted they could wear the brooch indicating to other potential suitors they were pining for another who was absent. The Victorians were also very fond of wearing jewellery, mainly lockets but sometimes rings too, with a lock of a beloved’s hair inside. This was the ultimate expression of loyalty and often preceded an engagement.

Jet mourning beads

However, when Prince Albert died in 1841 the devastated Queen Victoria went into deep mourning and wore mourning jewellery made from Whitby jet. It was said this was because of its intense black colour and she wanted nothing to alleviate the sombre mood. Jet is also considered to be a stone of sympathy which aids with the healing grief. It absorbs negative energy and, as our Scottish lady of 2150BC knew, offered protection.


Not Just for Decoration


Even today, jewellery is still symbolic. Every day many people use it to identify themselves as part of a group or faith: a Christian cross, a Star of David, a kara (the bracelet worn by Sikhs to encourage a calm spirit), a Muslim “Allah” necklace, the Egyptian ankh or key of life, a Hamsa pendant to ward off the evil eye or a Thors hammer to represent the Pagan religion of Odinism, the meaning is instant and speaks clearly without words.


We still have rituals surrounding jewellery: the wedding ring is the culmination of the marriage service and is also a very public display of your relationship status. The reason the wedding ring is worn on the third finger of the left hand is largely due to the Ancient Egyptians. They understood that the vein from this finger leads directly to the heart, so to wear a ring on this finger, given to you by the person you love, indicates your heart belongs to them.


The symbolism and significance of jewellery link us through the centuries to our deepest roots and yet, today many people have lost the vital understanding of this connection to their past. Perhaps by listening to our instincts when choosing a piece of jewellery and thinking more carefully about the form, the pattern, the shape and the stones we too can learn that jewellery is far more than something pretty or something to show off wealth, it can be a link to the past and an expression of our deepest, most personal feelings.


Famous Gems


The Koh-i-Noor


Supposedly found over 5000 years ago in India the Koh-i-Noor diamond is reputed to carry a curse. A Hindu text relating to the first authenticated appearance of the diamond in 1306 said: “He who owns this diamond will own the world but will also know all its misfortunes. Only God, or a woman, can wear it with impunity.”

The Koh-i-Noor Diamond

All the men who owned it have either lost their throne or had other misfortunes befall them. Queen Victoria was the only reigning monarch to have worn the gem when the stone was mounted in a brooch.


Wallis Simpson’s Panther Bracelet

Wallis Simpson’s bracelet

Made of onyx and diamond this was designed in 1952 by jewellers Toussaint and Lemarchand. Although this was given to Wallis Simpson after the abdication of her lover Edward VII, it has still been said the piece was designed to reflect her image as a sexual predator, a triumphant one, by the look of the panther’s expression.


Audrey Hepburn’s Tiffany Diamond


The Tiffany Yellow Diamondis one of the largest yellow diamonds ever discovered and was worn by Audrey Hepburn in 1961 publicity photographs for Breakfast At Tiffany’s.

Birds in jewellery mean soul mates while the diamond is a symbol of constancy and in yellow suggest sunshine, so the promise is the wearer is the giver’s soul mate and she will be cherished forever in the sunlight of their love.


3000-year-old jet bead


Discovered at Cairnholy, Scotland, the jet bead would have been believed to have magical properties. People wore talismans to ward off evil and as jet can generate static electricity, the spark it gave out would have made it appear even more mysterious.


The Curse of the Hope Diamond

Many believe jewels can be good luck talismans or, in rare cases, cursed stones. As the private jeweller and Cartier expert Harry Fane, who owns the Obsidian gallery in London, puts it, “they have to be more than just rocks”. The Hope diamond is the most legendary example of a stone deemed deeply unlucky, and unless you are entirely immune to superstition, the chain of ill fortune which has followed it seems convincingly dramatic.

The Hope Diamond

Believed to originate from the Kollur mine near Golconda in India, legend has it that the deep blue, 112 carat, golf ball-sized stone was taken from the brow of a temple idol by the French merchant traveller Jean-Baptiste Tavernier in the 1660s. From then until 1958 – when it was donated to the Smithsonian museum in Washington by jeweller Harry Winston, who sent it in a plain brown package by registered mail – it was associated with the premature death, madness, suicide and murder of many who possessed it.


Jewellery in the 1600s


No matter where she was, in the seventeenth century, a woman would always don her earrings: whether dressed or undressed. By day, fake pearl or paste earrings to coordinate with clothing were acceptable. While for the evening, fine diamond and precious stones were expected.



These were the most fashionable stone a courtier could own. Men wore them on hats, as brooches and on cloak pins. Women wore them in abundance as heavy ropes, earrings and dotted through elaborate hairstyles.

Arbola Stuart and her famous pearls

Pearls were rare and expensive, however, in the seventeenth century Jaquin of Paris patented a method of making fake pearls. By coating blown glass hollow balls with a varnish that had been mixed with iridescent ground fish scales, then filling these with wax to strengthen them he created fake pearls. This method of simulating pearls was used for over 200 years.


The Secret Jewellery Code


Arrow: love

Bee: wisdom and faithfulness

Bird: soul mates

Bluebells; constancy

Boat: Protection through life’s stormy seas

Butterfly: reunion

Daisy: innocence

Dog: fidelity

Feather: my soul is yours

Fern: fascination

Heart: love or devotion

Ivy: marriage

Leaf: Protection

Robin: trust

Starfish: Love is stronger than the tides

Twinned bird: two souls flying together for eternity




Agate: world success and happiness

Amethyst: devotion

Coral: protection against evil

Diamond: constancy

Emerald: Hope and fertility

Lapis Lazuli: unselfish love and compassion

Opal: faithful love. If a lover is unfaithful the stone will shrink and fall from its setting revealing the betrayal.

Pearls: tears, also patience, purity and peace

Ruby: passion. Sanskrit for “king of precious stones” – ratnaraj.

Sapphire: truth, contemplation and chastity

Turquoise: loyal and long-lasting love


Precious Metals


Gold: wealth, good health and success.

Silver: unconditional love, sensitivity, balance and patience

Platinum: endurance, dreams coming true, courage.




The Cornichon Effect

Time is flying and what with the words for Book Three flowing like a river and a bug that laid me low for a few weeks, I apologise for my lack of blogging and social media, in general. However, to make up for it, here’s a little treat.

As we all know, not every word of every draft makes the final edit. In The Elizabeth Tudor Conspiracy one of these deleted scenes was a conversation between Perdita and Kit which I loved. I was sad to lose it but understood the reasons (and the word count) why. Instead, I’d like to share it with you now. There are no spoilers, it’s purely a daft exchange between them as they delve into the secrets of the past.

The theory is one I was told by the wonderful Caroline Bullough who I met when we were both guests at the wedding of our mutual friend, Bethan to the lovely Rob.

Bethan and Rob Hyatt

It was a gorgeous weekend and Caroline’s explanation of her theory made me giggle. When she discovered my profession, she asked if I would be able to use her theory. Even as she was explaining it, I knew it would be an ideal scenario for Kit to regale to Perdita.

I hope you enjoy it.



The Cornichon Effect

An outtake from The Elizabeth Tudor Conspiracy
by Alexandra Walsh

“It’s The Cornichon Effect,” said Kit, casting a mischievous glance at Perdita.

“The what?” she asked in confusion.

“The Cornichon Effect: a strange phenomena that occurs when something new is pointed out to you, then you see it everywhere go. It’s a theory I developed some years ago.”

“Enlighten me,” laughed Perdita.

“When I at university and far less sophisticated than the suave man-about-town you know and love,” began Kit, Perdita grinned, “I was at a rather dreadful cocktail party, when a young lady who was really quite pretty asked if I would pass her the cornichons.”

Perdita shook her head in mock despair but Kit continued, undeterred.

“Until that point, I’d lived a sheltered life and had no idea what she was talking about. Panicking, because up until then my rubbish chat-up lines had been working a treat, I knew if I got this wrong, she would see me for the unsophisticated fool my brother and sister had always assured me I was. In front of me were three dishes: one held olives, another was filled with small gherkins and a third contained anchovy fillets. Which one could it be? I was a sweating nervous wreck – did the fish have a posh alternative name?”


“Boquerones,” supplied Perdita. Kit nodded, wisely.

“Did olives? In the end, I took a deep breath and guessed at the gherkins. She smiled and took one. I was triumphant, I also knew what cornichons were. Sadly, she took the dish from me and walked off to find her boyfriend.”

Perdita laughed.

“However,” Kit continued, “for months after that incident, everywhere I turned, there were cornichons and references to cornichons. Previously, I’d never known of their existence but now, the world was full of cornichons and this is my patented theory, The Cornichon Effect. Once something unusual is pointed out, you tend to find that word or item everywhere you turn. It’s as though the Universe has brought it to your attention for a reason and will keep bashing you over the head with it until you take notice. It’s the same with us and mermaids. Everywhere we turn we find another reference, yet six months ago, I doubt either of us had given them much thought.”

Kit folded his arms and sat back, with a satisfied expression on his face.

“It’s good to know a university education wasn’t wasted on you, Kit,” laughed Perdita. “Although, I do like it. The Cornichon Effect is a very interesting and promising theory Dr Mackensie.”

“Why thank you, Dr Rivers.”

Thanks to Bethan, Rob and Caroline for Kit’s outlandish theory. xx


The Elizabeth Tudor Conspiracy is published!

The second book in The Marquess House Trilogy has now been published – woohoo!! On Sunday 2 June 2019, The Elizabeth Tudor Conspiracy went live and today, my copies arrived from my lovely publishers Sapere Books.

Earlier this year, when The Catherine Howard Conspiracy was published I fulfilled my life-long dream to become a published author. To have two books published in six months is more that I ever imagined would be possible.


Thank you to Sapere for being my dream-makers and thank you to everyone who has bought the books and been kind enough to tell me how much you’ve enjoyed them.


Now, back to book three and all the final, big reveals!


Lady Isabel Baynton

Catherine Howard’s Ladies-in-Waiting

This blog post first appeared on my blog tour on but I’d like to share it here, too.

Hope you enjoy it!


Lady Isabel Baynton

One of the most enjoyable things about writing an historical novel is discovering the tiny details that make the period real on the page. While I was researching The Catherine Howard Conspiracy, I spent a great deal of time hunting out the life stories of the women who surrounded the young queen in order to create a group of realistic friends and confidants.

There are some well-known names linked with Catherine and her downfall: Lady Jane Boleyn, Thomas Culpeper, Katherine Tilney, Joan Bulmer and Mary Lascelles, but I wanted to find the other women, the friends and family members who were there and gave Catherine help and support at this strange, glorious, wonderful yet terrifying time.

After checking a list of her ladies-in-waiting (thank you,, I discovered Catherine had at least two of her sisters within her ladies-in-waiting: Lady Isabel Baynton and Margaret Howard, Lady Arundell. For some reason, I was drawn to Lady Isabel and she became an important character in The Catherine Howard Conspiracy. I would like to share a very brief outline of this fascinating woman’s story.

Isabel and Catherine were half-sisters through their mother, Jocasta or Joyce Culpeper. Jocasta was first married to Sir Ralph Leigh, Treasurer of the Inner Temple and Isabel’s birth date is given in the few pieces of information I have managed to find about her as around 1496. However, I doubt if this is the case and my reasoning for this statement revolves around her marriage to Sir Edward Baynton in 1531. If Isabel’s birth date is correct this would make her 35 on her wedding day, which would have been highly unusual. Girls married young and if a woman was married for the first time in her mid-30s there would have been records of her as a spinster or comments about her age. As neither topic is ever raised, I suspect her birth age is incorrect.

Despite this, Isabel was one of five children: John, Ralph, Margaret, Joyce and Isabel, although which order they were born in is unclear. Her father, Sir Ralph Leigh, died in 1509 and, four years later in 1513, Jocasta married Lord Edmund Howard. Edmund had numerous siblings including Elizabeth Boleyn – mother of Anne – and Thomas Howard, 3rd duke of Norfolk. Jocasta and Edmund had six children, including the future bride of Henry VIII: Catherine Howard.

There are very few records concerning Isabel’s early life, but by 1533 she was at court, where Anne Boleyn had become Henry VIII’s second wife. Isabel’s step-father, Lord Edmund Howard, was uncle to the new queen and, Isabel, now married to Sir Edward Baynton, the Vice Chamberlain to the queen, was enjoying life at the heart of the glamorous Tudor court. In the vast, sumptuous and bejewelled procession for Anne’s coronation, Isabel is listed as one of the twelve ladies who rode on horseback dressed in crimson velvet. Waving to the crowd and relishing in the excitement of life, she had the luxury of watching and taking part in the spectacle that was Henry VIII’s court but with none of the danger or intrigue.

Isabel was Edward Baynton’s second wife. He had previously been married to Elizabeth Sulyard and they had seven children: Bridget, Andrew, Edward, Henry, Anne, Jane and Ursula. When he married Isabel on 18 January 1531 Isabel became their stepmother. Edward owned the manors of Bromham in Wiltshire and Faulston in Salisbury, which he had inherited from his father, Sir John Baynton, giving Isabel a number of properties to choose from when she wished to escape from the tumult of court.

For three years, the court of Henry and Anne was the centre of Isabel’s world but in 1536, things began to go wrong for Anne Boleyn. She was accused of adultery with a string of men, including her brother, George Boleyn, viscount Rochford. Sir Edward Baynton was given the task of obtaining confessions from the accused men. Family ties to Anne aside, Edward must have done a good job because he was at Henry’s next wedding, to the king’s third wife Jane Seymour and was given the prestigious position of her Master of the Horse. It is likely Isabel was with him, particularly as they both attended the christening of baby Edward, the future King Edward VI, a year later.

Meanwhile, Isabel was building a family with Edward and gave birth to her first child, a boy named Henry in 1536, the year of Anne’s fall. The following year, a second son, Francis arrived and at some point, a daughter, Anne. Sadly, there is no recorded date of birth for Anne and as there are no records of her later in life either, it is assumed she died young.

After Queen Jane’s death on 24 October 1537, Isabel was one of the 29 women who walked in succession to mark each year of her life. For a short time after this, Edward and Isabel were guardians to Henry’s daughters, the princesses Mary and Elizabeth from the king’s marriages to Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn, respectively. Although the exact amount of time they held these roles is not recorded, it appears they remained close to the royal children and were regulars in their households throughout their youth.

Two years later, when the king announced he was to be married to the German princess, Anne of Cleves, Isabel and Edward returned to court. Edward, to once again take up the position of Vice-Chamberlain to the new queen and Isabel to be a lady-in-waiting. It probably never occurred to either of them that they would soon be drawn even deeper into the beating political heart of the Tudor England. As Henry turned from wife number four, to the wife number five, Isabel must have felt some misgivings as the king’s roving eye landed on the pretty face of the young Catherine Howard, Isabel’s half-sister. Isabel could only stand and watch as her younger sister became queen of England.

How would she have felt? Jealous, perhaps, although I think this is unlikely, having witnessed what other women had suffered at the hands of the king. Excited; she would be half-sister to the queen which would mean a rise in status, or terrified? Aware from her experience as lady-in-waiting to his previous wives how his mercurial mood could shift in a moment. We will never know but for Catherine it must have been a comfort to have an older sibling there to help her in this strange new world.

Catherine’s rise to the throne gave increased prestige to her family, including Isabel who, with her children, was granted ‘100 marks’, while Edward was granted the manor Semleigh, Wiltshire.

Once again though, the marriage was brief. Catherine was accused of lewd behaviour with men before she was queen, which she had not disclosed. While it looked as though this scandal might pass, another followed on its heels and a letter was found suggesting she was involved with Thomas Culpeper, a member of Henry’s bedchamber. Horrified, Henry stripped Catherine of her titles and refused to speak to her. She was removed to Syon Abbey in Isleworth, Middlesex to be questioned, with four women accompanying her, one of whom, was her elder sister, Isabel.

Some historians claim Isabel was a spy, passing information back to Thomas Cranmer, the archbishop of Canterbury and his investigators. Others that Isabel and Edward talked to Catherine at length trying to make her understand the danger she was in and to suggest that the affair with Culpeper had been rape. In the meantime, Jane Boleyn, who was supposed to have facilitated the affair, went insane with fear. How must Isabel have felt? She had already lived through the scandal of watching her step-aunt, Anne Boleyn, lose her life to Henry’s violence, now her younger sister was in a similar position.

In January 1542, the Bill of Attainder against Catherine and Jane was introduced to Parliament and on its third reading was passed. In the eyes of the law, they were already dead. On 10 February 1542, the dukes of Suffolk and Southampton escorted Catherine and Jane to the Tower of London. It is likely Isabel was with them. On 11 February 1542, the bill against Catherine and Jane became law and on the evening of 12 February, they were told they would be executed the next morning.

Records do not say who was with Catherine but it is possible Isabel stayed with her until the end. After this, Isabel vanishes from the lists of ladies-in-waiting. After such an experience, she must have left court, returning instead to one of the manors owned by her husband, either in disgrace because of her family tie to Catherine or because she could not bear to remain in such a violent and dangerous environment.

Two years later, Edward died. He was in France on campaign for Henry and died from his wounds. Although he had requested that he be buried in the family tomb at his manor in Bromham, Wiltshire, his body was never returned from France. After his death, Isabel was granted £6, 2s, 6d, as his widow.

It seems Isabel never returned to court. After Edward’s death, she married, James Stumpe. It was an odd union, as well as a little confusing, because James had first been married to Bridget Baynton, Isabel’s step-daughter. However, Bridget had died in 1545 and these two decided to keep things in the family. They were together until James’s death in 1563. Two years after James’s death, in 1565, she married a man called Thomas Stafford.

Isabel died on 16 February 1573, by which time she would have witnessed all three of Henry’s children take the throne in turn. Her life had spanned the reigns of five monarchs, she had seen her sister beheaded, she had survived scandals at court, married three times and ended her life in a comfortable manner. Isabel Baynton stood on the sidelines as history unfolded around her, on occasions drawing her to the very centre of events, yet, she is unknown to the majority of people except as a passing footnote in the story of other people’s lives. I hope that by including her in my novel, I’ve given Isabel her voice back.


The Catherine Howard Conspiracy is available from Amazon  and The Elizabeth Howard Conspiracy, which is the second part of The Marquess House Trilogy, will be available on Kindle and in paperback from Sunday 2 June 2019. 

It’s Blog Tour Week!

Morning all, it’s the first day of the blog tour for The Catherine Howard Conspiracy and here are the first three brilliant blogs. Thank you for the amazing reviews!

Beady Jan


Books Are Cool


Bookish Jottings

I’ll update you as the tour progresses.



The Catherine Howard Conspiracy Blog Tour!

The Catherine Howard Conspiracy is going on a blog tour from Monday 13 May 2019 – Friday 17 May 2019.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with such an event, which until very recently included me, then the Wikipedia definition is:

A blog tour is a set amount of time in which your book is promoted
across various websites and blogs. The dates are set in advance, each
blog knows what material it will be posting and the content should
be unique to each blog.

The number of people hosting me is huge and I’d like to say thank you to each and every one of them for taking the time to read The Catherine Howard Conspiracy and help to tell the world about it.  Sapare Books are pretty awesome, too, for organising this event. Thank you!

The details are here:

If you have time, please do follow us and join in the fun. I’ve written guest blogs for History from a Woman’s Perspective and Chicks, Rogues and Scandals, as well as doing an interview for Jorie Loves a Story. It was quite odd, after years of being a journalist, to be the one answering the questions rather than asking them.

And, in case the writing on the above poster is a bit too tiny, here’s the full list of the tour dates and links:

Monday 13 May

Beady Jan’s Books –

Bookish Jottings –

The Lit Bitch –

CBailey31 –

Books Are Cool –

Tuesday 14 May

History from a Woman’s Perspective – Guest Blog –

A Lover of Books –

Pursuing Stacie –

The Crime Review –

Jorie Loves a Story – Author Interview –

Wednesday 15 May

Chicks, Rogues and Scandals – Guest Blog –

Varietats –

Just Book Talk –

Steph’s Book Blog –

Let Them Read Books –


Thursday 16 May

Mrs Brown’s Books –

Carole’s Book Corner –

My Bookish Blogspot –

Books of All Kinds –

Friday 17 May

Donna’s Book Blog –

The Book Scoop – (Link to come!)

Historical Fiction with Spirit –

Jera’s Jamboree –

A Darn Good Read –

Carole Rae’s Random Ramblings –

Hope to see you on tour next week!

Six Weeks Later

It’s six weeks today since @SapereBooks made my dream come true and published my first novel #TheCatherineHowardConspiracy.  It was years in the writing: research, more research, rewrites, new characters, new writing style, new agent but, finally, it was on the page and winging its merry way into the world. Since it was published on 28 March 2019,  it’s been an Amazon Bestseller, received over 100 reviews and, the thing that has amazed me the most, are the many wonderful messages I’ve been sent from readers, reviewers and book bloggers  who have enjoyed it. It’s humbling and I can’t express my thanks enough.


Even more exciting, part two of the series, #TheElizabethTudorConspiracy will be out on 2 June 2019, which is only four weeks away. To have one book published is incredible, to have two is beyond words.


Not only that, #BookThree of #TheMarquessHouseTrilogy is going very well, in fact, the end is in sight and it’s very strange to finally be revealing all the secrets I’ve been keeping hidden for so long in Marquess House. Putting these big reveals on the page is both exhilarating and sad; it’s great to share the end with everyone but it also means I won’t be spending my days with Perdita, Piper, Kit and everyone else at Marquess House. They’ve been with me for such a long time, I’ll miss them. Although, it isn’t goodbye yet, there is the rest of the book to finish and that won’t happen overnight, so I won’t start the leaving party too early.

Now, back to Marquess House where the secrets are being uncovered thick and fast!

Thanks again everyone, especially the wonderful people at Sapere Books, as ever, you’re awesome! @SapereBooks #amwriting #books #historicalfiction #thankyou

And, finally!

To finish this incredible, life-changing week, we had a celebratory lunch at Runwayskiln in Marloes. The weather was perfect and the views of the Pembrokeshire coastline were stunning.

The real Jenny and Izabel

To complete the day,
I was with some of the people I love best in the world, including the real Jenny Procter and Izabel Barnes. (Something which will make sense when you’ve read The Catherine Howard Conspiracy!)

If you’re interested, here’s the link to Runwayskiln. It was a fabulous lunch and is well worth a visit if you’re in Pembrokeshire.


Home Page




It’s Publication Day!

Whoever thought a sunny Thursday in March could be so life-changing? For most people it’s probably a normal day but for me, it’s a day of dreams come true. After years and years of dreaming, followed by years and years of writing, of getting so close I could almost touch it, of seeing book deals dissolve before my eyes and of thinking it would never happen: I’m finally a published author.

The Catherine Howard Conspiracy is now live. It is a real book. She’s out on her own in the big wide world and I have to stand by to watch her succeed or fall on her own. Hardly nerve-wracking at all! Even more exciting, The Catherine Howard Conspiracy is an Amazon best seller, which is truly the most unexpected thing.


Thank you to everyone who has bought it, I hope you enjoy the story and if you do, it continues for another two books: The Elizabeth Tudor Conspiracy and The… Sorry, that would be telling!


And if you want the paperback, the link is here but it’ll join up to the eBook later today!


Thanks again to all the gang at Sapere Books, you’re dream makers!