My tagline says that I deliver true takes on the Tudors and what it’s like to write about them. This is a “what it’s like to write about them” moment.
I am in the middle (two thirds to be exact…) of the first draft of The Path to Somerset, the story of Edward Seymour’s rise to power after Jane’s death – how he navigates Henry’s crazy years. The book uses two points of view – Edward’s and Stephen Gardiner’s. I originally wrote the scene where Henry learns that Catherine Howard has betrayed him – a really powerful moment – staying true to history: after Cranmer leaves the letter on Henry’s chair in the Chapel Royal on All Souls’ Day (click through here if you want the fuller story), Henry speaks about it to Cranmer alone.
My critique group insisted that it would be so much more powerful if readers could be in the room when Henry is confronted with these facts – they wanted to watch him pooh pooh the idea that his wife could have lived a dissolute life before marrying him (remember, one of his arguments to repudiate Anne of Cleves was that he could “feel by her breasts that she be no virgin” – that story here if you want it). And they were totally right. I’ve rewritten the scene so that Edward goes along (it works given the relationship I’ve given him with Cranmer and with Henry) and now it really pops. Especially the moment where Henry concedes that he won’t see Catherine until all the charges are proven false….It’s the right way to go.
But it’s historically wrong.
Now, I have to admit, I have manipulated full accuracy in the past: I placed Elizabeth Seymour at court when she wasn’t because I needed Jane to get out of her own head. So it is somewhat hypocritical to get careful about this now – though this feels different because it is an iconic moment. But it is different? If I explain the choice in an author’s note (something I forgot to do for Jane the Quene, so very sorry), does that fix it? I would love to hear from my readers, leave a comment and start the conversation!
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