All posts by Alexandra Walsh

Interview with author, Jane Cable

This is a new segment for the blog. Over the next few months, I will be talking to other authors about their writing, the inspirations behind their books and many other things.

To launch this new segment, I caught up with fellow Sapere Books author, Jane Cable.

Jane Cable


Jane’s first book with Sapere Books, Another You, was published in 2019 and her new book, Endless Skies, is out on 27 July 2020. Prior to this, Jane wrote the award winning The Cheesemaker’s House and the evocative, The Faerie Tree.

Hi Jane, congratulations on the publication of Endless Skies. Both this and your previous title, Another You, are novels featuring echoes from World War Two. What drew you to this particular time period?

 Jane Cable: I fell into World War Two by accident when I was researching the history of Studland Bay where Another You is set. This story began as a modern ghost story but then I discovered Studland was where most of the live ammunition practices for the D-Day landings (Operation Smash) were held. On the first day of the exercises, there was a tragic accident killing seven men. It spoke to me so loudly that I decided to keep my original characters, the Johnson family, but rewrite the plot to incorporate this historic event.

It had always been my intention for my first two books with Sapere Books to be a pair, but again, most of Endless Skies was written by the time I unlocked its World War Two element. My main character, Rachel Ward, is an archaeologist and I had her digging up Romans but it wasn’t working. During a visit to Lincolnshire, where the book is set, I visited Hemswell, a former Second World War RAF base, and suddenly, I knew why the Romans weren’t working, Rachel needed to be digging up the war. As soon as I realised this, everything fell into place.


AW: Isn’t it strange how the solutions to plot puzzles often find us! This seems even more pertinent to you as your characters are visited by shadows from the past. What was the inspiration behind your main character, archaeologist, Rachel Ward?

JC: Archaeology has always fascinated me and I thought it would be fun to have someone in that line of work as a character. Rachel is a career academic who, in many ways, has never reached emotional maturity; something she will never admit. Her inability to move forward is because of a trauma in her teenage past. She needs to be able to grow away from her comfort zone for the story to progress.

I also wanted to write about a highly intelligent woman who didn’t feel she had to hide her brightness to attract a man. In fact, she uses men and not always in a very pleasant way. Once I started to write, it surprised me how acerbic and difficult she was but I grew to love and respect her. It was an adventure for us both as I accompanied her on this journey of change.


AW: She sounds intriguing. With Rachel having such a specific job, did you find you had to do a lot of research into her career, as well as researching your WWII storyline? Which sources did you find most useful?

JC: Researching Rachel’s career was a labour of love! I disappeared down so many rabbit holes doing it. I spent a long time poring over Lincoln university’s website, visiting the campus, going to the local museums and reading dig reports from the area. These were time consuming but fascinating.

I first discovered these reports in Scunthorpe library, then found the online treasure trove that is the Archaeology Data Service. Not only could I read about digs in the locations Rachel was working, but I could also research the era and types of artefacts she would be digging up. I struck absolute gold with one extensive report into a field approximately two hundred metres away from Rachel’s fictional excavation.

The more research I did, the greater my desire to wield my own trowel and feel what it was like working in a trench. I volunteered for Dig Ventures and both my other half and I helped to excavate an Iron Age settlement on Bodmin Moor. It was the best experience and we’ve joined the Cornwall Archaeological Society. We’re longing to do it again.

Sounds great fun, Jane. Thank you so much for talking to me today.


Endless Skies is published on 27 July 2020, by Sapere Books, £2.99: available at:



How do you choose a new book?

Morning all, it’s Friday and I’ve just posted on Twitter about the book I’m reading at the moment: At Risk by Stella Rimington, the
former head of Security Services.

It’s a new genre for me but espionage has always been a subject of interest, so it seemed time to give it a try, which  made me wonder, how other people choose their books? What draws you to a new read? Is it the cover? Recommendations? Favourite authors? Genre? Price? Instinct?


All these have affected my choices over the years. Some books you know from the moment you read the first line that you’re going to love the story, others are more of slow burn and creep up on you, suddenly enveloping you in their plot. But, what is it that makes you pick it up in the first place?


I’m going to post this link on social media (Twitter, Instagram, FaceBook and LinkedIn), let me know on whichever of these you prefer what it is that leads you to make your book choices.


Take care and have a great weekend.





The Arbella Stuart Conspiracy – Meeting Arbella

Throughout the Marquess House series, I’ve mentioned Arbella Stuart. She has been a shadow flitting across the plot and on Monday 25 May 2020, you’ll be able to read the final instalment of the trilogy and discover more about her in The Arbella Stuart Conspiracy (Sapere Books).

In The Elizabeth Tudor Conspiracy, Arbella appears as a character for the first time. She is a child and her heritage is explained but as a recap here’s where Arbella fits into the Tudor family tree, despite having the surname Stuart.

Her mother was Elizabeth Cavendish, who was the daughter of Bess of Hardwick, whose title was Elizabeth Talbot, Countess of Shrewsbury. Elizabeth was Bess’s daughter from her second marriage to Sir William Cavendish, Treasurer of the King’s Chamber. They had eight children, with two dying in infancy.

By the time Elizabeth Cavendish was of marriageable age Bess had been married twice more, first to William St Loe, then to George Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury who is most well-known for being host or gaoler, depending on your perspective, to Mary, Queen of Scots. Mary had escaped to England after the death of her husband Henry, Lord Darnley and her subsequent ill-judged marriage or elopement at knife-point – again depending on how you interpret events – to James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell. This is where things begin to curl around each other and demonstrates the intricacies of these families.

Henry, Lord Darnley

Henry, Lord Darnley was the eldest son of Lady Margaret Douglas. For those who have read it, Margaret was a character in The Catherine Howard Conspiracy. In this book, Margaret was in her early 20s and had recently survived a stint in the Tower of London, thanks to an ill-advised marriage to Thomas Howard, the younger half-brother of Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk. When we met her as a companion to Catherine Howard, she was involved with Catherine’s brother, Charles. While it is historically accurate Margaret and Charles were engaged, after his sister’s fall, Charles disappears from the historical records. Whether he died or fled abroad and died there, a stranger in an unknown land in an unmarked grave – history does not tell us. Two years later, in 1544, Margaret married Matthew Stewart, 4th Earl of Lennox.

Charles Stuart, Earl of Lennox, Arbella’s father

Margaret Douglas was a Tudor princess in all but name, being the daughter of Henry VIII’s elder sister, Margaret Tudor and her second husband, Archibald Douglas, 6th Earl of Angus. With Matthew Stewart, Margaret had two sons who lived to adulthood: Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley who married Mary, Queen of Scots and Charles Stuart, 1st Earl of Lennox who married Elizabeth Cavendish and they had a daughter, Arbella Stuart. Charles, who never enjoyed the most robust health, died while Arbella was a baby. His mother, Margaret Douglas died in 1578 when Arbella was three and, her mother, Elizabeth died when Arbella was seven. After this, she was brought up by her grandmother, Bess of Hardwick.

(thought to be) Lady Margaret Douglas

It was through Margaret Douglas that Arbella had a claim to thethrone of England and Bess raised her in the manner befitting a princess of the blood royal. Many thought Arbella should have succeeded Elizabeth I but her rise to the throne was never to be and instead, her cousin, James VI of Scotland inherited the crown to become James I of England. Arbella was side-lined until she eloped and made a disastrous marriage to William Seymour, 2nd Duke of Somerset. Through his grandmother, Lady Katherine Grey, who was herself a granddaughter of Henry VIII’s younger sister, Mary, Seymour also had a blood claim to the throne. With their joint blood link, if Arbella had delivered a living son, King James would have been in trouble. To try and prevent this possibility, James had Arbella and William imprisoned in the Tower of London for treason.


The Tower of London

However, Arbella still had loyal friends who tried to help them escape. Disguised as a page, she fled the Tower, the plan being to meet her husband further down the river where they would escape to France. However, things went awry and while Seymour escaped, Arbella’s ship was apprehended by the Royal Navy not far from the French coast and she was returned to the Tower. She remained here until her death where in 1615.

I first discovered Arbella when I read Sarah Gristwood’s brilliant biography: Arbella – England’s Lost Queen (Bantam Books) in the early 2000s. Before this, I had never heard of her and this unexpected possibility that she could have followed Elizabeth on to the throne intrigued me. If this had been the case, then the Tudor legacy would have been a quartet of female monarchs: Lady Jane Grey, Mary I, Elizabeth I and then Arbella, which is perhaps what worked against her and was the reason the Privy Council was so keen to invite a man to take the crown.
When a woman is monarch, it is other women who are close to her, men cannot assume the intimate roles that make them indispensable to a ruler, they always have to work through an intermediary. To have another unspecified amount of time with a woman holding power would have been anathema to the senior men in the court.

They were eager to have a man at the helm, so they could get the boys’ club going again with favours, jobs and land exchanges being made with a king. As James VI had a claim through both his mother, Mary, Queen of Scots, who was a granddaughter of Margaret Tudor from her marriage to her first husband, James IV, and his father, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, who was the eldest son of Margaret Douglas, the daughter of Margaret Tudor from her second marriage. He was seen as the stronger claimant and on Elizabeth’s death, he was declared king.

James I

However, he may not have been Elizabeth’s choice. There is a tale suggesting that on her death bed when her Privy Councillors were asking her to name her successor, she supposedly made the shape of a crown above her head when James was named. In his book, Elizabeth – The Forgotten Years (pgs. 380-3), historian John Guy, suggests that while Elizabeth may have touched her head, she could simply have been touching her head and this detailed story of her supposed choice of monarch, were even in 1603, described as ‘false lies’. Elizabeth had left no written proclamation of her successor and in order to bolster the claim of the Scottish king, there were many versions of the supposed written testimonies of what happened at the Queen’s bedside, including one tale of her making an eloquent speech naming James but as she had been unable to speak for several days prior to this, it seems unlikely.

In which ever manner the Privy Council managed this coup, they were successful and James became king of England, while his cousin, Arbella was shunted into obscurity. For years, history was not kind to Arbella Stuart. She was painted as troublesome, difficult, argumentative and grasping, as well as potentially, mad. It has been suggested she suffered from the illness porphyria, a condition that has been variously prescribed to her relatives: Margaret Tudor, Mary, Queen of Scots and George III. She certainly seemed to have some form of condition but no conclusive evidence has ever proved a diagnosis.
Arbella, like her equally as defamed grandmother Bess, knew her worth and was prepared to fight for what she believed was rightfully hers – the throne of England. In doing this, she created enemies and, as with most powerful women of the time, earned a reputation for being a tyrant. However, from the extensive research I did on Arbella, the underlying sense that came across to me was a woman who was aware of her place in society but who, because of her gender, was thwarted at every turn. Had she been born a man, it’s possible she would have been given the crown, instead, she had to watch her cousin take the life she felt should have been hers.

Bess of Hardwick

No doubt she was often frustrated, who wouldn’t be? Yet, when reading her correspondence and taking into account the number of plots and schemes into which she threw herself, there was always a large and loyal entourage around Arbella. While some people remain loyal for their own personal gain, these are usually in the minority. Most supporters are their because they care about and, often, admire the person.

Many letters show Arbella’s caring nature, she wrote to friends and family prolifically, although many of her early letters have vanished. Friends helped her again and again and there were many sonnets, books, poems and ballads dedicated to her. Someone who can inspire such loyalty must have had a softer, more caring side, although this is rarely discussed.

In The Arbella Stuart Conspiracy, I have stuck to the facts where I can but there is a certain amount of re-imagining in Arbella’s story. She was a warrior princess who fought for her rights, only to die a prisoner in the Tower of London. She was strong, feisty, fearless and determined. I hope she would have enjoyed the alternate journey I have sent her on.


The Arbella Stuart Conspiracy published on 25 May 2020 by Sapere Books.


The Marquess House Trilogy

Part One: The Catherine Howard Conspiracy

Part Two: The Elizabeth Tudor Conspiracy

Part Three: The Arbella Stuart Conspiracy






New Publication Date for The Arbella Stuart Conspiracy

Yesterday, due to events and issues concerning the Coronavirus, Amy Durant from Sapere Books and I agreed to change  the publication of The Arbella Stuart Conspiracy to 25 May 2020. This was not a decision we took easily but with publication date fast approaching and illness (everyone is OK now) delaying matters, we felt there was no option. We want to ensure the book is at its absolute best and didn’t want to rush the final edit. We hope you’ll understand our decision and hold your excitement in for another few weeks.

In the meantime, here are two things to take your minds off the strangeness of lockdown and the delay in the publication of book three of The Marquess House Trilogy.

The first is the competition currently running on Twitter to win signed copies of The Catherine Howard Conspiracy and The Elizabeth Tudor Conspiracy (I’m @purplemermaid25, if you want to get involved). All you have to do is retweet the competition tweet and if you feel like following me at the same time, then that would be great too! A winner will be selected at random after the closing date of 22 April 2020. UK entries only, please. Sorry worldwide readers, but it’s all a bit tricky at the moment!

The other is this: a scene that had to be edited out of The Elizabeth Tudor Conspiracy because it was a bit long. There are no spoilers, so don’t worry if you’re still reading book two or are yet to get that far in the adventure. It involves a conversation  where Perdita and Piper learn more about Kit and his siblings while they were growing up.


Thanks as ever for all your support and I’ll keep you posted on The Arbella Stuart Conspiracy. Hope you enjoy the extra scene.


Take care and stay safe.




Deleted scene from The Elizabeth Tudor Conspiracy in which
Perdita and Piper learn Kit’s teenage nickname


Kit was shovelling down a huge fried breakfast and Perdita was not the only person watching him, aghast, at the sheer amount of food on his plate.

“How do you stay so skinny?” asked Pablo, sitting next to Perdita and pouring her a cup of thick, strong, fragrant coffee.

“I’ve been snowboarding this morning,” explained Kit, pushing his mug towards his soon-to-be brother-in-law for a refill, “I’m starving.”

A moment later, Piper arrived with Megan and Deborah Black. Megan glanced at Kit’s plate and raised her eyebrows.

“Your suit had better still fit you, Piglet,” she said. “You’re going to be our usher in a week and there isn’t time to get you another one.”

Kit rolled his eyes but did not respond to this sisterly jibe, instead he turned to Dr Black.

“How’s Sir Columbus Goldfinch this morning?”

Deborah laughed.

“You haven’t called him that for years,” she said.

“Elliot reminded me of it last night,” said Kit, “and how he was Midnight Black.”

Perdita and Piper exchanged bemused glances.

“They were the rather grandiose nicknames they all gave each other when they were children,” supplied Megan. “Sir Columbus Goldfinch, which was your maiden name, wasn’t it, Deborah?”

Dr Black nodded, grinning.

“Fabulous name,” said Perdita.

“Elliot was Sir Midnight Black,” Megan continued, “Stuart was Sir Panther Stowe-in-the-Wold, Mum’s maiden was Stowe and little Kitten here was…”

“Don’t you dare!” admonished Kit but his eyes were dancing with laughter.

“And little Kitten, here as the youngest, was Sir Catfish Kensie Burger.”

Perdita and Piper burst out laughing.

“Kensie Burger?” questioned Piper.

“The last part of Mackensie, which leaves ‘Mac’,” said Megan and Piper nodded in comprehension.

“Elliot wins in the nickname stakes,” Perdita giggled. “Although, Sir Catfish Kensie Burger is quite something. You should use it more often, Kit.”

“If I had my trusty knights with me, you sniggering damsels would…

“Laugh even more probably,” interrupted Megan.

The laughing and banter continued as they finished their breakfast, then Perdita rose, ready complete her list of allotted wedding tasks. Piper followed and the two of them stood for a moment staring out at the crisp white snow that had fallen over night.

“I was so excited when I first saw the snow,” said Piper, “now I’m very blasé about it!”

Perdita laughed. Despite the late night, the excitement in the castle was carrying everyone through any morning bleariness.

“We can test our new snow boots in it while we’re running all those errands for Megan,” said Perdita.

She broke off as there was a flurry of noise at the door and Elliot walked in followed by a tall, chestnut-haired man who was obviously his younger brother, Callum. Deborah and Kit both leapt to their feet and hurried over. Dark rings under Callum’s eyes and his slightly sickly pallor were all evidence of the recent illnesses he had been suffering. Kit gave a cry of joy and pulled the man into a huge hug. Perdita grinned and turned to her sister, ready for the two of them to be introduced but when she looked at Piper, she was horrified.

“Piper, what is it…?”

All, the colour had drained from Piper’s face and fury filled her eyes.

“Callum Black!” she snarled, barely able to speak such was her rage. “What the hell is he doing here?”


Find out what happens next by reading The Elizabeth Tudor Conspiracy

International Women’s Day 2020

Women in the Shadows


To celebrate International Women’s Day 2020, here’s a review of book written by an inspiring woman about brave, daring, bold and incredible women, most of whom have been ignored by historians and whose voices have been silenced: Invisible Agents: Women and Espionage in Seventeenth Century Britain by Nadine Akkerman redresses the balance.

Akkerman’s robust research in archives, libraries and private collections has allowed these remarkable women to find their voices again and, in studying their words and deeds, she has created an important, must-read book of a long-forgotten slice of women’s history.

At a time when it was almost impossible for men of rank to travel, women – who were viewed as being too weak and feeble to be a threat – rose to the challenge, carrying documents, letters and arranging for the moving of important political prisoners. Each study challenges preconceptions, taking the reader on an adventure as an entirely new and fresh perspective of women and the role they played in the development of spy-craft is revealed. From the mistress of Charles I to women willing to risk their lives to further political causes, Akkerman’s meticulous research presents a revelatory version of the politics and espionage throughout the English Civil War. Previously ignored, the contribution of these women is finally lauded and analysed from a scholarly but eminently readable perspective.

Two of the women discussed have a higher profile than others: Aphra Behn and Anne, Lady Halkett. Behn is routinely studied and it has long since been suggested she was a spy. Akkerman revisits the theories with precise and unbiased analysis, giving a new perspective on a formerly well-known version of events. Meanwhile Anne, Lady Halkett has been compared with Charlotte Brontë, Daniel Defoe, Walter Scott and Jane Austen, yet she is remembered more for her romantic attachments. Akkerman’s thorough analysis of Lady Halkett’s work reveals a politically astute woman aware of how to manipulate words to her own advantage.

Women may not have shouted about their involvement but in a world where women and men often existed in largely separate spheres, Akkerman highlights the need for a reinvestigation of the contribution to espionage made by other generations of women. Invisible Agents will grip and astound you from the first page. Treat yourself, this International Women’s Day and be inspired by Akkerman and the women she has brought into the spotlight.

5/5 Stars

Invisible Agents: Women and Espionage in Seventeenth Century Britain by Nadine Akkerman

Published by Oxford University Press

Available in paperback from 5 March 2020, RRP £12.99




Sneak Preview!

There’s not much longer to wait now before I can reveal some news about the final instalment of The Marquess House Trilogy:
The Arbella Stuart Conspiracy. As a little tease, I thought I’d choose a paragraph from the present day section and one from the historical story to whet your appetites.

There are no spoilers, only a tiny tiny glimpse of what is coming your way very soon.

Hope you enjoy the preview.


Perdita and Kit

After a few moments of fiddling, the strap holding the trunk shut moved. Perdita held her breath as, with care, Kit inched the leather through the toggle. When it was free, he turned to her and grinned. Her heart was beating in excitement. This reminded her of being on a dig, when every trowel full of earth might offer up a secret. Kneeling in front of the trunk, as though she were praying at an altar, Perdita pulled a mask across her face, the others mirrored her, then she gripped the edges of the lid and eased it open.

Arbella Stuart

Shaking her head to rid it of such dispiriting thoughts, Arbella resumed her pacing, reviewing her plans and evaluating their continuing viability. She had grown up surrounded by strong women and had learned from the nursery that in order to protect oneself in the uncertain world of the court, it was essential to remain forever alert and to build around oneself a trusted network of friends, spies and informers. This was even more important when royal blood flowed through your veins, as it did through hers, making her a potential heir to the throne of England.

#secretsrevealed #notlongnow #bookthree #marquesshousetrilogy #reading #historicalfiction #hopeandmermaids #TheArbellaStuartConspiracy #TheCatherineHowardConspiracy #TheElizabethTudorConspriacy #hiddenvoices #historicalwomen

Happy New Year!

The year 2019 has been an extraordinary one for me. After years of trying I finally succeeded in having a book published. Two books, in fact: The Catherine Howard Conspiracy and The Elizabeth Tudor Conspiracy. Both have been bestsellers on Kindle and over the course of the year they’ve led me to get to know some wonderful people, mostly on social media, but a few outside it too.


It’s been incredible, so thank you everyone who has helped to make this year so magical, especially the team at Sapere Books, my lovely agent, Sara, and all you wonderful folk who have read the first two in the Marquess House Trilogy or listened to it on the audio books. Book three: The Arbella Stuart Conspiracy, will be available to pre-order in January 2020 and all the secrets will be revealed.




Until then, thanks again and HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

Lots of love, Alexandra


The Magic of Audio Books

As the great Neil Gaiman once said: “A book is dream that you hold in your hand”, a sentiment with which I agree whole-heartedly. As far as I’m concerned an audio book is not only a portable dream but it holds a unique magic. A dream that becomes manifest as the words spring to life and wrap themselves around your mind. It’s like having a friend whispering in your ear, sharing the most fantastic stories with you and you alone.

You may have guessed, I’m a big fan of audio books. I listen to them all the time and, when The Marquess House Trilogy was signed by Sapere Books, once I’d stopped jumping about in excitement, my other request to my lovely agent, was: “Could we try to get an audio deal too, please?”

This wasn’t for the financial gain or a bid for world domination but for a far more personal reason. My dad is now partially sighted and can no longer read. To be perfectly honest, he was never much of a reader in the first place but considering my profession, it did make me sad that he might never be able to see what I’d achieved. However, some years ago, he too, discovered the delight of audio books and Dad was the reason why I was so desperate for my agent to secure an audio contract, something she did with admirable speed.

However, then I had another request of my agent. It was the fulfilment of a dream I’d had for years:

“Would my friend be able to narrate it, please?”

I could almost feel the eyeroll at the other end of the phone.

“Your friend?”

“Yes, we met when we were doing our A-levels.”

A pause, so I continued:

“By my friend, I don’t mean someone who just fancies having a go, she’s an award winning actor with years and years of experience, shall I send you her CV?”

With Emma in the recording booth at W F Howes

My friend is the wonderful Emma Gregory (@emma_chorussea) who has had a brilliant and extensive theatrical career and has also recorded, with great skill, numerous audio books. I’d always known I wanted the trilogy to be in audio form and I’d always wanted Emma to read them. I knew she would be perfect. When it transpired, my agent had other clients who had used Emma to narrate their works, my other book-wish was granted! It did bring a tear to my eye.

In September, I joined Emma at W F Howes to listen to her recording The Catherine Howard Conspiracy. Her interpretation was so evocative, there were times when I was brought to tears. It was strange and emotional hearing one of my dearest friends reading my words with such professionalism and integrity. Thank you, my darling Em and thank you to everyone at W F Howes, especially Lauren Fox and Craig Thomson. You really are dream makers!

If you fancy listening to Emma’s wonderful narration of The Catherine Howard Conspiracy, then you only have a few days left to wait. It’s currently on pre-order and will be released on – 31 October 2019 – with The Elizabeth Tudor Conspiracy to follow shortly after.

My dad has no excuses, he has to listen!




Hidden Voices – Lady Katherine Newton

Choosing real people from history to spin into a tale of fiction is one of the most interesting parts of planning a new story. Throughout The Marquess House TrilogyI’ve tried to tell the tale through the voices of women. These incredible ladies lived over 500 years ago and there was a huge number who were clamouring to have
their stories told.
As well as my more well-known main characters, I’ve tried to include the women who have been pushed to one side of history. Their stories are equally as fascinating as the queens, the princesses, the duchesses and the countesses; and their actions often impacted on social and political events, even though their input may have been forgotten by subsequent generations.
One of my favourite discoveries for the second part of the trilogy The Elizabeth Tudor Conspiracywas Lady Katherine Paston. Born around 1547, Katherine provided me with a female blood link between Catherine Howard and Elizabeth I. It came through the Culpeper and Leigh line, which was from Catherine Howard’s mother, Jocasta Culpeper.

A possible image of Catherine Howard

However, upon further digging, I also discovered that Katherine Newton was linked to Elizabeth I through a connection to the Boleyn family; the paternal line of Elizabeth’s mother, Anne Boleyn.
Katherine’s mother was Agnes Leigh, the daughter of Catherine Howard’s troublesome half-brother, John Leigh and, his wife, Elizabeth Darcy. When she was queen, Catherine Howard, begged her husband, Henry VIII, for clemency for John Leigh, securing his release from prison. John and Elizabeth rather unusually divorced sometime before he made his will in 1563.
There is no information concerning Agnes’s birth, although by 1544 she had married Sir Thomas Paston. He was a gentleman of the privy chamber and part of the powerful Paston family from Norfolk. Agnes and Thomas had three children: Henry (b. 1545), Katherine (c. 1547 – 1605) and Edward (1550 – 24 March 1630).
As well as his position in the privy chamber, Katherine’s father, Sir Thomas Paston, was also an MP for Norfolk. He was respectable, powerful and well-connected. His father, William Paston had married Bridget Heydon, the daughter of Henry Heydon and Anne Boleyn (senior) who was the paternal aunt of the future Queen Anne Boleyn. The Pastons and the Boleyns were both wealthy and influential families.
Katherine’s father died on 4 September 1550. After this, Agnes married Edward Fitzgerald MP, giving young Katherine a host of half-siblings, including included Douglas Aungier (a sister); Thomas Fitzgerald; Lettice Fitzgerald and Gerald Fitzgerald, 14th Earl of Kildare. There was certainly no doubting Katherine’s connections, yet, she is practically unknown.
In The Elizabeth Tudor Conspiracy, I used Katherine’s connections to the Paston family, who were voracious letter writers, to place her at the heart of Elizabeth’s network of informers, the Ladies of Melusine. Whether she was even literate is not clear but I would guess she was, especially considering her family background. One of the contemporary comments made about Katherine was that she was supposed to suffer from ill health, which caused her absence from court. While I haven’t been able to verify this, I liked the idea and used her ‘illnesses’ as a cover for her being able to disappear for days at a time in order to write letters on behalf of Elizabeth and to deal with the correspondence of the Ladies of Melusine.
Finding Katherine’s voice, however, has proved difficult and despite extensive searching, I have been unable to discover any surviving documents written by her. As a married woman, she would not have made a will and there seem to be no letters. There is another Katherine Paston whose words have been preserved but these are not written by the correct Katherine.
The first mention of our Katherine, is in Henry Clifford’s book, The Life of Jane Dormer, Duchess of Feria, suggesting that in 1559, Katherine was in Spain.

Jane Dormer, Duchess of Feria

Jane Dormer had been a lady-in-waiting for Mary I but on her death in 1558 and Elizabeth’s ascension to the throne, Jane had married Gómez Suárez de Figueroa y Córdoba, 1st Duke of Feria. Both staunch Catholics, they returned to Spain. Clifford suggests that Katherine was the Mistress Paston who was named as being part of the duchess’s household. This would have made her 12-years-old but it is possible. Despite being Catholic, Jane Feria was said to have kept in touch with the Protestant, Queen Elizabeth, whom she had known since childhood.
After this, events become a little blurred. I have found two possible dates for the marriage of Katherine Paston and Sir Henry Newton (1535 – 2 May 1599). One is 1560, which would make Katherine 13 years old, while the other is May 1578, making her 31. As women married young, my guess would be the earlier date, particularly as her children’s births run from c. 1570 to 1584, suggesting she was 23 when she gave birth to her first child. It is likely the marriage was in name-only until Katherine reached maturity.
The confusion comes from a fragment of a court record dated 15 February 1577, which seems to suggest Katherine Paston might marry Lord Stourton. From the dates, this was probably John Stourton, 9th Baron Stourton (1553 – 1588). He was the son of Charles Stourton, 8th Baron Stourton who had been executed for committing the crime of murder on 16 March 1557. However, other records show she was already married to Sir Henry Newton by then and had several children. Lord Stourton instead married Frances Brooke. A list of marriages below this fragment place the date ‘1578’ beside Katherine. I wonder if this was perhaps the day she returned to court after an absence rather than as the indication of her marriage. (
Katherine’s husband, Henry Newton, was the eldest son of Sir John Newton of East Harptree and his first wife, Margaret Poyntz. He would have been 25 when the marriage to Katherine took place. This was not uncommon and perhaps this is why Katherine is listed as being in Spain. She may have been sent there in order to complete her education, returning when she was old enough to enter the marriage.
It is probable that Katherine and Henry lived at Barr’s Court in East Harptree, Somerset which was the family seat of the Newton family. Nothing of the house remains but there are records that the ancient mansion once looked out over Kingswood Chase, a royal hunting forest, on the outskirts of Longwell Green. The mansion is discussed by the historian John Leland in 1540 when he describes it as a ‘fayre old mannar place of stone’. There are also records suggesting the property boasted a moat, more for decoration than defence, two fishponds, a dam and a vast parkland.
The couple had six children: Frances, Margaret, Theodore, John, Anne and Elizabeth; suggesting their marriage was functional and happy. Although there are very few remaining records concerning family life, perhaps the suggestion that Katherine was often ill, might have been due to her pregnancies.
Katherine is first listed as being a lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth I in 1576. A sought-after position with status attached. It is well-known that Elizabeth favoured her mother’s family, the Boleyns. The offspring of Mary Boleyn were prevalent at her court and were given the not altogether flattering nickname of The Tribe of Dan, a Biblical reference to one of the powerful tribes of Israel. Katherine, with her direct bloodline to Queen Catherine Howard, who had been first cousin to Elizabeth’s mother, Anne Boleyn, and a paternal link to the Boleyn family, was definitely part of the family and by 1598, Katherine was one of the senior ladies of the court.

Anne Boleyn

Family life would have run alongside court life and as Katherine and Henry’s brood grew, they would have divided their time between Henry’s estates in Somerset and Gloucester and the glittering life of court. However, it is possible tragedy struck. In Henry’s will, his youngest son, Theodore, is listed as his heir, stating the child was 15-years-old when his father died in 1599, giving him a birth date 1584. This is a sizeable gap between him and his siblings whose births were in the 1570s. The inscription on Henry’s tomb declares he was the father of two sons and four daughters. There is also an interesting comment made about Katherine after Henry’s death. It states that not only did Katherine oversee the creation of an impressive tomb for her husband in Bristol Cathedral but that she also raised a monument to her father-in-law, John Newton in the church at East Harptree in Somerset.

East Harptree church, Somerset

While this is possible, I suspect the true person to whom this tomb was dedicated was Katherine and Henry’s son who bore the same name. Young John vanishes from the records suggesting he died as a young man. As East Harptree was the family church, it would make sense that they would bury their son there. Katherine and Henry may then have decided to try and have another child, a new heir. Another possible reason why the real Katherine was absent from court with illness. Miscarriages, sickness or other symptoms could have kept her from her duties. Theodore was born in 1584, when Katherine would have been 37. He was probably her last child and pregnancy.
As with all large families, there were plenty of squabbles and Katherine’s marriage embroiled her in a family feud. After the death of Henry’s father, Sir John Newton, in 1568, a row erupted between Henry, his stepmother, Lady Jane Newton, and her son, Thomas Buckland. Lady Jane had been left a life interest in the manor of Netherbadgworth, Somerset, but she claimed the right to make arrangements about tenancies of the property. Henry refused to recognise these conveyances and a Chancery case resulted.

The Star Chamber, named after its elaborately decorated ceiling

By 1580, they were at such loggerheads the case was taken to the Star Chamber, Chancery and the common law courts, who all tried to settle the family disputes. By then, the focus had shifted to Thomas Buckland’s claims to dig for iron ore in the Mendips at East Harptree and elsewhere. Henry Newton was furious and claimed that Buckland and his accomplices had not only illegally carried off lead ore worth £400 but had caused serious disturbances of the peace by their violence. Unfortunately, the outcome of the case has been lost.
Land disputes aside, it seems Henry was still an important man at court and Queen Elizabeth expressed a fondness for Katherine’s husband, showing him favour by bestowing a coveted and lucrative wardship upon him. She also sent him a note expressing her condolences when his son-in-law, Giles Strangeways died in 1596. He had been married to Katherine and Henry’s daughter, Frances, and Henry must have had a close relationship with Giles.
Henry was so overwhelmed by Elizabeth’s thoughtful gesture, he wrote to Robert Cecil stating that he would keep the queen’s ‘most gracious comfort sent me down by you’ as the most ‘precious thing which I shall ever had, and so leave it to my son’. Daily in his prayers he asked God to ‘increase those most excellent and royal graces in her which never any historians have recorded in any Queen as in our most excellent paragon’.
Despite this, Elizabeth could still be contrary and in January 1598 when Katherine requested the position of maid of honour for one of her daughters, she was unsuccessful in her request and Elizabeth Southwell was appointed instead. Although, as Mistress Southwell was the granddaughter of Catherine Carey and the great-granddaughter of Mary Boleyn, Elizabeth’s maternal aunt, her selection becomes more understandable and less of a snub towards Katherine and her daughters.

Henry Newton’s effigy on his tomb in the Newton Chapel in Bristol Cathedral

When Henry died on 2 May 1599 at East Harptree, he left a lengthy will with many Latin quotations. He was obvious a loving and caring father, as he created healthy dowries for his daughters and instructed Katherine’s brother, Edward Paston, to be executor. Although I have not yet found details of Katherine’s inheritance, if Henry was generous to his daughters and other members of the family, it is probable Katherine was left with a substantial dower and a comfortable lifestyle.
After Henry’s death, Katherine and Henry’s eldest son, Sir Theodore Newton inherited his father’s estate. Theodore married Penelope Rodney and it was their son, Sir John Newton who would rise to the aristocracy when he was made 1st Baronet of Barr’s Court. This title was bestowed upon him by Charles II on 16 August 1660 as thanks for providing troops to defend the plantation of Ulster. However, as John had no heir, when he died, it passed out of the Gloucestershire Newton family to the Lincolnshire Newtons. Strangely, there was no blood link between them.
The widow, Katherine, continued to express her love and loyalty to her husband, with the creation of a large dresser tomb built to Henry at Bristol Cathedral, where several years later, she too was interred. The tomb survives to this day and is in the Newton Chapel at Bristol Cathedral between the Chapter House and the south choir aisle. It is elaborate and elegant, demonstrating their elevated status and their blood links to many important families. Below the recumbent effigy of a serene and bearded Henry, their children are shown kneeling, with their hands in prayer, facing the scriptures to represent piety and obedience. 
The inscription reads:

“Here lyeth Sir Henry Newton of Barr’s Court in the county of Gloucester, knight, who married Katherine the daughter of Thomas Paston of Norfolk, knight, by whom he had two sons and four daughters and when he had lived full 70 years religiously towards his prince, and virtuous towards men, ended his life in the year of grace 1599 in assured hope of a glorious resurrection.

Gurney, Hampton, Cradock, Newton last held on the measure of that ancient line of Barons Blood, full seventy years he past and did in peace his sacred soul resign: his Christ he lov’d, he lov’d to feed the poor sure love assures a life that dies no more.”

Katherine’s date of death is recorded as 1605, two years after Elizabeth I’s demise. In 1603, Elizabeth was replaced on the throne by James I, the son of Mary, Queen of Scots. The new king’s court swept away the old hierarchy and Katherine, a widow of 56, would have been dismissed along with Elizabeth’s other women, with only a few bright stars from the Tudor court remaining at the heart of events.
Lady Katherine Paston was born into the privileged classes of Tudor England, that period of great change in British history. She was connected by blood to two queen consorts of Henry VIII and she married a respected and successful man. Five of her six children survived into adulthood and through her son, the family was raised to the levels of Baronet.
During her life she witnessed four Tudor monarchs, three of whom were queens: Edward VI, Lady Jane Grey, Mary Tudor and Elizabeth. Each reign, no matter how brief, making its mark on history. As a lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth, Katherine was at the beating heart of the Tudor court. She witnessed the subterfuge, the brilliance, the rise of the arts, the skulduggery, the terror of threatened wars, the power of a queen when she had to fight to save her country from the Spanish Armada.
Katherine was there. She witnessed these events and while she may have been pushed into the shadows of history for centuries, this brief glimpse of her life, proves that no matter who you are, where you were born or when you lived, hers was a life lived and this is my tribute to her.

Lady Katherine Paston Newton
(1547 – 1605)



The Lost Mansion - Barrs Court BS30

Family tree fragment:

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.